Sarah Darkmagic's blog


Art Work - PlanetsArt Work - Planets

So, a lot of stuff happening here in the land of Sarah Darkmagic.

First, I recently joined a local artists' group and we had our first show at a local cafe. For those who may not have seen my other social media stuff, I've been working with various media for several years now. It's been my main source of creative outlet after some of the events in the mid 2010s.

At the opening reception, I sold my first piece! As I was chatting with the buyer, it turns out he is a gamer too and said my piece reminded him of Traveller. I have a website with examples of my artwork at

Second, I was asked to provide an affidavit in the case between Smith and Nagy. I wrote up my experiences with Zak over the past dozen or so years. At first, it looked like he was going to challenge me but when the Zoom call started, the judge let me know my time was no longer required. It appears that Zak's side withdrew the challenge and my affidavit is going to the judge as is.

Putting together the affidavit was hard because I still have a lot of trauma related to what happened. But doing it, while hard, has left me wanting to write again, which is really nice.

For the Tome Show, we just recorded our book club episode on the newish Dragonlance novel, Dragons of Fate. I was able to finish this one however, it's left me pretty confident at this point that Dragonlance isn't for me. Next up, we're reading Dungeons & Dragons - The Fallbacks - Bound for Ruin (affiliate link) by Jaleigh Johnson, whose books I absolutely adore.

We've also been working on reviewing the Book of Many Things, part of the Deck of Many Things release(affiliate link). In the past, there's been a rush to try to read an entire book for a podcast episode, which I have struggled with in part because it's super hard for me to read dense gaming books in that way and even harder for me to recall what I read on demand. This time we're doing more episodes with just a few chapters at a time which I'm enjoying much more.

I'm taking an art journaling course called Wanderlust by Everything Art. It's a year-long course with lots of interesting lessons, one per week. Here are two examples of recent spreads.

Art Journal - Depth of LayersArt Journal - Depth of Layers

Art Journal - HealingArt Journal - Healing

Finally, Shadow of the Weird Wizard (affiliate link) by Robert Schwalb recently released. I backed it on Kickstarter and have been reading through it as I get time. I'm enamored with the health vs damage system and hope to write up my thoughts on it soon.

Hopefully I'll be back to writing and playing more often but juggling a 7 year old, a full-time job, and everything isn't easy. Hope you all are hanging in there!

Art Journaling with Fat Goblin Games Stock Art

Art Journal Spread with Character ArtArt Journal Spread with Character Art
This page contains some affiliate links

Over the past 10 years, I've been doing a lot of learning and experimenting with different art mediums. I've shared some of the results here and if you want to see more, I post most of it to Facebook (2024, 2023, 2022, 2021, and 2020) or to Instagram. One of the things I've been doing a lot is working in an art journal which is a place for me to just play and see what happens.

I also became a patron of Fat Goblin Games on Patreon. For the basic tier, patrons get access to the stock art Rick Hershey creates for the month. My hope is to eventually start creating content for gaming more regularly again but in the meantime I wanted to just play with the amazing art he's been releasing.

My first experiment was to create a basic two-page spread using two of his characters, Baba Yaga and The Aunties.

I was curious about two things. The first is how would it look to print the line art on rice paper and collage it on top of a watercolor background. The second was what would happen if I used my Kuretake Gansai Tambi on the rice paper. I threw in a third experiment as I was working on these and that was to see how color printing on the rice paper would turn out. A quick note, I have a color laser printer and my prints aren't impacted by water, which is important for what I did. Also, the reason for using rice paper is that it's super strong while being fairly thin and, when used in collage, has some transparency.

Print out artwork to rice paper

The first thing I did was find some artwork to use. I used a bunch of files from the Fat Goblin Games Patreon as well as an image from the British Library collection on Flickr. The latter are images from books in the British Library that should be out of copyright.

I happen to use a program called Pixelmator Pro, but lots of programs will let you do what I did. I created a blank image and set the size to be the size of my paper. Then I imported the images I wanted to use and resized them to fit on the page. Once I had a good assortment, I printed it out. This helped reduce waste. I later did a second page to get The Aunties.

Experiment: Line art printed on rice paper and collaged on top of watercolor

Art Journal Spread with Baba YagaArt Journal Spread with Baba Yaga

The first experiment was the side with Baba Yaga.

My first step was to use my Kuretake Gansai Tambi to create a watercolor background. I had received the Art Nouveau set from my husband as a Christmas gift. I did this in my art journal, which at the moment is a Strathmore 500 Mixed Media Art Journal. It has a decent weight paper that is 100% cotton which helps it hold up to the abuse I throw its way. You can see some of the abuse around the edges for instance. I let that dry.

