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Pathfinder – Adventure Card Game: A Distraction

I recently acquired myself a new board game/card game. It’s a little like Dominion and Dungeons and Dragons but not quite either of them.

2015-04-14 09.58.16Mostly this is a deck building game where you adventure through different scenarios and try to beat the bad guys before your time runs out. You have characters and classes like dungeons and dragons but everything is simplified onto several cards and you have a basic beginner deck rather than the equipment normally chosen at the beginning of a dungeons and dragons game.

2015-04-14 11.30.49A half played game with two characters looks a bit like this —-> The adventure path, adventure and scenario card lay across the top (there are 6 adventures in the adventure path +the tutorial adventure in the base set, and then the adventures have 5 scenarios in, with the tutorial having another 3 scenarios), the base set comes with the tutorial adventure and the first of the 6 adventures in the adventure path. The other 5 adventures can be bought seperately for approx £13-15 which isn’t too bad for 5 scenarios given that they take anywhere between 1.5-3hours to play. I also bought the character expansion set which allows me to have 6 players at once and 11 base characters to choose from.

2015-04-14 11.31.11The next section down (the top part of the picture <—-) is the turn counter. At the start of the scenario 30 blessings cards are counted out, each time a character starts their turn they flip one over. This acts as a game timer. the next set of cards down are the locations. You have to try and find the Villian or his henchmen in the different locations before your time runs out. As you can see there are four of these, one of which is out of cards to explore and one of which has a bad guy on top. This game is part way through and the far left location has been explored and the bad guys there defeated.

This game also has a really nice way of playing solo and can be repeatably played quite easily. I have a feeling I’m going to lose a lot of time to this one, although it should be pretty fun with my friends too.

Taming Virtual Pets

As is pretty obvious by now, I’ve not been doing much writing so far this year. I just seem to have hit an emotional brickwall when it comes to telling more stories. Instead I’ve been spending a lot of time in Entropia, playing around with their newest feature, pet taming.

BristlehogThey introduced the first pet in the autumn of last year, a sort of cute little hedgehof/fluffy porcupine thing called a bristlehog. I found myself drawn to taming these things almost instantly and before I knew it I had over two hundred of the tamed critters in my inventory and storage and was training up several to higher levels. I soon found that people would pay me more than it cost to train up the bristlehogs for my higher leveled ones and a friend in game did a lot of research and shared data with me on the most cost effective way to reach each level, as well as a whole bunch of other information on them.

CornundacaudaI didn’t think much more of it as I got stuck into my NaNoWriMo and the wonderful world of Mycroft and Amelia (those books still are on their way, I promise). But in early December two more of the creatures that existed in the world of entropia were made tameable and I found myself once again out there catching myself a few of the six legged Combibo and the rather large but almost majestic Cornundacauda (don’t ask me who named that one). Neither of them are very good looking but they seem to be wanted by a few people so I again found myself making money taming and training them.

eudorian trollEvery month since I’ve probably made somewhere between $30-40 a month on pet taming and training (about £20-25) and a similar amount from the in game deeds I own that I mentioned previously a few times, but this month something quite spectacular happened. They introduced some brand new pets that weren’t creatures previously found in the game and some rare and incredibly rare versions of them. One even looks a bit like the rock trolls from Frozen. In about a week I’ve found myself making what I would normally make in a month and it’s continuing to supply me with a steady and easy to earn income rate. I’ve even started crafting the tools required to tame with and found myself profiting there as well (crafting in entropia is incredibly difficult to profit from).

KaninAll in all, while I’m struggling with writing it’s been a great way to spend my downtime and make some spare cash on the side as well as have some fun. The great thing is a lot of it can be done at the same time as other things so it won’t hinder my writing when I do finally find myself able to pick up a pen again. If anyone wants to play the game and find me I play under the avatar Marie Elf Woodell so look me up and I’ll show you around.

Entropia: A Third Year of Investing

Happy New Year everyone! It seems every year at this sort of time I talk about the little investment I made in Entropia and how it’s doing. The previous post on the subject is here.

This year has been very exciting in that regard. I’ve managed to more than double the initial amount and it took a little under three years. It very much makes me wish I’d bought more of them, but I said that last time. I also mentioned last time that there were now three types of deeds. On top of that I did deposit my first amount into the game and I’ve bought a few more deeds of various types.

The main Calypso deeds that match the initial investment have continued to payout at a steady rate and the new smaller Arkadia deeds have provided a nice daily boost, but neither have performed quite as well as I’d hoped. Not badly, but a little below expectations. I thought I’d provide a handy little breakdown though of the payouts.

