I'm just an average dude with average aim and average scores. This isn't a pro guide, just a compilation of tips and observations I made for myself that can help regular players with very average skills such as myself. You can skip the history part if you're not interested.
I've never really been great at FPS in general. I never played any cs, but I played lots of BF4, BF1 and Apex. I played a little Overwatch and some COD Warzone as well but all these games seemed to lack something. That something, I found in Valorant. When I got in the Beta, I was super excited until I realized... I sucked. I started out as Iron 1 and it took me a month to get out of Iron. I then somehow quickly made it all the way to gold 1 before the end of beta. I then flopped around between gold 1 and plat 1 all throughout Act I. During this act, I started climbing more and more consistently, from gold 1 at the start, to diamond 2 currently (with my act rank as D1 currently). Also, I should mention I used to always play with my friends, most of the time duo queuing but also stacking up to five regularly. Out of all my friends, I was never the best, they were always the ones top-fragging and popping off more than I ever did BUT I also rarely bottom fragged. About a month ago, I stopped playing with them and only ever solo queued from then on. After that, I noticed a significant improvement in my gameplay and my rank followed along as I went from gold 2 to diamond 2 which is like going from the 55th percentile to the 95th percentile. Finally, I made a "smurf" account in Act I for when I wanted to play alone. That account has been exactly the same rank as my main since the start of Act II even though it has 10x fewer games. I also kept playing on my "smurf" after ditching my friends but only when I was feeling like I was having an off-day and didn't want to sink my rank on my main but somehow both my ranks evolved at the same pace and both hit diamond within 4 days from one another. Anyway, here's what I learned:
Try to solo queue. Every player has habits, and this often causes people who duo regularly to get used to each other's playstyle, which leads them to cater to each other's habits. This locks you down in a certain playstyle and very often prevents you from trying new strats or simply developing new skills which makes you less flexible and causes you to get absolutely smashed when someone figures you out. By solo queuing you'll be forced to play along with more different types of players without having the option to rely on your friend for whatever reason.
Don't think you have to carry every game. This is the reason I included both my screenshots. You can clearly see that I VERY RARELY top frag, yet manage to win very consistently. I'll talk about it in the macromechanics section because a part of this success is in how I play, and the other part of it is in the mindset. This is all about the attitude. We've all had moments where we get absolutely shit on for 5 straight rounds and it feels like we've excreted our will to live but this is not a reason to give up or start trying to play funky games. Keep trying. Legit close your eyes for 15 seconds during the buy phase, take deep breaths and let go of your attachment to the outcome. Which leads me to my next point:
Stop paying attention to the scoreboard. I personally do this, and I know a lot of people also do this. You'll look at the scoreboard and see yourself sitting at 0-6 and tilt, or you'll see yourself at 6-0 while your sentinel is on 1-7 and tilt. Stop. Don't. Your score, or someone else's score, isn't an indication of how useful you/they are. Even if you're "playing like shit" because you're not hitting your headshots, doesn't mean you can't be useful.
Don't be toxic. I know right? Like that needed to be said! Well, I think it needs to be said. Too many of you are toxic without realizing it. That's because you don't go nuclear, but instead just sneak in passive-aggressive remarks that intoxicate your teammates and make them tilt. There's no need to sarcastically congratulate your teammate for finally getting their first kill on 7th round. They know more than you what went wrong and you pointing it out only antagonizes them, it distracts them (as they think of what snarky comment they can make next time you die) and makes them spectate you every time they die (so like, every round) just looking for what mistakes you can make that they can burn you for. It's always better to say something positive and reassuring like "good job, don't worry about the early game, we got this" than something inflammatory. This makes a huge difference in your odds of winning. Playing 5v5 is a whole lot easier than 4v5.
Communicate. Pass the info along, let your team know what you see, tell them your intention. Way too many times do people stay silent and say things like "look at your minimap, are you blind?". This isn't a moba with a low TTK like LoL, here, you often have to hold angles where if you even get your eyes off your crosshair for just a quarter of a second, you're dead. In a tactical shooter like this, for equal skill, the team with the better coms will win 99% of the time. The more useful information your team has, the better their decision-making is going to be.
Dodge. I know this one is going to be controversial but it has to be said. Don't be afraid to dodge lobbies that don't feel quite right. The quickest dodge? 4-stacks with large rank disparities. They are not a good bet, ever. First of all, because they're highly likely to be on discord just talking with each other and not sharing info with you. Secondly, because they're unavoidably going to be toxic towards you the minute something goes wrong. And finally, because (as far as I know) the system assumes that 4 stacks are supposed to be more coordinated, it'll place you against a better team of solos overall. But 4-stacks suck. They're not coordinated, they're just friends that decided to play together and who are kind of just doing their own thing anyways.The other times I dodge is when I'm alone at three divisions above everyone else. These are usually kill-race duels between you and the other team's highest rank, just competitions of who can carry the hardest. Also, and this isn't confirmed info but pretty much all elo systems in the world work like that: being the highest rank means you're a candidate for lesser elo gains on a win and greater elo losses in defeat. It's a high-risk, low-reward situation, it's boring and I'm so glad that they announced that they will restrain the rank division gap that people can queue with in ranked because I cannot stand another Diamond 1 player telling me "it's ok bro, trust me he's gold 1 but he's really good for his rank".
Get the right mindset. You're not better than your rank shows, winning doesn't mean you played well and ranking up doesn't mean you're better overall. Assume you can improve and focus on improving - not winning. Caring more about the outcome than about the process won't get you anywhere.
Pay attention to the scoreboard. I know I literally just told you the opposite, but this time it's for different reasons.A) Look at the money and make sure to manage your team's econ (e.g. if someone is about to bust the 9k limit, have them buy for a teammate with low money). This probably seems obvious to most of you, but managing your econ is something I've seen diamonds do much better at than golds. Even plat players will sometimes be selfish and not say anything even if they should offer to drop someone. This isn't a major game-changer, but it definitely helps and it's super easy to implement.B) Look at the enemy team's econ. You can eventually predict who's gonna have a shotgun, when Jett's gonna ult, which opponent has util, etc. This will help your decision making down the road and can easily win you rounds.
Don't think you have to carry every game part 2. As shown above, I rarely top frag, yet consistently win. This is because I always play for the round, not the frags. I do my best to look for plays that give my teams opportunities, space, time or info. You can do things such as splitting up the opposing team with util, forcing someone to watch the flank, creating distractions, scouting, flanking, etc. Each of those techniques probably could have their own youtube tutorial and I'm sure there are a bunch out there, but I mostly learned these from watching pros and asking myself why they do what they do.The one thing all these techniques have in common is they require you to stay alive. If you're trying to flank and aggressively challenge enemies and go for kills and die, you're giving the opposing team opportunities to win. If you see a hard push coming to your site and decide to stand your ground and die without being traded, it's bad even if you get a kill. It's (almost) always better to retreat and use util to delay the push until someone can support you. I won't go through every situation, but the general idea is STAY ALIVE and give your team a chance to support you or at least trade you/utilize your death.
Play for the round, not the frags. I mean as a duelist, enter on site first and create space for your team, even if that means dying. As a sentinel or controller, make sure to follow your duelists, support them and place yourself in situations where you can trade them when they go in.Stop trying to get free kills on the rotation while your team is trying to take a site, all it does is pad your kda and boost your ego. It doesn't mean you can't look for rotation kills or flanks while your team fakes a site, but if they commit to a site you need to stop sitting in a corner trying to get a free kill from across the map. Especially if you're the duelist or breach that the team needs in order to enter on site.
Learn how to play for retake with your specific character. Very often, you can secure half the site for your team, which creates space for your team to retake the site after a plant. For example, if you're Brimstone on bind A site, smoking off u-hall and mollying the entrance as the opposing team commits to site almost guarantees that you can keep control of it while they plant, which significantly reduces the number of angles your team has to check before going for the defuse. Similar plays are available for a lot of champions, the key is staying alive and holding the amount of ground you can. It's very often better than to peek, maybe get a kill and then die and force your team to retake blindly while having to check every angle possible.
There's a million small things like don't run after faking the defuse because it'll tell your opponents that you didn't stick it, or don't slow peak around key corners, or don't not hit your shots, etc. But honestly, I suck. I'm not good at micromechanics. The one thing I started actively practicing which has significantly improved my results is crosshair placement. This is something that I feel is the biggest most significant improvement most people can make in a very short amount of time that will net them a lot more kills. Just put your crosshair where you think the adversary is going to be before you peek around a corner instead of slowly turning around the corner. When holding an angle, put your crosshair where you think the adversary's head is going to be when he peeks out of a corner. You'd be surprised how many more kills you get just by using pure reflex instead of having to actually aim. Anyway! I hope this helps someone! Edit: Woah that's a whole lot of awards! Thank you guys, I didn't expect that! Something else I should mention that I forgot: Don't overplay. I rarely do more than 3 games a day and I take at least 5-10 mins between games. This is a rhythm that works for me, maybe it's more or less for you, but chaining back-to-back games for hours on end never yielded great results for me. Just getting up and getting the blood moving a little bit helps a lot.
A whole bunch of Bannerlord tips and tricks you may not know (as of version e.1.5.1)
Bannerlord is a great game that is currently plagued by some serious issues, from glitches and bugs to simply not bothering to explain its own mechanics. Without any mitigation or forewarning, these little problems can really snowball and ruin your experience. I've compiled this list of tips and tricks to help other players get around some of these problems and also to maximise your fun while the game remains in early access.
I've separated everything up into categories so that you don't have to dig through too much to get to the stuff you're interested in. Also, stuff that's relevant to new players only is marked with a [NP] in front of it, so you can skip that if you already know the basics.
Edit: Wow, I hit the 40000 character limit so now I have to add more tips as comments instead!
How Stats, Skills and Perks work
[NP] Your character's progression consists of increasing stats, skills, focus, perks and levels. Stats govern your base aptitude in a set of three skills. For example, the Vigor stat affects your aptitude with one-handed, two-handed and polearm skills. Skills represent your ability with that particular skill. For example, the Bow skill affects your aim with the bow and the Steward skill directly affects how many members you can have in your party. Perks are essentially special abilities that are awarded at specific skill levels, e.g. 25, 50, 75 and 100. Sometimes you will get to choose between two perk options. Make sure you check whether a perk is implemented before you choose that perk! (See paragraph below) Lastly, focus points allow you to increase your max skill level with a skill and also provide an exp multiplier, making you gain skill points faster. Note that if you try to train a skill that's reached its limit, it will grow very slowly and eventually stop growing altogether. Thus, you need a constant investment of both stats and focus points to max out a skill. Since your stat and focus points are limited, I suggest you prioritize only a few skills to max out, and accept that the rest will never be fully completed.
[NP]In the character creation screen, the various skills are grouped by stats (in bold, above the individual skills) and each specific skill can have up to 5 focus points assigned (the vertical bars). Each skill you can learn is limited to a max number which is determined by the combination of stat and focus points you have for that skill. With full focus (5 bars), you will need about 6-8 stat points in a skill to allow you to completely max it out. Furthermore, the perks available for each skill are only partially implemented. This means that investing points into some skills is currently useless. To see which perks are implemented, I recommend using a site like https://www.bannerlordperks.com. At the time of writing this post, the entire "Cunning" stat has zero perks implemented, making it virtually useless to you. If you're new, I highly recommend getting points in Social, Vigor and Endurance. Social (specifically the charm skill) allows you to convince nobles to marry/join you more easily and improves your troops' morale (leadership skill). Vigor is your basic melee combat stat, which you will use a lot in the early game and especially in the arena. Lastly, endurance allows you to improve your movement speed (riding/athletics) and is necessary for smithing (skill), which is a really useful mechanic that I highly recommend you try. Another good choice is Control, if you wish to be a ranged character.
So how does leveling work in Bannerlord? Well here's what the Skills screen looks like using the character (C) menu Using skills with slowly increase your ability with them. The more focus points you have in a skill, the faster it's skill points will go up. Furthermore, your character will gain "exp" every time he/she gains skill points. Or more accurately, exp in this game IS skill points. That is to say, training the various skills is the only way to level up. NOT killing enemies, as you might have first thought. This means you can level up just by trading, smithing, running around, or leading armies. You don't even need to fight simulated battles mostly, though doing so will award you with tactics points and some combat skill points. Every level you gain will award you with either a stat point, a focus point, or both. You can spend these points to increase the relevant stat or skill focus bar. When you have points to assign, they will show up on your character screen. In the earlier screenshot is your NPC brother who you always start with, though his name and appearance is randomized. Because I chose the "assign perks myself" option, I can choose his perks right away (represented by little numbered shield icons next to his skills that tell you how many perks are available to choose). You'll note that to the left and right of the "Skills" table there are weird icons with the number 0 next to them. The left number represents stat points to assign, and the right number is focus points. Your new character will start with 1 free focus point to assign. To assign a focus point, select the desired skill and click the "+" sign. REMEMBER: No choices will be saved unless you click "Done", and you can revert all changes made so far by clicking the curved arrow between "Done" and "Cancel". To assign perks, click on the shield icons in the banner in the middle of the skill page and a popup will appear. Click on the perk you wish to choose - again making sure it's actually implemented first - and then when finished click "Done" to finalize your choices. Don't forget that you can use the left/right arrows to assign skills and perks for your NPCs too!
One more thing about perks. The "Governor" perks DO NOT APPLY to your character, because you can't be the governor of any of your cities/castles. Thus, don't pick governor perks for your main hero unless they also come with side-abilities that you want.
Starting the Game and the Main Storyline
[NP] The various factions each come with a special ability. You can use all troops from all factions, so don't worry about being shoehorned into any particular troop type by your choices. Instead, focus on the ability you'll get. Not all abilities are made equal and not all factions are equal either. Currently, the Khuzait faction is kind of OP due to the AI being too dumb to figure out how to handle horse archers, so select them for an easier early-game. Vlandia gets bonus troop exp, which means you can promote veteran troops faster than others. Empire skills are building-focused, which means you need to own fiefs to really gain any benefit from using them. Sturgia are... faster in snow. Also their troops are supposedly weaker than normal (this will eventually change), so pick Sturgia if you're a masochist. Battania are kind of situational with their forest boost (so maybe don't pick them either), and Aserai get trading bonuses, so pick them if you want to be a merchant or just like money.
[NP] Clicking the various family options will show you the potential change in stat points and focus points that you will gain for that choice. You will have about 7 different choices to make before your character is ready to play. Try to pick choices which focus on your ideal stats and skills while minimizing the other ones. Here's a sample character I generated using the stats I recommended earlier. Don't worry too much about making perfect choices here, since you will gain many more stat and focus points throughout your game too. Plus, you'll use most of the stats/skills at one point or another. After this, your brother will ask if you want to do the tutorial. The tutorial only teaches you how to fight, so if you already know that you can skip it.
If you follow the story you will play through a storyline quest for a while until you've rescued your siblings and experienced the execution mechanic in action. Then you will have to chase down a bunch of clan leaders and lie to two special characters who will never interact with you again once you've made your final choice. However, and this is something I want to emphasize heavily: You do NOT need to make a choice about what to do with the dragon banner immediately. In fact, I strongly recommend you do NOT make a decision until you're very well situated in the game. Why? Because it starts a doomsday timer that you cannot slow down or affect in any way, and when it runs out 3 factions will declare war on you all at once and try to grind your entire faction into the dust. Instead, forget about the story quest and just enjoy the game at that point until you are extra powerful and ready to take on the world. Once you succeed at that quest I'm pretty sure you win the game, and if you start it before you're ready you'll be in for a world of hurt.
The Campaign Map
The game has a really useful feature called the "Encyclopedia". Press 'N' to open it when in the campaign screen. If you want to track down a notable figure, you can search their name or clan in the search bar and it will tell you where they were last seen. Anytime you speak to another noble or visit a settlement, town or castle, it will update the rumours of where that noble was seen most recently. This will allow you to track down anyone with ease. You can also see if they were taken prisoner, got pregnant, or switched allegiances recently. Furthermore, you can use the Encyclopedia to check nobles' relations with you or each other, allowing you to single out the nobles who hate their liege and are ripe for conversion to your kingdom. You can also use the encyclopedia to check troop upgrade paths, details about cities/settlements, and info on minor factions, who are like secret clans that you can recruit if you choose to be your own kingdom. All in all, it's incredibly useful for planning your next move.
There's a circle next to city/settlement names in the overworld and the encyclopedia. Clicking that circle "bookmarks" the city/settlement, which means you can easily find it on the map. Clicking it again removes the bookmark.
