Jewish Role Playing Games, Take 2

Hanukkah sameach!

In 2020, I made a post about role playing games that can be played with dreidels. It came to mind again this year because it started getting a lot of attention as Hanukkah approached, and I realized that I ought to do a follow up. Since that original post, I completed my conversion to Judaism and have become a lot more well versed in table-top role playing games.

Now, there is a history of fantasy games and media not treating Jews the best, when we’re there at all. See Dungeons & Dragons with its undead liches and their phylacteries, how golems are framed as monsters, or this article about Jewish tabletop miniatures from the 1980s, and how some were based on antisemitic stereotypes. I found that article while hunting for Jewish-looking miniatures for a rabbinical student character I play in a Powered by the Apocalypse game. While I didn’t find any that suited my needs, I did find a Maccabean army set designed for war games as well as some cool, non-evil looking golem miniatures on Etsy—a PC (player character) figure of a golem artificer, this guy who gives me delightfully Jewish vibes, and this rock/nature “golem” who’s got an elf friend.

More importantly, and the point of this post, is that I also found a whole slew of wonderful, independent, Jewish-made role playing games. Below the cut I will give you a break down of those games as well as talk about a few more mainstream games and how I incorporate Jewish elements into PCs I make and the games I run.

Continue reading “Jewish Role Playing Games, Take 2”

Queer Art & Artists? Yes, Please!

Happy Pride Month!

For Pride month, I decided I wanted to branch out and do something about queer art instead of queer books, prompted by my love of the cover art for “Uncommon Charm.” Below is a small list of some of my favorite queer artists whose work I have followed for a good while.

Artist #1: St. Marlowe Lune

Marlowe is the artist behind the cover art for this months book, “Uncommon Charm!” I have followed their work for many years and am simply in love with their style, which is frequently history and folklore inspired. They also provided the art for the fantastic epistolary story project, “Sealed with Honey,” which is set in the 19th century. Their own projects include “Lo Conteureuse,” a collection of queer and trans fairy tale stories; “Anise & the Devil,” a graphic novel inspired by the fairy tale “Vasilissa the Fair”; and the Merry Blackbird Postcard Society, where you can get original art postcards sent to you on a quarterly or monthly basis. I am a quarterly backer for MBPS and I really cannot emphasize enough how much fun it is, each shipment, in addition to the postcard, you get access to digital behind the scenes things and a curated playlist that fits that month’s theme. Very fun, highly recommend.

Artist #2: Fliff Gahris

Fliff is an Ohio-based illustrator and jewelry-maker who made a name for themself pre-pandemic on the convention circuit under the name Studio Fliff. They have recently rebranded their store under the name Eight Tides and have returned to in person selling at local markets as well as rebooting their online store. In addition to prints, they specialize in sticker and vinyl decal designs, laser-cut wood pins, resin earrings, wire wrapped rings, embroidered patches and more. Their newest products include a mushroom person keychain and a set of pride potion bottle stickers. I am personally, very deeply in love with every single food themed item they have (the Summer and Pink Magic sticker packs have some really good ones).

Their online store selection is currently a touch limited due to the recent reboot following its move from Etsy, but it is ever growing and Fliff is presently open for commissions as well, if you want to head over to their website and check out their gallery.

Artist #3: Greer Stothers

Perhaps best known in internet spheres for their cats, Pangur and Grim, and their fantastic enamel pins, of which I own just… so many, Greer is an accomplished illustrator who specializes in risograph illustration and has done work for museums, books, magazines and a variety of other projects, such as a limited edition risograph print and set of enamel pins for The Magnus Archives podcast. They are also currently working on a flower breeding game called Normal Orchid Game. You can find prints, pins and other merch at their shop. Some of my favorite items include the fantastical fetus pins and the responsible pest pins. The current available pin preorders are memento mori pins featuring extinct flowers and animals and animal pins based on various poems, including Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, a personal favorite of mine.

Artist #4: Erik/Abprallen

Abprallen is probably my favorite place to go for queer pins, both badges and enamel pins alike. After I got my first set of pins, I kind of forgot about the store for a bit, until I saw a Tumblr post about the kickstarter for the first set of pastel goth pride pins in 2020. I immediately backed and have been an avid follower ever since, jumping on the kickstarter for the second set of pastel goth pride pins the same day it went live. The trans pride pins from both sets are some of, if not the best trans pride pins I’ve ever seen. There’s a particular sort of vicious euphoria in them that really speaks to me and how I experience my own gender. My favorite pins are Sorry You’re Cis, Get Well Soon, Trans Healthcare, Now! and Heteronormativity is a Plague. If pins aren’t your jam, the designs are now available as stickers and shirts too.

