Fundie Divorce and Other Dramas

What god has put together let no man put asunder, goes the line. And since judges are men, and laws are written by men that means that divorce, if you’re a Biblical literalist, seems? Bad? I mean a Biblical literalist might look at all the times that people in the Bible married multiple women and also had concubines as well, and there were laws about doing a divorce but Jesus said it was only because of sin and then Paul said it’d be better if you never got married in the first place but this is only useful for spherical christians in a vacuum.

How do you think fundamentalist churches handle divorces? Setting aside the way that, as human beings in a social setting may actually handle something like this sensible, the fundie environment is one with a lot of its own special traditions and rules. Rules like how to absolutely mishandle a complex topic like a divorce.

an icon showing a pair of linked rings

And just to be clear on this one by the way, I am 100% pro-divorce. I think divorces are good. They suck to experience, I don’t think anyone goes into a divorce going ‘eff yeah, time to be divorced!’ but I think if a relationship is collapsing or failing nobody should be trying to stick around and force it into working when it doesn’t. Which is why an environment that makes this hard decision worse uh, sucks. And it sucks because of techniques liiike…

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Remote Romance Is Older Than Boomers

Have you ever seen the word Swalk?

If you read, say, Biggles-style media, if you’re interested in World War 2 period media, you might have seen it, S W A L K, somewhere, usually on a letter, sometimes graffiti, maybe sometimes mentioned aloud. I saw it on a BC comic, by Johnny Hart, which isn’t an archive worth diving for an example. I can just imagine Hugh Lawrie saying it, in that doleful, soppy, romantic, I-know-I’m-the-stupid-person-in-the-room way of a Blackadder or Jeeves And Wooster episode, though I’ve no idea if at any point he says it. I know it came up on an episode of QI — part of a technique that came up in World War 2 for communicating a crude message to the recipient, in a way that looked deniable to anyone overseeing it.

See, you might see, on the back of an envelope, the letters SWAK or SWALK. It stood for ‘Sealed With A Loving Kiss.’ There were others like BURMA and NORWICH – and they were, mostly, filthy. It’s a touch of human contact during a period of extreme deprivation.

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Story Pile: Insomniacs After School

Introducing excellent things is hard. It’s hard for me because I naturally stray towards the understated or the contrary. You’ve probably heard me call something ‘boringly excellent,’ for example, and that means when I call something incredible or amazing, you might think that puts it on the same category as a really good sandwich or a really interesting academic concept, as opposed to here, where what I want to say is this romance anime is so good I find myself periodically nostalgic for the childhood it depicts that I never had even though it’s about kids with anxiety struggling to make a lot of friends.

This is an amazing story, it has lovely moments, it brings me joy, and I want to share that with you.

Spoiler Warning: I’m going to disclose some facts about the end of the series, and the nature of the kind of show it is, and what kind of show it’s not. Like, if you think ‘this series doesn’t include a mech battle’ is a spoiler, then yeah, you got me, it’s a spoiler, but I don’t plan on going deep on revelations about the eventual plot, okay?

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How To Be: Cassandra and Rapunzel from Tangled (In 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

You know the story of Rapunzel? The kid’s story about a girl with long hair in a tower which you can tell as a bedtime story and it takes maybe ten minutes, fifteen if you’re doing a lot with the voices and details and want to make the witch’s end really grisly? Well, yeah, turns out that got a movie back in the day and then that movie got a TV series and that TV series kicks ass, and so for this Smooch Month, I decided to try and make an article about base-level optimising choices for a pair of characters, a battle couple. In this case, one of those Battle Couple members is Rapunzel, the hero of the story Rapunzel, and the other is, uh

Her name’s Cass.

a book cover meant to look like a 4th edition expansion book, showing art of Cassandra and Rapunzel from Tangled, the Series, with the text on it "Tangled synergy" and "Crossing the line twice." The art is by Nonadraws
Original art by Nonadraws

And hey, I’m going to talk about some spoilers for a kid’s cartoon you probably didn’t watch but I do like it and I think if you care about spoilers, well you should watch it without me being the way you find out about the third story arc of the TV series and what it means okay byeee.

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The Girl Who Loved Powerglide

Wait wait wait no this is about Transformers.

