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Top 10 D&D Foes (You Probably Already Heard Of).

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You gather your party and head into the darkest depths of the dungeons. The sirens song of fame and riches pulls you ever deeper. In a particularly dark corner you and your companions turn the corner and are met by a massive unblinking eye, glowing yellow in the dark. As you reach for your weapon numerous smaller eyes illuminate and circle the center. Your friend, a mage, begins casting a spell, and though her motions are familiar the spell crackles fruitlessly  and in an instant she is turned to dust in a brilliant flash of green. The rogue bravely leaps forward and is caught by an invisible force and thrust against the nearby wall collapsing in a lump. You draw your sword a try to take a step forward but you feet are stuck firmly in place. You look down to see your body turning to stone and as you take your last breath before becoming a permanent fixture you see your final companion, a paladin, bow before the beast and offer up his sword to it. You see a ghastly and toothy grin open up into a maw as the beast devours your friend.

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  1. Beholder (Should be higher, but works better with the intro…). You’ve meet the same fate of countless foul hardy adventurers. The Beholder is a fearsome and respected being, and any adventurers worth their weight know to avoid them at all costs. They combine heightened intelligence with willful destruction. Their anti-magic cone emanating from their central eye makes short work of magic wielding foes. Their eye stalks are especially deadly with effects ranging from massive damage that makes it impossible to resurrect your friends to powerful charming effects. They are not to be trifled with.

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  1. Displacer Beast. On your travels, you may have heard tell of many legged cat like beasts that seem to exist between our world and the ethereal plane. The Displacer Beast is a monstrous predator that lashes out at its enemies with barbed tentacles protruding from its back. It’s also blessed with a permanent displacement effect causing players to have disadvantage to strike it with attacks.

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  1. Medusa. You’ve heard the legends of these ancient beings locked away in temples and long forgotten homes. They are surrounded by numerous humanoid statues, their only companions, created by their petrifying gaze. Though not particularly adept at hand to hand combat they are capable in their own rite.

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  1. Treant. The living forests have powerful protectors. The ancient Treants, the awakened watchers of the forest, are powerful entities  are capable of powerful attacks, especially against constructs and walls. They are also each capable of giving sentience to trees in the area giving them potent allies.

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  1. Elementals. Air, Earth, Fire, and Water. The classics. Anywhere there are unstable elemental energies a powerful and chaotic Elemental could exist. They fit a number of roles from powerful siege monsters to balls of swirling energy. They are capable of popping up in many instances and make a great addition to any dungeon.

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  1. Giants. These lumbering titans are powerful and numerous in scope. From the Nordic inspired Frost Giants to the dumb and dangerous Hill Giant, they fit numerous roles. The recent Storm King’s Thunder adventure and Volo’s Guide to Monsters adds a number of unique Giants to the DM’s arsenal.

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  1. Dragons. The come in good and evil kinds. The have breath weapons… Nuff said.

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  1. Zombies. BRRAAIINNSS … The horde of nastys shamble forward. Though they aren’t particularly interesting on their own they often to lead to magnificent mysteries and stories. The Shambling horde of Zombies is a great trope and their Undead Fortitude keeps them coming back from the dead to pester the players. Also, there’s a beholder version… Talk about scary.

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  1. Vampire. One word: Strahd. There is an entire adventure based around the manipulative power of the Vampire. These creatures of the night have a plethora of abilities, legendary actions, and an eternity to plan. Play them smart and ruthless and you have yourself an iconic and memorable story and villian. Their weaknesses are one of their greatest strengths from a story standpoint, giving the players hope to defeat these powerful foes.

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Finally the final entry, and although it may be unexpected they are by far the most dangerous enemies in the world surrounding the players… Player Races. Countless of my adventures center around the desires of seemingly normal folk. You can create powerful wizards, destructive barbarians, and devoted and evil clerics. They are the center points of cities and dangerous locales and their ambition knows no boundaries.

Dungeon Crawling: Warlocks

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Three months ago, I had surgery on my dominant hand.

Do you realize how much of a limiter that is? How difficult it was to do basic functions? How impossible it was…to roll dice?!

