2012 in Review

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January – I got my teaching certificate and officially became a teacher. Started filling out job applications. I wrote some short stories and enjoyed some great times with friends at my LARP.

February – Got back into my study of Martial Arts. I had some amazing plotting with close friends about characters that we play.

March – I had planned on auditioning for the Renaissance Faire but had to put that all on hold when I tore up the ligaments in my ankle. However, it gave me the chance to get a lot of my knitting done, even if I didn’t get completely caught up. lol

April – I made my first boffer weapon of awesome. I got to see Newsies on Broadway with a close friend of mine. My brother came home safely from Afghanistan and got engaged. And I found another renaissance faire to be a part of. I designed a new character to play at faire and began the sewing of the costume.

May – I got a substitute teaching job! I was honored by my graduating class for graduating Magna Cum Laude (a 3.79 GPA). I got to visit my home renaissance faire and finally bought a bodice from the company I have been eyeing for God knows how long. Two of my close friends got married and then moved to Florida. And I had major giggle fits over the idea of a movie of Les Miserables. I got to celebrate 2 years of a wonderful relationship with my wonderful boyfriend.

June – I got to celebrate the life of my grandfather with a lot of people. It was a blessing to remember him in such a happy light. I finally got to see the Tony Awards live! Continued being all crafty and enjoyed getting to know a new faire family.

July – Got to start learning a weapon in Martial Arts. Got welcomed back to my LARP with open arms and lots of hugs. Was introduced to the awesomeness that is Firefly. Made some drastic improvements in my special effects makeup skills.

August – Turned 24 years old. Was very hurt by how few people came to my birthday party but had a blast with those who did come. Got to lead a religion in my LARP. Got a beautiful new drop spindle for my crafting projects. Got an amazing gift from my boyfriend to help with my special effects makeup kit. Got a position as a long term special education substitute teacher.

September – Went and saw Newsies again for my birthday and got pictures with some of the cast members. Sadly discovered that my mom’s fainting issues is also one of my issues. Got some amazing yarn from NYC yarn shops as well as some amazing silk and wool fibers to spin. Went to the New York Renaissance Faire with my boyfriend and my brother. Celebrated my brother’s marriage to his beautiful new wife.

October – Went to another Renaissance faire with good friends and had a great time. Became much closer with some of my LARP friends and kindled some amazing friendships. Had a harsh introduction into some of the painful sides of teaching. Interviewed for my first full time job and got rejected. Spun my first full 4 ounces of yarn in less than a month.

November – Stood up for myself and my faith (something I have a lot of trouble doing). Joined a new LARP and had an amazing time playing evil. Got an aweomse 1970s poleroid camera that may still work.

December – Finished my long term substitute position. Learned how to make a bunch of jam with a close friend. Had an amazing Christmas. Got to celebrate my brother being IV free for a year now. Got the greatest gift ever of my own DSLR camera. Saw Shrek The Musical.

So what’s up for 2013? I’m going to take control of my health. I’m going to spend time getting in shape. I’m going to work and hopefully get a full time job. I’m going to learn to be proud of me.

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LARP Staff

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So, a few quick things.

One – I started up a new blog. It is called The Journey and it is specifically about my journey towards being healthier. This blog will still continue in its current form of me posting my musings about life and living and a lot of posts about roleplaying. No changes there. But I thought I’d put it out there that hey, new blog. Maybe you’ll want to follow and see how I’m doing.

Two – I chose a new theme/layout for the blog here. I loved the previous one. It was pretty. But that was it. It was pretty. The name of this site is Music and Zombies. It didn’t quite fit the zombie portion of the name. So I looked to see what else there was. I saw this and fell in love. The monster is so adorable and it fits the name of the site much better. I’m very much so a fan. I am glad I made this change.

So, I did something crazy today, well, yesterday night.

I sent in an application to become one of the staff members at my LARP.

Specifically I sent in an application to be a marshal. A marshal is someone in the game who helps the staff members. We help answer players questions. We look out for player safety. We work to get new players involved. We do card checks during the game and write out item cards. We police player-vs-player situations. We have longer npc shifts. We do a lot of things to help the game.

