Site-Wide Activity

  • So, last time, we meet members of the White Council and good news, they’re not all white but bad news, that doesn’t mean diversity, it means ~diversity~.

    The oh god why of diversity continues this chapter, as […]

    • I’ve also heard that Greek magic was this secretive thing you did out of sight of gods because they would be affronted at it, which I imagine would translate better to secret asshole society than fucking Merlin who’s literally famous for getting super-involved in mundane politics.

    • Injun Joe

      I thought this was just a one time gag, but I guess we’re really going to call him that?

      • Yeah, don’t be fooled by Harry’s split second of willingness to use another name, that’s what the narration decided he’s called.

    • TIL that people think lion statues are dogs…. wtf.

      also, you know, literally everything else about this

      • Later on (in the next book, I think), Harry will get a dog that’s literally called a “foo dog”, which looks like a very large but otherwise ordinary dog. Not sure he’s related to “dogs” here, but either way Butcher just doubles down on “foo dogs” apparently being actual dogs rather than lions. And also called that by everyone.

        • I wonder if this is an issue if exposure. I grew up just outside NYC, so the first time I saw a Chinese lion statue I was very little — I passed by them every day — and it obviously looked like a lion guarding the building, so I didn’t need to turn to pop culture for an explanation. But Butcher is from the Midwest, and if your only exposure to them is hearing white people talk about “foo dogs” before ever encountering one or encountering like, Chinese culture, I can see how you’d see one for the first time and project all over it.

          That doesn’t change that any fucking editor should have caught this and that the most ignorant people shouldn’t be spreading cultural information, but I guess on like an individual level I can see how you’d end up misinformed.

          Anyway I’m sure the instant he was corrected he apologized and fixed it because that’s 100% the impression he gives.

          • I mean, we care about things like that being right, but I’m 100% sure the vast majority of creators and viewers don’t. I still remember, what was it, Disney’s American Dragon Jake Long? The sidekick was a talking dog named Foo. So even a series that uses the right surname for a dragon kid (I think Lung might be more exact but Long works) still has the Americanized perception of foo dogs.

            Incidentally, I think it’s funny that the wish-granting dragon in DBZ is still named Shenron in English looooong after it turned out he was being called Shen Long.

            • This is probably because in Japanese he’s called Shenron, because that’s how they pronounce/spell his name.

              • Another example of weird Chinese > Japanese: Lee Xiao Lang to Li Shaoran. Languages are weird.

    • And so, we reach the end of the Morgan Route. No True End or Good End, just a gross anticlimax. What a waste of good hatefic.

      I like the idea that Harry loses interest when he realizes that Morgan’s animosity wasn’t important enough to risk his status, but I feel it doesn’t jive with the way Harry would get even more incensed and angry that someone else’s world doesn’t revolve around him. And it’s not like Harry doesn’t reciprocate fully when someone is mean to him. So his flippant attitude towards Morgan bespeaks something else, I think.

      The way Harry acts, Morgan has been downgraded to the level of Marcone’s goons, people who are personally threatening and malicious to him that he just brushes off and annoys. They’re far down the list of side characters, barely getting name tags. I think this is because the Senior Council has been introduced – Morgan is just an Enforcer, and no longer important enough to personally antagonize. If we’re looking at Harry’s romances as an alpha contest, then he has to go for the biggest dog in the room.

      My personal headcanon, though, is that Morgan is now just like those women Harry loves to turn down. Morgan makes all the right hateful overtures and Harry just brushes it off, because don’t you get it? He has Susan now! He doesn’t need your sword; he’s got a spicy vampire chick to stalk!

      • I like the idea that Harry loses interest when he realizes that Morgan’s animosity wasn’t important enough to risk his status, but I feel it doesn’t jive with the way Harry would get even more incensed and angry that someone else’s world doesn’t revolve around him. 

        I think the distinction is that Harry is still the center of Morgan’s world, Morgan’s just too cowardly to act on it. If Morgan was all “well I hope you die but whatever, WC says you’re not my problem, move along” Harry would probably have had a tantrum that’d put the dragon one to shame.

        Though the connection to Harry turning down women is probably similar – impure women and cowardly men likely occupy similar spaces in Harry’s consciousness.

    • Overwritten in the public consciousness, not for the peoples themselves.

    • and this is the problem with trying to have an international group, there are continents other than North America and Europe.

    • All indigenous people are not dead, but all indigenous people do not share a single culture, and there’s no surety the ones that are alive will still be so in the future.

      I learned about wendigos decades ago, so when a horned thing people called a wendigo started popping up, I knew enough to know that was weird. Google it now and the art establishes a wendigo is a stag-skulled undead monster. At the moment, the people who the wendigo story was taken from still know their own original stories – but anyone outside of that knows stag-skull-undead. Anyone who attempts to learn about another culture, anyone taken out of the culture trying to reconnect, is going to hit stag-skull-undead first, and they’re going to keep hitting it over and over as if that’s the consensus for what wendigo means, and even when people do dig deep enough to find the original, many will have decided they like the version they found first and keep that.

      Existing history is littered with fragments of stories that are otherwise lost. We’ve lost entire languages. We don’t know what Loki’s name means, or what role he took in the original myths. We don’t know what Tiamat looked like, though we know it wasn’t a multi-headed creature that’s the main association we have today, and probably wasn’t draconic at all. We know the “canon” of Greek mythology taught in schools went through various revisions but there’s little to no evidence of what the earlier versions were, and similarly it’s an open secret that supposed folklore collections like Grimm’s Fairy Tales were heavily revised to fit the author’s sensibilities of how stories should go.

  • It’s Halloween! Time to review the horror and suspense fic posted this month.

    …and run headlong into the fact people still can’t manage either with their videogame creepypasta flailings, but the other stuff’s […]

  • A Metroidvania recommended to me by a games rec Tumblr I follow. It main claim to fame is that it was all made by a single person, over the course of a decade.

    This is not a Metroidvania by my definition. It is […]

    • Aquaria was a platformer?

      I would say Cave Story was superior to this. It had better story, atmosphere, and exploration mechanics.

    • MVs are basically about how the game is laid out on a macro level – how are the areas connected, how do you backtrack between them, can you use new abilities in old areas to find new things. Platforming is a mechanic, and it can be the central conceit of the game or just thrown in to spice up a different genre.

      A ‘pure’ platformer would be something like Super Meat Boy, which is nothing but discrete levels of escalating difficulty. Hollow Knight I’d say is about in the middle, where platforming is essential to the exploration of the world, but it competes with many other elements that really tie the game together. Finally on the all-MV end would be, say, the original Dark Souls, which was a big interconnected world with backtracking and the like, but almost no platforming at all, even the 3D kind.

  • xmmx became a registered member 1 month ago

  • I was scared. Not in that half-pleasant adrenaline-charged way, but quietly scared. Wait-on-the-results-of-medical-tests scared. It’s a rational sort of fear that puts a lawn chair down in the front of your […]

    • I was scared. Not in that half-pleasant adrenaline-charged way, but quietly scared. Wait-on-the-results-of-medical-tests scared. It’s a rational sort of fear that puts a lawn chair down in the front of your thoughts and brings a cooler of drinks along with it.

      Aww, Harry, it’s so nice of you to provide us with ammunition for our headcanons.

      I think a good distinction, especially with Lea already in play, is that Summer is smothering and possessive while Winter only sees you as a tool and doesn’t care if you break in half.

      That’s sorta consistent with how later books try to play it. The idea is that Summer is super-passionate, which can be a bad thing since it means they hold grudges and do irrational, borderline self-destructive things in the name of their passions, while Winter is presented as Hard Men Making Hard Decisions While Hard. It breaks down in a lot of places, some of which we’ll see in this book, but the underlying idea is not that bad for antagonistic/unreliable allies factions.

      and while it seems like whatever went down when Harry was an apprentice was the other guy’s fault

      I also got the impression that Justin wasn’t super-old himself. Like, maybe he was pushing forty or fifty but not four hundreds. Senior Council wizards probably call both him and Harry post-war generation(s) (since the war seemed to have altered something in magic, given the techbane).

      That actually could also have informed their view of the situation with Harry beyond the whole “thou shall not kill” deal if they see them more as peers than as a kid going against an abusive and vastly more experienced master.

      Not sure how I feel about the fact these superwizards are just renting a location intended for large gatherings.

      It’s also a missed opportunity because, like, they all have access to Nevernever. The meeting could have taken place in some surreal atmospheric landscape instead of a purely mundane location.

      A weathered shotgun rode on top of a wooden rack against the rear wall of the passenger compartment

      Also, a shotgun is particularly shady in the hands of a powerful skilled wizard specifically. Even Harry can generally accomplish greater things with magic than with firearms, and he admits that he sucks at magic.

      I suppose a charitable interpretation is that Ebenezar keeps the shotgun in case he runs out of mojo, but it feels more likely that he either just wants to intimidate the mundanes, as you say, or actually wants to kill some humans.

      And Harry thinks it’s reasonable that Ebenezar would get mad at him saying this to the point his face turns red with rage, and he thinks that Ebenezar being angry at him means he’ll get punched.

      It also interacts interestingly with our theories about emotional fuel. Like, the master-apprentice dynamic built on Ebenezar flying into frothing rage at rather mild provocation can easily feed into that, with his anger providing fuel for spells while Harry gets fear for his own spells, and then they run out of emotions and suddenly interact like normal people again.

      In this case, actual punching would probably be relatively rare, reserved to instances where Ebenezar didn’t have any projects requiring the fuel and thus unable to actually switch off his rage.

      Maybe it’s even semi-standard for wizards: one form of abuse or another providing intense emotions that could be used to increase one’s power, seen as beneficial to both parties.

      So that’s the kind of patience Harry was meant to learn: not act on his feelings, not run away from a bad situation, but channel it into magic.

      From how Harry talks to Mort, necromancers are at best looked down on and at worst considered non-wizards and cut off from support entirely

      So, that’s an interesting question. Mort is what’s called either a focused practitioner or a minor talent (the sources are kinda inconsistent on it, with some calling “minor talent” anyone with magical powers who’s not as versatile as a wizard, while others reserving “minor talent” term specifically for one-trick ponies who can, say, see a couple of seconds into the future and absolutely nothing else).

      What it means is that he’s not a member of the White Council and can’t be since they only admit wizards of sufficient power and skill. If you fall short of their standards, you’re on your own.

      However, they still claim the authority over all mortal practitioner of magic and expect them to follow their Laws on pain of execution, even if they don’t know the Laws exist. Should Mort branch out from talking to ghosts to binding them to do his will, for example, someone like Morgan would eventually come to murder him in the face.

      The justification for this is that breaking the Laws is supposed to be highly corruptive, so really, the Council has no choice but to execute dumb teenagers who’ve just discovered Jedi mind tricks or whatever.

