Tag Archives: City of Heroes

CoX: Swivel

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.


In all technicality, the man known once as Vice Swithin doesn’t exist. He never attended public school, never was recruited into the military at a young age, and was never court-martialed. Officially, he didn’t spend over a year in prison being constantly the subject of assault attempts due to his lean frame and youthful looks, being constantly upgraded in security due to his self-defense capability leading to injured inmates.

Such high-risk prisons were certainly not combed for inmates experiencing minimal deviance from a genetic mean to find strong candidates capable of surviving a protracted full-body implant and neuroconnective surgery. Medical records don’t exist for a process that wired him from heart to head, that upped his reaction time, accelerated his thought process and kept the young man wired on a personal basis alongside the firewalls and flamewars of wireless internet.

One life, redacted.

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CoX: Hellfrost

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.


It’s natural that things evolve responses to predators. The Circle of Thorns have been preying on humans for generations. Most of the time the evolution preserving humans from it was things like a general population move away from magical influences and spaces, and surviving better without it. But in the 21st century, when mutations could take abrupt jumps, sometimes more severe things happened.

When Hayes Rosten was captured by the thorns and stabbed with a knife as a teen, his mutation kicked in, and his body swallowed the magic that was meant to corrupt him. Stealing from the thorns, it flowed through him – and let him take on the form of their own horse-shark-ice-things, the Hellfrosts.

What matters more, what it looks like or what it is?

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Game Pile: City of Heroes Homecoming, i27 — Page 5

I was not expecting this! I was not expecting to get two Homecoming updates this year, which may sound a little sarcastic but please remember Homecoming is a free game maintained by fans for the love of it, so the updates (known as ‘Pages’) are things I try not to expect. I’m a super-invested player, with a huge cast of characters all at the level cap, so I try not to get involved in beta discussions of how the game ‘should’ be — I know that my experience is extremely atypical to most players. That means that new pages arrive in my life like a delightful little fairy sprinkling dust.

This page was definitely lots of little stuff but not lots of #content, so I’m going to run through what it is and what it means, to me, and why you might care about it.

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CoX: Adjusting to Hover

I have over a hundred City of Heroes characters, in aggregate. Back on Live, I had something like eighty characters, and now I have about sixty-four on Homecoming. At one point I thought it’d be interesting to graph up and see what the most common power across all my characters was, figuring that my reliance on things like Fire Armour would mean it was one of the early powers from that powerset.

But that assumption meant I wasn’t remembering travel pools, where for example, every character who flies probably has the power Fly. So then the competition is about which travel powers out of Super Speed, Fly or Super Jump, or the other, less good power pools.

Yeah I said it Teleport.

Point is I assumed that since the majority of my characters travel by flying (I think?) then that means Fly should be my most common power.

And no.

I was wrong.

The most common power across all my characters, the power literally every character on Homecoming has is this one.

Combat Jumping.

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CoX: Tideward

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.


“You do not want me down there! You want me up here!”

Hamilton, aka TIDEWARD, the SCION OF THE SUNKEN CITY, is a Prince of a deep-ocean nation, of which he says little. A deep sea upbringing made him tough, and strong, and the royal regalia of his home grants him shapeshifting bio-tech armour. A stranger from a strange land, Hamilton has had to learn a lot about human society from things other than the stories his father told him of the surface world.

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CoX: The 49th

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.


Nearly ten feet of solid, ice-cold, star-hot Canadian battle goddess, the woman known as The 49th remembers a world almost like, but not quite like, the one she’s in. Where she’s from, Canada was the dominant empire of the North Americas, not the USA. Where she’s from, humans tapped the power of stars to create champions. And where she’s from, things were a lot more polite and liberal on some topics.

In the event she knows as the Great Collapse, her world is gone – not only that, but it seems it never existed. A portal incident that has echoes throughout time. Still, she survived it, endured it – and now she’s here, on her own, building in her own time and space in this familiar-but-not-quite world.

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Game Pile: City of Heroes Homecoming, Page 4

Oh snap, what’s that? That MMO everyone is always talking about with the cool looking characters, that’s free to play up to level 50 and beyond, has gotten a recent update?

