Decemberween: iCarly

Pause to take a drink while you wonder what the hell I’m talking about.

Okay, look.

It’s a December where we’re not necessarily going anywhere. You’re gunna have some time off, hopefully. You’re going to start scrolling through Netflix until you find the boss screen, and after that, you’re going to start trying to find whole new channels on youtube to watch because everyone else is taking a break, and you may be kinda fed up with people wringing lore explainers out of the Rankin Bass tv specials or whatever.

What if, instead, you watched a grown adult explaining in absolutely incredible detail, the entire narrative, structure, and phenomenon of the story of the Nickelodeon TV series, iCarly?

What if I told you it’s all there, and it’s, in total, eight hours long?

Part one, and:

Part two.

I didn’t watch iCarly. I did not know, before this series, that iCarly was like, a distinct thing. I mean it was cable TV, and I don’t think I’ve ever been friends with anyone who had cable TV. I don’t think I’ve known anyone with cable TV. Cable TV is not a thing in Australia the way it is in America. Turns out there’s a complex and really weird collection of what I can only really describe as ‘live action star vehicle shovelware’ media produced on channels like Disney and Nickelodeon and just thanks to the kind of structural power you can have if your audience is functionally captive and meritocracy is fake, these series are really important to people who are right now turning into a generation of the internet’s voices.

Oh but wait, we’re not done, we’re not done, because at the end of the iCarly video, he promised to cover the followup series, Sam And Cat, but the problem is Sam and Cat is a spinoff of iCarly but also Victorious and well, Quinton could just dive in and go without talking about Victorious, but that would be quitter talk and now we have a five hour video on Victorious.

But, and this is absurd, this and we’re not done yet, is that thanks to a creator called FD Signifier, I got recommended a video by a effervescent words-doer and chaos gremlin, CJ The X, about the specific performance of one character in the series Victorious, Cat Valentine, who is played by an (at first) seventeen year old Ariana Grande who is now, as it turns out, somewhat important.

I watched all these videos.

That didn’t make sense to me, because I never saw iCarly, let alone that it crossed over with Victorious and from what I can tell, it’s really mediocre and you kind of need nostalgia to hook into you to keep you watching past the arch presentation. There’s this thing with kids media that’s, like, it’s typically made with no meaningful view of quality. It’s like this weird thing where we go ‘well, it’s for kids, so it’s okay that it sucks ass.’ And I say that as a lifelong fan of the Transformers.

And Quinton does have that nostalgia.

Quinton does a relentlessly self-reflective, courageous examination of this series and how he reacts to it. It’s funny because, let’s face it, it is funny, but it’s also watchable and sincere and sweet and seeing him connect to this work, and explain why he connects to it is really, really engaging.

I watched these videos multiple times.

And yes, they are eight hours long together.

I think, maybe, part of this is because I find Quinton genuinely interesting as a media commentator. I know I recommended you check out his work last year, in general, and… well yeah. I still like it and I like this really long form dive. He makes eight hours of iCarly analysis really interesting. And then five hours of Victorious. And then CJ the X adds ninety minutes. Point is I have lost basically a day of my life to this franchise I’m not interested in and it’s just because these people make it interesting.

Decemberween: The Cathode Ray Dude

Do you want a twenty minute video of someone hooking up an original Nintendo Entertainment System to a proper amplifier to see how its demodulator unit broadcasts?

This video is from someone who I’m mostly familiar with as Gravis. Gravis, the Cathode Ray Dude, is a nice person who’s interested in the history of videography and this particular period of technology. How we made things before everything was digital and everything could translate things onto the internet.

This is also an interesting thing because I’ve kind of been aware of Gravis for a long time, on twitter, thinking of him as, like, a ‘step-follower?’ I don’t follow him, he doesn’t follow me, but thanks to sharing mutual followers, we’ve spoken regularly enough that he stands out in my memory of ‘oh that guy? yeah he’s cool.’

