The Laewaes Dramaturgists

Arcane magic represents the most important discipline available to us in which people across all the world can come together to share our notes and experiences in order to construct a vision of how this system functions that is coherent and precise and replicable and also probably in some way, fundamentally wrong.

Archmagus Laewaes I

Look I just want to tell you about a cool adventure site and backstory hook from Cobrin’Seil that’s about something I care about a lot recently, which is a university system in-setting. It just takes a bit of a walk to get there because it involves understanding Arcane magic and how it differs from Divine magic, Primal Magic, and Psionics in the setting.

Art from the Wizards of the Coast Wallpaper pack from Strixhaven. it shows students hanging out in a library.
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Planar Lensing

How many wheres are there?

There are three major media franchises these days that all work with the idea of multiplanar worlds. Sometimes this involves creating a huge and complicated network of just coincidentally competing brand merchandise lines, where two companies bickering about a contract results in a storytelling direction that explains why Uncle Ben is a different guy, but sometimes it’s a direct choice and it’s done because you want a new place to be, a new whole world to play with.

When building worlds, adding these ‘alternate worlds’ – referred to as planes hereon out – can be a great way to continue the ongoing need of the worldbuilder, which is where am I going to put all this stuff? What I’d like to present here are just some ways to talk about how you’re using planar spaces in your worlds.

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Well What if I Was In Charge Of Pokemon If I’m So Bloody Smart?

No matter where you are on the internet, whatever the fandom is, someone is always going to ask about what you’d do if you were in charge of it. For example, a lot of Bible fans are very convinced that their fanfiction is actually factually true. Whether it’s fantasy Wrestlemanias or ideal outfit compositions in Pretty Little Liars, there’s always an urge to take a thing you already know and make your version of it.

Also, people who like Pokemon routinely talk about what stupid idiots the designers are and how they could do a better job of running the game. I don’t think I could, because I know there are competing factors and I think that everyone who opens their mouth to talk like that sounds like a tool.

Still, if I think those people are silly, it’s easy to say that if I don’t put myself out there, right?

Here! A bunch of opinions about what I think should be done in Pokemon as a game franchise. Nothing like ‘open world matters’, I think the game should always be a competitive 2v2 Bo3 format and the rest of the game can follow from that. I also don’t think that this would make the game better. It’s very important that I put it out there, on my sleeve, that none of these changes are based on deep insight into the game or the way that it should be. No. This is a centering of myself, as a designer, and as a player of games. This is how I want it done. Also note that none of these changes are simple or oblative, like, this isn’t all that I think should happen, there would need to be specific changes and fine tuning for all these pushes.

There, preamble done, here’s how and where I’m right.

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Story Pile: 16 Bit Sensation (And Another Layer I Guess)

Ah, Talen month, Talen month! A month where I celebrate media I love, or maybe media I really want to talk about. Media I want to talk about possibly because I think it’s a topic I would normally find too mean, or too cruel to focus on. After all who wants to hear me vent or complain or just drag something for being mediocre.

I do!

It’s Talen Month, and this time around I’m going to do something different in that I’m going to talk about something amazing, something I love, a manga that I think is genuinely, wholeheartedly excellent that you can blitz through in an afternoon, and also, uh, the anime spinoff of it that serves in my mind as one of the examples of how 2023 just was a mid freaking year for anime. I want to talk to you about one of my favourite genres of media, ‘people making things from an insider perspective, with a dash of economic structures,’ and then one of my least favourites, ‘spinoff that is embarrassed to be associated with a much, much better piece of media.’

A cover from the 16 bit sensation manga. It shows Meiko resting her head on a computer.

Up front before I dive in, I’m going to talk about both the manga 16 Bit Sensation and I’m also going to talk about the anime with a similar name, 16 Bit Sensation: Another Layer. I’m going to spoil details about the storyline of Another Layer, which I don’t think should be a problem because I don’t think it’s any good and it’s not like spoiling it would be in any way a diminishment of your enjoyment of it.

Because I don’t find it very enjoyable.

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The Brilliant Fool

Normally when I write here about a Transformers character, it’s a character who has some significance to me as – well, honestly, as an example of a kind of person I could be, growing up. Blades gave me a lesson about quelling the want for violence inside me and also how defensive violent bf /softboy medic bf was a top tier pairing, and Dinobot gave me lessons about dying well in the face of oblivion, a lesson that I thought I needed really soon when I got it. There are Transformers I love because of jokes, Transformers I love because of association with toys and there are some Transformers that I love because they are, through no fault of their own, completely useless doofuses.

