20 Years Married

This is a messed up number. 20 years is a person. 20 years is a whole ass person. 20 years is a person who has opinions and gets into fights on the internet about how to properly format a ship name. 20 years is the longest project I’ve ever done and all I had to do for the majority of it was show up. 20 years is just a big slush of now all in my memory, obviously not right now but close enough to now that it’s not a lifetime ago.

It’s just… sure. Now I’m 41. I’ve been married to Fox for 20 years.

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T-Shirt: Bolt Cutter Fandom

You know that podcast I like, and have probably spoken to you about, recently? Behind The Bastards? And the way that the host, Robert Behindthebastards, jokes, haha, about how it’s a wise idea for you to own a pair of good, reliable bolt-cutters?

A black shirt with a white design of a pair of bolt cutters on it, with the handwitten text 'This machine plays music' on it.
A white shirt with a white design of a pair of bolt cutters on it, with the handwitten text 'This machine plays music' on it.

No explanation, no demand, if you don’t get what the shirt’s doing or care about the design, that’s okay. You can get the design here on black shirts and white shirts!

Story Pile: Pluto

This is a story.

This is a story of a story.

This is the story of a story about a story.

A promotional poster for the anime Pluto. The image depicts Atom and Uran looking up at a fanged monster robot, with the text 'Pluto' overlaid. The U in the text has two huge horns.

Pluto is a 2023 anime. Pluto is a 2003 manga. Pluto is a 1986 Astro Boy story. Pluto is a 1968 Astro Boy story. Pluto is a 1964 Astro Boy story.

Pluto is a return. Pluto is remix and a retelling and a reiteration. Pluto is how our story ends.

Pluto is our history.

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Totally Normal Excitement About Talking About Drug Regulation in Cobrin’Seil

DRUGS!

We’re going to talk about DRUGS! in Cobrin’Seil!

In case you think you’re getting into something else, this is going to be a conversation that talks neutrally and nonjudgmentally about DRRRRRUGGGS! If you don’t want to read me talking about that, with the energy of someone storming into a room and sweeping things off a desk and slamming his hands on the bare space to exposit about it, you should go!

I think this constitutes a content warning enough? Good good, okay!

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Game Pile: Lysen Co

Hey! Hey guess what?

This is a Game Pile about a game I made, not about someone else’s game! And I’m going to talk about it because I made it so you can play it!

A card back for the Lysen Co cards. It depicts a corporate logo showing an apple in a pair of green hands, on a golden circle, with the not unmenacing corporate catchphrase "Where nobody doesn't belog."

This is the print and play of my game of corporate beaurocracy and obscure sorting algorithms, the Stalin Sort game, Lysen Co! It’s a trick-taker game in which you’re trying to make sure whatever it is you do, it’s in some kind of order, even if it messes with anyone else.

First up, here’s the downloadable print-and-play file. Printable on an A4 sheet. There’ll be a Letter sized eventually. And below the fold, here’s the rules!

This is an Alpha! If you play the game and have rules questions, let me know!

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Pokemon Choose Expressive Identities (To F*ck)

Since we’ve already established well and thoroughly that the nature of the creatures we call Pokemon is one where there’s an intentionality and a sapience to their reality that breaks a lot of the conventional rules and assumption of a modern realistic understanding of evolution, and therefore that evolution as a form of genetic distribution across a population based on reproductive fitness and —

oh yeah we’re talking about Pokemon and bodies and the fundamental relationship to society and bodies but it’s all filtered through, again, Pokemon bodies, and we’re going to talk about the ones that people draw porn of, so like, get out that’s got nothing for you —

Art of a Lucario. Official art from Bulbapedia.
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Prime Factors

Back in April, I wanted to write an article on my birthday about Prime numbers that segued into talking about Optimus Prime. It didn’t work out, because I got distracted by a dumb number problem. See, I turned a prime number this year! At first I thought I’d do a whole thing about prime numbers and my birthdays only to find that at literally no point in my life have I ever been a prime age in a prime year. This is really obvious when you think about it, because I was born in an odd-numbered year. That means every year where my age was an odd number, that year was an even number, and vice versa. So much for that idea.

But really, you know what the real prime reason for the prime season is? That’s right, it’s really all about him, and what he sacrificed for us:

A picture of Optimus Prime. From the TF Wiki.
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4e: Having A (Weapon) Type

Surely I’ve written about this already.

