In January, I wrote out a plan for the year. In that plan, I described types of articles I was going to make, and kind of like ‘caps’ on the types of subjects I would write about. I also promised to watch more anime, which was like a threat, I guess. I also mentioned the eventual Avatar update, that would serve to bring presentation on a lot of platforms in line.
Knowing that, then, how’d I go? What were the good bits, the pieces of 2022 that I think, now, you should go back and check out (and I will go back and check out myself when I’m browsing the blog looking for ideas I want to further expand on).
Big, long-term projects included a daily Magic: The Gathering card, released at first on a twitter account every day, and now being posted on Mastodon and Cohost. Those got a set of summarising posts. I also did a podcast with Fox about watching all the Disney Animated Canon movies, which we called the Disney Animated Canonball.
It was also at the start of the year that I stopped using an add-on for the blog called Jetpack. Jetpack let me do things like find out how many hits each individual page was getting, and that formed the basis of what I then, at the end of the year, would list as the ‘most popular’ stuff. It was useful to see what you thought was good here, rather than just what I liked, in hindsight. It sped things up. But I’m not using Jetpack any more, and that means that instead… I had to go through all the articles I wrote, and ask myself ‘hey, is this good?’ and ‘why would someone wanna read this again?’
Which means we’re going to look at a lot of links here.
This year saw me do a lot more to revise my world setting of Cobrin’Seil, with a lot of articles that reference or examine other elements of the setting. Back at the start of the year, I spent some time thinking about two ‘standard’ D&D cultures I dislike, the Dwarf and Dragonborn, and the problems of just ditching them wholesale. This led to the creation of two Cobrin’Seil specific cultures, the Dio Baragh and the (Cobrin’Seil’s Version Of) Dragonborn. I also looked at the Halfling, a culture that I originally wanted to discard because of its weird semiotics, but a friend was able to crystallise around a meaningfully interesting idea.
Being as I am a stickler for the question of ‘what’s with all these people-like-people and why are they different,’ I also wrote more about the human-like creatures of the setting. I wanted to look at the Elves and address the question of ‘why are these sub-cultural groupings all able to breed with humans,’ and finally wrote up a breakdown of the types of Elf creatures, and how they relate to one another. It was so big I did break it into a pair of posts on a weekend though.
This kind of thinking got me on a thread about ‘outsider’ cultures, though: the Orcs, yes, but also the way that D&D has a whole collection of orc-like things, as humanoids that exist Over There that don’t have a meaningful reason to be differentiated from orcs or goblins or kobolds. You know the list, the Bugbears and the Bullywugs and the Hobgoblins and Grimlocks and so on. Since I’d already defined the Orcs as having a pretty distinct culture, complete with muddy biological differences due to their relationship to raiding other cultures and the debt you owe to the dead, I eventually decided on the idea of the ‘Urd’ to explain the general forking tree of ‘non-human humanoids who do not relate well to the humanoid coalition.’ I want to expand on this a bit more, since it lets me play with one of the themes the setting does have regarding Deep Time, which is ‘back in history, people were even bigger assholes than they are today.’
Oo, and I also wrote up an article about the way legal power is handled in the Eresh Protectorates! I’m really glad I did that article because it both was an interesting exercise in accounting things that were ‘known’ in the setting, and doing it presented all sorts of fun, complicated and extremely annoying grey areas that players could wind up running around in. Since legal systems are the byproducts of countries, and Cobrin’Seil is a setting with multiple ‘country’ level things laid atop one another, that got me thinking about ways to document it — and that led to the realisation that I’m terrible at maps.
Finally, I also dedicated some space to present, in public, the Themes for the Knightly Orders of the Eresh Protectorates — which was something like four thousand words of just mechanical information and some setting details.
My ongoing examination of 3rd Edition D&D, in both its versions, gave me a lot to work with. I go into the garage, I pull out one of my 3rd edition books, flip it open to a random page and see what that asks and if it’s interesting. It’s a good, ‘completed’ form of the game to look at as a time capsule for an earlier time in gaming (just like 4th edition).
I spent a lot of time in my reflecting on 3rd edition thinking about ways the game fails the players. There’s the badly made Challenge Ratings system, the implicit racism of the weapon categories, the way that somehow worlds with gods that had feelings couldn’t really conceive of any use for Love, and I dedicated a bit of time to the weirdly anti-sex, consent-ignoring Book of Exalted Deeds.
There were a few character archetypes that 3rd edition let you play with. I looked at the Complete Books’ set of full-blown classes, and whether or not they were good (almost always, no). I showed you the basics of my own 3.5 class, the Adherent, which I still intend to put up on DriveThru at some point. I talked about the way that 3.5 made the fighter weaker and the Wizard stronger, the Supermount melee combatant that ran around biting people, the strange questions presented by the Soul Eater and its coincidentally contrary example the Ur-Priest, and the absolutely busto class, the Archivist.
In a more general ‘why do D&D worlds be this way’ I looked at the worldbuilding around alcohol, and assumptions made by teenagers making D&D worlds who do not, in fact, know anything about alcohol, one of the most broken (good) 2e swords interacting with one of the most broken (bad) systems of half attacks, the first time I heard the idea of ‘magepunk’ coalesced into a meaningful idea, and the strange mythological question of whether or not dragons can shapeshift into people.
4th Edition D&D got plenty of articles, but my favourites start with an article about how the Mount Rules in 4e were a step down from 3rd, and also, spent a lot of time not being hot garbage. While I was complaining about things being Not Good Enough from the edition change, I also complained about the Elan, a heritage of sexy weirdoes who were mangled by psychic outsider energies.