Let’s talk about Wheeljack

a picture of Wheeljack
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3e: Objection to Formula

When I started on this article, the plan was to talk to you about the magic item system in D&D 3rd edition, and let’s put a pin in the word ‘system’ there. But engaging with it meant looking at a place in history and a realisation of how I’m not just talking about stuff from an earlier edition of D&D I’m talking to you about an earlier version of myself.

As long as there has been an online, it seems, I have wanted to make things and put them on there.

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Game Pile: Gazillionaire

In 1994, the videogame company Lavamind released the game Gazillionaire, which was in its purest form a sort of spreadsheet software with a random number generator built in. A bunch of trading companies kick off at the same point in time engaging in transport and trade. You go to a planet, which has its own weirdo economy and its own current supply and demand of goods, buy what you want, sell what you want, and head off to a new location to make a profit on those goods. There are all layers of complexity here, with things like warehousing and random events along the way, and every planet has its own specialised services and its own stock market you can use to invest in.

And it looks



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Wip Assessment 1

I keep my files organised in directories on my hard drive, which is a thing the youths don’t do any more, because of woke. I even use silly tricks to handle how they’re organised. Did you know you can put a ! on the front of a directory name, which will ensure it’s always sorted to the top of the list, so if there’s some sort of universal toolset or template directory you want, you can use that to keep it up the top for easy access? These are useful tips for if you want to run the Windows version of Xtree Gold, which they call ‘Explorer’ to manage your files.

A banner showing several of the card backs of my games.

I keep my games in progress there. Hypothetically, that’s also where completed games go. I haven’t completed many games this year. Or last year. Or — look, it’s been rough since basically 2020, that’s when I can say for sure things got difficult. There have been a lot of reasons to slow down production, not the least of which is just money. Making games is a hobby and it costs money and I’ve just not had as much to play with lately. Shipping costs have changed, production costs have changed. I’ve talked about this before.

But those are why the game doesn’t get pushed to a product that I can sell you.

As of this moment I have 34 directories in my GameDev directory, with components of games of some degree or another, that are all labeleld as, in their own way, ‘WIP.’ Works in Progress. What are they waiting on? What is keeping the Works In Progress as In Progress?

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CoX: Bael

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.

A piece of art of my OC Bael, from City of Heroes. He is a shirtless demon with runes on his upper body, white hair, and curled rams horns.

So he’s an incubus? Is that the word for a boy one?”
“Succubus and Incubus refer to ‘bottom’ and ‘top’, you know.”
“Whoah, really? Then which one is he?”


Bael really doesn’t like the word ‘sidekick.’ It hovered over him too long – first as a Demon Prince’s human-world emissary, then the caged pet of a Thorn mage, and finally as the protege of one of Paragon’s heroes. It was a tightly-packed few years.

Now the leader of the Young Spartans, Bael makes it his job to get the best out of his entire team.

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MTG: Black, Enchantments, and Black Enchantments

Bit of a two parter here, folks~! Since I’m playing more Magic: The Gathering thanks to Arena, I have decks I play around with. I want to think about the decks I’ve been playing with later, I want to look back and see what I thought of them, and that means, yep, using the blog as a history of my life. Like some kind of web-log. Anyway, what that means is I’m going to talk about a thing that I’m thinking about in Magic: The Gathering, then I’m going to talk about a deck I’ve been playing that reminds me of it the idea! Cool? Cool. Cool!

Anyway, I don’t like black enchantment hate.

In Magic: The Gathering, to be specific.

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Story Pile: You Were Never Really Here

It’s entirely possible for an immaculate vibe to be of something that is, itself, rancid.

The movie poster for You Were Never Really Here.

Content Warning: This is a movie with a lot of suicidal ideation and the sexual endangerment of children and teenagers. You don’t see anything but it’s absolutely part of the plot. I’m also going to describe things that involve the later part of the plot. If all you want to know is ‘did I like it,’ I liked it a lot and I consider it a very good example of a very specific kind of media I like.

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Vox Maxima Story Spotlight 3 — The Million Eyes

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 third section indicates the midpoint of the story and the collapse of a lot of hopeful ideas; this is where the party meets with the Jatku Outcasts in their jungle fortress, and learns the horrible truths about the Necrocalypse, the Emperor, and the truth of the dead woman Jatku, mother to one of the Princesses.

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 3: The Iacon Colleges

The Iacon Colleges represent the coalition of the finest magewrights, researchers and technician in the Kraivh Empire. The Empire is a place of faith and trust, but it is to the colleges they turn when they want to make their vaulted cathedrals and also sick sky skimmers. The Iacon Colleges represent a drive to understand the world that the Emperor is keeping safe, and the Iacon Colleges do so through rigorous study, abandonment of the unnecessary, and a kind of focus that could drive a mushroom through a solid concrete slab.

