Gen Con Online in review: the best four days of gaming goes online

Yes, it’s the post you’ve all been waiting for: the Gen Con Online review! Before I get started, I want to apologize for this post going up much later than I’d planned. Between burning loads of energy on Gen Con Online and work ramping back up (in addition to general pandemic stuff taking a toll on my mental health), I didn’t quite have the spoons to write this up until now. Better late than never, though, right?

First off, I want to talk about this year’s blog coverage for Gen Con. You might have noticed there were only posts for day 0.5 and day 1, and then nothing. It’s not that I didn’t do anything on days 2 through 4 – I did a lot. With Gen Con held online this year, my brain wasn’t quite in the same headspace it usually is. Instead of spending the last hour of my day writing up a post, my mind was all “eh, we’re home, why do we need to write a Crafty Nerd post every day?” I was feeling bad about not writing on Friday and Saturday, but on Sunday, it hit me: this isn’t a typical Gen Con, and maybe I didn’t need to do my traditional Gen Con coverage. So, here we are, wrapping things two weeks after the convention!

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Gen Con Online: Day one

Day one of Gen Con was a lot of fun! So much fun, in fact, that I didn’t have enough energy left after the Quilting 201 workshop last night to actually post this, so there’ll be two posts today! I doubt anyone will mind, though.

Opening ceremonies

The Gen Con Online Twitch channel, showing the opening ceremonies for Gen Con Online.
From the Opening Ceremonies – even Genevieve the Dragon joined in on the fun!

Day one of Gen Con Online was a lot of fun! I spent the morning excitedly waiting for the opening ceremonies, listening to music, and writing out questions for the folks I’m interviewing this year. While the energy was a little different this year, it was still exciting to watch the opening ceremonies. They even did the ceremonial charity dice roll! (It’s not Gen Con without the ceremonial opening dice roll.) I enjoyed the added benefits of actually being able to see and hear all of what went on this time – which isn’t always possible in person at the opening ceremonies, with so many people crowded into one space.

The online exhibit hall experience: The Looking Glass

Once the convention officially began, I spent some time browsing The Looking Glass, Gen Con’s creative way of replicating the exhibit hall experience online.

Screenshot of The Looking Glass, which displays logos for vendors at Gen Con in a cloud format.
It’s fun, scrolling through The Looking Glass and seeing what vendors I recognize – and discovering new ones, too!

I love the way the folks at Gen Con put together The Looking Glass – I think it’s the closest you can get to replicating the exhibit hall experience in webpage format while making it easy for everyone to access. You can either scroll around through the field of logos for each vendor and click on one that catches your eye, or use the search and filtering tools to find a specific vendor. I’ve already done a little shopping thanks to The Looking Glass, and I’ll likely do more before the con is done.

Favorite Gen Con experiences still happening online

One of the things I wasn’t sure I’d experience this year was the fun of running into folks I know at the convention. While the Gen Con Discord server has a lot of people hanging out there, not everyone who’s participating in the con is on Discord. I wasn’t really expecting to see anyone I knew on Discord – so imagine my surprise when I ran into my friend Daniel! (He and Kasi and I ran a City of Heroes LARP together back in 2018.) We were both excited to bump into each other, and we talked a little bit about Gen Con Online and me possibly joining his Wednesday Dungeons and Dragons game. Sure, it might not be the same as running into my Kishar buddies while hanging out with my co-worker Rachel, but I’ll take what I can get!

One of my favorite things to do at Gen Con involves wandering around the Indiana Convention Center. Whether I’m checking out everyone’s cosplays or just enjoying the atmosphere, I love wandering around the convention center. And while I may not be able to do it in person this year, I was able to do it in Minecraft!

One of the hallways in the Indiana Convention Center, recreated in Minecraft.
Oh hey, it’s the escalator that leads up to the skywalk to the Marriott!

It might not have been full of people, but I was still so very excited to wander through the convention center in Minecraft. It’s an amazing and detailed re-creation of the convention center, and I won’t lie, I almost cried while walking through it – I miss the in-person Gen Con experience so much. My regular readers know this is the highlight of my year, and the online experience isn’t quite the same. I’m glad I got to enjoy a few of the things I love about Gen Con, though, even though they were a little different this year.

Quilting 201: I swear I’m going to finish this quilt during Gen Con

The event I was most excited about this year was Quilting 201 with Toni of Quiltoni!