Unfortunately, I had to tell my fellow DMs in the Adventurers League that I would be unable to run games, let alone play until my hand was more capable. After a month, I returned to work which is mostly typing. I also began looking again for more AL games.

Recently Crymson asked ever so sweetly, “WHERE ARE MY D&D ARTICLES?”

Okay, perhaps she didn’t type it in all caps, but that’s how I (t)roll.

So, I’m back. After another 4-hour speed run at a local shop (have I mentioned that AL games really don’t emphasize Role-Playing?) I figured it was high time I started pumping out words for the RWOG again. So here I spew…

Warlocks

With previous editions of D&D, I was all over the melee board: Fighters, Barbarians, Twin-weapon wielding Rangers, Rogues, Paladins, and on and on. I avoided squishy casters. I relished getting right up in a monster’s face and dishing out loads of damage.

5th edition’s Warlock, however, has to be my favorite class now. Sure, most people see it and think, “Oh, he’s gonna spam Eldritch Blast. How boring.” I must say it is. Just a little. But it’s the other features of the class that are the exciting bits. What type of patron? What type of pact? What invocations? The ability to customize so much within one simple class structure had me addicted at first Hex.

Initially, in the Player’s Handbook, there were only three Patrons to choose from: The Fey, The Fiend, and The Great Old Ones. In our home-brew game, I chose to roll up a GOOlock. At least, that’s what the internet calls it when you sign a deal with some Cthulu-esque elder thing that falls into the Great Old One category.

For the price of admission, you get to talk to anyone with a language, that you can see, mentally. You also get access to other spells along the Crowd Control spectrum as you level, and the sub-class capstone at level 14 lets you create a Thrall from anything you defeat. Creepy and fun. I started as an Ex-Pirate from the alternate Sailor background and away we went.

That campaign fell apart. Meh. No harm. I love creating new characters as I’ve stated in other articles.

More home-brews elicited no more Warlocks because I wanted to try something different. Then I joined up with the AL to see what it was about and to play with a buddy of mine I don’t see too often anymore. For that, I created another ex-pirate Warlock, however this one had signed his soul away to a fiend.

Dropping Hex-ed foes yields temporary hit points, and the spells available included all manner of fire and blasty and commandy type stuff.  Mad Dog with his unnecessary eye-patch (explaining his low Intelligence and Dexterity), and fiendish polearm has become a rather tanky melee grunt. He still throws the occasional Eldritch Blast but it’s only filler as he closes in to hack-and-slash.

His progression has slowed due to my surgery and foray into actually being a Dungeon Master for the AL. Now that I’m back with a mini-dice tower to assist my crippled rolling techniques, I blew off the dust with a new Warlock from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: The Celestial Warlock.

Izzy the Healer is an off-healer. His patron, some benign entity that has gifted him some daily healing dice and clerical spells to supplement his Warlock blasty-ness, chose to rescue him from the battlefield and send him forth as a Combat Medic adventurer. Shield and tome, with enough different attack cantrips to fit any situation he may run across. His last foray into the field had him working as the only healer amidst a team of level ones. His Guidance spell was put to great use as we snuck into a fancy dress masquerade to force a confession from our target… after some pretty trying party games.

Waiting in the wings, as well, is Chenzo, a crossbow specialist that has been taken under wing as a Hexblade; or should that be Hexbow? He’s fit and ready for Tier 2 gaming (that’s levels 5 to 10) in the AL, but circumstances have yet to pass that would bring him to another table. His hand crossbow is magical, bonded as his pact weapon, and can be used as a focus for his magic. It also relies solely on his Charisma stat for combat. He hits because he looks good doing it? *shrug* Works for me.

I still don’t really like the time constraint that the AL seems to enforce upon DMs and players, but I like the game and love Warlocks, so I’ll put up with it.

Influential Women in the Gaming Industry: Brianna Wu

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Brianna Wu is a game developer. She is also the head of Giant Spacekat which is a female lead gaming development team. She is also often a speaker on the subject of women in the tech industry.

