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I've been online-researching details of a bunch of medieval crafting methods recently for... reasons. (Mostly leatherworking, flax processing, dyeing, and brewing.) So far, a really useful resource has often turned out to be PDFs and webpages put up by random people in the SCA, especially because they often include practical instructions derived from actually doing the craft with approximately those methods.

I really should have just thought of looking for those to begin with.

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You are two low-level D&D characters. One of your party members, who is a "monster" race, has been captured and is being held in the pens of the city gladiatorial arena, destined to be possibly-killed in an upcoming event. There are both wooden and stone/metal pens, the latter being for the more dangerous things.
One of you is human and has most of the social rogue skills plus (fairly unreliable) lockpicking. The other of you is a werewolf with most of the stealth melee ranger skills. If necessary you can acquire one more of these latter by recruiting an NPC.
How do you free your captured member? There are enough guards that just storming the place is not an option—you need some kind of Guile Hero solution.

Things I have thought of so far:
- Sell the werewolf to the arena as a wolf. Odds are the cages for wolves will not be locked, only latched, so they will be able to get themselves out while no one is looking and then let the others of you in and/or go find your friend and release them. Then flee. This solution has serious issues if the cages area doesn't ever have very few guards.
- Volunteer to fight the newly acquired monster; attempt to Diplomacy (or Bribe) your way into being the first challengers. Somehow escape from the arena during a match in front of thousands of people. ...yeaaaah. Alternately, ask to be shown the monster before the fight, then precision-sneak-in later to free him somehow, maybe using the plan above.
- Find out where the arena administrators like to drink. Get one drunk and steal his keys. Distract the guards (maybe set something on fire, that's always fun), sneak in, find party member, use keys, flee.
- Get an administrator drunk, as before, but instead get him to cough up info on illegal dealings of the arena. (e.g., match fixing, illegal animal use.) Go find proof of same. Initiate blackmail. Cons: might not work at all, takes a lot of time.

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Finally watched Guardians of the Galaxy, only several months late.

There were a lot of bits that made no sense and seemed like failed Fridge Logic. It was, however, really amusing. If a little lot melodramatic at the end.

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One side effect of picking up a good part of my Japanese vocabulary from manga and novels is that I can't tell when a word is common and when it's obscure. When reading I look up everything, and some portion of them stick in memory, more or less randomly. If it's a word the author is fond of, then it sticks better.
So I will sometimes say something I think is normal, but will get a reaction of "Whoa, how do you know that word? Many Japanese people don't know that word!" To which I can only answer that I had no idea it was weird.
(The recent example was いにしえ. I suspect the usual word for that meaning is 古代, but because I learned いにしえ first it's the one my brain tosses up.)
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[DA3] Headdesk

#1: Patterns for mage armor with a str/con slot. Str being utterly worthless to mages and Con being almost so.

#2: Being forced to choose between two really bad options in a situation where there is an obvious choice clearly better than either. In this case, the Demands of the Qun quest.
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Although I was happy that I managed to find the ending to the Negotiations/Ball in Haramshiral where you blackmail all three of the idiots into stopping their bickering rather than being forced to back one and "neutralize" the other two.

[Book] Firefight

by Brandon Sanderson
...who is apparently taking some time out from his giant fantasy world and its giant doorstopper series to write some post-apocalyptic superhero books instead. Is it just me, or has the superhero novel genre really taken off in the last few years? Probably it's just me.

Anyway, Firefight is actually the second book in the series—Steelheart is the first. And calling it a superhero novel is misleading since superheroes mostly don't exist in the world: the actual supernaturally powerful guys are mostly-evil and the protagonist group members are a mix of Badass Normals and domain experts. IIRC the author himself claims the book should be shelved into "post-apocalyptic" instead, and certainly the main theme is a group trying to re-establish an outpost of sanity and freedom in a devastated world. Also revenge and hatred and fear.

The revenge and hatred bit is actually one of the reasons I really liked these books. It's kind of an undercurrent in a lot of places, especially in the protagonist motivations, where it fights with a bunch of other emotions both between people and within single people. Actually Firefight could be a story of two people dealing with it, one who loses and one who recovers (with help).

Other things to recommend these books include a humorous style, well constructed main characters, and a pretty unique setting. Also twisty reveals, mostly courtesy of the enigma-upon-secrets-upon-mystery leader of the rebel group. Also Megan is awesome.

Less appealing features include an at-times hyper or annoying protagonist where I occasionally needed to remind myself that he's a 19-year-old otaku and cut him some slack.