Then I cut out the character art, trying to stay fairly close to the outer outline. I use matte medium to help glue the character art down. I applied some of the medium down first with brush and then applied some on top as well.

I thought the page could use something more and so I applied the circular artwork. It's from the book Fairy Mary's Dream.

I did two things to help make it feel more like part of the page. I used the same pink that was in the background to paint the area between Baba Yaga and the broom. And then I took some brown ink to create a shadow under the character with a brush.

Experiment: Painting the Rice Paper

Art Journal Spread with The AuntiesArt Journal Spread with The Aunties

The second experiment started similar to the first. I created another background using the same colors as the first page.

This time, instead of applying the rice paper with just the lines to the page, I painted it first with the same watercolor paint set. I hadn't tried this before but I know that one of the things about rice paper is that it can be very absorbent. I found out pretty quickly that control of the colors was not easy with this method which, honestly, was refreshing. I could try out how painting with a looser style could be. I think the Aunties came out pretty decent all things considered and I'm excited to keep playing with this technique.

After painting, I let it dry, cut out the characters, and used matte medium to glue it to the page. One thing I found interesting is that neither the background nor the paint on the rice paper seemed to be affected much by the matte medium.


One of the things I want to do is start developing some NPCs in my journal, using stock and public domain art to build that out. I'm hoping to use it to eventually run a game and also create content here and potentially elsewhere.

But even without that, doing art like this has been really helping me with anxiety and stress. It felt really nice creating this.

I want to say thanks to Rick Hershey, not only for the awesome art but for being ok with this use of it.

Baba Yaga and The Aunties: Publisher's Choice Quality Stock Art © Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games
British Library digitised image from page 34 of "Fairy Mary's Dream. By A. F. L. With illustrations by the Author"

Understanding Defamation Suits Part 2

First, I am not a lawyer. I’ve checked a few things with lawyers, I learned how to read court rulings in college, and this is an area I’m interested in. That said, nothing I write here should be construed as legal advice. If you take away anything, I suggest getting advice from a lawyer in your area to understand how things are done where you live.

Second, the allegations are quite difficult stuff involving descriptions of events that could fall into potential sexual assault territory and/or could at the very least be triggering. For the most part, I’m not going to include the statements themselves.

In this one, we’ll go over G’s complaint regarding S’s statement on his blog. This one is a bit trickier because it's not a small number of concise statements that need to be addressed and the Court organized this part of the ruling a bit differently.

Statements of Opinion

First, one of the defenses against defamation is that it is “non-actionable opinion.” The Court found one statement, 2-70 to meet that definition, “[G] only jumped on board with her accusations once the mob was decidedly on [N]’s side.” This means it can’t be defamation.

However, in this section the Court says the rest of the statements in the complaint “can reasonably be understood as declaring or implying actual facts capable of proving them true or false” and thus meet one of the requirements for a defamation claim.


Next, the Court discusses the falsity of the statements. One of the requirements is that the statements of fact must be false.

The Court references the previous finding on the case of S v G. And thus finds the following true: Statement 2-09b and Statement 2-18a. Those statements are not false and thus do not meet the requirements of a defamation claim.

However, using the findings from the first suit, the Court says several statements are false: Statement 2-02, Statement 2-09a, Statement 2-11, Statement 2-16, Statement 2-18a, Statement 2-18b, Statement 2-19b, Statement 2-39, Statement 2-75. These statements would meet one of the requirements for a defamation claim.

There’s an additional statement, 2-20, which the court finds partially true, in terms of why G was not invited to the Maxim shoot, but finds the stated motivation for posting the accusations in relations to the Maxim shoot to be false.

At this point of the review of the case, the court has found 10 statements or parts of statements that meet two of the requirements for a defamation claim: Statements 2-02, 2-09a, 2-11, 2-16, 2-18a, 2-18b, 2-19b, 2-39, 2-75, and 2-20.

Civil Code Section 45

California has some requirements in terms of what can be considered libel. As quoted from the ruling, the statement must “expose[] [the plaintiff] to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or…cause[] [plaintiff] to be shunned or avoided, or…ha[ve] a tendency to injure [plaintiff] in his occupation.”

This is a key difference between the two cases. S’s complaint is about accusations made against him that he did something to G. G’s complaint is more about S saying she lied in his defense of himself. It’s unclear if S’s statements had any of the above effects on G, or at the very least, G didn’t provide evidence to satisfy the Court that it was the case. Thus, the Court concludes that it doesn’t qualify as libel even though it does conclude that several statements in S’s post are false.