Brianna found a love of technology early in her life. This would serve her well as that love helped her to pave her own way. She was adopted into a conservative family that she would not always feel like she belonged in. Learning to program and work on computers are some of her happiest memories as a child. Thankfully her family supported her in her love of technology and provided her with resources that have helped her to become a successful woman in the field of gaming.

That support helped her to start her first business as a teenager. From her parents’ garage she would modify cars and computers. By the time she was in college, she had saved up a nice nest egg, which enabled her to leave the program she was not happy in. Brianna went through many changes and challenges that helped her find her own views and voice in the world during this time. This journey would help her discover what she wanted out of life, and gaming.

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Brianna started Giant Spacekat in 2010. The company was not started with a strong feminist stance in mind. Brianna simply wanted to make things that she liked and wanted to see in games. It turns out that what she wanted was a more inclusive gaming space. This tone led to Revolution 60, the first game from Giant Spacekat, that featured all female operatives and strong feminist overtones in the game.

As she spoke with more women in the gaming industry, Brianna found that many of them were having similar experiences to herself. This led her to changing the culture of her studio. It also led Brianna to taking on more speaking appearances and writing about women in the gaming industry.

Brianna Wu is an example of how life takes us on paths we may not expect. Everything is a learning experience and we are meant to grow on this journey we call life.

Always keep sparkling!

 

Review: Yuri on Ice (Anime)

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Yuri on Ice is a beautiful anime that centers around figure skating. It deals with many issues as well. Including mental health and relationships. Yuri on Ice is also full of humor and amazing animation.  

After suffering a disastrous defeat in the Grand Prix Final and falling into a bout of depression, Yuri Katsuski returns to his childhood home. Here, Yuri tries to decide if he is even going to continue to skate professionally. He finds comfort in food and familiar things. Searching for answers, Yuri returns to the rink he started skating in. He mimics the performance of his favorite skater, Victor Nikiforov, for a friend. When a video of the performance goes viral, Victor ends up at Yuri’s door, announcing that he will now be Yuri’s coach.

The events that follow show Yuri’s awkward and humorous return to skating. A rival appears in the form of anther Yuri, this one from Russia. Yuri also struggles with his self confidence and anxiety. Then there are also those pesky feelings for Victor that Yuri continues to try to sort through. Yuri starts on not only the road back to skating but to better understanding himself.

The animation alone is a reason to watch this anime. It is simply gorgeous. The sheer amount of emotion that is shown is amazing. Whether it be during the skating scenes or just of Yuri reacting to things around him, the range of animation really adds to the show. Also, they use adorable little chibi Yuris at different points in the story, which I think shows how talented the animators are to use different kinds of animation. 

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The soundtrack is also worth mentioning. As this is an anime about skating, music is very important. There is a point where two different versions of a song are a plot point and it was so cleverly done. Every routine has amazing music to go with it. The main theme, History Maker, is also one of my favorite songs at the moment. It is so uplifting.

Yuri on Ice is a must see anime in my book.

Always keep sparkling!

 

Indie Spotlight: Forgotten Anne

Tell us about your game: Valdemar Schultz Andreasen (Lead Game Designer):

Forgotton Anne is an untraditional 2D platforming adventure, with a heavy focus on the narrative and an interest in telling a very human story. We’ve done what we can to make it feel as if you’re playing inside an anime-movie, with a cinematography that swoops and zooms around.

The story centers around Anne, one of two human beings trapped in the world of lost and forgotten things – the Forgotten Lands. The inhabitants are socks, scarfs and other objects that people forget, animated into life as citizens of this world.

Anne and her Master Bonku are trying to get back to the human world, but as the story begins, an explosion occurs – somebody is trying to destroy their plans of returning home.

Since Anne has the role of Enforcer of these lands, she is sent out to locate and find the cause of the rebellion.

You play the game as you would a platformer: Anne can walk, run, jump – and then she has two tools in her belt: Her wings give her a boosted jump. Her Arca-glove on her hand can draw and transfer energy – called Anima – between cylinders and power up machines. It can even draw the Anima out of Forgotlings.

Through the story told, Anne interacts with a lot of Forgotlings, not just drawing life, in fact, mostly speaking to them. Anne encounters a lot of different situations that ask something of her situation as the Enforcer, but also moral situations for the player to contemplate.

