Toren’s Taiwan Trip 2: Tainan Lantern Festival – Rained Out

February 9 2022


Quarantine is over! It’s warmish outside! Kaohsiung is a noisy place! Finally I get to be outside in Taiwan during the day!

Outside Mom’s apartment.

First thing on the docket is to get a haircut. Pro tip: if you’re white, don’t go to this place

Not a great haircut, but you might see a corgi

I walked around and found my first street food – which was a drink – I got guava and yakult (yogurt), delicious.

Got to see our quarantine hotel from the outside. One of the things I looked at every day was the 9×9 stationary store across the street. This photo is from the door of that store. I bought pens!!

Royal Hotel – we spent 2 weeks trapped inside here watching the doves cavort in that tree.

Typical Kaohsiung street views – notice the abundance of scooters. Because of the pandemic, whenever you went into a business you were supposed to scan a QR code for the purposes of tracking any spread. Naturally me and my phone took forever to do this.

If this restaurant was open when I was nearby, I would have tried it.

Residents in Kaohsiung don’t have lawns, so they do what they can by having gardens in planters out front! Also check out the crazy trees!


Wife’s sister’s friend drove us 50 minutes North to Tainan City for the lantern festival. During the afternoon we walked about and found some fun places in Anping Old Street, including Miaoshou temple, a crazy soft serve ice cream shop, and some place with fun crustacean mascots.

We also found a great pudding shop where the seats were pudding shaped!

Scooters are ubiquitous, and of course they have a scooter sharing program
I picked up this cap from the market, which you will see me wear for the rest of the trip!

Sadly, the lantern festival was called due to rain, so at dusk we travelled to Ba-Wei hot pot/ginger duck restaurant on Anping Road where we met some of Erica’s old friends who luckily speak English!

The Anping Canal, unless I’m mistaken

Unfortunately comfortable seating is a rarity at these kinds of restaurants, as you can see the stools are tiny. I had hurt my back somehow during the flight and/or quarantine hotel and I had to stand up periodically to manage the pain.

A great first day out and about! By the way, if you come across these – they’re delicious. It’s like what if bubble gum ramune was an ice cream!

2022 Year in Review

Countries visited: 1 (Taiwan)

D&D, Mork Borg and Ruin Nation Sessions Played: 17

Band practice/writing sessions: 7
Live Shows: 2

Shows worked on that I can talk about (2):

Agent King – due on Netflix in March 2023
Spidey and His Amazing Friends streaming now on Disney Jr and youtube

Number of #torentries: 62

Number of pomellos eaten: 7

Movies watched for the first time: 150

Movies I watched that rated 8+ out of 10:

The Stranger, Barbarian, The Guns of Navarone, Bullets or Ballots, The Verdict, Everything Everywhere All At Once, East of Eden, The Grave of Fireflies, Licorice Pizza, Doctor Zhivago, The Wages of Fear (1953), Hotel Rwanda, Flee, The Handmaiden, Mississippi Burning, Your Name, Minari, The Banshees of Inisherin

New Friends made: 4

Post-apocalyptic movies watched and REVIEWED ON MY BLOG: 12

2020 Texas Gladiators, Captive Women, Deluge (1933), Tides (The Colony), Appleseed Alpha, Beyond the Time Barrier, Black Crab, Teenage Caveman (1958), Stryker (1983), Raiders of the Sun, Mother/Android, Virus (1980),

Migraines: 3

Doctor Who episodes watched and REVIEWED ON MY BLOG: 30

From Image of the Fendahl 1977 to Stones of Blood 1978

Podcasts made: Just 1, somehow!

Youtube videos uploaded: 36

Drawings drawn: Incalculable! But here’s some…

Properties purchased: 1. Anxiety breakdowns: 2

Overdue Who Review: The Pirate Planet

Season 16, 1978, 4 episodes… Second story in the Key to Time story arc.

If you’re wondering about Tom’s lip it’s because he was bitten by a Jack Russell terrier.

The Doctor and Time Lady Romana arrive on the planet Calufrax and are surprised to find the docile society placated by the prosperity gifted by the bombastic, murder-hungry Captain. Turns out the planet is not Calufrax, but a shell planet Zanak enveloping Calufrax, destroying the latter in a planet-wide mining process. After that’s done, the Captain would move on to ‘process’ planet Earth, were it not for the Doctor and help from the psychic Mentiads.