Then I found – this year! – that not only did he have a youtube channel about cameras and broadcasting and mechanical-digital media overlap, but uhh, that I found that super interesting and compelling.

This is a really beautiful kind of educational media. It’s storytelling through devices, but it’s also humanised through someone just sharing their very genuine interest in things. If you want something chill and tech-based that you probably don’t know already, and from someone who isn’t about to drop slurs at some random point? Check Gravis’ stuff out.

Decemberween: The Sporadic Phantoms Podcast!

If you want to go into this completely blind, understand that this is a really good drama/ARG podcast about a group of well-intentioned environmentalists based out of California, as their initial exploration of a logging company leads them to confront local politics and the intersections of big companies, greenwashing, and forms of new age group therapy, in the ways this can be abused.

You want to check it out, hearing just that? Go check it out.

There’s more, of course, but I’ll spare you until after the fold. I liked this podcast a lot. If you want to know why, well, that gets into spoilery stuff.

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Game Pile: Your Own Fake Artist

Okay, we’re going to talk about bootlegging games.

A Fake Artist Goes To New York is a fantastic game. I do not hesitate to recommend, if you want, to spend the money buying a copy so it can live on your shelf and easily and conveniently bring together all the components you need in your life. I think it’s a great game design and has a great aesthetic and I heartily recommend that you play it ‘properly.’ Buying a copy shows support for the creators and also gets you a nice box which organises everything neatly for you. It’s even quite cheap, considering the price Oink games used to command, and it’s domestically available in Australia too, so you don’t have to wait months for it like you used to, and it’s not being choked by the same international supply problems that are impacting the board game industry in general.

But.

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T-Shirt? Some New Year Masks

In my current understanding, kids will need masks in the new year. Masks are also a good thing to have in your life as something you can wear for when you’re feeling generally low-key ill, like if you have a cold, wear a mask to keep from spreading it, that kinda thing.

I made my own mask this year based on a dumb joke, and then realised wait no, this whips and I’m going to keep using it when I’m out in public in general, because it’s not bad to be careful. Here, then, for your new year purchasing purposes, are three masks I made for me or for family members.

I’ve been wearing these masks from redbubble for about six months. I find the adjustable straps nice and comfortable, but also nice and durable: I’ve had other masks snap over time dealing with my big weird head.

My first mask, modelled on Matt Trakker from all-purpose advertising yawnfest, M*A*S*K:

This should not be seen as an endorsement of M*A*S*K and more just me signalling to a general audience that I am old.

One of my niblings still needs to wear a mask to school, a fact that has him bummed out. So I asked him what kind of masks he’d like to have – and this is my attempt at a g-rated version of Scorpion’s mask from Mortal Kombat. Like I don’t think a teacher is going to get mad at anyone for this, there’s no blood spattering.

And finally we have a mask that represents the passive okayness that you can only get out of a Snorlax.

I don’t know if you order one of these masks now you’ll be able to get them in time for Christmas. But I do know that you should have them in time for the new year and the subsequent new school term, which you may need or want if you have a kid in your life who is bummed about needing a mask but might be a bit perked up by the mask seeming, like, kinda cool. Maybe. Maybe they think this is cool? Hell, I don’t know what the kids think is cool.

Decemberween 2021!

It’s Decemberween! Don’t know what Decemberween is? Well, here on Press Dot Invincible Dot Ink, a branding exercise that was, when I did it, funny and clever to exactly myself and Fox and maybe Vince, because they know who ‘Swivel’ even is, I put a theme on the even-numbered months. That gives me a good mix, you know, some months have a theme and that gets me to focus on ideas that work for that theme then, or maybe save things up over the course of the year, and then some months I can just do whatever and you get some really weird random articles like about how water rats don’t exist and also they tear out cane toad hearts.