The 4e weapon system is one of its strongest points and it’s strength is directly linked to the ongoing attempt to make ‘person who uses a weapon’ as someone who can do cool or good things and not just being there to hold the wizard’s bags. The fundamental design of melee weapon-wielding characters’ powers is that the powers tend towards a generic set of effects, doing damage, pushing people around, pulling them, repositioning you – all that kinda jazz. But then, through feats, the powers that checked for weapons would be able to check the weapon you were using and add on special effects.

art I drew of a bunch of weapons
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2025 Custom Magic WIP Thoughts Pt 1

You know what, let me put my notes out there this time.

It might not surprise you to know that the daily Custom Magic cards I have are, already, done for this month. In fact, they’re done for this whole year. All the posts are made and scheduled, and if I die abruptly in March, this article will still go up! Nonetheless, it is the tail of February (start of March, now) and I am working on the next custom magic set. It has my interest. I am playing with mechanics, rotating them in my head. I am thinking about what I disliked about 2024’s magic sets, and what I want to do going forward.

You won’t see any new custom magic designs here, Wizards employees. No images either so nothing shows up in the previews.

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CoX: Polysynthesis

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 title card showing Polysynthesis standing in a museum with the text POLYSYNTHESIS over the tope.

“I know what it takes to be a top hero.”

When your powers involve the ability to synthesise together chemicals into other objects, there are a lot of routes you can take them. You could invest heavily in engineering and mechanisation and make guns or bombs. Or you could dive deep into studying pharmaceuticals and synthetic chemistry and make a whole bunch of chemical compounds, like riot foam, tailored vision-warping drugs, and degrading crystal blades.

Polly to her fans, Syn to her friends, she’s a firm believer in study, theory, and then practical applications. You might know her because of fan pages, interviews or podcasts she’s done, her discussion of Identity Management or Chemical Innovation.

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Shoulds Don’t Matter

I have become enamoured for some strange reason in the Mormon Stories podcast. This is not because I have a deep connection to Mormonism itself; Mormonism is a preposterous faith built out of a sex cult made by a 19th century con artist whose lies were fantastically obvious if you don’t induce the extremely special pleading of the faith.

Still, regardless of whether or not it has real or true claims of supernatural empowerment, Mormonism is an interconnected set of religious practices and moral frameworks constructed as a broad set of communication principles that spreads and dominates sections of the world (admittedly through those promises of supernatural empowerment, but still). Even if Mormonism is fake, Mormonism is real; it exists, and it maintains a shared fiction across upwards of thirty people. With that, comes culture, and with that culture, comes counterculture.

One element of this counterculture is John Dehlin, who started out as a Mormon Podcaster who wanted to help people hold onto their faith and now is probably seen as anti-Mormon. And I talk about him, with my Non-Brighamite Mormon friend, where he provided the summary of Dehlin as someone who played by the rules, who did things by the standards of the church, and then when all his work brought attention on something that the church said would change the church, when he did everything right in the name of improving things for Mormons, they instead excommunicated him.

An icon of a flying flag

Which is to say, he did the thing he should, according to the rules, and then it didn’t work. This is because should doesn’t matter.

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Recruiting The Absent

There’s a phrase I’ve realised I use more and more these days, which was introduced into my mental lexicon by bickering with people online. I don’t know where it first came up – I want to say at some point when I was talking about the heck that is Gifted Discourse.

If you’re not familiar with it, there’s a body of people who, bereft of a more interesting thing to do with their time, like to talk not about the experience of being a gifted child, instead want to try and make the conversation about how anyone who experienced gifted programs is the beneficiary of a privilege that represents a harm done to someone else. Basically, when someone was traumatised by the gifted program they went through and mustered the courage to talk about it in public, someone would pop up out of the trash can to espouse that hey, okay, you may be talking about that but instead, what about these people who didn’t get into the gifted program and didn’t benefit from the superior resources that were offered to you.

And those people weren’t there.

They weren’t part of the conversation.

This newcomer, this interloper, brought up someone as a way to attack or degrade the conversation and that person wasn’t there. They didn’t even necessarily even exist. And I think about it from time to time when I think about the ways I talk about things and how I communicate with you, an audience. Because I don’t know you (with some exceptions, good girl), but I do know things about you. You are a person I have to imagine some capacity, someone I have to make judgment calls about, and that can create interesting problems. Am I not making up a guy, as it were, to make mad at things? Or well, hopefully elated or cool at things?

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Story Pile: Endo and Kobayashi Live! The Latest on Tsundere Villainess Lieselotte

I, for one, would not recommend building a fantasy universe around characters surnamed Riefenstahl.

An image of two nondescript anime teenagers looking off-screen at a videogame that's meant to be interesting.

Spoiler Warning: I’m going to spoil a bunch of stuff from this anime.

Content Warning: I’m going to mention offhandedly some of the things in this series, but none of it is particularly worrisome. I’m just putting a content warning here because it’s a nice tryptich with the other.

