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I promised non-sports-related content, and here it is! Brace yourselves, because this is going to be a fairly long and photo-heavy post.

We had a local convention over the past weekend, and I decided to take the time to reflect on my past as a cosplayer and to muse about my goals for the hobby as well. I’ve been cosplaying for almost seven years now, since my first NDK in 2009. While I always loved doing costume stuff for Hallowe’en or for the various school plays I did in high school, it wasn’t until I was in college that I started to attend anime and comic conventions. Since then, my technique has improved drastically. My earliest cosplays were purchased outright, because frankly, I didn’t have any sort of skill when it came to crafting. Now, thanks to many of my incredibly talented friends, I’ve learned to read patterns (and draft my own), operate a sewing machine (my little sister once taught me how to hand-sew), and assemble my own custom costumes. Combine these skills with the Makerspace at my library, and suddenly lots of new possibilities are coming to mind.

In past years, I’ve cosplayed the following characters:

1.) Shikamaru Nara. Shikamaru is the “lazy genius” character from Naruto. A brilliant tactician, he’s far more content playing shogi than conducting battlefield operations, but equally skilled at both. This was a purchased cosplay, but one that I can still return to easily, due to its relative simplicity. It was also the reason I first dyed my hair (I prefer to use my own hair for cosplays whenever possible, as I feel it’s more authentic than using a wig, though sometimes practicality interferes). shikamaru nara shippuden

Shikamaru

2.) Kimblee. Solf J. Kimblee is a state alchemist in Fullmetal Alchemist. Having seen both anime adaptations and read the manga, I much prefer the personality that Kimblee shows in the manga and the Brotherhood series, being far more philosophical and less outright psychopathic. Note that as a character capable of converting literally anything around him into a bomb, he’s no less dangerous, no matter how he’s acting. He’s great fun to play, and very popular at cons. I purchased a state alchemist’s costume (officially a Roy Mustang costume) and utilized the pants and arming skirt, modifying a t-shirt and putting a pair of Renaissance Festival boots to use. I use a sharpie marker to do the palm tattoos for his transmutation circles, and I carry a bunch of cherry Jolly Ranchers around with me to use as philosopher’s stones for photos. Kimblee

Kimblee 2

3.) Grell Sutcliff. Grell’s personality in Black Butler is generally pretty close to that of Kimblee, and so it was an easy transition from cosplaying one to the other. Grell is a Grim Reaper, a harvester of souls who has a tendency to overstep his bounds and get into trouble with his superiors. He also absolutely loves Sebastian, but then, who doesn’t? While initially seen in disguise as Madame Red’s rather clumsy butler, Grell shows his true colors soon enough. This cosplay was the first that I assembled myself. Due to his costume design, he was easy enough to dress as with clothes that I already had on hand. I commissioned an artist online to make his glasses for me and bought a wig (the only one I’ve ever used as a cosplayer), since his vibrant red hair color is hard to reproduce accurately with dye, and my own hair was far too short at the time. Grell

Grell and Madame Red

4.) Ruby Rose. Ruby is the main character of Monty Oum’s Rooster Teeth project, RWBY. This costume was a major step for me for two reasons. It was the first costume that I put together completely from scratch, and it was my first crossplay. Ruby’s very outgoing, and presented a great challenge when it came to staying in character. For this costume, I worked with several of my friends to find the right patterns and fabrics. I even learned to draft a pattern for an underbust corset, which I then made. I also had my hair professionally cut and dyed, as it was a difficult blend of black and red to attempt on my own. Ruby

Ruby 2

5.) Pirate. While maybe not technically a cosplay, this is a costume I’ve assembled over the years I’ve been attending the Colorado Renaissance Festival. It’s one that I’ve worn to conventions as well, just for the sake of something different. This is a constant work in progress, as I add new pieces every season.

Pirate 2

6.) Capitol Resident. The Hunger Games series has inspired countless costume designs, especially for the idle rich of the Capitol. My friends and I would host fashion shows as a group called Colorado Capitol Couture. This particular design was based on my asymmetrical haircut at the time and a pair of shoes that I’d found online, and was a combination of modified clothes from Goodwill and some crafting. The idea in my head was that most of the residents of the Capitol would be above such things as our society’s current gender norms, and the result was a blend of men’s and women’s fashions. Over the last two years, I’ve done several fashion shows and photo shoots for this costume, and it’s always a blast to see people react to the shoes. Capitol

Now some of my aforementioned friends are professional or paraprofessional cosplayers. These folks get to spend some of their time putting together new costumes for big events. One of my friends is Batman. Another is a rising star in the European cosplay scene. Other people I know are designers as well as cosplayers, and create costumes for others to wear. I’m nowhere near the skill level of these folks, but they inspire me to work on new ideas even when budget and time don’t allow for the followthrough of crafting.

