Iron Kingdoms Recap aka Sker Runs Amuck!

Currently, I am running an Iron Kingdoms RPG campaign called Blight Hope. Running an RPG is new for me and this was our fourth session of this campaign. During this session I added in a variety of random elements so the players would not be conditioned for battle every time the GM rolled dice.

The players were camping on the side of a mountain for the night. During first watch there was a Sker (female Tharn bone grinder/blood tracker) and Vialoss (Male Troll Dhunia paragon/Fell caller); basically one who viewed animals for food and alchemical components (Sker) and another who only killed animals for food or self preservation (Vialoss).

While they were on watch I had a random encounter of a badger family coming out of the when all was quite to search for food. Picture this if you will: It is around midnight, in a mountain valley slightly up the slope during early summer. The three moons are at low light and there is a small campfire. A very tall troll and a small Tharn are keeping watch while the rest of the party sleeps.

The rustling of the bushes has Vialoss (troll) and Sker (tharn) heading forward to investigate when suddenly a family of five badgers comes out of the bushes sniffing around for food. Threat averted Sker heads toward the badgers proclaiming “kill”. Vialoss, our troll, begins to reason with Sker that is it unnecessary to kill this family of badgers.

This turns into a heated debate between Vialoss and Sker about when animals should be killed and the uses for the kills. Meanwhile, the badger family runs off as the debate becomes louder.

During their watches I had planned for a hunting pack of Vektiss to ambush the sleeping party. However, I took advantage of the loud, heated argument of the party members and had the Vektiss ambush them during the argument. Sker and Vialoss were so busy arguing they did not notice 5 Vektiss (spiders as big as mules) surrounding their campsite.

Fortunately, Wizen (Human male Blackclad Druid wolf rider) and wolf woke to the ruckus caused by Sker and Vialoss. Shouting an alert to the party; battle ensued. Fast forward through the slaughter of 4 of the 5 Vektiss when the party once again surprsed the GM.

Sker and Bress (Male Nyss (Ryssovoss/Duelist) are behind Ilka(our 8ft tall female Ogrun) and Vialoss when it is Sker’s turn to attack. The final Vektiss is unsteady on its legs and bleeding. Wizen (Blackclad Druid and wolf are on the other side of of the Vektiss).

Sker has no room to go around Ilka and Vialoss, so she decides to climb Ilka’s back to get to the spider. Ilka reacts by grabbing whatever is crawling up her back and throwing it … directly into Wizen who is on top of his wolf. As Bress sees Sker go for a flight check; he nimbly steps around Vialoss and stabs the remaining Vektiss, killing it.

After cleaning up camp and finishing the night our party continues on their journey. I have them encounter a small river with a herd of Ovis Bighorn (a stocky breed of sheep with large, spiral horns) on the opposite side of the river. The river is icy cold and over time rocks have been stacked in the river to make a small, slippery stepping path.

Our lovely Druid Wizen cannot make an acrobatics check and ends up in the river. Apparently, he also cannot swim nor is he able to make a survival check. Fortunately, his wolf is bonded to him and decides to not let him drown. With much huffing that sounds suspiciously like “dumbass”, Wizen’s wolf pulls him from the river so he can dry off. Meanwhile Bress looks at the rest of the party and nimbly jumps from one edge of the bank to the other; making that 15 feet look like a modern day sidewalk.

As Bress is touching down on the bank, the party asked me if they can still hunt; yes, you can. The sheep haven’t disbanded very far. Sker decides to skewer a sheep and Ilka decides to pick one up by the rear haunches and slam the front half into a nearby boulder. To which the GM replies: that is not technically hunting, that’s sheep bashing and her player responds but its effective!

None of this played out as I imagined and that is what makes role playing amazing. My friends have wonderful imaginations and love getting into character. I look forward to our next session.

Remember to keep playing and imagining!


