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Archive for May, 2014

Tale of Dragons is an online game where you adopt dragon eggs and raise them to adulthood. You “feed” your dragon by clicking the egg. Once they are “fed” a certain amount of times, clicking will cause them to grow one level. First cracks appear, then a hatchling, and eventually your dragons will be all grown. Then you can breed them to create new types or if you have enough dragons you can sell or trade eggs with other players.

Because this is an online game, there’s a social aspect to it. Other players can feed your eggs in the Coin Lair and be rewarded with coins. You can also get coins by feeding dragons for other players. Since you don’t know whose eggs you are feeding in the Coin Lair, you can send messages and contact info asking other players to visit your lair. That way you know they’re actually feeding your dragons amongst the many.

Since it takes more and more clicks to grow a dragon, you can use your coins to buy food items in the bazaar that count for more clicks. For instance, a fish counts as ten clicks and a rat counts as 7. I’ve heard that you can buy potions to change how your dragon looks, and decorations to place in your lair. If you want to be sure you get a male or female dragon, there’s a nest for that.

As with many collecting games, there are dozens of different kinds of dragons, each with a (very little) bit of history and a geographic flair. The game operators have themed events where special eggs are available to buy. Each lair can only have 5 residents at a time, but you can put them into a kind of hibernation to make room. You can also “abandon” eggs, so that other players can adopt them.

For the sake of veracity, I’ve been giving Tale of Dragons a try. Thus far I’m finding it a quiet, slow-moving game. My dragon eggs are being clicked and cracks are appearing. I’m stockpiling food for when my hatchlings need more clicks to grow. And I’m waiting to see who my new dragon friends may be.

Those who want action-packed, pulse-pounding, non-stop excitement in your computer games will not enjoy this one. There’s no one shooting at you or trying to run you through here. And (a down side for me) the dragons seem to have zero personality. Nor is there any plot at all. But if you like a relaxing game where you can just dip in a few minutes a day and not miss anything vital, Tale of Dragons could be a good choice for you.

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With a simple title like “Dragon Tales,” perhaps it isn’t surprising that it’s been used more than once. After covering the Dav Pilkey easy reader by that name, I also cast my mind back to a television show that once aired on PBS. Like the Pilkey book, Dragon Tales was aimed at younger kids. It “definitely” showed a sweeter and softer side of dragons. (If your kids ever watched the show, you’ll get that joke.)

The show’s roots are in a series of loosely connected paintings by artist Ron Rodecker. TV producer Jim Coane spotted the whimsical watercolors and worked with Rodecker and various writers to develop the show as Dragon Tales. The show aired on PBS Kids beginning in fall of 1999. Episodes were generated through the 2004-2005 season, and re-runs continued until 2010.

In a Narnia-like opening episode, Emmy (age 6) and her little brother Max (age 4) move into their new house and discover a dragon scale in a secret hiding place. With the scale is a simple rhyme. When Emmy reads it, she and Max are transported to the magical kingdom of Dragon Land. There they discover that other human children have visited the dragons before but the visits eventually stopped. The dragons have been waiting and hoping for more human friends to find them.

The two kids soon make friends with some dragon kids who are roughly the same ages, and the show is on. Together they travel Dragon Land solving problems like sibling rivalry, facing one’s fears, losing a contest gracefully, etc. They often help out various cute and entertaining characters like the Giant of Nod and the cloud dragon Polly Nimbus. There’s even a mentoring dragon school teacher named Quetzal.

As I mentioned, it’s all very sweet. Older kids will no doubt gag at the silly characters and simple plots. It’s a great fit for kids in the target age, with little overt language-learning compared to shows like Dora the Explorer, which aired around the same time. If you’d like your little ones to grow up as fantasy fans, episodes are easily found on the Internet or your local video shop.

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I have been nominated for the Liebster Award. This award is given to new blogs or blogs with lower follower counts, to encourage new bloggers and widen the blogging community.
liebster_award
Liebster is a German word meaning kindest, nicest, dearest, pleasant, lovely, valued, welcome. I’m glad that anyone thinks I’m all those things, and I appreciate the nomination from Princess of Dragons.