Some really interesting ideas here, and it’s written by Douglas Adams! He even uses his catchphrase “I’ll never be cruel to a [insert noun] again!” The bombastic Captain is 110% ridiculous with his assassin robot laser parrot. There are some interesting twists and I was hoping for a clever ending but it all just winds up with technobabble nonsense that is a very unsatisfying ending to a story with a lot of potential.

Next up: The Stones of Blood

All the Resources in One Place: How to Be A Better DM (5 Principles):

  1. Communicate often with your players. Do this both as a group and one-on-one. Converse with them, not to them. Tell them what your expectations are of your players and ask what they expect out of their DM. If you see conflicts, address them. Understand that what works for some of your players may not work for others, and you may have to make some hard choices to play the game you want to play. But above all – communicate.

    TOREN’S TIP: You are the game referee, but you are not your player’s conflict mediator outside of the game. Set healthy boundaries. Seth Skorkowsky has an excellent video on his channel about this.

2. People these days talk a lot about ‘Session Zero’ – this is basically a subset of point 1. It could be in person or it could be virtual, or even just an email. It’s a communication of what the tone, gaming style, rules restrictions, setting, and everything else about your game will be, including what you will allow and what you won’t allow. This happens before the first adventuring session and it’s a great time to find out what your players are comfortable with (remembering that many of your friends have deep traumas that you might now know about including sexual assault, death of close relatives at young age, etc.).

Is alcohol allowed at the table? How about cell phones? Will characters level up via XP or milestones? What’s the balance between crunchy combat and roleplay-heavy social encounters?

TOREN’S TIP: Ask each character to have a connection or bond to any 1 or 2 other player characters (the fighter and I escaped the slave mines together; I follow the cleric’s god and look to her for advice; the druid is my adopted sister!)

There are lots of articles and youtube videos about what you should cover in a session zero. Here is a good one:

3. Watch your Group Size.
It’s legendarily difficult to find a good, stable gaming group (congrats if you have one) and there are different philosophies as to the perfect size. You can absolutely have a game with 1 player and 1 DM. Typically the magic number is 4 players and 1 DM. With smaller groups, you risk having to cancel the entire session if 1 or 2 players has to cancel, whereas if you have a larger group of 5 or more, the danger becomes when everyone shows up and you get very little done in the session because there is more time used up between players’ turns. It really depends the reliability of your players so all I can say is good luck!

4a. Set reasonable standards for yourself. Everyone wants to be the greatest DM/GM in the world, and many feel like podcasters and youtuber like Matt Mercer are the gold standard to aspire to. Keep in mind these are professional actors and what you are watching are performances for a medium, rather than a casual gaming group of friends. Look to them for inspiration and ideas, but remember you will never be Matt Mercer, and you shouldn’t. Just be a good you.

4b. Don’t burn yourself out! I find preparing for my RPG sessions very therapeutic, but manage your expectations. The players will inevitably thwart or avoid many of your lovingly crafted encounters, so just try to roll with it (pun). Also, find a balance for how often you play. Most people try to have a weekly game, but if that seems to be too much for you, adjust the schedule. See if anyone in your group is interested in running a separate game (even a different system) and you can alternate weeks as a GM and a player. Also, consider the idea of a co-DM, if you have a friend that you have a good relationship to work with, having two DMs can ‘share the load’ as Samwise Gamgee once said.

5. Is Everyone Having Fun? If they are, then you are doing it right! This might be the most important tip, perhaps tied with #1. And if you are not having fun. Ask yourself why and what you might want to change.


The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets Get Liquidated!

No, the band is not breaking up. BUT – the lead singer IS moving… and that’s me!

Offers can be sent by clicking here:

Here we see the red space suit used during the Spaceship Zero tour and elsewhere. Made of space-age materials and surprisingly breathable! $100 OBO

“Chain Dragger” – a classic that has gone through many iterations. The light helmet still works! The gun makes 8 different noises which was primarily used for the instrumental breaks in “Rock Lords”. Worn by Toren at PAX in 2008 and many other shows all the way back to the 90s. $100 or best offer

Satyr Pants! Worn by Warren AND Toren, including at our show at PAX in 2008. $50

Complete set of Thickets-branded Jones Soda beverages produced as promotional prizes for Cthulhupalooza in 2008. Stainage on one or two of them. $35 obo

The Great Giant Pacific Octopus! SOLD

Staff of Eldritch Power +1 … SOLD

D&D Miniatures for Sale

Various sold individually.