Campaign Blight Hope
Cast of Characters vs River
Ilka and Sker vs Ovis Bighorn

Adult Adventures in Ear Tubes

I could not help but laugh when the ENT suggested I get ear tubes for my recurring ear problems. A 45 year old woman getting what is commonly thought of as a kids procedure; yes, that about explains my life. However, since the tinnitus and deafness are competing for what is going to make me go insane, I gladly agreed to the procedure.

My 7 year old had hers done a few months prior so I thought I understood the procedure. Oh No. I was sorely mistaken. My daughter got the better end of this deal. When she had hers done they gave her nice relaxing drugs and put her to sleep. Adults do not get the same treatment.

Ear tubes in adults are a quick, in office procedure with local anesthetic. I am sure that works fine for most individuals. However, I am one of those people that are incredibly difficult to numb. When I tell you I need a very high dose to get numb I am not kidding. Max that stuff out or I will feel everything!

Sadly, I felt all of this. It was not the worse experience of my life but it certainly was not pleasant. Now, I had ruptured my ear drum earlier this summer. If I had not done that, this procedure would have freaked me out a lot more.

The procedure itself is very simple. A tiny slit in your inner ear and insert the tubes; which are teeny tiny. The popping, pressure and pain from it was not fun. It also hurt a lot more for the rest of the night than I had anticipated. Unexpected side effects were my sinus’ draining and my jaw hurting (probably from stress clenching).

Three days later I am glad I got the procedure but disappointed that I still have random to low level tinnitus. I had been hoping that it would be completely gone. We had performed hearing tests earlier in the year and I knew to expect a drop in my hearing; however, I am still adjusting to that. Although, I am grateful to not be completely deaf as I have spent a good part of this year due to my ear problems, especially in my right ear.

My hearing has always been better than my eyesight and something I have always highly relied upon. It is an adjustment to not have that sense be as strong as it was in my youth. As we age, we change and hopefully have the grace to adapt and accept the changes with grace.

The one good thing to come from this experience is that I better understand my partner’s difficulties. He is deaf in one ear and having experienced this for any length of time has been eye opening. I never understood how dramatic even a slight hearing loss was when in a room of conversation. It can be very confusing as the sounds sometimes all rush together and your mind tries to make sense of it all. Now, that is if you hear anything at all. At my worst people would be talking across the table and I didn’t know except for the fact I saw their mouths moving.

Adventures in living,


Call of Cthulhu (one shot)

A dear friend of mine did her first GM with Call of Cthulhu. It was tons of fun and the first time I ever wanted my dice to roll low!

This is the second time I have played a one shot campaign with pre-made characters. Both elements add different characteristics to how I roll play; which I enjoyed.

Playing a random character that is different than something I would have rolled for myself was a wonderful experience for digging into my roll play abilities. My character was a Japanese-American, 21 year old female science student who does not believe in the occult and lives in the 1920’s.

This was fantastic for me to try and play this whole game from the viewpoint of someone who doesn’t believe that anything like this is possible. She kept looking for logical, scientific reasons to explain these events … not at all how I look at things.

I enjoyed the challenge of looking at this campaign world from a different viewpoint and attempting to interact with the immediate situation in a very logical, rational way.

Going into a one shot campaign really motivates me to wrap my head around this as quickly as possible and bring as much depth to this situation as I can. This is different from my normal approach where I have a lot of time to get to know the character and have their personality and backstory unfold as a campaign progresses.

We are definitely going to play this again, but with our own character creations. This should be a very interesting session!

As a new GM I was thrilled to be able to support my friend as she did her first campaign. It was a wonderful night and went very well!

May the Insanity Continue,


Gaming Families

Last night was session zero for us to create characters for a new role playing game (RPG). Potluck dinner was cooked, children ran around the yard, friends chatted. Eventually, the children were brought inside and set up for an indoor dinner picnic. Food as warm as the laughter and smiles around the table graced us. Children’s giggles and pleads for more our musical accompaniment of the evening.

Slowly, the tables cleared and discussions of characters, concepts, and stories began to emerge. Meanwhile the children played, watched movies and bonded with each other. They wandered in and out to roll dice and hear our stories then deciding this was too slow a night moved on to their next adventure until exhaustion claimed them and sleepover ensued.