In her blog, Princess of Dragons covers gaming (table top and live action), reading/writing and — dragons! So feel free to wander by and check her out.

Now I must answer ten questions posed by Princess of Dragons. To whit:
1) What is your preferred cheese? Parmesan.
2) If you could own any animal (including fantasy animals) what would it be? I live in a suburban area with a small yard, so that precludes large animals such as dragons. No, wait! I do have room for a Pernese fire lizard. A blue would be nice. I’d ask him to keep the neighborhood cats from using my vegetable garden as a litter box.
3) Mention one thing that’s on my Bucket List. Visiting the Grand Canyon.
4) What color do you think your soul is? Seafoam green.
5) If you could try any job for a day, what would it be and why? I would work in a greenhouse because I love gardening and plants.
6) Name one good thing that’s happened to you today. Sleeping well and with no nightmares.
7) What’s your Meyer Briggs profile? I had to go take the test over, as it had been several years. ISTJ is the current result.
8) Quick! Pick your weapon of choice. Pepper spray.
9) When was the last time you cried? I was disagreeing with my husband over how to discipline our unruly teenaged son. (I wanted to be tougher. My husband said I was already being too tough.)
10) What would you call a novel about your life? The Gadfly.

Next, I must share 11 random facts about myself. So let’s see…
1) I am the third of my family to be involved in a teaching career.
2) I have nothing against dogs, but prefer cats.
3) But when I was a kid, I preferred horses.
4) For fitness, I do yoga and ride my bike.
5) When donations are required, I’m usually the first to pony up.
6) Cherries are my favorite fruit.
7) Oblivion is my favorite video game, followed by Morrowind, then Skyrim.
8) Until I had kids of my own, I was not at all fond of children.
9) I graduated from college with a degree in English Literature. Despite what you might hear about English Majors, I use my degree every single day.
10) In high school, I lettered in Marching Band.
11) The writer I admire most is Rachel Carson. Her book, Silent Spring, changed my generation’s view of the environment and how people can be injured by the consequences of careless development.

Finally, here are my nominees to pass the Liebster torch along: Annette Drake and Jessica Rising are two fellow Northwest writers. So is S. A. Bolich, whose blog addresses the often incorrect portrayal of horses in literature. Maugryph’s Blog showcases the artistic process of a fantasy illustrator. Stars and Splats gives reviews of genre movies. I hope you’ll check a few of them out.

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This is rare for me, but I’m reblogging from Princess of Dragons. I prefer to write my own stuff, but her card game, Dragon’s Hoard, sounds amazing. And who better to tell us than the creator? Enjoy!

Princess of Dragons

I don’t usually do reviews, but I recently did one as part of one of my gaming societies, so I thought that I would share it with you on here as well.

It’s about Dragon’s Hoard, which is a card game I kickstarted a while back and recently received in the post. Here’s the official website.

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A card game for 2 to 4 players that I played for the first time with J and E (of course they have real names, but I’m not going to mention them). It was designed by Nathanael Mortensen & Illustrated by Jons Akerlund.

The rules were easy to read through and mostly straight forward to start to use in play, so from breaking the cards out of the packaging to playing only took ten minutes or so, and a good shuffle of the cards.

yellow-sheepThe main resource of the game are the various…

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Who’s ready for a complete change of pace? I’ve been covering the serious drama of Harry Potter, so now to some sweet silliness from the author/illustrator of Captain Underpants!

Dragon Tales is a chapter book for kids just learning to read. The title character is a little blue dragon who feels lonely and searches for a friend. (This is Dav Pikley, so the pun is definitely intended!) Due to the prank of a mischievous snake, Dragon thinks a lowly apple has agreed to be his friend. The plot is too simple for me to say any more without giving away the ending, except it will bring a smile to children’s faces.

This is a fun read with cute, cartoon-style illustration. The vocabulary works for the task of building reading skills, and the concepts are good for the age of the reader. Some fans of Captain Underpants may find this book lacks that naughty spark. Others may appreciate its lack.