That’s right, mother-havers and non-mother-havers, it’s another City of Heroes Homecoming Page, a content update for the sweatiest of weirdoes!

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CoX: Robyn Hoodie

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.


“Fun things to do on a date? Crimes.”

The Etoile’s society is fundamentally a sequence of parasites; very small groups of people produce useful work, and other people steal it. In the process, that theft sheds value onto other people, the traders and thieves and fences and snitches that lead to Superscience Flange Coil getting from point A to point B.

There aren’t a lot of public work projects, especially when all the money is moving valuable super science stuff to the University in Cap Au. That’s what got Robyn started – robbing from the rich and scattering their ill-gotten gains in the street. It’s simpler: No need for a fence when a thousand people are holding the stolen goods.

Where did she get those wonderful toys? Well, she stole them.

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Cox: Dead Beat

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.


Magic didn’t go away with industrialisation, it just had to catch up, and fast. It used to be that for a thing to become a magical signifier, it needed to be squirrelled away in an old book, a curse with a thousand days of practice, a single phrase empowered with the tragedy of a century, and all that jazz. Now you can print out the magic words a million times in a second, and the problem isn’t finding the magic, it’s drawing it out.

Inevitably, we have the new mages.

The MP3 – a way to treat performances of songs as replicable numbers – was developed in 1993, and at that exact moment of the first release, Cooper Owl was born. We all get into hobbies in high school, and his was magecraft, which he got into to impress hot goths.

He did find magic, woven in the songs that meant the most to people, the songs that lingered after the singers were gone, their dead beats.

Never impressed any hot goths.

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CoX: Trancer

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.


One, the story of a cosplayer who looks like one of the most famous girls in gaming, with a relentless online presence. Two, an overachieving supergeek whose boundless energy got an Explorer Position in Portal Corps. Three, there’s the story of a dimensional fold gone wrong, an accident that tethered her to a time-warping extradimensional supertech, and the gun-toting wise-cracking speed demon heroine that comes out the other side.

Zoe (or Emily, or Zoe, depends on the day) is what happens when these three stories collide in one absolute explosion of a girl. She’s incredibly Online, openly queer, and proudly cocksure. You might know her from Cosplay compilations, from her hero work, or maybe from her twitter feed, a high-volume mix of theoretical superphysics, cosplay, more adult content than is strictly professional and all the selfies in the world!

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CoX: The Wild Hare

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.


Juniper Jacks thought she was pretty boring. She thought she wasn’t special. She thought that if the time came to step up, she wouldn’t, not really. Oh, sure, she had a drive to try – but… like, everyone had that, right? Everyone could see things they’d do, and just lacked the power to do them, right?

Then she became the host for the BOUND symbiote, from a mysterious Praetorian-Primal science project. and found, to her surprise, that when she had power, she absolutely wanted to do something with it. Stepping up, acting, fighting and finding evil and battering it unconscious: She was here to spring into action.

Oh, sure, she’s a rabbit girl – but she’s a loud, brash, brawling, rabbit girl who gives 10,000%.

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CoX — Hexcalibre

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.


The witch, it’s said, is someone who knows things. She’s some usually-a-woman, usually old, usually removed, who has Ways of making magic happen. It’s curses and potions and strange, ancient rituals or the turning of the stars, knowledge that the witch has, and you don’t. The witch, it’s said, is the woman who Knows Things.

She’s Bridgitte on her forms, Jett to her friends, to the city that knows her as a heroine, she’s Hexcalibre, and she knows what swords know.

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Game Pile: City of Heroes Homecoming 2021

Last year I ran through some of the recent changes that have been happening in City of Heroes Homecoming, a free MMORPG I play that lets me make superheroes that kick Nazis in the face. I love this game, I like playing it, and I like using it to make characters. You may have seen me post about that.

What’s happened since last year, then, for this MMORPG with no paid developers?

Well, we’ve had two major releases, known as ‘pages.’ These are sorts of releases that are meant to build up to form what would, back in the day, have been ‘issues.’ These are fan-developed expansions that involve adding new class material, new content, new powersets and even new systems designed to make old content feel ‘right’ while addressing balance problems.What I prioritise for these guides is information about things you can make and do.