From there, though, I mostly looked at 4e in terms of offering ideas for how to run worlds, and ways to build within the space of those worlds. I talked about how 4e rules let organisations be more meaningful without necessarily being more powerful, about how to view a Warlock’s relationship to their patron, the ways you can consider the monster types for encounter design, variant class rules and the ways they both do and don’t fail the player, and of course, in Pride Month, an ongoing joke about memes about bi people, this time expressed as ‘dodge roll or die.‘
I did write about a bunch of my OCs, which I need to be more comfortable calling them. Particularly, I was proud of the writeups for Trancer, where I talk about the challenges of making trans characters and getting over the ‘but what if I do it wrong?’ impulse, Tideward where I just indulge in raw lovecraftian horror monsterboy, The 49th and her absolutely eyewatering build, Robyn Hoodie examining the mechanics of Traps and the social expression of heroism in the Rogue Isles, and Wild Hare, because she was inspired by fanart of an anime character wearing Megan Thee Stallion’s clothes.
I didn’t know it was the 30th anniversary of Star Control 2 this year, which meant that my decision to do a number of articles on things in that game was just a happy coincidence? I looked at the Androsynth (and the way their story went wrong), the Dnyarri (and the way they remind me of Emet-Selch), and then, veered into Star Control 3 to talk about the Clairconctlar, and how you get to play an Abortion Rights Chad in-setting.
While we’re talking about big sprawling games, though, I did a week focused on Final Fantasy XIV, a game I think I will always be able to complain about but which I also, again, keep playing, because I like playing it. Weird how that works. I did a writeup of one of my characters, Karash; I looked at the way the game depises alting, one of my favourite MMO practices; and I did a How To Be focusing on a character entirely because a friend loves her, and how when it comes to that character you’ve sort of got to invent your own material.
What if you follow me for my insights into Magic: The Gathering and its relationship to custom design? I did a piece on designing Partner cards, which need to advance the game and develop the play experience in interesting ways. I did another piece about my reactions to Neon Dynasty, which I still can’t believe exists. I also finally wrote up the idea of Inflexible, a designer problem we need to address.
Academic stuff this year? Oo, I talked about the way that objects carry their ideologies in them, which is something building on the work of Ian Bogost in Alien Phenomenology. I talked about the basics of Mythologies by Roland Barthes, because the man started with a whole conversation about Pro Wrestling. I also talked about the challenge of demarcation, a very real problem that I have to deal with when we’re looking at unfalsifiable experiences. I talked about how materiality of objects lets us share them and NFTs suck ass, and about the idea of the ‘blorbo’ and how they convey fundamental values about the entity just as being implied to being a thing to have.
There are some articles I think of as engaging to write; longer form ones that were worth digging into and which I knew would take some time to explain and which are worth reading as stories unto themselves, stories I find satisfying and interesting. This year, I did a bunch of those, and I think of them as ‘treats’ to have saved up to get a chance to write about, even if they’re on grim topics. These are articles that haunt me throughout the year, while I try to build up to finding the right time to work on them, to express them. Here’s a list of my favourites this year:
- I wrote about my findings from a year of Not Being Subscribed To A Bunch Of Things
- I wrote about Agent Garbo, the best Nazi Spy who never existed
- I wrote about the way that phones have always been changing throughout our lives and the implication there’s a ‘normal’ way to behave on them is weird
- I put together a long form version of a twitter thread about America, as explained by a non-American
- I grappled with the way that the Buzzfeed Unsolved ghost hunting show gets worse and worse the longer it goes on
- I reflected on what it meant to lose the Queen
- I dug in deep on the story of Sodafunk, figuring that a year later, the realities of the situation would shake out, and the personal pettiness that got me interested
- I revisited Baldur’s Gate 2 as an avenue for romantic characterisation and made fun of Anomen a lot
I also had some posts about single, specific things from media that weren’t the kinds of things you’ve got as major categorical sets on the blog:
- I am somehow, an internet resource trusted on The Blacklist and maybe I’ll have to finish watching that show to find out how sensible that is
- I talked about how Star Wars is a universe about owning stuff
- You know the show Victorious? Well I’ve never seen it
- What about the shipping opportunities in Ranma 1/2?
- I looked at a favourite ship from the game Life Is Strange
- There were major changes in World of Warcraft‘s historical content and people got weird about it
- Iori Yagami is one of two articles I did this year about King of Fighters stuff
- I got really into a Bible story this year now I had it reframed by a great lecturer, culminating in ‘oh those two dudes were fucking, right?‘
- Oh oh and an article about Bleach – Kenpachi and Yachiru!
I also did a bunch of stuff as it related to representation of gender in media, and even as I say this, man, I should write more about how weird it is that Tali is straight, but anyway:
- The transgender Azurills
- The Au Ra and colonial views of gender
- Care Bears’ trans elephant
- Acid Storm, the genderfluid transformer
It’s strange to consider that there are articles I have here that are definitely just about behaviour that, in hindsight, is largely just on twitter, and everyone who’s left twitter seems to agree is bad, and should not be encouraged:
Finally, we get down to the last two types of article, which are misc and heavy. I wrote about how I dislike the Fairy type in Pokemon. Because I love Ettin, I wrote about the way that Mass Effect’s culture of Asari are pretty much just sexier versions of D&D’s awful Beholders, because they both reproduce in the same fundamental way. I reflected a few times on the ways I relate to getting chores done, with a look at Thresholds and Habits.
I wrote a poem this year? About how I’ve learned about the behaviour of my dog, and the things that makes me realise I don’t understand about myself. Finally, I did go in on Alex Jones, and my sourcing on that, and the grim reflection on how I tried to escape one name, and wound up at another name that’s just as grim.
That’s it, that’s the year.
You made it.
If you didn’t make it, and you’re reading this, that’s really impressive and I’d like to hear more.