It is the Iacon College who first spoke of the coming disaster, it is the Iacon College that can find murky shards of lost history, it is the Iacon College whose great towering spires, near to the heart of the Empire, most closely align with the needs of the empire. Where a billion are lost, many of them are lost in the Colleges, and all they have left behind are parts and notes. The Iacon Colleges seek to remake their history, even if they have to time travel to do it.

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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Why Is Druid?

Say that like ‘where is Wizard Hut?

I love the 4e Druid. This is a marked change from how much I liked the 3e druid, or how often you might see me playing a druid in a Baldur’s Gate game. Back in 3rd edition, the druid, despite being very powerful, never really engaged me, in part perhaps because I was always trying to find something exploitative and powerful rather than merely accepting the juggernaut of a toolkit the game just left in the Player’s Handbook. You couldn’t get clever with the Druid, you just had to pick it up and use it, like some sort of society of creative anachronisms where one of the anachronisms available to the players was has gun. Valid, but hardly sporting.

The Druid in 4th edition is different. Wildly different. Weirdly different, and different in one of those ways that shows what I think of as a seam in the design between 4th and 3rd editions of D&D.

Art from the Magic card Bloom Tender, by chippy. It depicts a horned elf touching a flower in a midnight scene.
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Mistral Motion

I think about the responsibility I have to an audience.

TISM Play Mistral For Me

One of the fun things about getting older is seeing the ways that things you have had in your head for a long time have endured. You get to see the thread reaching back all those years and how many things you’ve got that you do that you can connect to odd or interesting sources. Fox and I routinely reference Strong Bad Emails at one another, sometimes with the right level of levity (“look who thinks he’s clever dan“). Quotes from the Bible, inflections from 1990s sitcoms, the occasional idiom from a They Might Be Giants song. Sometimes, I’ll stop mid-sentence and we’ll have a little chat about oh, huh, I guess that’s where that’s from, huh.

These are literally memes; they’re transmisable ideas, things that cling to the memory and can be easily exchanged, which in turn promotes their existence. They are used for a meaning below their exact meaning. If I say someone’s Clever Dan it’s bringing with it a framing that speaks of children’s cartoons.

It takes a great person to get an idea
But don’t go public, it’ll ruin the plan
‘Cause no matter how intelligent or clever you are
You’re only as good as your fans

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Talen Month 2024!

Welcome to Talen Month here on press dot invincible dot ink!

A pattern has formed, a groove has been worn, and I treat April as a month in which I’m going to focus on writing about indulgent, entirely self-serving nonsense. No topic is too niche, no character exploration too unnecessary, and no corner case complaint about some other nonsense is too specific for me to do it if it tickles me distinctly and doesn’t also fit better into another theme month.

Like, c’mon, there’s gotta be something for Dread Month and Tricks Month. October and August if you’re new here.

But what does this actually mean?

A shot of a calendar with my old avatar overlaid on it.
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Story Pile: Hazbin Hotel


so I like this a lot I guess.

It wasn’t like I approached Hazbin Hotel expecting to find a thing I loved. It was something a friend was interested in and I watched it with them because I love them to pieces and it seemed interesting enough. I wasn’t expecting to really enjoy myself so much – in fact my predominant thoughts about Hazbin Hotel prior to that was that it was media made for someone younger than me with a reference pool shallower than mine, an Edgy Cartoon made by someone who bootstrapped their way into heading up an animation studio. Quite frankly, the story to me of how Hazbin Hotel happened was so much more interesting than anything Hazbin Hotel was offering me!

Here’s your line though! This is your Spoiler Warning for a series that’s got hidden information in it (though doesn’t every story), and your Content Warning for a series that’s pretty heavy on cartoon sex references, drug references, and over-the-top violence. It’s pretty funny in terms of what kind of show it is in that okay, aside from more f-bombs than you’d assume and more c-bombs than I’d ever expect, but other than that I don’t feel like it does a lot with its higher rating. Still:

  • Parental neglect
  • Drug addiction
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Gambling addiction
  • Sex work
  • A friendly local neighbourhood serial killer
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March 2024 Wrapup

Well, let’s see there, gamersmen, what was March all about, now it’s over? Did you check the blog daily? I update it every day. That’s a lie, it updates itself every day. I try to limit myself to writing one thing every day now I have a good solid track laid out in front of me, but there’s always something new here every day. I bet you didn’t see all of them. Oh, you did? You liked the days of March? Well name every one.

an icon of shoes
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3e: Sticks and Stones

Alright I’m up late and the thing I was working on didn’t work and I don’t want to fall behind on my schedule so let’s just belt out something about the ongoing grievance I have in how 3rd edition D&D treated spellcasters as a better class of people with their own higher standard of living because being able to rewrite reality at will is by no means a perk enough to justify not feeling bummed out.