Calypso Deeds:
2011: $1.62 (only 4 weeks)
2012: $24.86
2013: $22.03
2014: $18.66

As you can see, they did better in their first year and have been declining a little since. I’m expecting payouts to go down a little more but stabalise soon. The current sale value of the deeds are approx $142 meaning the very first one would give me a return of $210 if I sold everything now, although you could say it’s made me more than that as the payouts have been used to buy Arkadia deeds which have also given me payouts.

Arkadia Deeds:
2014: $0.157 (Since 18th July)

It doesn’t look like the Arkadia Deeds have done so well because each one has made so little, but for $142 it’s currently possible to obtain roughly 30 arkadia deeds at a value of $4.6 each, which is a little more than the price people are paying for bulk amounts although a little less for singular deeds. With that factor taken into account the equivalent yearly amount would be $4.71 which makes them worth about $10 a year instead of the $18.66 the large deeds earnt in 2014. Obviously that’s not as good, but it’s still something in the stepping stone to another larger deed.

The third type of deed isn’t paying out yet. It’s attached to the pet system that’s meant to be coming in an update due sometime in the next few months, but I’ve got one of those to be able to track payouts from day 1.

Predictions aren’t normally my thing but I’d like to make a few about the next year or so of investing. I think the payouts on the Calypso deeds is going to drop to about $15 per year and hold steady there. The price isn’t going to rise much more, but level off somewhere in the $140-150 mark. The Arkadia deeds price is going to go back to $5 until the original 200,000 are all sold, and the payouts are going to go up as well, so the equivalent number of deeds will be around $15 per year as well (this will mostly be due to the recent changes in space travel within Entropia that make it easier to live on planets like Arkadia over Calypso).

When the third type of deeds go live I expect there will be an initial drop in prices of the other two as people sell them to buy more of the new type. I think that will be caused because the initial payouts will be really good on the new deeds (everyone will be wanting to try the new system generating a really good first few payouts). Then everything will settle down again a bit and hopefully the value of all the deeds will reflect the payouts so returns on all of them equalise a bit more.

All in all, as long as the game and its makers don’t disappear I think it could be a very nice investment to hold onto and generate annual payouts around the 12-15% range, and as I mentioned earlier I’ve deposited a little to buy more deeds so I’ll also have to weigh up a good time to sell up and withdraw everything. Who knows, maybe I can keep doubling the money until I’ve got a retirement fund!

Cruising for Inspiration

A big part of being a story teller is experiencing stories and adventures, learning about other cultures and meeting new people. All of those experiences go into one big melting pot along with all the books and films to merge together and mix themselves up until the original sources of each part are barely recognisable. While I spend about 48-50 weeks of the year splurging out these ideas and my thoughts on characters of all shapes and sizes it means there’s a few weeks left where I do the opposite and go experience for myself.

This year my fella and I had the new experience of a cruise, and here’s the ship we called home for a while (<—-) the MSC Opera. (this photo was taken from aboard one of the lifeboat/tender’s the main ship carried, just outside St Peter Port on Guernsey). Our cabin was one somewhere near the middle of the ship in that row of windows just above the lifeboats on the side. We had an outside cabin but not a balcony room as they were a little out of our price range.

As this is the first cruise I was on, I didn’t really know what to expect but my cabin was reasonable and very clean and tidy. It also regularly came with a sort of towel origami and we couldn’t help but take a picture of the cuteness. This is just one of the many examples of the way the staff tried to make things that little bit special.

Our waitor at dinner was lovely (as was the head waiter, who handled my allergies) and we met some great people who shared our table of eight every evening. I think it helped to make the evenings the part of the day I looked forward to most. Getting to know new people is always something I enjoy and we had a brilliant set of couples to talk to over dinner.

Dinner was almost always followed by the evening show, which was another highlight for me. On the first night a very talented male singer faultlessly sung his way through Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera, possibly one of my favourite songs ever, and a few days later did a rendition of Nessun Dorma that had my arms break out in goosebumps. On top of that there was flamenco and some great classical pieces from a whole array of talented entertainers.

If the cruise’s entertainment wasn’t enough there was also excursions most days, and it really did feel like these were just extras. There was so much going on already that you could have stayed on the boat if you wanted and not gone to see the cities on the ship’s tour. They felt a lot like the icing on the cake rather than to main event. although of themselves they were still great too, and visitng so many places meant there was always a little something to find every day. Above to the left is a photo of a replica Dutch galleon recreated by the homeless and unemployed in Amsterdam. I didn’t know whether to be more excited that it was an old ship or that they’d given the task to people who needed it most, but it was the first of many discoveries and moments that made the holiday special.