I’ve applied to be a marshal before. I previously did not get the spot because I also work at Renaissance faires and the faire I worked at (at the time) took over my spring. Marshals need to be at most of the games of a year. With my spring time being non-existant it was no wonder that they never hired me as a marshal. However, I no longer work for that faire any more. My current faire is very flexible to just about anything, including me not being there every weekend. This means that the attendance issue at game is no longer an issue.

I really hope I get the spot.

New Years Goals

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Often people like to make New Years Resolutions. They make these goals that they plan on doing in the new year. They go crazy on the goals in the first week or so. Then they start to die off. They get frustrated at the difficulty of the goal. They get very angry at themselves if they feel that they have broken their resolution, especially if they do so earlier rather than later. Then by the end of January, most people have resigned themselves to the fact that they are just not going to succeed.

I don’t want to be one of those people. So, how am I going to be different?

Firstly, I am going to have goals that are easily understood. This is the teacher in me with my special education training taking affect right now. As a teacher I often have to read through student IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) for students with Special Education labels/services. I often see student goals written like “Student will understand the process of editing in their writing.” There are lots of problems with this goal. Firstly, it cannot be measured. Measurement is a HUGE deal. You need measurement. You need data. Without data you have no way of figuring out if there is any form of progress. Secondly, there is no way of knowing whether or not a student can understand something or not in a way that lets you know whether or not this goal has been succeeded at. You need clear and specific goals. A better goal would be that “The student will use the COPS editing strategy in their writing 80% of the time.” This is true even for those who are trying to get into shape. Don’t make a goal like “I’ll get into shape this year.” You have no way of measuring the goal nor is the goal specific enough to know if you have succeeded or not. Make a goal like “I will workout for 20 minutes a day for at least 3 days a week.” Now you have something specific and you know how to measure your data. The specifics is that you will workout for 20 minutes a day. The way to measure your data is looking at the calendar. Check off when you had a workout of at least 20 minutes? How many days did you do each week? This is your data. You have measured your goal. You know it is specific. You have a chance to succeed.

Secondly, make your goal something that is easy to succeed at so that you can reach it relatively quickly. Then when you succeed you can make another slightly harder goal and keep challenging yourself to do better. Take it one step at a time. If I use my workout example, don’t start with working out for an hour every day if you have never done a workout before. Start with 10 minutes every other day. Could you do that for most of January? Awesome! Then in February go to 20 minutes every other day or maybe 10 minutes every day. Make your goals easily attainable to help ensure success.

Tell people about your goals and make sure that they hold you accountable for them. Don’t just post your goals and say this is what you’re going to do. Post your goals and have friends who will drive you nuts if you do not succeed. Maybe you set up a system where you owe someone something if you don’t succeed. Or maybe you just have a system where you must be honest with someone. Have people you trust who can bug you (without destroying your relationship with them) and be honest with them about your progress. If you need to be accountable to someone, chances are good that you will do it just to avoid telling them you failed.

Don’t be hard on yourself. You messed up? Oh well. Tomorrow start new and fresh all over again. Don’t hold a grudge on yourself because you messed up. That’s why most education goals do not say 100% of the time. They say 80% of the time or 85% of the time. It is human nature to mess up. So take that into account. Oh well, you messed up. However, you have been doing so well this whole time. Take a deep breath and go back to your awesome streak tomorrow.

Be prepared to adjust and change. One thing about working in Special Education that I have learned is you need to be willing to change. Every year a team meets to discuss the student’s goals. Has the student been doing well? Awesome. Now it is time to make the goals harder. Has a student been having some trouble with the current goals? Then let’s make them a tad easier. Do that with yourself. Every month or so reassess how you are doing. Did you succeed this past month? Then make it harder. Was it a struggle for you? Then make it easier (or continue it if you feel that you made progress and just need more time). Look at your data and change your goal accordingly. That’s okay. In fact, it is outright beneficial. It makes you critical of your work and gets you looking for strategies to help you succeed since you want the harder goal not the easier one.

