Lore

Map Exploration: The Geography of the Expanse


Here is our first map exploration post in what will be many more in the future! For this first one we are doing a deep dive into a location often traveled to in the books: the Expanse. This vast desert exists on the southernmost edge of the Korventine Empire, and it is the southwest corner of Corventos.

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The History

The Expanse is famous across Corventos for being the stage for the Day of Sealing. The day in which Corventos was rid of dragons. This all happened around Soleia. While it is a legendary day in history, the king of Soleia has since disappeared, and the city has now fallen to ruin. The only operational city within the Expanse is the port city of Vonkai.

Features

The port city of Vonkai is a colorful and vibrant coastal home. Mostly Humans live there, but there are a variety of other races. About two days north are the ruins of Soleia. It is a road sometimes traveled by camel, and there is a small settlement of people that live around these ruins. To get to these ruins, travelers must cross the Golden Valleys sand dunes, as well as the general wasteland of the Expanse.

Further north past Soleia is the Gates of Remembrance, a site dedicated to all those who lost their lives in the Day of Sealing. Not far from that is the King’s Oasis, named for Vicrum Grodstrum, king over Soleia. That far east, it is the only comfort a traveler will find. If they venture even further east to Pirate’s Coast, they find themselves on the Bay of Thieves and dangerous waters, indeed.

If we look to the western side of the Expanse, there is a marker for the strange pyramid that Brother Zok ran past during the events of Ash & Thunder. Our heroes did not venture further west, for there are no settlements out there. The Celestial Mesas reach high into the blank blue sky, and the Badlands is not a friendly place for any well-meaning traveler or trader.

The Expanse is bordered on the north by the Black Reach Mountains, the place Jade was born and raised. The Millenium Sea borders the western coast, and it was that route that Sen sailed the Scarlet Maiden down during the voyage in Phantom Five.

In Summary

The Expanse is a harsh environment and not much exists within it since Soleia, the City of the Sun, is no more. But Vonkai is a popular port for merchants, and the people there are open and friendly. Only the bravest risk sailing deep into the Bay of Thieves, but otherwise the waters remain good for sea travel. It is a location our heroes traveled to in Phantom Five, seeking answers regarding High Priest Amon’s death. It was also journeyed to again in Ash & Thunder, following rumors of a storm that never moved. While it was not visited in Path of the Spiders, perhaps it will return again in future installments of Thread of Souls!


Fantasy Topics, Uncategorized

Top Colorado Springs Attractions for Fantasy Fans

We look at must-see attractions for any fans of fantasy in Colorado Springs, CO!

When you think of Colorado Springs, CO, you probably think of the Rocky Mountains, lots of hiking trails, and a high altitude. All of those are accurate! But for fans of fantasy, there is also plenty to enjoy. You don’t have to be an athlete used to the mile-high life to enjoy these attractions. And two of them are completely free!


Garden of the Gods

If you are looking for an inspiring landscape, Garden of the Gods is one of our top spots. It is so beautiful that it simply evokes another world. If you are an avid hiker, there are large and rougher trails you can enjoy. But if you are less experienced in hiking, the central garden area has plenty of sidewalk paths . There are also multiple scenic spots to park and enjoy. Best of all: it’s free!

Traveler tip: It is best not to visit on weekends, evenings, or during summer / spring breaks. The Garden of the Gods is already an incredibly busy place, but those times will find you waiting in a line to park. A morning weekday was our go-to for quick parking and more space to enjoy.

1805 N 30th St, Colorado Springs, CO 80904


Bishop Castle

This one is a bit of a drive from Colorado Springs. You are looking at close to two hours into the mountains. But is it worth it? I definitely think so! Quirky, strange, and it has its own dragon. What is better for a fantasy fan? This “castle” was built by one man over a time, and its architecture, tight staircases, and towers all offer fun photo opportunities.

Traveler tip: This castle is . . . well, not the safest. Some ledges lack rails, and some pieces of the floor have broken away. Please be cautious. Climbing around is plenty of fun so long as you test your weight before going.

12705 CO-165, Rye, CO 81069


Colorado Mountain Brewery

Colorado Springs is definitely not short on interesting places to eat. But if you are visiting the state, you probably want something that combines a fantasy feel with a great mountain view. Colorado Mountain Brewery is the spot for you! With gorgeous sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains, this restaurant offers indoor and patio seating. It has a comfy lodge feel inside along with a display of their brewery. The food is delicious and fun. If you have never had bison before, now is your chance! There are also vegetarian options if that is more your style. It is not the cheapest place to eat, but well worth the cost!