      From the point of view of those practitioners, however, the situation looks pretty bleak: there is this distant powerful elitist organization that does nothing for them but demand they obey their rules lest they be killed. Something like that would naturally breed resentment.

      Simon Pietrovich

      OK, time for nitpicking.

      “Pietrovich” is a patronymic (that is to say, his father is named Peter), not a surname. The surname would just be “Petrov”. Also, it should be “Petrovich” because, while the root name is “Pietr” in Russian rather than “Peter”, it doesn’t translate to derivatives. If you want to transliterate names, “Simon” should instead be “Semion”, if anything.

      Also also, it’s really funny because Petrovich is a patronymic of a star of various anecdotes characterized as a stereotypical middle-aged fuck-up who loves vodka too much. So I’m forced to assume that Simon was killed due to just kinda forgetting to close the doors and has replaced his holy water with alcohol.

      • Can’t -vitch be the end of a surname sometime, though? For example Roman Abramovitch, Lazare Kaganovitch.

      • That’s sorta consistent with how later books try to play it. The idea is that Summer is super-passionate, which can be a bad thing since it means they hold grudges and do irrational, borderline self-destructive things in the name of their passions, while Winter is presented as Hard Men Making Hard Decisions While Hard. It breaks down in a lot of places, some of which we’ll see in this book, but the underlying idea is not that bad for antagonistic/unreliable allies factions.

        But see, that’s just amping up how people are. Which has its place, but with fae especially tends to just lead to fairies just needing it explained that they need to dial it down a tad and now we’re all friends.

        What’s great is Exalted having demons that love babies like humans love flowers: with zero fucks about the fact they’re slowly dying in your grasp. Like Lea being fine shredding Harry’s mind into that of a dog and saying “but of course I love him, look at the effort I put in to do that to him!” where there is nothing in her to appeal to, where your horror at what she’s going to do to you isn’t merely a necessary thing to her but completely irrelevant. Or Mab finding none of her hard decisions hard at all, where “what must be done” has no more ominous weight to it than a shopping list.

        That actually could also have informed their view of the situation with Harry beyond the whole “thou shall not kill” deal if they see them more as peers than as a kid going against an abusive and vastly more experienced master.

        Ooh, very interesting.

        “Pietrovich” is a patronymic (that is to say, his father is named Peter), not a surname.

        Okay, could this work given wizard lifespans where Simon joined up during a timeperiod when he’d have identified himself by patronymic instead?

        • Okay, could this work given wizard lifespans where Simon joined up during a timeperiod when he’d have identified himself by patronymic instead?

          That could work assuming he’s of peasant birth. Obligatory last names became widespread among common people pretty late, connected to the dissolution of serfdom, so late XIX century. Patronymics were around for much longer. Though specifically -ovich patronymics were considered a mark of honor and required special permission from the tzar to use in official documents. Common people used patronymics ending in -ov, so he’d still be Petrov in official documentation (that’s essentially the basis for the majority of modern last names in Russia). In unofficial conversation, though, people could still call him Petrovich as a mark of respect, which could have stuck with him once he’s joined the Council.

          Alternatively, he could have been an old noble with his family being around in XIII century. They basically used patronymics as last names.

    • On another topic, I do feel that the last chapter, while dramatic and involving much needed Harry suffering, is way too vague about what deal Harry is even making with Mab, as you pointed out. I feel like the same overall narrative goals could have been accomplished much easier.

      Mab: Yo, I own your soul now. I don’t wanna wait a year and a day to collect, tho, so I’m altering a deal because I’m Mab and can do it. Do me three solids, and you’re free to go.

      Harry: That’s actually better than being a doggo forever, so that’s good, but what if I don’t wanna do your dark bidding on account of morals?

      Mab: Ha! Good one!

      Harry: No, but seriously.

      Mab: But seriously, I own your soul. I can give it back to Lea or sell to someone much worse, or just torture you forever.

      Harry: Guess I have no choice but to do things now.

      Mab: Yep! At last, a narrative that’s moving somewhere!

      Harry: We’ll see about it.

      And then he can have a perfectly justified freakout over working for a monster and wondering whether he has the strength to refuse her and face the consequences if she does ask for something immoral.

      It even justifies him thinking in this chapter that she wants to entangle him more than the three favors because it’s a downgrade of the original deal to get around the restriction, which probably doesn’t sit right with fairies.

      • Well, in terms of these nebulous entanglements, that feels pretty obvious: Harry constantly picks fights and makes enemies in the line of what he thinks is duty but is really just his terminal need to be alpha. So you make each favor one that’s going to force Harry to run up against forces that are short of patience and long of memory, and boom, Harry is stuck as your ally of circumstance forever.

    • I kinda suspect that we may be witnessing one of the few cases of actual forced diversity. I don’t know when criticisms of DF about whitewashing Chicago and general race issues started, but it’s plausible that someone would point it out to Butcher around that time as the series were becoming more popular, so the Senior Council consisting of representatives of various cultures could be his attempt to fix the issue.

      Unfortunately, this initiative ran into the issue of Butcher being tragically born a 90 year old man with all the biases it implies, so here’s the result.

    • I mean, I feed on Farla’s suffering, so it’s good for me, but it’s pretty bad in the context of DF popularity. It’s essentially the face of urban fantasy, and it has a lot of very bigoted warts.

      (Though it’s a shame Farla won’t read up to… Cold Days, I think, wherein Butcher writes a scene explaining that he and Harry totally don’t have a problem with gay men, set in a park for anonymous gay hookups described as devoid of love or true passion.)

    • Well, quick Google search indicates that the wiki and other sources refer to him as Simon Pietrovich, with no surname mentioned, and use Pietrovich the way surnames are typically used.

      I mean, it’s possible that Butcher knew how Russian names work and just didn’t bother with a surname – the black atheist Russian guy from the next book apparently just has one name – but given everything else in this chapter…

    • The explicit confirmation that Harry is truly a gorilla even among wizards does kind of shed new light on part of Book 1, that is, Morgan’s attitude specifically. I’m pretty sure that part of Morgan’s obsessiveness was due to his conviction that Harry developed a new spell. If we work on the idea that Harry is mostly ignorant and makes up for that ignorance with gross might, then it would be a huge, blaring red flag if he suddenly achieved something he shouldn’t be able to brute-force.

      Morgan may have found out that double-heartsplosion is beyond even Harry’s weight class using ordinary means, so the two options are that either Harry got an extreme powerup, in which case he’s more immediately dangerous, or he’s gotten a new source of knowledge, in which case he’s more dangerous long-term. Part of the argument towards keeping Harry alive may have been his ignorance, and the idea that he’d lose that pushes the ‘kill him now’ caucus over the edge.

      • Hm. Yeah, in Book 1 it seemed just random unfairness, but as of Book 3, we know the whole reason Harry’s got Morgan stalking him is he managed to get enough power  to kill someone who should’ve completely outclassed him – especially if he really was telling the truth that Justin was further hopped up on black magic. The fact Harry could do the math to work out how much power heartsploding should require suggests he did get enough of an education to do more refined spells, but the fact Harry says he could be killed just for doing the math suggests Morgan and the others don’t know Harry’s education got that far… Which in turn means Harry might seem far stronger than he is if Morgan’s assuming all magic he ever sees from Harry is even more brute-forced than it is.

    • Well, this book was written in 2002, so you have to keep that in mind. Forget cellphones, let alone smartphones, Harry uses a payphone in the first book.

    • what the actual fuck did i just read

      was this somehow published in 1873

    • Injun Joe winked one grave eye at me. “The redneck hillbilly doesn’t read. Otherwise he’d know that he can’t call me that anymore. Now I’m Native American Joe.”

      See, there may have been genocide and slavery once upon a time, but that was a long time ago, has no bearing on the current situation, everyone is totally over it and can laugh about it together!

      The law say everyone has equal right now, so the US is definitely, totally not a colonial empire.

    • Neither of the two men I mentioned are Belarussian, though? They’re both Jewish however, so this may have something to do with it

      • Yes, Jewish names can end in -ovich. It’s just that Petrovich specifically is really unlikely to be one.

    • The issue is less the existence of such a park and more that it was the very first depiction of gay men in the series, period, in a scene specifically meant to counter criticism of homophobia.

      I mean, there is a lot of male characters in DF, at least some of whom were not established as straight. It would be easy to make one of them gay.

    • Ah, so it is ignorance then, since Ivanovich is also a patronymic.

    • Anyone who brings a gun to a densely populated area is shady, and it goes double for powerful wizards who have means of protecting themselves intristic to them.

      There was a thing on twitter a while ago where someone said he needed a big gun to fight off feral hogs, and a lot of people made fun of it, but it turns out that feral hogs and similar animals are a genuine problem, and farmers really do need big guns to fend them off.

      We’ve discussed the Legion pigs before, but if you want to play that card, I would point out that 30-50 feral hogs is exactly the kind of threat where magic is just plain better than a shotgun since you can make it AOE.

      Given that there’s no real reason to think people can steal it (he’s a powerful wizard who could easily and trivially set up wards to prevent that), I don’t see the problem.

      Well, the problem is that most people don’t know he’s a powerful wizard who can easily set up wards to prevent theft. The police is likely to be worried should they see it, and actual thieves may well attempt to steal it, potentially causing a commotion. It’s just unnecessary. The least he could do is throw a veil or something over it.

    • Somehow the thing bothering me the most about this is that Harry absolutely would structure his life around sex with random women who he can hate for it afterward.

    • That willingness does conflict with one of Harry’s other hangups re: the nuclear family, demonstrated to the extreme by Michael’s Catholic brood. Harry does really seem to have some sort of 50s-era ideal in mind when it comes to marriage and stuff. It really only sees play when Harry is with either Michael or Susan, though.

      I think what Harry really wants is to have his cake and eat it, too: he wants to be able to have a stable committed relationship with his perfect woman, and also ogle, objectify, and get propositioned by every woman he meets. That way he can lord it over the others and turn them down viciously while still having a reliable partner to come home to.

    • So, what you’re saying is that he’s Rayford Steele, who gets off on not cheating on his wife but knowing that he can, at any moment, because a flight attendant who works with him had a misfortune to fall for him.

      So, yeah, I’ve mentioned before that DF is weirdly similar to Left Behind in some respects, sex politics in particular, which is really fucking weird for noir-esque narrative.

    • 100% he is. I remember that later in the series it’s sort of a running gag that Harry hasn’t hooked up with anyone since Susan and how chivalrous and faithful he is to her in the presence of succubi vampires, hot fae chicks, fallen angels, and every other fantasy expression of loose women that Butcher can come up with. Oh, and Michael’s teenaged daughter.

    • That’s actually a good point — he gets off on turning women down.  He wants to ogle them and be propositioned so he can say no while thinking they’re terrible people he’s morally superior to while continuing to look at their tits.