Screenshot of the camera feeds of everyone participating in the Quilting 201 workshop on Thursday evening.
I’m sure you all can figure out which quilt-in-progress is mine, haha.

While I didn’t get quite as far as everyone else did (I was running out of steam by the end of the workshop), I did get some of my quilt laid out and ready for piecing! (And ran out of table space in the process, haha) I had a lot of fun working on my quilt, and I’m going to try my hardest to get the top pieced together before the end of Gen Con. I really want to make this quilt, and I’ve finally got it started – I can’t let it sit unfinished now, can I?

And that, my friends, was my first day at Gen Con Online! I hung out online with fellow con-goers, bought a bunch of stuff, and even got some crafting done – I’d say it was a good day.

Gen Con Online: Day 0.5

Happy Gen Con Eve, folks! Sure, this isn’t going to be a typical Gen Con, but I’m going to do my usual daily Gen Con coverage anyway. This is going to be a Gen Con for the history books, with it being entirely online this year, and I want to document it. (My inner Ëlinyr is coming out a little bit, with her need to write everything down, haha.) So, here we go with Gen Con Online, day 0.5!

Socializing with folks on the Gen Con Online Discord

One of the big things I’ve been enjoying this year has been the Gen Con Discord server. It’s no secret that I’m a huge introvert, and shy as heck to boot – which makes socializing in person difficult for me at times. With the Gen Con Discord, though, everything’s through text, which is much easier for me. I’ve been having so much fun talking with others on Discord! I’ve mainly been hanging out in the general chat, cosplay, and crafting channels and enjoying lots of great conversation. Plus, occasionally names I recognize will pop up in the chat — like when I saw Rubiee of Dryad Tea in the general chat last night. I totally had a fangirl moment, haha. (After all, I’ve rambled about Dryad Tea before!)


With the Gen Con Discord making it easier for this nerd to talk to people, I’ve actually been brave enough to ask people for interviews. That’s right, this year I’m actually going to have some Gen Con interviews on the blog! Stay tuned for those interviews as part of my Gen Con coverage!

Preparing the house for Gen Con Online

I’m trying to make the house feel a little more like Gen Con — well, as much as I can without going too overboard. To make it feel a little more like Gen Con, I made a couple of signs to hang up around the house.

I’ve also done some work on cleaning up my craft area since I’ll be participating in a live-streamed quilting event!

A table with a sewing machine, a Crafty Nerd t-shirt, and some fabric cutting tools laid out on top of it.
The craft table is ready for crafting! (And hey, it’s Crafty Nerd t-shirt season, too!)

Plus, I’ve readied my home office for a couple of days of gaming and fun. My computer desk is Gen Con Central, haha.

A desk with two large monitors and a desktop computer on it. The computer screens have a custom Crafty Nerd at Gen Con wallpaper.
The Crafty Nerd’s home base for Gen Con Online!

And I’ve also got my new chief yarn tester on standby for craft supervision, too – he’s taking over for Steve since my living situation has recently changed.

A tuxedo cat laying on a bed in front of a lap desk with fabric squares on top of it.
This is Jack, my chief yarn tester and craft supervisor. He loves his job.

What I’ve got going on tomorrow

Here’s a sneak peek of what I’ll be doing tomorrow!

  • Hanging out on the Gen Con Discord, of course – I’m Beth (The Crafty Nerd) (she/her) there, feel free to say hi if you see me!
  • The Quilting 201 workshop, which I am super excited for!
  • Flailing around when the Looking Glass opens, and Gen Con exclusive merchandise becomes available, like the super limited edition Genevieve plushie from My Little Demon.

Tomorrow evening I’ll post a summary of what I got up to, so keep an eye out for my next Gen Con Online post. Otherwise, that’s a wrap for day 0.5 – I’ll see everyone tomorrow for the first day of Gen Con Online!

Gen Con Online: it’s almost here!

Folks, there are only two more days until Gen Con Online. How did Gen Con sneak up on me like that? I’m usually so hyperfocused on Gen Con for the month and a half leading up to the con. If this were a typical year, I’d be vibrating with excitement right now, packing my costumes and snacks for the next few days.

However, this year is definitely not typical. (We all know that by now, though.) That doesn’t mean I’m not excited about Gen Con Online – it’s a tiny taste of normalcy in an otherwise ridiculous year. And I’m going to try my best to emulate some of my favorite things about Gen Con right here at home.