Let me talk to you about sticks and stones powers.

An illustration of some Power Stones from the Expanded Psionics Handbook
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Game Pile: Cockroach Poker

If you search my blog for this game, you will find mentions of it. You will find references to it, and discussions of it in the context of making games, redesigning mechanics, and even mentioned in an anime where they play Cockroach Poker. I own a copy of this game, and yet somehow I’ve never presented a Game Pile article on its own about this game.

It feels like I should have gotten to this before now, but describing Cockroach Poker almost feels like I’m diagramming a fractal. Come on, then, learn about some of the smallest and tightest Units Of Game you can get.

The box and many cards from the game Cockroach Poker
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Hecsenfore, Part 2

This article builds on the previous two articles about the formation and lived culture of the necrostate city Hecsenfore, in the setting of Cobrin’Seil. If you have questions, it’s probably answered there, to start with, and this article just jumps straight into describing more of the districts of the city and what life is like in them.

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Hecsenfore, Part 1

The previous article involved a long form discussion of the history and potential formation of a necrostate that could, hypothetically, in the future, integrate with the Eresh Protectorate. With all that preamble out of the way, this article presents the first part of the long-form writeup of the city state that is known by its name:


Coastal heavily urbanised independent city-state, The Land of White Ravens, the Graveless State, The Internal Labyrinth, The Obsession, The Eresh Outcast

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Hecsenfore, A Necrostate in Principle

There’s this quote, from The Great Dictator:

To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish…

So long as men die, liberty will never perish. This is an idea that works for a variety of places to represent bad rulership, to show undying and unrelenting leaders. In Cobrin’Seil, I use places with undead rulership enough to give them their own technical name, that of a necrostate. A necrostate refers to a polity in which the ruler or ruling class is represented by the dead. In the real world, there is an extant necrostate (North Korea), but that’s ceremonial, in much the same way that a theocracy doesn’t need a real god to exist for the power to be situated in the hands of religious leadership.

But where dictators do not die, where the ruling class do not naturally cede power as human structural limits, can you form a reasonable, tolerable, culturally diverse and stable necrostate? How does something with an immortal, predatory ruling class get created and managed in a way that still creates a place where the people who live there are not in danger of permanent loss of life or exploitation, and what can sustain this kind of place over time? Is it possible to create a necrostate that, at least in the context of social and political structures, is not worse than places with things like noble orders?

What does that look like, and how do we get there?

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Story Pile: Christine

Christine is a 1983 horror novel and movie about Stephen King’s ongoing fascination with What If A Thing Was Evil. Having done clowns and spiders and dogs and being alone with your wife, Christine wants to bring this powerful critical tool to bear on the question of What if A Car Was Evil? Would That Be Fucked Up Or What?

Set in the 1970s the story –

The story –

Look I’m going to spoil some things, so like, spoiler warning.

A screencap from the movie Christine.
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CoX: Nightbug

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 the character Nightbug.

Shout out GO WHOA!
—A powerful transformation
BAM BAM into space!
—Plunge forward!
Fight!! Transform!

Go ahead and be reckless
Using the courage of the night,
—Rise up!
When stars connect
You should kiss the moon!

If you’re here,
—My dreams will surely come true
When all our smiles become one,
—The future will be won!!

“Nice suit.”

“Thanks, my mom gave it to me.”

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How To Be: Eda Clawthorne (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.

We’ve talked about The Owl House before in this column, and last time it was about the incredibly cool Made Of Love Interest Amity Blight. But that’s not all that The Owl House offers for cool and interesting character inspiration you should totally use as an excuse to get onto the table in your friendly 4th Edition D&D game –

You do have one of those right?

Why are you reading these then?

A parody book cover of a 4th edition D&D expansion book, layered over teleportation glyphs from the Owl House series. It shows Eda, King, and Luz flying on Eda's staff, and is titled 'To Serve Man' and 'A Guide To Yours, Mine and Owls.'

Spoiler Warning: I’m going to mention things that happen in The Owl House that change the status quo. If you want to avoid that kinda thing, this is your warning!

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Gdcn’t #3 — You Don’t Know Apples

This week, from the 18th to the 22nd of March, it’s the Game Developer’s Conference. This is an event in which Game Developers from across the industry give talks and presentations on what they do and how they do it to their peer group. In honour of this, I’m presenting articles this week that seek to summarise and explain some academic concepts from my own readings to a general audience. In deference to my supervisor, I am also trying to avoid writing with italics in these articles outside of titles and cites.

How do you know what an apple is?

And do you need to know what an apple is to talk about what an apple is?

a scribbly illustration of an apple
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