Meanwhile the adults plotted, planned and grasped at ideas as they began to understand the GameMaster’s (GM) vision and find a character concept they hope to breathe life into.

I love the vision, creation, storytelling, social skills, math skills, motor skills, reading that tabletop gaming and RPGs bring to our life. I have gamed since Dungeons and Dragons first came out. I love all sorts of games, as do my children.

They love it so much they we have kid game nights each week, just like the adults. Depending on their scope and focus of the day we either do an RPG like My Little Pony; Cards, or a variety of board games. Birthdays and holidays are excitement for board games. It is quality time that even their friends want to come over and share.

They are learning that games can be an adventure and time of sharing with those you care for. It can be a way to make a new friend and dream that anything is possible. I hope gaming is a bond that we always share and enjoy in our lives.



Letting Go and Trusting Growth

Another school year has begun in Ohio. My eldest has begun third grade and my second child has begun kindergarten. Fortunately, both children are very excited to begin school. I am sad to have them out of the home and miss them terribly. Thankfully, my youngest is not yet school age so I am not completely child free during the days.

I am not someone who looks forward to them returning to school. Seven years ago, I retired to be a stay at home parent. Being with them has been a blessing and I am not ready for this phase of our lives to end.

We live in an amazing school district that works with the parents. This year I am looking to be more involved with the school as I have better opportunities to participate with the school and have the youngest cared for.

I have not had an opportunity to be a room parent or participate in the Parent-Teacher Organization. So this will be an interesting experience for mama; plus an opportunity to meet other adults in the area.

As much as I miss my children, they are growing, learning and having invaluable life experiences while they are away from us. They are becoming more dynamic, fascinating people each and every day. So, we shall continue on this journey together and see where it takes us.

Happy Schooling,




Origins 2019

Brick and Mortar has planned their separate routes to Origins 2019. Brick would load the wagon and caravan with comrades to our Amtgard meeting grounds. Mortar would load supplies along with Boulder, Pebbles, and BamBam in her wagon and set up their temporary homestead near the meeting grounds.

Upon arrival, Brick scooped up his offspring and allowed Mortar to settle in without BamBam destroying everything in site. The Vikings in training made their way to the meeting grounds. Mortar secured the encampment then decided to allow another persona to visit.

A short time later the Oracle of Delphi was ready to visit the meeting grounds. The purple detective was first to greet her that day. They spoke of her security investigations for the weekly meeting and the oracle has foreseen that this meeting would be blessed by the Gods in fellowship, frith, education, and the bonding of our small ones.

After greeting Brick, Brill, Feyraine and other comrades Mortar ensured that the Little Monsters Den was established for the meeting. Here the small ones found small shields, swords, dragon eggs to quest upon, and dice to roll with monster comrades.

The next day the five of us explored the den of imagination. This is a wonderous place to find comrades of dice, card, cosplay, and general fellowship. We found dice to sparkle the imagination, storytelling, meteor’s, assassins, trolls, magic, dungeons and much more. There was a man of great imagination that had munchkins playing Warhammer and munchkins who dressed in steampunk alongside blogs and smacking kittens.

Back on our meeting grounds there were travelers far and wide. I enjoyed meeting those from our kingdom at large as well as those from other kingdoms. Friendships and alliances began this week that will enjoy a lifetime of growth.

Amongst weaving friendship, a weaving skill of macrame has begun. Dragon eggs were quested for and battle skills enhanced. Many little monsters came upon us with their guardians. They enjoyed sharing tribal stories, practicing their swordplay and discussing other wide ranging creatures called Pokémon. Boulder, Pebbles, and BamBam began to forge alliances for their generation.

The meeting of Origins 2019 was a glorious time and we look forward to the next meeting.


Sassy Viking Mama and Family

Bravery through art

I sit down to write for the first time in months. Suddenly, all three kids need me right this second and now I cannot get my focus back. Hence the life of a writing mom.