1110 Interquest Pkwy, Colorado Springs, CO 80920


Gamer’s Haven

If you are like us, any new place you visit you want to do a bit of shopping for your fantasy horde. We visited plenty of shops during the year we lived in Colorado Springs, but our favorite was Gamer’s Haven. Tucked away but with plenty of merchandise, we went there time and again for our D&D game supplies.

5730 N Academy Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80918

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Top Tulsa Attractions for Fantasy Fans

We look at five must-see attractions for any fans of fantasy visiting Tulsa, OK!


When you think of Tulsa, Oklahoma, you probably think of tornados, a smaller city, and a “flyover” state. While all of these are true, there are a few gems in the Tulsa metro area to keep any fantasy fan entertained!

The Philbrook Museum of Art

This museum has an immediate fantasy vibe to it. It was once a mansion for its wealthy owners, with beautiful architecture and stunning gardens to match. While the multiple stories of paintings, artifacts, antiques, and statues are enough to keep you engaged, the entire place as a fairy tale feel to it that easily keeps your imagination going.

2727 S Rockford Rd, Tulsa, OK 74114


Elsing Rock Museum

This is not a place you will see driving by. It is located on the lower levels of Oral Roberts University, and it is open to the public. The museum has a handful of rooms displaying rocks, fossils, gemstones, and crystals. You can look on your own or ask for a tour. With the various meanings and symbolism behind such items, it is easy to get lost in a fantasy world through this vast and beautiful collection. One of our favorites was the ship carved entirely out of jade!

7777 S Lewis Ave, Tulsa, OK 74136


Tulsa Tunnel Tours

There is an entire world beneath the streets of downtown Tulsa that is only discoverable through a tunnel tour! The intrigue of wandering this subterranean space is great for fans of fantasy. You will get your traditional spooky dark concrete tunnels, but it is also so much more than that. You will venture through the bottommost floors of skyscrapers that have old roots and luxurious architecture unlike anything else in the city.

502 S Boston Ave, Tulsa, OK 74103


Wizard’s Asylum

This shop is the definition of “hidden gem”. Tucked off a busy street in a cramped shopping center, it is incredibly easy to miss. But what a find inside! There is an expansive shop featuring everything a fantasy fan could want. There are board games, collectibles, dice, cards, painting supplies, tabletop gaming maps and miniatures and books, a small café, and everything in between.

7165 S Mingo Rd, Tulsa, OK 74133

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Gardner’s Used Books & Comics

If you have dreamed of getting lost in a library or bookstore, then this is the stop for you. This has an old-world bookstore feel to it, and you can easily spend hours going through the shelves. The store goes further and further back through increasingly branching halls and rooms, making remembering your way out interesting!

4421 S Mingo Rd, Tulsa, OK 74146

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Campervan Conversion: Decor

Part IV: Tips for Your Campervan’s Decor!


This is the fourth in a series about our own campervan conversion. We’ll talk about the reasons we made the choices we did, pros and cons of decisions, and hopefully provide some advice for your own adventure!

When you get your campervan conversion all finished up with the practicalities in place, it can look rather functional. But now it’s a blank slate on which to paint your personality! We have some tips here for how to decorate your camper safely for the road, as well as examples for what we did.


One primary canvas for your decor is your cabinets, shelves, and drawers. If you have gone this route, they are blank slates of wood that can easily be painted upon. While some may like the plain, rustic look, we wanted to add more color.

campervan conversion

A good thing here is that you don’t have to have any artistic ability. Even though I (Ashley) am an artist, we opted for buying stencils at a local hobby and crafts shop. Using the paints I already had, I added the decoration. Our primary campervan colors were blues, oranges, and yellows. So I went with aqua and bronze paint.

To help “pretty up” the ends of the shelves, we had bought many “back splash” stickers from a craft store. We used these a few places in the camper to bring color and design, as well as on the ends of each shelf.

campervan conversion

We had a few adventurous posters we liked, so we took them out of their frames and taped them to the walls. These included a map of Middle-Earth, a map from our Thread of Souls book series, and art of the tower of Barad-dur. Yes.

