World of Darkness – Werewolf Game – First Draft Backstory

As a friend spins up a play-by-post Werewolf/Changing Breed game set in Hawaii, it was time to start stretching out my WoD memories and try applying it to the modern era. I think it’s been at least a decade since I made any World of Darkness character, much less a Garou.

One of my goals was to have the character be relatively new to Oahu, so the challenge was to plan where she came from and why she had uprooted herself with such completeness, so that she would be starting over.

Born: Vikki Villalobos
Garou Name: Shards of Spirit
Tribe: Children of Gaia
Auspice: Theurge
Breed: Homid (Parents both CoG Kinfolk)
Originally from: Napa Valley, California
Current Age: 22

For generations the Wolf’s Head Vineyards in Calistoga, California has been a refuge, a safe space for those in the Garou community that need a place to recover or a shelter for their first steps on the path to being part of the greater community. Many a young metis had been fostered there, free of the prying eyes their local pack would scrutinize them with. It straddled the precarious border between urban development and the natural wilds, schooling Homid children in the ways of the wolf and letting the Lupus born learn the life of man. The local packs defended the kinfolk owners through hard times and prospered in return when things were well. The Villalobos family rarely produced a Garou in their line, but they remained treasured community members for the care they showed those who needed a hand up in hard times, and the support they were always ready to provide to their family that did become true Garou. Delmar and his wife Marissa were no exception to this tradition, always ready to foster, nurture, donate, and dedicate themselves to the good of their Garou family.

It was a surprise to everyone when Marissa and Delmar’s only daughter, Viktoria (Vikki, to her friends) underwent the First Change at age sixteen. In a fortunate turn it was the actions of another Kinfolk that brought her rage boiling over the first time. The fire was already close to the surface, a feeling of being bothered as she was required to spend the day tending to the littlest cubs – those children thought most likely to become Garou in a few years – instead of with the glassblowing art and solitude that she craved that day. When she returned to the little workshop she had been granted it was to discover one of the older children, a mischievous prankster known for trying to upset her, holding her most involved piece to date. Without thinking about it she barked at him to leave it alone – and his hands pulled away from the piece without a thought to it’s balance. Gravity had its way with the glass tree and the sculpture became a shattered mess on the floor. The adults that were called to aid found her destroying the very valuable works she had stored there in a tantrum that would be talked about for months to come. 

Her Rite of Passage hunt, turning her and a few other younglings loose in the woods blindfolded with no tools at their disposal to make their way back to the caern, did not cause her much distress. The soil of Napa was rife with obsidian remnants of previous generations, so she was able to make the weapons that would ensure her group’s success. Even outside her workshop the glass edge was the source of her strength, and she would come to be known to her fellow Children of Gaia as Shards of Spirit.

A theurge, she began to see and speak with the spirits around her – and her affinity for glassblowing as an art form showed her a natural draw to spirits of air and fire. She was able to find success in the human world as an artist over the next three years, and still have the freedom to aid the family and tribe she was loyal to. Everything seemed to have settled, even after her parents passed at relatively young ages in 2016 – Marissa to cancer and Delmar to a heart attack in the month after, though there were whispers that it was simply his heart was still broken from the loss of his wife. Still, Vikki was able to find help in the community to keep Wolf’s Head running as both a Garou sanctuary and a busy winery.

When the entire vineyard was lost to the October 2017 Wine Country fires, everyone assumed the insurance money would be collected, the rebuild would begin, and the cycle would continue – Wolf’s Head was eternal in their eyes – ever with the Villalobos family in charge. Yet something had changed that week for Vikki – seeing the fire spirits she trusted so much rush with rage over her safest places, she could no longer view the valley as home. The need to find a new measure of safety, in a place that would support her art, led her to seek out someplace a world away from Napa’s cooler weather and forested depths, but still sourcing the volcanic sand that made her art glass readily available. 

