I’m so bad at titles: On “Copying” Cosplay

There are a few reasons why I sort of hang on the cusp of the cosplay community in more recent years, venturing out to group cosplay meets, gatherings, and such only on the rare occasion. I now tend to stick with friends I’ve already made there, friends I’ve filtered out from everyone else.

This is unfortunate, but I’ve found it’s because the density of petty people is becoming unbearable; and this isn’t to say that not everyone is prone to being petty sometimes (hell, I know I am), but I am referring more to those that are petty more often than not.

I’m glad I started attending cosplay meets in Southampton, but I wasn’t surprised that meeting those people brought a bit more drama into my life as well – Not necessarily drama I was involved in, but I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when people were sharing what was going on with them. For someone that’s been cosplaying for a solid eight years now, it tends to be a case of history repeating itself to me. It can get tedious sometimes.

One of the small bits of drama that did come up was the age-old issue of someone apparently ‘copying’ someone else; and causing grief over their accusations of it. I’ve experienced this myself, actually.

So back when I was still new in the community, someone I was friends with shoved her way into a cosplay plan with a group of friends. The character she wanted to cosplay was already being cosplayed by a member of that group of friends, and I had to bear witness to my first taste of the ‘there can only be one’ mentality a lot of cosplayers have. My friend gave this other kid (yes, they were a fair few years younger than us) relentless grief until they surrendered their plan to cosplay this character. It made me uncomfortable, but I wasn’t directly involved (and, over the years, I learnt what getting involved in shit like this can do to a person especially if they’re not directly involved themselves – I’m also not a big fan of abandon your friend to fight their own battles mentality either; but a lot of people seem to be, apparently).

I also later learnt that some people are less passive-aggressive about their approach to this ‘there can only be one’ mentality; I’m not sure if I preferred my friend’s brutal honesty or the underhanded ‘my cosplay is so awful in comparison to yours, I want to just give up’ approach others have (seriously, think about it before saying something like this to a person).

A couple of years on from this, and I actually experienced someone copying me. They mirrored everything I planned to do (a chain of cosplay plans, not just one), to the point that I thought ‘are they… actually copying me?’ But I hesitated to say anything about it because I thought that’d be giving myself too much credit; and it could have been a coincidence. Down the line, I saw evidence of this person admitting to do it in an attempt to outshine me. I was sort of flattered, really, if not a bit confused. Why did I matter so much?

When it comes to ‘copying’ another cosplayer; I think some people need to realise that they can serve as inspiration as well. When it’s a canon character design, or a popular fan design, it’s not really copying. I would be a little miffed if someone was inspired by an original design I came up with without crediting me, but I wouldn’t approach them with ‘it’s a design exclusively for me’. I would request that if they felt inspired by my own work, that they credit me for this inspiration.

Putting down other people, and shaming them, for wanting to cosplay a character is horrible. Why have people become so horrible? I miss how much of a community cosplay used to be, and it saddens me that cosplayers who entered perhaps 2010-onwards never had a real opportunity to experience the community it once was.

Dragon Age Tabletop: An Arl’s Ransom

I have decided to start documenting my players’ adventures that I will be planning for them. If you’re one of my players, it will always be safe to read these updates – There’s no spoilers of what’s to come! However, I will say now for anyone else reading that if you don’t want spoilers about any Dragon Age tabletop modules then please don’t read on! I’m new to DMing so I will be using pre-made campaigns to work from. I altered quite a few things – Like what happens to Alenka and Ser Blaker, for example, but it’s still pretty spoiler-ey to read this blog!

Another thing I want to stress is that I am simply a programmer. I’m not a writer, and I’m not very good at it. But I thought it’d be fun to document their adventure for them to read, from my perspective as their DM (and their storyteller).

An Arl’s Ransom is a starter campaign found in the Quick Start Guide; it’s designed as a one-shot but it always plays out longer when I run it. Writing about the campaign my players experienced also allows me a chance to reflect on how I’m coping as a DM (I’m new to it) and where I could’ve improved the experience for my players.

So, on reflection, I do think I need to familiarise myself more with the events of the campaign and familiarise myself with characters such as Alenka, Ser Blaker, and Bridget a lot more. I also need to have combat information about the PCs’ adversaries to hand so I’m not constantly flicking through the module, having printouts of visual references (pictures of their enemies, NPCs, and where they are, if available) is nice to have separately as well to improve immersion.

I also think I rushed through roleplay encounters after the party departed Stenhold – While I was instructed to do this in the module, I do feel like it didn’t give my party enough chance for their characters to become better acquainted with each other or properly discuss whose side to take (explained further into the campaign’s events below). If I had more time, I would have played out the ending much more differently and allowed the players an opportunity to snub the character that turned out to be bad before they could get away. Instead of rushing the end because the Student Union was about to close, I should have left it for the next session and let the players have a chance to play out their ending.

I think it’s good for me to evaluate like this; hopefully it’ll help me improve as a DM.