No holiday of mine is complete without at least one castle, but in 7 trips ashore, I managed to find a castle and two hillforts. The picture to the right is St George’s Castle in Lisbon and was still quite intact considering how old some parts of it where. While we were in Lisbon it got up to 29c so we were very glad to find a few shady courtyards inside, but we also clambered all over the walls, finding ourselves allowed up some very tiny staircases that would definitely have been shut off if the castle was in the UK for health and safety reasons.

In Spain a very pleasant chap explained lots of the local history of the hill fort (Castello) in Vigo and several naval battles that had happened in the nearby bay. This led to the very fortunate realisation that I knew of the naval battle because I’d studied it at some point and was getting to actually see the location it happened it. Always a fun thing to discover.

Finally no adventure on foreign soil would be complete without taking in the views from at least a few places, so here’s one of the better photos. It was taken from one of the highest points in Lisbon after walking all the way up there (we wanted to take the tram but found ourselves almost there before we’d figured the tram system out). There was also the few cases of having to point at drinks and menu items in cafes and pubs to communicate with the local staff when they didn’t speak English and our Spanish was sadly lacking. Although we did end well, managing to communicate with our french waitress in Le Havre well enough to order the right quantity of chips and drinks for our party and get the internet code.

I can also say that the cruise left me very inspired and during the last few days I found myself coming up with a plot idea I really like the sound of and some characters I think might come back to nag at me. It’s only a standalone novel but with a hint of the paranormal and more than a little romance it should make for some fun writing. At the least it’s worth considering going on another cruise to see if I can inspire a sequel or two for it, because of course, any excuse for another cruise.

The Wonderful World of Origami

Occasionally I decide to be creative in another way. One of these ways is origami, the very ancient Japanease art of paper folding.

As a kid I did a lot of the animal folding, from the very traditional crane to the flapping bird pictured to the left. For a while that was a lot of fun, and then I tried to challenge myself a bit more, making them as small as I could. The bird to the left is only about 2-3cm large and was made with the sweet wrapper from an after-eight.

More recently I’ve been making the more decorative and often more challenging origami, although I also learnt how to make stars in the last few months. There will be plenty of those in my house this Christmas, that’s for sure.

My most favourite recent discovery was Kusudama. Most Kusudama are balls of flowerlike origami pieces that are glued together or sewn together and they date back a long way in the Japanease culture as well. To the right are a couple of examples of these. I’ve not tried the top one, although it looked pretty darn cool and I really might have to, but I made a flower of the bottom type, glueing 5 petals together to make a flower.

With this one I actually think the flowers look better by themselves so I didn’t continue making them, but continued my quest for pretty looking Kusudama.

My next discovery was probably my favourite so far. It turns out that there is also a section of origami called modular origami. The rules of modular origami are simple. No glue, no sewing and all the modules have to be the same basic piece. Now that was an origami challenge I was interested in.

I found the Versailles Kusudama on this site, and I knew I just had to try and make it. There’s a wonderful video tutorial over there with the original designer credited and all that proper sort of stuff that should come with all great artistry. My first attempt is on the right.

This required 60 sheets of paper, all square. The ones I used were 9cm but I’m going to amke it again with much smaller pieces, probably in the 5cm region and also probably thinner as I had a lot of trouble inserting the last flower along the way due to the thickness of the design. Of course if the paper is too thin it won’t hold itself together as well, but I guess that’s part of the fun of testing.

Along the way to making the above I took a photo of the model in its various stages. With the bottom left being each modular shape after folding, then bottom right after curling and finally 5 of those make the flower on the top right of the photo. 12 of those flowers then made the final model above. The curls are what hold this model together so the paper needs to hold the folds well.

I think that’s enough photos for one day, and different models. Next on my mission is making the modular kusudama smaller and working out what other awesome Christmas decorations I can make.

Entropia investments

Readers might remember that I posted a while back about an investment within the Entropia Universe gaming system. I posted after a few months, and then again after a year.

After that I promptly forgot about eu and other than logging in once, not long after I moved house to check the game worked on the new set up I let the account slide. Well something triggered my memory and I logged back in recently to see how my little flutter was going. (I spent $100 of in game money I’d built up on a deed that paid out a return).