Transformers, in the 1980s, was a toy commercial. It was a toy commercial in the purest sense; every component that made it up was made in service of its purpose as a commercial material that was meant to frame commercials around it. It was, in the way that modern creators are struggling to avoid mentioning, hash-tag-content. There’s a standard opening, a standard ending, and three bumpers for just before The Commercials (Transformers Will Be Back, After These Messages) but those messages weren’t important. Those messages were other people paying Transformers money for making Transformers, but Transformers was double dipping. They were getting paid money to sell the space for these advertisements in their advertisement, for their toys. These bumpers were so important that in some episodes, the third bumper would appear, then an ad break and you’d wait through the ad break to come back to just watch the ending credits of the show. Got me again, there!

A screencap from the TV episode 'The Girl Who Loved Powerglide.' It shows Powerglide in flight.

These toys imposed a material demand on Transformers as a cartoon. Episodes wanted to focus on the toys that you could buy, and this meant that people got attached to toys with certain trends. For example, while there was Fortress Maximus, that toy had an original price tag of around $99 United States Eaglebucks, and as a result, there were maybe four or five episodes of the show that bothered to show you anything to do with Fortress Maximus despite him being basically a city they lived in.

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FFXIV: Rin Stormenni

This is an explanatory writeup of one of my Original Characters (OCs). Nothing here is necessarily related to a meaningful fiction you should recognise and is shared because I think my OCs are cool and it’s cool to talk about OCs you make.


An image of Rin Stormenni, a brown-skinned, blue-haired Viera bunny boy. He is wearing a midriff armour top, and a featureless visor mask that hides his expression in the middle of an old city. The image has blood and burnmarks in the background.

“If you follow this path, of this abyss of love, then you must do it knowing. You will be bane, outcast, criminal, rival, sinner. All the world will hate you, young one, and you will have no kingdom but that of strife.”

The young man beamed, dripping still with tyrant’s blood.

“Then I shall be the Prince of a Thousand Enemies.”

Self-made outcast. Valiant crusader. End of days. Bun goes hop.

It’s not arrogance if it’s justified.

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Story Pile: A Tail Of Love

As is tradition here on press.exe, I feel it’s important that any consideration of smooch media include something that’s complete crap. To that end, I watch a Hallmark movie, a bottomless trove of skidmarks, and I bring along Fox to talk about it with me. Since Fox needs a hook to watch a Hallmark movie, we inevitably watch a movie that is about Dogs, because you can rely on Hallmark to make dog movies that are completely bananas.

The poster for the Hallmark movie Tail of Love. It depicts two generic white people looking out at the camera, holding dogs, in front of a neutral blue background.

A Mechanic For Love

Hey, have I shown you this already?

A card face illustration. The left side is dedicated to a tall region called 'tall portrait + name plate'. The right hand is split into a section labelled 'rules', then 'payout 3,'
payout 2,' and 'payout 1'.

This is a card that’s meant to represent a piece in a worker placement game, where the pieces also represent the places they’re meant to be placed. And I think this might be a game where your workers can date other people’s workers.

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The Unhinged Performative Heteronormativity of Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie

Hey boy. Does your girl:

  • Change her gender presentation mid-volleyball match?
  • Demonstrate the kind of expertise in dire circumstances from a martial arts superhero story?
  • Deliberately change her gender presentation to become a perfect girl as represented in Shoujou Manga?
  • Take her rivals for your affection out on day dates where she gives her gifts and wins her prizes?
  • Flirt with your mom?

Then she’s not your girl. She’s Shikimori from Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie and I’ve just been stewing about how unhinged that series is.

Spoilers ahead!

A screencap from the anime Shikimori's not just a cutie. It shows Shikimori from the opening thinking about clothes
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Game Pile: Thirsty Sword Lesbians

I feel ill equipped to even examine this book.

I do not think I am considered aesthetically or in my presentation particularly thirsty, I own no swords nor do I feel that that’s a deeply spiritual failing on my part, and I am not in any but the most technically accepting and deliberately broad definition an lesbians. I’m not asking for anyone to change the qualifications on my part.

splash art from the game Thirsty Sword Lesbians.

“Ah,” you may glibly say, “Talen, that doesn’t mean you have to be those things to participate in this game,” okay, cool, great, thank you for explaining the basics of fiction to me. I can understand that that’s something you may feel you have to do with my demonstration of difficulty grappling with that.

Come along, and maybe you’ll learn more about me by listening to me, as I talk about this book, and the game it ostensibly is about.