[NP] If you hover over any of the symbols at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, you can get detailed info on how the values are calculated. The symbols are, from left to right, money, influence, HP, troops, food and morale. The money icon will show you your daily income vs daily expenses. Influence will show your influence gain/loss over time. HP is your own health and recovery rate. Troops shows what troops you have in your army. Food shows how much food you have and morale shows what's affecting the mood of your soldiers. Using these icons helps you figure out what you need to do to make their values go up instead of down.
Against minor enemies like looters, it's usually relatively safe to use "Send Troops" instead of going in there yourself. You won't gain tactics skill from this, but your troops will gain all the exp instantly instead of spending 5 minutes fighting first.
[NP] You can issue commands to your troops by using the F keys. F1 is the movement menu, F2 is the direction menu, F3 is the formation menu, F4 is whether or not to use ranged weapons, F5 is mount/dismount for cavalry, F6 enables AI control, and F7 allows you to split your groups up and assign the split members to other groups. (e.g. split infantry and assign half to "heavy infantry"). You can also use the number keys (i.e. 1,2,3 etc) to select specific groups of troops to give orders to. 1 is infantry, 2 is archers, 3 is melee cavalry etc. Any non-mapped number selects all troops. This allows you to have fine-grained control during combat. HOWEVER for the most part the numbers and relative experience of the two armies is the deciding factor in how a battle goes. Sometimes you can use the terrain to your advantage, but mostly your tactics will do very little to actually affect the battle's outcome, especially in sieges where taking control of the AI will completely break their ability to use siege equipment and attack or defend properly.
Some basic strategies for manually commanding troops during simulated battles are as follows:
The lazy way: Immediately press 0 and then F6 at the start of a battle. Your troops will do their own thing and you can just run/ride around increasing your combat skills without having to worry about managing battles.
The terrain way: Place infantry in front of your archers and put your archers on high ground. The archers will pick off lots of enemy troops before their infantry get close enough to do any damage, and your infantry will protect the archers when the troops finally do arrive.
The big brain way: Research your opponents' army composition and culture by riding close (but not too close!) to their army to scout them. For example, Sturgians generally will have lots of shield infantry while Battania will have a lot of ranged folks. Figure out the counter infantry type (e.g. for shielded infantry it's heavy 2-handed weapon infantry. For heavy 2-handed infantry it's archers. For cavalry it's spear-throwers. For archers it's cavalry, etc) and fill your army with those units. Engage in wholesale slaughter. Note: This works best when you have a fief garrison you can switch veteran troops in and out of, because rookies get rekt even with a "type" advantage.
The OP way: Get just zillions of horse archers, select them at the start of the battle and press F6. The horse archers will run up to the enemy, fill them with arrows, then run away again and repeat. Currently there's no really effective AI counter to this and they will just bleed troops while you sit there wondering why you're even there.
The "No 'I' in team" way: If you're helping another noble in combat, their troops will automatically be on F6 mode. And you can't do anything about it, either. If you don't want their troops to get completely wiped out, it's best to set yours to AI mode (0 then F6) too. Otherwise they WILL charge the enemy archer wall with their 15 sturgian recruits...
The "Actually, my troops are more valuable" way: Conversely, if you are helping a noble but don't actually need their troops to win (i.e. you have a huge numbers advantage), don't auto send your troops and use whatever your usual strat is. They'll get wiped out but at least you won't lose your precious troops!
You can cheese simulated battles by abusing the "Retreat" command. Hold "Tab" to bring up the stats menu, and press middle mouse button to get your cursor back. Then you can click "Retreat" to teleport your entire army safely out of the battle. Then you can restart the battle with the number of troops remaining from before, but both armies are placed far away from each other again. Combine this with a lot of archers, and you can whittle the enemy numbers down before they reach your army and then simply retreat and start over again until the odds are solidly in your favour. This lets you overcome basically any odds so long as you ensure your opponent takes more losses than you do each time.
Levelling up your troops can be tricky as the experience system isn't very clear as to what gives the best troop exp. However, the following things seem to work fairly well: * Some of the Leadership perks grant lots of free exp over time. In particular, Raise the Meek will rapidly turn all of your lowest-level troops into higher-level ones over time, and the level 225 one, Companions, basically gives you the Vlandian empire troop exp bonus, which stacks with actually being Vlandian * Steamrolling fat groups of looters using "Send Troops" is relatively safe and usually awards a handful of troop upgrades each time * Beating nobles' armies when you have about a 2:1 ratio of your troops to theirs is also usually pretty safe and the higher-level troops they have with them yield much more exp * Winning a siege will be extremely costly in terms of deaths, but the troops who survive will gain tons of experience. Defending a siege will be less costly due to having the home turf advantage, but it's harder to engineer those to occur * Doing hideout raids and taking along a group of only archers is a great way to level up those 9 archers, so long as you don't aggro the entire hideout at once. Just make sure you use F4 frequently to enable/disable "Fire at will" or they WILL try to shoot bandits at the other end of the map and summon the wrath of god down on you * Keep your troop morale high by buying lots of different varieties of food. I'm not sure if morale is fully implemented yet, but you won't have the awkward issue of your troops all running from a difficult battle at least
Building your Clan
[NP] Your clan has a ranking in the clan screen (press L), shown at the top right. Earning renown increases this ranking, and every new level adds more soldiers to your armies and other useful clan perks to your arsenal. Max clan rank is 6, but you won't get there for a very long time. The easiest way to gain renown is through winning large battles, so battling lots will quickly raise that renown score.
The game doesn't tell you this anywhere, but you can have your family join your party by visiting them in whatever city they are hiding in and talking to them (or left-clicking their portrait in that city). Your brother in particular is basically a veteran soldier right from the start of the game, so adding him to your party will give you a huge early-game boost. His high steward score also increases your party size by a lot, so having him around lets you field more soldiers until your own steward score catches up. Later on, set him up as governor of your best city/settlement to give it a huge boost.
You can recruit companions at taverns in major cities. Not all companions are created equally, so I recommend using a companion guide to figure out which ones have skills that you want. You can also manually check their skills by right clicking the character's portrait from the city screen or searching them in the encyclopedia. That way you'll know what they are good and bad at before you go through the long dialogue with them. I personally find the tacticians/stewards most valuable as you can make them lead armies for you (more on that in a bit), and the ones with high trade are helpful because you can create caravans with them for bonus income during peacetime. You can only recruit your clan level +1 companions at a time, (e.g. 2 at clan level 1). This means you should be very picky about who you hire.
If you have joined a kingdom (or started your own), you can persuade other factions' nobles to betray their current faction and join yours. For this you need three things: High charm, luck and money. Save your game. Speak to the noble and say you have something to discuss. Ask about their liege. This will lead to a skill challenge where you have to get 4 successes in 4 attempts (either 100% successes or at least 1 critical success). This is entirely RNG, so choose the highest % options and pray. Or load back a lot. If they hate their monarch you'll have a very high chance of succeeding in at least 1 of the 4 challenges. Once you've successfully convinced them, you then need to bribe them. The bribe usually is about 100k denars, but can go all the way to more than a million denars if they own lots of land (because your team gets the fiefs too when they convert). Unless you're insanely rich, use the encyclopedia to find the poorest, most disenfranchised nobles and you'll discover that you might be able to pay them even a single denar and they'll happily convert. Beware, others can convert YOUR allies too, so try to make sure you give every noble at least one castle to keep them happy and on your side. Also if you save a lot and see the message that a noble has left your kingdom, you can load back and often they won't leave the second time.
If you release a noble whom you beat in combat instead of taking them prisoner, you will get a 6-7 point relationship increase with everyone in that noble's clan. Doing this is an excellent way to butter them up for future conversion to your kingdom.
Convert the head of a clan to your kingdom and their entire clan will also convert along with them!
You can use your influence points to put policies in place that suit you before adding others to the clan. In the Kingdom menu (K), you can go to the policy tab and scroll through the various policies there. Basically, most policies either benefit only the ruler, benefit only the vassals, or adjust your kingdom's rates (e.g. tax rate and growth rate). If you're going to start your own kingdom, take this chance to vote in all the royalty-favouring policies before you add people who disagree with you. Conversely, if you're a vassal, you want to add more vassals to the clan and THEN vote in all the vassal-favouring policies. Both of these strategies will not only increase your influence gain rate, but also make it much harder for a rogue AI to steal powecities from you later on in the game. It will also prevent you from getting disliked by other nobles from voting against their wishes since they won't even be in your kingdom yet.
As a male character, you can marry a noble to have her join your clan. I'm not sure if it's the reverse situation for female heroes or not (i.e. you join their clan). This provides two main benefits. One, you gain another party member to bring along in battle, and two, you can make babies (heirs) who will inherit your stuff if/when your character dies. If you end up playing for enough time you can also eventually add those heirs to your party once they've grown up enough. To woo a noble, simply profess your love to them then return and visit them a few times. You'll have to pass charm checks to woo them properly, so as always, save beforehand! Eventually they'll tell you to talk to the clan leader, and then you'll barter for their hand in marriage. Usually it's pretty cheap.
Did you know that war declarations can be avoided (by sort of cheating)? If you save often and then suddenly get war declared on you (or by your kingdom on someone else), just load back to that save. It's a (low) random chance for war to be declared so there's a strong likelihood that the next time you get to that point in time literally nothing will happen. This allows you to avoid all wars that you don't want! Since the game AI is so bad right now, sometimes this is the only way to save your kingdom from utter annihilation.
You can equip the companions in your party with awesome gear too! This took me 40 hours to realize, but on the Inventory (I) or trade screens, there are arrows at the top that let you select a different character to equip. This works with the Character (C) screen too, allowing you to assign perks or stats/skills to your companions.
In your clan management screen (L), under the parties tab, you can assign your companions to various roles within your party. Generally, this causes the game to act as if your own skill with that particular role is the same level as the assigned companion. For example, if you assign a companion with 80 medicine skill as surgeon, the game will cause you and your troops to heal as if you had 80 medicine skill. Keep in mind that if you don't assign a party member to a role then you will gain the exp for doing that role. In other words, it's a trade-off between gaining free experience and having your party be more effective on the campaign map. The one role in your party you definitely don't want to assign a companion to is Quartermaster, because that trains the Steward skill which you want to raise as high as possible.
You can create separate parties under your clan management screen's "Parties" tab. This allows you to send companions off to raise armies and gain exp all on their own without your intervention. You can also assign them to their own personal role within that party (even the Quartermaster role!) for bonus exp and it won't affect your own exp. Parties have three major benefits that make them very useful. Firstly, they will recruit their own troops for you! The max party size is dependent on the companion's steward skill and your clan rank. This means that with enough time you can create an allied party that's virtually equal in size to your own army. Secondly, those parties can be summoned to your army on a whim (click the flag icon down the bottom right of the screen - you must be in a kingdom to do this) and it costs 0 influence! Thirdly, the parties automatically will go around fighting battles for you and increasing your own influence and reputation. I highly recommend creating at least a few parties. There's a few downsides to be aware of, however. Firstly, you pay all the troop wages for the other parties. This can get VERY expensive if you're not at war and constantly defeating armies for money. Secondly, like any roaming entity, your companions can get attacked and captured by enemy armies. If that happens, you have to wait for them to escape or be ransomed and then track them down in whichever city they end up in to reclaim your companion. This can be very annoying. Lastly, if you're a vassal, your liege can actually summon your companions to their army, thereby using your hard-earned troops for their own personal gain! That's the price of being a vassal though.
Sometimes you cannot assign roles to party members through the clan screen. This tends to happen if you assign a companion to a role and they die in battle. If this happens, instead select them in the party screen (P) and talk to them. You can assign them roles from the conversation menu instead.
[NP] In the early-game you will find the tournaments in city arenas to be almost impossible to win. However, with the power of save/load and determination, you can win big in tournaments by betting on yourself every round. If you win the tournament, not only will you get a sweet prize but you will also be several thousand denars richer. At least until your reputation catches up to you and they start offering less and less money for your bets.
The best way to make money in Bannerlord is smithing (once you've unlocked enough recipes and have about 140 smithing skill). Early on, the stuff you produce is worthless, but as you start making tier 4 and higher weapons you will discover combinations that create weapons work up to 100k denars in value! Make a handful of these and you can go around from city to city, buying up all the expensive armor while still walking away with 20k+ more denars each time. There are many guides to smithing that can be found elsewhere, but here's a few minor tips:
Try not to sell anything you make that's worth less than 10k denars. Otherwise you will encounter these items as arena prizes which will generally make it harder to get the rare arena prizes (e.g. special horses and armour). Instead, smelt it down.
2h swords and javelins seem to be a great money maker once you hit T4+
Smelt the weapons you loot from battles if you need the materials for smithing. Even worthless rusty iron spathas can be broken down into huge amounts of valuable materials.
No matter how many days pass from traveling, none of that will allow you to be able to smelt again once you've hit the limit. This means that even if you come back 3 months later, if you haven't rested in any villages or settlements in that time, you will not be able to continue smelting. You MUST click "Wait here for a while" and just sit around for a day or so to get all of your smithing stamina back.
Smithed weapons are not necessarily better than the ones you can buy. Sometimes they will be, but smithing mostly gives you the ability to trade off damage types and attack speed on weapons. For example, you can increase a sword's length and swing damage but it will reduce it's swing speed and thrust. In other words, smithing is useful for making very specialized weapons, but not for making some OP magical sword of head-lopping.
The second-best way to make money is by thrashing other nobles in combat. If you're at war, target every enemy noble you see whom you can easily beat and trounce them. Not only do you get money and items for beating them, you can also ransom them at taverns for even more money. You also get money when you capture cities in sieges. Naturally, when you're at peace, you'll find it much harder to make money this way.
You can purchase workshops in cities and have them produce goods for a small profit (around 75-125 denars per day). It generally costs about 13k denars to buy a workshop, so it won't become profitable for approximately 140 days. Because of this, if you wish to use workshops you should select cities which you are unlikely to be at war with for a long time (e.g. your own faction's cities!). After all, if you end up at war with a faction, all of your workshops in that faction are stolen from you. To buy a workshop you must physically walk around town. If you hold alt you will see three semi-random workshops throughout the city (e.g. wine press, brewery, smithy). If you walk to one of these shops during the day you will find NPCs loitering around nearby called "Shop Worker". Talk to the shop worker and tell them you want to purchase the workshop.
To decide which workshops to build in which city, examine the fiefs which feed into that city. You can also use a workshop guide, but I find these aren't always correct due to frequent patches. The bottom line is this: Pick a city which has at least one source of workshop materials (e.g. grain, sheep, hardwood) in its settlements. More than one source is even better. Next, buy a workshop and select the type that uses that material. For example, grain is used by breweries, and wood is used by a wood workshop etc. Then, you wait. You can check the workshop's profitability from the clan tab (L), but remember, don't expect it to become super profitable anytime soon. These are long-term investments.
Another way to make money is caravans. Caravans are more profitable than workshops, but come with significant risk, especially if you're at war with anyone. Basically, you assign a companion to manage a caravan (which costs 15000-25000 denars to make depending on the troops you assign), and the caravan will travel from city to city buying and selling goods. Companions with high Trade skills are essential here. While travelling, the caravans can be attacked by looters, bandits, and worst, enemy armies. If the caravan is captured, you'll have to go rescue your companion or wait for them to be released. Then you'll have to spend another 15-25k to get the caravan going again. Basically, don't do this if you're a warmonger. Anyway, to form a caravan, talk to any merchant in a city and choose the "I want to form a caravan in this city" option. Caravans will net you varying amounts of money, and the income will not be every day, but in my experience they are more profitable than workshops and much more annoying to keep track of.
If you have a high trade skill, instead of making caravans you can be a caravan. Load up on sumpter horses which increase your max load, and then use trade rumours (talk to civilians hanging out in town markets) to determine the best places to buy and sell stuff. Buy low, travel, sell high. If you make 30 denars per sale and sell 100 trade items, that's 3k of profit. If you make 100 denars per sale, that's 30k profit! Again, keep in mind that cities generally only keep 20k-30k denars on them at a time, so if you take too many goods you will not be able to sell them all.
Holding the alt key highlights both important people and weapons that are lying around. You can use this during sieges to replenish ranged ammo and locate nearby interactible things.
You can use the siege weapons that your army/city has built. This will train your throwing skill and also open some neat opportunities. For example, you can use catapults to smash siege towers! It takes 4 hits to achieve but boy is it worth it!