Whiteboard with the text 'The Crafty Nerd's Gen Con Headquarters!' written on it.
… I spent entirely too much time trying to emulate Lobster 1.3 font by hand on this whiteboard, but hey, it looks cool!

Curious about what I’m planning for Gen Con Online? Read on!

Cosplay

Nobody should be surprised that I’m planning on cosplaying at home. I mean, why not? All my costumes are here, and I’ll take any excuse to wear them. They may all be cosplay reruns, but who cares? I doubt J and Kasi or the cats will judge me for it.

Costumes hanging on the back of my office door.
A couple of my favorite costumes are coming out to play for Gen Con Online!

This year, I’m planning on donning my Starfleet science officer uniform once again on Friday – but instead of going as Jadzia, I’ll just be a generic science officer. (After watching a lot of Deep Space 9 lately, I’m realizing I need a few more things for my Jadzia cosplay to make it better, so that’ll be my goal for next Gen Con.) For Saturday, I’ll be dusting off Ëlinyr’s stealth dress and wandering around as everyone’s favorite elf for a day! Sunday’s cosplay is one I tried a few years ago but couldn’t wear it because it was too darn hot. That’s right, I’m trying “Janeway on her day off” again! My hair’s nowhere near the right color for it right now, but I’m going to roll with it.

Events

I’m signed up for a fair amount of events this year, especially since Gen Con is online and likely less draining than a typical Gen Con. I’m especially excited for Quilting 201 (I’ll finally get that Sailor Moon quilt started!) and the Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition game I’m signed up for. (Can you believe that I’ve never actually played a tabletop RPG at Gen Con? And this is my 7th Gen Con!) In addition to gaming and crafting, I’ll be watching a few live performances and watching the Costume Contest Awards Show.

Where to find me

For those of you who have been looking forward to finding me at Gen Con, you’re in luck! You can likely find me lurking around in the Gen Con Online Discord. Sure, it’s not quite the same as running into me in person, but at least you won’t have to deal with possibly getting swept away by the crowd in the Exhibit Hall or waving excitedly while dashing to an event. It’ll be hard to miss me on Discord – I’m on there as The Crafty Nerd (she/her), and my avatar is the blog’s logo. Feel free to message me and say hi! I’m always excited to meet blog fans in the wild.

Gen Con Online: a Gen Con you can attend from home!

Ahh, 2020 — the year of cancellations. Like most groups running big events this year, Gen Con ended up canceling 2020’s in-person convention. After all, the con typically brings upwards of 70,000 people to Indianapolis each year — and holding a big event like that in the time of COVID-19 is unthinkable. However, the fine folks at Gen Con didn’t leave us hanging! Instead, they’re moving the best four days in gaming online!

Gen Con from the comfort of your computer

I won’t lie, this introvert is actually somewhat excited about an online Gen Con. It’ll be different, that’s for sure, and I’ll definitely miss some Gen Con traditions, like:

  • picking up my press badge with Rachel on Wednesday, then watching the Will Call line grow as the day goes on
  • eating fancy nerd-themed cupcakes at the Gen Con Block Party from places like Gigi’s Cupcakes and The Flying Cupcake
  • seeing friends from pretty much every part of my life all in one place — after all, where else can I run into co-workers, Kishar friends, and people I know from professional organizations all in one place?
  • browsing the exhibit hall and spending ridiculous amounts of money on all sorts of nerdy gear (like last year’s Toothless kigurumi)
  • helping J and Kasi run a LARP (I’m actually starting to get better at this!)
  • collecting ribbons for my badge — I even had some this year to share, and I’m sad that I won’t get to give them out

However, there are some benefits!

  • You can schedule back-to-back events and not have to worry about dashing from the far end of the Indiana Convention Center to LucasOil Stadium!
  • Nobody’s saying you can’t cosplay at home! (Plus, if my costume gets uncomfortable, I’m not stuck in it all day!)
  • There’ll be an online exhibit hall you can browse without having to deal with crowds!

So while I’ll miss being in Indianapolis for five days of fun, at least I’ll still have Gen Con in some form! Enjoying Gen Con from the comfort of my computer is better than no Gen Con at all.

About Gen Con Online

Here’s some basic information about Gen Con Online, for those of you who are interested:

  • What you can do: Play games! Attend workshops! Watch some of your favorite performers! All online, so you can even show up in pajamas if you want.
  • When: July 30th – August 2nd
  • Where: At your house, on your computer! Games and events will be hosted on Roll20, Discord, Twitch, Zoom, and more.
  • Cost: A Gen Con Online badge is free, but individual events may charge a fee.