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Trans Hair Care: An Unexpected Effect of HRT

Like many trans people I did extensive research before starting HRT. I wanted to know exactly what changes my body was going to go through, and thanks to trans men sharing their own experiences both on and offline, I learned a great deal about what I should expect from going on testosterone. I knew about the fat displacement, the increase of body hair, the odor changes… but there was one thing that nothing I read mentioned as a side effect/change. 

My hair changed texture. I went from having silky, wavy, fairly easy to maintain hair that only needed conditioning when I bleached it, to still soft, but courser, curlier hair that needs almost daily conditioning to be at all manageable. Of course, the current length of my has something to do with this too, but I had periods of long hair pre-T too and it was Not Like This. 

On top of this, I have remained as greasy as ever. I was a terribly greasy teenager during puberty number one and puberty two: electric boogaloo has been just the same. I know I’m not supposed to wash my hair every day, but if I don’t my hair will be so oily it feels wet and I just can’t do that. 

But to the point, prior to starting T the only time I cared about what hair product I was using was when I needed color safe shampoo when I dyed my hair. After T, I all of a sudden needed to find shampoo that was good for oily hair and wouldn’t also wreck it like my shitty cheap garbage shampoo was doing. 

My first answer came with Lush’s I Love Juicy shampoo. It was great, it worked, and then Lush went and discontinued it. Since Lush had worked before I decided to search for another Lush product and found the Jumping Juniper shampoo bar. Even though I’d never used a shampoo bar I said, what the hell I’ll give it a go… 

It fried my hair. 

It made my hair an absolute rats nest even when I was using a conditioner. During this period of misery, (which was mid-2020, so there was no hope of me getting a hair cut to make my hair more manageable—and don’t tell me to cut my own hair, trust me, I’ve thought about it, it would be a disaster) I discovered the YouTube channel of Royalty Soaps and went on a binge watching spree of their soap making videos.

One day I decided to have a gander at the Royalty Soaps webstore to see if there was anything that interested me, as I was in the market for getting away from Lush who did me so dirty and I’d just watched a video where shampoo and conditioner bars had been mentioned, and I hit the jackpot. Two shampoo bars specifying that they were good for oily hair.

I bought the Sea Forest shampoo bar, as that was the scent that appealed to me more, and I fell in love instantly.

Listing for Sea Forest Shampoo Bar. On the left there is an image of a single blue shampoo bar. To the left is  the price, $10.00 USD for a quantity of one and the "Add to Cart" and "But it Now" buttons. 

Below that is the description of the soap: "Made with Sea Buckthorn to supply hair with vitamins and mineral and Irish Moss Extract to soothe your scalp and fortify hair fibers!" and specification for hair type: "All Hair Types, including Oily"

In a matter of days my hair was feeling better, and not only that, their shampoo bars are cheaper than Lush by roughly two dollars and you get more for your dollar too. I paid 12 dollars (plus shipping) for 1.9 ounces of shampoo bar from Lush and 10 dollars (plus shipping) for 3 ounces from Royalty Soaps. Definitely worth it in my book.

Eventually when I had the money to spare I went back to try one of the conditioner bars. I got the Citrus Sunshine conditioner bar, and it too improved my hair situation dramatically. I’ll be trying the Citrus Sunshine shampoo bar next and I’d also eventually like to try the Lavender Vanilla shampoo and conditioner bars, because those purport to be good for damaged hair and mine totally is. 

Online listing for the Citrus Sunshine Solid Conditioner Bar, the image in the listing feature approximately six rounds of conditioner bars. To the right of the image indicates a price of $10.00 USD for a quantity of one bar and below this are the buttons for "Add to Cart" and "Buy it Now" 
The description of the conditioner reads: "Made with Orange Butter, a hydrogenated, non-greasy butter blend that smells INCREDIBLE and Quinoa Protein, a complete protein, containing seventeen amino acids, including all eight essential amino acids for hair protection and hydration."
Below the description it indicates it is for hair types oily to normal.

The one thing I will warn for is if you are sensitive to smells. Many of these are fragrant soaps, though the Blameless shampoo and conditioner bars are unscented according to the website. However, I found that once you got the shampoo/conditioner bars wet to use the smell lessened dramatically. I was a little concerned with the Citrus Sunshine conditioner at first because the bar gave me a headache when I first took it out of the box, but the smell is so much more muted when I use it in the shower that it doesn’t bother me at all. 

So if HRT has forced you to rethink your entire hair care routine, or if you just need some relaxing soap making videos to sooth you through the ongoing pandemic, maybe check out Royalty Soaps. Their shampoos and soaps are also very eco-friendly, vegan and sulfate free, and all the ingredients are listed right on the website.

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