Monthly Archives: May 2023

May 2023 Wrapup

May’s over! We got there, everybody. That’s one more May in the books that won’t be hurting anybody any more. Just eleven more months before you see millenials busting out the Justin Timberlake memes again. It did bring an annual tradition of finding time to make at least one article making fun of Star Wars to run on May the 4th.

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Story Pile: 15 Minutes

Way back when I wrote about The Beginner’s Guide, I wound up talking about a movie called S1M0N3. The basics of that article are that some gamers seemed to be fooled into believing the fictional story of a developer stealing work and putting it up on the internet for sale was a real thing, just as in the movie S1M0N3 people believed that a movie about a fake fictional digital actress was made with a real fictional digital actress. It still stands out to me as an example of the way that modern, immediate anxieties about our relationship to technology are not, in fact, new at all.

In 2001, another movie came out that had a similar vibe to it, a movie about a fear of the changing culture of the now in the light of emergent technology. The fear was about what people would do in a world where everyone had access to a camera, about what a culture of news of spectacle would do, and the assumptions we make about people’s ability to control and express themselves. The movie was called 15 Minutes.

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The Cow People

Who you are is often as much about who knows you. It’s possible, in Cobrin’Seil, for you to grow up on an archipelago of connected island city-states, with diverse food and music cultures, in a state that respects art for its own good, and ensures the widespread development of parks and proper protection of the seas, which creates great public artworks, and which even has the largest bridge in the King’s Highway running through it, and for you to live your whole life thinking that people must surely know your homeland as the place of elemental magic, physical duels that test the body against the body, and a theatre culture with explicitly fictional gods. What you wouldn’t necessarily expect is for your first dealings with outsiders to end with ‘Oh, the cow people.’

Such is the lot of the people of the sprawling island nations of Kyranou (pronounced kai-ran-ow).

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Game Pile: Scourge, the Magic Set

Magic: The Gathering has some really interesting things recently coming into my space. In the past literal full year at this point, Wizards of the Coast have released products that do nothing but personally irritate me, and the horizon shows no abatement on that score. I hate Urza, I hate Mishra, I hate the Phyrexians and the only reason I don’t flat-out hate Dominaria is Kelly Digges’ work on worldbuilding that space being absolutely breathtaking to consider as a form of craft. These are spaces for which I have literally no actual emotional attachment, stories that I want over and gone as soon as possible so that Wizards can maybe pursue the dream of twenty years ago presented by Mirrodin of maybe not just continuing to write the same story in the same generic fantasy plane over and over, badly. But then they went and hired the Pinkertons.

I didn’t want to talk about this article this way. I wanted to reflect on the twenty years I’ve been playing this game and the twenty years I’ve been designing custom cards for it. I wanted to reflect on the importance of a game that maybe, part of me wonders, could have been my life, and which could have connected me even closer to some people who I think of as incredible and amazing and beautiful, but talking about that, and reflecting on that, feels deeply irresponsible because wizards went and hired the Pinkertons.

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Shirt 23.05 — Haru-Ni ’06

Anime in my mind comes in strata. Different ages, different things that made significant changes to the landscape of anime. Things that feel contemporary weren’t, because I got to watch them at the same time. Things that were contemporary didn’t seem to be to me because I missed one. And in 2006, there were two different anime that shook my world launched – and I didn’t enjoy either of them until they were years old, unaware that the impact they had was nearly simultaneous.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, a really great series that I should write about sometime, and Ouran High School Host Club, an equally excellent anime that made a lot of millenials grapple with being gay or girls or gay girls, both hit in April 2006. They were important in ways it was hard to explain, and even now they’re both handy touchstones where you can point to them to just open conversations about anime of that time. They, in a way, ruled the world.

And they both had main characters named Haruhi.

Here, then, I present stickers for you to show which you support in their quest to take over the world of anime as of 2006. If you’d like them, you can get them, with Haruhi Suzumiya as the Presidential runner, or with Haruhi Fujioka as the Presidential runner.