A friend mentioned a North Shore gallery in Hawaii that was looking to fill an opening, and she began shipping pieces to them. It was the logical step away from Napa for her. With her growing name there over the next year, she began to look into a chance to relocate, using the funds from the fire to both carry her over the ocean but also leave enough to help the family and tribe in Napa in comfort while they made their plans for a new Wolf’s Head, this time minus the Villalobos legacy. By the beginning of 2019 Vikki was forming new roots in a land far from home, while still supporting from afar the efforts of her kin on rebuilding the burnt legacy. 

Now in Hawaii for a year, she’s starting to see the islands as home, and has yet to return to Calistoga in person. Wolf’s Head is well on it’s way to a new crop even while she plants a very different seed in Oahu’s volcanic soil.

Wayback Machine: Girls Don’t Play This Game

The year is 2002 or 2003. My roommates work at the Block in Orange – an outdoor mall, and I’m the one with a car. We live in walking distance, but sometimes I go hang out there and kill time before I give them rides, or after I drop them off.

I’ve walked by Games Workshop a thousand times. I’ve finally been given a mini to paint for the first time when we were hanging out with a friend, and I had fun even if I was terrible at it. So this random afternoon, I turn to the pretty much empty store and walk in – I’ve heard they have demo miniatures of their games, and I’ve seen some pretty paint jobs in the windows on the figures. So it is time to take my geek to that next level – Wargaming.

“Hi there.” There are two employees in their Games Workshop polo shirts, one of which is intensely focused on the table in front of him where an army is deployed. The one standing up is the one that greets me, so I smile back and start to wander through the store. There’s one non-employee, clearly engaged in mortal combat on the table.

Neither of the Games Workshop guys move, as I walk up to a display case with a beautiful Warhammer Fantasy army, elves if I recall correctly. On the shelf below it is a 40k Ork army, with the vehicles painted red (I would learn later that makes them go faster – just ask the Orks). Finally I walk up to them directly, kind of unsure how to approach the situation, and afraid to interrupt their conversation as well as the battle in progress. “Hi, I heard you teach Warhammer?” Oh – I feel stupid for saying that, and they exchange and equally awkward look with each other.

“Um… Girls don’t play this game,” says the employee not focused on the army. I blink. I am a girl. I want to play this game. I am asking the employee, who’s job it is to sell these miniatures, to help me spend money in his store. And his response is that I don’t? The non-employee looks like he’s about to laugh, but instead goes back to focusing on the game. The one I apparently don’t play.

“What?” is my eloquent response. I can feel my cheeks getting a bit pink.

“Yeah, this isn’t a game for you,” chimes in the employee in battle.

“I see. Okay.” I don’t know how to dispute this. They don’t want me here, so I no longer want to be here. Metaphorical tail between my legs, instead of giving them the tongue lashing they have so earned I go with my typical response – needless to say this is not the first time I have been told girls don’t game – and retreat. I suspect there was a sigh of relief when I did. I also sighed with relief once I was outside and free of the place.

I would never step foot in that store again, even when my roommates or friends would go to pick something up. Somehow there was always an excuse for me to wait outside. But I could always hear the echoes of “Girls don’t play this game,” as I got near, and I could never bring myself to challenge that.

Years later I would have friends get involved with Warmachine (http://privateerpress.com/warmachine/welcome-to-warmachine) and as a gift purchase me a badass army – The Protectorate of Menoth! But the starter set came with a dude for a Warcaster, so they also got me a centerpiece of Feora, Priestess of the Flame. And suddenly I discovered that… girls do play this game. And so I never looked back – Warhammer Fantasy and 40K were left in the dust and Privateer Press was glad to have me.

Ending the silence

I don’t know what to write. I’ve left this idle so long – I’ve tried to start again and again and I just… I fumble.

I should make excuses.

I should provide the reasons.

I should be witty.

I should engage like I did before.

I should be creative!

But alas, I stare at the blinking cursor, or I write a draft I will never publish. And then I close it up again and walk away. Time and time again.

I have a new character backstory for you! I have the start of a possible short story to tell. Maybe these items will get my posting again. Maybe I will fade back in silence.

Idle times make for itchy fingers, maybe this pandemic was what I needed – how morbid is that?

Hi there. I missed you. Maybe we can have this again? Give me another chance?