Tone Warning: This anime sucks, and I’m going to say that. Like I just did. You might be upset by seeing me talk smack about it. I’m even going to compare it to the most obvious alternatives in its space, and you might be sick of that.

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3e: The Missing Step

Okay, so it’s a known piece of gamer lore that in 3e D&D, the wizard, cleric, druid and technically-splitting-the-fare sorcerer were all head and shoulders above every other class as a Primary Spellcaster. The argument about which of these four is the best comes down to questions of usability and access and whether or not the real weirdo outliers get to show up like the Archivist and Artificer (which can famously do everything the wizard can do, with pre-planning, making it the Batman of the 3e set).

These four classes represent a polarising point of power in the game system they’re from, and you can tell because every player book had a whole chapter of new spells for them, whereas say, melee characters could sometimes get as much as a new page of possible weapons, of which none would be any good.

They even deformed the way their own player options worked.

an image of a goblin wizard
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How To Be: Tsubaki Yayoi (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.

This month we’re doing something I don’t normally do, which is – no, I do fight game characters all the time, but what makes this one special?

She’s got a hat.

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Game Pile: Murdle

At its core, Murdle is just a little daily puzzle game in the same vein as Wordle. It’s a game where an investigator gets a bunch of simple logical clues and you put them all in a grid and then you arrive at a solution for the murder mystery that’s coherent, compliant with the clues and often enough, wrong. It’s great fun. I want to talk to you about how much fun I have with a pencil and a tiny silly murder mystery a day.

The banner for the game Murdle
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Privilege Is Without

You might have heard, or read really, at some point, me saying the phrase whiteness is a fog. The idea is that ‘white’ is not, in and of itself, a cultural form, an identity, but rather it is a system of acceptance outside yourself that permeates culture. The fog gets into all the cracks and presses against all the surfaces, but it isn’t, in and of itself, defined by something internal.

I am, after all, white. The system looks at me and goes ‘oh, this guy qualifies for the standard currently.’ Of course, it’s entirely possible for that to be withdrawn. Find the right weirdo and they might (say) falsely claim I’m Jewish and suddenly that whiteness can be withdrawn from me. It’s a complex system that rolls around in its day to day. Go back two hundred years and I wouldn’t get counted. The system is not tracking some inherent, actual, real like chemical detail or compositional detail about me. It is something people socially observe and attribute to me. Some of those attributions are pretty easy but sometimes they’re not.

an icon of a target
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MTG: Rotating The Roots In My Mind

A new set has come out, Standard has changed, and with it a whole host of new cards that may or may not matter for my beloved Insidious Roots deck.

What am I gunna do?

 Insidious Roots {B}{G}EnchantmentCreature tokens you control have “{T}: Add one mana of any color.”Whenever one or more creature cards leave your graveyard, create a 0/1 green Plant creature token, then put a +1/+1 counter on each Plant you control.The roots of Vitu-Ghazi allowed Trostani to reach every crack and crevice in the city.

The notes for this article wound up over a thousand words. I just put them under the fold. It’s hard to work out what I’m gunna do. Here are my thoughts on it, regardless of how good or how meaningful it is as a thought process.

Here’s the lesson up front; three year long standard, with our current landscape has created a niche benefit for me, as a free-to-play Magic: The Gathering Arena player. Decks are changed, a little, with each new release, rather than being overhauled and overthrown by each change. When Insidious Roots rotates out, I will have to change the deck, but at exactly this point, it’s fine. My mono-red deck is fine, and when individual cards go, I can replace them with newer, similar cards in newer sets.

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Number Systems

Here’s a thing for your world building: What do people count to?

If you’re mad, do you count down from ten?

When you’re throwing rock-paper-scissors, do you count to three, then shoot? Or do you shoot on three?

When you think about the game, are you counting zero, fifteen, thirty, forty?

What do you get when you add one to ten fifty nine?

The greatest trick numbers ever pulled was convincing you that they and the ways we talk about them are simple. We know for a fact that math, while following universal rules, is not a universally described practice, and that the way you talk about numbers directly relates to how well you can treat or manipulate those numbers. I am now going to present examples to show I looked things up.

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Story Pile: Ronin

The first time I watched Ronin I was sitting on a friend’s sofa down the road from where I was living with my parents. It was the early 00s. I was learning about movies from a fan of movies, seeing things I’d never seen before from someone I wasn’t good at being friends with. The second time I watched Ronin was last night.

1998 was a long, long time ago. 1998 was a time when people who grew up with the cold war in their lives were realising that maybe it was definitely over, and now, four years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they had to come up with something else to do to justify all that spy stuff that was done. You know, all those listening programs and the manipulations and the lies and the counterprogramming and the language skills and peeing in weird places, like, that had to be for something, right?