The decisions Anne and the player makes impact aspects of the story, and it is not always clear what action leads to what reaction or consequence, which might just make it worthwhile to go through the game for a second run.

Situations of identity, loyalty and choice weave in and out of a beautifully aesthetic and engaging experience, that has a constant drive forward with new areas and situations.

The human story emerges as the story becomes an investigation of Anne – not just of her past, but also of who she is as a human being. We have done what we can to avoid turning her into a caricature or a superhero, rather trying for a naturalistic description of a complicated person full of contradictions and emotions, like any of us. While Anne is athletic and cool, she is also sometimes slightly clumsy. Our lead animator, Debbie Ekberg, was really great in portraying Anne’s movements with 2D animation. The game contains more than 5000 individual drawings, frames, of Anne. She would add these subtle touches of animation that showed Anne from a more vulnerable and naturalistic side that really rounded off her character.

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What was your inspiration to create the game

Alfred Nguyen (Creative Director): It came about after a soul-searching period after I quit my job as a creative lead at a mobile games company. I was reaching a point in my life where I wanted to make use of all the skills I had accumulated throughout the years as an animation film director and artist to express something meaningful. I think there is a space for fun addictive mobile games in our lives, but it did not allow me to go deep with crafting imaginary worlds of wonder and tell stories that affected people in a meaningful way. The same way certain games, books and movies had a lingering effect on me growing up. So the first thing I did was to reflect on themes I kept returning to as an artist and topics that kept being there on the back of my mind throughout my life. My parents were refugees from the Vietnam war and I grew up in Denmark, and so had two very different cultures vying for my identity growing up. So the search for an identity, the feeling of being lost, ‘forgotten’ I could see was a recurring theme in my life. Making a game can be a sisyphean task and so I knew it had to have a personal core that guided the project through tough times, and so this world of the forgotten began to form in my mind. From there it’s just been an incredible journey, starting a company, assembling my great and loving team who is responsible for making Forgotton Anne into what it is, and bet that years of work will feel worth it, as long as we focused on a meaningful creative process instead of calculating what will be ‘hot’ in the future to play or current trends.

Forgotten Anne is availble on Steam, Xbox and PS4 May 15th

 

Review: Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

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The heroes from the Final Fantasy series cannot catch a break. Having been sent to a paradise world to rest from their battles, they discover that monsters have infiltrated said paradise. It’s up to them to band together and fight…again.

Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia is a game for iOS and Android devices, recently launched in the United States. (It’s been running in Japan since early 2017.) Dissidia has become a crossover subseries of the larger Final Fantasy franchise. It started out with two games on the PSP, followed by the Theatrhythm music games on the Nintendo 3DS, and now an arcade version on the PlayStation 4, titled Dissida NT. They essentially exist to throw the major Final Fantasy heroes and villains together in one universe to battle it out.

In the first two PSP games, the heroes and villains wake up in a strange world with no memories of their previous adventures.  They have a vague idea of who they used to be, and they know that they have homes they want to see again, but that’s it.  The goddess of harmony, Cosmos, and the god of discord, Chaos, enlist them to fight in a great battle for control of the universe.  The characters strike alliances with one another and grapple with various personal issues while trying to end the conflict for good.

Theatrhythm pretty much kicked the plot out the door from the get-go. Technically, the heroes are fighting Chaos again, but there’s no dialogue between them. You just pick a song from the series and try to keep up with the beats. They’re fun rhythm games and probably my favorite entries in the series, even though they don’t contribute anything to the story.

Now, we have Opera Omnia on mobile phones. This game changes things up by having the characters clearly remember their previous adventures in their home worlds, but have no recollection of their Dissidia battles. If you enjoyed Zidane and Squall’s odd friendship or Vaan saving Terra from Kefka, you’re out of luck.