So, I’ve got a few ideas of costumes I’d love to put together in the future. There’s no particular ordering to this list, and none of them will really take priority over any of the others, though some will obviously be suited to certain weather conditions.

1.) Trafalgar Law. Law is a pirate captain in the manga/anime One Piece. Nicknamed “The Surgeon of Death,” he’s a rather heroic figure with a tragic backstory (like many characters in the series). The coat makes this one a great winter cosplay, and allows for varying levels of completion, since I could wear street clothes under it until I was able to finish the rest of the outfit. The tattoos on his hands will be a fun experiment, as they’ll require a little more work than the palm tattoos I’ve done as Kimblee.

Trafalgar Law, Post-Time Skip

Trafalgar Law, Post-Time Skip

2.) War Boy. The  War Boys are the main troops serving under Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury RoadTrained as drivers, mechanics, and fanatical soldiers, they pursue Max across the wastelands of post-apocalyptic Australia for the promise of reaching Valhalla after death. There are numerous War Boys in the film, and it would be easy enough to piece together a look inspired by the group without aiming for a specific character. This one’s already in progress, having acquired goggles, gloves, boots, etc. I also got a Nerf crossbow to paint up as a prop weapon. I’ve been looking into tutorials for bald caps, because I’d hate to have to shave my head when I’ve got so many other long-haired cosplays planned.

Nux. No spoilers. Just watch the movie.

Nux. No spoilers. Just watch the movie.

3.) Untitled CharaCouture Costume. As a sequel of sorts to the Colorado Capitol Couture costume above, I’m planning a CharaCouture outfit as well. CharaCouture is our group’s new focus, shifting away from The Hunger Games now that the film versions have all seen their theatrical releases. The concept is still to design couture fashions, but with a new emphasis on our favorite film/video game/cartoon characters. I’m currently thinking about something Link-inspired, because the Zelda games are amazing and I look good in green. Incorporating the Hylian crest would be easy enough, thanks to a belt buckle I purchased when Twilight Princess came out. Capes or half-capes are fun, too.

It's a starting point.

It’s a starting point.

4.) Star Wars. With two more main-series films (and several spin-off projects) coming to theatres over the next few years, it seems to me that it’s high time I put a Star Wars costume together. This is one that could vary wildly in terms of complexity. The obvious move to me is to craft a simple robe and carry one of my lightsabers with me. Brown robe with green or blue lightsaber for Jedi, black robe with my red lightsaber for Sith. On the opposite end of the cosplay spectrum would be a full suit of armor. If I did this, I’d likely look to the local chapter of the 501st for a snowtrooper (hey, I live near the mountains, it’s a legitimate option) or to the Mando Mercs if I felt more like displaying my love for Boba Fett and his ilk. The Mandolorian armor would give me a far greater range of customization, but it’s definitely more labor intensive. Seriously. Mad props to the folks who do either of these. You rock.

While I love the First Order designs, the classics feel a little more timeless.

While I love the First Order designs, the classics feel a little more timeless.

5.) Haku. Haku is a ninja from Naruto, and shows up as one of the first major antagonists of the series. He fits into a category of fictional characters that control ice, and is therefore automatically added to my list of awesome people. Despite being a villain, he’s critical to the protagonists’ growth beyond the concept of ninja as tools rather than people. Since my first ever official cosplay was a Naruto character, it would be a fun nod to how far I’ve come.

Best part? No ice puns.

Best part? No ice puns.

In addition to all of the above, I’d love to add to or update several of my older cosplays. Kimblee, for example, rocks a white suit in the latter portion of the manga. Kimblee Suit

Ruby wears several other costumes, including a school uniform. I’d also love to actually put together the Crescent Rose, the scythe/rifle she carries.Ruby uniform

For Grell, I could add the coat and chainsaw. There are lots of options for improving, now that my skills have improved. Grell 2

It’s been a great journey as a cosplayer throughout the years, and I look forward to many opportunities to add to my catalog of characters. Many thanks to all of the other cosplayers out there who have served as inspiration and instruction. Remember that everyone starts somewhere.Beginner

 

My friends and I are nearing the end of our latest Dungeons and Dragons campaign, and so we’re turning our thoughts to the future of our gaming sessions. Since it’s been a while since the last time I ran a game, I decided that I would take it upon myself to serve as the Dungeon Master for our follow-up game (we take turns so that nobody gets completely burned out by running a campaign every week).

Now I’ve been a fan of pirates for a long time.

In case you hadn't guessed...

In case you hadn’t guessed…

And the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and the One Piece manga and anime have served to inspire further ideas. So when it came time to come up with something new for our D&D group, there was really only one logical decision. Pirate campaign it is!