An Arl’s Ransom

Part 1: An Arl’s Request

 

Stenhold
Fortress of Stenhold

Our adventure begins in a small, dismal Ferelden town on the edge of the Korcari wilds and Southron hills, near the Dales. The town’s name is obscure and its original name has long been forgotten, but folk have taken to calling it Stenhold; named after the most notable building – The Fortress of Stenhold.

The Arl’s Sigil (a black shield with a three-leaved oat branch pointing upwards within a gold ring) is seen being hung outside the village’s only inn; the inn’s only company are a bare few houses making Stenhold more like a hamlet than an village.

The fortress of Stenhold has seen better days. A hard rain pummels the crumbling stones and thatched rooftops, exposing the cracks and gaps as water pours through them. Soldiers drill both in the courtyard and in the field outside. A few masons struggle to patch holes in the wall, their grubby clothes clinging to their skin; their eyes squinting against the hammering rain.

It is common knowledge that Arl Neruda’s lands are being invaded by Darkspawn, and many whispers about that being the reason why the Arl sent out requests for mercenaries to hire.

And so, our mismatched party found themselves in what appears to be the leftovers of the fortress of Stenhold.

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Saris

Saris, a young elven lad freshly departed from the Dales. A tall female Qunari, introducing herself to the others as Rosetta, who seems to be standing with yet another elf by the name of Grey. And finally, Brother Maynard, an odd priest that worships the Maker; and his young Mabari pup – Jean.

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Alenka

As the others are becoming acquainted, a female approaches them in the courtyard. Maynard recognises the robes framing her body as that of the Circle. She has long dark hair that settles upon her shoulders; and appears stoic, yet attractive. (I pictured her appearance similar to Imoen’s portrait in Baldur’s Gate, so there you go – To the left!)

She introduces herself curtly, “I am Alenka,” she says, before adding, “follow me.” She turns and leads the group to the large entrance of the fortress. As she does, a single gold sovereign fell from her pocket and into a puddle, something that Brother Maynard decided not to ignore. He picked up the sovereign and offered it back to Alenka, who accepted it with a sneer – Much to the confusion of the PCs! But all will become clear, with time…

As the PCs are welcomed into the fortress, which is just about sheltered from the hard rain, they are quickly acquainted with their temporary ‘boss’ – Arl Voychek Neruda.

In the great hall a short, stocky man stands in the centre of the room, being fitted into a suit of gleaming plate armour by elves with downcast eyes. He looks over in irritation when you enter, then grunts in pain and spins back to cuff one of the elves on the head as he was pinched by the greave the servant was fitting; shouting as he does: “bloody knife-ears!” The elf sprawls.

He turns back to you, “Well?”

As the PCs stood in silence, the Arl’s Steward (Alenka) steps forward to introduce the hirelings, “these individuals responded to your call,” she explains on their behalf. It’s at this that the Arl looks them up and down and grunts.

“You’ll do. My children are returning from Denerim, and Alenka is due to meet them. My land is being encroached by darkspawn and I need every warrior I have to combat the threat. You will accompany Alenka and return here with her and the children. I’ll pay 50 silver pieces to each of you for the service of two days or less. Well?”

The PCs found the offer acceptable and accepted Neruda’s terms. At that, Neruda quickly informed them that they are welcome to any leftover supplies and equipment he has to offer. Though, unfortunately, his soldiers are already equipped with the majority of it. Despite this, Alenka leads the PCs into a side room where they managed to find a small upgrade of weapons and armour, as well as travelling gear. The only thing they are unable to be supplied with are horses, but the journey isn’t that long anyway. One of the PCs requested rations, at which Alenka left to fetch some dried Ryott crop from the kitchen.

Ryott is a protein-rich grain highly valued throughout Ferelden. It is notoriously difficult to grow and the arling includes some of the few areas in southern Ferelden where it thrives.

The grain is not so much farmed as gathered, and attempts to domesticate it have proven largely unsuccessful. Ferelden farmers often simply build fences around existing patches.

Alenka returns and distributes the rations, saying there is enough for each person for a day’s worth of travel. Grey hangs back as the others change into the armour they managed to obtain, standing with Alenka – I believe his intention was to attempt flirting with her? It’s here that he asks Alenka about meeting the children. Alenka informs him that the waypoint is a day’s travel from Stenhold on foot, through hilly and unpopulated terrain on the edge of the Brecilian Forest. During this conversation, Grey and Alenka are approached by a well-dressed middle-aged female, a cloak in her arms. She is obviously a noble. She appears relieved to have caught the party before they had departed the fortress.

“Please forgive my husband,” she pleads. “This incursion is trying for all of us, and the arl deals with worry in his own way. For my part, I thank you for your help.”

I personally can’t remember how Grey responded, but it was along the lines of it being no trouble on his part. The female noble continues to speak:

“From what I’ve been hearing, the countryside is very dangerous. I would die if something were to happen to Joseph or Hana. Please take this as a sign of a mother’s gratitude.”