December has an obvious theme of ‘The Holidays’ if Im being vague, or ‘Christmas’ if I’m being 100% honest with my personal background and cultural space. Christmas runs out as a theme for me real quick because Christmas being so very Christian means I get kinda mad about it, and mad about the people who are defensive about it, because they suck and it sucks.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m gunna talk about some Christmas movies! Because when else am I gunna do that?

But Decemberween, the point of it, is instead to focus on freely available cool things I want you to know about. It’s a chance to celebrate my friends, to talk about how proud I am of them being extremely cool. It’s also a chance to show off things I’ve collected through the year that are neat, but aren’t like, individually worth an article. It’s a time for deep dives, or podcasts or youtube channels I like.

What you can expect this month is games that are free, games you can share with people, games you can get into now when you’re dealing with a family situation, or games you can play over the internet, conveniently. Don’t expect any big deal articles on game design or media studies or anything weird until, you know, at least after Christmas.

Let’s have a bit of a break, okay?

But! I promise that nonetheless, this month is going to be about stuff I think is nice, or cool, and good, and people I want you to know about and who do cool things you could spend some time investigating. That’s a Decemberween promise.

November 2021 Wrapup!

With that, No-Effort November draws to a close. I have a schedule I use to plan out my blog posts, to make sure that I don’t double up, or miss a Game Pile or Story Pile article, and that’s been really useful. I do use it to look at the year at a time, and whenever I find I need a time to put an article that doesn’t necessarily have someplace to go – I throw it to a later slot. December is full of of Decemberween posts (more on that tomorrow), which means that in a year, almost every single non-themed post that gets bumped to a ‘later’ spot in the yeargets bumped to November.

What we get as a result is that by the time I get to November, it’s already full – but it’s probably full of stuff that’s not really tied to anything, or is maybe just a list or a ‘hey isn’t this weird?’ kind of post. Basically, November is the corner of the chip packet all of the year’s effort shakes into.

Plus, you know, November is crushed between two pretty cool events and it’s marking season for my teaching, which means the first two weeks of November are super busy for me. Therefore, it’s a perfect time for me to declare it time to do not much.

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CoX — Abra

Time to time, I write up an explication of characters I’ve played in RPGs or made for my own purpose.  This is an exercise in character building and creative writing.


Antimatter Breach Resonance Apeture; a phrase first coined in a 1500 page scientific paper about an organically-integrated chemical engine that could create portals limited to the surface of that organic object.

ABRA: The military research program seeking to develop technology that would allow self-deploying mass-driver weapons, objects that teleported themselves and massively increased in volume upon arrival.

Abra: The boy caught up in the experiments designed to make that research real, with that self-same technology integrated into his body.

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T-Shirt: Endless Summer 2021!

It is, here where I am, the last days of spring. Summer is coming, or, really, as an Australian, summer is now. Some people like to imagine seasons as these simple, standardised, three-month chunks, but here in Australia, Summer kinda reaches from sometime in October all the way through to April, if it’s a hot one. Every single day of summer, it seems, shows up with a phenomenal force, a demand that you contend with it.

It’s also the time that my university work isn’t available, creating a strange period where I have something like three months of holidays, a long, slow stretch of time to write, read, create, and yes, of course, contend with the heat.

It’s the first time in my life I really connect with this idea that Americans espouse, of the idea of ‘summer vacation.’ And so I made this shirt, a testament to the way summer feels.

I like to think that sometimes my shirt designs are about jabbing out a simple, short joke, sometimes about using a simple tool well. This one is one I took a lot of time on; multiple iterations through the months, multiple additions of elements. Every element of this design has been made or remade at least twice, because I wanted to make something that looked really good to what I wanted to.

Since it has black shapes in it that rest against the colour of the shirt, there are two designs; one for putting on white shirts:

And one that’s for putting on black or dark shirts.

You can get either design (White or Black) over on Redbubble.