We also didn’t like the wiring you could see all along the top of the van’s interior. So we wrapped them in plastic vines and leaves to give a wilderness feel to the whole thing. Overall we added a lot of decor here and there in order to add personality, color, and a travel vibe to the entire thing.

campervan conversion

Here is a simple overview of where we added decor:

  • We tied Celtic shawls on the back of our seats (my ancestry)
  • We hung up a dream catcher
  • We twisted plastic vines and leaves all around the wiring in the cargo section
  • We added stick-on back splash tiles to the ends of the shelves, the sink, and on some parts of the walls
  • We used stencils to add paint onto the cabinets and shelving
  • We taped up some posters
  • We used stick-on mirrors for the walls
  • We hung a single travel decor sign
  • We placed a few stick-on wood-style tiling to the walls for some variations

Part I: Choosing Your Camper

Part 2: Walls, Floors, & Utilities

Part 3: Storage & Shelving


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Campervan Conversion: Storage & Shelving

Part III: Where to store your stuff!


This is the third in a series about our own campervan conversion. We’ll talk about the reasons we made the choices we did, pros and cons of decisions, and hopefully provide some advice for your own adventure!

One of the biggest uses when converting your campervan is storage. You are starting with a blank slate, and aside from some general built-in spaces, there is not much for storage. We jumped through so many hurdles trying to decide what to do about our storage. But what we finally ended up with was simple, streamlined, and carried everything we needed for the journey!


Cabinets

We ultimately decided to install two cabinets. We really liked them because they had good space within for heavier or larger items. However, the cabinets themselves are weighty, so knew we couldn’t just stick them anywhere.

We bought two from Lowe’s and screwed them into the wooden studs already in place on the wall. This was after we’d installed our aesthetic colored poster board so it did require some feeling about and keen “eye-balling” to ensure we screwed them in the correct places! We also bought handles for the cabinet, as well as magnetic latches. But that is up to you if you feel you need those!

But we absolutely loved the cabinets for their interior capacity and ability to hold items on top, as well.

campervan conversion

Shelving

Shelving was, at first, a big puzzler for us. We didn’t want heavy shelves because we feared damage to our studs. We also needed some that had a lip on the front to ensure items did not slide off, which was surprisingly difficult to find! We shopped around at many stores and finally broke down and decided to build our own from scratch.

I (Ashley) was nervous about this idea because we’d never built a shelf from scratch before. But Scottie was excited and so we picked up what we needed from Lowe’s as well as a local craft store. Here are the parts you will need to recreate what we built for your own campervan conversion:

  • a simple board about the length and width for your storage needs
  • a smaller, thinner board the same length to serve as your front
  • 2 square pieces of wood the same width as the board to serve as your ends
  • two metal “L” shaped brackets to mount underneath the shelf
  • 8 screws (depending on the bracket you buy)
  • wood glue
  • items to decorate (if desired)
  • a drill
campervan conversion

Our process to put these together was fairly simple. And once we had a system down it only took 2 days to build from scratch and install 5 shelves. The longest process was the wood glue drying. But we chose wood glue over more screws to protect the integrity of the board.

Here was our process for putting together each shelf.

  • Mark on the largest board where the bracket holes are.
  • Screw in the brackets to the bottom of the board.
  • Mark on the wall where the board will sit using the additional bracket holes that will go into the wall.
  • Screw the bracket onto the wall, thus effectively hanging your shelf.
  • Using wood glue, set your smaller, thinner board along the front edge of your shelf to serve as its lip.
  • Follow wood glue directions to allow it to sit and get secured!
  • Do the exact same process for the two square pieces of wood to create ends for your shelf, thus securing your items.
  • Allow the glue to have 24 hours to set before testing its strength.
  • Go on a drive with the shelf full to verify you did a good job!

So overall we had two cabinets and five shelves, and they did well in holding what we needed them to. We had a few instances of a cup falling off one of the shelves if we hit a pot hole, but otherwise they were strong and protected our items!

You can read how we chose the camper we did here.
And all about campervan conversion walls, floors, and utilities here.

campervan conversion
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Campervan Conversion: Walls, Floors, & Utilities

Part II: Options for walls and floors. And what are you going to do about utilities, anyway?


This is the second in a series about our own campervan conversion. We’ll talk about the reasons we made the choices we did, pros and cons of decisions, and hopefully provide some advice for your own adventure!

After we picked out a campervan, our trusty Nissan NV2500 (high top, mind you), we were ready to get to work! Unfortunately all the really fun stuff and decorations had to wait until we had a base down. That meant deciding what to do about walls, floors, the ceiling, and our general “utilities”. You know, how would we get power, how would we wash things, did we need heat or A/C?