I only had one serious problem with Firefight, which is that the fear of water thing seemed really, really contrived. I mean, okay, sure, he hasn't had any experience with open water, and sure, it makes sense to be afraid of it for that reason, but it hardly seems like it could be on the same level of subconscious primal fear and childhood trauma as the poisoning by Kool-Aid and nearly burning to death that are the other examples of (potential) Epic phobias. And he's been using the spyril to run around on the water for half the book! He can't be that afraid of it So it's like, sure, he overcame a moderate fear of drowning. That's not nearly as impressive as Megan's thing.
Did I mention that Megan is awesome?
Though then again, maybe that lack of deep effect was part of the point. If Epicity is tied to mental trauma, and he doesn't have any serious unresolved trauma, then that would make him immune...
Meh. It just seemed like it was being made out to be more than it actually was.

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[DA3] Notes
- I've been wondering for a long while what you have to do to get Iron Bull's approval. It turns out that the answer is to kill a dragon with him in the party. And then go out drinking afterward.
- Relatedly, killing the dragon was moderately annoying. It's difficult to get the party to actually stand in two groups (ranged/melee) and trying to dodge incoming fireballs was hindered by the lag between when you tell a character to move and when they actually start moving. Also an individual character "hold position" order would be really, REALLY useful.
- I'm also really missing the behavior control knob that DA2 had that let you choose between {tank, ranged, melee}. I want my tanks to defend the entire party but there's no good way to set them to do that. I haven't spent more time controlling Blackwall and Cassandra than my protagonist, but it's probably close at this point.
- There are nothing like enough action bar slots and I want the radial menus back. While the uncontrolled-character AI can cast things not on the bar, it's not smart enough to properly use anything that's not a simple damage spell. And if I put all the damage spells off the bar then I can't use them when I'm controlling the character.
(Example: The AI logic for Barrier is apparently "cast on the most injured party member", even if there's nothing attacking them. So a half-health ranged character hanging out in the back with no one around him will draw casts of it even if they'd be more useful on the tank with 75% health who's actually being attacked by the giant demon or whatever.)

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Continuing adventures in psuedocooking.
It turns out that you can buy packets of Japanese curry sauce at the supermarket as well as katsu or croquette or tempura or whatever you want to put on it, which makes making curry rice dead easy. (For bonus points, buy an eggplant or a pepper or an onion and sauté it. The sauce will cover up any problems caused by poor sautéing skill.)
It turns out fried rice is also easier than I thought. Well, once I figured out that you need to use the "cotton" tofu instead of the "silk" and which of the six kinds of soy sauce they sell here was the proper one.

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- Doing a lot of item crafting. Wish there were a war table option for "do this resource-gathering mission over and over until I get back".
- Re. romance options: I <3 Josephine. Not only is she awesome, but you don't need to muck with approval ratings and so far all the romantic dialogue options for her have been classy instead of idiotic. As far as the apparently-required aggressive gay romance companion goes, Dorian is a decided improvement over Zevran and Anders. Especially Anders. I feel like he's taken over Varric's role of being the party snark, actually--Varric himself has gotten more dark/serious.
- I should probably stop assembling parties based on who I think will have the most interesting conversations, but it's worked out decently far.
- I respecialized Vivienne into Knight-Enchanter, but apparently the AI can't handle melee mages and she just sits back throwing staff-bolts unless I manually tell her to charge. Sigh.
- Relatedly, still trying to decide what I want to have the Inquisitor specialize into. Currently leaning toward Rift Mage, mostly because the other two specialty trees have clear synergy with Spirit (K-E) or Inferno (Necro) and I'd really like to stay Winter/Storm.

- Have recently been trying to cook at home more, or at least buy components from the supermarket instead of just eating out, on the theory that it's healthier and cheaper. It turns out that tofu can be used for pretty much everything and they sell it in these convenient 150g squares.
- Having a fancy automatic Japanese tub, pro: Can soak in hot water on cold days. Con: Argh why is this gas bill so high.

[DA3] Tactics are like those breath mint things, right?

I am so far fairly underwhelmed by the combat AI. I understand the desire to make things simpler to deal with and appeal to a broader audience thereby, but needing to manually execute combos and click regen potions is kind of annoying when I consider how in DA2 I'd just set up one rule for it and then never think about it again. The bits where ranged characters fail to flee from melee unless I manually move them and characters are perfectly willing to stand in and walk through fire are also kind of special. As well as the bit where it's apparently perfectly willing to use the AoE taunt without any enemies close enough to be affected by it.

Not a gripe about DA3 specifically, but tactics directives to follow the attack target of the controlled character never made a lot of sense to me. A lot of the time if I'm controlling a character deliberately it's because I'm trying to do something clever like CC something, a situation where everyone else attacking them is the last thing I'd want to happen. DA3 remedies this a bit by letting me disable follow-controlled and giving a specific everyone-attack-this command in the UI. (What would be even more useful is everyone-without-a-shield-equipped-attack-this so I could have the shield warrior keep tanking the giant whatever sufficiently far away from the ranged, but I guess you take what you can get.)

Amusing combo I was surprised worked: mage casts Fire Wall, warrior grapple-hooks some enemy on the other side and pulls them through it, setting them on fire.