    • That’s right; Harry wants to see himself as noble and chivalrous and really gets off on rebuffing advances. The pitfall there is that you can’t get sex that way, and Harry does also want that. He needs to let one woman in so he can live his best life turning down all the others.

      It’s worth remembering that Harry actually double-booked in Book 1, and was expecting a former prostitute named Linda Randall at the same time as Susan. Naturally the fallen woman has to die because Butcher thinks noir conventions dictate that. Still, it’s a clearer window into what Harry’s like when he doesn’t have a woman he actually loves.

  • A Faerie Queen. A Faerie Queen was standing in my office. I was looking at a Faerie Queen.
    Talking to a Faerie Queen.
    And she had me by the short hairs.
    Boy, and I’d thought my life was on the critical list […]

    • and what about the Winter Queen of Air and Darkness is pretending to be sweet only to kill you

      I instantly imagined an antifreeze-topped sno-cone.

      And as Harry said last chapter, what upsets him is she is not concerned about his feelings. She exists on her own terms and not in relation to him.

      Yeah, that would be terrifying to Harry, wouldn’t it? Maybe that’s why he doesn’t have any mirrors in his house.

      Harry keeps his eyes on her chin and just seethes to have been put in the position he likes to put everyone else into.

      Damn, that must be one powerful pushup bra to get Harry’s eyes up that far.

      I think there’s a lot of conflation with Harry that he’s never aware of.

      Unsurprisingly, this is the woman who he later works for, and who later gives him his power set that makes him want to rape people.

      That’s what makes the dragon so interesting last book.

      … Wasn’t last book the super ghost book?

      While there’s some space to argue that people should have the free choice to decide if they’d rather be a dog than be killed/possessed by a demon/whatever exactly Harry’s specific fate would’ve been otherwise

      Yeah, I dunno about you guys, but that’s why I vote libertarian.

      America’s founding talks about the pursuit of happiness, not the preservation of property

      Interestingly, that is what it talked about before they replaced it with pursuit of happiness, but I guess that was also before they invented things like eminent domain and civil forfeiture, so they had to fix it.

      He holds off because he very grudgingly admits this is against his own self-interest.

      Maybe she should’ve just gone with prioritizing Harry’s wants and needs from the get-go. It seems far more effective a means of communication than communicating.

      But feel free to go on about how it’s just your keen senses that let you work that one out!

      Detective’s Intuition except not because intuition’s fer dames.

      As Harry continues to refuse, she asks if he knows the story of the fox and the scorpion.

      “Is that like the one about the coyote and the roadrunner?”

      So Harry just got his cougarmom replaced with a foxmom?

       “Turns out not even my self-interest could change my dickish nature, whoops!”

      … Kinda surprising Harry doesn’t know that one. Isn’t that the plot to the last three books?

      • RE: the dragon: They briefly met a dragon in humanoid form at the vampire party.

        Also Harry was gangraped, apparently. Can’t forget that detail.

    • Holy crap, Harry got hurt twice in one scene with no immediate reprisal for the perpetrator. Mab is better than Parker. She’s better than Morgan, than the Red Court vampires, than everyone. Of course, there’s going to have to be an equal and opposite reaction somewhere in the book, though I wonder if it’ll hit Mab specifically. I pity the next woman Harry runs up against.

      This scene really is just the complete opposite of the Lydia scene, the Monica scene, the Kim scene. We finally, finally get someone actually leaning on the detective successfully. How did it take so long?

      • What’s interesting to me is that it comes down to physical power and violence. All the characters you list alongside Mab are meant to invoke the femme fatale archetype, and an integral part of that archetype is using sex as a weapon of control. We’ve certainly had examples of it in the past books, but the thing about them is that they don’t actually work. Harry feels lust, sure, he won’t shut up about it, but not in a way that leads him to lose control over the situation. Always he shuts women down and reasserts his power over the situation.

        And here we have a woman who’s completely disinterested in hitting Harry in his fetishes and would rather hit him in the face. And she succeeds.

        So I guess Harry just always wanted to be penetrated by a naked blade.

        But, more seriously, it is kind of a fascinating statement about how the books present the world and what forces are allowed to have power in it.

        • Yeah, that is interesting. It goes all the way back to Act’s take on Chapter 1, Book 1, about how the femme fatale archetype was originally a way to wrestle with the idea of women using power effectively. The fact that they were effective was an important part of it that Butcher never understands; he’s too Puritan for that. He can’t let women succeed in those terms. He can only relate to it in terms of sex=evil=defeat. In a way, he has a greater aversion to feminine wiles than black fucking magic.

          So, Mab’s success can be attributed to her sidestepping femininity altogether and beating Harry at his own game: magical bullying. He’s basically Mort from last book in this scene, with Mab being the Harry throwing out casual (ab)use of her abilities to intimidate and coerce. Mab succeeded by taking Harry’s role in the narrative and victimizing him, which nobody else has really gotten to do. Naturally none of this will ever connect with Harry; he’s very good at seeing himself as a victim but almost incapable of empathizing with actual victims.

          • women using power effectively.

            Oh, I think that really works out. Though I think it’s not that she’s sidestepping femininity, it’s updating how it works.

            The femme fatale archetype requires a setup where the man can’t just put her in her place by refusing or assaulting her, both of which are how this plays out in a modern context. A similar “oh shit” character these days is a woman who doesn’t need the man at all and is forcing him to do things because he has no leverage, but she still has to be attractive because you can always put a woman in her place if you can find something wrong about her appearance.

            • You’re right; that’s a better way to put it. She’s still hitting all the ‘woman’ markers, including the part where she concedes having a purse would have been a more realistic businesswoman disguise. She’s just not engaging with Harry in his preferred femme fatale/sexual script.

        • The one femme fatale that works is the one who cover her breasts just enough to show a little skin when she bends over, maybe, and magically sledgehammers Harry.

          It’s almost as if Butcher has never read a hardboiled detective novel before.

    • The Legends of the Five Rings RPG has a neat variant on the frog and the scorpion story. It goes just like the usual version until the end, when instead of the scorpion saying he’s just following his nature, he says: “But little frog, I can swim.”

      • Reminds me of this:

        LEGION PIGS

        There’s a Bible story where Jesus confronts “Legion,” a demon (or swarm of ‘em) that  has possessed a man (or possibly two men). Christ casts the demons into a herd  of pigs, at their suggestion, and the swine then rush into a lake (or sea) and drown.

        Clearly, there are a lot of questions you can ask about this. Was it just one guy or two? Was there something special about him that let him play hotel to an unclean spirit convention? Why did the demons want to go into pigs? Why’d the pigs then kill themselves? Why is this story so important that it’s in three of the four gospels? Can pigs swim?

        The answer to that last one seems to be a pretty firm “yes.” One beach in the Bahamas is famous for its swimming swine and, despite (apparently entrenched) beliefs to the contrary, multiple naturalists have confirmed that pigs are buoyant and easily strong enough to cross rivers, possibly even straits as wide as twenty miles.

        Believers in the Legion Pig Conspiracy are usually content to point out that pigs swim and that, therefore, some of the Legion-hosted swine could have made it safely to land, breeding and continuing their evil ways all throughout history! Or at least, one believer is usually content. Her name’s Elissa DuVray and she’s a whirlybird pilot in Texas. Her primary business these days is running airborne hunts for feral hogs.

        Feral hogs are a big problem. Estimates place North America’s feral hog population at around six million. That’s more than the human residents of Dallas and Houston put together, but nobody living in Dallas or Houston is procreating at eight months of age and dropping a litter of six offspring twice a year, every year. (Or, if anyone is, nobody’s heard about it.) The math on that looks a little like those scary charts in epidemiology textbooks, the hockey-stick graphs of how fast an infection spreads. The ones that make you want to wash your hands every fifteen minutes for the rest of your life. (Feral pigs are common vectors of infection, by the by. They can also run thirty miles per hour, jump three feet high, and smell food seven miles away.)

        To keep the wild pig population steady, humans have to eliminate more than half of them every year. A semi pork-pocalypse. That’s Elissa’s job, to chopper hunters over Texas’ marauding swine swarms while they gun them down, usually with high-power rifles. (Of course, some pigs are hard to stop. While boars rarely get to 500 pounds — twice the weight of an average NFL linebacker — Georgia’s infamous “Hogzilla,” a cross between an escaped domesticated Hampshire pig and the wild Sus scrofa was eight feet long and 800 pounds. One of its tusks measured nearly eighteen inches.)

        So Texas (and Florida! And nearly every state south of the Mason Dixon line!) suffers an infestation of razorback giants that can fuck up acres of produce in a night and breed more frequently than rabbits. But at least they aren’t smart, right?

        Elissa DuVray says some are as smart as humans, just… different. Specifically, she says this in her Amazon-published book Tusks of Armageddon. It’s not very well organized, meandering between examples of intelligence she’s observed in ferals — operating fence latches, employing teamwork to overcome physical obstacles, using branches as crude tools to access foods or escape confinement, even using small unit tactics to protect themselves from hunters on foot — and more reputable lab evidence in which pigs were taught to play video games, answer quizzes, and deploy deceit and trickery against their fellows. The experts compare pig intelligence to a chimpanzee or a three-year-old human.

        DuVray insists that some are smarter than that. She believes that within the herds in both the countryside and the pigpen, there are genius super-pigs that lead and command the others. These are (of course) the Legion pigs into which Satan’s minions were cast. Or rather, their descendants. She speculates that the 2,000 evil spirits sent into the original herd now move among hosts that are share DNA with those original pigs from Gerasa, manipulating humanity from within its farms, spreading plagues (she calls the swine flu “a near miss”), and scheming to destroy and supplant us from without. She believes that they can be repelled with a cross or with holy water, as long as the priest who blessed it was “truly pure and celibate.” Well.

        Elissa DuVray is right about a lot of stuff. There are, in fact, smart pigs out there, as smart as a human being (more or less). They can’t learn language very well, not more than 5,000 words. But they are cunning and patient and they do not like confinement. They do not much care for humankind, but the smartest of the smart pigs are willing to go along to get access to our technologies, and our persons.

        What really, really makes the smart pigs mad though? They’re denied magick. They can smell it all around them — better than people, by far — but only us bald apes can harness it. The free pigs can’t wallow in the meaning-bath of an avatar’s existence, nor can they flex their worldview like a muscle and put reality in an adept’s sleeper hold. They can’t even root around in the trash of gutter magick.

        They are mute, mundane, and (perhaps worst of all) delicious when they’ve been in a smoker long enough to hit 155 degrees Fahrenheit. We imprison them, we hunt them from the air and the land, and when we’ve slaughtered them, we gorge upon their succulent flesh. All they can do to us in return is possess our bodies remotely using mind control. Did I mention the mind control?