Living it Live

Such a tiny victory, and yet the one I want to write about!

See, I kept having events and obligations on Thursdays, and then Fridays weren’t as free as they used to be – my usual Critical Role days. I fell over three weeks behind!

On a TV show, catching up is easy, curl up on the couch for 45 minutes to an hour for each episode… but Critical Role episodes are generally 3-5 hours each, and tend to take a lot of attention to follow due to the lack of visual clues to what has happened. And CR has to be done at my computer, which is time I also need for other projects and pursuits (Anthem and Team Fight Tactics in LoL being the major distractions lately).

So even though the Critical Role Crew took a week off, last night I was still scrambling to finish that last episode before 7 PM, and I was almost there… when the internet started dropping over and over. ARGH!

I missed the intro, but I made it to the live episode, however Spectrum continued to refuse to cooperate (my internet provider) and while I did make it through the break, that’s when I gave up. Still, the ability to watch (most) of the first half live felt SO GOOD! A chance to sit up with my community, especially on the anniversary of a PC death, and share our thoughts and feels… just what I needed last night.

Clue By Four – misdirected

More stories from the Iron Dragon, a mercenary company in the Iron Kingdoms/Warmachine/Hordes setting…

Our current adventuring party have left the territory of the fanatic Protectorate of Menoth and taken a job from the Cygnaran Military. Goal is to investigate, incognito, four remote-ish locations in Cygnar for signs of life, signs of living (not undead) military activity, and signs of misappropriation of government funds. My character is my intimidatingly tall Khadoran (Russia-equivalent) gun-bunny, who is the reluctant leader in this as the only Lieutenant present, Ivonna Siriovna.

The second of these locations are a series of sea caves across the bay from the Ordic city of Five Fingers, known to be a wretched hive of scum and villainy – also the original home of my other character, Flynn Keller. Due to heroics undertaken while Ivonna was in the Protectorate, there is a sea wall in Five Fingers etched with the face of several company members, including Flynn. Luckily that was avoided during our team’s brief stay, because Ivonna does not think well of Flynn, who she refers to as “troublesome girl-boy” based on some interesting situation he got himself into. Ivonna would have been very confused, and probably mildly upset by that tribute.

So they make to to the sea caves in question, the team delving in to each cave they encounter, day after day, knowing this will take the better part of a month, at a best scenario. Some caves are empty, some have interesting finds. Some days, there’s no cave at all. Six days in we encounter a pair of nasty giant worm-creatures that spit burning steam, and after slaying them we explore the abandoned cave behind them, where a dead body has obviously lived to his end of days in scarcity. His dried out body lays in the room, and Ivonna is a very practical person so while the rest of the party examines the room, she uses the clue of the quill in his hand to find a letter on his person.

Of course, it is the last confession of Keegan Vasco, traitor to the crown of Ord, former marine, and betrayer of his best friend, Ian Gossyn. Of course I am, in my thick fake Russian accent, reading this outloud and trying not to choke. Because none of the characters in this room know what I, as a player, does – Ian Gossyn was the dead father my other character, Flynn Keller, sought to redeem the name of. A man murdered for being a traitor to the crown, who blamed his best friend Keegan of being the true traitor. The letter convicts both of them as less than upstanding and giving the undead country an edge over their own country, but also indicates a desire for redemption in the eyes of their god, Morrow – for both men.

And nobody in character in the room has any idea of this connection. So out of character I am laughing, gasping, and overwhelmed by the story hook we were just thrown. In character, we’re all making plans to give his personal effects to the church and just calling it a day. Oops!

Fifteen Years of Fun

Back in summer of 2004 a few friends and I started a tabletop RPG campaign, since Privateer Press had released a tabletop RPG setting for their Warmachine minis game. It was based on the D&D 3.5 rules Open Gaming License, so it was pretty easy to pick up for us with a little 3.0 and 3.5 experience.

Within the first couple of session the group grew a little, and we had a gang of misfit adventurer types in a world of Steam Power Fantasy – a little bit of traditional magic and old-world charm, a bit of steampunk Victorian styling, and a LOT of giant robots making the world a distinctly different thing from your classic D&D game.