Catapults and trebuchets can be aimed left and right but also have a red gauge on the side which affects the distance that your shots travel. You can change this bar using W/S to choose how close or far to shoot. Generally you want the distance to be less than half the red bar because your targets are a lot closer than the range on the siege engines.
When defending a city you will notice piles of rocks (called merlons) lying around upstairs in the gatehouse. You can take these rocks and drop them on enemy troops for massive damage (400+). You can also use them to smash the battering ram with a few good throws, thereby protecting your gates.
You can place your troops before a siege by pressing the numbers (e.g. 1 for infantry) and then clicking where you want them to go. However they just run back to where the AI would have put them anyway, so it's not worth it right now. But someday it might actually work as intended!
Is the castle you were staying in being beseiged by overwhelming numbers? You can sally forth to attack, use archers to pick some troops off, and then retreat from battle before their enormous army starts hacking your party apart. Repeat this about a dozen times and you'll have a much more manageable enemy to fight, with very few casualties on your side. For the love of god though save before you try this. Also note that, due to a bug, when you sally out of the castle you'll be plonked onto the overworld map when you retreat and won't be able to get back in without sacrificing troops.
Save often. Make multiple save files so that you can jump back in time up to half a year if need be. Sometimes bad decisions (e.g. a war with a much stronger faction) take a long time to bite you in the ass.
Buy lots of (non-sumpter) horses. As long as you have at least a 1:1 horse to troop ratio, your campaign movement speed will be hugely increased, allowing you to chase and catch foes must more easily.
Although the tutorial teaches you to buy grain, don't just buy grain. Instead, buy even amounts of every food you can find. That means grain, dates, beer, cheese, butter, oil, meat, fish etc. This will do two things: Grant you huge amounts of Quartermaster exp every day, and also keep your troop morale maxed out, meaning they won't run like cowards from a difficult fight
If you can get your leadership to 125, you can unlock the "Disciplinarian" perk. This allows you to promote bandits into regular military units, which at the minimum makes them as useful as recruits. Some bandits, however, can become very powerful military units, such as bushwhackers, freebooters and forest bandits turning into the much-beloved Battanian Fian Champions!
THINGS NOT TO DO
Don't give anyone the dragon banner before you're ready to fight the whole world. That also applies to founding your own kingdom by completing the relevant quest.
Don't put companions in the Quartermaster role of your party. Otherwise you deprive yourself of an easy way to gain Steward exp, which increases your troop size.
Don't buy workshops in cities you plan on warring with anytime soon, because once war is declared you automatically lose those workshops.
Don't make caravans if you want to go to war a lot. The enemy nobles will target your caravans mercilessly.
Don't leave siege weapons you've built out in the open to get destroyed one by one. Instead, click on the weapon immediately once it's finished and choose "Send to reserve". Once you have 4 weapons built, place them all simultaneously and watch the mayhem unfold!
Don't fight battles where your army strengths are similar (unless it's really important to do so e.g. you're defending your own fiefs against a siege). You will lose a lot of good troops this way, and if you instead fight easy battles you'll get way more rewards with way less casualties in the long run.
Don't execute nobles unless you want to make the game harder on yourself. They breed like rabbits and everyone hates you when you execute someone. Plus there's a good chance they'll execute you too if they capture you in a fight after that. Releasing other nobles grants the most benefit to you by far, even if it's not as satisfying.
And... that's it for now! I'm sure I forgot some tips but I'll edit them in as I remember. At the very least it should open up some new gameplay avenues for some people, and maybe make things a little less stupid for others. If you made it to the end of this very long post: well done!
A Put Credit Spread (which we will refer to as a “PCS”) is a Options Spread that utilizes both long and short puts to minimize risk, and earn credit. When you open a PCS, you are writing/buying 2 different contracts:
You are Selling a Put, and receiving Premium for it
You are using part of the Put’s premium to buy a Put under the Strike
Profit Graph for a Put Credit Spread When you open a PCS, you must hold cash as collateral. This can be calculated by the following equation: (Short Put Strike Price — Long Put Strike Price) x 100 = Collateral Since buying the Put costs less than the premium received from selling the Put, you end up with a net Credit to your account. Now that I have explained the basics, lets clear any of your confusions with a simple example.
Put Credit Spread Example:
SPY is trading at 335 today
Now lets say that I am confident that SPY will stay above 330 for 1 month. I only have $100 to spend on this PCS, so I have to pick strike prices that are $1 apart. For this example, I will:
Sell a 30 DTE $330 Put on SPY for $6 in Premium ($600)
Buy a 30 DTE $329 Put on SPY for $5.50 in Premium ($550)
Now that we have opened our PCS, lets break down our returns. Our net credit that we recieved is 600–550 → $50Our collateral needed was (330–329) x 100 → $100Our % Gains on Collateral are 50% Now lets look at all the possible outcomes on Expiration.
SPY expires above $330: We walk away with a $50 profit.
SPY expires at $329.50: We break even, because our $50 loss on our spread is offset by our $50 in premium that we receive.
SPY expires between $329.50 — $329: We start to lose money, which can be calculated by (($330 — Expiration Price) x 100) — Premium ($50)
SPY expires below $329: We reach our max loss, which can be calculated by the equation: Collateral — Premium
Great job, we just ran through a realistic example on what a Put Credit Spread would look like!
Now let’s look through some tips to maximize your profits, and finding that perfect balance between risk and returns.
Tip #1 → Choose a Stock that you are Bullish on
When you open a PCS, you are betting that your stock of choice will trade above a certain price. Because of this, it is important to only open Put Credit Spreads on stocks that you are bullish on. Do not choose a stock solely because of its high premiums, as they are high for a reason; that stock will be much more volatile than others.
Tip #2 → Follow a Concrete Exit Plan
When a PCS turns out to be too risky, or is near worthless, it may be better to try and close the position. You should have a very clear exit plan that you will stick to no matter what, as PCS’s can reverse and tank very easily. A very popular “Theta Gang” strategy is to close any positions once they reach 50% profits, and never close at expiration.
Tip #3 → Diversify Your Strategy
If you have a medium-large size account, then you will have enough cash in collateral to open up numerous PCS’s. In this case, do not put all your cash on one stock, as if it reports bad news, your entire account could be wiped out. Instead, choose your favorite stocks from each sector, or use ETF’s to lower your individual risk of a stock crashing.
Tip #4 → Dont Play for Pennies
Although there are many options strategies that utilize small gains over long periods of time, Put Credit Spreads are not one of them. If you sell PCS’s for pennies or low premiums, then one bad trade will lose months worth of gains. Although it may seem more risky, upping your strike price on a bullish stock can contribute to higher returns.
Tip #5 → Don’t Make Your Spread too Wide
When you open up your PCS to wider strikes, you are required to hold more cash as collateral, because your max loss is greatly increased. If you want to play it safer, it may be beneficial to open up PCS’s at different strikes, rather than keeping your PCS wide. I hope that you found this article beneficial, and can utilize Put Credit Spreads in your next options strategy. Remember that this is educational, and does not constitute any financial advise. Thanks for reading!
EDIT: I was asked to put this into the article, as an explainer for some confusion: Break even, max profit, and max loss values ONLY APPLY AT EXPIRATION. You can only gain the full premium, or reach your max loss potential if you hold your contracts till expiration. Many people prefer to close out of contracts in a specified amount of time, like 1 month, or 30dte. Max profit comes with max risk and max holding time, so please, CLOSE YOUR POSITIONS BEFORE EXPIRATION. To learn more about this, you can see this article: Risk to reward ratios change: a reason for early exit (Redtexture).
Short Summaries of previous Subvertadown Analyses -- an Archive, with links
"Damnit I was told there'd be no math!!" Many of you know that I've posted a number of stats-heavy posts, which can be difficult to digest. But they are meant to improve your overall understanding of the game of fantasy football. So I wanted to make a single post meant to function as an archive. Below you'll find links to the analysis posts. I have also highlighted some "nuggets", in bullet point form, so you don't necessarily need to go back and read the whole posts. Description of "what I do" in this year's Intro post:[Link]
Posts about Overall FF Statistics
(1) Predictability and Randomness, for each Position[Link]: (overview of how to understand the basic stats behind the game)
Even though QBs are often considered more predictable, their variances and prediction errors are largest. Contrary to what some people think, Kickers actually contribute the lowest variance of all fantasy positions. Related:
The post explains why each position's skill/luck ratio is well-represented by the accuracy correlation coefficient. (Values range from 0.2 - 0.4)
By combining multiple players, rosters reduce the relative amount of randomness. The overall point predictability becomes slightly higher than the level of randomness. (22 points vs. 19 points).
So you could say Fantasy Football is balanced: "just a bit more skill than luck".
(Not shown) The roster correlation coefficient effectively becomes ca. 0.75.
(2) Updated Valuesof the Skill/Luck ratios, for eachfantasyposition, covering 3 years: [Link]
Most fantasy positions are about as predictable as game scores (i.e. Vegas betting lines, correlation coefficient 0.36).
The order of predictability is: QB (0.38) > RB1 > DST > TE1 > WR1 (0.23).
With my projection model, kicker predictability (ca. 0.3) is better than WR1.
Most other sources have poorer kicker projections, so usually Kicker < WR1.
(3) Defensive scoring can be adjusted to be more predictable.[Link]
The predictability of each individual D/ST factor is presented:
Yards > score > sacks > interceptions > FRs > TDs
If you wanted to make D/ST scores more predictable, for your league's scoring, then: emphasize yards-allowed and de-emphasize most other factors.
(Not presented, to be investigated...): I think a sensible scheme would be to reward points for each drive, according to the yard-line of the final down. My gut says this should be very predictable, and it would have the appealing effect that scoring would increase upwards from 0 during the game. (Something to work on and test; would love to hear someone willing to help find the data!)
(4) Streaming QBs is a viable strategy-- if your league is not too deep.[Link]
Analysis was for 2018-- when there were not as many significant QB injuries as seen in '17 and '19.
This shows that streaming QBs is viable even when all top QBs remain healthy.
The analysis shows how expectations depend on #QBs already claimed.
Streaming is shown to be more successful when the QB model is more accurate. (Surprise surprise /s...) (Not shown: in 2019 my model seemed to improve accuracy over other sources, which ought to make streaming more reliable.)
QBs add at least as much point randomness as D/STs-- both overall and on an individual level.
QBs have a steeper drop-off in fantasy output relative to D/STs, which would make streaming less viable. Luckily, QB output depends on the opponent, strongly enough to enable streaming based on match-up.
(5) Streaming Kickers can be more effective than trying to own the top kicker: [Link]
The analysis presents how expectations depend on #kickers already claimed in your league.
Streaming based on match-up is viable, especially if your league-mates simply chase the high-scoring kickers.
When we conclude "who was a top kicker", it is mostly made in hindsight. (Yes I was also surprised.)
Chasing the top-scoring kicker surprisingly does not give the best results.
It appears that my own kicker model should enable you to stream with a "top kicker" experience, even if your league-mates already own top kickers.
Commentary on how to approach rankings
(1) "Fantasy Points Allowed" are not very useful for making lineup decisions.[Link]
When using Points-allowed, the accuracy correlations are poor and can lead to bad decisions
Best case is correlation 0.1 (for QB); otherwise 0.05 for RB and WR, and approaching 0.0 for TE.
The exception is of course D/ST (not an offensive role).
My own projection models permit more reliable fantasy scores predictions, in contrast to using points-allowed. (QB / RB / WR / TE / K /DST)
My models already account for opponent points-allowed, to exactly the extent they matter.
My models have significantly higher predictive value (correlations up to 0.35-.4).
(2) Why Rankers don't always rank teams the way you expect.[Link]
A breakdown of which D/ST factors are predictable (interceptions, TDs, etc.) and therefore become useful factors in statistical models (vs. factors which are random/ not dependable).
A very rough equation you can use for D/ST projection [Could use an update]: = 25.3 - 0.23*(opponent score) + 0.12* (-spread) + 0.02*(defensive yards-allowed) + 0.03*(offensive yards) + 0.8* (sacks allowed) + 0.3*(interceptions allowed) + 0.4 * (defensive interceptions).
The chances are low that most suggestions for model improvement could actually pan out, for a model that is already top-accuracy. Models only work well consistently if all the variables have passed rigorous tests for predictability.
(3) There are good ways and bad ways of assessing weekly accuracy: [Link]
The method that FantasyPros uses is not very reliable for trusting as an "accuracy" measurement. So you can take their overall rankings with a grain of salt: the #20 could be better than the #1.
No statistician would try to optimize a regression by minimizing the "error gap" that they define.
I use correlations in my accuracy reports, because they are more robust and better indicative of future reliability-- they carry some meaning beyond only the current week.
(4) Hereare some intuitive(fun...?)ways to interpret the"accuracy correlation coefficient"in fantasy football[Link]
Accuracy can be represented by the "controllable range of points" (often around 8-12 points)
... or as the "expected rank" outcome of the weekly #1 ranked player (often around the #8 spot)
... or as the "probability that the lowest ranked player outscores the top-ranked player" (often around 5% - 15%).
(5) Why and when to stash D/STs around playoffs[Link]
Less useful stuff...: Just some old, oddball statistical observations etc.
(1) Pulling out meaningful trends, from the seasonal randomness:[Link]
There is less than 20% chance that a single week’s score implies a trustworthy trend. In other words, 80% of the time, high/low fantasy scores simply reflect the usual high level of variance.
From one season to the next, D/ST fantasy outputs have a correlation coefficient around 0.2 on average.
Unfortunately, it usually makes sense to continue incorporating last season’s data for essentially the whole season. (Update needed: exception e.g. RB points more accurate using only the last 5-6 weeks.)
In-season data doesn’t converge on a reliable average for about 13-19 weeks, and therefore you cannot reliably identify a top D/ST from just a few games.
(2) A more meaningful calculation of "consistency", for fantasy production: [Link]
There is a highly reliably linear relationship between 3 different calculations from players' seasonal fantasy points:
Seasonal "win rate"-- each score relative to the whole collection of scores
Sharpe ratio (a useful measure of risk/reward)
Truncated average-- a procedure where you apply score cut-offs before averaging.
These all comprise a better way to compare "which players had the best fantasy production" for a given year.
(3) Correlations I found interesting(this is outdated and could use an update): [Link]
A stronger WR2 more often makes the WR1 stronger.
A TE1 and a WR1 on the same team won't usually both score a lot during the same game, unless they're on a super-strong offense.
If a team scores a lot, the kicker's probably gonna score a lot too. But if a team scores a lot, and the team has a bad QB, that's the bestest.
Descriptions of my models
2020 intro. DST 2019 intro. Kicker 2019 intro You are welcome to plant the seed in my head for any similar types of analysis you'd like to see. Bigger tasks I may not get to it right away, but at least I can collect ideas for the off-season. Some of you have previously asked if you can support this stuff as well as my projection posts. So I set it up and now you can tip a $3+ field goal at my newly createdPatreonsite (suggested by you). It's totally voluntary, but know that donations go directly to lifting my spirits.