Turns out in just over 2.5 years I’ve made about almost $60 in payouts and my deed is worth about $120 now. That’s an 80% ROI if I sold out now. At this point I’m kinda wishing I bought more of them, especially given how low bank accounts are paying and many other lower risk investments.

In the last few months there have also been several other deed related announcements. There are now three types of deeds. As well as the original 60,000 calypso land deeds (which have 25% of that planet’s revenue divided amongst them) there are now also 200,000 Arkadia underground deeds. These pay out daily, instead of weekly, are initially being sold for $5 and are having the 5% loot tax for the Arkadia underground area split amongst them. With my $60 profit I grabbed 10 of these.

The other deed is something a little different. Mindark (the people who own the universe and made planet Calypso) are making an app that ties into the taming and monster section of the game. 30% of this apps revenue will be split up between their 200,000 deeds. These deeds are selling for $10 so I nabbed one with the rest of my profit. They won’t be paying out yet and I assume they will be weekly payers rather than daily but I’m sure one won’t hurt to grab.

Now that puts me right back at having no money if the game collapses but considering I made the money from scratch in the game anyway I’m not worried. I also think the game is growing and am pleased to see that there’s still plenty of players.

With all the information I’ve got on payouts and the new deeds that make it easier to reinvest profits and get the rule of 72 working a bit better I’m serioucly considering putting in real cash and investing with some savings. Might start low, but should be a fun experiment.

Social Media: A Distraction

This is a topic that’s been well re-hashed but it’s not something that particularly bothered me. For the most part facebook and twitter was something I could regularly come and go from without much of a problem, but lately I’ve noticed a bit of a change.

I’ve noticed that writing at home five days a week often leaves my extroverted nature feeling a little lonely. Normally when I had this problem I would go write in my favourite cafe for a few hours and be amongst the people there even if I didn’t interact massively (It was almost guaranteed someone I knew would be there or appear after a few hours) I would usually feel a little better.

Since I moved house and out of the immediate vicinity of Bath I’ve not found anywhere quite like my old cafe and as such I often spend all week writing at home (It’s also a lot cheaper). This has led to me seeking some sort of social support from facebook and twitter and while this sort of works, this actually mostly makes me feel lonelier in the long run.

I may post something and get a few comments relatively quickly that I can reply to and feel a brief spark of connection with someone, but it doesn’t last long as people have things to do. And even worse, posting something and having it slip into the oblivion of facebooks ‘what we think you really want to see’ algorithim (it happens a lot more than you’d think). As a result I find myself reaching even more for my phone or tablet to check facebook in a cycle of feeling lonely, reach out on social media, feel even worse, try again. Rinse and Repeat and get so little work done you also feel bad about that.

While I say this, I also have to admit facebook and twitter can be amazing. Facebooks groups, especially are great for finding people like you to talk to and get advice from and I can’t count the number of awesome people I’ve found through retweets on twitter. They can be great, but they need to be approached with caution.

Who We Are by Boyzone

So this is the latest single by one of my favourite boybands. I grew up listening to these Irish lads and so there’s still something special when they bring out a new song, but this one, well this one’s extra special. Catch it on youtube here

As usual with songs it’s the lyrics which really grab me (I’m a writer, words are a big part of my life) so here’s the songs lyrics.

We make mistakes
We rise again
We choose the road we shouldn’t take

We bend the rules
We cross the line
It’s just enough to feel alive

But it makes us who we are
Tonight,

Every battle, every scar
We are warriors
Hear us shouting from our hearts
This is who we are

We have travelled near and far
Fought a  thousand wars
Hear us screaming from our hearts
This is who we are
Aaaaare,
Aaaaare,
This is who we are

We play with fire
We laugh and cry
We taste the dark to see the light

We’re wild and free
Without a clue
We put our trust in someone new

But it makes us who we are
Tonight,

Every battle, every scar
We are warriors
Hear us shouting from our hearts
This is who we are

We have travelled near and far
Fought a  thousand wars
Hear us screaming from our hearts
This is who we are
Aaaaare,
Aaaaare,
This is who we are

Every battle, every scar
We are warriors
Hear us shouting from our hearts
This is who we are

We have travelled near and far
Fought a  thousand wars
Hear us screaming from our hearts
This is who we are
Aaaaare,
Aaaaare,
This is who we are

As a writer this pretty much sums up everything I write about. My characters go on these journeys where they explore, make mistakes and fight (often physical battles, but also often metaphorical ones as well) and learn from them, becoming stronger people because of what they’ve been through.