Lacy Macia Neruda offers the PCs a bag of silver, counting to 100 silver pieces to split (25 each). She turns on her toes and hurries back through the hall, through the door she had likely come from. After this encounter, the rest of the PCs are handed their portion of the silver after they finish equipping themselves and are led out to the courtyard by Alenka.

Outside, the rain has let up somewhat to a light drizzle. Alenka casts Rock Armour upon herself as protection, and the PCs start on their journey to the waypoint.

Part 2: End of the Road

The PCs explain how they are travelling. Alenka is at the front, leading them, while Saris and Rosetta travel directly behind, followed by Maynard and Grey. They follow the path through, into the forest; where the tall trees shroud part of the daylight, making their surroundings seem very dim in comparison to the open.

Their passage starts off uneventful, but this abruptly changes with a rustling in the brush of the forest and a weak growl. At the front, a small withered dog hobbles out. It looks upon the party with desperate and hungry eyes. Soon after, two of its fellow hunting pack emerges from the bushes to the sides. Luckily for the group, Maynard has meat to hand (to feed Jean) and throws some to the animals; which is dragged away to be consumed somewhere in privacy. The group is allowed to continue onwards, luckily without having to slay the desperately hungry dogs; and spot a break in the trees that a weak sunlight is flooding through up ahead.

As the PCs approached the break in the trees, Alenka wistfully turns to them and informs them that there is a bridge up ahead over a chasm. She adds that once they’ve crossed it, there’s an excellent place to stop for lunch and rest.

Once the group emerged from the woods, however, it quickly became apparent that something was wrong. The deep chasm is ahead, but there is no bridge to be seen. There are heavy stakes to which the wooden bridge was probably once attached to.

Just as this new development is sinking in; an axe suddenly flies out from the forest brush up ahead; and Grey manages to dodge it skilfully. A few more axes are thrown at random, most of them missing Grey.

Genlock
A Genlock

You hear a shout, followed by a chorus of answers. Suddenly a band of horrifically ugly, squat humanoids with yellowish-grey skin charge out of the woods, brandishing their axes.

“By the Maker!” Alenka cries, “Genlocks!”

At Alenka’s cry, and at the loud shouts of battle from the Genlocks, the PCs turn their attention to the darkspawn they are now faced with. Two are charging for them, a powerful one lingering behind; giving orders to two others, who skulk off as discreetly as they can manage back into the brush.

The PCs manage to take out the Genlocks with great skill; with Grey and Alenka on range, and Maynard focusing his attention on healing and disabling their enemies with Mind Blast. Rosetta immediately charged for the oncoming Genlocks, before proceeding to face off with their alpha. With great skill, she manages to knock the alpha off the side of the cliff before turning her attention back to assisting the rest of the party with dispatching the other Genlocks.

The two that skulked off went mostly unnoticed in the woods, until they suddenly striked out at Grey and Alenka. Saris helped Rosetta with the two that charged, before turning to help the two ranged party members. One of the Genlocks almost knocked Grey off the side of the cliff, much like what happened to his alpha, but Grey is quick to dodge this hazard.

When it appeared that the trouble had past, and the group had just about managed to get their bearings, one of them picks up on the sound of shards of rock falling away from the cliff edge. As the party moves to investigate, they discover the alpha subtly climbing back up the edge!

Saris is clearly distressed, screaming Elvish profanities at what he refers to as a ‘shadow’. Maynard offers a rope to the alpha, which goes mostly ignored. Rose waits for the alpha with her silverite sword raised; however, Grey manages to peg it off the cliff and send it falling to its doom with a few sacrificed arrows.

Part 3: Crossing the Chasm

With the genlocks defeated, you return your attention to the missing bridge. Alenka shakes her head. “We need to cross here somehow. It’ll take many hours – hours that we don’t have – to reach the next crossing to the west, or circle the lake to the east.”

The chasm is 12 yards across; how do the PCs plan on crossing it? Well, the PCs decided to throw a rope attached to a grappling hook and use it to get across. They all manage to do it without any issue. The only thing that does happen, is Alenka. As the PCs prepare the rope, Alenka becomes impatient with how long it’s taken; huffing and sighing. Once the rope is in place, the PCs proceeded to discuss who to go first – That’s when Alenka shoved one of the PCs out of the way and passed the chasm on the rope first herself. The PCs follow suit.

Part 4: Wishful Thinking

The road on the other side of the missing bridge cuts through rockier, hilly terrain. Alenka leads you to a defensible location just off the road.

“Perhaps we should stop here to rest and eat? This is the location I mentioned earlier,” Alenka says to the party.

As the party agrees with this idea; Alenka turns to Rosetta and asks her to guard their temporary camp while she prepares the campfire. Alenka then asks Saris to go out hunting or foraging for some food, and explains to Saris that there is a grove not far from here. Saris agrees and ventures from the camp to do as asked. Alenka doesn’t say this, but she recognises Saris’ marks as that of the Dalish and assumes that he would be the best hunter out of the group she’s with.

With Rosetta on guard duty and Saris off hunting, Alenka is left with the remainder two party members. It is here that Alenka reveals her true intentions, as she moves in to sit next to Brother Maynard, unstrapping one of her boots after she takes a seat.