Don’t give yourself too many goals. One thing at a time. Too many and you’ll just feel overloaded because it is too much to handle. Take one or two things. Then take each one a step at a time. If you only have a little bit to worry about then it is easier to focus on all of it. If you find you are doing utterly amazing, then maybe add another goal when you reassess yourself. But don’t start with every goal under the sun. You’ll just feel bogged down and you’ll give up quickly.

So, how does that apply to me personally?

Firstly, right now it is Sunday for me. It is the week that I am choosing to start my new years goals since I want to start at the beginning of the week and not mid week. And I want to be going by January 1. So instead of starting on the first full week of the new year, I am starting now. I am starting today. Then I have it started by January 1.

Secondly, my previous post was a work out plan. It is one I thought carefully about. I like it too. But to make that plan my goal would be too much too quickly for me. It would be too intense and would leave me destined for failure. I need to start smaller.

So, my new years goal is to develop a workout habit that I can continue through the entire year. I am starting small. I am starting with whether or not I can follow my workout plan at least 50% of January. I will reassess my workout goal and change it accordingly for February. But for January, if I can follow the workout listed for the day at least 50% of the days in January, then I will be ready to make the goal harder. 50% of 31 days is 15.5 days. Rules of rounding say that a .5 rounds to the nearest 1. So 16 days. If I can succeed in working out with my assigned workout at least 16 of the 31 days in January, then I’m doing alright. I won’t start measuring my data til January first. But I am going to start trying to do this later today (when I wake up, lol). I have told a bunch of people and asked them to hold me accountable.

So, based on what I mentioned above, how is my prediction at how well I will do by the end of the year?

Firstly, my goal is specific and measurable. Specific. I will follow a specific workout plan for at least half of the days in January. You read that and know exactly what I want to do. Measurable. If I do the assigned workout, I check it off on a calendar. How many days are checked off by the end of January? Look. I have data now. I have measured it. Secondly, my goal is easy to succeed at. Only 50% of the time or 16 days. I can easily get that done in just over 2 weeks if I want to. Or I can do every other day. Shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish that. Tell people about the goals. I mentioned it here on my blog in more than one post. I mentioned it on facebook and got a bunch of people who I know will hold me accountable. So I can check that off. I hope I will be able to not be too hard on myself though i can’t guarantee that one. I can however see that I am willing to change it as I want to reassess in February. And it is only one goal so definitely not too many.

My prediction? Chance of success is high. YAY!

2013 Workout Challenge

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I am posting my 2013 Workout Challenge.

Why am I calling it the Workout Challenge? Because, honestly, I have had HUGE difficulty in actually keeping myself on track when I work out. So, this will be a huge challenge for me. However, I have thought long and hard about what I needed to do to get this done. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the workouts that I liked. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the things I enjoy doing when I work out and why I have enjoyed them. I have thought long and hard about what works for me and what doesn’t.

One thing I am doing. I am telling people about this. I am keeping myself honest. I am posting updates to my facebook group and my friends about how I am doing. I am going to beg them to drive me crazy if I do not post an update on how I am doing. I want people to keep me honest in this. I want people to push me to do better. I want people to drive me nuts.

Here is the schedule that I have designed for myself. Underneath it is all the extra little details that I plan on for my new plan to a healthier, better me.

  • Sunday – Zombies, Run!
  • Monday – Karate Class, TV Workout
  • Tuesday – Zombies, Run
  • Wednesday – Karate Class, TV Workout
  • Thursday – Zombies, Run!
  • Friday – TV Workout
  • Saturday – Rest Day*

Saturday is a Rest Day as needed. If I am doing very well and feeling very good that day, I am going to encourage myself to do at least 1 TV Workout. A TV Workout is a workout based around my favorite TV Shows or movies. I am utilizing F*** Yeah Movie Workouts to help me figure out what I need to do for those workouts. So I promise it is not some random thing, it is actually something that is planned out. I am logging my workouts on Fitocracy, which is one of my favorite workout trackers ever. It treats tracking workouts like playing a video game or a roleplaying game. Every workout provides you with experience points. Get enough experience points and you level up. Go on quests by completing specific workouts. Get achievements for various things (including workouts). It’s utterly amazing.