3e: Finally Talking About Grappling

Alright, sure, let’s finally tear off this bandaid.

When I bring up the rules for 3e D&D, there are some rules I bring up that the rules were bad at, to, you know, bully them. The challenge rating system was pants, for example, and I will never not mention that. There’s also the imbalance of the wizard, the numerous busted prestige classes, all of that stuff —  it doesn’t work, it’s build on bad assumptions, it relies on players to create their own balance matrix. Lots of great fun reasons to make fun of things.

One area of the rules I make fun of a lot is the grapple rules.

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How To Be: Amity Blight (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.

Hey, you know The Owl House? That’s a recent animated television program that has all sorts of conversations around it about the way queer representation gets handled and creators get treated and yes, did you know, did you know that Disney are a bad company? It’s the first I heard of it too! Anyway, The Owl House kicks ass so I want to do a How To Be about a character from it and…

And how hard could this be if … oh jeeze, I see the word count.


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Story Pile: My Hero Academia, Season 5

Here we are, five years of watching into the story that is My Hero Academia, a story that took two seasons to get up to gear and then ran face-first into a pandemic making every part of its production slow and awkward and worse but don’t worry, they had a whole manga to build off. Which means that while the execution may suffer, there was at least a solid, robust spine of storytelling to build off.


Spoilers ahoy!

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Hollow Boys

There’s this anime, Love After World Domination that, once again, was an anime from the 2022 season of absolute banger anime, and it was funny and it looked nice and it delved into a familiar trope space and it had a good comic timing and its protagonist, Desumi Loveafterworlddomination was extremely cute and gifed up well and also dressed like what I can only describe as a horny skeleton bunny girl dominatrix, so in the context of is it a good show to watch it pretty easily sat above things that looked bad and weren’t funny. It was described as a romantic comedy, and occasionally, you’d see people talk about it in the context of having a good pair of romantic leads and how it had two protagonists and how they had good chemistry and this is a lie. There are no leads, there are no protagonists, plural. There’s Desumi, and it is a show about Desumi, and there’s nothing wrong with that, because Desumi is extremely cute and sweet and funny and hot and I bet you could catch genders off her.

The beef I have with this series, and why I never bothered to do anything Story Pile about it, is because half of the core of the show isn’t there.

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4e: Alternate Rewards

If you’re one of the many people who these days primarily interact with 4th edition D&D not through a set of physical books or even legally-acquired and properly indexed PDFs but rather through some kind of searchable javascript database, then you may have had some reason to stumble into browsing the items category. This category, typically, is arranged by alphabetical order, with the subcategories also in alphabetical order, meaning that while you may have popped it open expecting to browse Ankheg Armour and Armbands of Apparel, you instead get smacked first and foremost in the face with the category of Alternate Reward, shriven of any and all context describing what they are or how they work. You may even have read some of them and found yourself reacting to something like ‘oh this is cool, I would want that,’ then ‘how much is it, can I afford it in my character’s budget?’ and then a sudden sharp shock.

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Magic Words, Magic cards

The evangelical christian mindset is, despite all of its protests to the contrary, deeply magical. Mystical and fantasist, it’s a worldview that requires a constant concept of the magical, both as a power god extends to you and an ever-present foe. Every day you are surrounded with the never-ending intercession of God into your reality, with some perspectives believing that God is literally the force of the laws of physics themselves, and that every lapse of judgment or timing or memory is a byproduct of god interceding in reality on your behalf. No evidence is too thin, no result too minor, for the Evangelical Christian to not think, in the social pressure cooker of trying to find a miracle to talk about, that hey, this’ll do.

This is why Evangelical Christians can seem so unreasonable. You can’t convince people of things if their actual literal world view of things that really exist includes fucking mind-reading magic. Today as I read this, a major Evangelical Christian voice with political power and authority argued that the church itself was corrupted, because people in that church were too nice to immigrants. What other people said they were doing, and the reasons they said they were doing them, isn’t important, because what they really mean is…

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CoX: Labyrinthal

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.