The Caprice of Haruhi Suzumiya

Anime is an art movement that has encapsulated thousands of different competing threads and there’s no true centralising canon because it’s fragmented across all sorts of cultural anchor points. Australians of my age that are into anime so often got started because Aggro’s Cartoon Connection screened Sailor Moon, the ABC screened Astro Boy, Cheez TV screened Teknoman and SBS, in the late 90s, screened Neon Genesis Evangelion, meaning that those four anime are sometimes seen as ‘common ground’ topics. Common ground for one age bracket in one country, and even then, only sometimes.

There are some events that can be looked upon, in the english-speaking anime fandom, though, in terms of their impact on shared cultural spaces, typically conventions, but also just, anime releases that somehow managed to be widespread enough at the right time that they became foundation to the conversation. The big three of Naruto, Bleach and One Piece. Evangelion movies. Fullmetal Alchemist, then Fullmetal Alchemist again. A collection of trans girls and boys and nonbinary people that can trace a lineage from Ranma 1/2 through to Kampfer and Haku and Soul Eater and maybe a few tracing lines to Vandread.

There is a category of people I can annoy enormously by responding to a Touhou picture with which anime is this from?

There’s only so much room for any given series to suck up a lot of the oxygen in the fandom space. You can’t typically have five or six ‘big name’ anime that ‘everyone’ has an opinion on. One of those ‘event’ Anime, that rose, became incredibly prominent, and then deformed the culture at large, becoming one of the rings in the tree trunk that is this strange cultural enclaves, was the enormous franchise known as Haruhi Suzumiya.

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Story Pile: Narnia, Pt 4 — The Magician’s Nephew

Before there were Pevensies, there was Digory and Polly.

Before there was Narnia, there was the endless forest.

Before there was a White Queen, there was Jadis.

I give prequels a bit of a beating, on principle, which I think is incredibly fair because largely, a prequel is about making the world smaller and more boring. It’s about stepping to a point in a story where we know the conclusion and trying to find stuff in that experience that needs explaining, and is interesting to explain. It’s also often a cynical effort to keep using characters you like in a way that doesn’t require you to confront how they’ve changed by the story that people liked (Man, Obi-Wan Kenobi was such a dickhead and then the prequel series he was in made him so much worse). I am, simply put, not a fan of prequels.

But this prequel rules.

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How To Be: Kipo (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.

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is a Netflix TV series created by Radford Sechrist that started its life as a webcomic. The series is something I’ve praised in the past as being uncomplicatedly excellent. Set in a post-apocalyptic far future populated with anthropomorphic animals, it’s a story of a journey of adventure, beset on all sides by a dangerous villain with superpowers who, if he catches our heroes, may destroy their ability to ever defy him. It’s a great adventure structure, and one you should feel free to steal, and central to it all is the character of Kipo, a girl with pink skin whose position in the story is at the intersection of multiple sequences of events, set in motion before she was even born.

And like, I don’t normally do this, but I’m going to put a spoiler warning here. If you read these articles idly, and think you’d like to watch Kipo at some point, you should go do that before reading this article, because I’m going to talk about some stuff Kipo can do that isn’t obvious from the start of the story. I mean, oh okay, shock and horror, Kipo is special, obviously, you know that and I know that just looking at the fact the series is named after her, but nonetheless, I just want you to know, going on, that there be spoilers.

Good?

Good.

Okay, onwards.

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3.5 Memories: Worse Than The Fighter

In Dungeons & Dragons 3.5th Edition, a thing that’s not at all un-awkward to say, there was a set of hardbound expansion books released as a group to satisfy groupings of characters as an archetype. The first set of these, released around 2003, were The Complete Divine, The Complete Arcane and The Complete Warrior, a trio of books that kind of told you what they were about in the name. You had arcane spellcasters, divine spellcasters, and uh, everyone else, I guess.