“You’re definitely not getting paid enough to risk your life fighting the likes of genlocks.” Alenka shakes the sand from a boot. “You could probably earn a fifty-coin payment in gold sovereigns – one hundred times what you’ll make otherwise – if the children were held and ransomed, instead of escorted back to Stenhold.”

Maynard shows an interest in her suggestion, urging her to continue with her idea.

“Blaker is the children’s escort back from Denerim, I know for a fact that he has some debts in need of settling. He could easily be talked into ransoming the whelps providing that his share covers his debts. What do you think? Is it worth the risk?”

As Maynard shows that he is undecided on this, and Grey reveals himself, Alenka continues on with her suggestion to the two of them.

“If things go well, the children won’t even know what’s happening. When we meet I’ll tell them that there’s been a darkspawn incursion and it’s too dangerous for them to return home. I’ll say that the arl has tasked me with imploring Ser Blaker to keep them for a bit longer. In the meantime, I’ll return to Stenhold with the ransom note. Neruda pays the money, we all get richer, and his children are returned unharmed.”

“You’ve met the man. You’ve seen how he treats those around him. What harm is there to spread his wealth around a little? You’ll take your share, won’t you?”

Alenka tells them that she’s known the Arl for the majority of her life; and that she is tired working for such an abusive man. She plays on the fact that some party members appear concerned about the elvish slaves in Neruda’s employ, attempting to use this to earn their support in her plot. While she personally had no concerns over the elvish slaves (it’s not abnormal to mistreat elves in Ferelden), she used this as leverage to convince the PCs to help her.

When the party continues feeling unsure, she reassures them that the children will be safe and her intention is only to get back at the Arl and spread his wealth, not to hurt the children. She assures them that she knows he doesn’t want any hassle concerning his children so he would pay the ransom. He’s rich, and he considers his children like property. She disagrees with his decision to remove his children from the safe, fortified city of Denerim, and points out that this is a definite sign of his disregard of his children’s safety – Reminding the party that they have seen the state of Stenhold.

When it seems like Alenka has won over Grey’s and Maynard’s support, she requests that they help her convince the others. She approaches Rosetta once Saris returns with two rabbits, and tells them about her plot.

However, with Rosetta torn between the decision, and Saris upset with the idea of betraying the Arl, the party deliberates and finally decides not to do it; much to Alenka’s dismay. Dejected, she accepts their decision.

The group prepare and have a lovely lunch of rabbit stew; the afternoon gradually passes into an early dusk, and as they set off once more into the forest; Brother Maynard lights a torch so they can see the way.

Part 5: Strike After Dusk

 

Blight-Owls
A Blight Owl

The group follows the road into a lightly wooded area as the sun sets. Alenka tells you that the waypoint isn’t far now. As darkness sets over the land, the group begins to hear the sounds of night. Crickets chirp, beasts scurry through the brush, and hooting owls can be heard in the distance. The hooting gets louder as the group ventures into the woods…

The group spots two large owls, about the size of bulldogs, flying towards them. They have large blood red eyes, black feathers, and toothy beaks segmented into four parts.

The group struggled to land a hit on these two owls; but after much struggle, and Brother Maynard hitting some trouble and deciding to leg it, they manage to eventually dispatch them. The group rests and heals, yet again, before continuing onwards to the waypoint.

Part 6: Waypoint Massacre

As you approach the waypoint, you can see the light of a dying campfire ahead. At first you are relieved, as Ser Blaker and the children must be waiting for you ahead, but as you draw closer you realise something is wrong. First, you notice a distinct lact of noises of camp. Then, you see the wagon, lying on its side, one of its wheels sheared off. And then you see the bodies… What now?

The first thing the PCs did was check over the general area; Maynard headed towards the overturned wagon, while Rosetta and Grey checked the bodies. Checking the wagon reveals nothing to Maynard. It is a wagon.

A quick scan of the immediate area turns up the bodies of half a dozen horses, three Ferelden guardsmen, two blight wolves, two genlocks, and a hurlock. They’re scattered; clearly a battle was fought here, and not long ago. One of the blight wolves came to rest in the campfire, its smouldering fur sending up an awful reek.

Alenka checks the bodies with the PCs, and informs them that she doesn’t see Ser Blaker or the children among the dead. Unfortunately, they discovered no survivors. Rosetta discovers two more dead guards, three more dead genlocks, and two more dead blight wolves. Alenka confirms that none of the guards are Ser Blaker; so there’s still no sign of him or the children.

Saris attempts to locate some tracks, and manages to do so with great success! He discovers the running footprints of six bipeds leaving the site. He manages to gather that the children were among the fleeing bipeds, and he can tell that the tracks lead towards a defensive location on higher ground, around a quarter of a mile away.

Just as Saris had uncovered this information, a chilling scream pierces the night air; from the direction the tracks lead. Alenka, and the PCs, immediately rush in the direction the tracks lead.