I don’t think a campervan conversion is every truly “finished”. It is an ongoing process as you travel about and make changes and learn new things. But here I want to break down what we started with and why we made those decisions. And also if there are any future improvements in mind.


The Walls

We knew we needed some basic wooden studs along the walls to enable us to hang shelves or cabinets. Having never built anything like this in our life, it was an imposing task. We watched some other “van lifers” online and read some tutorials about what we would need to do.

This wasn’t necessarily a cheap endeavor and we ended up dropping a few hundred dollars on the walls. But let’s be honest here, $200 of that was for a powerful enough impact drill. Which we cherish very dearly now.

We went to Lowe’s and bought six wood planks after measuring for van wall height and how many we would need. We then bought long enough screws that would fit the screw holes already in place in the van. It didn’t come with as many as we would have preferred, but we made it work.

After measuring and marking with pencil, we successfully secured each wood plank along the walls. At this point, some people may want to do insulation. But we had no intention of traveling to any intense climates and skipped over that step. After testing this full-time on the road, we didn’t have any issues with extreme temperature that couldn’t be solved by rolling the windows up or down.

campervan conversion

After the wood went in, we wanted to cover the walls to ensure they looked pretty. Nothing fancy here! We simply went to a crafts store and bought large square pieces of heavy duty poster board. We liked the combination of a turquoise and a deep yellow. We used smaller screws to secure these into the wood planks.

The hardest part about all of this was working around the wheel wells. Especially with our poster board as it required a lot of cutting and some guesswork. But in the end, we had smooth, colorful walls.


The Floors & Ceiling

We did not do anything fancy for the floors or ceiling. I know you see a lot of these campervan photos with pristine wooden planks on the floor and ceiling, but that didn’t match what we envisioned. First off, I (Ashley) hate wood floors and find them uncomfortable. Second, we didn’t really intend to hang anything from the ceiling so having all that support didn’t seem necessary. And third, that is a lot of effort and money for something we weren’t 100% invested in.

So what did we do for our campervan conversion? For the floors, we bought very thick foam padding and taped it all down with rug tape. After that, we bought beautiful accent rugs and laid them on top. The results was a floor so soft you could sleep on it! Moving forward, we will secure the rugs with some type of heavy duty tape as there were issues with them shifting.

campervanconversion

We left the ceiling blank and instead hung up a fishing net. We bought it from Academy and cut off the weighted sides. We then hung it up with zip ties through holes that already existed along the ceiling. That served as a flexible storage area.


Electricity & Water

We were faced with our next big question. What would we do about utilities? How would we wash things and ourselves? How would we power our computers for remote work?

Let’s start with water first. Off Amazon we ended up buying a $70 portable camping sink. It has a five gallon bucket it draws water from, as well as its own liquid soap dispenser and towel rung. We absolutely loved it and it was super convenient. However, we still struggle with a good place to let the waste water flow. The sink comes with a disposal hose but nothing to attach to it. We used a bucket, but in the future we will likely design it in a more convenient fashion. Still workshopping ideas!

We opted for the bucket method to wash dishes and clothes for our campervan conversion. We had four buckets total for this endeavor as well as your standard cleaning products. A clothes drying rack was chosen to dry them out.

And what about the big question? You know, the toilet? Well, we made use of shops and gas stations around us. We also bought a fold out portable toilet from Amazon. It is not glamorous, but with some sanitizing products and good cleanliness practices, it works in a pinch!

A shower was our next concern. How would we keep ourselves clean? A simple solution presented itself at Academy with a portable outdoor shower that is heated by the sun. We hung it outside, put on bathing suits, and got clean! We had to help each other out as gravity is what pulls the water down and we didn’t have a really high place to hang it. To be honest, we never quite got the hang of timing our water warming. Either we showered too soon (because traveling is a busy life!) or we waited too long and the sun was setting. So our showers were cold. But we laughed and shivered and washed each other and let the wind dry us.

That brings us to our final topic. Electricity. Driving to our destinations was a great source of charging for our phones and inverters (more on those in a moment). But how would we power things when we were just parked?

We looked into various options of installing a second battery during our campervan conversion. In fact, a second battery was Plan A. But this van wasn’t designed the best to install a second one. We got several professional opinions and all involved rewelding parts of the van, running long cables, weeks of build time, and of course plenty of $$$.

