Dragon Age Quiz

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Ever wish you could create that Hanged Man atmosphere in your own home?  We’re giving away an A2 poster and a deck of our Inquisition-themed Wicked Grace cards!

*** THE RULES ***

I fully expect that participants are going to utilise the internet, because it’s not like I can stop you, but I will deduct points for long answers that are demonstrably copy-pasted from the Wiki 😉

In light of the above, I expect to get a fair number of correct responses, in which case the tie-breaker will apply.  Our favourite will be narrowed down by a panel of judges.  The judges’ decision is final.

The quiz will open on Friday 1st February until Friday 15th February 2019.  The winner will be announced on Saturday 23rd February.

The winner’s name (or username, if preferred) and some of the best tie-breaker responses will be posted on my social media pages.

Anyone who doesn’t leave me a way to get in touch in the event that they win will be disqualified.

If the winner does not respond with shipping information by Monday 4th of March 2019, the runner up will be selected.

Good luck! 🤞

***CLICK HERE TO ENTER ***

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Wintermarch Update

So, at the beginning of the month I got to spend a lovely weekend being shuttled around hospital wards, where I was treated to a number of blood tests, IV antibiotics and a lot of morphine. As it turns out, some gastro-intestinal issues that have been worsening over the last year, which I had put down to “just one of those Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome things”, were actually symptoms of cholecystitis which (likely thanks to the EDS, which causes delayed healing and fragile scar tissue) has not only caused some serious scarring but had given me infections in my gall bladder and liver, hence my horrendous pain. At the moment, it sounds as though surgery is the intended way forward, assuming all goes well at my next round of scans and blood tests, which has meant that quite a few things I had planned for the spring, cosplay and otherwise, may have to be put on hold while I recover.

I’ve had a few weeks to take it easy and deal with my infections and increased pain levels, but I’ve reached the point of going stir crazy, so I’ve had the drive to get my lovely new craft room sorted out and to start prep for my first costume of 2019.

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Looking forward, here’s how I’m hoping the next few months are going to shape up:

Vallaslin Blog Posts

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Back in December, I promised to write some posts detailing how I create my Dalish vallaslin make-up.  I haven’t forgotten, and two of what I think will be a three-part series are currently underway. I’m not sure whether it would be more useful to publish them all at the same time once I’m finished with the whole process, or whether it would be better to post them individually as soon as they’re done? Let me know on my FB/Insta/Twitter if you have a preference.

Dragon Age Quiz

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If anyone missed it, I have an A2 print of our Hanged Man poster and Inquisition-themed Wicked Grace cards to give away but my untimely hospitalisation meant I had to put a pin in my plans. The quiz is written and ready to go as soon as I figure out the best way to get answer sheets back from entrants. I had planned to set it up here as a form, but WordPress have apparently pulled Plug-Ins for basic blogs, so I’ll have to think up an alternative. One way or another, I plan to have it up and open on Friday the 1st of February, so it’s time to start swotting up!

Cosplans 2019

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Grey Warden Inspired Gown

I’ve been thinking about a few different versions of this gown since the first Calling convention in summer 2016, and inspiration struck at Tandy Leather’s workshop back in December.  I’m attempting to get this ready for March but I have a back up in mind if I run out of time.  I’ve sourced some lovely fabrics for it, so expect lots of work in progress pictures in the weeks to come!

Upgrades:  Lavellan’s Superior Prowler Coat

Photo by Max Mace
Photography by Max Mace, 2016

I’ve been really looking forward to upgrading this one.  In much the same way as I upgraded Mahariel’s Regalia of Weisshaupt last year, I have a lot of work I want to do to bring Lavellan’s wardrobe up to version 2.0, including some new props and weaponry.

Events 2019

Unfortunately my next round of blood tests and scans has already struck my first con of the year, Middlesbrough Unleashed, off my calendar.  My surgery has been estimated for March/April, so the following events have been marked as “definitely going as long as I’m not in surgery/recovering from surgery.”

I’ve also got a couple of photo shoots planned and several other projects that I’m really looking forward to sharing so, medical stuff aside, 2019 is shaping up to be an exciting year.

Project: Undercroft

Last winter we started overhauling our house, which gave us the opportunity to make better use of all our wasted space.  I’ve kept a guest bedroom for years but it’s so small that we could barely fit even a futon into it, and it was mostly used to store things we had no real use for but kept “just in case.”  Every time we actually had guests, it was a mad scramble to redistribute dozens of electronics boxes, winter clothes and all the foam, fabric and crafting equipment that I was trying to hide from the cats.

After we got the room cleared out, my brother spent a week with us to help sort the walls out and get it painted.

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The new floor went down….

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… and then we spent a long couple of days putting Ikea furniture together and moving my stuff in.