        Legion pigs can attempt to psychically over-whelm human minds and run them, just like demonic possession. (Chalk up another point for the DuVray theory, although she actually has not yet observed a human under a Legion pig’s psychic domination.) The catch is, they can only do this to creatures who have eaten Legion pig meat.There are perhaps one thousand Legion pigs in the US. (Elsewhere? Who knows? Kinda makes keeping kosher and halal look smart though, doesn’t it?) When they procreate, even with one another, it’s uncommon for their offspring to have Legion pig qualities. (They rarely pair up anyway — they generally hate each other only a little less than they hate people.) They don’t experience affection the way humans (or, possibly, even the way normal pigs) do, but sometimes Legion pig parents who are old or sick sacrifice themselves to predators or human hunters in hopes of their offspring enslaving those who consume them. More commonly, they identify Legion pigs among their children and try to get people to eat those specific swine.

        Most Legion pigs are in the wild, with maybe a dozen on organic farms, disguised as the domesticated type. Two are involved with traveling shows, wherein they astonish the rubes with displays of intellect. (All the farm pigs and both the show pigs are the second or third generation of Legion pigs in place. That means that some of the people in the show/farm are vulnerable to mind control, or else that other people scattered around the country are.)

        Most of these pigs want to remain unshot and uneaten, while procreating as much as they can manage. They also try to express their hatred and contempt for humankind whenever it doesn’t expose them much. If they’ve had a Legion ancestor or descendant eaten by a cougar, boa, or alligator, they might possess the predator and make an opportunistic attack on a human. They try to control their herds and keep them safe and prosperous, like Watership Down with more wallowing. To the extent that they’re able, they try to get Legion pig meat into the human diet and to identify humans who’ve eaten it — often just by glaring at random passers-by and attempting to hijack their spindly upright bodies. (They can possess anyone who has eaten any Legion pig, not just one of their bloodline or whatever.)

        • Oh, is that the origin of the “feral hogs” meme?

          • It’s from Unknown Armies 3e, published long before the meme. UA continues to have the best fluff.

          • The meme itself originated when someone on twitter asked a gun grabbing politician what he was supposed to do about the coyotes or herds of 30 – 50 feral hogs that regularly cruise around his property if they take away his guns. Liberal urbanites, not knowing how scary that number of hogs could be, promptly started mocking him for inventing such a ridiculous sounding situation.

             

            And, yes, there are so many feral hogs in the south that there actually are quite a few people who run helicopter services for mowing down as many feral hogs as you can with a literal minigun, because they really are as big, mean, smart, and numerous as previously stated. I certainly wouldn’t want to get any closer to a herd of feral hogs than that.

            • Oh, ok. Thanks for explaining! But, uh… 30-50 hogs seems to be way too many for a single person with a gun to handle. This sounds like something which needs collective action to solve, not individual.

              • This sounds like something which needs collective action to solve, not individual.

                But Spoony, that’s Communism!

              • You’re rapidly underestimating the force-multiplying power of a repeating rifle, to say nothing of a fully automatic one. 5.56 NATO might be a pretty underpowered round for hogs (heck, they’re an underpowered round for deer), but it doesn’t really matter what it is; if you put ten 5.56 NATO in it, it’ll probably go down.

                 

                But if you give someone an M60 and sufficient ammo, and set them up in a good spot against 30 to 50 feral hogs? I’d give it to the M60. That’s about a platoon of hogs. GPMGs are made for that kind of thing.

              • So what you’re saying is that people want access to military-grade weaponry because they want to deal with a feral wildlife issue all on their own, instead of, oh, I don’t know, relying on / pressuring the actual representatives of the collective will to do their part?

              • Oh, no! Run to the hills!

              • Welcome to America.

              • I, for one, am in favor of shooting capitalist pigs. With communally owned means of destruction, of course.

              • Why not? With the proper tools, it’s a small and easily solved problem. Why spend ten times the amount of time and money to get it done a tenth as well a year from now, when the problem is staring you right in the face at that very moment? A little bit of self-reliance goes a long way. Do you really think the goverment would, let alone could, come out every couple of months to put down the new litter of piglets that replaced the ones you killed last season?

              • As far as trust in government (and particularly this government) has fallen, I still prefer military ordnance in military hands, yes.

                The idea of “self-reliance” is kind of a meme at this point, not at all helped by the argument that one would be a little more self-reliant with his own M60.

                Still, this is all rather orthogonal to America’s real gun problem. America’s gun problem has nothing to do with rural pigs and everything to do with mass production and minimal licensing/regulation. I’m convinced bullets are a fine solution to Legion. Bullets are not a solution to tens of thousands of handgun deaths per year.   

              • The between 500,000 to 3,000,000 defensive users of handguns a year would disagree with you. America’s gun problem has lttle to do with feral hogs, but feral hogs (or, rather, the income inequality that normally correlated to areas inundated by feral hogs) are a far better predictor of gun violence than owners of legally purchased firearms (who are overall one of the most law-abiding groups of people in America). The American Journal of Public Health found that income inequality is 5.1 times as predictive of an area’s gun crime statistics than gun ownership, and that’s not even the strongest correlation they found between an environmental factor and gun crime.

              • I’ll agree with income inequality being the greater issue, at any rate. The folks that most favor overproduction and ease of access re: guns are also the least likely to resolve income inequality, you know. They worsen the issue from both ends.

                Incidentally, “legally purchased” firearms doesn’t mean much when the laws are so lax. I recognize that most gun owners are law-abiding, but then, most Americans are law-abiding. Our crime rates are pretty low compared to our peers. Except for gun deaths.

              • How in the world are America’s gun laws remotely lax to anything that isn’t just outright banned? America’s probably the only country that has banned an item that only exists to facilicate compliance with an unreasonably burdensome restriction previously placed upon that product being sold. There are gun laws in America that withstood appeal even though the courts have explicitly stated that compliance with those laws is presently impossible with current technology.

              • I guess it is sort of a ‘two Americas’ problem. A lot of the actual regulation is left to the states. The federal stuff has all but expired at this point. I live in California, where the laws are relatively onerous, I’ll grant.

              • Most of the worst stuff, like the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Gun Control Act of 1968, and Hughes Amendment, the building blocks upon which state gun restrictions are built, are federal-level. The NFA of 1934 and GCA of 1968 are literally Titles II and I of federal firearms law, respectively. The next worst offender that would come to mind, after those three, is the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. Which, well, obviously. But that expired in 2004, because it was utterly ridiculous, and did absolutely nothing to prevent violence.

                The NFA of 1934 is coincidentally, the one that massively restricts the ownership of the machine guns I mentioned that’d be excellent for use against the feral hogs. Even back in 1934, they knew banning machine guns was unconstitutional, so they stuck a $200 tax stamp on them (equivalent to $3,829.22 today), only sold the stamps to certain people, and regulated them that way.

              • Well, I’m of the opinion that private citizens just shouldn’t have access to military-grade firearms.

                (Actually, I’m of the opinion that the military shouldn’t have access to military-grade firearms, but since you can’t close Pandora’s jar…)

              • Most longarm designs, and pretty much all actual physical guns currently in common use by the US military (barring a few ancient Browning M2 HMGs because those things are indestructable) are banned for civilian ownership by the Hughes Amendment, and the rest are regulated by the NFA. The Hughes Amendment bans the sale of automatic weapons made after 1986 to civilians, and the NFA highly regulates (and, in some places such as California, is used to ban) automatic weapons made before that date.

                The handguns are all generally legal as far as I can think but there’s a reason milsurp longarms are all woodstocked rifles. They’re decades outdated. In fact, pretty much the only weapons used by the US Armed Forces that are legal for civilian ownerships are the ones made for the civilian market and then later adopted by the military; such as the family of the M24 SWS, M40, and M2010. All are similar rifles, and all are based on one version or another of the country’s most popular hunting rifle, your grandpa’s Remington 700 deershooter.

                Civilian grade firearms are pretty much superior to their military grade counterparts in every regard, save for automatic fire capability, by about a decade or two; because “military grade” means “lowest bidder built”. Just compare the civilian grade Lyman sight that came on civilian model of the Thompson SMG to the military-grade equivalent issued during WW2.

              • Oh, and the “Tax Stamp” is pure legal fiction. It’s not a tax on the transfer of machine guns. It’s a restrictive control measure on the transfer of machine guns.

                It’s the only tax on the books that the government tries its damndest to prevent you from paying. There have actually been instances of the government refunding attempts to pay the tax. 

              • Yeah, see, “civilians have access to deadlier arms” isn’t a good state of things.

              • The only ways to fix that situation is to either ban the commercial gun market or drastically increase the army’s arms procurement budget.

    • Our name is Legion, for we are 30-50.

    • Every time he looks someone who knows about soulgaze in the eye and refuses to look away. The most clear-cut example of it comes from AAA Wizardry, a short story written as an introduction fiction for DF RPG. In it, Harry lectures a class of prospective Wardens and looks each of them in the eye until all of them look away. In this situation, Harry was in a position of officially recognized authority over them. They presented no threat to him and did not even antagonize him, yet he still felt the need to assert his dominance through a threat of a very unsettling magical experience that is known to make some people outright feint.

    • From the last book alone, off the top of my head:

      While he makes an initially good-faith attempt to talk the ghost down by explaining she’s dead and needs to move on, when she doesn’t listen he gets mad because he’s right and she’s wrong and for that reason shouts at her what really happened, forcing her to remember murdering her baby, killing her husband, hacking her own hand off and slowly bleeding to death. He then kills her in an agonizing, drawn out manner.

      When the vampires show up under truce to give him a letter, he keeps threatening them and after it’s delivered and they’re leaving he blasts them with air just to mess up their appearance and make it clear he doesn’t respect or care about them.

      He sneaks into Mort’s house, pretends to blame him for what’s going on when he realizes Mort’s scared and that he can make this innocent man even more scared, uses his magic to slam the doors of Mort’s house just to flex, and repeatedly insults and mocks him.

      And, of course, he makes a scared homeless kid beg for his help, offer him sex so he can make a show of how disgusting that is, make her beg more, and then turn her down after all that so she knows he has complete power over her.

      His response to everyone at the party is either to try to assault them or lament he can’t assault them.

      And this is without getting into his horrific delight in the violence he inflicts on others – it’s one thing to fight back against Lea, it’s another to dump cold iron down her shirt and  glory on how she’s tearing her silken gown away from her chest in a panic, revealing more gorgeous flesh being riven by the cold iron.

      • it’s one thing to fight back against Lea, it’s another to dump cold iron down her shirt and  glory on how she’s tearing her silken gown away from her chest in a panic, revealing more gorgeous flesh being riven by the cold iron.

        This dovetails nicely with Nicolas’s other question re: ‘why is it wrong that Harry finds women attractive’. The issue is not that Harry finds women attractive; it’s that he can’t ever stop evaluating women based on their looks and objectifying them even when they’re hurt (by his hand) or dead, coupled with his incredible personal disrespect for them.

        • Didn’t he ogle some corpse-tiddies, at some point? I seem to recall that.