The Complete Warrior had to bear up as the space for all the classes that weren’t divine spellcasters (but the ranger and paladin can play here too, sure) and all the characters who weren’t arcane spellcasters (but there’s stuff in here for melee spellcasters). Barbarians and Rogues and Monks all got to cram in on this book, but based on the name and the style, and of course, the preponderance of feats in this book, this is the book that’s for fighters.

It’s also a pretty cool book, if you’re looking at the good stuff in it that you want to use and make sure people can use. LIke this book has tactical feats, a category of feat that kind of roll together a small number of ‘not enough for a full feat’ advantages into a single grouping, and that’s a really good way to expand expertise on fighters. Prestige classes in this book include the Actually Good Frenzied Berserker, the kinda decent Tattooed Monk, the sorta-maybe-why-not War Chanter, the busted as hell Warshaper and that’s four classes worth having access to in most campaigns. The excellent Combat Brute tactical feat is in here, and uh

Anyway, the point is this book is one of the books I think of pretty positively.

It’s also a book that features the rare examples of a class actively worse than the Fighter.

The ‘Samurai.’

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Structural Boundaries On Making

The medium is the message. The structures of things are more powerful than the things themselves for changing the world. There are constraints on things that are about the way they are delivered and deployed that defy the mere conventions of pure aesthetics. We talk about what media does but so often that is a question fighting with what media can’t do — because of resources like time or affordances like culture.

I’m gunna talk about making and selling Invincible Ink games.

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Story Pile: Narnia, Pt 3 — The Last Battle

With the core books that detail what we will gently refer to as the plot of the Narnia universe already laid out, a steady ramp upwards from dull to decent, it seems only fitting now to discuss the way that the series became actively traumatising.

For those not familiar, The Last Battle, the seventh book and last chronologically, is the next book in a series of honestly fairly inoffensive storybook fantasy stories. These stories have followed the lives of a handful of children, so far; The Pevensies, Lucy, Peter, Backup Peter, and that whore, and Eustace Scrubb and his unassumingly decent friend Jill Pole. There’s also another pair, Digory and Polly, and you’ll be left going ‘wait who?’ because they don’t show up until you read the last (first) book, but I’ve said too much.

Point is, if you were like me, you were reading these adventure stories that teased at the ideas of spaces of Narnia, of cultures and nations and magical powers and interesting questions, and each time you got a new book, you learned something new and had more of this beautiful country spread out before you. So often these stories would reward you not with some great accomplishment or demonstration of physical power, some great or heroic badass fight, but instead a bucolic, Hobbit-style scenario of going home and putting things in a tidy position. This was a world where great travails and missing heirs happened, but where the grand battles were often narrated over rather than experienced, and a late book narrative could divert into a conversation about how much centaurs liked porridge (a lot).

The narrative payout of Narnia was always dialled in to ‘oh, well, that’s alright then.’

This book, which you may as a child have picked up and read with the unassuming idea of oh, I like these, this is another one, I wonder which new human friend will learn about Narnia, kills literally everyone you know and destroys Narnia down to the very base foundations of the whole world, leaving behind nothing but a vast expanse of soulless, empty ice.

Then it tries to act like it’s a happy ending.

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The Silent Bin Night

Look it’s late, I’m up, I can’t sleep because I made a stupid mistake of listening to the Cat Empire song Miserere too close to bedtime, don’t fucking at me.

But.

It is also bin night.

For those not familiar, here in Australia, we have weekly and biweekly pickup of our garbage, which we keep outside the house in bins that have wheels on them for easy arrangement at the kerbside. The garbage trucks typically come by a reasonably early hour in the morning, which means if you want to make sure your trash is collected, you get it out on the kerb the night before.

I live in a block of houses that share a driveway, and that has certain rules. One of them is to keep the noise down after a certain time of night.

Now.

This is a problem.

The problem isn’t the requirement, it’s very reasonable. The problem is that this semester, that bin night has fallen on my latest work day. So I will get my work done, finish work, make dinner, then clean up after dinner and recover and have a little breather and oh woops it’s after the time to make noise. And that can be a problem if you’re trying to put things into the bin.