For even more info, check out the infographic below:

Infographic describing what you can do at Gen Con Online. To learn more, visit the URL this image links to.

Event registration is now live! Browse through the events here, and see what Gen Con Online has to offer.

What I’ll be up to at the con

While I didn’t get into everything I had on my wish list (which is nothing new), I did get into a few things I was really looking forward to – like the Quilting 201: Pixel Quilts workshop with Quiltoni! I’ve already got the Sailor Moon pixel quilt kit, and this workshop is the perfect way to actually get started with it. I’m also going to some musical performances and keeping my eyes peeled for some games to get into, since all my first picks for games filled up pretty quickly.

Another thing I’m thinking of doing is seeing what I can re-create about the Gen Con experience at home. I may not be able to have a cosplay parade, for example, but I can still cosplay! (And I will. After all, it’s me we’re talking about.) I’ll also be playing some games outside of Gen Con Online, and finding ways to do at-home versions of some of my favorite convention traditions. (Like eating pierogies. I may not be able to get them from the Pierogi Love truck, but I can make some at home!) I also talked with Rachel from The Five(ish) Fangirls, and she’s also going to Gen Con Online! That means we’ll be continuing our tradition of doing a post-con recap on the podcast. And as always, I’ll be doing daily recaps of the convention. They may not be as full of photos as previous years, but I’ll still be writing them.

I’m definitely looking forward to Gen Con online this year — and I hope everyone else is, too!

The social distancing nerd: two months later

Oh, how optimistic I was two months ago when I wrote that post about what I’ve been doing, and how I was weathering the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. I thought, “surely I can write more blog posts. I’m home all the time and have no excuses!”

I was wrong.

Peridot from the show Steven Universe, flumped over the side of a bathtub in a depressed funk.
This picture does a darn good job of summing up how I’ve felt lately.

I underestimated just how much energy I spent on dealing with what’s going on in the world, though. How hard it would be to switch gears from work-mode to relax-mode at 4 pm each day. Since I’m working from home for the foreseeable future, I have one space for both work and recreational computer time — which makes everything I do at the computer here feel like work even if it’s not. Whether it’s video games or blog posts or coloring in drawings, if it’s in front of my computer, it feels like work.

I’ve also been struggling with a lot of life issues at the moment. I don’t quite want to talk about them right now but suffice it to say; things are rough in my little corner of the world.

Plus, this is me. Even in a good year, I can never keep up posting regularly for long. I think 2019 was a record-setting year in that I posted almost weekly from the end of January to Gen Con in August. Long-time blog followers know I struggle with posting regularly. I ended up giving up on the Crafty Nerd Podcast because I recorded two episodes and then paid for an unused Libsyn subscription for six months. We know I have issues with following through on things, heh.

So, what have I been doing during the two months since my last post? To be honest, it doesn’t feel like I’ve done much — at least, not much that’s worth writing about.

I have been reading — a lot. I read through the entirety of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels. Well, re-read almost all of them is more accurate — I hadn’t read the last book until this most recent re-read of the series. I started watching True Blood back in March (since I never did finish it) and wanted to see just how wildly different the TV show was from the books in the later seasons of the show. I also tore through Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series, because I needed more easy-to-read urban fantasy in my life. Between those two series, I read 25 books over two months. (I’m a speedy reader, it’s kind of ridiculous.) Now I’m reading The Kingdom of Copper, which is book two of The Daevabad Trilogy by S. A. Chakraborty — and I’m enjoying it.

Another thing I’ve been doing is crocheting a lot. I finished the Trio blanket I started in May, and then immediately started two more projects. My startitis is flaring up again, it seems. I’m going to try to finish all the projects I’ve currently got going before I start something new, though. (I know, I know, easier said than done.)

A whiteboard with a list of all the craft projects I'm working on - some date all the way back to 2017.
Not entirely sure if this is a complete list, but there’s definitely a lot on there…

You might have noticed that I mentioned coloring in drawings earlier — that’s because I’ve actually picked up drawing as a hobby again. I used to draw a lot when I was in high school and college, but ended up drifting away from it years ago. With some encouragement from my friend Kasi, I figured I may as well start drawing again.

Photo of a sketchbook, open to a pencil sketch of Ëlinyr.
This one’s still a work in progress, and I love how it’s turned out so far.