I suppose this is what life is. it’s the journey we go on and who we become because of it. It’s the glorious amalgamation of our scars, flaws, achievements, fears, discoveries, lessons and conquests in one body and personality. So many of my characters, that I’ve written about, writng about and yet to write about could sing this song.

Castle Clash: A Distraction

So I often blog about some of the games I’m playing and this is my latest little time waster. It’s an android app which works very well on my tablet.

The game looks a bit like this, although this is a dungeon and not your base. You have heroes and other units that you create in your army barracks/training grounds. The heroes level up based on experience and you can level up the units with money, a bit like age of empires.

You also build up your castle in your own homeland, working out the best positioning of your watch towers, hero bases and resources so you withstand attacks best, of which there are two kinds. The waves of computer generated attacks and also the attacks from other players trying to steal your resources.

There’s also some great dynamics with the heroes and the hero arena where you pit your heroes against the heroes of other players and earn honour badges as well as improve your hero rank. This doesn’t level the heroes up but provides very important honour badges (they’re needed to unlock each set of 20 levels for your heroes). This provides an extra level of strategy because the heroes that are great in the arena aren’t necessarily the best heroes for defence or attacking another players base.

On top of all this there’s the guild side, which does seem to be getting developed at the moment. Players can sort of team up and combine resources (shards specifically) to get benefits, such as 10% extra resources in attacks and can collectively team up on uber heroes of massive levels to gain more honour badges.

I’ve recently created a guild and a few of my friends have teamed up with me and it’s added a lot to the fun. If anyone else would like to join me and bash some monsters with us, my guild is called Ethanar and at this point I’ll accept anyone who wants to join in too (apparently this only works on Android as the Android and Iphone databases aren’t in sync).

Life is full of Distractions

The vast majority of the time I can write and get on with my tasks no problem, but occasionally something comes along which totally distracts me in some form of another. Most of the time I blog about these distractions. Sometimes it helps me ‘get over’ whatever it was I found distracting. It doesn’t always but it’s worth a try, and it means I have varied and interesting topics to blog about.

Over my blogging history I’ve talked about all sorts of distractions, from computer games to philosophical topics, characters and even events like abseils. I’m naturally a very easily distracted person. I like the satisfaction of completing things (books take months and sometimes years so short term fixes are often helpful) and computer games are great for this sort of thing. I go save the world or beat up a bad guy and it only takes a few hours.  I also like new people and getting to know them, so I’m quite social, but it also means someone elses characters can distract me. It’s not uncommon for me to sit and ponder over a character for a few minutes (or maybe even an hour) after reading or watching something, having conversations with them in my head to try and figure them out based on the information the author has already given me.

On top of all that I’m plugged into quite a large network of people through my church and there are usually several invites per week to go do things, like dinners, games nights and other activites. I also have a writer’s group, bookclub, and other regular commitments, as well as things like paper work, tax info stuff and accounts and all the boring side of my career to stop me from writing whenever I want.

Now these events are often regular enough that I work around them and still get a decent number of hours in each week, but occasionally I find myself distracted by many topics all at once, and this is when my productivity plummets. At the moment, I’m playing Castle Clash a lot (lots of short term satisfaction), planning someone’s hen night, distracted by Mycroft thanks to the new episodes of the BBC series actually giving more info on him and his family. He’s very different to the Mycroft in the original stories and really rather an interesting character. On top of that Mark Gatis and Stephen Moffat like hinting at lots of little things and it’s a lot of fun to speculate at what they might mean. I’m rarely right but I never usually mind, but that’s enough of that.

And it’s that time of the year again. Tax return time. when I have to get all my accounts in order and try to remember where I put everything I need. I don’t really enjoy that part of things so I often let myself get distracted so i don’t have to do it.

Finally, at the moment I’m working on the bonus content for my upcoming anthology and finding it very hard to stay on task. I love putting together my own worlds and thinking about how everything fits together. At the moment I’ve only got to finish my maps and put together the rest of the dates in the timeline so other people can track the changes in ages, but I find myself thinking about family trees, names and their meanings and where I might put this creature I just decided would be good to have attack a character in a book I probably won’t get around to writing for a couple of years.

In short, my head is one very chaotic place to be right now as it goes down a mish mash of threads involving basilisks, tax returns, mycroft, castles, dragons, maps, good things for a group of girls who aren’t particularly girlie to do and all sorts of other ideas and concepts floating around. It has some potentially interesting consequences for the hen night, that’s for sure.