For kitchen waste, with soft garbage that goes into a plastic bag, then that plastic bag goes into the garbage bin, it’s easy. Just lower it in. But for recycling it’s a lot trickier, with a recycling bin that is both larger to encourage its use. It being larger means that it’s harder to put things in it and have them reach the bottom and they make a big echoey noise as things land in it. Plus, recycling is the bulk of our waste, so we want to make sure we don’t miss a recycling night (they’re biweekly instead of weekly).

Tonight, I didn’t put the bins out on time.

What followed is that when I realised the problem, I had two options. One, I give up, accept that it was going to be a rough week without room in the recycling bin, or I find a way to do it quietly. And like a big idiot, I did exactly that.

This involved carrying the bins – which are wheeled – a few steps at a time – to a location away from the houses, so that they didn’t make noise as I wheeled them over the driveway work. This also involved then walking all the recycling I have out that far as well, to place it in the bin, out by the street. This was also done at night, in the cold and quiet, while holding my breath to make sure I didn’t make excessive noise.

There’s no spoiler or important point here, I just thought ‘oh, hey, that would work, wouldn’t it?’ and then I tried it and it worked? And that’s kind of okay?

Game Pile: A Short Hike

I don’t feel like I have a lot to say about A Short Hike in and of itself. It’s a lovely charming little game. I don’t know if there’s some clever mystery at the end of it, or some twist in how the game works, because as I post this, I’ve only played a little bit of it. Like, oh, say, forty minutes.

I think it’s a pretty sweet little game. I like its style, I like how it feels. It’s a cosy game, and I’m just not very well-acquainted with cosiness. But while I played this game, I talked a little bit about game design, about courage in choices, and about workloads and my own history with games.

A Big List Of Some Things To think About When Recommending A Game

I think about player limitations. I think about them a lot when I’m designing a game — if there’s something that makes it hard for players to deal with the game, and it costs me nothing to make the game approachable at the outset, then that’s an easy way to make sure more people can play my games. Also there’s a capitalist incentive, yada yada yada, but let’s face it, I don’t make games for the money.

I make games for the prestige.

Hahaha, me neither.

Anyway, I have a list of things I think about and check back on when I’m making games that plays into how I talk to people about my games when I’m selling them face to face. This is useful to think about when you think about ways to recommend games to other people. It’s important to consider the things on this list as a simple ‘yes/no’ not ‘good/bad’ paradigm. People want games that are good for them. While this list won’t make games perfect for anyone, being able to answer the question ‘Did I think about this?’ is important.

Typically, you’re going to see recommendations for games that can benefit from these considerations. The good news is, as you think about these things, you’ll be more likely to think about things games give people and how they relate to them. This isn’t exhaustive, either!

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Mostly Full

I haven’t written anything in the past few days.

This is a lie.

I haven’t, in the past few days, moved many things from the drafts folder of this blog’s content management system (CMS) to the scheduled folder. That means there’s a number that goes down every night that hasn’t gone up. It has failed to maintain stasis. I have been good this year about scheduling ahead and making sure that every day, another chunk of writing gets done.

I’ve watched a bunch of Brandon Sanderson lectures on writing sci-fi and fantasy lately. He talks about writing in terms of hours? I find that interesting, because my work isn’t currently very contained. If a student contacts me at any given moment, it seems easy and free to just respond immediately, but this means that I’m functionally on call 24/7. For me, I instead have a simpler rule: I write a thing every day.

It doesn’t have to be big or small, it just has to be something that seizes me about the blog. Something I want to talk about, something I feel I have the pull or energy to. If I don’t have that energy, I instead spend time going through my calendar that I use to organise the blog, and put down notes of things to write later, or ideas I may want to follow up on.