We tried to do one of these before, and it was fun, but the group got too big and unstable. This is going to be an invitation-only thing, because with what I have planned, there’s going to be enough going on with all of the NPCs I’ll be running. Right now, it’s in the development and research phase. I’ve attempted to learn from the mistakes of our last attempt, and so I’m putting as much forethought into it as I can.

Influences: As I’ve mentioned, the two big influences are going to be the Pirates of the Caribbean series and One Piece, with maybe a scattering of Terry and the Pirates and Treasure Island (and as much real history as can possibly be crammed down my players’ throats).

Setting: The primary setting is going to be Faerûn, though I’m open to expanding out from there (namely because I love Warforged, so there will be at least some connection to Eberron), probably via Planescape (because I’ve already toyed with the idea of setting at least one session in the city of Sigil). Most of the shipboard action will take place on the Trackless Sea, and it gives me a lot of room to add some details of my own.

Rules: We’ll be running a hybrid rules system, utilizing our favorite aspects from Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 and 3.5 rules and Paizo’s Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. We’re accustomed to a certain level of character power, so I’m having everyone roll a gestalt character as per Unearthed Arcana.

Additional House Rules: All characters get max HP at each level. Spellcasters DC’s for spells are determined by their remaining highest spell slot/prepared spell (this way a 20th level wizard’s fireball spell is far harder to dodge than an 8th level wizard’s). We tend to waive racial requirements for prestige classes as well.

So yeah. I’m going to be spending a lot of free time building NPC pirates and related characters for a while. Goal is to go some time in January. In the meantime, I’m open to any suggestions.

For this week’s Trifecta challenge, our word was “craft.” I present to you a brief pirate story, simply called “Craft.” Enjoy. (Note: I’d missed Trifecta’s notice about Daylight Savings Time affecting the deadline for entries, and so I was an hour too late to submit this for judging. You get to read it anyway, because I’m generous.)

“Craft”

“Very well, I admit that I was wrong. I didn’t think you had it in you, boy.”

I danced the coin across my fingers, watching the old woman’s eyes follow it back and forth. “Clearly, you were wrong. And I had to have done it the way you said, or else news of Raven’s death would’ve already made its way to your ears.”

“Kidd Raven. He’s insistent that his full name be used. And unless you’re far better than I’ve been lead to believe, Kidd Raven would’ve killed you where you stood, had you attempted to gain it by any means other than craft.”

“You fear him that much, then?”

“I’m his captain, at least as of the latest vote.” The woman straightened, and she snatched the coin from me. “And I don’t fear him. I use him. He does what I need him to do, and on an occasion such as this, it means that I needed him to test you.”

I suppose my irritation showed in my face, because the next thing I knew, I saw a knife in front of it.

“If you insult any member of my crew, you’ll not find yourself among the living. Is that clear?”

“Aye, ma’am.”

She pulled the knife away, sheathing it and sitting back down in one fluid motion. “Now then, boy. You want to be part of the crew, and you’ve proven your skill at craft. You showed courage by not flinching before my knife. I’m willing to take you on board, on one further condition.”

“What’s that, ma’am?”

“You stop calling me ma’am and start calling me Captain. You’re making me feel older than I already am.”

“Aye, Captain.”

She smiled again. “Very well, boy. Meet the ship at the dock. You obviously know where. Introduce yourself to the bosun and give him this.” I caught the coin she’d taken from me. “He’ll know what it means. Welcome aboard, Brynden. I think you’ll do well.”

I set off into the night.

Arr! Today be Talk Like a Pirate Day, the best holiday to ever emerge in the modern age. Spend the day talking like a pirate, or dress like one like me. Better yet, if ye be of age, drink like one. Read some good pirate books, too.

Pirate Latitudes, by Michael Crichton

On Stranger Tides, by Tim Powers

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Captain Blood, by Rafael Sabatini

No, not Christmas. It’s Halloween! I love this holiday. What creative twenty-something guy wouldn’t love a holiday that lets him dress up in a costume and ask people for candy? I mean, yeah, it’s not that much of a stretch from any ordinary day…

Yes, that is Neil Gaiman's "Absolute Death" collection in my hand.

Professionalism at its finest.

Today is no ordinary Halloween, though. It’s also NaNoWriMo Eve. I’m pretty stoked, boys and girls. I’m not going to lie. I’ve been doing some planning, and this is going to be to best forward progress I’ll have made on a big project like this in a long time.

One of these days, I’m going to have to get a group of people together to play this. A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon Everyone is John, a role playing game of sorts, in which every player controls a voice inside the head of an insane man named John. Rules are simple, and apparently this one has been around since 2002. It’s an interesting thought experiment.  It’s probably going to have to wait until after next month, though. I’m going to be busier than ever. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Unless, you know, other things that I’m doing started paying me. That, I’d take.