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It’s taken some time but my collection has been moved in and the rest of my furniture has been assembled.  Apologies for any motion sickness – I was just trying not to trip over my own feet!


(Music: Trevor Morris / BioWare)

Dragon 4ge Day: How DA Changed My Life

The team behind Dragon 4ge Day have been posing the question, “What does Dragon Age mean to you?”    It was a slightly intimidating process, trying to sift through my monumental attachment to this particular fandom and I decided it was probably best addressed here, where I can ramble to my heart’s content.  Perhaps grab a cup of tea and a cookie (or three)…

I have always been the sort of person who becomes hyper-focused on particular interests.  Every few years, my attention will wander and something else will become my primary focus, but I don’t tend to fall out of love with my interests very easily.  Despite my earlier fixations, most of which continue to bubble away in the background, I still wasn’t prepared for the way Dragon Age was going to settle down in the middle of my life and make itself at home.

Living with chronic illness, it’s always been helpful to have a mental escape hatch; a distraction for bad days when the pain and fatigue are relentless and my brain just needs a break from reality.  Fantasy worlds, whether existing fandoms or only from my own imagination, have always been my distraction of choice, inspiring fan art, fiction and music when I have the energy, or providing as a little as half an hour out of my own head with a book, movie or game when I don’t.

It was during a particularly long period of sickness absence from work that I discovered Dragon Age.  After a re-reading of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, I stumbled across reviews of the recently released Game of Thrones RPG and got curious about it.  I was put off by the set player characters, so have never actually played it, but Dragon Age: Origins appeared as a related suggestion, and the demo character creator caught my attention.  The Digital Deluxe edition was marked down to a couple of pounds on Origins, so I decided that even if it only kept me entertained for a couple of hours and I never picked it up again, I wasn’t wasting much money.

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Nym Mahariel – my first (and most enduring) Grey Warden

By the end of the tutorial, I was hooked by the writing, the characters and the expansive lore, so almost as soon as I got to Ostagar, I bought all the DLC and DA2.  I had this really strong sensation of “this game is going to change your life” but I couldn’t have imagined for a second just how significant those changes would be.

At the time, I was struggling to cope with increasing symptoms of my physical disability and had been recently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.  My therapist caught on fairly quickly that something had grabbed my interest and made the most of my enthusiasm.  She encouraged me to create fan fiction and art, and we drew on characters and plot points to help me discuss topics I struggled to talk about.  I still use a lot of the tools we built around Dragon Age in my coping plans.

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Lyanna Hawke – Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition

When Dragon Age: Inquisition finally came out, I fell for a coat and wanted one of my own.  I had created costumes before, mostly for living history, and I couldn’t believe how long it had taken me to consider mixing my interest in costuming and heritage crafts with my love of Thedas.  Cosplay was something I’d come across and been interested in, but I felt that I was too old, the wrong body shape and that I would be hindered by my need for splints, supports and the wheelchair.  They seemed like pretty stout and genuine barriers at the time, especially the disability angle, but the coat… I wanted that coat!

 

 

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This coat!

Gradually, a whole cosplay project developed and I found a lot of support – and made a lot of amazing friends – in the Dragon Age cosplay community.  I took my still-unfinished costume to MCM Birmingham in November 2015 and although I missed the BioWare meet, I was firmly bitten by the bug.  The following spring, I got to meet some of my online friends in person for the first time.

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Photo by D. Allen , 2016  (l-r: HanKhar Cosplay, Netherstorm Cosplay, self, Soupy Owl Cosplay and Zomby Boi Cosplay)

In autumn 2015, I heard about a group of fans trying to organise an unofficial Dragon Age convention, that was taking place surprisingly close to home, and I was immediately on board.  The following summer, despite being a little bit apprehensive about what we’d signed up for, we attended The Calling’s debut event and had an amazing weekend.

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Photo by D. Allen, 2016

Only a few weeks later, we traveled to Warwick Castle for a video shoot with The Eighty-Sixth Floor Music, organised by the fabulous @opal.ink.cosplay and @mrjaycosplay (Instagram).

 

After my increasing symptoms cost me my job last year, the games, the fandom and the friends I’d made because of it were incredibly important places I could turn to when I needed a brief escape or support.  Having fandom events to look forward to, even if it was only one day every three or four months, kept me motivated in my creative projects.  In June 2017, we went back to The Calling and I won my first cosplay competition with my design for Lindiranae of the Emerald Knights.

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Photo by D. Allen, 2017  Lindiranae of the Emerald Knights and my brother as Empress Celene Valmont I

Since then, I’ve kept busy with cosplay projects, fan art, music and fiction, and Thedas has been an almost ceaseless source of inspiration.  Earlier this year, we converted our rarely occupied spare bedroom into my Undercroft, which gave me the opportunity to organise my growing collection and begin a larger piece of artwork that I’ve been wanting to start for years.