In this way, Opera Omnia comes off as a soft reboot of the Dissidia series. The game doesn’t solely stick to major heroes and villains. You begin the adventure with Warrior of Light, from the original Final Fantasy, Rem from Type 0, Sazh from Final Fantasy XIII, and Vivi from Final Fantasy IX. As you progress through each chapter of the game, you gain more and more allies in the fight. And there are lots of allies from the entire series. Other characters can be unlocked for a limited time through special event quests. As of this writing, we’ve gotten Squall, Vanille, Setzer, Balthier, Eiko, Tidus, and Prishe in this manner.

Just to give you an idea, my current roster of fighters consists of twenty-eight characters. And I’m still on Chapter 4.

While playing this game, I got the impression that Square-Enix might’ve finally noticed that they’ve been giving Final Fantasy VII a little too much love compared to other entries in the series. While you pick up Cloud, Tifa, and Yuffie early on, they don’t appear as often in cutscenes as Zidane and Vivi from IX. And Final Fantasy VI has started to receive more attention at last. The Japanese version of Opera Omnia already has Terra, Shadow, Setzer, Cyan, Edgar, Sabin, Celes, and Kefka. Considering that the first two games only ever gave us Terra and Kefka as playable characters, that’s impressive.

So, what goal do the heroes need to accomplish this time around? It turns out that the paradise world they inhabit has become infected by “Torsions.” Torsions are basically dark wormholes that spew out monsters. The goddess Materia summons Mog the Moogle to collect warriors who possess the ability to seal the Torsions. Then the worlds can finally be at peace.

Did you understand all of that? Well, don’t worry if you didn’t. Mog and co. will repeat this information many, many, many times. It reminds me of The Room, the greatest bad movie of all time, where characters would often repeat dialogue and have the same conversations. But at least in The Room, the writing was so bad that it was funny. With these games, the writing’s just competent enough that it’s more annoying than funny.

And that’s always been a problem with the Dissidia series. I remember playing Duodecim for the first time and loving it. Yet as I got further and further into the story, I groaned every time someone brought up the manikins- the game’s enemies- which was often. “These manikins are everywhere!” “How do we stop the manikins?” “Oh no, here come more manikins!” “If we don’t stop the manikins, we’re all going to die!” “BUT HOW DO WE STOP THE MANIKINS???” Replace “manikins” with “Torsions” and you get the same problem in Opera Omnia.

It’s not all bad though. There’s a mini-arc of trying to catch and recruit Yuffie after she steals some of the party’s weapons- and then Zidane, who has acted very upset about losing his dagger, decides he’s going to flirt with her anyway. There’s another cutscene that consists of nothing but Zidane trying cheesy pickup lines on every female member in the party, with no success. And Chapter 3 has the heroes grappling with whether or not to join forces with Seifer and his friends. On the one hand, they seem to be fighting a common enemy. On the other hand, the two groups can’t stand each other and eventually decide to go their separate ways. This has always been the strongest aspect of Dissdia: when the writers indulge in the appeal of the crossover and have fun letting the characters bounce off of each other.

While the strength of the writing fluctuates, the battle system is a fun throwback to older Final Fantasy games that successfully mixes in some of Dissidia’s style as well. You get three party members who face off against enemies in turn-based combat. There are two types of attacks that can be used: Bravery and HP. The amount of Bravery that your character obtains determines how powerful your HP attacks will be. So, if your character has 0 Bravery, and you hit an enemy with an HP attack, the enemy will take no damage. This leaves some room for strategizing how you will attack enemies.

That said, as much as I love having so many characters at my disposal, it does make leveling up more of a pain. The game developers made an attempt to fix the problem by giving out extra rewards on certain quests if you use a particular character. You can also gain more experience on quests by using certain characters. Still, it’s a struggle, and it would help if the new characters you acquire throughout the story didn’t always start at Level 1, no matter where you are. It would make more sense to have them at different levels depending on when you acquire them, like other Final Fantasy games have done in the past.

Since this is a free-to-play game, Opera Omnia does rely on microtransactions to some degree. The quickest way to acquire the best weapons and armor comes from the Weekly Draws and Event Draws. You can either pull for one weapon using a Draw Ticket or eleven weapons using 5,000 gems. You earn gems and tickets by logging into the game and completing various tasks. Or you can go to the Gem Shop and buy them.