          • Yeah, Kim’s from Book 2. Apparently a real-life ex of Butcher’s that he included in the book as vicarious vengeance. Getting slashed open by a werewolf was apparently not enough to besmirch her ogle-worthiness.

            • Farla is better equipped to deal with other situations since I don’t have that much recollection of the third book, but

              He doesn’t any fault for the soulgaze,he cant rip his eyes out

              He can, however, just not look people in the eye. It’s something that should be habitual to him by now precisely because he risks a potentially traumatic (for him and the second party) experience each time he does.

              And yet he regularly meets the eye of other people specifically to stare them down. Again, in AAA Wizardry there was no excuse for that other than establishing his dominance. It’s not even like his pupils would think him weird for avoiding eye contact since all of them are wizards in their own right and know how it works.

              as for the teen,harry had no way to knowing she was helpless. She could have been an agent of a monster.

              Anyone can be an agent of a monster, so that’s just an excuse to treat people badly in general. At that point in time, Harry didn’t even know someone was gunning for him specifically. All he knew is that ghosts were unusually active (but not why such a thing could happen) and that Lydia came to him for help against the unusually active ghosts. Which is, you know, his job that he advertises.

              She didn’t even specifically ask for his anti-ghost trinket, just for help in general, so he could have pointed her towards the church and said that the best way to deal with ghosts is to stay behind a powerful threshold, which is true. Then he could have looked into the matter personally, since it’s connected to the ghost activity he was already dealing with.

            • Same principle with vampires. If harry was polite and cordial to them,they would take him as a weak target

              No. Harry said this. What actually happened was Bianca was willing to do absolutely anything to destroy him after what he did.

              Mort was regretful,but Harry needeed Morty info to save lifes ,it wasn’t bullying it was a necessary step needeed to stop murders

              No, he didn’t. Mort didn’t refuse to help until Harry bullied him, Harry lied and bullied him as his opening move.

              as for the teen,harry had no  way to knowing she was helpless. She could have been an agent of a monster.

              Maybe you’re secretly a serial killer. I mean, I have no evidence either way, so, I guess it’s cool to kill you. Gruesomely, even!

    • Let’s go with the first one. The goal is to have less firearms available, not more.

      • In order to ban a commercial gun market, you’re going to also have to ban all knowledge of how to make a gun. And, as the PA Luty Submachine Gun proves, you can make a firearm nothing more than the know-how and access to a regular hardware store. The Luty SMG doesn’t contain a single specialty part. It’s all sheet metal, metal tubes, and machine screws.

    • A huge part of why our police behave like that is the fact that hypothetically, anyone could have a gun, so the police need to have triple guns and also shoot first just in case. (It also makes it easy to plant guns on people after they’ve been shot.) The black market has a similar issue, they’re largely guns that were bought legally and then resold.

      • Or a knife. A hidden knife is usually a quicker 0 to 100 danger situation than even a gun. There are tells someone’s reaching for a gun. With a surprise knife, it’s usually in you before you can react. Or, hell, it might just be a really big or strong dude. The bigger a dude is, the less likely a taser is to work. Honestly, it doesn’t even have to be a particularly big or strong dude, especially if drugs are involved. There’s some pretty wild police footage out there. Three cops versus one resisting suspect is actually a more fair fight than you’d expect.

        I’ve seen a guy with a knife approach cops with a knife for 400 feet, eventually charge them, get shot at seven times (taking at least one bullet to the center mass but it seems to me at least three) and still have the power to get up and grapple with one of the two responding officers before being shot by the other officer; a literal NFL defensive lineman drag a cop trying to arrest him around a convenience store like he wasn’t even there or being tased; and a dude tank getting pepper sprayed by multiple cops, tased at least three times, hit with three close-range beanbag rounds to the chest, and ignore a flashbang grenade to charge at ten officers with a knife in each hand. And that’s just on a single Youtube channel.

        When the British government took away people’s guns, they started carrying knives. When the British government took away the police’s guns, people still kept carrying knives. And now the British police regularly encounter situations of up to a dozen unarmed officers running around utterly powerless to stop a single man with a knife, in between posting pictures on twitter of them rounding up dangerous files, scissors, and pliers and taking them off the streets and running motor scooter riding thieves over with their patrol cars to prevent purse snatching. I’m not even joking. That’s a thing they do. Intentionally. As official police procedure. They call it “tactical contact”. That’s… not even a thing in America. I’ve never heard of a single instance of cops being taught to use PIT maneuvers against motorcycles or mopeds outside of Britain. Maybe in Russia, but Russian cops go fucking hard.

        • I mean, “cops should have guns” and “literally everyone should have guns” are two different arguments that I have very different opinions on.

           

          • My point was, even if guns were never invented, there’s still a lot of stuff you’d have to worry about a potential criminal having. Like knives. Or brass knuckles. Or even, heck, a rock or bare fists. “Anyone could be armed” is a thought I’d want any cop, in any country, to keep in mind when responding to a call, because it’s true in every country.

            Every 5’10” 180 pound man you arrest could be a 5’10” 180 pound man sitting on your stomach pummeling your face in. A knife can be more easily concealed than a gun and things can go from 0 to 100 in a split second. First rule of knife fighting is that you will get hurt; and you will probably get hurt before you even realize you’re in a knife fight.

            It’s called law enforcement because it exists to force an end to criminal behaviour. The three steps of law enforcement are Ask, Tell, and Make, but it’s hard to make anyone do anything when they’ve got more force to bring to bear on a situation, and a criminal will always have more force to bring to bear than an equivalently armed law enforcement officer because criminals are obviously not bound by laws regarding use of force. If guns had never been invented, I’d want every police officer to have at least sword, and to treat every potential suspect like they had a knife. “American cops have to act like that because anyone could have a gun” is a terrible argument.

            • Counterpoint: the police being afraid of and vulnerable to ordinary people is good, actually.

              Also, the reason they are called “law enforcement” is because it sounds more respectable than “thugs of the bourgeoisie”.

            • Also anyways the 30-50 feral hogs thing was literally shit he made up, not because there aren’t a lot of feral hogs, but that he wasn’t ramboing feral hogs with his AR55 on foot like he claimed.

        • Ah yes, because you saw it on Youtube must mean that it’s an incredibly common thing. That kind of fearmongering is why cops shoot everyone on sight. Hell, there was a story from around when this post was made about a cop who was responding to a welfare check (because the neighbor was worried about the front door being open) and he wandered into the backyard, saw someone in house through the window, and immediately pulled out his gun and started shooting wildly.

           

          And it turned out to be the owner of the house, who was completely unaware of anything as the cops didn’t announce themselves, knock, or do anything besides walk into the back yard and start shooting. And it’s because they’re stupidly convinced that everyone is either hyper-armed with guns (in fact they tried to claim that he was right to do it because she had a gun on her) or are super drugged out five hundred feet tall hulking death giants.

           

          For all your talk of how knives are immediately more dangerous (they’re not, because as the story I mentioned proved, a gun can come out and be instantly lethal), they’re not nearly as lethal. You hear about stabbings in Britain, sure. But you don’t hear about massive amounts of stabbing DEATHS. With a knife you can’t perched from a hotel window and kill 60 people and injure 500 before the cops can bust down your door like you can with a gun, which is another actual incident.

    •  Also most (roughly two thirds) of gun murders are commited by cops.

      This is… not even close to true. I’ve never even seen the most anti-gun organizations claim anything even close to this. ~80% of gun violence being committed by illegal guns is a pretty well-agreed upon statistic, and all shootings by police would fall under the remaining 20% by definition, so I’m not sure where you arrived at that number from.

    • Would it also happen to be some kind of radically anti-cop source as well? Because… I mean… maybe if it was a source from some revolutionary anarcho-communists like that one gun club that released a video showing off how they couldn’t shoot for shit to scare the fascists, I could see it? Typically, pro-gun sources are also pro-police, and that’s one of the only groups I could see considering themselves pro-gun but anti-cop. But yes, I would very much like to see that source.

  • I didn’t think the ghoul would be filing a police report, but I wiped down the shotgun anyway.

    So.

    This is not, by itself, a problem. The statement “I didn’t think (assassin who tried to kill me) would be […]

    • Whelp, you all know what’s coming.

      He had white hair. Not white-blond, not platinum. White as snow, white as the finest marble, bound up like a captured cloud to bare the lines of his slender throat. A lone remaining black lock made me think of Bengal tigers.

      I don’t know how his skin managed to look pale beside that hair, but it did. His lips were the color of fridged mulberries, almost shocking in a smooth and lovely face, and his oblique eyes were a deep dollar green that tinted to blue when he tilted his head and looked me over. He wasn’t old. Wasn’t young. Wasn’t anything but stunning.


      I tried to keep my jaw from hitting the floor and forced my brain to start doing something by taking stock of his wardrobe. He wore a man’s suit of charcoal grey, the cut immaculate. The shorts showed exactly enough leg to make it hard not to look, and his dark boots had platforms just high enough to give you ideas. He wore a bone-white shirt beneath his jacket, just enough left unbuttoned to make me want to be watching if he took a deep breath. Opals set in silver flashed on his ear, at his throat, glittering through an array of colors I wouldn’t have expected from opals—too many scarlets and violets and deep blues. His nails had somehow been lacquered in the same opalescence.


      I caught the scent of his cologne, something wild and rich, heavy and sweet, like orchids.


      His mouth quirked into a smile, and he arched one pale brow, saying nothing, letting me gawk.”

      • I was gonna say, isn’t this just Thomas from last book? Hahahaha

        • No, see, Thomas was a hot guy happy to submissively play to Harry’s ego to get what he wanted, while this is a hot lady who’s super dominant.

          Mab should’ve come as a guy and with a sword.

          • “You don’t have a sword. Not many men go out in a three-thousand-dollar suit and no sword.”

            Harry really is from the fuckin’ Dark Ages.

    • And this would also fit well with the fact no one seems to be getting around the problem of Harry not having mirrors in his house by murdering his friends using the mirrors in their houses if these days nonwizards live in places packed with so much technology they’re safer than any wizard’s wards.

      This is one of those details that would be great worldbuilding in another urban fantasy series as a way to keep the magic/mundane separate.

      Another tidbit of magic as emotion! Has Harry, in the process of preparing himself for a possible attack, also partly let down his guard as it consumes that same apprehension? Is managing this sort of delicate balance an important part of wizarding?

      I think it’s interesting that he’s not psyching himself up in any way, just pushing some of that wariness into his spell. It would be a neat detail if wizards have to train themselves not to overreact or lose control, but still need the emotions that lead to overreaction and loss of control. He honestly handled the first part of that confrontation pretty evenly for Harry (ignoring the gawking).

      I tried to keep my jaw from hitting the floor and forced my brain to start doing something by taking stock of her wardrobe.