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MTG: Wife Guy Decks

There are 43 legendary creature cards in Magic: The Gathering that use the word ‘And’ in their name, which is used to represent a pair of creatures. For a number of them, like Firesong and Sunspeaker, or Tibor and Lumia, these cards represent relatives, and I have done my best to check for these, and also the pairing with actual children in them. Here then presented are ten different decks where your commander represents some measure of Wife Guyness.

 Anax and Cymede {1}{R}{W}Legendary Creature — Human SoldierFirst strike, vigilanceHeroic — Whenever you cast a spell that targets Anax and Cymede, creatures you control get +1/+1 and gain trample until end of turn.Akros’s greatest heroes are also its royalty.
3/2
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How do Pokemon Breed?

I’m something of an originalist in Pokemon. I think that the games are the core of what the narrative flows from and everything else is flexible story that builds on that. What’s more, in Pokemon, people can say things, but there’s nothing saying that they’re right. People are wrong all the time in Pokemon, and sometimes people even lie to the player characters, to themselves, or to one another.  What’s more, the player character is a kid, somewhat, but also a kid who is experimenting with and learning about Pokemon training and breeding, so chances are good, people would explain the useful things to them.

But they don’t.

an image of the red-blue-yellow day care centre, where you couldn't breed pokemon.
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Story Pile: Tomo-Chan Is A Girl!

This time last year I wrote about the at-the-time meme-of-a-show, Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie. That anime was ‘renowned’, because it had a really good trailer, and by really good I mean it made a bunch of lesbians sigh. Perhaps because it was first brought to my attention by a bunch of women saying ‘I want to be her’ or ‘I want to be hers’ I first approached that series wondering if this was going to be an ultimately unsatisfying experience for y’know, queer women. This meant I watched all thirteen episodes expecting or imagining something else was going to happen, attentive and focused for some possible insight into whatever this anime was doing that was a bit different, a bit cleverer, and in the process, I wound up really enjoying the series. I liked it, I liked the characters it showed me, I liked a lot of the jokes (even wound up sharing a few of them) and I thought it was a really good launching off point for some discussions. I still think that it’s one of the better articles I wrote last year, and part of why was because I took an anime about a subject I’m normally not interested in – romantic comedy – and gave it a fully focused, critical look.

the promo poster for Tomo-chan is a girl, showing Tomo and whats-his-name back to back. The tagline is "I may be tough but I still want to hear him say 'I love you.'"

That was the lens for Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie, and it encouraged me to try the next thing in the same genre that caught my eye, which is why I watched Tomo-Chan’s A Girl, another anime that promised to be about relationships to gender, relationships, and how difficult it can be for two completely compatible people to get over their own hang-ups and actually talk to one another about how much they want to kiss. This is a great follow-up to Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie, though, because it means now I have a point of contrast for Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie with a much, much dumber show.

Content Warning and Spoiler Warning! Tomo-Chan Is A Girl is a series that has some low-key gender feels (a woman wondering about how she can be legitimised as a woman) and some pretty lousy ways for people to talk about girls, and oh also, an incident of sexual assault in the second episode.  I’m going to spoil things in this series, as indicated by that mentioning of something from the second episode.

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Homestuck 1/2

Alright, look, I made the banner graphic let’s tear the bandaid off.

a banner in the Ranma 1/2 style that says 'Homestuck 1/2'

I make fun of Homestuck and have no intention to stop doing so, but I do so based on the series and interactions with its fans and the creator’s opinions and – look I’m not doing a good job of setting this up, this is a very meta and tortured introduction that doesn’t get to the point, and therefore, by Homestuck standards, it’s good. But what I am trying to get to is that Homestuck is a space that’s super important to people in a way that to me, an older internet denizen, rings true of the Ranma 1/2 fandom.

You know, it was a space full of romance roleplays and weird sexy exploration, and a bunch of queers used it to work themselves out and in the process learned from one another about what it meant to be queer.

I think the overlap between these spaces is a synthesis of three ideas: Isolation, Play, and Smoochiness.

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What’s Marriage For?