In the end, we decided to rough it a bit more and rely on two inverters we bought off Amazon. They could charge all of our things. Does it work? Technically, yes. We never were out of power. But the inverters themselves have to be recharged by driving (or hooking up to an electrical outlet). In the future, we will probably will allow the time and money to install a second battery. But for now, these work as well as we can expect!


campervan conversion

Speed Round

Alright! Speed round time to recap and hit up common questions I know we had when looking to do our campervan conversion.

Do you have a refrigerator? We use a Magellan cooler with ice.

How do you cook food? We’ve got a small charcoal grill.

How do you get water? We store multiple gallons at the back and refill our sink as needed, as well as our washing buckets, shower bag, and water bottles.

How do you take showers? A handy outdoor portable shower we bought from an adventure/outdoors store.

How do you go to the bathroom? A portable toilet, or local shops and gas stations.

How do you charge your devices? We have two inverters. The inverters charge themselves while driving.

How do you have light? Two battery-operated magnetic light switches inside the van. And sunlight!

How do you stay cool? Roll the windows down or turn on our rechargeable fancy fan (we call it fancy because it cools off better than a normal fan).

How do you stay warm? It was only an issue at night. If we got too cold we would roll up the windows and toss an extra blanket over ourselves.

What did you do for floors? Thick foam cushions and rugs.

How did you build the walls? Six wood planks screwed in with an impact drill. Thick poster board atop those for looks.

How do you wash your clothes or the dishes? Buckets we fill with water and cleaning products. And some elbow grease!


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What we Learned After One Week Adventuring

Test the waters. It’s a popular saying and one we put to test just one week ago. After a few weeks of converting our campervan it was time to set off. We routed the journey, created a travel playlist, and set out on the road. We’ve been traveling before but always stayed in hotels or with relatives. This would be the first time we didn’t book rooms and instead opted for sleeping in the camper wherever we could find. After one week out, we can say adventuring like a Dungeons & Dragons party is difficult but completely worth it.

Plan Ahead

It’s always fun to throw a dart at a map and head wherever it lands but for our first outing we developed a plan. Our destination was Galveston beach and we had found three sites to camp before reaching the shore. The first was a few hours away from our location. Once we got there we decided to keep going as we still had energy and determination.

Having a plan isn’t necessarily key but it does help knowing where you’re going and what time you need to set off to avoid rush hour, traffic, or driving at night. From our first stop we worked out our next location and made plans to journey the following day. We still had that wanderlust feeling the next morning and drove several hours to the ocean. Was it worth the exhaustion and sore muscles? Yes, but that leads to the next step.

Exhaustion

Driving for hours on end with little to no stops is exciting, if not challenging. Sitting in an uncomfortable seat can lead to sore backs, shoulders, and necks. As soon as our muscles locked up we noticed we grew more tired. Not to mention the growing headaches we developed as the hours droned by. It’s always helping to pack medicine in these situations and Icy Hot always helps reduce tension. That and drinking caffeinated beverages but we’re trying to cut the habit.

Expect the Unexpected

Fuel

There are a few things to keep an eye on or be aware of while traveling on the road. Among the most important may be fuel. Our Nissan NV2500 with its beefy 28 gallon fuel tank isn’t necessarily a gas guzzler but it does get expensive.

Restrooms

Another top priority of traveling is finding a restroom. While RVs and campervans may have them it can be rather difficult to use it on the road especially for the driver. You can easily take care of business while getting fuel at a gas station.

Water

Water and food are other important factors when considering the open road. Ensuring there is plenty of H2O in the car is beneficial. Being by the beach or higher altitudes can dry out the throat quite quickly and having a water bottle with fresh water will quench thirst and may even make you feel better.

Traffic

Traffic is not something easily planned for. Always consider the destination before attempting to drive through it. Larger cities will naturally be busier than smaller ones and rush hour traffic will be especially difficult to contend with – specifically if you’re in a larger RV or campervan. If you end up driving at these times just take it slow and try taking back roads or longer routes to avoid it.

Bogged Down

By far one of the most unexpected events you can run into is being stuck. Knowing what terrain your vehicle can drive through will ensure it doesn’t get bogged down. Not everything is built for sand, mud, or snow and even having off-road or snow tires doesn’t mean everything will be fine. When in doubt a simple shovel can be a best friend in times of trouble.


Adventuring in a campervan or RV is a great way to see the world. Having a set plan and schedule is just one part of a travel plan. Ensuring all the other aspects will make for a more comfortable and simpler time as well.