The Court further discusses the issue of what if there was evidence that the statements caused reactions that satisfy Section 45. The Court says since the statements don’t qualify as “libel per se,” G would need to prove special damages. There is a reference to a court case, Western Broadcast Co. v Times-Mirror Co (1936), which sets out an idea that “[I]t has been held in certain cases that it is not libelous per se to publish an answer challenging the correctness of an opponent’s statements and charging such opponent with ‘telling falsehoods’ or ‘falsely asserting.’”

The Court likens S’s post to that case, saying “[S]’s blog is clearly a response in self-defense to an earlier statement by [G]…[S] does not paint [G] to be a liar generally. Instead, [S]’s statements are limited in responding to the particular allegations in [G]’s Facebook post. Moreover, [S]’s blog is disjointed and makes sense only after reading [G]’s February 13, 2019 Facebook post, which provides necessary context for what it is that [S] is denying. Without the ‘explanatory matter’ of [G]’s February 13, 2019 Facebook post, it is difficult to follow [S]’s blog. Thus, [S]’s statements are not libel on their face.”

Given that, G would have to prove special damage in order to make the statements actionable. The Court found “that [G] has failed to prove any damages, let alone special damages.”

Thus, G’s case fails on this requirement of a defamation claim as well, which is why her claim overall failed. She failed to meet the burden of proof in her complaint.

However, even though G lost her case, those statements by S listed above as having been found false still have that finding, even if they weren’t actionable in this defamation claim.


So one of the things I’ve seen fans of S say is that he has been vindicated by this outcome.

I guess that means what one means by vindication?

Was he the only party that met their burden of proof for a defamation lawsuit…sure.

But it came at the cost of having a number of G’s statements being found to be substantially true by the Court, including ones that form part of the reason why a number of entities have distanced themselves from S. In addition, S has been found by the Court to have made false statements, which, while not legally damaging to him in this suit…definitely differs with the narrative some say about him.

Support for G

This case comes at a great cost to G, monetarily and otherwise. If you’d like to support her, she has a GoFundMe to help cover a portion of her overall legal expenses.

Understanding Defamation Suits

First, I am not a lawyer. I’ve checked a few things with lawyers, I learned how to read court rulings in college, and this is an area I’m interested in. That said, nothing I write here should be construed as legal advice. If you take away anything, I suggest getting advice from a lawyer in your area to understand how things are done where you live.

Second, the allegations are quite difficult stuff involving descriptions of events that could fall into potential sexual assault territory and/or could at the very least be triggering. For the most part, I’m not going to include the statements themselves. For those who want more info, I have a link to where one can find the court documents.

I recently posted on Twitter some of the results of the defamation lawsuit by [S] against [G]. Twitter isn’t always the easiest way to make some points, so I’d like to explain a bit more here.

What is defamation?

Loosely speaking, defamation is a false statement of fact made about someone that can harm that person’s reputation. It has to be communicated to at least one other person.

According to this pamphlet from Sacramento County Public Law Library (a group that attempts to provide self-help resources for the community, but importantly is education, not legal advice), a plaintiff in California attempting to prove a defamation claim must prove all of the following:

  • The defendant made an unprivileged statement to someone other than the plaintiff.
  • The statement was a false statement of fact.
  • The statement was made about or was understood to be about the plaintiff.
  • The statement was negligently made (if the plaintiff is a “public figure” then actual malice must be shown).
  • Actual damage naturally arising out of the statement or that the statement was slanderous per se or libelous on its face.

One important thing to note here is a fact is something that could be proven to be true or false.

What are some of the defenses against defamation?

The Sacramento County Public Law Library offers the following as defenses against defamation. I won’t include the descriptions here but feel free to reference the pdf linked above.

  • Truth
  • Not a Statement of Fact/Opinion
  • Fair Comment and Criticism/Plaintiff is a Public Figure
  • Privilege
  • Libel-Proof Plaintiff
  • Death

What was the outcome thus far of the suit?

[S]’s claim stated that there were 8 allegedly defamatory statements in [G]’s post. Since I want to be careful about the sensitive nature of the details, both to the defendant and to the community members, I’m going to concentrate less on what was alleged and more on the outcomes.