So far everything I’ve drawn has been Kishar-related, since I really, really miss playing in Kishar. I’ll branch out to other stuff eventually, heh.

One exciting thing I’m working on is planning out what I’m doing at Gen Con Online this year! With everything being online, I can schedule events back-to-back and not have to worry about finding out I’ve scheduled myself to be in LucasOil Stadium immediately after something held in one of the connected hotels. I’ve got a whole post in the works about my Gen Con online plans, so stay tuned for that.

Photo of my Gen Con 2020 commemorative badge. A label with my name, the blog's name, and my Gen Con ID number printed on it has been applied to the back.
You know I just had to customize my Gen Con 2020 badge.

Even though I’m not officially attending as press for Gen Con Online, I was granted a press badge for Gen Con 2020 — and covering Gen Con is a blog tradition. (I need to see if the folks over at Five(ish) Fangirls are attending any of Gen Con Online — if not, I’m definitely going to miss doing the post-con report with Rachel like we’ve done the past few years.)

In addition to all this, the Blue Rose game Kasi’s running on Roll20 is still going, and I also got the chance to do some Kishar dress-up recently too! (although honestly, do I really need a reason to throw on Ëlinyr’s gear?)

Photo of J dressed as his Kishar non-player character Alair, and myself dressed as Ëlinyr
Ëlinyr and her elf-sweetie Alair. 🙂 And the cloak I spent so much time making that I love so very much.

… huh. Writing this blog post has helped perk up my mood. I went into WordPress this morning with the goal of at least writing something. This post started kind of cranky and self-deprecating, but after writing a bit I’m feeling better — despite the Grammarly tone detector indicating my tone is gloomy. (I will say, the sad-looking emoji hits me in the feels.)

Screenshot of the tone detector in Grammarly - the top listed tone is Gloomy, with a rather sad-looking emoji.
Don’t cry, little gloomy emoji! I’ll try to cheer up, I promise.

Maybe I should try to blog more often, even when I don’t quite feel up to it. It’s definitely helped my mood today, that’s for sure.

Anyhow, that’s what I’ve been doing the past two months. It might not be all that thrilling, but it got me to weite a post, and that’s something.

The social distancing nerd (or, how I’m surviving staying at home)

Yes, folks, I’m still here! I didn’t give up on the blog — although I’ll be honest, the past two months have been rough. I’ve been a hot mess half the time, between anxiety and depression and stress. It’s kind of hard to try to come up with topics to write about when you’re struggling emotionally, and it’s been a rough time in general for pretty much everyone I know. However, it hit me yesterday: I do have something to write about! I can talk about what I’ve been doing to help keep myself occupied while staying at home. Surprise, surprise – it’s been a lot of crafting and gaming.

Crafting

I’ve been doing a lot of crafting lately. For a little while, it was the only thing keeping me sane. I only had to focus on where to put the next stitch, or how to piece fabric together.  I’ve made quite a few things since I went into staying-at-home mode in March.

Hand sewing: more relaxing than using a machine

I did a lot of hand sewing because, for some reason, I find it less stressful than sewing with a machine. I made a lot of face masks! Everyone’s making them, everyone should be wearing them, and I made a couple of really nice ones for myself and friends. I hand-sewed them, too,

A couple of hand-sewn masks - one is made out of rabbit fabric, the next is Star Trek themed, and the last is made out of sewing machine print fabric.
A couple of masks in progress.

I also picked up quilting again! With some of the leftover fabric from the masks, I started a simple small quilt that’ll likely end up becoming a wall hanging.

Quilt top featuring fabric with cats, dragons, and rabbits on it.
My tiny little quilt top!

Yarn crafts: because I can’t just sit and watch TV

You know I’ve just about always got some sort of yarn craft in progress, too – and stay-at-home time is no different. With all the TV I’ve been watching, I need something to keep my hands busy with. I’m currently working on three yarn craft projects, all crochet:

  • a large Rozeta in worsted weight yarn (affectionately called Rozetazilla)
  • a corner-to-corner wrap using a couple of Caron Cakes
  • a Trio blanket, using three Scheepjes Whirls, which is probably the most expensive blanket I’ve ever made (Whirls are lovely, but also pricey!)

Gaming at home

Of course, I wouldn’t be The Crafty Nerd if I didn’t play any games! They’ve all been online for the most part – playing games online has been my primary mode of socialization over the past two months, and have been a good way to socialize while staying at home.