Day job? Youtuber. His name’s Acre, even. The channel’s pretty popular, in the low thousands, where his channel is guides on history, as told by examining historically interesting weapons and swords.

Thanks to this, he did one day get his hand on a cursed, haunted axe, which complicated his life quite a bit. Now, when he picks that weapon, the spirit of the Minotaur flows through him, which – well, he wrecked his studio recording the video unboxing it.

But a secret identity is too useful to pass up, and Acre is out on the streets, doing what he can to take advantage of this power.

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Midmonth Bloodwork Work — Stuffness

Alright, Bloodwork, it’s a vampire game, it’s a builder game, it’s like Machi Koro but instead of an idyllic seaside town you’re making edgy vampire associations that look like Multi-Level Marketing pyramid scheme.

I’m thinking about this game a lot today, and part of what I’m thinking about is the game’s relationship to stuff. Specifically, the kind of material boundaries I have to deal with in the creation of a game which relies on a pyramidal card structure, modelled on the classic 52-card card game pyramid.

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The Magic of Goo

You know that book I wrote (that I’m willing to admit)? One Stone? The story set in an alt-history British Empire at some mangled point in history where they have guns and trench warfare in the middle east, but also farmers unions are recruiting to mass-harvest food and oh yeah, there are dinosaurs. It’s an ahistorical setting that’s about how stories about fantasy kingdoms that are clearly England feel to me, as an author raised on those stories from the wing of the empire.

I mentioned, offhandedly, to someone recently that the magic system of One Stone is – and they interrupted, asking hang on, what magic system?

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The Szudetken Empires, Part III

This is a continuation of the previous post describing the Szudetken Empires peninsula in Cobrin’Seil.

The Bernean Lodges

Where the forests weave in tight against people and farmland is hard-fought from its ownership, there are the night-time howling stands of the Bernean Lodges. Tall, narrow houses, with tightly angled roofs to slough off the snow and rain, the people of the Bernean Lodges isolate themselves from other communities, because they are keenly aware of the way that Szudetken is full of monsters that look like humans. In response to the threat of werewolves, ghosts, changelings, cultists and other horrors, the Bernean people opt to threaten and endanger almost everyone who moves around in their spaces,

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The Szudetken Empires, Part II

This is a continuation of the previous post describing the Szudetken Empires peninsula in Cobrin’Seil.

Voolfardisworth, The Glimmering Net

Where the land becomes mountainous, the castles of Voolfardisworth start to jut up on various cliffs and high peaks, overseeing inevitably, valleys of small communities beneath them. Sometimes known as the Fard, the Fooly or the Fanged States, Voolfardisworth is an aristocratic nation composed of many different, widely distributed noble houses that would rather you not admit they’re vampires (and may even do something to make it so you can’t).

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The Szudetken Empires, Part I

The largest single nation on the Cobrin’Seil continent of Bidestra is Dal Raeda. That is, at least, for those who measure around the edges of the nation, following its perimeter along each distinct shape, and measuring out the distance there. Of course, this does not accommodate for a measurement where an observer takes the furthest points of the nation, at all of its edges, and maps the space that contains; if one measures by that means, then obviously the largest nation on the continent of Bidestra is the Eresh Protectorates, a set of city-states strung out like beads on a string across the King’s Highway. A box, drawn to contain all of those cities, thanks to their distance between one another, could almost contain the entirety of the continent. A third method of measuring exists, where one looks for the area dictacted within the boundaries of the land mass, and composites together that space, such that deep canyons and tall mountains can exert influence on the scale of the nation.

By this metric, as uncertain a measurement as it can be, then the largest single nation on Bidestra is easily one of the six empires that occupied the peninsula known as Szudetken (pronounced schoo-det-ken).

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Story Pile: My Hero Academia, Season 4

Alright, now we’ve hit our stride, we’ve done most of the set-up stuff required to have stories and character information all out there. The major characters are all laid out, we have a villain on the horizon waiting to happen to people, and we just had an introduction of some new boundary characters, so it’s time to immediately do something with all of those. This is a series that has got a handle on the basic ideas of what it’s going to do, and each season can be snapped apart into a few short story arcs you can consider on their own.