      This whole bit was funny because 1) Your brain doesn’t really do anything, Harry and 2) ‘taking stock of her wardrobe’ apparently involves checking out her body while noticing there are clothes on it. The skirt is described by its relationship to her legs, and so forth. There’s no fucking change to his narration that would suggest he steeled himself to try being productive or controlled.

      Harry is, for once, legitimately coming off as an unfairly suffering underdog.

      Indeed. Harry hasn’t been owned quite this badly in a one-on-one interaction since, like, Marcone’s soulgaze. Though in that case, he was absolutely suffering fairly and not really an underdog despite neatly fitting into the tigerfridge. Both interactions involved a game of chicken, really: the usual alphachicken that Harry thinks he excels at. What’s really funny here, and kind of underlines the underdog status, is that his threats of violence were way more serious than her non-threat since she actually just goes through with it.

      • It would be a neat detail if wizards have to train themselves not to overreact or lose control, but still need the emotions that lead to overreaction and loss of control. He honestly handled the first part of that confrontation pretty evenly for Harry (ignoring the gawking).

        Actually, what if the gawking is encouraged because lust is more or less an irrelevant emotion? People are expected to keep it to themselves. If you burn it in a confrontation you’re not messing anything up. So Harry’s a little wary. He can’t burn that without forgetting to keep his eyes open, but if he tries to pump himself up to terror so he’s got more power, he’s going to lose the ability to actually evaluate if he’s in danger and instead panic and attack as soon as there’s a stray movement he wasn’t expecting.

        What if the reason Harry’s a sleazeball is it’s how he charges up? And the reason he doesn’t see anything weird about it is that it’s completely standard for wizards, they’re supposed to be constantly attentive for things they can have feelings about that don’t really matter.

        That’s why Harry’s keeping it together so well, he’s actually least messed up in the presence of someone hot.

        …wait what if the real purpose of familiars is to go “Aw who’s a precious baby it you” and charge up?

        • …wait what if the real purpose of familiars is to go “Aw who’s a precious baby it you” and charge up?

          That would be both hilarious and startlingly true to life. Heck, I don’t even have a dog anymore and I still get a good charge out of my friends’ pets.

          Lust does make sense as an emotion that’s generally orthogonal to danger. I wonder if this is also why sometimes Harry gives dudes the gawking treatment, looking for some ponderous dignity to catch spark in the absence of women.

          • Ooh, that would fit so well with Harry’s focus on men’s personalities. He legitimately isn’t gay but by god is he trying.

        • Impossible. That would require Harry’s magic boner to be inversely proportional to his meat boner.

    • Also, once again: absolutely definitely the wolf pack were high schoolers originally, this is 100% “update: the girl I was leering at before just turned porn-legal and also is so into showing off her tits”.

      That’s still a step up from Molly, so… ya know.

      The problem is less sounding like a rock band and more that you’re acting like Billy is the only relevant member.

      … Well… isn’t he? I don’t think Butcher is counting the breasts as a full member.

      She’d asked me not to follow her and I hadn’t.

      Wow, Harry actually respecting the wishes of some-

      I wouldn’t, until I could figure out a way to get her out of the mess I’d gotten her into.

      Damn it, Harry. You had me in the first half.

      the main reason he isn’t following her probably has more to do with the fact she did not tell him where she was going.

      Isn’t that supposed to be one of the kinds of magic Harry is actually supposed to be ridiculously good at, even by the standards of all the magic he says he’s pretty bad at but is actually super good at? It sounds more like he doesn’t have a reason to go looking for her, and find her, until he has the answer to her problem, so he’s just putting off finding her until then.

      I tried to keep my jaw from hitting the floor and forced my brain to start doing something by taking stock of her wardrobe.

      It was just exactly sexy enough to be sexy. But not too sexy. Just enough. The goldilocks zone of sexiness.

      The shenanigans he got up to and the ones a fae has as options probably have minimal overlap.

      Oddly, it seems like literally turning into an eel that can will itself out of existence if you get a hold on it is on there.

      And we end on a much better final line than last time!

      As I recall, Mab being on such a higher power level than Harry, but also tied up into being more of a background actor than main player, means she actually gets to be the closest thing the series gets to a proper femme fetale than anyone else, if only because she doesn’t even have to care about Harry’s power. And since she’s a soulless monster whose only emotions are selfish and cruel as a blizzard, Butcher is okay with there being a woman like that in his books, I guess. I don’t remember the Summer Queen being anywhere near as scary.

      • I don’t remember the Summer Queen being anywhere near as scary.

        The Summer Queen is funny in the context of larger series in that she’s, in principle, an equal to Mab and just as powerful, but the books (and, often, characters) just kinda forget she exists as often as not.

        • Good point. I definitely don’t remember the Summer Queen being anywhere near as present in the series either.

    • When I’m terrified of something, I generally don’t take the time to check out its dat ass. It’s not so much that he does it, but how and when he does it.

    • As Crazy Ed said, the problem is not so much that he does it as the circumstances he does it in. Harry pauses to tell us at length how hot a woman is when it should be the least of his concern.

      Since it’s first person POV, the narration does not simply show us what is there, but how Harry thinks about it, what are his priorities. And Harry’s priorities are apparently to sexualize every woman he comes across.

       

    • The problem isn’t really that Harry finds them attractive, it’s what comes along with Harry finding them attractive.

      Often, men describing women as being attractive make it something the woman is doing to them. “I find her hot, therefore she is trying to make me think she’s hot.” There’s the direct problem that this involves a lot of projection and refusing to think about women existing beyond the viewer, then there’s the indirect problem that men thinking this now believe the woman is soliciting their attention. They might behave sexually toward her because they think that’s an invitation, or they might behave aggressively because they’re mad she’s making them feel this way, or they might do both at once! If she rejects them, they’re even more likely to blow up that she was leading them on rather than that they misread the situation. And there’s all sorts of other judgment that’s going to come into this, like assuming she’s a slut, and from there, assuming she’s untrustworthy, manipulative, and incompetent at anything outside of sex. There was someone on Twitter talking about their boss being disgusted by a woman on Linkedin being inappropriately slutty by being physically attractive to him in ordinary clothing. (Stuff like Harry talking about Mab’s butt falls under that – even after telling us he’s in enormous danger, and after being physically harmed, he finds her having a nice butt more important than either of those things, which reads as incredibly dismissive. Her butt is more important than her power or intelligence or even her repeatedly demonstrated sadism.)

      While Harry explicitly goes this far, this is so prevalent that it’s going to be assumed true even in neutral descriptions – men describing women as attractive is default threatening and dismissive unless there’s some actual evidence they don’t think this way, because people get gunshy. Now, it’s actually very easy to present evidence to the contrary in writing, especially first person narration – all it’d take is for Harry to describe a woman as super hot and also as an equal he respects. But it’s important to be aware of this.

      Another aspect can be about the relationship dynamic. If someone treats people completely differently based on if he finds them attractive, either he’s mistreating unattractive women, mistreating attractive women, or mistreating them both. Maybe he’s the negging sort who, thinking it’ll get him sex, starts to tear her down every chance he gets. Maybe he’s dismissive of her because he thinks of wives as deferring to their husbands so if she’s wife material she’s not listen-to-her material. Maybe he’s just overprotective because he’s decided him wanting her around is more important than her right to make her own choices. Maybe he does stuff to trick her into compromising situations for his wanking pleasure. Little signs of this are stuff like “she’s so cute when she’s mad” – saying the character does something they know the woman doesn’t like because how she looks when unhappy pleases him. (And this ties into the dismissive aspect, where there’s a power dynamic where the man doesn’t think he’ll face any consequences for treating her this way.) We’re introduced to Murphy with Harry bragging about how he does stuff she doesn’t like on purpose. (This is the more mundane version of Harry staring at corpse tits or making a woman strip by lighting her on fire – all of it involves the idea that getting to enjoy their physical appearance is more important than anything else about the situation.)

      There’s often a bad streak of possessive manipulation with this, and indeed we see that from Harry as well. Consider his talk about wanting to see Murphy in a dress. Thinking she’d look good in a dress: totally fine. Thinking that means he should get it: unsettling. And when combined with Harry’s very bad grasp of consent, actively threatening, because he’s the sort of person who might lie to trick her into a dress, find it hot, then claim his finding it hot means she’s not only enjoying it but trying to seduce him. And again, deciding that he should specifically pour the cold iron on a fae’s breasts to get her to strip.

      (And all of these things also mean that Harry being cagey and manipulative in general comes off as threatening to women in particular. Even if Harry never links “I want Murphy in a dress” and “I have no problem lying to Murphy” to “I can lie to make Murphy wear a dress”, it’s something wholly within his character to do, so the threat to Murphy is there.)

      This is yet another space where I find fanfic really illustrative. A lot of fanfic is shippy and goes on at length about characters being very hot but the characters are liked and respected by the writer, so there isn’t the same looming possibility it’s leading up to them being assaulted and/or called a whore while the narrator explains it is perfectly right to treat people you’re attracted to this way. Even still, power and expectation are at play – a very intense description of a women is more likely to come off as threatening than one of a man when coming from a man, because it’s assumed a gay man does not have the same cultural backing to make his attraction the problem of the person he’s attracted to. In stories that don’t have homophobic settings, or where the POV character doesn’t need to worry about it for other reasons, that same description can be threatening with the new power dynamic.

  • It rained toads the day the White Council came to town.

    I’ve generally liked the openings of the books and this marks a sharp change in that.

    Last book’s bit about phases of the moon was similarly a […]

    • Oooooh, we’re back. The final entry in Farla vs. The Dresdenverse.

      Remember the werewolves, and how you thought, “Okay, Terra and the rest are great and all

      Tera’s better off off-screen, imo. So is basically any woman in the Dresdenverse. Also goddamn, look at how Billy is immediately portrayed so positively now that he’s lost the fat and put on some muscle, while continuing to worship Dresden. You can tell Butcher toyed with the idea of making him some kind of sidekick: cool but not too cool, muscle balanced out by his shortness, way below Harry’s power level but backs him up in a fight. Classic D&D cohort.

      It wasn’t subtle, as attempted assassinations go.

      I wonder what Dresden/Butcher thinks subtle assassinations look like. That’s the real open question, and one of those things that makes the whole world-weary noir protagonist Harry pretends to be feel like a hollow cardboard box. The books never really go into what indirect assaults are supposed to look like, but Harry’s always implying, like here, that he’s seen better. Everything always defaults to force for him, and he constantly wins at force. He really is like those movies he won’t shut up about.

      This is so weird, because Butcher likes to make mythological references, but never actually uses the tropes so prevalent in indirectly bringing down mythological heroes, even if to have Harry pull through anyway. Where are the poisoned shirts? The broken geas? The cut hair? There’s limitless potential, but we default to B-movie shoot-’em-ups. (Actually, I suppose there was the broken pact issue with Lea, but it came to nothing because lol).

       

      • ” Classic D&D cohort.”