Marriage is a thing that’s so important to our culture and media that you’ll see it in an embarrassing quantity of everything. Setting aside media genres that are just dedicated to some version of it (and yeah, a lot of those ‘romantic’ things people are making are really just just about marriage things), there’s still stuff in our language and everyday common existence that speaks of marriage. If nothing else, consider we have a mode of address that specifies whether or not a woman is married, and asking to not be treated with that language is seen as a different dispensation. It is, to the audience of most of this conversation, a thing that The Empire tells us

What does it mean to be ‘married?’

an icon showing a pair of linked rings
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The Ranma 1/2 Subreddit is Repeating History

When you get older you start to see cycles. Things that are new and horrifying to you, later in your life, you can recontextualise those things compared to other new things. I saw the Soviet Union collapse and I saw 9/11 happen within ten years of one another, and uh, that prepared me for basically nothing. Bad example. Oh the financial crash of 2007, which led to a financial crash of, uh, you know what maybe I picked some bad examples. But you know one thing that’s cyclical in a way that can be appreciated and not a huge bummer?

Fandoms.

A screencap from the anime Ranma 1/2. It depicts Ranma, Soun, Shampoo, Ryouga and Mousse. They are just posing.

Platforms come and go and when platforms are convenient to build on, fandoms will form and reform on platforms. Old cliques and ideas be fled and new societies will bloom around the same core texts and they will always differ, they’ll always have their own varieties and peculiarities, but some things, some things will endure.

Like Ranma ½ discourse.

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Can a Bird Love A Falcon

Since last year’s Locked Tomb readings got me nostalgic and retrospective, it was only a matter of time before I retreated back to earliest media of my post-cult life, the stuff that stands tall in my mind as some of my first lessons in how to be normal. So I picked the thing with a bunch of PTSD and existential horror.

Let’s talk about the Rachel/Tobias ship.

an angular icon of a hawk

Spoiler Warning: If you’re ever planning on reading the Animorphs story, this article is going to spoil some events that happen in the last half of it. And since this is about Animorphs I guess Content Warning for war death trauma body integrity horror uh mind control uh cannibalism uh what’s the term for beating someone to death with one of your own severed limbs, that.

That.

Animorphs is a lot.

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4e For Two

A common complaint amongst fans of Dungeons And Or Dragons is that organising a playgroup is hard. It’s a game with a lot of investment, a lot you can do outside the game to play with it, and people love to play with it in those ways – I mean what are these articles if not me playing with D&D when I’m not playing D&D? – but there’s a thing that people talk about from time to time when trying to circumvent the challenges of running D&D which is:

an icon of a dragon's head

What if D&D but fewer players?

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Story Pile: D.E.B.S.

The term ‘cult classic’ gets used more than I’m comfortable with what with having been in a cult and not being considered classic by anyone, but I do think it’s important to recognise that the term has some weight. For example, this movie, D.E.B.S, pronounced ‘Debs’ is considered a cult classic of LGBTQ media. It does this in a way that if this movie came out in 2023, it would be considered a pretty funny epsiode of a TV Show, with no edge or bite to it. It looks like a pretty fun Onlyfans promotional poster. It has the overall aesthetic of The Porno Version Of Itself. D.E.B.S. is a lot of things and one of them is cheap.

A screencap from the movie D.E.B.S. It depicts the principle characters posing with guns.

But it’s also a lot of fun.

Content and Spoiler Warning: I think it’s important to say up front that despite being a pop-punk comedy movie from 2004 renowned as a ‘cult classic’ in queer communities, this is a movie that both asks and tells, and to my surprise featured just one instance of ‘oh well that didn’t age well’ in the form of an incidental drop of the r-word. I’m also going to spoil the whole movie’s plot but don’t worry if you’ve ever seen a TV Show you’ve probably already spoiled it for yourself.

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Vox Maxima Story Spotlight 1 — All The Emperor’s Daughters

What follows here is a discussion of what, if I had the means and writer tools to make my Custom Magic set have proper story spotlight material, it’d look like this, it’d be built out of this. This is basically about story mechanics underlying a game system, and I want to present it to you so you can have a handle on what it looks like when I’m trying to explain game narratives for the presentation of conventional narratives.

This first section is going to be the establishing shot; it discusses the characters that are going to be introduced, the goals of this story section, and then the beats of the story that the writer can then take as their subsequent storytelling. This helps inform character dynamics for flavour text and the later appearances of characters on cards.

Vox Maxima is a custom magic set created by Talen Lee. It’s composed of 187 cards, with 71 commons, 60 uncommons, 41 rares, and 15 mythic rares. Vox Decima is a custom Magic: The Gathering set, with at least one card spoiled a day, on Cohost, Kind.Social, and the r/custommagic subreddit.

WOTC Employees: This post in full presents unsolicited custom Magic: The Gathering card designs, which I understand current employee practices forbid you from looking at unsolicited. You shouldn’t be here!