A Basic Introduction to Vertical Spreads - Stop Losing Money When You Predict the Correct Direction
Vertical Spread Basics Spreads often get a bad rap for sounding more complex than they end up being. I’d wager quite a few people here don’t even know what the “Select” button is for at the top right of the options screen on Robinhood. I see over and over people losing their money with puts or calls when a vertical spread would have accomplished the same thing but better. To keep this basic I will stick to vertical spreads (both credit and debit) and a bit about Iron Condors, and once that’s done I’ll go into a bit of detail about when and where I use them. A vertical option spread is purchasing two options; one you’re buying and one you’re selling. You’re literally trading based on the difference between the two option prices. For example, if I bought a SPY 300c 6/3 and sold a SPY 305c 6/3, I would have a SPY 6/3 305/300 Call Debit Spread. What do we accomplish by both buying and selling the right to 100 shares of SPY though? The short answer: This defines our risk. This can seem kind of difficult to comprehend, but it’s fairly simple: The value of the spread can never be more than the difference between the two strike prices. For the above mentioned trade, we can currently purchase a SPY 6/3 305/300 Call Debit Spread for $0.65 per share ($0.65*100=$65), meaning that the difference in price between the 305c and the 300c is $0.65. If SPY finishes above $305 on 6/3, our 300c we bought finishes in the money as does the 305c we sold, which means the spread between the two option prices has reached its maximum of $5.00. We can now purchase 100 shares of SPY at $300 then sell them to the holder of the option we sold for $305, netting $5 per share for a neat $500. This means that we can make up to $500-$65 = $435 on the trade, a tidy 769% profit. If you take anything away from this write up, please take this: An easy way to view a SPY 6/3 305/300 Call Debit Spread is then that you’re betting $65 to win $500 as long as SPY ends above $305 on 6/3. If you’re not starting to see why vertical spreads are more intuitive than single calls or puts then I encourage you to look back over the paragraph above. The Greeks still matter a lot, but the trade can easily be distilled to the above sentence which is not the case with a single option. I continually see people buying calls and puts, correctly predicting the direction of the market, and still losing money due to IV deterioration or the price not moving enough in the right direction. Vertical spreads simplify the trade by making it only as complicated as you want it to be. If you simply want to bet that a stock will go up over the next month, just set the strikes up to straddle the current price, for example, a SPY 290/280 Call Debit spread. Similarly if you wanted to be against the market, you would do the same thing but by buying a 290 put and selling a 280 put making a SPY 290/280 Put Spread. A credit spread is very similar to a debit spread but inverted. To create a SPY 6/3 300/305 Call Credit spread, we would sell a 300c and buy a 305c, and because we’re selling the more valuable contract (the lower the strike price the more valuable the call), we get a net credit instead of a net debit, meaning we receive money in our account rather than pay it. That means just like when we short a stock, to close the position we need to pay money rather than receive it. With a call credit spread, we’re now betting against the market: If SPY stays below $300 on 6/3, the credit we received when we sold spread stays ours forever since both the 300c we sold and the 305c we bought expired worthless. You’re still betting on the spread between the two option prices, but now you’re betting on the differences between the two going to 0 rather than the maximum. Now, if the position moves against us and SPY finishes above $305 on 6/3, our SPY 300c we sold will exercise and we will pay for those 100 shares with our 100 shares we receive from our 305c, meaning that we pay at maximum $500. NOTE: Robinhood will hold the maximum you can lose as collateral just in case your trade goes poorly, so if you receive a credit of $65 on the trade, you’ll effectively have another $435 locked up until you close the trade. Until now I have assumed that the underlying stock price will always finish outside of the range of your spread which has made things a little cleaner. In reality, if you should choose to hold until expiration and the underlying price is between the two strikes, one of your options will exercise and the other will expire worthless. For example, if on 6/3 SPY ended at $303, for our SPY 6/3 305/300 Debit Spread our 300c would exercise and we would have 100 shares of SPY purchased at $300, netting us $3 per share. Considering that most people in this sub could not handle a purchase of 100 shares of SPY at $300, Robinhood will exercise your spread an hour before close at market prices (which is why I will always sell before this point since you can do a lot better than market prices most of the time). Basics Summary Thus ends the basic portion of the write up. The benefits of vertical spreads are:
Defined risk just like calls and puts
Much simpler to conceptualize profitable scenarios
Requires less capital than calls and puts in cases where share prices are high (TSLA and AMZN). This is due to the fact that you’re playing the difference between option prices and not the ability to sell 100 shares of the underlying.
Options Profit Calculator is a very useful resource for learning not only vertical spreads but any options and I highly recommend playing around with it if you’re new to options: https://www.optionsprofitcalculator.com/ Details and Tips
Liquidity: Spreads are inherently less liquid than single options since it's twice as many transactions (even if it doesn’t seem like it since you’re paying for it all at once). You’ll find that until single options, it is more difficult to get prices that are in the midpoint of the bid-ask spread, meaning you’ll have to pay more for debit spreads and get less credit in credit spreads when opening the positions and vice versa when closing the position. What this means is that it is important to trade options that have high volume, and as a result, low bid-ask spreads. I’ve been burned in the past by purchasing PLNT spreads and losing $100 when purchasing and selling, so I stick to highly traded securities such as SPY, DIS, AAPL, BA, etc. I also always trade on $5 increments when I can help it, since $5 increments are nearly always more liquid than any other strike.
Risk and Reward: There are a lot of knobs to play with if you want more or less risky spreads. Clearly the further OTM your spread is the less you’re paying for that spread and the higher the reward is, which also goes for ITM being more costly as less reward. Wider spreads between the two strikes gives you a larger zone of “medium” rewards whereas tighter spreads create a more all-or-nothing reward structure. I don’t have too much more to say here, if you want to know more about this, play with Options Profit Calculator linked above.
Impact of Implied Volatility: One of the chief benefits of vertical spreads is that we’re avoiding the largest effects of changes in IV since it hits both the leg that we are long as well as the leg we are short. IV still impacts spreads though, since increases in IV cause spreads to increase due to larger expected moves, and contractions in IV cause decreases in IV for opposite reasons. All this means is that we want to use Debit Spreads when we expect IV to increase and Credit Spreads when we expect it to decrease.
Theta: You’ll hear a lot about people saying that theta works for you in a credit spread and against you in a debit spread. This is technically true, since as theta causes option values to tick down, spreads tighten by nature. In reality though, theta only really hurts your debit spreads when they are OTM. Believe me, you’ll still be feeling the theta burn if your credit spread is OTM as you watch your 5/15 SPY 300/305 Put Credit Spread become less and less likely to be ITM. It’s one of the reasons why Iron Condors are set up with two credit spreads, one capping the range and one creating a floor: You want theta to be working for you in both cases (since both are ITM).
Uneven Payouts: I couldn’t find a better term to use for this, but you’ll find that especially for underlyings that have significant upward expectations, you’ll get “more value” out of betting on a downward move. For example, for a SPY 290/280 Call Debit Spread, you’ll pay $6.24 even though SPY nearly right in the middle after closing at $284.97. If there was no expectation of upward movement we would find that a $10 strike debit spread perfectly centered on the current price would cost $5.00, but that is not the case. This spread functions as an interesting indicator of current market sentiment, but it functions more as a lagging indicator than a leading one, which means that betting on upward moves is much more cost effective after a large drop (such as if you’d made bullish bets during the drop over the past few days).
Entering a Position: I’ve found that two things hurt me when I’m entering a position: Giving up too much value when picking a bid, and being too patient in filling my bid. Robinhood is pretty shit at showing you the actual bid-ask spread for a vertical spread, so I like to start bidding at slightly lower than the midpoint of the bid-ask and slowly canceling and reordering the position, upping the purchasing point each time I do. This way I don’t accidentally lose $20 of value by accepting a worse ask than I needed to while also not giving my position time to move while I’m not in it yet. Spreads are surprisingly frustrating to enter when you’re inexperienced, and I’ve certainly given up a thousand or two in fucked up entrances over the past few months. My advice would be to not skimp on planning your entrance.
When to Close Position: I dislike holding my winning plays until expiration for multiple reasons. When the underlying finishes between the strikes of your spread, you end up exposed to pin risk as you can’t sell out of your long/short position until the market opens. I personally also don’t like having the risk that a sudden change in the underlying can cause a winning position to suddenly shift into a losing one, so I usually don’t look for more than 95% gains on a single position and exit out once that has been achieved.
Iron Condors: The only strategy I’ll talk about other than vertical spreads in this writeup since they’re also fairly basic in execution. Iron Condors involve two credit spreads: A call credit spread which forms a cap and a put credit spread which forms a floor. With an Iron Condor you’re betting that the underlying will expire between the two spreads. For example, I currently hold a 6/19 275-300 Iron Condor that consists of a 270/275 Put Credit Spread and a 300/305 Call Credit Spread. While the idea here is basic, realistically you’re not holding an Iron Condor to expiration every time, so it's important to experiment with how the value of an Iron Condor valuation changes as it matures. Taking a look at a theta decay curve will show you where you should expect most of the value to come from. The another big Greek to consider for an Iron Condor is Delta. The delta of an Iron Condor is determined by simply adding the delta of each position within the Iron Condor (short positions are negative delta). Since the expectation for SPY is that the underlying will go up over time, a zero delta Iron Condor (hedged against price movements at time of purchase) will be significantly lower than the midpoint between the two spreads of the IC. I personally like a bit of negative delta in this environment since you end up making money when the underlying decreases and IV increases due to delta, and you also make money when the underlying increases and IV decreases. One last thing to consider when opening and closing an Iron Condor is that it is purchasing two spreads at once, which means that it requires even more liquidity than spreads do to trade profitably. Since you have to buy these so close to the ask and sell so close to the bid, Iron Condors work much better as trades to hold over a period of at least a week. This isn't to say I haven't bought and sold an Iron Condor over a one day stretch, but its certainly not optimal.
Alright this got a bit long, and there's more to talk about, but I’ll stop here. DISCLAIMER: Now that you’ve read this post, I'll admit I’ve only been actively trading for about three months. I just finished a Finance undergrad and I've been investing unsuccessfully for five years until this point where I’m finally up about 100% from when I started over something silly like 100 trades. I’m not gonna post all of my past positions, but my current positions can be found here. Suffice to say that I made a ton off bearish spreads and it was a rude reeducation that made me learn it was necessary to play both sides of the market. TL;DR: Spreads are easier to conceptualize, don’t worry as much about IV and theta, have defined risk, and require less capital than puts/calls. An easy way to view a SPY 6/3 305/300 Call Debit Spread is then that you’re betting $65 to win $500 as long as SPY ends above $305 on 6/3.
Sekigahara: The Last Great Samurai Battle (3 of 3)
Initial dispositions 0800 The fog lifted at about 8:00 am on the 21st of October. Camped at the head of the Eastern Army was the division of Fukushima Masanori. Fukushima harbored a deep, bitter grudge against Ishida, for many insults and slights the bureaucrat had offered him. He was not alone in that sentiment - many men in both armies had been offended by the man, who was, after all, not a samurai. Fukushima was aggressive and headstrong, and while he had fought loyally in Korea for Toyotomi for years, he now sided against his former lord’s son, such was his hate. He had requested to be in the vanguard for the battle. The east opens the battle, as the more zealous daimyo lead their men out of the village and up the mountain slopes. He was not, however, the first to engage. When the fog lifted, to Fukushima’s right, I Naomasa’s Red Devils surged forward to attack, along with Ieyasus’s 4th son Matsudaira Tadayoshi, pitching into Ukita’s division opposite. Infuriated, Fukushima led his men forward as well. Next to Ukita, Otani saw the eastern attack develop and in turn led his own men into the fray. No one was acting according to a plan - instead, every daimyo moved as he saw fit. It was that kind of battle. No elegance, no pretty maneuvers, just straight ahead, brute force. Soon, a swirling melee had developed in the center of the valley. Ukita and Otani become hotly engaged in the center, while Ishida's men support Shima on the left. Tokugawa moves his headquarters up to encourage his men. The fields around Sekigahara, short of the mountains, are mostly flat and level. It had been a rainy couple of days, and the fields were sodden and muddy. Men struggled and cursed to keep their footing in the thick, soupy ground, while volleys of arquebuses lashed at them. The spear formations wavered back and forth, men stabbing, breaking their spears, striking at each other with swords. Otani and Ukita held firm, though, and began driving the Easterners back. Even when I visited in January, the fields outside of town are flat and wet. Ishida sensed his advantage. From his vantage point to the north, he could clearly see the struggle outside the village. He rode down to the Shimazu cavalry, camped in a small glade just south of his and Shima’s men, and ordered Shimazu Yoshihiro, their commander, to join the battle, take the easterners in the flank, and drive them back. It was here that Ishida got his first unpleasant surprise of the battle:Yoshihiro would not budge. Daimyo listened only to respected battlefield commanders - and Ishida was anything but. He had no military experience. He had been in Korea, yes, but as an observer, not a commander, and his reports back to Toyotomi had hurt the reputations of many of the men in that quagmire. Many of the men involved in the debacle viewed Ishida not unlike an American general in Vietnam might have viewed a journalist - only this journalist was reporting on them directly to their boss. And now he was their commander.Incensed, Ishida demanded that Shimazu do his duty and attack - to which the mercurial samurai said only that “every daimyo must do what is best for him at this current moment.” At last, Ishida begged Shimazu to move. But the proud commander said nothing. Defeated, Ishida returned to his own men in the north. 1000 It was around this time, about 10 am, that the battle began to spread. In the center, Otani and Ukita were driving eastwards, their spears steadily chipping away at Fukushima and I’s Red Devils. Tokugawa, keeping his personal bodyguard in reserve, was steadily feeding his men into the battlefield, and now he sent men against Shima Sakon and Ishida’s units on the northern end of the line. Ishida responded with volleys of cannon fire from his emplaced guns, and Shima’s men stoutly held. The battlefield was alive with the thunder of cannon and arquebuses, the screams of injured horses, and tens of thousands of battlecries. The Eastern men came on bravely, but Shima was deployed along a low ridge, and his spears had no difficulty fending off the eastern ashigaru. Ishida could survey the whole panorama from his position on the mountain. He saw now that most of the Easterners were engaged, and concluded that the time had come to spring his trap. He lit a signal fire. The blaze caught, and smoke began to spiral into the sky. A mile or two to the south, Kobayakawa would see it - and would slam his tens of thousands of troops into the flank of the men fighting in front of Sekigahara. The eastern army would dissolve and the day would be his. Mt. Matsuo, seen from the area of Shima's battle to the north. Kobayakawa encamped on top of that mountain. It was now that Tokugawa sprang his trap. Kobayakawa Hideaki was not just another daimyo, you see. He was the nephew of the great Toyotomi himself. The prince, a very young man, had first been blooded in the Korean campaign. He had not performed especially brilliantly, but Ishida had written especially scathing reports, which were read with great displeasure by his uncle in Kyoto. Humiliated and seething, Kobayakawa had grown to hate Mitsunari. And this sentiment was known in both camps. Ieyasu had been busy all through the summer, sending a stream of agents to the disgruntled prince. Each whispered in Kobayakawa’s ear, pointing out a slight here, shading Mitsunari’s words there, promising glory and vengeance to come if he chose the right side. He had dismissed the emissaries, proclaiming himself loyal to his toddler cousin - but at the same time, he had not reported them to Mitsunari, either. Now the young man stood poised on a precipice. His camp on Mt. Matsuo gave a fine panorama of the entire valley. Just below him, he could see the bloody, primal struggle as Otani and Ukita strove to hurl the easterners back, while I and Fukushima howled to their men that they must break through to the Kyoto road. Further, beyond the stand of trees the Shimazu still lurked immobile in, he could see the lower slopes of Mt. Sasuo, now filled with frenzied, battling men as Tokugawa’s allies were locked in a deathgrip with Shima. And now he saw the signal fires, blazing on the slopes above the battling armies - his commander was now calling on him to descend and win the battle. But win it for which side? Side with his cousin - and win glory and honor for his worst enemy? Or seek his vengeance, gain power and reward beyond his dreams - at the cost of betraying his kin? Kobayakawa wavered, and did nothing. Looking west from the village towards the Kyoto road. Ukita and Otani held this ground, with Shimazu on the right. Below him, while he dithered, the main struggle ground on. By now, after hours of combat, the ground would have been a soupy, blood-soaked mess. Any plants would long since have been trampled into the mud by the struggling formations. Men here were exhausted, thirsty, hot, despite the wet October morning. Their ears rang with the sounds of screaming and gunfire. Stretcher squads wearily dragged the wounded to the rear, while commanders desperately scratchedu p reserve squads of spearmen to throw in to plug holes in the line. Otani, leprous, ill, nearly blind, was carried through this chaos in a palanquin - even a deathly illness would not keep a samurai from such a battle as this.To the north, Shimazu carefully preserved himself, his temper piqued, his furious pride keeping him from committing his elite horsemen to the fray. Why risk blood and death for such a cowardly weakling as Ishida Mitsunari? He could not betray the memory of Lord Toyotomi - but also could not bring himself to lift his sword for Ishida. He stayed in his grove and bided his time. Shimazu's grove in 2020. Beyond Shimazu, in the fields on the lower slopes of Sasuo, the main body of the Easterners strove and struggled and fought their way up towards Ishida’s encampment, while Ishida and Shima’s men fought to hold. Above them, Ishida’s great guns boomed out every few minutes, sowing further confusion and death around the battlefield. By now, tens of thousands of men were locked into combat all over the valley. Ieyasu, meanwhile, had moved his headquarters up. He was now outside the village itself, just to the northwest of Sekigahara - barely 800 yards from Ishida at the moment. He was all-in on this gamble. Defeat here would mean the dissolution of his army, and certain death for him and his clan. And victory was by no means guaranteed. The struggle in the center and the north was very much in doubt. He had striven to ensure Kobayakawa would join him, but only the prince knew which way he would ultimately jump. And to the south, the army of the far west still loomed, less than a mile from the battlefield. They hadn’t moved yet, but surely they would soon. Still, Ieyasu had a plan for that, too. He had left as little as possible to chance. Now, though, he had tossed the dice, and there was nothing left to do but wait and see what fate brought him. That army in the south was locked in a furious debate of its own. Mori, Anko, and Chosokabe were all Toyotomi loyalists, and were all for marching north and taking the Tokugawa in the rear. Such a move would win the war in an afternoon. But in the vanguard were the Kikkawa - and Kikkawa himself had also been in communication with Ieyasu those weeks. Kikkawa was a loyal retainer of the Mori, but he doubted that his lord had made the correct choice in siding with Mitsunari. Quietly, he decided to keep the clan’s options open - and he stood idle in the road, blocking any advance north for the rest of the westerners. Behind him, unless they were willing to attack their own vassal, Mori and Chosokabe had no choice but to stand idle. And still, Kobayakawa did nothing. He could not bring himself to commit, as the sun reached noon, and passed noon, and below him still the samurai fought, and died, and the fate of the country hung in the balance. 