Part 7: Besieged

Rushing in the direction of the scream, the group emerges from the thicket of trees halfway up a steep hillside. Ahead, there’s an outcropping of rock just a bit higher than the hillside, at the top of a a switchback trail but on the other side of a treacherous-looking, washed-out gorge.

There’s a leather-armoured Ferelden on the outcropping, in cover, a crossbow in his hands. On the trail below him are the bodies of more fallen guardsmen, more genlocks, more blight wolves. At the bottom of the trail, you see a knot of darkspawn in cover; but as you watch, they emerge as one and charge howling up the trail. One falls, a crossbow bolt in his eye, but the others surge on.

The group may be able to beat them to the defenders, but the gorge in the way looks treacherous.

Besieged Map - Entire (Very Succeeded Check)

The party quickly set off to head across the gorge; both Saris and Grey leapt across nimbly, Saris landed clean on the other side, while Grey wobbled a little, landing a little too close to the edge but gaining his footing and not falling down. Rosetta picked up Brother Maynard and threw him at the wall opposite them, giving Maynard a small head start to climbing through the gorge. Alenka also struggles to get past the gorge, climbing down to the bottom before proceeding to climb back up again.

Blight Wolves
Blight Wolves

As Saris rushes to the outcropping to help defend the children, he catches a glimpse of two blight wolves prowling the hillside above the defenders’ position, preparing an ambush. At this, Saris changes direction and heads directly to the wolves; landing a harsh blow on the first one he meets.

He spends almost all of the entire encounter struggling against these wolves, but manages to hold his own and single-handedly takes them all down. Saris finishes his skirmish with a powerful blow from his Dar’Misaan, slicing the head off the blight wolf clean off.

Grey enters the outcropping and helps the NPCs defend, he is quickly joined by Maynard, who tosses his leftover oil upon the path leading up to the outcropping; intending to set it alight when the darkspawn are near enough. Alenka immediately rushes to the children when she can, while Rosetta takes up position on the path in front of the oil spill – Quickly joined by Ser Bridget, a strong women with a face chiselled from granite. She intends to stand down the advancing darkspawn horde with Rosetta, telling Rosetta that she thinks they could take the advancing group on their own. Meanwhile, Blaker pegs the advancing Hurlock with his crossbow, managing to land a particularly harsh blow to the Hurlock’s eye. With some angry shouting from Grey, Rosetta manages to drag Bridget to the other side of the oil spill.

The darkspawn finally reach the camp; Hana panics and unleashes a Mind Blast, centred on one of the attacking genlocks; and this affects most of the defenders as well (with the exception of Bridget). Joseph, her brother, focuses on keeping her calm for the rest of the encounter. The Hurlock squaring on the Qunari and delivering powerful skirmishing blows with its two-handed sword, throwing Rosetta off the outcropping on two occasions. Rosetta climbed back up, and eventually dealt a fantastic finishing blow with her own two-handed sword, chopping the head of the Hurlock clean off as its body slowly falls to its knees, and then sagging to the ground.

Maynard tosses a smoke bomb towards the genlocks and attempts to take the children from the camp; the children were suspicious at first, but decided to let the old man help them. Alenka quickly spots this and follows the children close behind… But then the final genlock is taken down, and the fight is over.

Part 8: The Final Choice

The dust has cleared. The darkspawn are dead. Your wounds are bandaged. After taking a breather, it’s time to leave this place.

Ser Blaker, Ser Bridget, and the children are introduced to the NPCs. Due to concerns from the PCs that are voiced, Alenka explains that Neruda refuses to listen to her reasoning to take Hana to the Circle to receive proper training – And uses this opportunity as another attempt to convince the PCs to join her in her plot.

Saris repairs the wagon wheel, and the PCs decide to go through with their decision to be honest and return the children to the Arl.

Epilogue

The night wore on, and the PCs still had yet another day to return to Stenhold. So, during their journey, they decided to rest. Ser Blaker opted to cover one of the night watches.

During his watch, however, he roused Alenka from her rest and the two of them snuck away into the night. Morning comes, and while Ser Bridget is confused; she manages to lead the children and the PCs back to Stenhold on her own. The reception, however, wasn’t all too friendly.

Arl Neruda marched out angrily to meet with the PCs in the courtyard, his frantic and upset wife at his heels. Macia surged forwards to reunite herself with her children, finding them safe and sound. As Arl Neruda called for the PCs’ arrest, Ser Bridget interjected and requested an explanation from her employer.

After some accusation were thrown out, those present managed to piece together what had happened. Alenka and Ser Blaker decided to get a head start back to Stenhold with a forged ransom note. Their plot, the entire time, was to blame the hirelings rather than bandits for the kidnapping. They ran off with the ransom money, rather than handing it over to the apparent ‘kidnappers’ as they told Arl Neruda they would.

And so, the heroes were paid their sum for completing their job and received apologies for the misunderstanding. They’ve received Lady Macia Neruda as a powerful ally, and have some lose ends to tie up in the future regarding the thieving steward and her partner…

As part of their reward; Neruda offered them a single night of free boarding at the inn so they may rest up before departing Stenhold.