Depths of the Weald: playing Blue Rose online using Roll20

While my usual Blue Rose game is on hiatus, Kasi (who plays Paroum in the game J runs) decided to start her own Blue Rose campaign!

Screenshot of Roll20 interface, in the middle of a game.
A screenshot from the middle of an epic battle we had yesterday.

J and I and a few friends from Kishar have been playing in that game, and Kasi runs it on Roll20. I hadn’t had much experience with Roll20 before the Depths of the Weald game, but I’m enjoying it as an online alternative to tabletop games. We can use maps, I can keep track of my character sheet inside the app, and if we wanted to, we could even do video/audio chat over Roll20! (Our group tends to use Facebook Messenger’s video chat options, though.)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons — the next best thing to having an actual social life

The new Animal Crossing game came out at the PERFECT time. Everyone’s stuck at home for an indeterminate amount of time, and we needed some way to cope with it. Enter Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Screenshot of a celebration in Animal Crossing.

Not only do you get to make friends with cute animals, but you can also hang out with your real-life friends! For example, Kasi, Rana, and I took a field trip to one of our museums. We wandered around explored all the bugs and fish and fossils in the museum and took lots of pictures too.

Screenshot of people in Animal Crossing looking at an aquarium full of fish. Visiting the museum in Animal Crossing is something fun to do while staying at home!
From left to right: Rana, me, and Kasi checking out some fish.

Plus, when it’s your birthday, your animal friends throw you a party! (Yep, I celebrated my birthday almost two weeks ago, and partied with my Animal Crossing buddies Katt, Melba, and Hamlet.)

Screenshot of a birthday party in Animal Crossing.
They even made me cake!

It’s silly, how attached I’ve gotten to my Animal Crossing villagers – I won’t lie, when I came back to the game after a week of not playing, and they all said some variation of  “where’ve you been the past week? we missed you!” I just about started to cry. (I won’t leave you alone again for that long, animal friends, I promise!)

Blog posts

Now that I’m starting to work myself out of the worst of my anxiety and depression, I’m going to try to write more. Work doesn’t drain my energy as much as it used to (seriously, while I love driving, dealing with traffic in Bloomington is stressful!), so hopefully, I’ll have it in me to write once a week again. I’m going to get the What I’m Watching series back up and running again, and while I won’t have any posts about Kishar or my other Blue Rose game for a while, I’ll try to write about the games I am playing.

Thanks for sticking with me, folks — I hope everyone’s hanging in there during these downright scary times.

Screenshots from the game Magic: Puzzle Quest.

Magic: Puzzle Quest – my latest obsession

I’ve been playing Magic: Puzzle Quests a lot lately! Until I found out about the game through J, I’d never even heard of it, but I’m glad I started playing it. After all, I do love puzzle games, and I also enjoy playing Magic: The Gathering, so Magic: Puzzle Quest has been a lot of fun for me.

A little about the game

One of the core features of the game is using Planeswalkers and their abilities to help augment your puzzle-solving. When playing, you choose a Planeswalker to play with, and you end up fighting other Planeswalkers as you go through the game. Everyone starts out with Nissa as their first Planeswalker, but you can earn mana crystals (or buy them) to add more of them to your collection.

Screenshots from Magic: Puzzle Quest - on the left is a screenshot of my collection of planeswalkers, and on the right is detailed stats for Saheeli Rai.
Left side: my current collection of Planeswalkers. Right side: Detailed stats about Saheeli Rai from the game.

In addition to collecting Planeswalkers, you also collect cards (which probably isn’t surprising). The cards fall into three categories in Magic: Puzzle Quest – creatures, spells, and supports. The cards you collect are then used to build 10-card decks for your Planeswalkers. While the abilities each card has in the game might be slightly different than their physical counterparts, they largely align with actual cards in Magic: The Gathering, which is actually helping me learn how to play Magic a little better!

Screemshots from Magic: Puzzle Quest that focus on cards. On the left is a close-up of Foundry of the Consuls, in the center is a collection of my cards, and on the right is the card Flames of the Raze-Boar asking who I want to deal damage to.
A couple of different views involving cards in Magic: Puzzle Quest – on the right is one of my favorites for raining thopter doom on people with Saheeli. The center screenshot shows a small percentage of the cards in my library, and on the right a card’s been played that wants to know who I want to damage.