I am a part of a facebook group and I’m giving some of the people that I trust my cell phone number. My goal is to post about my workouts each week at least once in the week. If I don’t, I’m hoping that the people I give my number to will bug me relentlessly until I post my workout or at least tell them about it. I want them to bug me. I want people to push me into working out.

I am going to also try and wear a pedometer. I am aiming for a certain number of steps each day. How many? Eventually at least 10,000 a day. Right now? I don’t know. I’m going to find that out when I figure out what I currently do. I plan on the first week just tracking what I do and not having a goal. At the end of the week, taking my average number of steps and using that to help me figure out what my total number of steps will be.

I also am tempted to use one of the sites on push ups and stuff on the TV workout days to try and help boost my muscle strength. Tempted. Not actually set in stone on this one yet.

I hope this helps me out. I have high hopes for myself this year. Getting in shape is a must. It will happen. I can’t wait to see how I look at the end of the year.

Costuming Makes the Character

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I don’t know about you guys, but one of my favorite things to do is design costumes for characters. I really enjoy the research and careful choices that have to be considered for the character being costumed. What is it that they wear? What do the pieces of their outfit mean? What do the pieces of their outfit show us about the life that they have lived? Costuming tells us a lot about the character if you let it. You could, if you really wanted say that “I’m playing a character who lives in the zombie apocolypse. Ratty jeans and a t-shirt. Go!” Or you could think about the character and what kinds of items they would have access to and why. You could think about the items that they had available to them, what they would chose, what they would be given. All those details could be considered and actually add to the beauty of the call.

Let me, like always, give examples from my own characters. I’ll start with my favorite: Jeanie Thomas.

Jeanie Thomas lives in the post apocolyptic zombie filled world. She lived for 22 years as a slave in a place called the Iron Works. She is an engineer and a mad scientist. She follow the beliefs of the Church of Darwin and is a priest of the church. She currently lives in the town of Second Hayven.

Her main outfit is something that would have been given to her by her owners. Her owners probably would not want to spend a lot of upkeep costs on a slaves outfit. That, and the slave is an engineer. The slave works almost entirely at a forge. So the clothing needs to be rugged. Cargo pants. Tank top. Button up Shirt to add over it for chillier days. Pants are severely patched up due to the nature of not wanting to spend too much money on the slave. The tank top would be the item most often replaced so this one will be newer, but dark in color so that it does not obviously need to be cleaned all the time. The top shirt has had buttons replaced, been patched up. It’s a lighter color since it is what was available at the time. But of course it is patched up. There are burn marks on it because she worked at a forge. There are also some grease stains all over it because she works with scrap metal.

On her belt is a tool belt with her engineering tools: a hammer, screw driver, pliers, magnifying glass so that she can see smaller items. She also has a pair of goggles. The goggles have been scrapped together from scrap pieces, so it was not aquired by her rich pure blood owner. This was made by someone based on the scrap items that they could find. Backstory item! It was actually made by the Iron Slave who raised her as a way to protect her eyes from anything that might explode near the forge.

She has a necklace. On the necklace is a spool of wire, a craftsman key chain, some key rings, and a bracelet. The spool of wire is soder for when she is welding at a forge. The craftsman key chain is a gift from her “big sis” who raised her. The key rings were used in her escape from the Iron Works. The bracelet was a gift from the character Father Lucien.

She has a hat, it is an Insane Clown Posse hat. It was gifted to her by the character Bones. She has a brown scarf from when she needed to hide her face due to some medicine she was taking. She has a pair of tinted goggles that help keep the sun out. They were gifted to her from a Lascarian named Makita who wanted to help her learn how to deal with her light sensitivity.

Even the makeup I do for the character has specific reasons for each piece. There is a tattoo on her left cheek. That was her designation number from her life in slavery. There are scars on her left forehead, right temple, and right cheek from when there was an explosion at her forge and shrapnel hit her in the face. When she is exhausted, I will do dark circles under her eyes to show that she has not been sleeping at all. All of these little details are parts of her costume.

Each piece has a meaning.

It gave the costume some meaning. It has made the costuming enjoyable. These are all the things I like to think about for costuming. What about you? What do you think about when costuming?

What Drives Your Character?