1200 At last, Tokugawa had had enough. He had fed in nearly all his reserves. Hide was nowhere to be found. He had kept the Mori, with nearly 25,000 troops, out of the battle - and it wasn’t enough. His men were fighting bravely, but so were the Westerners. If the sun went down with the road to Kyoto still closed, Ishida would have successfully defended the emperor and the toddler Toyotomi from the usurper. His military reputation secure, he could regain the alliance of Shimazu and the Mori. Tokugawa had to win this day, or lose the war. But he had one last card to play.Tokugawa rode out to his arquebusiers, as they fought near the center. He gestured south, towards Mt. Matsuo. “Fire on those men,” he said, pointing at Kobayakawa’s still un-engaged division. He would force the prince to commit this day, one way or the other. The gunners shifted their aim, and opened fire.When the bullets started falling around him, Kobayakawa Hideaki knew his time was up. He could no longer stand apart and hope things were decided for him - he had to take an active stance. The tumbling thoughts in the young man's head settled into a firm conclusion. The results of Tokugawa's final gamble became clear: Hideaki drew his sword, rode to the front of his men, ordered a charge - and led them down to attack Otani in the flank. https://preview.redd.it/g3bdkd0vecp51.png?width=1593&format=png&auto=webp&s=292a765eb47cee86c61ef80db8d22f617b3c469f Now, Kobayakawa’s wavering was well-known in the Western army, and he did not find Otani unprepared. The leper daimyo had drawn out reserves, and had a portion of his men facing Kobayakawa’s 20,000 as they surged down the slopes of the mountain. Their initial volleys shattered the prince’s charge, cutting up thousands of his men. But nevertheless, the weight of numbers carried them into Otani’s line, and now the Westerners were beset on three sides. They fought bravely, withdrawing down the Kyoto road and fighting a stubborn rearguard action, but after only an hour or two, Otani’s division was a wrecked husk. The brave commander himself was surrounded in a grove a short distance from the valley, where he committed seppuku. Today, his grave stands there. The hills where Otani made his last stand. As Otani’s men dissolved and pulled back to the west, Ukita was in turn exposed in his flank. And so slowly at first, and then quickly, the Western army started to fall to pieces, literally. In the north, on came Tokugawa’s allies, renewing their assault with greater fury on Shima and Ishida’s encampment. From the center, now, the surviving Red Devils, men of Fukushima, and Kobayakawa’s turncoats came, pouring around Shima’s flank. I’s men, with others from eastern units nearby, went roaring into the grove of Shimazu, who at last found a fight worthy of him - but now he fought alone. Other Western lords, thinking it a bad job to risk their personal armies in a lost cause, began to withdraw from the battlefield. Others decided “If you can’t beat ‘em…” and began to turn on their allies as well. The momentum, which had hung in the balance all morning, was now clearly and obviously roaring towards Tokugawa. Ishida and Shima held on for less than an hour before their formations, too, were routed. Shima was struck down by a musket ball, rallying the last remnants of his troops, while Ishida was swept away by the rout and fled to the northern foothills with the rest of the fugitives. The closing stages of the battle. 1400 The last act of the battle played out in the center. Shimazu and I, the two premier cavalry leaders in the armies, brawled in the fields outside the village, over the corpses of the morning’s battle. Shimazu fought heroically, and I himself was wounded in the arm with a musket ball, but the result could not be in doubt as the rest of the Western army fled the field. Eventually, Shimazu, too, was persuaded that the day was lost - but now the road to the west was closed to him, as the eastern army had surged around him like rising flood waters. No matter. Shimazu attacked in a different direction and literally cut a path through Eastern lines. He swapped helmets with his nephew, who fell leading the rearguard, but the daimyo himself, with 80 retainers, escaped south to the coast road, and fled back to their homelands in Satsuma - where more than 200 years later, the Shimazu would again rise in defiance of the shogun. Ieyasu, who had kept his men well-clear of the fighting, entered the fray as the westerners dissolved. Saying, “When the battle is won, tighten your helmet straps,” he finished arming himself, and then led his last reserves to complete the victory at minimum of personal risk. By 3 pm, it was all over. Nearly thirty thousand men lay dead, including ten thousand samurai. The fields outside the once-peaceful hamlet were covered in mud, blood, and corpses. Thousands more men with wounded and mutilated bodies staggered around, seeking medical attention. It was at once the largest, the bloodiest, and the most decisive battle in Japanese history. It had lasted less than 8 hours. Consequences Sekigahara was the last great step in the unification of Japan. After the battle, Tokugawa moved quickly to consolidate his power. Ishida and a few other high-ranking captives like regent Ukita were quickly rounded up, and executed in a dry riverbed in Kyoto a few weeks after the battle. The vassals who had sided with Tokugawa were rewarded with the richest fiefs and placed in positions of power over their rivals. Those who had sided against were exiled to the backwaters of Japan, stripped of their best lands. The Mori, Shimazu, and Chosokabe, all of whom had largely sat out the battle, escaped execution but were largely exiled to poor, unproductive lands. Centuries later, their descendants would lead the rebellion against the shogun in the Meiji Restoration. But that was all to come. Tokugawa was proclaimed shogun by the emperor - the first shogun since Oda had overthrown the last figurehead, and the first shogun with real power in centuries. He left the boy Toyotomi in Osaka castle, while he firmly established his own men in power across the country, then withdrew to his capital at Edo. Edo grew into the richest, largest, most culturally dominant city in Japan, growing to utterly dominate the Kanto plain - eventually, even the emperor abandoned Kyoto and moved to Edo, renaming the city to Eastern Capital as he did so - that is, Tokyo. The Tokugawa shogunate lasted for 260 years (after Tokugawa absently finished off Toyotomi in Osaka in 1615, another story…). Ieyasu closed the country, expelled all foreigners, and clamped down on the samurai. His rule was as totalitarian as you can get in 1600 - but he firmly held on to power, as did his descendents. For the first time in over 150 years, Japan knew peace. Sengoku Jidai, the Age of the Country At War, ended in that last, bloody climax in the little valley of Sekigahara. The entire valley, seen from the center of the battlefield. Analysis In the end, the Battle of Sekigahara was won not on a map, nor by superior tactics or generalship, but because Tokugawa understood the heart of Kobayakawa Hideaki better than anyone else on the battlefield - better, even, than Kobayakawa himself. Tokugawa was never a great general. He had been beaten before, which is why Toyotomi and not himself had inherited Oda's legacy. The diversion of his son up the mountain road to Ueda, with nearly 1/3 of his army, was a disastrous blunder. If Tokugawa had moved his entire army by the main road, he would have gone into Sekigahara with half again as many men as he actually fought the battle with. It's possible he split his army for logistical reasons - that it was impossible to support such a large force simply along the Tokaido road alone. But then, appointing Hide to lead the column was a poor move, as Hide's blundering led to the loss of a good portion of the Eastern army. Similarly, Tokugawa's decision to give battle, on ground of his enemy's choosing, badly outnumbered, missing a large portion of his army, was a terrible risk that could have ended disastrously for him. Tokugawa willingly thrust his head into the noose Ishida had prepared for it, calculating that Shimazu, Kikkawa, and Kobayakawa would act as he needed them to. The early intervention of the Shimazu could have tipped the balance in the center before the wavering Hideaki made up his mind. The far western troops could have smashed his army had they joined the battle. And, of course, Kobayakawa could have settled things himself had he chosen the other side. It's possible Tokugawa felt that he couldn't risk waiting for Hide, nor could he maneuver Ishida out of Sekigahara. He needed to win quickly, before the close of the season, to prove to Ishida's lukewarm supporters that the man was no warrior and that Tokugawa was the stronger bet. Perhaps delay would have thrown away that political advantage. Maybe he was so confident that he knew exactly how all three men would act that Sekigahara would prove a trap for Ishida and not for himself. In the end, though, Tokugawa was right. He understood the human heart better than anyone else in the corridors of Japanese power in those days, and he won the kingdom because of it. Ishida was smart, brave, and noble - but he was terrible when it came to handling his subordinates. He routinely snubbed, irritated, and outright insulted the proud men whose support he depended on to win. Ultimately, that was his undoing. Winning is all that matters in war, and no matter how elegant and pretty Ishida's carefully laid plans, those were all reduced to shambles because Tokugawa understood men. ----- Sekigahara today is still small. The village can be seen in an afternoon - if you can get there. It lies hundreds of miles from the main attractions at Osaka and Kyoto, nowhere near Nagoya. The train station is tiny, the streets of town largely silent, the fields outside quiet. But here and there, there are stone markers: here was the camp of Fukushima Masanori, here the grave of Otani. Here is where Kobayakawa dithered, and here is where Shimazu made his last stand… The banner of the Shimazu still flies outside their grove, among a dozen other small flags that are the only reminders of the great battle fought here 400 years ago. I never thought I would come here, when I first read of Sekigahara almost 20 years ago. It was such a small place, on the far side of the world...but then, in 2020 I found myself in Japan, with nothing but a backpack and a train ticket to anywhere in my pocket. As I left Kyoto behind me, I looked at the map, and thought, “Why not…?” Today it feels like the battlefield is forgotten. Outside the markers, and the larger-than-life paintings of heroes like I Naomasa, Shima Sakon, and Fukushima outside the station, there’s little there, at least on a quiet Tuesday in January. I roamed the battlefield to my heart’s content, and saw no one else. The little train station in the village, looking southeast. Late in the afternoon, I returned to the tiny train station. The table was hard to read, and it was in Japanese. And no train came rattling by for hours. There was, though, another human being nearby, for the first time all day - an elderly woman. I approached her, and, hesitantly, asked,“Excuse me, ma’am, but I’m a stupid foreigner. Is this the platform for Nagoya?” She smiled and nodded, patting me on the arm (this was in the Before Times). Content, I smiled back, and settled in to wait. A few hours later, my train pulled out for Nagoya and beyond, and I left Sekigahara behind me forever. Thanks for coming along. :) Part One Part Two Part Three
First | Prev | Next Discord Valentine I woke only grudgingly, resentful of the light streaming through the blinds, and unable to shake the hollow feeling that came with lack of sleep. I'd been doing it to myself, of course, and I knew that. It was simply that I couldn't bear to let myself fall asleep while Wallace was still beside me. The heat coming off his body, and the reassuring scent of him fresh from the bath made me drowsy, but I'd fight to stay awake, listening to the steady rhythm of his breathing and the beat of his heart. I simply didn't want the moment to end. It was that first night we'd spent here that had made me fall in love with the human inn, but it had been Wallace's remark that we may as well be living in a fortress that made me realize the precariousness of our circumstances. We were safe, truly safe, for perhaps a few more days. There was always the risk that a group of light cavalry may try to make a suicide run at us, but our foes were not in such a rush. That aside, those with the skills to make such a run would not be easy to convince. No, it was The Long Night that I feared. Each one that passed brought with it the threat of invasion, and in some ways, I found the cure as distasteful as the disease. The quality and loyalty of any potential subjects was one thing, and there was a particular type of young man I feared inviting into our sanctuary. But that was just it, this was our sanctuary, and I detested the idea of inviting anyone into it. I had certain juvenile fantasies about the myriad places about our sanctuary that Wallace might have his way if given the proper prompting, and that would be a little troublesome if there were others about. But more broadly, if there were others about, I was going to have to 'behave'. I couldn't sit out on one of the benches scattered about the park below, snuggled up next to the giant with the squishy heart. I might be trying to sell off my demesne, but even unlanded, I would always be a noblewoman. Unfortunately, there were standards of behaviour noblewomen were expected to maintain. Try as I might to flee from my responsibilities, they always seemed to find some way to constrain me. It made me realize just how perfect the moment was, and how transient. Even the sound of Wallace's breathing, his heartbeat, made me hold him tighter. His breath came as quickly as if he'd been on a hike, and his heart- Even dead asleep, his heart hammered as if he'd just sprinted up and down the stairs. I knew Wallace would have it no other way, but I felt so guilty that it made me nauseous. Guilty that I was relying on him as a bodyguard, further straining his already overtaxed heart, and guilty that my first thought had been to curse my own luck. To curse the fact that it seemed like everything good in my life was snatched away as quickly as it was given. Wallace was his own person, not some bauble to be given or taken by providence, and it wasn't fair to him to treat him as such. To act as if the confluence of events that had brought him here were the result of some force in the universe seeking to reward or punish me specifically. Inevitably, my long ponderous thoughts would grow muddled, I would lose my grip on wakefulness, and I'd fall asleep. The first couple of days, Wallace had stayed, letting me sleep on with my head resting on his shoulder as he read quietly. But today, as with yesterday, he'd managed to slip out of bed without waking me. I sat up and ran my fingers through my hair. I hadn't re-braided it since Wallace had helped me wash and straighten out the tangles, and it had gotten a little messy while I'd been sleeping with it loose. Wally wasn't in the penthouse or out on the balcony, as far as I could see. I went to the bathroom to splash some cold water on my face and gave my shoulder a look. The bruising had mostly faded, and while it was still sore, I could at least wash my own hair now. Not that I'd told Wally. I didn't bother to dress. I had only a few more days of complete freedom and the 'tanktop and shorts' as Wally had called them, kept the relevant portions of my body covered. I was not about to wear a stitch more until I absolutely had to. All cleaned up and ready to face the rising sun, I huffed and puffed my way up the stairs to the roof. In a day or two I'd be in good enough shape to wear my necklace once again, but I knew from experience not to rush recovery. I checked the conference rooms outside the penthouse, but neither the office nor storeroom held the big man. I peeked my head into the storeroom and found there were more human treasures than when I'd last investigated. Though the guests had been absent, we'd found abandoned belongings in several of the rooms, and had slowly been sorting through the collection. Stacked along one wall was the many luggage, along with selected pieces of hotel hardware that Wallace had suggested would be of little use, even if the hotel was powered. Spread out on the immense conference table and against the other wall were the piles we'd slowly been sorting the goods into. There were those things that were useful in and of themselves, that which was fit only to be scrapped for mana, and valuable items we might sell in the city. Dumped in one corner was what remained when we removed the useful, valuable, and mana rich. Much of the pile was clothing, in fact, the human luggage had contained almost nothing but clothing, but none of it would fit Wallace and little would fit myself. I'd chosen a few pieces, cleaned them with magic, and set them aside, but the rest was surplus to our needs. It was undoubtedly of high quality, and would be worth something should we bring it back to Parabuteo or Caniforma, but it wasn't quite so value-dense as say, jewellery. Wally's office was a little tidier, and I skittered to the end of the room to leap into his big armchair. Notebooks, loose paper, pens, pencils, and a dozen shades of marker were piled in a semicircle around his workspace. Pushed off to one side was a sheet titled "Enchanting Notes" with his scribblings on what I'd told him of the process, and right in front of the big chair was a leather notebook with brass fittings and a brass clasp. Resting lightly on its surface was a small note that read 'For V'. I undid the clasp and flipped it open. Inside I found off-white paper with the consistent colour that I'd come to expect of human manufacture. I leafed through the notebook and found that aside from some scribbles on the last page, it was blank. I shrugged, I hadn't asked Wallace to set anything aside for me, but it had been some time since I had the time to draw, and this appeared to be the best pick of the bunch. I took a few of the pencils and went up to the roof to see if I could track down the so-far elusive giant. Wallace wasn't up on the roof, but peering over the edge, I could see him down on the hill below near a copse of trees. Judging from his posture, I guessed that he was writing something in a notebook, but it was hard to say at this distance. Once The Long Night had ended and the tide had come through, the two of us had gone down to find the pickup truck still parked up next to the storm drain, none the worse for wear. It had taken a bit of doing, but we'd fashioned a rope ladder fit to bear Wallace's weight, and the two of us had gone for a walk about the area. Wally had later returned to drive stakes into the ground at various points around the perimeter of the hill, and in so doing we'd got a decent idea of just how large a safe area we had. We'd yet to properly survey the land, but according to the human, there were about sixty or seventy acres of grassland to make use of. I thought that he might be drawing something, perhaps the trees, and I decided that was a fine idea. Under a sunshade and beside a tall wicker screen where it would be out of the wind, was a padded lounge chair. I laid down on my stomach and set the notebook out in front of me, and I tapped the tip of the pencil to my lips, wondering what I might draw. And then I was struck by a fit of giggles as I recalled my musings about what a Wallace-owned harem would look like. I began with Wallace himself. He had this way of sitting- lounging really -leaning back, with his arms spread across the back of the sofa, and an ankle propped up on one knee. I drew him as such, though made the sofa look a little more throne like, with a higher back and gilt up the legs and arms. Gilt rendered in charcoal or whatever these pencils were made of, but gilt all the same. I decided that Wallace didn't need a shirt, and I took great care in carving out the muscles in his chest and arms. I bit my lip, and tapped the pencil on my chin, admiring my work. Of course, it wasn't much of a harem when there were no beautiful and lightly clad women, so I decided to add some of the girls from The Blushing Maiden. He'd need someone to maintain order, of course, so at his right elbow, I drew my favourite of the Maiden's governesses. In a corset and tight leather pants, she had her hair in a severe bun, and held a selection of disciplinary implements ready for Wallace's use. Tucked in close, clinging to his side, I drew two of the Maiden's bustier girls, clad only in a few scraps of fabric that covered even less than my shorts and tank top did. Two more sat at his feet, one clutching at his leg. Standing across from him I decided would be a pair of elven mercenaries, wearing armour of an impractical design, inspired by several works of art that hung within The Blushing Maiden. One of the mercenaries held a delicate chain that trailed from the collar of the figure kneeling between them. She was very slim, and facing Wallace, was viewed from behind. She was covered only by her hair, which flowed down her back and over her bound wrists to gather on the ground about her. I giggled, as I titled the piece "W prepares for intercourse with V, regarding enchantment." I knew something- likely entertaining in the extreme -had happened when Wallace