This year, the articles have been big. They’re an average of about a thousand words, and that means any modestly short article, like a 500 word article, is being tipped out by a twelve hundreder.

But I didn’t write anything in the past few days.

I did record video, video that should be going up soon. It had Fox involved.

I recorded a stack of micropodcasts for Patreon, which should be going up soon.

I wrote part of four different articles that aren’t going up, and I don’t know when they will go up.

Right now I am writing this, because this is what seizes me. The strange feeling of knowing that I have written, and wanting to say I haven’t done nothing, even though nobody is saying I do nothing. Wanting to push that number from going too low, like I have a broom in my hand and I can keep back the tide with it.

I really like having this blog to structure things, and part of keeping it from controlling me – because hey, did you know for me it’s marking season right now? – is being willing to use some days to phone it the fuck in.

The funny thing about this post is that I wrote it… like a month ago. But here I am, actually today, on November the 9th, working on updating, and adding to this post, because I also have not done much writing this month. And that, though, that I expected, that I in fact planned for. Because the funny thing is, I know that late October and early November is the marking period, and this year the marking has been even moreso.

Odds are good if you know me, you may think ‘are you still marking?’ because the past like, three weeks have been ‘sorry, I’m busy.’ And that’s true.

But this is what the backlog is for, too. It’s for accounting for the times when I literally won’t be able to write, and need to make sure I have a plan for that.

Kobolds As Convergent Design

I’ve spoken about the role of the Goblin on Cobrin’Seil, but what about the kobold? I did bring up the question of hey why are these two so alike? And the followup question of where do they come from? The answer to both is ‘authors are weird,’ but I’m looking at it more in terms of how I can build and shape the world I’m putting players into, and I want the kobolds there to be both interesting enough as a player option without depriving people of the opportunity to use easy content where kobolds are happy to try and stick spears in players.

I am a fan of thinking about cultures in terms of their places in the world. That often requires answering the question ‘why are they here?’

Why then, are kobolds here?

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Story Pile: Narnia, Pt 2 — The Eustaciad

Last week I wrote about the fantastically dull, chorishly written, monarchist crap that was the genesis of the Narnia series, where a twee fairy tale about how great it was to be a divinely ordained king and disposing of foreigners who weren’t adequately Christian. I lumped these stories together as ‘the Pevensiad’ because they were the stories primarily focused on the character of the Pevensies, four ‘characters’ deviating primarily from a mean of dishwater by dint of how they didn’t live up to the moral and ethical standards of that dishwater.

The start of Narnia was very much about Lewis talking it seemed to his vision of a specific kind of child who he wanted to give a good example of christian childhood behaviour, while offering them what we can modestly call ‘adventure,’ but it was in these books that the conventional isekai narrative of Narnia actually hit its stride and seemingly had some ideas. This is expressed in how the story introduced a character who actually had the room to develop and do something interesting, in the form of the best earth-native Son Of Man character in the entire series, the one, the only, Eustace Clarence Scrubb.

That is literally his name.

And he almost deserved it.

I’m not joking.

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The Goblin As Fracturing Culture

I’ve spent some time considering the role of goblins and kobolds in D&D worlds, but stopped short of making decisions as they pertain to my own setting of Cobrin’Seil. It’s interesting that the idea of dispensing with both cultures was never really on the table, and I think part of that is because they do serve such a rudimentary purpose that dropping them wastes a lot of pre-existing material. It’s not like ignoring Duergar with their awful name, which drops maybe five instances of useful monster design across all editions; goblins are used in a lot of spaces and just the presence of them is a useful, handy thing for a lot of encounter designs. If you need a low-level threat, goblins are great.

What I want to do is address what they are. It’s not enough to just go ‘they’re a monster race,’ because that… doesn’t make any sense at all when you look at Cobrin’Seil and its approach to the world. I jettisoned the dwarves entirely because they don’t do anything (did I ever write about that?), so what are goblins as a culture.

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