The game gives you different purchase options, from a Bronze Chest that gives you 120 gems for $0.99, to an Adamant Chest that gives you 12,000 gems for $74.99. I can’t imagine spending $75 in one transaction for fake money, and for a deal that only allows you two pulls from one of the draws, it doesn’t seem worth it. But I’ve found the game to be playable without drawing for weapons very much. Time will tell if that changes as I get farther and farther into the story and the difficulty increases. It’s also worth noting that you can enhance your weapons yourself with materials that you find. But if you want good weapons fast, the draws are your best bet.

So far, Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia has been a fun experience and I enjoy playing it. I can’t wait to see what other characters get added to the lineup. (Locke? Rinoa? Where are you?) While the plot is still a little weak, I love watching the characters play off of each other and setting up a party for turn-based combat. If you’re a fan of any of the Final Fantasy games, it’s most likely that you will enjoy it too.

Zenkaikon 2018: An Asexual Walks into a Burlesque Show…

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As a person who identifies as asexual, I had never really put a lot of thought into ever going to a burlesque act. I knew that burlesque is an art form, but I was still a bit uncomfortable with the sexual aspects of it, particularly the people who might be sitting around me.

Growing up ace and not knowing what I was, I have always felt like I was…off. Like everyone else understood something that I did not. Almost like when people are telling a joke that you just don’t get but every other person around you thinks it’s hysterical. That joke just keeps being told around you, over and over again, so you just start laughing, too, even though you don’t find it funny.

That’s how I’ve felt about anything sexual. Everyone else was in on this amazing joke that I just couldn’t find interesting, let alone funny, no matter how hard I tried. And I have tried. I’ve had relationships in the past and have tried to be like everyone else. One of those ended very badly for me.

I have tried to talk like everyone else, joining my friends in conversations while pretending that I felt what they felt. I remember having conversations with my mom about my relationships and her asking me why I wasn’t being more sexual so long as I was “safe” about it. I didn’t know how to tell her, or others, that I really didn’t want to.

I didn’t hear the term “asexual” in reference to a person until I was in my late twenties. I saw it. I researched it. I had my “AHA!” moment. I then felt such relief. While I do not believe that a person needs to label themselves, it was wonderful to find out there were more people like me; people who had never gotten the joke either.

So, when we were trying to decide panels and my friends were most assuredly going to Cosplay Burlesque, I was torn. I have sexualization thrown at me everywhere. The television I watch, the ads, the music I listen to, the way other people react to what I wear. I didn’t want to go to yet another thing where I failed to understand why everyone else was having fun.

Thankfully, we went to the Cosplay Burlesque booth prior to the panel. Crymson, who had interviewed the cast last year,  introduced Vanri and myself to them. Oliver Swisskey walked over to give hugs and talk to us. The moment he found out about my sexuality and that I was thinking of perhaps going to a different panel, he began to talk to me. Oliver assured me that it was totally cool with him if I went to a different panel and then also told me about his act, what his music was, and the story he was going to tell.

 me dddI started to get excited. I had never thought about focusing on the technical aspects of the show: how they made their costumes; the music they choose and how it would further the story within the act. So, I made the decision to go with my friends that night.

I am so glad that I did. It was honestly beautiful. There was so much thought put into every aspect of each performance. The lighting was always different. The costumes were amazing. It also helped that everything was, well, nerdy. That made me feel very included when a performance was one of my fandoms.

There was a lot of humor in every act. I sat there, happily clapping and dissecting the sheer amount of work that went into everything. They also have a diverse cast full of body positivism!

I am so glad that my first burlesque show was Cosplay Burlesque. The cast is so hard working and friendly. I was also lucky enough to be there for our interview with them. They are truly some awesome nerds. They were very warm and funny during and after the interview. Oliver was also so nice to me every time he saw me at con after talking to him that first night.

In short, this asexual walked into a burlesque show… and walked out a fan. I went to the right show, with the right cast, at the right place, with the right friends. I went out of my comfort zone and gained a new appreciation for an art form.  

If you have the opportunity to see Cosplay Burlesque go see them! You will have a wonderful time.

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Always keep sparkling!