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Vox Maxima Gallery 1: The Emperor’s World

Ten years, ten long years of life, disappeared from the collective memory of all citizens of the world. People blink and wake up, seeing about themselves a world defined by new factions, new ideas, and new technologies, many of which they may have even had their hand in inventing.

Where am I? What’s going on? This isn’t the body I remembered, people don’t call me the name I remember – what has happened to us.

This is the new world of the Vox Maxima – waking up the moment after, all the anxieties of before confronting a new world, and a new life. What is this world, and what is present here? What is strange and what is it that your damaged memory can manage as being somehow normal?

Vox Maxima is a custom magic set created by Talen Lee. It’s composed of 187 cards, with 71 commons, 60 uncommons, 41 rares, and 15 mythic rares. Vox Decima is a custom Magic: The Gathering set, with at least one card spoiled a day, on Cohost, Kind.Social, and the r/custommagic subreddit.

WOTC Employees: This post in full presents unsolicited custom Magic: The Gathering card designs, which I understand current employee practices forbid you from looking at unsolicited. You shouldn’t be here!

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Game Pile: Dream Crush

Back before you, satistically, were born, there was this thing called The Nineteen Hundred and Eighties. These are defined by nobody my age properly remembering them and attributing all sorts of things to them that didn’t necessarily exist. But also in that space, there were things like dating TV game shows, which took off in the 1970s and were petering out by the 80s.

Oh okay, so a dating TV game show is a TV game show where the premise is one of the prizes is a really cool date, and you win it by picking one of the potential dates and going out together.

Oh, so a TV game show is a type of game where the game is played primarily on TV, for an audience and—

Oh okay, so a TV is like a really big phone that only could receive streams from five people—

a picture of the game Dream Crush, showing the box and pieces set up. Sourced from Boardgamegeek's Image collection.

Anyway, the board game Dream Crush.

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Smooch Month 2024

Welcome to Smooch Month here on Press Dot Exe! It’s a month to consider and celebrate and scrutinise at length media that centres and focuses on what you might normally see called romantic media. At some point years ago, I offhandedly referenced the idea that ‘romantic’ is a term best suited to being about feelings and then that’s how I’ve used it ever since and in the process trapped myself into using the term ‘smooch month’ when what I mean, ostensibly, is exactly what everyone else means, in common language, romantic media.

And so! Here we are, with the idea of smooch media!

an image of a calendar, overlaid with the word 'february', along with some smoochy lips and a heart
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January 2024 Wrapup

One month down! 2024’s going to be easy, you’re going to see! We made it this far, we just have to do this again and I’m sure we’ll find a way. This month has seen a Games Done Quick event, a bunch of videos, five story piles!

Let’s get into it, looking at what you might have already seen and what you might have missed if you’re at all a fan of Things Talen makes!

an icon of a dice with question marks on the sides.
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For Love Of Novelty

There’s this idea in board game discourse of ‘the cult of the new.’ I’m sure it exists elsewhere, but I can see it very much in the culture of spaces like BoardgameGeek, and I always like making fun of that site, so I shall do so. The idea is that new things get more attention and are considered more worthy than old things, and this is true even if the old things aren’t actually all that old. At the time of writing, the oldest game in the BoardgameGeek top 10 is War of the Ring: Second Edition, which is from 2011. While sure, 2011 is 13 years ago, it is pretty interesting that this is a hobby with important representatives from the 1960s, 1920s, 1880s, and then we get into things like Chess and everything gets weird.

And it isn’t just that these older games like Uno and Scrabble aren’t considered part of the ranking system on BoardgameGeek, that the site is categorically unrelated. They absolutely are, and you can see their place in the rating system that they have. It’s a funny thing that I’ve spoken about called the tail of spite, and a smarter scientist than I have written about it.

An icon of a present in a box with a ribbon.
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Story Pile: Afterschool Dice Club

Hey this is a blog where I tell you stories about games so what if I told you about a story that tells you stories about games? Well, would you believe there’s an entire anime in the Cute Girls Doing Cute Things genre that’s just… about games?

No no no – not videogames. Nor making videogames. Not any of those anime about MMORPGs. Not even the ones that are tie-ins to games like the Atelier or Persona or Legend of Mana anime. I mean an anime about board games. Yeah, I found one of those!

It’s really mid! And I love it!

A screencap from the anime Afterschool Dice Club showing a blue haired girl looking at a board game.
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