joined me on the rooftop terrace. He was bright red, from the tips of his ears, right down to his neck. Even his hands were bright red, and he regarded me with some trepidation as I lay lounging with my sketchbook in my lap. I tapped a finger against my chin, "What could you have possibly found, I wonder. Something scandalous, from the look of you, and why do you smell of fuel?" "Um-" Wallace began haltingly, "I was siphoning fuel out of the other cars in the parking tower. But that's, uh-" he sighed and sat down heavily on the bench across from me, his head in his hands. "Oh, this must be good," I giggled, "Come now, what is it?" "So," he began, his voice muffled by his hands, "You remember how I wanted to experiment with enchantment, now that I have the basics?" I frowned and furrowed my brows, "Yes, though I can't imagine where this is going." He sighed again, and went on, "I figured communication was important, so I tried some, uh, things." "Some things? What sort of things?" "Things like," he winced, "A pair of linked books, where things written in one book show up in the other." It was quiet for a moment, and I allowed myself a small smile as I opened the cover and flipped back to my first sketch, contemplating it. "What's the matter?" I teased, "You didn't like it? I could draw some more pictures for you, if you like." "You know, I think I'm good," he assured me, "We know it works, I think that's plenty." "I'm surprised you came up here," I giggled, "I would have thought you'd wait to face me until you stopped being quite so red in the face." "I tried," he grumbled, finally taking his head from his hands, "Didn't exactly work, besides, something's come up. I was fooling around with one of the other cars, thought I might be able to hotwire us something a little more modern, but I couldn't get the engine started. Immobilizer kicked in and I have no idea where even to begin with fixing it." I shrugged, "As long as the truck still works, I don't see the trouble." "Well, it's not 'trouble' exactly," he clarified, "Because even without the engine running, the electronics turned on," he hesitated. From experience, I guessed he was trying to decide how to explain some human concept, "So, the book you appropriated is just Communicate Plant. Brass for Communicate, and the paper for Plant mana, very simple-" "Simple?" I asked incredulously, "Wally, that's a very complex enchantment, you could make a killing selling such things in the city. Can you imagine how useful something like your book would be in managing scavenging teams, or directing armies?" "Well, actually I can imagine because humans have something similar, called radio. And I say the little enchantment there is simple, because compared to radio, it is. As far as I can tell, the books just work. There's no carrier wave, no concerns about signal strength, intervening obstacles, or interception. It just works." "Carrier wave?" I frowned, "What's that?" He spread his hands, "I only sort of know, I'm a software guy, not a hardware guy-" "Not too soft I hope," I murmured. "THE POINT IS," Wallace went on loudly, "The car I was working on has a radio, and on that radio, I picked up a very steady broad-spectrum signal-" "Broad-spectrum?" "Radio is complicated," he repeated, "Unlike the book, everyone has to talk in the same," he waved his hands vaguely, "space. If you only broadcast on one frequency, that's sort of like only talking in part of the space. The idea being, everyone finds their own part of the space, their own frequency. This signal was different, I could pick it up on every frequency the car's radio could tune in to." "Why would anyone do that? I can understand the desire to eavesdrop on someone, but why announce your presence?" "You wouldn't- or I guess you would," he hedged, "If you were trying to jam up their communications. Just broadcast static with a powerful enough emitter, and you could make the frequencies useless." "Like screaming in someone's ear while they're trying to have a conversation," I suggested. "Pretty much, but this wasn't someone trying to jam. This was a constant pulsing, once every couple of seconds. The only reason I can imagine to do that, is as a distress beacon." "And you want to go chasing after this beacon," I realized, a little tiredly. "Someone needs help," he said matter-of-factly, "Someone with radio." "You think they're human?" I guessed. "Or some other species with advanced tech, might be a bunch of elves with spaceships for all we know. But if they need help, they need help. Besides, I don't think we want Simon to swoop in and scoop up whatever goodies are near the beacon. We also want to get that thing shut off as soon as possible, the last thing we want is him poking around on our side of the mountains." "You believe Simon has access to this radio technology?" "I wouldn't put it past him. If he's been here a decade then that's plenty of time to find or make one-" "Make one? I thought you said these were complex devices." "Complex in operation. But I know the rudiments of making a simple crystal radio, it'd probably take me a week or two, but I could probably puzzle out whatever I can't remember. I think it's only reasonable to assume the same is true for Simon." "Where is this beacon then?" Wallace shrugged, "No idea. I've got signal strength, but no direction." "Why then conclude that it's on this side of the mountains, or that Simon will fare any better?" "The signal is as clear as a bell, and all that rock would shield the transmission. Either we wouldn't hear it, or it would be muffled and staticy. As for Simon, if he hasn't already got a radio in each city, just for simple comms, I bet he's going to send a couple out. Neither of us might have direction, but with a little clever math, you can triangulate where the signal is coming from, so long as you can take readings from multiple locations. That'll be easier the further away those locations are." I nodded along, "Simon keeps properties in Parabuteo and Caniforma, it's fair to assume that if he's keeping in contact with human radio... I see, and if each city receives this same signal at a different strength. Hmm, I think I understand your concern." "I just wanted to make sure you were okay. If you're not quite mended yet, I guess-" "I am not staying behind!" I growled, "You can't drive the truck, and I refuse to be left behind to wring my hands while you galavant about." "I'm all for having a galavanting partner," Wallace said hurriedly, "I just wanted to make sure you're in okay shape, you said you couldn't put your necklace back on till your shoulder was healed. I didn't want to rush you." I gripped my wounded shoulder, squeezing it lightly, "We'd leave tomorrow?" "Yeah," he replied softly. "Then I should be in fit shape to go along with you," I assured him, "You said you were siphoning fuel from the other vehicles-" "Yeah, I filled up the truck. I don't have any jerry cans to throw in the back, but the fuel tank on that thing is enormous. We should be good for a while." I pushed myself to my feet, and glanced at the sky, "I'll help you gather-" "Hey, just, you know, relax," he insisted, "I can still see a bit of a bruise, and you're not wearing your amulet. I'll pack our things, you just-" I opened my mouth to speak, a biting retort at the ready, but held it back as a better idea occurred to me. I lay back down on the bench and stretched languidly, "Maybe I'll sketch something else," I mused, smiling dreamily. Wally beat a rapid retreat, and I smirked to myself as I watched him go. I leaned over to the side and rested my head against the window, giving Wally space to reach in and fiddle with the radio. It was nearly midday, not that one could tell, looking at the sky. The Father had departed around mid-morning, and shortly afterwards the bank of dark clouds, previously lurking on the horizon to the north, had rolled in. I couldn't catch the scent of rain on the air, and while the odour from the human heating device within the vehicle may have masked it, I guessed it was more a consequence of the chill that was causing Wallace's breath to fog. And was there ever an awful lot of fog coming out of the big man. It was yet another frustration to leave me feeling guilty, him freezing in the back of the truck while I was warm and toasty at the controls. I was growing rather tired of our wild goose chase, but with Wally unwilling to complain about the cold or discomfort, I wasn't about to raise the issue while I travelled in comparative luxury. It would be good to know whether we'd made any progress, however. He'd had me take a path away directly away from the hotel and the mountains behind it, not a straight path mind you. Instead, it was a series of wide zigzags, though he'd been shortening the width of each stretch as we drew away from the mountains. "Anything?" "I think so. The signal isn't- I don't know, normalized?" "And that means what exactly?" Wally shrugged lamely, "That might not even be the right term, point is, the signal's getting louder as we get closer." "Then why are we zigzagging across these hills?" I insisted, "Just point me in the right direction, and I'll take us there." "It's not a directional antenna, the zigzags are how I'm figuring out direction. It gets louder or quieter depending on distance, but the change is so gradual that it's hard to tell which way things are going. I don't have a map either, just some sketches from the top of the hotel, and I think we've already cleared the horizon in any case. Might just be the weather, but I can't see the top of our base any more." I twisted around to look over the back of the seat, and found it hard to disagree. It was less than an hour before flurries started to fall, and I couldn't help but smile, thinking of the ice cream Wally and I had shared. Usually in weather like this I'd be all in a rush, getting together with the others to put together a team to gather and compact as much of the snow as possible. It wasn't quite as good as ice, and you'd not want to actually put it in the drink, but when it came to keeping drinks or food cool, ice was awfully hard to come by. Not a problem now though, not with Wally's new spell. We might not even need to promise mana as payment to any prospective subjects. Offer chilled wine, chocolate, and ice cream, and they'd fall at my feet. But then a frightening thought occurred to me, like an arrow through the heart. "Wallace, we're going to run out of ice cream," I breathed. "What?" Wally called through the window, shouting over the noise of the engine. I brought the truck to a halt and turned around in my seat. "Icecream, we're going to run out!" He laughed "I mean, yeah, eventually. There's a decent amount in the freezer, but you're right, it won't last forever," he acknowledged. "That simply will not do," I informed him. He stared at me blankly for a moment before shrugging, "Alright, I'll figure out how to make more." My eyes widened, and I grabbed the back of the seat with both hands, "You will?" "Yeah, I think it's just sugar, milk, and whatever flavour you want?" he frowned, "I don't know, I'll need to experiment a bit, but I remember making ice cream in school. It was a while ago, but I remember rolling this can back and forth across the floor. I'll figure it out, I promise." I let out a little puff of arousal pheromones, and held Wallace's gaze with quiet intensity, "I would grasp you by the collar and draw you into a passionate kiss that would leave you weak in the knees, but I believe it would be a little awkward. The window is not quite large enough." Wallace went a little pink, though I was rewarded with a sheepish grin, "I'll take a rain-" he began. It was as if a dozen thunderbolts had split the sky, each one following the last so closely that they seemed to blur together. The last of the thunderbolts hadn't even finished echoing across the landscape before I found myself laying on my back beside the truck with Wallace atop me. The change seemed instantaneous, in one breath I was sitting in the cab, and the next I was on the ground, all without seeming to move through the intervening space. It was gunfire, I realized belatedly. If Wally's people could create a pistol such as the tiny one he provided me which fired and reloaded itself as fast as one could pull the trigger, it tracked that what I heard was some similar contraption. Larger though, judging from the noise, a rifle of some sort. A moment later it was answered by another peel of thunder, this one lacking the bass of the first. It was a chattering sort of noise, and a moment later the bassy thunder rolled again. "Wally," I urged, patting him lightly on the chest, "I don't particularly mind you throwing me to the ground and leaping atop me, in fact, I'm a little surprised it didn't happen sooner. I'm just not sure now is the best time." He hadn't settled his entire weight upon me. While he was pressed close, he was still holding himself off of me on hands and knees. So as not to squish me, I imagine. He grumbled a little, and lifted himself off, moving to crouch beside the front wheel. "They're not shooting at us," he surmised, "I think they might actually be going after each other." I rose to a crouch and brushed myself off, "I had understood as much myself," I replied wryly. He'd been peering over the hood of the truck, but turned back to me now, "Sorry Val. You got shot last time because I wasn't trying hard enough. This time-" "What do you imagine you would have done last time?" I demanded, "Drape yourself across the front window? I got shot last time because a crazy elf bitch hired by a future eunuch got lucky. You have nothing to apologize for, then or now. This leaves us with a question, do we still want to seek this beacon?" Wally grimaced and glanced back over the hood of the truck. "Is there any way to know if we're in a safe area?" he asked finally. "At the moment? No. I have what I need to sight the Parabueto tower and take a reading, but with the weather," I waved my hands vaguely upwards. "I'm just worried that if we don't deal with this now, we're going to have new neighbours with firearms right in our back yard. Might be a good idea to help out the good guys, say hi, just generally make a good first impression." "Good guys?" I repeated, "I'm not certain how we'd determine which is which. Assuming such a distinction exists." There was another round of chattering gunfire, followed by two quick blasts of thunder before the air went quiet once again. Visibility was quickly worsening as the falling snow grew thicker, but this time I was ready and able to take a reading off my compass. I gestured with it to Wally, "I've got a fix on them now, we can go after them, I'm just not certain you're dressed for this." Indeed he wasn't. My jumpsuit lacked gloves or any sort of head covering, but there were ample pockets for my hands, and my hair was thick enough to warm the top of my head and tips of my ears. As for the jumpsuit itself, it insulated quite well against the cold. Wally was not quite as well equipped, in his blue trousers and a light short-sleeved shirt. We might have prepared more thoroughly, but Wally's coat had been in the pack we'd lost on the way to the hotel, and none of the clothing we'd collected from abandoned luggage had been anywhere close to fitting the enormous human. "I'll be fine," he assured me, "The cold doesn't bother me as much. As long as I keep my hands and face from getting frostbitten, I can deal with weather a lot worse than this." "As you wish, we'll press on then." We took our places once again, and I guided the truck forwards slowly. Creeping up and down the intervening hills, white with snow, though blades of verdant green grass could still be seen poking through in places, I was careful not to feed too much fuel to the engine. I was beginning to understand the way the human machine worked, and keeping what Wally called 'the revs' from getting too high seemed to keep the engine from growling too loudly. I found a trough between two hills and followed its meandering path as lead more or less in the right direction. Hopefully sticking to the low ground would allow us to get as close as possible without being spotted, but I suspected that such considerations would soon be unnecessary. The snowflakes, big and fluffy, were falling so thick that I couldn't see more than a few dozen yards beyond the end of the hood. The ground and sky seemed to blur together, and I found my gaze wandering as I tried to keep track of the horizon. I caught sight of something in the distance, little more than a patch of greyish white among the field of white. I slowed and turned to the side, at first assuming it was a tree or something of the like. But as I drew nearer, the shape resolved itself into a more humanoid form. She noticed us in the same moment I finally made sense of what I was seeing, and she froze. She stood stock-still as she stared at us, and for a moment I thought she might have been one of Simon's maids, but the uniform wasn't quite right. As if the same instructions had been given, but to a designer with different tastes. More than that, she appeared human, and like Wallace, utterly inured to the cold. I heard the truck creak, and Wallace stepped out of the truck with his hands spread wide. "Are you okay?" he asked gently, though he had to raise his voice to be heard, "You need a hand?" Her reply was utterly incomprehensible, which seemed to bring Wally up short. It took only a moment to gather his wits, and he answered in what sounded like the same tongue the woman used, though even I could tell he was struggling with it. The woman glanced back over her shoulder several times as she and Wally exchanged words, but the two seemed to come to some agreement, as she began walking towards the truck. Wally turned back, opening his mouth as if to say something, but he stopped as something caught his eye. He pointed it out to the woman, and though I couldn't understand the words, the urgency in his tone was plain enough. The woman began to sprint towards the truck, and I finally caught sight of what had alarmed Wally. The horseman broke into a gallop as he spotted the girl, and Wallace quickly glanced between her and the truck. He realized, as I did, that she'd not reach it in time, and the big man began to stride forwards towards the charging horseman. Had I not spotted him take up his weapon? No, his hands were empty, and there wasn't time to fetch his axe either. Undeterred, he broke into a run, and the set of his shoulders belied not so much confidence, as indifference at the onrushing foe. The rider raised his weapon above his head- a rifle I realized -in a clenched fist and bellowed a challenge as he turned the horse to head straight for Wallace. The giant answered with a roar that seemed to make the very air vibrate, and just as man and horse met, he lunged and threw his shoulder forwards. The two struck with enough force that the impact made the truck shake on its suspension, and the rider went cartwheeling over the front of his horse as the creature screamed and stumbled. Wallace roared again- still on his feet -and struck the horse. He seemed to draw the power for the blow out of the earth itself. His calves and thighs tensed as he swung his hips and shoulders around, driving an arm straight out to catch the horse just behind the jaw. The horse didn't so much as whimper as it keeled over, snowflakes thrown up in a wave as it hit the ground. Then Wallace turned to face the rider where he sprawled on the ground, his weapon fallen to one side, and I caught sight of Wallace's grim visage. Oh gods, he's going to kill him. The rider seemed to come to the same realization and, in a panicked frenzy, threw himself at the discarded rifle. It wasn't to be, but as Wallace bent to retrieve the weapon, a shot rang out, and a gout of white smoke enveloped Wallace's head and shoulders. The rider had drawn a pistol, and even now held it straight out, the barrel shaking as he waited for the smoke to clear. Wallace straightened, rifle in hand, and with blood streaming from his forehead. His expression as he regarded the rider was utterly absent of emotion, and he glanced down at the rifle's lock- a wheellock -before returning his gaze to the man on the ground. The man dropped the pistol and raised his hands to cover his head. He screamed something, and Wallace strode forwards. I put my hand on the door handle, unsure whether to intervene, and glanced over to where the woman was huddled by the passenger side door. I could only see her from the eyes up, but that was enough. There was interest in those eyes, fixed on Wallace as they were, but little other emotion could be found in those eyes. Certainly not mercy. The man screamed again as Wallace neared, but he was spared not a second thought as Wallace came to open the passenger side door for the woman. She glanced at the man still huddled on the ground, and asked Wallace something, who nodded at the back of the truck. She shook her head, and gestured at his forehead. He nodded, and she clambered over the side of the truck. "We're going to help Ch-" he hesitated, "Our friend here," he explained, "But she's not the one who set off the beacon," he passed the rifle into the cabin with me, "Prince Joffery here also isn't the guy we heard shooting earlier, so there's someone else out there who needs help. Char-" he hesitated again, "Our new friend is tag along, and she'll patch me up while we put some distance between us and Joffery." "Wally?" I asked hesitantly. He reeked of anger, so strongly that I was stunned that rider still breathed. So strongly, that if I didn't know Wallace quite as well, I might be terrified right now. But on the outside, there existed only utter calm. "There are people out there that still need our help," he said simply, "I'll be okay, Val." He gently shut the passenger side door, and joined the woman in the back of the truck. I took a furtive look through the mirror set above the windshield and gave a little start as the woman's right hand seemed to break apart. Wally seemed unconcerned as a small nozzle was selected from among the many miniature tools, which the woman used to spread some sort of material on the wound. I let out a long breath, shook my head, and put the truck in gear. This wasn't the weirdest day I'd had, out here in the wilds, but it was early yet. Maybe we'd find something yet more curious after lunch.