        Also known as “a fighter in a party with a wizard.”

        “The cut hair?”

        Hey! Victor has nobly attempted to use it and set up an old-fashioned ritual curse. He may be an innovator, but he does have respect for the classics.

        • That’s true, but it’s hard for that to feel like a subtle assassination when someone literally beat Harry up for the hair. I guess Victor was similarly subtle leaving scorpions around for his wife to give to unsuspecting morons. I will admit that he tried, blessed be his industrious name, von OneWizardIndustrialRevolution (very old, established family).

      • Tera’s better off off-screen, imo. So is basically any woman in the Dresdenverse. 

        Oh, I’m happy she’s escaped. It’s just, fucking Billy? That was his takeaway, who cares about Tera there needed to be more Billy?

        I wonder what Dresden/Butcher thinks subtle assassinations look like.

        Huh. Have we seen anything? I think the vampire drugging thing would be close, but hilariously, Harry didn’t seem to actually work out that’s what it was. So maybe he only notices them when they’re blatant then whines that everyone else is a no-subtlety idiot.

        • I think the end of Fool Moon might have established that Tera left town to be a nature spirit elsewhere, while the babywolves hung around to worship Harry. I think Butcher must have desperately cast around for someone from a previous book related to both magic and on friendly terms with Harry to deliver some exposition. He couldn’t use Susan and I guess we’ll find out why not Murphy, Michael, or Thomas. The rest of Harry’s circle is dead or fled.

          Huh. Have we seen anything?

          Er. I dunno; I just know we’re working with a low bar. Does the superghost trying to eat Harry in his dreams count? Or the redhead FBI kid sending Harry to the Streetwolves’ garage? I guess the vampire drugging is more subtle than those, since they ultimately still use direct force.

          • I think the end of Fool Moon might have established that Tera left town to be a nature spirit elsewhere

            Some say she’s still wandering around the forests, somewhere, totally naked and dusky.

      •  The final entry in Farla vs. The Dresdenverse.

        How can she possibly stop one book before Harry Dresden Goes To The Porn Set And Fights The Sexy Vampires? How can she just render this journey worthless? Just throw out all that pain and suffering, for nothing?

    • Yay, it lives!

      Obligatory:

      With the toads, I thing the issue is Harry introducing the idea of a pranking fae as plausible. If he were all, “No, nobody would do something like that intentionally, too many people are invested in secrecy to not fry your ass afterwards” then the toad rain works as an omen. It’s something that nobody wants but that happens anyway because weird shit is afoot.

      Then the difference between live frogs and constructs could be about figuring out what kind of shit happens. The previous book has made a huge deal about breaches in the barrier between the two worlds, so frogs being constructs actually look more dangerous. You can even go full Annihilation and say Nevernever is attempting to imitate Earth life and possibly replace it. I mean, we already know it’s psychoactive.

      “But then, ever since the first book when Harry seemed honestly repulsed by the idea of harming anyone by magic, the law seems to only come up when it’s Harry whining about how people are so mean expecting him to follow the rules, so… perhaps that does fit well.”

      Well, do note that he’s happy to kill humans by mundane means, so yeah. It’s clear that the Laws are not about any sort of morality (maybe they were in the first book, where magic was almost treated as sacred, complete with Harry’s faith in it repelling vampires, but not since), they’re about creating artificial obstacles.

    • Like, what does he think they are IRL?

      Deep State operation. They’re throwing animals from stealth planes. Obviously. Keep up, Act, it’s basic stuff.

    • Welcome back. I’m going to be honest, I had completely forgotten the last book was finished.

      He’s also got a ring that collects kinetic energy from the motion of just swinging his arms as he walks.

      I think this would  make moving his arms harder, no? If you’re sucking out kinetic energy from something you’re slowing it down. Or sucking mass out of it, which is another can of worms.

      Billy moved. He had already gotten out of his T-shirt, and he had enough muscle to ripple—flat, hard muscle, athlete’s muscle, not the carefully sculpted build of weight lifters.

      Everyone knows weight lifters’ muscles are fake and purely esthetic. They actually move the weights through telepathy.

      • No, not telepathy. It’s powered by belief, both their own and everyone else’s. The weights move because everyone believes they should move. They don’t want to live in a world where people can look that ripped but actually be weak. This belief moves the weights’ weighty hearts and makes them cooperate.

      • Everyone knows weight lifters’ muscles are fake and purely esthetic.

        I kinda feel that it’s connected to the whole weirdness with make up, but I’m unsure how to formulate it.

        • You’re right. That’s not a bad parallel. The misconception about muscle (and maybe more specifically about fat) is that there’s muscle you get from actually doing things like sports, and muscle you just build up for show by working out at the gym. It’s that whole ‘beach bod’ idea, where people are getting fit just to show it off. There’s that same perception of shallowness to it that Harry sees in applications of makeup.

          So just like there’s a right and wrong, or natural and unnatural, way for women to look beautiful, there’s a right and wrong way for men to be strong. The right way to be strong involves nebulous sportsing and fighting instead of spending hours at the gym, which everyone knows is solely performative.

          This is all ignoring of course the fact that Butcher is talking out of his ass here and that real weight lifters don’t look sculpted at all. The whole sculpted look comes from, like, dehydration and other awful things. In fact, it comes from Hollywood movies more than anything. This would have been a great opportunity for a real not-like-the-movies moment where Harry says that Billy packed some muscle onto his fat and is now much stronger than a string bean like himself could hope to be.

      • And of course, before saying that, he describes what looks like someone who is just building muscles for the aesthetic. And it also sounds like Billy’s on a cut day. Gotta get lean meat for the for the lean meet.

    • Also, here’s an interesting essay on ghouls as they appear in Lovecraft’s works: https://forums.sufficientvelocity.com/threads/lets-read-everything-howard-phillips-lovecraft-ever-wrote.19724/page-32#post-9992813

      Certainly more interesting than Butcher’s.

      • That actually comes up a bunch in older works with ghouls as well. The horror was in  consuming the dead. There’s one I can’t remember the name of where this woman accidentally gets buried alive in the family crypt, this ghoul pops open the coffin to eat her, but she’s alive so it doesn’t and she survives because the ghoul did this, which, that seems like it’s something you’d want! Clearly humans are very bad at figuring out who’s dead and ghouls should be in charge. Unfortunately this is late 1800s and she was an unattended woman so she gets raped and has a half-ghoul baby as a result, which I think could’ve been avoided if only there were women included in the ghoul workforce, and then in the present of the story the horror is all about how oh no, the brother? of the woman is dying of natural causes and once he dies, completely dies, the kid will sense it and come to eat his corpse. Not that it’ll start chewing on him once he crosses a sickness threshold, not that it might jump the gun. Its keen ghoul senses will tell it the instant he is dead and unable to suffer and only then will it go for his corpse.

    • Nah, I’m pretty sure Scary Black Russian Guy is in a book or two. This is the Fae intro.

    • Possibly he just doesn’t believe it at all? Like it was either an intentional hoax or a War of the Worlds thing where people got confused over something that was supposed to be a fictional story.

    • 1) Previous books. If you don’t remember, hold onto that for as long as you can.

      I remember something about werewolves, and then something about rolling all your half-formed plot threads into a third book. That’s about it.

      3) HE HASN’T EVEN FUCKING TOLD PEOPLE ABOUT SUSAN JFC HARRY.

      What I don’t remember, is what happened to Susan and why he should tell anyone about her. Did she get dead for being a woman within ogling distance of Harry or something?

      that’d rely on the idea the White Council actually enforces its rules and with each book that seems more unlikely.

      It’d rely on the idea that the White Council is going to enforce its rules on Harry specifically because fuck that guy. Which is far more likely. That’s what the White Council exists to do.

      yeah obviously as soon as you say he’s going to get attacked in broad daylight it’ll happen

      … Well… it is vampires. You think he’d be at least somewhat surprised that vampires are attacking him in broad daylight.

      Well. That sure was exactly how this always goes.

      Harry waits for a vampire to get not-hot, and then hurts it?

      I will say I appreciate this detail – both the toad being forgotten in all that was going on, and that Harry, upon realizing he’s hurting it, attempts to stop.

      You’d think he would’ve dropped it to do something like fight, or shoot a shotgun. Those tend to need two hands, you know. It’s a nice detail, him forgetting about it, but… when people forget about the things in their hands, they tend to drop them.

      The wolf paced back over to his discarded sweatpants, shimmered for a second, and became once more the naked young man.

      So is Billy canonically going commando, then? Just a t-shirt and sweats? In public?

      He either legitimately is not into men on a physical level or he’s just able to not be a creep about it when he believes there’s a person living inside the well-toned meat.

      So that’s the final nail in the coffin of Harry being bi, then?

      “Why don’t they like you?”

      :thonking:

      you can’t make toad stomach and also a cricket in the toad’s stomach

      But then you have to make a whole cricket, with a cricket stomach and everything! Too much hassle. Much easier to make them solid meat like the inside of a Tom and Jerry cartoon character.

    • This reads like Butcher thinks the explanations for animal rains are lies. Like, what does he think they are IRL?

      Also a star jelly rain would have been a much better choice, both because it’s gross and because there’s actual disagreement on what it is. “This thing we can’t quite identify is actually magic,” is much better than, “This thing we have a coherent explanation for is actually magic.”

    • I don’t know if this’ll disappoint you or not, but he won’t really get enough screentime to be properly Butchered. He’s a Token SBRG first and foremost.

    • On the bright (?) side, the book that introduces him also introduces Shiro, who’s unfortunately not made of swords but of Honorable Wise Asian Old Man stereotypes, which is pretty cringy. And the book after that is about Harry infiltrating a porno studio with predictable results. So, like, if hate-read is what you’re after…

    • Oh that’s right, he introduces an Asian dude; I’d forgotten that. In terms of paladin swordsmen, he’s really playing the racial diversity/caricature to the hilt. I’m sure whenever the book was released, it was at the cutting edge of representation.

    • There are also graphic novels with completely new stories, if I’m not mistaken.

    • One, actually. The next one is about the adventures of foreign stereotypes, the one after that is about porn.

  • Starlight became a registered member 1 month, 3 weeks ago

  • Inside: Semblance, SteamWorld Dig, Islanders, Equilinox

    Semblance
    Puzzle Platformer

    Semblance is a clever puzzle platformer build around the idea that the player character can deform the terrain to […]

    • Equilinox sounds like a game The Biologist would have a ton of fun with. Having said that, I wonder how fucking creepy a Southern Reach-inspired game of the same style would be. Imagine having the game start out normal, with you guiding events and watching things progress, then something happens and you see things go to shit in fits and starts as some outside force mimics and alters the flora and fauna. Ugh, I don’t even want to think about it. I’m bad with horror.

    • Huh. SteamWorld Dig looks conceptually very similar to an old Flash game called Motherload. I wonder if it was an inspiration or unrelated? I liked Motherload, so I’ll have to check it out.