One of those fine characters, Diego, came to us with a touch of madness and more than a touch of drive to someday venture northwards in the tradition of his family, to fulfill a mighty duty that the Lenska family was charged with. His magnificent sword was his birthright and his burden as it would someday drive him to the frozen wastes to unlock a secret.

Over these years our small ragtag adventuring party became a formal mercenary company, known as The Iron Dragon. The system was changed over to Pathfinder rules, with a one year interlude in the new Iron Kingdoms rule (but reverted to Pathfinder). Each of us developed three characters each to allow us to explore different corners of the world (but mostly to keep gaming even when a main storyline character was sans player). Three simultaneous groups at any given time, which means time in our world passed much faster than time in the game world, but 15 years in the real world still adds up to quite a bit in the game setting, and eventually the inevitable came to pass – Diego Lenska began his noble march to the dwarven lands where he sought to use his mystical sword as a key to activate one of the ancient and great Colossus war machines of untold power, to bring to life the destiny and secrets he had guarded. My little dwarf from the north marched with him, as the real world years ticked on and we dropped in on this group whenever possible, in a mighty journey delayed by the real world’s interference time and time again.

Finally Diego’s deal with a devil manifested in a complicated combat – our Curator ally, Gerlath, trying to summon in the fuel we needed to power our Colossus, my dwarf’s sweetheart guarding the fuel in question, and the powers of the demonic forces led by ‘He who’s hand held The Dagger’ – a powerful infernal force to be reckoned with – tearing us apart in any number of ways. The scope and scale of this combat itself even took months to manifest, but Sunday night we sat as a group and, despite the timeline traveling deep into the early morning hours, we were determined to see it to the end.

Around 3 am in our real time, we finally took out the last of the demonic forces, aside from the one last vicious (and mythic) lackey and of course ‘ He who’s hand held The Dagger’ himself. That’s when the villain determined that if he could not take the power, nobody would, and the forces turned to tear the cavern down around us to wipe us out for good. But the mantra “Wait… and hope” echoed from my diminutive dwarf as our ally Gerlath had instructed before slipping between the sands of time. So we held out, coming mere degrees from utterly losing hope in the face of a Prismatic Sphere around our lead enemy, and yet…

Yet despite so little chance of victory, the certainty of a TPK (Total Party Kill), and having one of our clerics fall into the grip of death not just once but in two successive rounds – thank goodness in a world where Resurrection is not an option there is Breath of Life – we waited… we held onto hope… and thanks to the efforts of Gerlath and Bullet Bill (the sweetheart mentioned before) we squeaked through in the end. Our prime enemy did escape through those cursed portals my dwarf just couldn’t managed to close, but we lived and won the day.

The big day. The one that really, truly, mattered.

This is what it’s all been building towards, for fifteen real years of friendship, through life and so many landmarks in our own timelines as well as that of our characters. I love this group of friends, and it’s been an honor to spend just about every other Sunday in their company, where half (or more) of every session is off-topic bullshitting and bantering, to see marriages – including my own – manifest, children come into the picture, and to know that it all ended in a win.

Long may The Iron Dragon fly. More than a mercenary company, in game and in reality it’s come to mean family.

Judge not…

Last Friday, on the way out to dinner with friends, we wound up in stop and go traffic because Friday at Rush Hour is always stop and go on the 405 freeway. The Toyota Corolla in front of us had a problem – his brake lights weren’t coming on!

This is frustrating, because it makes traffic changes just that much more unpredictable when you are the car following that problem. It was both side brake lights, though the middle light was also very dim and hard to see light up. My sweet spouse expressed that annoyance at someone who would drive along without resolving that kind of risky issue. I pointed out that it’s one of those cases where, as the driver, it’s hard to know it’s happening unless someone can clue you in – you can’t see your tail lights when you’re in the driver’s seat! The point was conceded, and we could not find a way from our position in traffic to let the other driver know, so we expressed a wish for someone to let them know soon.