Like, there are some really cool systems at work here: There’s been a system for guiding you around for exploration badges, and another system for letting you share thumbtacks in a team, and while those are genuinely interesting and cool systems to see introduced to an old engine that works on what we all know as ‘spaghetti code,’ but while those things improve user experience, and definitely have a chance to encourage less-enfranchised players to explore things they hadn’t, they’re not the same as the bread-and-butter of an alt-reckless game with a lot of ways to play superhero dress up dollies: More stuff for new characters.

The big additions on that front this year have been the Travel Revamp and the Bunch of Rocks update.

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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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CoX: Woodfall

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.


They call it Eden, now.

Crey and the Devouring Earth and Nemesis do battle there, clashing over resources, over powerful ancient leylines, over strands of the great thorn tree the Circle claim as their own. When the labs broke down he was left there. The Green crept in. The ancient trees whispered secrets. They told him things that nature knows.

When he stood up again, he could remember nothing what he was, but enough of what he should be.

In time, the new things would die, they would go, and what was before would return. It needed only to be fostered, to be protected. It would be what it was once more.

They used to call it Woodvale.

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CoX: Wolfbit

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.


Cody always knew someone. He was the kid who knew everyone shifty, who could get you favours, who could find you things off the books. He never really worked out why he was good at it, why he could remember these trades so well, why he could read the people around him for what worked, what made sense about them.

When the wolf woke up, it made a bit more sense.

He’s a fixer, a bit of a crook, certainly a bit grubby. There’s a lot of ways poor people make things happen in the city, and in the dark spaces, sometimes you hope to find the wolf.

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CoX: Vent

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.


“So, are they fire, or rock?”
“Oh my god, they can’t be both,”
“Or something else, in between?”
“They’re going to have to make their mind up.”

It’s tough being a lava-powered enby. Humans can handle the ‘my skin turns into lava’ part but they get all weird about the ‘gender’ thing, like that’s somehow the big deal. Elementals don’t know what the gender thing is even about, but they’re also really bad company when you talk about music and fashion.

Vinn’s doing the best they can, with what they got.

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Queerer City

You know that game I talk about, from time to time, that game I play, that game, you know that game, that lets you play a character that you create, made through an immersive character customisation system, then you get to choose how they look, get to pick their graphical representation, get to choose maybe how they relate to the world, some beloved contacts and friends and factions that mean a lot to them, and how there’s a lot of fanart of characters made in that game and how they’re all about getting to express and explore this element of a wonderful world with this really exuberant kind of approach to expressing yourself? That game? You know? Final Fantasy XIV?

I kid, I kid. Final Fantasy XIV is a fascinating game full of interesting stuff, I’m told, and it’s fun, I’m told, and I should give it a shot, I’m told. It’s definitely got all the makings necessary for this particular phenomenon – though I don’t imagine it will cross the final threshold necessary any time soon.

See, what I want to talk about here is how a game dies, and what rises out of it.

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CoX: Boss Rush

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.


All the power in the world doesn’t matter if your mind can’t bring it to bear. There’s this whole study of the way brains ‘chunk’ information, neuroheuristics, the way the brain sets up tools for learning and managing what it’s learning about.

Rush was able to make the system containing the hardlight point nanites – but she needed a heuristic to manage the information. The result is her immensely powerful, immensely flexible tech rig, a kind of super suit made to be lightweight, transportable, and heavily adaptable, as long as the wearer can manage to explain to the device what she needs.

The gamer nerd and the tech geek collided, and thus, the hero identity Boss Rush was born.

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CoX: Carcer

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.

In this case, this character’s backstory requires some Content Warning for parental abuse, and themes of mental health and trauma, as well as uh, Death Gods?


The vitals; Poor and poorer for it. Born in Croatoa. Raised in Kings. Single father. Bad father. Empathy powers, started in high school. Got hurt. Got insular. Had to deal with his feelings, and everyone else’s feelings.

Then Mot happened, and he had to deal with nothing but Mot’s feelings.