Right?

The poster for the movie Ronin.
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Vox Maxima Story Spotlight 4 — Deepest Truths

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 fourh section elaborates on the revelations of the third; and it also directs the heroes on to the final arc, to possibly come to understand what the Necrocalypse is, was, or will be.

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 4: The Jatku Outcasts

What would you give up, if it meant you had one more day? What would you consider an acceptable surrender in the name of salvation? What is it about your fundamental assumptions about your own ability to exist, your own continuity of life?

The Iacon have stitched steel to their skin. The Kraivh turn bones into machines. There are worse and older things hiding in the deep. What the question lingers, what would you do to live, survive, and thrive in a world where the air itself can become poison?

Thus is the question of the Jatku outcasts. The Jatku who stand outside of the Emperor’s forces. The Jatku whose Process is considered heresy, and whose very name is considered a swear. The Jatku who the Emperor refuses to refer to as a faction, claiming they befoul the name of his daughter and her mother – the great mage researcher Jatku herself. The faction that calls itself The Million Eyes.

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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The Mormon Shelf

The first thing you learn about that’s a problem for your faith, you can put it aside. It depends on how it gets put aside; sometimes they’re solved, sometimes they’re explained, sometimes they’re harrumphed, sometimes it’s a thing you’ll get around to later. The point is, you have a shelf, you have a place for all those doubts, all those ideas that you know are a problem and that have never been satisfactorily dealt with. Eventually, the shelf becomes overburdened, it creaks, and then…

One day, when you put something new on it…

It breaks and it all comes tumbling down.

An icon of an empty shelf

This is about doubt.

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Custom Magic: Whybrid

Time to time, we will see in the custom MTG community, a card that is hybrid, pulling together effects that are out of type for one of the two colours in the cost. This is a real tricky challenge to explain conveniently because at its heart, it’s an idea that once you get it, is very obvious, but before you get it, it’s opaque. What makes it okay for some cards to be hybrid when they seem the push the colour pie for one of their colours?

 Push {1}{W/B}SorceryDestroy target tapped creature.
Pull {4}{B/R}{B/R}SorceryPut up to two target creature cards from a single graveyard onto the battlefield under your control. They gain haste until end of turn. Sacrifice them at the beginning of the next end step.
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April 2024 Wrapup

The way this month has ended has coloured most of everything else happening within the month, none of which is stuff I consider meaningful content for the blog in general. Suffice to say this is a month in which I was trying to save money and do my best and by the end of the month I am extremely frazzled and uncertain as to how I’m doing what I’m doing. But you didn’t come here for that, you came here for posts! Posts about Spiderman!

an icon of a fly
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Story Pile: Oshi no Ko

With 2023 over, there comes an inevitable wave of conversations for those of us who watch anime slow, to ask: Hey, what was good back then? What anime was there, now fully complete, that is worth going back and watching again now there’s a full set of episodes to engage with? And that brings with it a ranking system and a conversation about best and worsts. I tend to think of this in terms instead of favourites – of what thing was it that I liked the best, or spoke to me the most deeply. I figured I’d talk about that in April, in my month.

One of the anime that was considered in contention is the anime Oshi no Ko, which is a – it’s about – it’s –

Hm. Hang on.

If it is time for me to talk about Oshi no Ko, a manga and an anime and technically a movie and a music video clip, then it is time to set up some basic boundaries for the audience. It is an anime with a pretty pervasive and well-defended culture regarding spoilers and their importance, though, and while I think having access to information about this series is one of the best ways to keep from giving up on it, I want to make sure you know good and clear up front that I am going to be doing spoilers about what’s included in Oshi no Ko. Not a lot – but definitely stuff from its first episode onwards, where the big twist of the series – as much as it can be considered that – is explicitly and clearly spoiled. If I’m going to talk to you about this series, I need to talk to you about this series and not about what the series pretends and implies it might actually be.

Problem with that is that brings with it its cousin, the content warning. And while normally, I can kinda just smooth things over with the phrase ‘oh lords, there’s a lot of anime bullshit going on here,’ I think it’s best to be a bit more specific in the context of Oshi no Ko. That means I’m going to talk about:

  • Death of a parent, particularly directly experienced
  • Murder, but you know, this is very low key and it’s allowed, as a treat
  • The ongoing experience of stalking and its ramifications
  • Cyberbullying and suicide attempts
  • Uncomfortable age gaps we summarise as ‘anime bullshit’
  • Sibling and parent-child incest
A screenshot from the anime Oshi no Ko. It depicts Aqua and Ruby in their uniforms.
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