There are plenty of ways to add cards to your collection, and many of those ways are free! You can get new cards by grabbing a free booster pack every 6 hours, winning boosters as prizes in events, or buying them with mana crystals.

Gameplay basics

A screenshot of gameplay, where the opponent's only creature was just destroyed by a stack of 12 thopter tokens.
Oh hey, look, someone just rained down the Thopterpocalypse down on the opponent. 😀 (seriously, look, that’s a stack of 12 thopters!)

The gameplay is straightforward: match three or more colored orbs to earn mana and Planeswalker loyalty points that can be used to play cards or use Planeswalker abilities. A match ends when one of the Planeswalkers runs out of hit points, and the goal is to be the last Planeswalker standing. Winning matches gets you mana runes (which can be used to level up your Planeswalkers), as well as additional goodies like mana crystals and even card booster packs (if you’re playing in an event).

Screenshots from Magic: Puzzle Quest - the left screenshot shows story mode, and the right side shows events.
Left: an example of Story Mode. Right: A sampling of the events you might find in the game.

There are two main ways to play the game: in Story Mode, or by playing in events. Story Mode has you fighting various computer-controlled Planeswalkers while telling stories of events in the Magic: The Gathering universe. Events, on the other hand, have you playing player-created decks controlled by the computer to win all sorts of prizes. Events typically have a restriction on what color Planeswalkers you can use, and often have a theme you can build an event deck around to meet some of the criteria for winning extra prizes.

Where to find it

Curious to try it out for yourself? You can find it on the Android and iOS app stores!

Android: Magic: The Gathering – Puzzle Quest on Google Play

iOS: Magic: The Gathering – PQ on the App Store

Introducing Santoki: My new Kishar character

That’s right, I’m creating a new character for Kishar! Her name is Santoki, and she’s a rabbit Hiwani. (One of my Kishar friends – I think it was Pumpkin – suggested her last name should be Caerbannog, haha.)

Wait, why are you making a new character?

There are a couple of reasons I’m working on making a new character. First off: because I think it’ll be fun! It’ll be nice to mix things up and have the choice between playing two different characters. Additionally, making a new character will allow me to try out some things I’ve never done before, like:

  • Working with costuming that’s a little more involved than “throw on some elf ears and a vaguely in-genre dress” — after all, I want to do a convincing job of being a rabbit, and that happens with more elaborate costuming!
  • Attempting to play a LARP character that’s not essentially just me in elf ears. Because let’s be honest, here — as much as I love Ëlinyr, she’s pretty much just me in elf ears. And sometimes that gets a little old.

Why the heck are you playing a rabbit?

Well, for one thing, I like rabbits. They’re cute, and some of them help with crafting — like angora rabbits, who produce fluff you can spin into yarn and knit or crochet with! Plus, rabbits can be fierce too. I mean, come on, look at the Rabbit of Caerbannog from Monty Python’s Holy Grail – that’s one fierce rabbit.

Small plush Monty Python rabbit, next to a Pinkie Pie figurine.
A tiny Monty Python bunny, complete with lots of teeth. So fierce!

What’s Santoki going to be like?

While I haven’t figured out everything about Santoki yet, I’ve fleshed out a fair bit of her character already.

Costuming

Me dressed up in what I've got of my costume for Santoki, which includes her shirt, pants, and bunny ears.
An early test of Santoki’s costuming! (please ignore the mess, though)

Santoki’s costume is currently composed of the following:

  • Black rabbit ears on a headband, with the headband covered by a fabric bandana of sorts to cover up my actual ears
  • A black tail to match the ears, although I haven’t figured out how it’s attaching to my costume yet
  • Flowy pants and a midriff-showing shirt over a black bodysuit and black leggings —my plan is to try to get some faux fur and sew it to the front of the bodysuit, to help sell the illusion of me being a rabbit a little better (after all, rabbits do have fluffy tummies)
  • A little bit of pink cream face paint on the end of my nose to create the illusion of a bunny nose, and whiskers drawn on with eyeliner pen

I’m really excited about getting to experiment with costuming for Santoki!

Character class

Santoki’s going to be a Chirurgeon — essentially, a healer that can fight too. There are times when we’re pretty darn short on healers in Kishar, and I figure having a character that can heal as well as fight will be helpful. Her weapon will likely be a staff to start with since that’s about all my clumsy self can really handle well. Plus, it means I don’t have to learn an entirely new weapon for Santoki, as Ëlinyr uses a staff when she’s not slinging spell packets.