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For 2018, instead of the convention, The Calling crew pulled together a three-day LARP event (the write up for which is slowly coming together!).  It was a fantastic experience, thanks to the efforts of the team and monsters and the atmosphere created by the other players.

Seven years ago, if someone had told me that a video game would not only change my life but lead to such huge changes in the way I think about myself, I probably would have laughed myself into a dislocation or two.  The idea that I’d ever expect to get more from my interests than solitary consumption was equally ridiculous, but it’s the social side of the Dragon Age fandom that has made the most surprising changes possible.

Every time I go to an event, I get to meet more fans and build more friendships because of Dragon Age.  I’ve been able to support my fellow fan artists, buy some of the beautiful work they produce, and share my obsession.  I know that some pockets of the online DA community have a reputation for toxicity, but I can say with my hand on my heart that I’ve never experienced anything but love, support and, when I’ve needed a kick in the pants, the occasional benign bullying of people who genuinely care about me despite never having met me in person.

Thank you, Dragon Age Community, for being so damn awesome.

Dragon 4ge Day: The Call

The Call

This song began as a poem for The Calling 2017.  One of the things I’ve loved about each Dragon Age game is the sense of family that grows between the player and the companion characters, even with those who don’t always get along.  After we went to The Calling fan convention in 2016, I was struck by how that same feeling of attending a family reunion had set in over the course of the long weekend, and how strong it was as the year rolled around to the second event.

 Initially, I wanted to include a few lines for each character that had attended the previous year, but there were so many (and several duplicates) that it was in danger of becoming a long and rambling epic.  Instead, it got trimmed down to companions who worked with, or assisted, the Inquisition in some way.  Several more characters got removed when I set it to music, but over all the song seemed stronger for it.  

I’ve been fortunate to find that large parts of the online Dragon Age community has become a vast extension of my Dragon Age family and “The Call” has been playing on my mind as Dragon 4ge Day brings us together to celebrate the franchise and the fandom.

Will you answer the call?


 

O’er the snow-covered peaks of the Frostbacks, a cloud of dark birds fills the sky
The messengers set out on horseback; another year has crept by
Their missives of utmost importance, to be delivered wherever they roam
Our advisors are all in accordance; It’s time to bring our companions home

Sending word on black wings from east to west
To high seas and to Orzammar’s halls
Diplomat, Spymaster, Commander
Beg aid from bow, magic and sword

And we answer the call

In Minrathous, the Magister’s packing, the letter arrived just this morn’,
It will take him some time to get there but he will be on the road before dawn
The Believer restoring her order is surprised by the passage of time
She shoulders her pack, leaves instructions, for she has a mountain to climb

Sending word on black wings from north to south
To Weisshaupt, Val Royeaux and the Dales
Comrades in arms have been summoned
And by foot or by horse or by sail

We will answer the call

The Viscount stays late in his chambers, delegating the business of state
He’ll trade crown for crossbow again, for a while – this quest’s too important to wait
The Admiral knew it was coming when the raven descends on the breeze
She orders a course for the harbour, her ship dashing over the seas

Sending word on black wings across Thedas
To Hossberg, Kirkwall and Ayesleigh
We all make our way to the fortress
And there’s not a moment to waste

To answer the call

In the Herald’s Rest they will gather, heroes and champions all
By the fire, reminisce and tell tales, and be glad that they answered the call
Once a year we’ll create a tradition to gather for story and song
Raising a glass for all of the friends that we miss, in this place where we all belong

Will you answer the call?

–  2nd June 2017

A Blighted Cause: Camping

A Blighted Cause title

Call me crazy but when The Calling’s committee floated the LARP idea in summer 2017, I knew I wanted to camp in character.  Growing up in re-enactment, camps were always as authentic as we could make them – especially when the public were around – and the camp was always one of the best parts of the experience.  When we heard The Calling was happening in November, I wobbled back and forth whether we should stay in the cabin instead, but we’re old and need our sleep, not to mention needing somewhere close by for my wheelchair and extensive medical supplies, so we decided a private tent was preferable to sharing cabin space.  And, let’s face it, no one wants the image of me manhandling a night-time dislocation back into place to be the first thing they see in the morning.  Which is how we ended up agreeing to camp in November.   All I can say is that my husband is a ridiculously good sport .

But it means I have a whole camping-related list to work up and equipment to find.  My dad and step-mum have offered us their bell tent, which is a massive help, and I need to figure out what I already have on hand and what I can borrow before I start working out what we’ll need to buy.

In related news, our costumes are under way and backstories are pretty much nailed down, so we’re making progress.  I don’t plan to give away too many details before the game but I’m excited to start getting our accessories together.