If you have kids or grand-kids in Kindergarten or First Grade, this is a good choice for you.

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Just one other dragon played a direct and vital role in the saga of Harry Potter. That’s the poor, abused creature guarding the Gringott’s vault in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I’ve already mentioned the trade in dragon eggs, despite the belief that dragon were too savage to ever be tamed. Evidently, however, they can be trained to a certain extent. The goblins of Gringotts must have purchased this beast as an egg and begun brutalizing it from the moment of hatching. It became conditioned to expect agony when hearing the noise of “clankers” and retreated, allowing the goblins and their customers access to the deepest vaults.

From the start of the series, Hagrid had told Harry that parts of the bank were guarded by dragons. Still, it comes as a shock to encounter this poor beast when Harry & Co. infiltrated Gringott’s to recover a stolen artifact, early in The Deathly Hallows. The guardian they confront is very old and frail. Scars criss-cross its face, its scales are crumbling due to poor nutrition, and its eyes are clouded by cataracts. The author shows her skill in making any dragon come across as this pathetic.

Even in its pitiable state, the Gringott’s dragon is a force to reckon with. Chains might bind its feet, but it’s fire breath works just fine. Harry & Co. are only able to pass because a former employee, Griphook, shows them the secret of the clankers. But Griphook turns on Harry, abandoning him to face the dragon’s rage.

As often happened in this series, Hermione keeps her cool and finds a way to free the captive while also saving herself and her friends. She cuts the dragon’s chains with magic, then starts blasting at the ceiling. Scenting air, the imprisoned dragon also attacks the ceiling, with Harry and Ron joining in. Eventually they penetrate all the way through the main Gringott’s lobby and into open sky.

Harry & Co. barely cling on as the battered old dragon takes wing for the first time in its life. The ride is short-lived; our heroes dropped off as soon as the dragon swoops over a lake. Their great steed apparently unaware of their presence the whole time.

In all of wizarding history, this is the only known circumstance where a human rode on a dragon.

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Dragons once again played a prominent role in the fourth Potter book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. These books have been out long enough that I no longer worry about spoilers when I say that Harry is chosen (through magical duplicity) to take part in a contest of wizarding champions.

At one time, the Triwizard Tournament had been held every five years, between the top three wizarding schools of Europe, Hogwarts in Britain, Durmstrang in Rumania, and Beauxbatons in France. However, so many contestants died that the competition was indefinitely suspended in 1792. At the beginning of Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore was concerned about Voldemort’s evident resurgence. He proposed re-starting the tournament as a way of strengthening alliances. Beauxbatons and Durmstrang accepted his invitation.

With the games back on, what challenge could the young wizards face that would best show their mettle? Well, could it possibly have wings and fire breath? Yes, it could. For the first task, Charlie Weasley and a group of fellow Dragon Keepers used sleeping potions (one can imagine the quantity required!) to subdue four female dragons and transport them to Hogwarts along with their eggs. A golden egg was added to each nest, and the challenge was to get this egg without killing the dragon or damaging her brood.

Actually, Harry faced a special challenge even before the contest began. Hagrid, his good friend, made sure to show Harry what the challenge would be. Harry then had to decide whether he would keep the secret and gain an advantage, or tell his rival, Cedric Diggory, and compete fairly. Harry chose the honorable path. Way to go, Harry.

On the day of the contest, Cedric had to battle a Swedish Short-Snout, which he distracted by transfiguring a rock into a dog. Fleur of Beauxbatons put the Welsh Green to sleep long enough to snag her egg. Viktor Krum of Durmstrang blinded his foe, the Chinese Fireball. And Harry? Harry got the worst of the lot, the Hungarian Horntail. He didn’t even try a spell, but used his skills at extreme broomstick-riding to make the beast chase him and doubled back to snatch the golden egg.

Some of these tactics contradict previous dragon lore, which stated that several wizards had to work together if their spells were going to be effective against a dragon. Krum and Fleur both got it done single-handedly. Nevertheless, this challenge gave us readers one of the most exciting scenes in all the books together.

Next time, a stranger and sadder dragon in the wizarding world.

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