Statement Sub Part Is a statement of fact? Paraphrased Misquoted/Out of Context Defamatory
Statement 1 1 Yes No No No
Statement 1 2 Yes No No No
Statement 1 3 Yes No No Yes
Statement 2 * Yes No No No
Statement 3 * Yes Yes No No
Statement 4 * Yes Yes Yes No
Statement 5 * Yes No No No
Statement 6 * Yes Yes Yes No
Statement 7 * Yes Yes Yes No
Statement 8 * No No

So what does this mean?

For statement 8, the court said it was “a nonactionable opinion.” That means it doesn’t meet the definition of defamation because it’s not a fact.

For statements 2-7 and statement 1 parts 1 and 2, those were demonstrated to be true according to the court. Those as well don’t meet the definition of defamation because they are not false.

Only for statement 1, sub-part 3, did the court find that that portion of the statement was defamatory. To quote the court, “Thus, the Court finds that [S] has proven that [G] failed to use reasonable care to determine the truth or falsity of her statement concerning ‘forcing [G] to move in with [S],’ and the statement is not substantially true.”

For the others, the Court found as follows:

Statement 2
”Given the abundance of testimony noted above on this point, which the Court credits, the Court finds that [G] has demonstrated that Statement Two and all of its subparts true.”
Statement 3
[G] has demonstrated that Statement Three is true.
Statement 4
[G] has demonstrated that Statement Four is true.
Statement 5
[G] has demonstrated that Statement Five is true.
Statement 6
[G] has demonstrated that Statement Six is true.
Statement 7
[G] has demonstrated that Statement Seven is true.

That means for those statements, they are not defamatory because they are true according to this ruling.

Please always check with a lawyer and this is not legal advice, but broadly speaking, having a “Findings of Fact” from a court likely could be used as evidence in a substantial truth defense. This may also be why the Sacramento County Public Law Library cautions, “Any plaintiff considering filing a defamation case in court should consider the possibility that the defendant will assert a truth defense.”

Additionally, besides the above findings of fact, there were a number of times where the Court had to correct the statements claimed by [S]'s complaint. I bring this up because it’s a pattern others have noted about [S]’s “debate” style.

For statement 4, the Court noted, “[S] has taken Statement Four out of context and characterized the quote that [G] attributed to [S] as a threat when in fact the context of Statement Four makes clear that [G] was describing what initially started as a joke that [S] repeatedly made. Even when the joke no longer felt like a joke to [G], Statement Four makes clear that [S] ‘still would laugh when saying it.’”

For statement 6, the Court notes not only is the claimed statement paraphrased but also misquoted. “First, the Court notes that [G]’s February 12, 2019 post did not use the word ‘coerced’ as alleged in [S]’s Complaint. Instead, [G]’s post used the word ‘pressured,’ which is reasonably construed as an inherently subjective term[.]”

For statement 7, the Court again notes the claimed statement is paraphrased and misquoted. The exact statement was “For my birthday, he bought me my first breast implants,” but the claim has the statement as “[S] pressured [G] to obtain breast implants.”

Libel-Proof Plaintiff

I want to bring up another detail I found interesting in the ruling. Under the damages section, the judge points out not only did [S] not provide evidence of the damages that could be attributed to the single instance of defamation alleged in his suit, the defendant’s lawyer pointed to a plethora of other sources of [S]’s loss of reputation not to mention the general downturn in some activities due to Covid during this time period.

Note above that in the list of common defenses, one of them is the “libel-proof plaintiff.” From the Sacramento County Public Law Library informational guide, a libel-proof plaintiff is “[a] person whose reputation is tarnished as to have no value, such as a convicted serial killer, cannot prove damage.”

One of the issues brought up in the ruling is with everything [Z] is in the middle of, with 4 other similar suits, thoughts of suing 2 others, having “been involved in a large number of highly visible clashes with people in the role-playing games industry,” and with his allegations of harassment and “hate mob” against even more people, how can he ever show the damages can be tied to any single allegedly defamatory statement.

I have no idea if [G]'s lawyer was trying to lay the groundwork for that defense or if [S] would qualify in this case, but it was interesting to me.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are a few questions that keep coming up about this case that I’d like to discuss.

How can both parties claim to have won?

So, civil lawsuits like this can be confusing and hard because there are multiple types of winning. So in this particular case, legally speaking [S] as the plaintiff in his original complaint is the winner because he was able to find part of [G]’s statement to be defaming. Had none of the statements or subparts thereof been found defaming, he would have lost his claim.

However, just because he is listed as the winner of the case, doesn’t mean that all of the alleged defaming statements were ruled by the court to be defaming. [G] was able to prove to the court’s satisfaction that Statements 2-7 were substantially true. This not only means is she not liable for any damages from them but there is now a Statement of Fact regarding them in Court records. I hope it’s easy to see how some folks might feel that [G] won in that sense.