Bridget Mugshot
Bridget

During their stay at the inn, they are found by Ser Bridget. Horrified by the betrayal, she has requested to join the PCs in pursuit of Alenka and Blaker; if the PCs would have her for their journey. They are also approached by a merchant who had just managed to trade for some ryott crop with the local farmers, and needs to take his shipment back to Denerim. He’s requested the protection of the party for a small sum of 10 silver pieces each, if they will take the job. He has caught wind that the party is reliable with their jobs, and hope they will consider it.

 

And so it will continue soon~

Bullying Vegetarians and Vegans

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Everyday.
Thousands of Innocent plants are killed by Vegetarians,
Help end the Violence,
Eat Bacon

I have recently become Vegan. I was Vegan about seven years ago (always Vegetarian when not Vegan), but I am still finding the new lifestyle a challenge to adjust to. I have my own reasons for doing it, reasons I am unfortunately afraid to express to people I consider to be my friends.

I have a lot of friends who consume and enjoy meat, but this isn’t an issue for me. I have friends with views that contradict my own, and that’s okay. I like to think of myself as a person who respects the choices my friends make about what they choose to eat – I may not think a meat-friendly diet is one the planet can sustain, but they didn’t ask me to tell them this. In fact, because some of my friends are easily offended by those who disagree with the meat industry, I am regularly biting my tongue during discussions that I would normally voice these opinions at. While I am doing my best to accommodate my friends and avoid upsetting them with my views, I have friends posting childish jokes designed to mock and humiliate Vegetarians and Vegans because they find it funny.

Why? Why is it so funny? I would like to ask all my friends to reflect on this if they do find it funny; to truly reflect on it and come up with a genuine reason for it. I ask this because none of us with Vegetarian or Vegan diets choose these lifestyles to entertain you, or to make jokes out of ourselves. It’s offensive, and it’s a form of bullying.

I don’t share my views on the meat industry to mock people that eat meat, I don’t do it to push my agenda onto them. If the conversation topic allows it, I do so to bring my knowledge on the topic into the conversation for discussion. I don’t do it to humiliate or mock the people around me. How is that more offensive than bullying Vegetarians? When I see signs like the image I’ve attached to this article, they strike me as childish.

Is it funny because some vegetarians and vegans care about the lives of animals? Why should that be funny? Generally speaking, if the animal’s life isn’t worth it to you, then why should your view on that affect anyone else?
I won’t go into detail here because the topic of whether animals are inferior, and the difference between ‘regular animals’ and ‘pets’ (snort, I don’t see a difference but I know many who disagree) would be a long tangent that isn’t for now.

Signs like the above is mocking others for making choices that don’t affect you; it’s not exclusively aimed at those vegetarians and vegans who do attempt to push their agenda onto others because it most certainly does apply to people such as myself, people who normally do censor their opinion. Why do we deserve this? Why must I go through the effort of accommodating you all if some of you continue to mock my lifestyle regardless?

I was bullied throughout school for being Vegan. How is that at all acceptable? How is it acceptable for adults to do the same that those children did to me when I was in school?

I chose to return to the Vegan diet because towards the end of last summer, I gained a lot of weight. I also became aware that dairy not only triggered my asthma, I also lacked the enzymes in my intestines to process the dairy and get any nutrients out of it – I can only get fat out of dairy. Continuing a diet containing dairy seemed pointless to me.

I also do value the lives of animals, and if my choices reduces the demand for meat even by a margin, I will do that. I was also recently shown Cowspiracy. The documentary focuses more on the saving the environment and our planet, not so much on ‘the vegan agenda’. The guy in it explores industries that make the biggest impact on our environment, the industries with the largest carbon footprint, and he found that the meat industry was the worst of them all. It was this revelation that had him swap to a vegan diet, and I decided to do the same.

How has my choice hurt you, and how is my reasons for this choice funny?

Not only is jokes like this offensive; I can’t imagine why they’re funny? I look at it and I can’t possibly find how it’s at all funny. I find a lot of stuff funny, this isn’t one of them. The only way I can see it being funny is similar to me being an insecure teenager laughing at a girl with a cleft chin because I was insecure about my own slightly cleft chin.

It’s either plants or we (ourselves) die. Plants are necessary, animals are not. This is how we view it. Some of us don’t enjoy the thought of animals being killed or kept captive to provide us with meat and dairy. Why is that so difficult for some of you to deal with?
Let us live our lives without being mocked, and most of us (can’t speak for all, as I said some vegans and veggies will try to push their agenda onto you but they are few and far between) will let you live yours.

And no, I’m not ‘shoving my opinion down your throat’; I’ve posted this to my own account. You can choose to read it or not, doesn’t matter to me.

“Who Should I Cosplay?” – Is it Important for an Artist to Choose their Own Cosplay?

I originally wrote on this topic over a year ago; since then I’ve gained weight and fallen away from cosplay quite a lot. I do plan to lose the weight and cosplay a little more again, but my dedication to it as a hobby will be clouded with obligations to work and University.