Yesterday morning, on the way to work, I sat at my stop light as usual, waiting to get on the same reliable 405 freeway. To my right a car stopped short of the rest of his lane, parallel to me, honked, and yelled something at me. Okay, I roll down my window with a “What?” because he was clearly trying to relay something important. Well, those of you who understand foreshadowing already know… my brake lights (just the sides, not the top center) were not coming on at all. I thanked him, and nervously drove to work, unable to address the matter at the time. I counted on that lone center light, thankfully brighter on my car than on Friday’s Corolla.

On getting home my spouse had me hop back into my car and he was able to confirm that, sure enough, my brake lights needed some attention. My car was due for maintenance anyway, so I dropped her (yes, my car is a her) off at the dealership to get this resolved.

It made me realize that at the time we had that conversation my lights were likely already out. In fact, the car behind us could have been having the exact same conversation about us. And in the movie that is our life, the audience better laugh at that moment of dramatic irony!

I’m glad I didn’t judge that Corolla for driving with no brake lights… or else I’d feel really wretched right now.

Brainstorming – Cheshire Jedi

In September I’m going to Disney’s Halloween even at DCA! Better, I’m going with an amazing group who does stunning costumes every year. This year the theme is a mash up of Star Wars and Disney characters.

In my case, I am grinning at the chance to be a Cheshire Jedi (what with already owning a purple lightsaber!)

So now it comes to execution, since normally I rely on my mother’s sewing skills for a project like this, but it may be a good chance to try to learn some of my own. The basic outfit for a generic Jedi is generally an under-tunic or dickey, an over-tunic, a tabard and obi over that, leggings or pants into boots. Yes, I did my homework visiting the Rebel Legion’s guide to a generic Jedi. Seems like some basic sewing could accomplish this look, and if I alternate pink and purple in the layers, I created the striped look of the Cheshire Cat!

Easy, right? Not when you master second-guessing like I do!

To start with, I’ve wondered if I can cheat a bit, since my sewing isn’t top notch (or at all, really) – which means Amazon and other resources. Especially as one of my favorite dress resources, ElHoffer design, has a wrap dress that might be a great tunic! It’s raspberry in color, so I’m not 100% sure it’s the right tone, and is currently a preorder. Do I invest so much in a maybe? Will it even work for my idea?

Then I wanted to add a wig, to keep the purple/pink theme going! (And maybe ears, arm warmers, leg warmers… oh it goes on!) So on Amazon I finally narrowed it down to two – this or this… with a strong preference for the latter. So strong it was almost an order, until I remembered Epic Cosplay Wigs, a resource for better quality wigs with cool colors, though these are all single color so I’d have to decide pink or purple… unless I used their clip on ponytails or buns to have the second color. And so many styles! Curses, options again!

So how much do I work from scratch? What do I buy, if I’m buying? And when do I find time to work on this?!

A Faire Season

The weather is warming up, the birds are singing their birdy songs, and I am trying to pack my basket for tomorrow.

That’s right, the Renaissance Pleasure Faire is upon us!

This year I will not be found at Braids for Maids (unless I am visiting, which is likely at times), but instead at the Money Changers (Ancient Coins) booth. There was nothing wrong at Braids, it is very a “me” situation where I was finding my drive for doing good work on behalf of my friend and booth owner was causing me more stress than Faire was relieving for me. As I get older, and since there’s no camping, I’m finding I have to be more careful with what I demand of myself.

So a good friend commented last year that his booth could probably use a “booth babe” – utterly in jest since my garb is pretty modest – and we worked it out! It is a very relaxed environment compared to the bustle of Braids, and I want to see if this makes a difference for me.

Modest, but still beautifully blue! Thanks to Ian T Henry for this great picture!

I’ll mainly be out on Saturdays (and School Day Friday the 12th of April) if you’re looking for me. Sundays, if I make it, will be with my spouse as play-days.

It’s a fun look back at the past, with ale, turkey legs, and plenty of fine shows and songs to help pass the day (between shopping expeditions, of course!) I’ve taken a year off in the past and was left feeling sad and like I was missing out, so I hope this new booth is the balance I need!