There’s something to the experience of enjoying My Hero Academia, season to season. It’s got all the joy of a catchy pop song, popcorn playful and full of classic shonen anime battle feelings, but this pop song also includes a few slurs? And probably says something condescending about women. Basically, I’m enjoying it but I’m sure as hell not going to defend it.

What we get in this season is some high drama with a big battle, one of those stories that focus on the characters in the setting dicking around with the infrastructure that exists to deal with the commonality of superpowers, and then an absolute top-tier banger of a story arc about excellent nearly-zero-stakes hero bullshit.

I’m going to talk more about it and that’s going to involve spoilers, so, below the fold!

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A Hindrance To Writing

The PC that I use to write this blog has suffered an incident the likes of which can contrive to render the production of posts inconvenient and difficult. It is not a serious concern and perhaps by the day after today, it will be resolved (either through drying out, or through the purchase of a keyboard to replace the unit that is suffering the distress). It is not unlikely that this situation will be resolved within a day or two, even though the effect it has currently is particularly frustrating.

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USP-04: April’s Custom Cards

Strategies and tactics abound in the many different types of war across the Usurper’s domain. Some are wars, some are politics, some are wars that don’t ever get fought because things are addressed ahead of time. The point is, it’s one thing to establish a powerful offensive, but it’s another, and far more dangerous one, to establish the boundaries of careful hate.

The logo for the Usurper's Palace, showing the title text overlaid on a six-pointed spiral vortext.

Warning: Wizards employees, this post contains unsolicited designs of custom magic cards.

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Why Do Droids Scream?

In the Star Wars universe, there’s a class of characters known as droids. They’re robots, manufactured, created, bought and sold. They are also entirely capable of sentience, complex tasks, and, most importantly, they can feel pain, distress, and anxiety. There is at no point in any of the Star Wars media I have seen

— which, considering my antipathy towards the entire franchise, is a lot

do we get a meaningful description of why these droids are the way they are. I’ve been told that R2D2 is the way it is because it’s gone without being wiped periodically, which doesn’t really help things in any way. ‘Cos if R2D2 develops an advanced personality and his own peculiarities if he’s not wiped then that means that all the other droids in the world are just these nascent individuals, building an identity that is then actively suppressed by the people who can buy and sell them, and do, and scrap them when they fail to provide adequate utility.

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Prototype 23.04 — Blood Work

There’s not been much public work on this one. Most of my public spaces are annoyingly, lacking in engagement from the audience I’m used to — a very awkward thing which means I might start making points of using maybe even a discord? To get people to talk to me about the stuff I’m doing so they can engage with it? Not sure.

Either way, I have been thinking a lot about necromancy, about death and life, and the ways systems feed on one another so of course I’ve been thinking about multi-level marketing cults and vampirism.

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The Redbubble Bummer

Redbubble announced, at the tail end of April, starting now in May, that they were going to charge a flat fee for people who make money on their site. This sucks and here’s a thousand words about how this sucks and how I may stop making stuff to put up on Redbubble, which, also, sucks.

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Story Pile: The Owl House Finale

Chances are good you already know what The Owl House is, and chances are even better, you’ve already seen the finale trilogy of episodes if you’re reading this. If you’re not, however, and if you’re just one of the people who likes hearing me talk about kid’s cartoons that you don’t watch, though, or if you’ve been holding back out of fear that the show’s conclusion is bad, I have good news! It’s good, I liked it, it’s charming and it’s very sweet and there’s a good conclusion that shows a respect for the stakes of the situation while also not closing the door on more stories for the characters you’re familiar with.

Basically, it’s a good ending and I liked it and it didn’t diminish my appreciation for the show. It plays fair, is I guess what I’d say. If what you’re looking for is someone to tell you you’re not getting your hopes up for no reason to set aside the time to watch it, yeah, it’s great!

Now let’s go a little more in-depth on the three episodes. This is your Spoiler Warning.

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