The last few months have been very introspective. I have had a ton of time to think as I drive 8 hours between my house and my mother’s. Being away from my home and partner made this even more draining.

My focus has definitely narrowed on what is important. I am back to simplifying my life and strengthening the bonds that matter most to me. Hearth, home, family, and tribe are taking priority.

Reflection upon my relationship with my mother, father, and siblings has been heavy on my mind. The memories of being alone, not listened too, and unsupported have been difficult to sort thru.

In defense of my life at home I became the kid who was alone and tried to cultivate an image of a tough person. In reality I buried my soft sensitive nature underneath the “toughening up” my family told me to do. I smoked, cursed, and fought with the bullies. The worse of it was I projected judgement as I was expected to because when I spoke of being open minded and accepting I was punished.

However, in my private moments I wrote, read and dreamed of being free. I have done a lot of things that I am not proud of to be loved by my biological family. Eventually, I became my own person and embraced who I am regardless of my childhood teachings.

All the while I have used literature, writing, and art to find myself as well as a means of self expression. The next step is to be brave about my art and share it. I am sure it will be rocky as I find my public voice but I look forward to sharing thoughts, stories, and poems.

To the next phase of life, I welcome you.

Irisa aka Sassy Viking Mama

Cycle of Life, Death, and Grief

Lately my writing has been private. This is due to my mother dying on January 30th. I have had a lot to process as I travel between Ohio and Pennsylvania. The stress of losing a loved one, aiding three wildlings under 7 in their grief and understanding of death, managing an estate, cleaning out a house, and dealing with my personal cycle of grief.

One of the things that has made this most difficult is that she chose to not have a memorial service. The lack of a closing ritual and space to celebrate her life has been extraordinarily difficult for me. Now that I am done with the bulk of travel I am going to perform my own ceremony, but it will not be the same. I am used to the concept of an old-fashioned Irish wake where you get together and share stories, memories, food and drink.

For a variety of reasons I am estranged from the remainder of my biological family. Contact has gone very well, but obviously awkward for not having spoken for years. Plus without a history and foundation of trust and support I find it difficult to take assistance from them because I do not know if there is a hidden motive or if they are altruistic.

This reinforces the bonds I want to have with my children and for them to have with each other. It has also enabled me to reach out to other family members about connecting more frequently and consistently once I am done with this part of the travel.

This life cycle experience has also reinforced where my spiritual and devotional practice falls in my life; as well as my writing. Priorities always come to light when major life events occur. It is a good time to take stock and evaluate/re-evaluate what is and is not important.

I have asked for more help in the last few weeks than I have in a very long time. I will continue asking for help as well. Without this help, there is just no way I could keep up on managing two houses in two different states, plus keep family life as stable as possible.


Sassy Viking Mama

Wildlings, Errands, and Parental Judgement

The snow is calming my spirit. I am drained from school prep and two errands with my wildlings. This morning was an inability to focus and by the time I had one kid dressed another was undressed, sigh. However, we made it to school in time.

Off to the grocery store. Only one trip running off and chasing the youngest while telling the middle child to stay put. Only one unknown item in the cart at checkout;caught before paying thank you!

Library. Dear gods I am exhausted from the library. Teaching the youngest to not run off ; not remove all the books, and not climb the shelves. Reminding the middle boy to stay off the computers … books please! Keeping them both within eyesight. The men’s room there is nice. I know this from having to fish the two year old out of there.

Then we rode the elevator upstairs so I could check out two books. We’re fine, we’re fine. Elevator stopped. Alarm sounded. Okay, I got this. Running off once I got where I needed to be. Fine. Fine. Some illusion of control maintained. Long enough to get two books and go back downstairs.

Mad toddler because I wouldn’t let him set off the alarm. He laid on the floor crying while I checked out. It’s fine. The library staff was nice to me. Okay. Coats on, trying to leave and toddler meltdown commence.

And there it is. A screaming, kicking, tantruming toddler. Refuse to walk, fine. I tried to pick him up; now the kicking, thrashing, and sliding out of my hands. We make it outside; oh yeah my coat isn’t zipped and it is 18 degrees out. I can’t keep ahold of him and don’t want to drop him on the sidewalk. I attempt to put him on his feet.