I often mention this to people whenever I see them ask “Who should I cosplay?” (Their post is often accompanied with a photograph of themselves without wearing any cosplay) – I personally do like to hear what people would suggest to me, however I make sure that everyone knows that their suggestion is not 100% and I will only ever cosplay something I really want to work on. A lot of these people post this because they want to cosplay, but ‘can’t decide who to cosplay’. In my opinion, if a decision can’t be made then a person doesn’t want to cosplay them enough. It might be easy to have people suggest characters that resemble you as a person, but I’ve personally never felt too involved with cosplays like that.

I cosplay what I’m eager to work on, on things I love. I’m often known as ‘the Hetalia fanatic’ because I tend to cosplay a lot of England from that series. My cosplay habits don’t reflect my interests well, but I cosplay what I feel comfortable as and as characters I feel connected to. Even though I am not a big fan of Hetalia anymore, I still feel a strong personal connection with the character Arthur Kirkland. I think it’s important for a person to decide what they want to cosplay, I think that’s a major part of the cosplay process; and I think a person would enjoy constructing and wearing an outfit belonging to a character they adore.

I personally cosplay what I’m eager to work on, and I know I’m often known as ‘the Hetalia fanatic’ because of it (because I do lots of England) and I know that my cosplay habits don’t reflect my interests very well, but I cosplay what I feel comfortable and the characters I’m passionate about. Even though I’m not a big fan of the series, I am a big fan of Arthur Kirkland.

Even if the character looks nothing like me, I put more effort into trying to resemble them to the best of my ability. Female characters are hard to imitate, and male characters are physically painful to try and pass as, but I do one or the other for characters that are worth it.
And I know some look at this effort and laugh at me and that’s fine, the important thing is that I know I’ve put effort into it, and I feel good and confident about that. I don’t feel good or confident about cosplaying ‘I might as well’ characters, or characters friends have asked me to cosplay for them. This is why I now tell people ‘I’ll consider it’, and I only ever actually go for it if I want to.

The fact is, I know people want cheap and easy costumes and that’s fine; everyone cosplays for their own purposes and I have nothing against casual cosplayers or serious cosplayers. However, if you want an ‘amazing’ costume, you have to be prepared for the idea that you might have to make an investment into it.
Most of the costumes I’ve made, even the simpler looking ones (with the exception of things like World is Mine England) ends up costing me a fortune. Due to my lifestyle, I have to spread these expenses out in order to survive and this is why it takes me so long to complete a costume, and often why I may miss convention deadlines and unfortunately let friends (who usually are understanding) down. I try my best, but cosplay is frankly quite expensive.

Even when I decide to make it from scratch, 2P fem Russia recently cost me quite a bit: Wig (£15), false lashes (£7), extra makeup and brushes to try feminising myself (£15), Victorian-styled shirt (£12), fabric and everything else to make the coat (£52), boots (£8), you get the picture. That costume isn’t even complete, I still need mittens and fur for my collar and to put around the rim of my boots.
It all adds up. I normally spend about £80 on average per costume, and this is why I sometimes do many versions of the same character – Not only because I love the character, and wow that version is gorgeous! But because it means I don’t need to fork out extra for different wigs and makeup.

The only reason I continue with a hobby that’s so expensive for someone on such a skint lifestyle is because I’m passionate about it, cosplaying breathes life into me. Ever since I stopped sketching, it’s become one of my primary sources of creative outlet. Although, having said that, I’ve abandoned cosplay a little bit in lieu of my hobby as a photographer.

So yeah, that’s my advice. I am completely open-minded about how other cosplayers choose to do it, I’m not an elitist in any way. This is how I do cosplay and it’s much more fulfilling than it used to be. I may only complete one or two costumes per year, but they are costumes I’m proud of and nobody can put me off cosplaying the things I enjoy cosplaying.

Someone laughed at me when I posted my makeup test for 2P fem Russia, but I went ahead anyway because I wanted to. I think that’s important.

Anyway, if anyone else wishes to provide their imput I’m welcome to it.

Sympathy vs. Empathy

And so begins me moving stuff over from my Facebook~

This is one I wrote about recently on Facebook. This video adaptation of the speech by Brené Brown showed up on my news feed and I found it enlightening and interesting to watch:

I completely agree with her.

In my opinion and based on my social experiences; the attitude of sympathy is a form of punishment. It’s punishing someone for feeling upset about something, it feels like it’s someone else is putting in no effort to make me feel any better.

It’s what annoys me about Tumblr, even when I posted things like: I’m trying to help my friend, does anyone have any helpful websites related to this that can help me help them?

I got replies saying: “I’m here for you, if you need to rant at someone.”

I get so close to saying: I don’t need to rant about this but I now feel frustrated with you and now I want to rant about YOU. Your lack of empathy and understanding towards my issue.

If you’ve ever done this, I’m sorry. I think anyone is too polite to tell you that saying that, without properly reading or understanding what someone’s issue is, just proves to them that you don’t give a flying fuck. And even if they did want to rant, being told ‘you can rant’ by a stranger may make them feel uncomfortable and closed off – I know I certainly do. In my experiences, ranting (especially to someone I didn’t know too tell) never led to anything good. It led to social drama, betrayal, among many other problems that I’d rather do without.