Carcer, only name given, has done some dumb things to try and deal with his situation. Ink black skin, a death god’s powers, the damage persisted after the sealing of Mot. A damaged, surly, aggressive boy, he’s been trying to use what he’s got to do some good.Continue Reading →

CoX: Brambles

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.


In the fey realms, there are courts; courts overseen by great powers, lords of realms or even of ideas themselves. The greatest and vastest powers, strange and incommunicable, are overseen by the Great Courts, with the fey royalty, the names people know, the names so important that they slip through even into the mortal’s realms.

But one court, the Court of Voids, lays hidden and secret, ancient beyond even the knowing of the Fae. A mystery of mysteries, with its Secret Queen, She Who Touches As Iron. Precious and few are the fey of this court, paying fealty to this secret queen, with blessings of stealth, secrets, combat and healing for the maimed.

His name, he says, is Brambles, and he lays fealty to this Secret Queen. But the Secret Queen wants secrets and justice – and where better to find those than the City of Heroes? 

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CoX: Lifts

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.


The conventional vision of the hard suits is that they’re hardware that makes everything else easier. Which, yes, technically, true; they can do things like manage gravity extenders or hard-light impact gauntlets. A hardsuit lets a normal human operate on the level of a superhero.

The problem is the suits themselves are heavy hard suits. They’re only doing so much of the work – to pilot one at peak efficiency, you have to be an extremely accomplished athlete, fit and extremely strong. And you can take the training and the parts, and strike out without them to much of the same effect.

When people first meet the ex-Hardsuit pilot – the hard-body hard-head Lita Kinamo – the question ‘What’s she like?’ is asked. The answer’s always the same: She lifts.

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Game Pile: Homecoming Issue 27

Hey, this December, I’m going to try and make sure that I talk a little bit about games that you don’t necessarily need a lot of money to play. I liked how I did some folk games last year and I thought this year, since social distancing is a thing, that it was worth my while pointing out some ways you can have fun, online, and ideally socially.

This is obviously not the easiest thing in the world, but the good news for me at least is that just in the tail end of November, City of Heroes: Homecoming launched a whole new issue, ‘Issue 27’ and that makes it a great time to talk about that, and how to get involved if you want to.

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CoX: Heartbeep!

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, and hopefully interesting.


Dot is a bright, funloving, extremely geeky young lady, who’s prone to odd stutters and occasional lapses in conversation. This is because while she is a geeky young lady with a bright personality, she’s also a superpowered Clockwork drone from Praetoria that was handled through a variety of somewhat dubious projects on her arrival.

It’s not that she’s ‘really’ a robot. It’s not that she’s ‘disguised’ as a girl.

She’s a cute girl.

And she’s a robot.

And Dot has decided the kind of cute girl she wants to be is also a crime-fighting superhero robot.

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CoX: Offshore

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, and hopefully interesting.


 

There’s a lot of old gods in the deep.

Calling Offshore a sharkboy is true, sure; he’d call himself a Deep One if you asked him to, because that’s the English word his people use for what they are. If you asked where he’s from, he’d say Devil’s Reef, which, yes, is a name for one of the dozens of small, treacherous coves up on the New England coast.

It’s not that that story never happened – though it’s not his Devil’s Reef. It’s that it wasn’t his story; it wasn’t the story of his people, who are as different as other surface people. If you ask him who his people worshipped, he’d tell you a name, then tell you the translation:

Poseidon.

Offshore knows the ocean is important, knows Poseidon’s will is important, and he has a reason to believe that in this City of Heroes, where Greek Gods are seen and echoed all over, there’s a reason for him to be here, rather than down, in the old and glimmering libraries.

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CoX: Xixecal

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, and hopefully interesting.


Not all hells are hot. Oranbegans, for example, knew of a hell that was frozen, an intense jagged land of ice and pain, numbing and biting. It’s the home of the hellfrosts, and shards of that frozen hell extrude through the power of the gods to this world.

We all get our power from somewhere. There’s a title, long since handed down, a title designed to sap even the tiniest power from the name of the beast that wore it once, slumbering deep beneath a trap of ice and water. Nightmares of the old sea, the dark and dreaming deep, all woven together, in the name of the Xixecal.