Personality: Santoki’s quiet. Not necessarily the “blend into the background” type of quiet, but more of the “hey, can you speak a little bit louder?” kind. At least, outside of battle anyway — when Santoki’s fighting, she’s a loud and noisy and fierce rabbit. I’ll be trying to stick with how rabbits are in real life, as they’re typically pretty quiet unless something makes them scream. And from what I’ve heard, rabbit screams are pretty loud and terrifying. (That’s based on what I’ve heard from others, anyway — I’ve never heard a rabbit scream, and honestly, I’m not sure I want to.)

Background

Santoki’s originally from the mountains near Shalazar (the Sapphire City), and she grew up with her parents and 40 brothers and sisters (there were more, but they got older and moved out on their own). She’s interested in folklore and mythology, but mainly as a hobby – “I’m not exactly the scholarly type”, she’d probably say.

She originally thought she was going to spend her life working on her parents’ sheep farm, turning wool into cloth and yarn, but eventually, she learned about the Adventurer’s Guild while visiting a bookstore/coffee shop in the Scholar’s District of Kishar, Lin’s Rest. (Yes, Lin is short for Ëlinyr – and yes, Ëlinyr owns a combination bookstore and coffee shop.) After talking to the owner about some Hiwani folklore Santoki was interested in, the Guild came up, and Santoki thought “hey, maybe that’d be better than working as a sheep farmer” — and she decided to join up with the guild.

What about Ëlinyr?

I’m not retiring Ëlinyr quite yet, though I did hit her progression cap (or level cap, essentially) at the last game of season 8. While I can still get new skills, I’m not getting them automatically anymore — instead, I can purchase them using kismet, the in-game currency that enables players to get extra skills and unique items in exchange for helping out with the game in some way.

I’ll be posting more about Santoki in the coming months, as the start of season 9 of Kishar gets closer — and possibly creating a site for her, as I did for Ëlinyr and her in-character writings. I’m really excited about getting to play as Santoki!

My 2019 in books

Happy new year, folks! I can’t believe it’s 2020 already — it feels like Gen Con was only a few weeks ago. With 2019 at an end, I thought it might be a good time to look back on some of the media I consumed over the year, and what better place to start than with the books I’ve read?

I don’t talk about books nearly as much as I should on the blog. I read a lot, and I really should share more of what I read. However, I’m pretty terrible at describing books. I don’t know why — I just know that I struggle to do justice to a book when I’m describing it to someone. (Maybe that’s a sign that I should do more book reviews on the blog, and get more experience talking about books?) For my 2019 books, though, I want to share what I read over the year and touch on what books were my absolute favorites. So, with the help of Goodreads (where I keep track of my reading), I present to you: my 2019 in Books!

2019: The year of book series reading

There’s nothing I love more than losing myself in a good book series. Sometimes just one book in a particular setting isn’t just enough for me — I often find myself wanting to see more of certain characters and worlds. 2019 seemed to be the year of book series reading — I read through five different book series and worked my way through a chunk of two more:

Some of these I’d read before, like most of Anne Bishop’s The Others series, but that was mainly to refresh my memory before I tackled the last two books in the series. Out of all these, though, I think the best series I read this year was The Expanse (which, to be honest, I’m obsessed with).

Cover Art for Leviathan Wakes, book one of The ExpanseMy favorite series: The Expanse

I ended up plowing my way through the books in The Expanse after I finished watching season three of the TV show this summer. I couldn’t get enough of the storytelling and world-building, so I dove right into the eight-book series and finished it just in time for season four to come out! For those of you who enjoy science fiction, especially hard sci-fi, you’ll like The Expanse. If you’ve only seen the TV show and are worried that any differences between the books might make you frustrated, I can share my experience. There’s just enough difference between the two to keep me interested, and the changes made from book to TV make sense and don’t detract from the storytelling.

 

Front cover of Twelve Kings in SharakaiRunner-up: The Song of Shattered Sands

Now, I’m still only halfway through book two of The Song of Shattered Sands at this point, but I’m enjoying what I’ve read. The worldbuilding is well done, the story is engaging, and I find myself coming back to the books eagerly each day to see what Çeda, Emre, and the other main characters are up to.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where this series goes!

My full year in books

If you’re curious to see all the books I’ve read this year, feel free to check out My 2019 in Books on Goodreads! It’s got every single book I read this year listed, plus some additional fun stats about my 2019 reading.