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While I know that I still have a world of knowledge to learn about roleplay, and in many aspects I do consider myself a noob compared to the years of experience from my friends, I often have a lot of people coming up to me to ask me questions about playing their characters. “What class should I take next?” “How should I play this?” “What would you do if you were in this scene?” “What is your take on portraying something like this?” Now, on one hand, I understand why they would often come to me for advice. In this particular game, I am ancient. I was there from almost the beginning. To newer players I’m one of the originals because I can say things like “I remember Old Hayven” or “I used to play one of the Krattikoff Family.” But at the same time, the honor I feel when asked never diminishes because there are others in the game with far more experience than I. I have made friends who have 15+ years of roleplay experience. Some of my friends are game designers. Yet, they chose to ask me.

However, I have noticed, that when I am asked these questions, I always follow up with a few questions of my own. I try to use the questions to get players asking my advice to realize that they need to listen to the character and the direction the character is going. I boil it down to one essential point: What drives your character?

Then, I give an example.

I play in a Post Apocolyptic Zombie Survival Horror LARP and I absolutely love it. I play a runaway slave named Jeanie. She has a lot of things going on. She is mentally ill and has a personality disorder. She is incredibly intelligent, incredibly racist, sees things in a very black and white way. She has no idea how to understand normal human interaction as it is not incredibly logical or rational (like her thought process). She is obsessed with learning about the world, even if she does so in an unconventional (read: dangerous) method. She is curious, incredibly eager to please, and desperate for meaningful human interaction.

She has a lot of trouble disobeying what she considers an order. She gets very upset at the idea of getting into trouble or making someone mad. In fact, she often apologizes profusely at the idea of making someone mad. She struggles to trust anyone due to the nature of her strain of humanity. She wants more than anything to find people who accept her. She misses her sister (who raised her) and her adoptive brother (who was recently killed). She has very few people in town that she feels knows her well and that really bothers her.

If I had to boil down Jeanie to a single phrase that defines her entire psyche and drives her every action, if I had to simplify Jeanie to a few words…

She’s lonely.

That phrase defines her every action in town. She had another one of her kind introduce her to the Good Doctor, Inc. She has since joined the group. She had an engineer named Torch take her under his wing and try to teach her about engineering. She still works with him. She craves human interaction but her past is hindering her ability to have it. She can’t handle hugs from people she doesn’t know and if she gets a hug from someone she does know they had to ask if they could hug her because she’s so scared of being hit. She latches on to those she is close to and she never lets go, shutting down when she has to let go. Every interaction in her game is driven by the fact that she is really really lonely.

Now, let’s look at another example.

I just joined a chapter of the Mind’s Eye Society, the LARP for the World of Darkness, specifically a chapter that runs Vampire: The Requiem. I had been interested in joining for awhile and made the last minute decision to go to a game that was happening later that day. So I suddenly threw together a character that seemed rather interesting and went from there. I created a Nosferatu vampire and had a basic backstory. I was pretty happy with the last minute character building.

I have played her for two games this far and have found her, while interesting, rather difficult to play. I was not sure why she was so difficult to play, especially because I was having such a great time. So I decided to work on fleshing out the character with a PDF that the MES has on character building. Maybe if I fleshed out all the little details of the character, I would no longer have any issue about playing her. The only problem is that I am stuck on some of the questions, in particular, the questions on what drives the character.

Honestly, I have no idea what drives this character. I have no idea what is behind her decisions. I know that she reacts to things, but she is never proactive about anything. Why? Because she is not working toward anything. Even a monster like the Nosferatu would have character goals, but I cannot mention a single one.

This is what makes figuring out a character’s future so hard for some players. If you have no idea what drives your character, what their ultimate goals and desires are, then you have no idea where your character is going to go. However, if you know what causes every decision they make, then you know the decisions they will make in regards to their lives and their professions. When building a character, then go and figure out the driving force behind the character. It can be anything – revenge, evolution, a desire for power, a desire for love, acceptance, ultimate knowledge, etc. Anything. But give them a drive. Give them something that will spark every interaction, every decision, every thing they hunt after. Then you’ll know where to go with your character and you won’t feel stuck, like me and my Nosferatu.

Damn Vampires.