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Campervan Conversion: Choosing Your Camper

Part I: How to choose the perfect camper for your conversion, or one that doesn’t need converting!

This is the first in a series about our own campervan conversion. We’ll talk about the reasons we made the choices we did, pros and cons of decisions, and hopefully provide some advice for your own adventure!

The first step in our full-time traveling adventures was to pick our vehicle. Across a few months we did in-depth research into each one, talked to the companies that had them, and also kept in mind what we wanted our camper for. So that leads us to our first topic.


What kind of lifestyle will you lead in your camper?

If you can work out the details of this, that will have a major impact going forward.

Do you have pets? We have two cats, Danaerys and Gamora, and it was important to us to pick a camper that will have plenty of room for them.

What are your hobbies? While we love traveling and exploring, we are also artists and writers. Not to mention avid D&D players! So it was important to us to have usable space inside for these activities.

How are you making income? Are you all saved up and don’t need to work, or will you work remotely via your computer? Perhaps you plan to sell things out of the camper? Whatever your plan, make sure you have the space and flexibility to do so. We work freelance through our computer, in addition to leading our own digital business.

Where do you plan to park? If you want to do heavy off-roading, you’ll need a vehicle fit for that. If you plan to stay at RV parks and take advantage of their resources, you’ll need a vehicle for that. And if you plan to mainly stay to roads, gravel or asphalt, then you have more flexibility in your choices.

Are you more adventurous or prefer to “glamp”? The type of comfort you require will impact what kind of camper you need.


The choices in campers.

Here is a list of all the choices we considered for our camper.

  • An RV
  • A Van We Would Convert Ourselves
  • A Camper Shell on a Truck Bed
  • Back of Jeep Living
  • Jeep Roof Tent Living

Let’s take a look into what we learned for each, and the pros and cons.


An RV

Our first thought was to buy an RV and live in that. We went to Camper World in Colorado Springs and took a tour of many of their RV’s. Honestly, we really liked them. And for a full month we were sold on that being our choice. But there were a handful of reasons we did not go with an RV.

ProsCons
Already converted for usThe layout isn’t customized to our lifestyle
Already has utilities Expensive
Comfortable living Limits on where you can drive and park it

Ultimately we decided not to go with the RV. We did like that it was already set up for us. But there were items within that didn’t suit our own lifestyle (like a booth or singular sofa). They were also more expensive then we wanted, and we wanted more freedom on where to drive them.


A Camper Shell on a Truck Bed

We also became fascinated by a camper shell we would mount onto the back of a truck bed. That would require us to a buy a truck, but we were okay with that. We visited some websites that provide them, and was in contact for awhile with a salesperson. We also really liked the fact that one company provided empty shells.

ProsCons
Less expensive than an RVNeed a truck to use it
Most are customizable Smaller space for living
More flexibility in where you drive and park The camper and driving area are separate

We decided not to go with the camper shell. The main reason was that we didn’t like the idea of having to get out of the truck to then go to the camper. It would mean our cats were separate from us. And it also meant if there was some kind of emergency it would be harder to go back and forth between the two.


Back of Jeep Living

We had our own Wrangler and we loved it. We called it our Raven. But it was only two door, which meant there frankly wasn’t enough space in the back. We would need a bigger Jeep. So went to a dealership and looked at them, and talked about the pros and cons.

ProsCons
Great for an adventurous lifestyle Not really as affordable as you would hope
Easy to drive and park anywhere A very small living space
They are built for outdoor needsYou can’t stand up inside

We definitely love Jeeps and liked how much easier they would making off-roading. However, we worried about good space for our cats as well as our hobbies. We also would not be able to stand up in it, which felt like a very cramped way to live.

Our Raven

Jeep Roof Tent Living

Given how much we loved our Jeep, we also discussed the possibility of installing a roof tent and living that way. It was an earlier thought of ours, and we did a great deal of research into what we would need and the cost. It’s worth noting you don’t have to have a Jeep for this. But as we already had one, we didn’t need to worry about buying a new vehicle.

ProsCons
Much more affordable Very rough living
Easy to drive and park anywhere Not a lot of privacy
Super adventurous way of travel Has to have set up and take down time

While we were enamored by the simplicity of this, as well as the adventure, we decided not to. It wasn’t ideal for our cats, and we didn’t like the idea of constantly feeling exposed to everything and everyone around.