I don’t have time to price these all out individually so just let me know what you’re interested and what you’re willing to pay!

The purple worm and a couple others are gone

Chainmail Gnolls – $10 each

umber hulk and rust monster
baba yaga and big lizard samurai guy

Gaming Stuff for Sale (D&D, Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder, Dungeon Magazines, Heroclix Etc)

See me and my stuff on facebook marketplace

Click below to see the D&D Minis

Click below to see the Call of Cthulhu minis

Click below to see the Heroclix figures for sale

Here’s the rest:

Dungeon Magazines – see below or make offer for lot

Fantastic Locations: Hellspike Prison: Dungeons & Dragons Accessory Paperback – Nov. 1 2005 $20 (missing 1 double-sided map)


Thornkeep, a 96-page softcover book, was a reward for backers of the Pathfinder Online Technology Demo Kickstarter project to fund the initial steps in the development of the Pathfinder Online MMO. It was written by Richard BakerJason BulmahnEd GreenwoodJames JacobsErik Mona, and the Goblinworks staff. The PDF of the book was released to Kickstarter backers in October 2012, and at retail in both print and PDF versions in January 2013.

Creature and Cultists first edition – Pagan Publishing – $45 obo

Star Wars Miniatures Map STARSHIP BATTLES SPACE Coruscant / Tatooine double-sided paper battle map, 22″x34″ – $10


Dungeon Magazine 83 – $10

Dungeon Magazine 83 – $10

Dungeon Magazine #85 – $10

Dungeon 85

Dungeon Magazine 87 – $10 – well used

Dungeon 87

Dungeon Magazine 91- $10

Dungeon 91

Dungeon Magazine 95 -$20 obo

dungeon 95

Dungeon Magazine 105 – $20 obo

Dungeon Magazine # 114- $10

dungeon 114

Dungeon Magazine #124-$60 obo

Dungeon 124 – age of worms part 1

Dungeon Magazine 125- $40 obo

Age of worms adventure path 2

Dungeon Magazine #126- $30 obo

Age of Worms adventure path 3

Dungeon Magazine #127 -$30 obo

SOLD // Dungeon Magazine #134 – $30 obo

Dungeon 134

Dungeon Magazine #138 – $10 obo

Dungeon 138

Call of Cthulhu / Strange Aeons Miniatures for Sale

Quickly posting these so you can see what is available. Nothing is priced – yet – but please ask!

METAL miniatures facebook marketplace:

PLASTIC miniatures fb marketplace:

Plastic/resin minis first:

12 expertly painted cultists $45
Shoggoth, about 3″ wide – $20

Dimensional shamblers (metal, painted – $15
Green polyp thing (plastic, partialy painted) – $5
Serpent Man Cultist (plastic, painted) – $5
King in Yellow (plastic unpainted)- $8
Deep One in robe (plastic, painted) $8

Transparent purple “From Beyond” manifestations – $5 each
Cthulhu 2″ painted – $8 each. Minis – 2 for $5
amorphous black creature $5, slimy worm thing $8, magic-infused obelisk $6
Winged Polyp 2″ – unpainted. $8
Bag of adventurers and cultists and markers, plastic. $30
Bag o’ cultists, plastic, unpainted – $20
Groundthulhu – plastic, unpainted. $8.

Selling Comics For Sale

New home means clearing out possessions for currency! I’m at 4th Ave near Commercial Drive in Vancouver. Contact me on facebook or email:

Dungeon (Donjon) Graphic Novels

Dungeon (French title: Donjon) is a series of comic fantasy comic books created by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim, with contributions from numerous other artists. It was originally published in France by Delcourt as a series of graphic albums; The series is a parody of sword and sorcery conventions in general, and specifically of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. All of the characters are either anthropomorphic animals or other strange creatures. The “dungeon” of the title is, in the original series, a business establishment run by a mild-mannered chicken, where heroes come in search of adventure and treasure and invariably die. The timeline in the main continuity is described as the stages of day; the series that lead up to the dungeon’s creation are described in the (dawn) segment, the castle’s glory days are described as its (zenith), and its inevitable decay is described in the (twilight) stories.