Down and on the ground screaming tantrum. A mom and her kid walk by me, muttering comments and giving me dirty looks. Thanks for the judgement lady. I didn’t need that. What i needed was a moment of kindness. Would it have been too much to pick up the bag of spilled books and help me out? No, instead taking a shot when I was already feeling defeated is exactly what I needed.

Why is it so hard to be kind and supportive? Maybe you are lucky and have never had a child so strong willed that cooperation takes longer to learn. Maybe you have forgotten or never had kids.

I love my wildlings but teaching them how to best communicate, act in public, and getting them to listen can take longer. In the meantime be patient with the parents as we navigate our children and take the time to teach them without breaking their spirits. Have kindness for us because that can be what we need to survive the hard moments. The moments our kids are arguing and we are digging deep for strength and patience, that is when we need kindness because self-doubt about our skills might already be the loud voice in our heads.



We were finally able to stop yelling

Over the last few years I became the parent I never wanted to be. I became a yeller . The more frustrated I became with repeating myself, the more frequently I yelled, the more frustrated I was, the more I yelled. I despised looking in the mirror. I was evaluating myself and my mental and emotional state. Researching postpartum depression, parenting techniques, anxiety and anger connection, etc, etc. I was convinced there was something terribly wrong with me or that I was just a horrid parent. Turns out the main underlying cause was much simpler.

At age 2 my daughter had her first ear infection. We took her to the doctor, put her on antibiotics and situation resolved. Not really, however we did not know that. She is a lovely little girl with an amazing imagination and love of art. Getting her attention has always been difficult. We figured she was wither day dreaming or hyper focused on her tasks as all her wellness checks had always been fine.

As she got older and started school she frequently told us that she didn’t hear us. After rounds of hearing tests and wellness checks with no negative results we simply thought she wasn’t paying attention. Meanwhile, we became louder and louder to get her attention. Frustration was building on all sides and this pattern continued.

During her fifth year ear infections came back with regular frequency picking up into her 6th year. They were not frequent enough to warrant discussing tubes (2-3 times a year) but we were tracking. Her wellness checks still came back fine but we were concerned over lack of focus, difficulty paying attention, constantly saying she cannot hear, continued. Thankfully, we have a fantastic doctor who doesn’t dismiss us and make us fight to be heard. We kept the lines of communication open and were exploring options as to potential causes because these childhood symptoms can be anything from maturity to mental health to physical. Meanwhile, during one of our frustration sessions she had a breakdown and cried asking why she couldn’t hear like other kids. Insert heartbreak here.

Finally she failed a hearing test! Off to the ENT. With our doctor as an advocate we were in within two weeks. Turns out that her growth spurts were the problem. Our daughter’s adenoids needed removed and tubes in her ears. Within three weeks she was able to get her surgery. The center was amazing and the tour had her excited for this surgery. She was excited to resolve the issue and be able to hear.

We are two weeks post-surgery and I have a different child. Within hours of her surgery we noticed she wasn’t whispering and saying what all the time. Her dad hid his mouth and whispered “can you hear me?”. Her response was “what did you say?”, slightly louder he repeated himself and she was like “yes”. We explained to her that daddy was whispering, not yelling and she heard him!

Over the last two weeks the frustration has been disappearing from all of us. She can hear us, we don’t have to yell. I don’t constantly have to research, study and evaluate trying to figure out what is going on with my frustrated, upset child and my parenting. The lack of yelling has changed all of us, including her two small siblings. We are still working on the overall loud, as that has become a habit, but the frustration is gone. There is joy again and we look forward to the continued changes that will come from her being able to hear.

I am glad that I kept searching to understand. That I kept advocating for my family. I knew something wasn’t right. I knew this wasn’t who I was or who my family was. It didn’t feel right. Trust yourself, advocate, fight, research, don’t give up on your kids or yourself ever.


Irisa MacKenzie