To most? He’s a frost mage. Nice guy. Knows things. Knows people who know things.

And every spell he casts is sapping the strength of a dreadful beast that can never be permitted to awaken.

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CoX: Shaping Moonheart

A few months ago I mentioned Moonheart, my Resurgence Magical Boy, and how I figured I’d go in on him when I had the chance.

Well?

I have the chance.

Okay, first up, we’re talking about a character I roleplay on the game City of Heroes. This is a fakey-madey-uppy superhero I pretend to be in my free time. If you’re looking at this and missed this introduction, you might be going ‘hang on, what story is this from?’ and ha ha, you fool, I’ve got you to read about a thing I made up.

Gotcha!

Moonheart is a young man from that category of legacy heroes; not directly, as neither parent was Moonheart before him, but as someone who inherited powers from each parent. If you meet him on the street, chances are you might read him as a woman, because of his hips and hair and his not exactly packing the masculine codifiers voice. He’s what might get referred to as a femboy – he’s cis, but his presentation is pretty girly.

(And that’s it, mind you.)

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Purpling Out A Warshade

I swear to god, my last fucking brain cell.

In City of Heroes, the game was – and is – pretty easy. The game was made to have a broad appeal to an audience that mostly liked playing with the costume creator, and at shutdown, over 50% of all characters made never reached level 10 of 50.

There was a gear system introduced after the game was live, a system designed to be optional to let players push their characters to a higher level. It was called the Invention system and it relied on interconnected sets of things in limited sockets. I’ve spoken about it in the past and it is not an easy system to grapple with.

This was, I repeat, optional. Then when that system appealed to players, the developers released another group of inventions that could only be used by characters at the level cap, at 50. This is content for a minority of players, mind you, and they found it worked well getting players engaged with the game, and it seemed to do well. They were known as ultra-rares in the game text, and ‘purples’ to the players. For some players, doing normal late-game content, a single purple drop could be sold on the market for enough money to satisfy your needs for good.

Another thing in the game was the presence of epic archetypes. If you had a level 50 hero, you could make one of two more types of hero characters – a Peacebringer or a Warshade. Of the two, the Warshade was the weaker and less popular. There were a lot of reasons why they were less popular, and you should totally explain to me why you think that is I promise I won’t ignore it because I don’t care and it doesn’t matter, but okay, this is the framing you need.

One day on the forums, a typical thread got kicked off; someone talked about how the game market was broken and it was too hard to meet basic needs and it was too expensive to function, a position that largely, I and other market people didn’t regard as very serious, because the market was very easy to make money off if you were patient and so on. It was a libertarian paradise – all goods were luxury goods and everyone had equal access to the means of generating capital.

Then Chris Bruce, aka Back Alley Brawler, responded to this thread, and pulled the vital quote from the start of the thread that we’d all missed:

I’m sorry, did you say it was too expensive to purple out your warshade?

This quote haunts me.

This quote is the kind of rhetorical bodying that I’m honestly afraid of earning. It is a statement from a position of such flawed base assumptions that even a reasonable sounding conversation can be formed around it, but to anyone who bothers to pay attention, it is completely farcical on its face. The most entrenched of entrenched players bemoaning the difficulty doing one of the hardest things that casual players were never expected to want to do, showing their populist position was just selfishness in disguise.

I worry a lot about when I explain things or share things or call for change that I’m not complaining about purpling out my warshade.

CoX: Burnwillow

Science fiction, fantasy, and the hyper-reality of genre media lets us explore things that aren’t real, or true, but make sense to humans who are used to things that are.  We can set rules for the way a world is, and the audience is just going to go for it while you get around to explaining it.

Burnwillow is a superhero who I’ve had around for a while; first created back in the original City of Heroes, then expanded in the Generation 4 roleplaying space, and then remade in the new City of Heroes Homecoming, she’s had a lot of time to have her backstory revised. The person who made her story to start with and the person I am now are two very different people and know very different kinds of things about the kind of person she is. Tracing her origin, I think she may have been created as early as 2007, when the term ‘Burnwillow’ came up from the Magic: The Gathering set Future Sight.

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