Tips for New Players - Covering EVERYTHING you need to know [Video]
Hey everyone, i usually do these big tip videos once, you can watch it here >>>> https://youtu.be/Tk0M9ZTgm4Y <<<<< but hope these tips and edits can entertain you alongside learning how best to maximize your beginner experience for the game. For TLDW (altho now you'll have to read), here's some of the more important tips that i covered in the video in text, although not all of them. REROLL: If you haven't started the game yet, or just barley started it and had no luck with pulls = Reroll while you can still get the extra primogems. they're gonna be gone in a week, and nows your BEST chance at getting a 5 star before rng hell embraces you. which it will. Get to rank 7, get your summoning. if you fail, then next part:
Make username accounts instead of emails. go to this website (official mihoyo): https://account.mihoyo.com/#/registeusername?cb_route=%2Faccount%2FsafetySettings and make a username account that can log in the game exactly like email, except you don't have to create multiple emails, or salt them. once you get a good account, lock it by linking an email to the username account. ofc, dont sell/trade accounts or you risk getting banned.
Ps4 can't reroll, so ignore this. rip.
Play on pc, it's just better. BUT, buy stuff from your phone. pc and phone can cross save (share account), so take advantage of more secure paying options then pc's direct credit card info. ps4 left in dust yet again. definitely get the $5 monthly pass from paimon shop if you plan to spend. battlepass might be worth the money as well for the premium unlock. rest is up to your wallet-kun. rip.
co-op is unlocked at rank 16. can't proceed quest together, can't get joined players chest loot. Basically if you're doing co-op for loot, mainly stick to domains and boss fights, or leyline hunting (altho you still have to pay the resin yourself to get rewards).
Day 1 should get to rank 12 asap for commissions. Battle pass is unlocked at rank 20.
------------------- TEAM: Teambuilding matters more than characters. get 2 of the same element to get a resonance buff, should match your main dps. swap between units often for reactions, and only focus on 2 dps units as far as ascending/bets gear (main and subdps). 2ndary usually is used mostly for its skills, rather than basic attacks. For what characters are good in what roles, i made an image for easier presentation, altho keep in mind, technically, you can make most units whatever role you want (except healer), but that's up to you.
have two teams, your main, and then a 2nd with the peanut gallery that has elements you lack in your main team. example if you dont have fire/wind in your main, keep in 2ndary so you can quickly swap to them to do puzzles that need said element.
Ascend your main 2 units ASAP, at rank 15. then pump them to lv39. should start jizzing on content for a good chunk of your first week.
you get Barbara at rank 20. Xiangling must beat 3rd abyss floor to unlock. both kinda easy to get once you ascend 2 units.
GEAR: Only ascend 4-5 star weapons, 3 stars are good early on but long term, if you want to minmax resources, try to only focus on 4 stars. you can get some 4 stars made via blacksmith buy farming prototype piece from bosses or found throughout the world. send units on expeditions to get rock minrals for 20h, you should be able to make 1 4* wpn a weak. for support/healer roles, maxed refined 3 star weapons are preferred tho, since you don't really deal dmg with them, so you want passive effects more.
ONLY upgrade 4 star or higehr artifacts. just use 3 star ones for set bonus, like the atk% ones you get from adventurer handbook chapter 3. focus on flat and % atk as for which artifact you max out first, likely the berserker feather. usually double 2pc sets (berserker + x) is better than 4 pc sets, early on.
----------------- DAILIES: Do all commissions a day. 1k exp is gonna matter big time considering the wall at around rank 30. keep resin low or even to zero, so it recharges overtime. i recommend doing wpn ascension dungeon like cecilia gardens one once a day for first week or two. and the rest of the resin can be spent on leylines, or bosses/trials once you get to them. DO NOT, spend resin refresh tho, early on. save them for later as your resin gains more value the higher your rank/world level. Rest Random
Use offensive or defensive food buffs for toucher boss fights, it helps clear faster.
if falling from a high place use the attack button (need stamina, important) and you'll nullify the dmg taken. there's some stamina food you can cook which also helps climing or crossing big water. or use ice dudes + swirl to freeze your way to the other side of the water.
you can heal at shrine of sevens. set it to 100% in blessing option, and you can force healer whoever else needs it. can also revive anyone that dies so don't waste the revive food if you don't need to.
SUMMONING: Only buy intertwined fate. you could save normie fates in case they plan to have other ways to spend it in the future. We DON'T know what they plan to do with this game so i'd caution throwing everything at the banners aside the initial reroll. if you got money, go crazy i guess. new units coming 1.1, might be worth saving for. I guess that's it. thanks for reading/watching. timestamps in video navigation if you want to skip around~
Reposting due to the beloved u/skinkerdoodle taking a moderation break and a shuffle of the staff team :) If you haveANYquestions after finishing this guide, feel free to ask below and I, or someone else experienced, will try and answer the question for you. We also have twodiscord serverdiscord serverwhere you can ask questions and chat! If you're too embarrassed to post, feel free to PM me. I want this to post to be a safe space for beginners to ask questions and learn! The FAQ section may also answer some more "advanced" topics even if you're not a complete beginner. Thinking about getting aleopard gecko? Awesome! They make great pets and owning them is a very rewarding experience. You may be scouring the web and start to think "where the heck do I start"! In this guide I'll be giving detailed advice to prepare you for your first gecko. What to buy before you get a gecko: This is a checklist of everything you need to buy BEFORE purchasing your gecko. It's important to set up before you get your new friend just in case some items, like the heating pad, end up not working. THE ESSENTIALS
Tank (20 Gallon long or equivalent terrarium/tank/tub)
20G long is the accepted standard tank for an adult. You can go bigger but you'll have to provide adequate cover and heat sources. Also that whole "baby geckos can't be in a big tank" thing is completely untrue! You are perfectly fine buying an "end game" tank for your gecko. Babies can still be kept in a 10 gallon tank (if you are currently short on space, etc), but should be moved once they're starting to grow older and larger so that they can be more comfortable. I always recommend to buy your adult tank right off the bat. You'll save more money in the long run. If you're okay waiting for awhile Petco has a 1$ per gallon sale a few times a year. It's a pretty good deal.
Contrary to popular belief, leos can see most colors of light (even red). Albinos are especially sensitive to bright lights. Natural room lighting is acceptable and will not mess up their day/night cycles. Your heating pad should cover 1/3rd of your tank. You want a temperature gradient. I personally use the Zoo Med brand 30-40g size for my 20 gallon long tanks. This goes under the tank. Make sure your tank is slightly raised to provide air flow. You can also use deep heat projects, radiant heat panels, etc to heat your tank. Just keep in mind these will also need to be temp controlled to keep your leopard gecko safe. IF YOU CHOOSE TO USE LOOSE SUBSTRATE (depending on how thick/deep it is) YOU WILL MOST LIKELY HAVE TO USE OVERHEAD HEATING. This will ensure accurate surface and air temps. YOU CAN USE LOW OUTPUT (5% or less) UVB LIGHTS. Just provide plenty of cover if your leo is albino and watch to make sure they aren't too stressed. They are optional if you are supplementing properly.
Heating sources get HOT. I mean up to 120F unregulated just for heating pads. You need to control the temperature! I personally use this thermostat. You want the floor of the tank to be 90F. Keeping it this temperature will make sure you have a happy, healthy gecko. Lower temps can cause your gecko to not eat and digest properly. This is also a good thermostat.
NO CALCI-SAND/COLORED SAND. I cannot stress this enough. These can cause impaction which can lead to death. Good beginner substrate include: Paper towels, mixed naturalistic substrate (play sand + top soil is a good starting base, you can also add in eco earth, clay) mixed with tile (on the hot side works the best) or just plain tile (no linoleum tile and it must be textured). Eco earth by itself is not a good substrate and can get too dusty/dry. Reptile carpet is just a pain to clean and your leopard gecko can get claws and teeth stuck in it. * Three hides (Hot, moist, and cool) You want three hides in your tank. One for the hot side of the tank (positioned over the heating pad). This will be the place your gecko spends most of it's time. Geckos tend to like very secure hides, so you want to have a hide that provides as little visibility as possible. I have found my geckos really like this hide as their hot hide. You can pick out whatever you like though! For the moist hide you want a container that can hold in humidity. This hide is to help aid shedding, so it's of the utmost importance! Many people use tupperware containers with holes cut into it. The smaller the entrance the better, as to keep the humidity in. This hide should be at least partially on the heat mat and have moist paper towel, moss, or eco earth. The cool hide should be on the complete opposite side of the hot hide. Your gecko needs somewhere to escape to if it gets too hot. * Infrared Temp Gun You want to double check your temperatures and make sure they're accurate and an infrared temp gun is the best way to do it! I use this one. * Bowl for calcium/food/water Your leopard gecko needs a source of calcium (without d3) in the tank. They'll lick it up as they need it. This is a key component of warding off MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease). Just place it in the tank and leave it be. Refresh it every once in awhile. Food bowl is self explanatory. Water bowl should be near the middle of the tank or the cool side. I recommend buying something similar to this if you want tap water to be reptile safe. * Multivitamin & Calcium (with and without d3) These are essential to a healthy, happy leopard gecko. These are used for dusting food. There are plenty of brands to choose from. Repashy and Zoo Med make both. Either are good! ADDITIONAL * Decor Most up to you! You want the tank to have enough decor that your gecko doesn't feel exposed. Plastic plants are great for this. If you're using craft store plants make sure they do not bleed/rub off dye. File down sharp edges. Places like Petco will match their online prices, sometimes saving you a lot of money. Amazon also had good prices sometimes, so keep an eye out. If you're crafty you can always make your own decor. Just make sure you use reptile safe products. * Leopard Gecko Emergency Kit It should contain: betadine (for sterilizing wounds), neosporin without pain relief, q-tips, olive oil (to aid pooping if your gecko is impacted), coconut oil (to aid shedding), flour or a clotter (to stop bleeding), and tweezers. All of this should cover basic medical emergencies like minor scratches, etc. > [This critter keeper (size depends on how many geckos). Repashy grub pie, extra supplements, uni heat (or reptile) heat packs, a fleece blanket, digital thermometer, heat tape (or maybe a mini size heating pad by zoo med as they can be used with plastic), two bowls. In some cases where you have multiple geckos, create separated areas in a larger fauna box. Credit Sybilestial ! * Plastic container with lid Great for saunas if your gecko is having trouble shedding and for holding your gecko while cleaning the tank! * Tongs If you're iffy about touching insects, this may be the way to go. Plus your gecko may be scared for your hands at first. * Scale This is a good way to track your gecko's weight, especially if they're young. Even for adults getting a base line weight is beneficial. I just use a food scale. Most people measure geckos in grams! I usually weigh everyone once every two weeks. * A Journal/Calendar Might sound a little nuts but keeping track of gecko feedings, last time they shed, etc. will make your life so much easier. I personally record the last time my geckos shed, ate, weights, pooped, etc. I also jot down any notes about their behaviors or any changes to their health. It's good to keep track of these things in case your gecko becomes ill and needs to go to the vet. PICKING OUT YOUR GECKO My personal recommendation is to buy from a reputable breeder or from a breeder at an expo. This generally ensures you are getting a healthy, happy gecko. Buying from a pet store is risky business as many geckos from chain stores carry parasites or have health issues. You could end up paying a hefty vet bill or with a short lived gecko. Unfortunately there are still some shady breeders too. I'll list a few warning signs: * can't answer questions about their geckos (parents, genetics, hatch date, weight, etc) * can't tell you the morph * won't show you pictures of the gecko * improper husbandry * skinny, sickly looking geckos (metabolic bone disease, stick tail, lethargic, etc) There are plenty of places where you can get honest reviews of breeders like the Board of Inquiry on Faunaclassified as well as a few groups on Facebook. Don't always trust facebook reviews as they can be censored! Get an opinion from actual customers. Do research. [Here's another guide I wrote on this subject. I generally do not recommend enigma morph geckos to beginners. This is my personal opinion. There is always a chance your gecko will end up with enigma syndrome somewhere down the line. Enigma syndrome is a neurological disorder tied to the enigma gene. This leads to: balance issues, circling, stargazing, seizures, death rolling, coordination issues, and more. Feeding can become extremely difficult and I consider enigma syndrome geckos a little more advanced care. White and Yellow morphs can also exhibit a similar syndrome but it's much rarer, *as it can be bred out*. It's not tied to the W&Y gene. Lemon frosts, a rather expensive morph, has been known to grow tumors. Their health issues are so severe that many breeders have stopped producing them entirely. I don't think many beginners have 2.5k to drop on a gecko but just in case you were thinking about it, don't! Babies can be much more skittish than adults and a little bit more delicate. If you want something more hearty go for a slightly older gecko! Babies also eat a lot of food so if you're looking to spend a little bit less money an adult is also the way to go. Babies change in color A LOT so if you are looking for a gecko of a certain color an adult is your best bet to get exactly what you want. Leos are able to be temperature sexed and many breeders will label them TSF (temp sex female) or TSM (temp sex male). Keep in mind this is not a 100% guarantee you will get that sex. There is still a chance they will turn out to be the opposite sex. Snows are notorious for having a lower accuracy rate when temp sexed. If you want a guaranteed male or female you will have to buy older. DO NOT PLACE ANY GECKOS TOGETHER! DO NOT COHAB. Geckos are solitary creatures and thrive when housed alone. Keeping geckos together can lead to fighting and serious injuries, and usually ends up stressing the animals out. Behavior that may look cute, like cuddling, are actually signs of aggression and dominance. Here is an example of what happened to a leo that was housed together with another gecko. Don't risk your animals. Here's a great read from one of our sub members 410cs: It's common knowledge that Leos are territorial, regardless of Gender, they're tolerant to a point until they snap. It can be 3 minutes together, it can be 10 years. Eventually they will snap and something like this will happen. It's quite clear that, even if the cause of the break wasn't due to a fight, you need to separate them. Let's go through some of the most basic and obvious reasons why: * Competition for the, poor quality, of food. * It seems like you're feeding those vacuum-packed locusts, or at least some sort of dead variant. These hold next to no nutritional value. * The food there, although dusted, is going to be fought-over and dominated, regardless of if you've ever seen this happen. The girl in the picture is awfully thin, I have no doubts that this is a major factor of this. * 100x Easier for parasites and disease to spread. * They eat, sleep, poop and live in the same area. This is a huge no-no when it comes to a lot of reptiles. Considering some breeders have