A Van We Would Convert Ourselves

This was the final idea we landed on and the one that scared us the most. We aren’t builders. How would we even start? We would lose our Jeep. But we looked at three different dealerships and online, and this ended up being our choice.

ProsCons
Affordable (depending on model)You have to convert it yourself
Great living space and flexibility Not the best for rugged off-roading
You can stand up in itN/A

We found one Ford cargo van that was $62K, which seemed overpriced to us. The Ram cargo van was not in stock when we went to see it (even though it was listed on their website as at the dealership . . . ). Our final stop of that day was Nissan. At less than $40K, it was ideal for what we needed. We could stand in it, we could have privacy, and we had plenty of room to work with and customize to our own needs.

Yes, there are some cons. We had never converted or really built anything from scratch before. And we new there would be some limit to where we could take it. You can’t off-road it like a Jeep. And it is frankly to tall for drive-thrus (this is probably a good thing). But it handles well, its ride is smooth, and it is just the kind of space we want.

We went with the Nissan NV2500 high top, 2021 model.


Read all the posts in our Campervan Conversion series!

Part II: Walls, Floors, & Utilities

Part III: Storage & Shelving

Part IV: Decor

Part V: Bed & Sofa


Bardic Inspiration, D&D / TTRPGs

Bardic Inspiration: Exploration

Welcome to the second installment of Bardic Inspiration. This segment looks at, well, listens to, the best tracks to play during tabletop role-playing game session. The first article about adding mood-setting music to tavern scenes is a great starting point for any campaign or story.

This time around we’re sticking with songs that revolve around exploration. These tracks are perfect for when the adventuring party heads into a dense jungle, traverses a desert, or searches for tracks. The music is designed to build upon mystery and intrigue so they players are pulled into the action.

Into the Unknown

Now, before everyone gets the Frozen 2 song stuck in their head, let’s start with one of my favorite exploration songs: “The Hunter’s Path” from the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. If you really want to set the mood, start up this track. It’s slow and melodic and reminds me of a full party tracking a wild beast through the plains. Even the name has explore built into it. It literally means following a path.

It’s a slow tune that uses soft drums to add a sense of stealth to the piece. Their rhythmic pace echoes footsteps while a lute – or perhaps a suka or gadulka – plays along with them. It’s great for leaving on repeat as well and is just shy of three minutes.

I take a lot of inspiration for planning music playlists from song titles. It can help you find tracks that fit a region or area better. For instance, if the party is traveling through an open plain, a great song to use is “The Plains of Erathell” composed by Grant Kirkhope.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has a special place in my heart as does its music. This track is built for expansive plains or fields. It can be used as a way to setup the area the character’s are going to explore or to enhance a description of arcane ruins. It’s just beautiful. And at four minutes, it’s easy to loop.

“Sand Travellers” by Ryan Roth is a track from the game Moon Hunters. The indie title from Kitfox Games is a fun adventure game with an all around excellent soundtrack. This specific track may focus around desert environments but it can be used for much more regions. It’s mysterious and can really transform scenes.

I first discovered it while building an encounter around a sphinx. Since that day I’ve used it while the character’s explored ruined temples, underwater ruins, and flown across vast distances.

For a song with spooky motif, I recommend “Dead City” by Pawel Blaszczak. It’s from the first Witcher game and is great for traveling through graveyards, following cultists through a dungeon, or entering a dragon’s lair. It’s dark and foreboding tone also makes it rather perfect for venturing to Strahd’s Castle Ravenloft.

It’s eight minutes long so you can easily leave it running while you hold a conversation or interact with the players.

Thankfully, there are thousands of video games and movies that have songs built for exploration. Lord of the Rings, Skyrim, Dragon Age, Elder Scrolls Online, and Golden Sun are full of epic adventure music to fill your D&D games.

Exploring is a one of the key pillars of Dungeons & Dragons along with social interaction and combat. It can be pushed aside quite frequently due to combat but is no less important. It’s a time for characters and players to discover ancient lore, important information about the quest, or find new magic items.

The fellowship in the Lord of the Rings wouldn’t have made it far without exploring. Frodo would not have found the light of Eärendil nor would Bilbo have found Sting or Gandalf Glamdring if they hadn’t come across the troll cave.

In real life, we use music to get us through everyday experiences as well. Whether it’s working out or driving to and from the store or work, turning on some tunes can enhance our imagination and make us think. It’s certainly helped in our D&D game and during our camper van travels.