The Early Years Vol 1: the Night Shirt $18

The Early Years vol 2: Innocence Lost $12

Monstres vol 1: The Crying Giant $85

Dungeon Parade Vol 1: A Dungeon Too Many $100

Parade Vol 2: Day of the Toads $30

Dungeon vol 1: Duck Heart $40

Dungeon Twilight Vol 1: Dragon Cemetery $20

Dungeon Twilight Vol 2: Armageddon $30

Dungeon Twilight Vol 4: The end of Dungeon $13

Dungeon Monstres Vol 2: The Dark Lord $12

$10 Graphic novels (deals on multiples, or make an offer):


Moth paperback graphic novel $30- excellent condition

All the rest:

Silver Surfer Moebius 1-2: $25
Amazing Spider-Man 342, 343: $2 each
Amazing Spider-Man 336 $3
Amazing Spider-Man 337 $8
Amazing Spider-Man 338, 339 $5
Terror Inc 1-4 and 7: $5 for all.
Tick Big Yule Log Special #1 – $3
Rick Big Blue Destiny #2 – $2
Clan Destine Preview $5
Clan Destine #1 foil cover $8
Clan Destine 2-6 $1 each

Toren’s Taiwan Trip: Quarantine (the First 2 weeks)

In excruciating detail!

We were surprised how full the plane was, giving that it’s a pandemic, but also it’s around Lunar New Year so maybe we should not have been quite so surprised? All the paperwork leading up to this moment (COVID test, etc) was a nightmare of stress and confusion. I don’t recommend it. It was even worse for my wife, who actually handled it! The flight was 12 hours, not including the usual preflight waiting. I’m not sure about the benefit of waking passengers for 2 meals between (what was for me) midnight and noon, but okay. The movie selection on the plane was not great, the ‘classics’ were essentially old Bond films, so I finally watched Goldfinger. Yes, I had never seen Goldfinger.

IMAGE: I was number 29 to take the test, I was NOT number 29 to get my results 🙁

Once we landed everyone had to take a COVID test. This involved waiting to be called, in order of your passport number. Fun fact: Taiwanese passports start with numbers and Canadian ones start with letters, so I was pretty much dead last out of around 250 people.

IMAGE: A small army of Taiwanese health personnel. Now I truly feel I’m in a pandemic movie

Then we had to go through the rigmarole of getting simcards and setting up apps for the government to check in on us that we were quarantined and doing our regular self-tests. All that business took about 4 hours. Then we got into the quarantine taxi for the long drive from Taoyuan to Kaohsiung, which is were my wife’s fam lives.

IMAGE: Getting hosed down for the quarantine taxi

The highway from the airport is SO HIGH UP! Higher than the buildings and trees! I love the shape of the tree line in Japan and Taiwan, always reminds me of M.A.S.H. even though M*A*S*H was filmed in Malibu Creek State Park in California.

IMAGE: driving driving driving from Taoyuan Aiport to Kaohsiung

It’s over 3 hours drive from Taoyuan airport to Kaohsiung, which I spent with a spider in the back seat. Overall we were in transit roughly 22-23 hours!

IMAGE: my first close encounter with Taiwanese fauna

The quarantine hotel was adequate and our room was on the second floor. Mother-in-Law’s house was just a few blocks away so occasionally relatives would drop off stuff for us – like fruit!

We would spend the next 2 weeks confined to this hotel room. They provided us with enormous amounts of disposable plastic (ugh…) including disposable razors, many toothbrushes and tiny toothpaste bottles, etc, of which we used maybe 10%. Plastic waste is a huge problem in Asian countries, as far as I can tell. We took the leftovers to mom’s place, as I’m sure the hotel would just throw the unused items in the trash.

IMAGE: disposable plastic toiletries

The hotel provided meals (which my wife prepaid for) but they were crap, so we cancelled that service after a few days. Luckily, Uber Eats was there for us. My closest contact with non-wife life was oriental turtledoves that frequented the trees outside our hotel room window.

IMAGE: oriental turtledove eating the crumbs I left for ’em

I spent the next two days drawing, working on Ruin Nation, and watching movies. There were 4 reliable Hollywood movie channels on the hotel TV, and while the audio was in English, the sound on the TV was not great so it was hit and miss (English subtitles were not an option). Old movies on youtube were my go-to.

I also did a lot of sampling of the local cuisine! If you’re on facebook or twitter use the hashtag #torentries to see all the details

The government also left us a care package! A big bag of snacks, masks and bleach. I learned something interesting about Taiwan garbage collection – but more on that later.