been wiped out over using the same equipment, (tongs), I'd seriously not be surprised if every Geck in that tank has some sort of parasitical load; either a worryingly large load of Pinworm or ever worse, (Geckos can be crypto-positive even if they're not rapidly losing weight). * The male is going to, eventually, breed with the females. * Sometimes males just don't breed successfully when they're in-season, which might be why you haven't experienced any (Fertile) eggs yet. When they are they act like a dog in heat. The breeding stress is going to be awfully harsh on your females, it's not uncommon for females to die as a result of over breeding. * General dominance over heat, hides, etc. * Are your Geckos sleeping together? Are they "cuddling"? I wouldn't be surprised. You can have them in a 75 Gal with a hundred hides and there still is a chance of them doing this. * It's not a case of if they fight, it's when they fight. * They don't always show warning signs. They can be fine one minute and, before you know it, one won't have a limb. Please, for the sake of the Geckos, house them individually. If they go off of food it's due to change of environment, they don't have the emotional capabilities to miss each other. I don't care if they're in 10Gals for now, just do it. For the sake of your pets. It's borderline animal cruelty. SETTING UP YOUR NEW FRIEND & THE FIRST WEEKS Once you have acquired your gecko and placed it in the tank LEAVE IT ALONE! You should wait at least 5-7 days before handling or messing around with your gecko. Your new friend is scared and adjusting to a big change. It can be tempting, especially as a beginner, but hold off. If you can I would wait until your gecko is eating as well before handling. You want to keep your interaction to a minimum like cleaning up poop, giving your gecko food, etc. Covering the tank with a blanket is also a good way to make your gecko feel safer. Choose a quiet place for the tank. Observe your gecko and make sure it's not exhibiting signs of illness. If your gecko seems lethargic, isn't pooping after eating, bloated, walking irregularly, losing weight rapidly, etc go to the vet! Don't wait! Taking action as soon as possible is the best thing you can do for your gecko. Also watch for your gecko's first shed to make sure they are shedding properly in their new environment. TAMING AND HANDLING Patience is key to taming your new gecko! It can take awhile for them to trust you, especially if they are younger. Adolescent geckos tend to be more skittish. You want to start off by putting your hand in the tank, within sight of your gecko, for at least ten minutes a day. This is to get your gecko used to your hand and scent. Once they seem a bit more receptive (walking around, licking your hand, looking curious) you can start to try picking them up. Always scoop up your gecko from below, working your hand underneath their stomach and supporting their legs. Grabbing from above triggers their prey instinct and will scare them. Hold them over the tank at first, in case they leap or skitter off your hand, to prevent injury! Once they seem calm in your hands, then you can start taking them away from the tank. Hand feeding is also a good way to bond with your gecko and make sure they associate your hand with positive things (aka food). Congrats! You tamed your gecko! FEEDING Feeding is a subject I see a ton of topics about in the subreddit so let's go over the basics! Acceptable feeders include: * Mealworms (can be kept in oats/bran meal in the fridge) * Superworms (can be kept in oats/bran meal DO NOT REFRIGERATE) * Crickets (kept in normal container, DO NOT LEAVE THEM IN THE TANK THEY WILL BITE YOUR LEO) * Dubia Roaches (kept in normal containetank/whatever) * Hornworms (Treat, optional, fed once a week, 1 worm) * Waxworms (Treat, optional, fed **rarely**, only 1-2) * Butterworms (Treat, optional, fed once a week or less, 1-2) * Here's a nutritional feeder insect chart Remember, variety is good for your gecko. Do not over feed treat foods! They should be a rare occurrence and you should only feed 1-2 per week or less, especially for waxworms (which can be addictive). Do not feed treat foods to sick geckos, very young geckos, or picky eaters. Only feed treat foods to healthy geckos who are eating regularly. Feel free to mix and match feeders! GUT LOAD YOUR FEEDERS. Gut loading is feeding your insects prior to feeding them to your gecko. Carrots, lettuce, etc should be fed 12 hours ahead of time. You want to give them time to eat the veggies or fruit. I usually feed them once a week besides gut loading to make sure they get the moisture they need from the food. Dusting is also another key part of feeding. Make sure the insects are lightly dusted with calcium or multivitamin. Babies should eat every day, as much as they can eat in 15 minutes. "Teen" geckos (6-9 months) should be eating every other day. Usually teen geckos will decide this for themselves and start refusing food every day. Adults (1 year and over) should eat every 2-3 (or longer) days depending on weight. FAQ MY GECKO HAS STUCK SHED/IS HAVING PROBLEMS SHEDDING AHHHH First of all, DON'T PANIC! Stuck shed happens. The easiest way to loosen up stuck shed is a gecko sauna! Take your plastic container and fill it with paper towels, soaked in warm water. Place your gecko in the container for 10-15 minutes. Then you can attempt to rub the stuck shed off with the q-tip from the gecko first aid kit. Be gentle but persistent. Your gecko may get a bit upset but this is okay. Stuck shed can lead to lost toes, tail tips, and other various problems. A little bit of stress is better than losing a toe! If this still doesn't work you can use a bit of coconut oil on the tip of a q-tip and gently rub the shed skin with it. MY NEW GECKO ISN'T EATING AHH New geckos are stressed out and this can lead to them not eating, so be patient and wait. Sometimes it can take over a week and even then they may still eat a bit irregularly for awhile. If your gecko seems lethargic, sickly, or is rapidly losing weight while also not eating, a vet visit is in order. Try to find a reptile vet. *ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK YOUR TEMPERATURES!* Low or irregular temperatures can cause a gecko to not eat. Geckos may also delay eating if they are about to shed or have just shed. Female leopard geckos can also go off food if they are ovulating (producing eggs). Look for white oval shapes in your gecko's lower stomach. Here is an image. All you can do is wait it out until the female eats again. Males may also go off food during breeding season. If you change around your gecko's tank or move their tank to a new location this can also cause them to get stressed and stop eating. Consider any small (or large) changes you've made to your gecko's environment when trying to figure out why your gecko won't eat. My gecko just threw up its food! What's wrong with it? Sometimes geckos regurgitate food when they've eaten too much too fast. Low temperatures can also lead to regurgitation. Check your temperatures and make sure your heating pad is working properly. Parasites can also cause geckos to throw up their food. If you suspect parasites, call a vet. Do albino leopard geckos have any special care? Their eyes are very sensitive. They may not like bright light at all or require more cover in their tank to protect their eyes. Other than that they are normal geckos. It's cold where I live and I can't maintain the necessary temperature. What can I do? You can buy a ceramic heat emitter. This is a bulb you put into a lamp that gives off no light but produces heat. You can hook this up to a dimmer to control the temperature or another thermostat. I've found a 45w or a 60w does the job pretty well. It should boost your temps up to an acceptable level. What should my tank look like? What are some examples? Here are some examples: (https://i.imgur.com/JDpedEy.jpg), (https://i.imgur.com/1NUjJ1z.jpg), (https://i.imgur.com/WUxiXaD.jpg), (https://i.imgur.com/UL7C9i7.jpg) I have other reptiles blah blah QUARANTINE YOUR GECKO! Quarantining for 60-90 days is the preferable option, especially if your gecko is showing any signs of sickness. Use separate tools, etc. If you purchase another gecko don't switch around decor between the tanks, etc. Be safe and save yourself a possible heartache and cash. My female is ovulating. What do I do? Look for white oval shapes in your gecko's lower stomach. If your female has eggs you can make a lay box. A closed container with eco earth will do. If she lays them, they will most likely be infertile and can be thrown away. Leopard geckos can lay many eggs during breeding season. Make sure you're supplementing a bit extra, as egg laying is quite taxing. Leopard geckos can also reabsorb their eggs. Females can ovulate pretty early (think 8 months or so) depending how large they are. My leopard gecko is waving/shaking it's tail! Tail waving means your gecko is scared and you should leave them alone. Tail shaking is pretty common when hunting and just means they're excited. Loud tail rattling is a sign a male wants to breed. Is my leopard gecko a boy or a girl? See this [image]. Males will have visible pores and two hemipenes at the base of their tail in comparison to females. Leopard geckos can usually be sexed around 4 months of age, though males may take longer to mature. At 5-6 months you should be able to tell for yourself. Place the gecko in a clear, plastic container and take a look! My leopard gecko won't eat from a bowl! Some geckos don't like bowls. They like the hunt! You may have to tong/hand feed. You can try starving them out until they eat from the bowl, if you're really adamant about it. Or as sybilestial suggests: >If the geckos aren't eating from bowls, try clear ones. You can find a set of clear candle holders (that do not come with a candle) at dollar stores. How long can my gecko be left alone? Most adults can be left a few days since their feeding schedules are spread out. Babies will need someone to watch them if you need to go somewhere, as they need to eat every day. If you can get your baby to eat out of a bowl, you can probably leave them as well. If your gecko is about to shed or looks dull, make sure you thoroughly dampen the moist hide. I never seen my gecko! Why? Leopard geckos nocturnal/crepuscular. They come out at night. You may not see your gecko out during the day at all. Don't worry, this is normal. My power went out what do I do?! There are reptile specific warmers, usually used for shipping, that you can buy and use as well. They come in different hour intervals like 40, 72, etc. Make sure you follow the instructions! If you live in an area that is hit by storms and loses power often, be PREPARED AHEAD OF TIME! If you live somewhere relatively warm year round, your gecko will be okay without heat for a day or two. Just make sure you don't feed them during this time. What should my tank's humidity be? 40%! If your humidity gets too high I suggest a dehumidifier for the room your leo is in. If your water bowl is large, switch it for a smaller one. Don't put the water bowl on the hot side. Putting a sock filled with rice into the tank can help a little bit too. My gecko looks pale. IS IT DYING?? No, it's just about to shed! Leopard geckos usually shed once every 2-3 weeks. In the days beforehand they'll get very dull looking. The day of they usually turn white. Shedding usually takes a day or so. Make sure you keep your moist hide damp! Leopard geckos eat their shed as they're peeling it off themselves so don't be alarmed if you don't find anything afterwards What is MBD? You mention that a lot. MBD is Metabolic Bone Disease. This happens in geckos who are not supplemented properly with calcium and multivitamins. Here is a good article about it. Proper supplementation is important! My gecko is sick what do I do? Find a reptile vet (there's a vet link in the sidebar)! In order to ensure your reptile gets the best care possible you should always use a vet experienced in reptiles. I recommend you find one ahead of time near your area. And, as always, have a decent amount of cash tucked away somewhere in case your reptile gets sick. Exotic vet care is expensive and you never know when an emergency will pop up. Where can I find pictures that illustrate the conditions and sicknesses you talk about? Lizardbeans on tumblr has a great guide as well, with a bunch of pictures of different leopard gecko conditions. How do I use Betadine? If my gecko gets a minor injury what should I do? Let's say your gecko manages to hurt it's toe. It's bleeding a little bit but otherwise it looks pretty minor.
Soak the reptile in warmish chest deep water to which Betadine (povidone-iodine) has been added to color the water to a deep medium tea color. Leave in the tub for 15-20 minutes, refreshing the warm water and Betadine as necessary. If the wound is swollen and crusty, carefully pick off the scab/crusty exudates. Note that if the reptile defecates in the tub, it must be washed out, disinfected and another Betadine soak set up. Flush the wound area with fresh water before being placed back in the new bath.
Remove the reptile from the tub and flush the wound with fresh dilute Betadine.
At night, top the wound with triple antibiotic ointment (original ointment, pain relief free). Repeat for a week or until the wound is healing over.
If there is any sign of swelling which occurs after the bathing and treatment or such swelling does not abate after a week, the animal must be seen by an experienced reptile vet.
I have found antibiotic ointment works wonders for small wounds. Nose bumps/scrapes, etc! My gecko can't seem to shed properly. There's always stuck shed. What's the deal? First off, make sure they're using their moist hide right. Make sure you spray it consistently, especially when they start to get dull in color preparing to shed. Keep the moist hide half on, half on the heating pad at the very least. Hot and humid is far better than cold and humid when it comes to shedding! Also make sure you are supplementing your leopard gecko properly with multivitamins. As stated by BovieVei her gecko had problems shedding due to a Vitamin A deficiency! >Repeated bad sheds can also be attributed to vitamin a deficiency. My Leo recently had to go to the vet for it and got a vitamin a booster shot and it was so weird last time he shed because the skin came right off where he got the injection before anywhere else. (the rest of the shed was much better than usual too). Either way you need to get this poor baby to a vet. >Vitamin a deficiency can include lethargy and reduced appetite, bad sheds, lizard smegma (ew), and eye ulcers. So keep up those vitamins, folks! My gecko is big... is it a giant/super giant? Most likely? No, it is not. If it is not labeled as a giant/super giant or is from a pet store those chances are even lower. Giants are only giants if they hold the giant gene (which is specifically bred for and highly desired). Otherwise you just have yourself a large, impressive gecko which is pretty awesome anyway! Here's a good article written by member Professional_Gecko. What morph is my pet store/whatever gecko? Without genetics we can only give you a guess, especially with albinos. Albino strains are impossible to 100% positively identify through just looking at them. My gecko's eyes are different from a normal gecko's eyes? Leopard geckos have many different eye types other than the standard grey on normals. There's [full eclipse eyes](https://i.imgur.com/VBnqmv8.jpg), which are pure black, commonly seen on [super snows](https://i.imgur.com/rNI3fdJ.jpg), galaxies, and other eclipse morphs. Pure red eyes, commonly seen on morphs like [Raptors](https://i.imgur.com/0uxvGOH.jpg), [Radars](https://i.imgur.com/6sII6ur.jpg), and other albinos. There's [snake eyes](https://i.imgur.com/SeFd6JF.jpg) which are a variant of the eclipse eyes but they are eyes which have some solid pigment but are not completely solid. There's also [brown-reddish eyes](https://i.imgur.com/I0WAREx.jpg) that are common with enigmas. The albino strains (Tremper, Bell, Rainwater) have a wide variety of eye colors. What kinds of albinos are there? Tremper is the most popular albino strain. It is abundant compared to Bell and Rainwater (also sometimes called Las Vegas). Bells and Rainwaters tend to be more pricey because of this. Many have albino strain specific morphs. Raptors are Tremper specific while Radars are Bell specific. Firewaters are a Rainwater specific morph. Can I breed my two pet store geckos? I wouldn't recommend it. Mixing unknown genetics can be a risky business as there's so many genes you shouldn't cross. Gem, tug, and mack snows should never be crossed. Certain eye types should not be crossed. Albino genes cannot be crossed. Plus you don't know what other hets (genes) the gecko is carrying as they don't exhibit this outwardly. Not to mention selling the babies will be much harder (and you're going to have a ton of them. If you are going to breed, do it right by buying to geckos with known genetics!
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