When you grow up; you’ll find that the healthier thing is to take some time to yourself to cool off, and then talk about it with a trusted friend when you feel calmer. If that friend is a good friend, they will try to help.

I’m going off on a tangent here; but when people tell me ‘I’m here if you need to rant’, I make a mental note never to turn to them for help. It seems like nosiness cloaked in ‘concern’, or very ‘self-gratifying’ – As in, ‘I’m a good person for offering to help someone in need’. It’s very lazy.

But back to the previous point, before I started going off on a tangent about ‘lazy “you can rant to me” sympathisers’, is that sympathy essentially makes someone feel guilty or stupid for feeling upset about something. Pointing out that others have it worse, or the ‘good’ in the issue, isn’t helpful. At least it isn’t for me.

When others are brought into it, when you say ‘well I have it worse’, it’s not helpful. It makes me feel oppressed, and I feel like I’m not ‘allowed’ to feel like I can be upset about something, because to someone else it’s a trivial thing to be upset about. Your problems don’t magically make mine hurt less, or seem any smaller to me. Everyone is human, and is allowed to be upset sometimes. It’s healthy to accept it.

I think it also leads onto ‘get over it’/’yourself’, words that push you into bottling it up and move on. Sometimes, I pretend to bottle something up because I just want that ‘friend’ to leave me alone and stop trying to ‘help’ me with it because they’re just upsetting me even more and making me uncomfortable (usually, I turn to another friend or my counsellor when this happens and try to get help from them).

A while ago, I figured out why my counsellor helps me so much. It’s because she empathises with my emotion, even if she hasn’t been in my situation by far (I open up to her about trans issues as one of the things I talk about, for example), she says things like “that must have made you feel ____”. And even if the feeling she says is wrong, and I say ‘actually, I felt like this’, it feels like she’s putting an effort into understanding my issue. It feels like I am truly sharing my issue with someone else and unloading, I feel validated and humanised by this because somebody else recognises that I am feeling upset by something. And most importantly: They let me feel that way about it.

My counsellor also once said, “I’m sorry, I’m not sure what to say so I’m listening, I’m really glad you’re talking about this” – And I think that’s helpful, too. I feel like I can talk to her about stuff I’ve buried long ago, stuff my friends would likely roll their eyes to and push me into bottling up for even longer. These things have been eating away at me, pushing up to the surface, and I’ve had to repeatedly bury them over and over because nobody in my life would let me process it.

The thing is, we’re all under this pressure to bottle something up and move on – I’m in this unfortunate habit of overlooking how I feel when I’m around people I care about, I’ve been ‘trained’ to do so by someone that hurt me a long time ago. The counsellor is slowly repairing that damage. I am human, as are all of you reading this, and we are allowed to be upset by something.

I think it’s a great shame that a lot of the people I know won’t take a moment, stop being so judgemental of each other, and just empathise each other. I think it’s upsetting that, at the end of the day, I need a counsellor to do this because most of my friends won’t. I think if the people in my life did this more to each other, people like me wouldn’t need a counsellor. If I had friends that I could actually talk to, I wouldn’t need my counsellor.

When I was younger, I’d be put on the spot if I didn’t say or do the ‘right’ thing to help someone. Even now, this experience has shaped my behaviour and I internally panic when a friend turns to me for help. I feel this pressure to ‘help’ them, and saying or doing nothing isn’t seen helpful and thus I’d be turned on if I do that.

However, over the years I’ve refined the people I’m friends with, and I recently honestly told someone something the lady quoted in this video: “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what to tell you but I’m so glad you told me.”
When I said this, I felt like a shit friend and I had this small thought that I was going to be confronted for being a shit friend in the back of my mind. They didn’t, and I know my worry that they would is unreasonable, but it wasn’t until watching this video that it was put into perspective and that I saw that I probably said the right thing (my friend did thank me, and sayd I helped them). I’m trying to speak less when someone wants my help, unless they ask for my advice. I sometimes speak to let them know that I understand how they feel because I’ve been somewhere similar, but at the end of the day they don’t really need to know that.

But I have been told I’m really good at helping and giving advice, and not judging my friends, because I already try to put myself in their shoes to understand what they’re going through. Not many people do this, in my experience, people are quick to judge. I have encountered friends who are shocked that I’m not judging them by a hobby they enjoy or a secret they’ve kept to themselves that they chose to reveal to me because they needed to talk to someone about it.

I think that’s sad. I think acceptance, empathy, and understanding (especially from friends) should be the norm.

Hello

I’m not much of a writer, but I do often get into these essay-like posts on places such as Tumblr (where they’re not always so welcome) and Facebook (where they’re out of place, I think).

Hello. I’m a young adult studying how to develop games at university, with a lot to say about certain things. I don’t care if nobody reads my blogs or views my photographs here, I just want somewhere to share it all.

Thank You~