If the Court believes [G]’s statements 2-7 were true, how could they declare [S] the winner?

Because the Court is about the law. They are not there to make value judgments. [G] couldn’t prove the one subpart to be true according to the law and since the burden of evidence was on her, [S]’s claim stood and it was determined to be defamation.

The case was unfair so we should accept the part that supports [S] and reject the rulings that don’t

I’m seeing this argument a decent bit from a few people. There are a few things to consider with this argument.

First, everyone had to play by roughly the same rules and the rules are known at the beginning. According to this self help guide, discovery in California can start 0-10 days from the time the first papers are served and must be completed 30 days before trial. Additionally, parties often have at least 30 days to respond, so plenty of padding needs to be added in. And the rules for how to do discovery are often very strict. Not following them may mean that evidence might not be usable during trial.

Second, even after the trial starts, there are legal ways of doing things. Typically the evidence all has to be shared between the parties before it can be used, it needs to be entered into the record, the arguments need to build on each other, etc. This can seem very arbitrary and unfair, and sometimes…they are. What one judge might allow, another won’t.

But that’s the system we all agree to. That’s why defamation lawsuits can be a bit of a gamble. They are intentionally designed to be hard to win because otherwise they can be used to silence any criticism or opposition.

But no matter those feelings and arguments, the current ruling is the legal ruling. And the same arguments made by [S]’s supporters could be made regarding the one sub-part that was ruled to be defamatory. Had [G] had just a bit more time, maybe enough evidence could have been produced. Who knows? But in the end, it doesn’t matter legally.

If you have a need to see the ruling itself or any of the other records pertaining to the case, they can be downloaded from the LA County Court and the case number is 20STCV09708.

Artish Explorations: Simple Web Server Architecture as RPG Map

My day job is in tech. I spent about 10 years working as a full-stack engineer at start ups which really meant I did a bit of everything. Javascript, CSS, backend programming and configuration, etc. For the past 10 years or so, I’ve worked more on the DevOps, cloud engineer, and now security side of things.

An issue I see is that while things are less complex in many ways than they used to be, they are still complex and some spaces have gotten even more so. For cloud platforms like AWS and GCP, the more you make things simple for end users by offering higher level services, the more important the configurations become in protecting things.

So I’ve been reflecting a lot on my career lately and I had challenged myself to do something artful each day of October. One of those days, both streams converged and I created this image.

Simple WebServerSimple WebServer

It’s a simple web server portrayed as a small one-bedroom house. It’s sort of just out there and people could in theory approach from any direction.

The front door is to the top of the drawing and it leads to a simple entry way. I used a proxy icon as a rug in the room. In my mind, I was thinking of that front door as port 443, which is the port often assigned for secure hypertext protocol (http) traffic. Today, it’s the main way we should be conversing on the public internet although sometimes we open up other means.

Off of the entry there are just two options. One can go to the living room or the dining room. For the Living room, I have three pieces of furniture representing the common types of static content: html (the structure of web pages), css (the design for web pages), and javascript (providing some dynamic elements, fetching information via apis, etc). Living rooms tend to be more formal and rigid.

The dining room for me represented the first level of the backend, the part that most application developers out there would be working on. It’s taking the outputs of a lot of more private (like the database) or semi-private (such as the kitchen or family room) and making it into something that guests might like.

There’s a pretty free flow between the dining room and the semi-private areas. That’s because there often has to be communication between libraries or other services on the machine. And sometimes we might even invite our guests to be part of those areas for us. However, the bedroom (which represents the data layers on our web server) has a door and we likely will limit who goes through there.

That said, as with many simple public web servers, there are a few flaws with this architecture.

A notable one is that the house’s only bathroom is inside the bedroom. We often have this in web servers too. We sometimes have to let guests into the most sensitive areas of our systems because we don’t have a place to duplicate the service in a safe way.

Likewise, in order for us to have easy access to our kitchen, we have a door that opens near where we park our cars. While we can use a different key, keep it locked, etc, it can be very difficult to ensure only we can get in the back door.

Additionally, if things grow, like we get a bunch of valuable stuff, it’s hard for us to store it without potentially giving guests access to it. If we want more security, it has to go in that little bedroom. We don’t have a good way to scale out as our life changes.

I super enjoyed exploring these ideas in this way. I’m tempted to continue with the metaphor. :)

Send feedback using the contact form or through twitter, @sarahdarkmagic.

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