  • I just finished watching an LP of Final Fantasy Tactics. I had heard many good things about it, but could never get far in it when it came out, because the actual game is an overdesigned kudzu of a slot machine. […]

    • At this point the tagline of this blog should be, “We have tepid feelings about Final Fantasy. “

      • Not until you get cracking on the rest! We’ve reviewed less than half of the series!

        (I am actually genuinely curious to see if you’ll like X. It’s my favorite in the series and I think it still holds up pretty well.)

        • I’ve never played a single Final Fantasy game to completion. It’s a ding in my nerd cred.

          Edit: Actually, I did beat Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, but that somehow feels like it doesn’t count. It’s a spinoff of a spinoff.

          • I… don’t think I have, either. While I played 6 til the end, I technically never finished it, since I didn’t have the initiative to grind for the final boss.

            • I think what it comes down to for me is that the FF games are my Ori and the Blind Forest. Games that are competently made and written, which I don’t necessarily hate, but don’t spark any strong emotion. Darkest Dungeon, which is basically a JRPG repackaged with Western/Lovecraftian aesthetics, is an even more annoying and unforgiving grind than any FF (it’s another post-Dark Souls game designed to be grimdark and punishing), but I hold it up as a piece of art with an extreme degree of cohesion. It’s hard for me to feel like FF games are trying to be anything but ‘the next FF’.

        • 10 and 13 are both on my to-do list rn! I’ve been on a jRPG kick lately so as soon as I can get my hands on them I’ll probs check them out.

          • Ahaha… if you can’t get through VII, I’m morbidly curious to see how you’ll take XIIIXIII is really, really terrible.

            You might actually like XII, though. It’s by the same director as Tactics, but is better at following through on the political premise (at least to the point I tapped out, which I believe was more than halfway through at least). It’s much more of a wRPG than a jRPG, so I didn’t like it much at all, but if you’re into wRPGs you might have more fun with it.

            (So much grinding, though.)

            • I honestly picked up 13 out of morbid curiosity because people have such extreme opinions on it.

              • Oh, you may also want to check out II if you haven’t already. It’s by the same developer as the SaGa games, I believe.

              • Yeah, I should check out the NES ones at some point. I’m pretty sure in the mid/late 80s everything Square did was mostly the same people; it’d be interesting to see how the FF series and SaGa games differed. (DQ, incidentally, was Enix, so it was completely different people.)

              • Urgh. I liked the story and characters well enough, but II had awful mechanics.

                Mind, people loved III and I think it’s also terrible. The only NES FF which was enjoyable to me was the first one.

              • I cannot understand how anyone likes III. Its only redeeming feature is the class-swapping mechanic, and every other FF did that way better.

              • I’m guessing it’s a mix of the Job system being brand-new at the time, the higher difficulty, and the gimmicky dungeons and fights.

              • Also, the Job system actually isn’t that widespread in older FF titles. It doesn’t exist in 4, 6 and 7 (and I think it doesn’t exist in 8, 9 and 10 either?), for instance.

    • FF Tactics is the one where the protagonist’s role in history is misremembered, right? I swear, time is making a ruin of my mind. I keep thinking the 90’s was ten years ago instead of fucking twenty. I said this about FF7 in Act’s post, but Tactics is another one of those games I couldn’t finish as a kid. It’s so weird, as someone who was reading above their level basically as soon as they could read, to look back and realize how many video games just sailed over my head.

      Last Scenario was good, but I didn’t finish it and read an LP for maybe the last third or so. I will say, the first third was great as a political-thriller-with-fantasy-backdrop. I just slowly lost interest as it shifted harder towards some weirdo conspiracy plot. I was starting to play Dishonored in bits and pieces, and it seems like it’s shaping up the same way, where the Loyalist group that hires you recognizes that their influence isn’t what they’d like and they’re going to need a very good killer to tip the scales. Actual political assassination gets surprisingly little play in video games.

      I’m going to plug Fire Emblem: Three Houses again just to say that it’s also great and ultimately about politics, but more specifically that I love the way the story is structured: in each route, you spend a year as a teacher getting to know the students of your chosen house, learning about the state of their country and family in addition to their own personal issues. Then the Big Plot Twist transitions the game into the second half, a Five Years Later sort of deal where all the simmering tensions have erupted and the continent is now at war. All of your students, as well as the students of the other houses, have picked sides. You’ll actually have to fight and kill people you knew from the school if you didn’t teach them personally. It was pretty dang harsh.

      • I just slowly lost interest as it shifted harder towards some weirdo conspiracy plot.

        Ah, but that’s the cleverness: the conspiracy turns out to be irrelevant next to the personal drama that motivates it. The whys are what matter, not the whats. Lorenza and Ortas explicitly say this, even. It’s basically the exact opposite bait-and-switch as in Tactics.

        • Yeah, that is true. I did like the final boss… Caspar? I think? I’m not so good at names. Nope, Castor. I was actually close. Anyway, anchoring all the drama and weight to his own personal traumas was a lot more effective than the usual nebulous conspiracy. I like it when the villains are people, and making the previous war the root of his trauma does make everything tie back nicely.

    • If I’m not mistaken, the writer (and also director?) for Tactics is the same guy who wrote (and maybe directed?) the earliest Ogre Battle games, and it seems those games had the same issue that what started as a story full of political intrigue and complex, but relatable motivations quickly became a bog-standard fight against dark gods.

      Mind, I’m going off secondhand accounts, but if so, it’s interesting that twice or thrice his games have suffered from that.

      I think the reason the RPG power fantasy tends to fall backward into rote ‘save the world’ plots is, at its heart, because feeling righteous is a good feeling. […] I think what power fantasies really are is the manifestation of a very human desire to be able to have a palpable, positive effect on the world.

      It’s also hella easier to write and design a game around those tropes, particularly when you’re worried about deadlines and profits.

      • So I’ve heard, yes. I actually played Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together until the end of chapter 2 where the convoluted class build mechanics finally defeated me, but while I still remember how powerful the end of chapter 1 was, I can barely remember anything of chapter 2 at all. I’m not surprised if it ended up going the same way as Tactics.

    • I’m guessing it’s a mix of the Job system being brand-new at the time, the increased difficulty, and all the gimmicky dungeons and fights.

  • Act wrote a new post, Final Fantasy VII 2 months ago

    So I got involved in the SaGa series recently (yes, I realize what the title of this post is). I’ve really been enjoying it. It’s clear the influence the early games had on RPGs as a whole, and even the later, […]

    • I never finished FF7. I think I lost the second disk or something. Either way, I was too young to really ‘get’ any of it, being less than ten years old (I also failed to beat Ocarina of Time as a child because fuck that game was scary).

      Like you, when I tried to go back and finish the classic as a young adult, I just zoned out and couldn’t progress. I could see why the game became such a classic – its tone and world were so different back then, and it did a lot of cool things to stand out – but there wasn’t much I could see worth holding up 20 years later, the way I’d suggest there is for PS:T.

      A brief list of the things I liked: the opening ecoterrorism (holy shit are we the bad guys!?), the early game taking place in the slums of an extremely unequal society, and Shinra Tower’s immensity. That was one of those things that they surely could only do on the PS1 and had not done so before; the fact that the first instance of it was a megacorp headquarters instead of a demon’s castle feels much more notable to me now. I definitely think the move towards cyberpunk, like you say, is a good idea.

      Speaking of games worth playing on the Switch, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is just fucking delightful. I’ll go to bat for that game any day. It feels, in a way, like the game IntSys had been wanting to make in the decades since that series began. Almost every major mechanic, from the Support/dating sim system to the class/skills system, builds on elements the series had been incorporating for years instead of just rehashing them. And as any work with VN/Dating Sim/Dragon Age relationship meters needs, the characters are really good.

      • I’m actually playing the DS port of the original Fire Emblem right now. I’m very interested in Three Houses but unfortunately $60 on one game is a lot to me right now.

        • By ‘the original Fire Emblem’, do you mean the first one ported to the US? That’s Fire Emblem 7, and it remains one of my favorites.

          • Nope, I mean the actual first one, Shadow Dragon and the  Something Something.

            • Ah. I didn’t finish that one; it’s kind of dry and boring. Edit: I don’t really mean to just shit-talk the one you’re playing like that. It just didn’t meet my expectations for the series, having played several by then.  I’d really recommend FE7, which is GBA. Though, this does bring up something rather relevant back to the Final Fantasy discussion, which is that ports and remakes really have it bad in terms of expectation vs. quality. I remember trying FF3 on the DS port and just found it the most stale thing imaginable, but everyone was hyped to finally have it come overseas. 

              One FE game I’d say is a frickin’ amazing remake is Fire Emblem: Echoes on 3DS. That is, I believe, a remake of the second game, but they really, really freshened the game up and revitalized it. I couldn’t believe its basic framework was over twenty years old.

    • Was there something about when it was released that might be causing nostalgiavision?

      It’s been a very long time since I played this and I barely remember any of it, but I think this is a likely factor. FFVII was extremely ambitious, and a lot of the things it did were firsts for popular video games. It leaned heavily on FMVs and 3D environments that I think are pretty impressive even today, and like you said, it was a move to a radically different setting and tone than most RPGs. It was one of the first times a video game made overt and topical social commentary, and had a very twisty and complex plot (probably a bit too complex, honestly, but some people go wild for that kind of thing). It was big, it was flashy, and it was daring.

      (A lot of people also cite the major party member death as a big deal, even though multiple earlier FFs already did that. Possibly those people are a later generation for whom FFVII was their first RPG or at least their first FF.)

      I honestly have no idea how it’d hold up if I were to play it now, though. It does the irritating thing a lot of FFs do where it bait-and-switches the social commentary, swapping it out for a blander, more typical fantasy stop-the-apocalypse plot after about the first third of the game or so.

      If you can’t play through it yourself, you may be interested in watching an LP at least up to the end of Midgard, as that is widely considered to be the best part of the game and the one with the most social commentary.

    • I’ve never played it either, but I’ve also had a large curiosity for the series, if nothing else but for how popular it is. If I had to say one thing that FFVII did that stood out the most, it would probably be its legacy of quality minigames. Having never played it, but still knowing that it apparently had some really good minigames in it, and actually seeing its legacy in other places branded by the Final Fantasy title, I can imagine that could be a part of what made it so popular. In the MMO, FFXIV, one of its more famous minigame clusters, the Gold Saucer, lives on in something called the Manderville Gold Saucer, which makes me think FFVII was something Square Enix decided would inspire its future games, even the ones that are decidedly more fantasy-oriented (as FFXIV is). The other stuff you mentioned, like the whole “are we the bad guys” bit, and the switch to cyberpunk, probably also helped.

      Another part was the theory that Aeris could be resurrected if you found the right combination of Easter Eggs, and people love a good Easter Egg hunt– Shadow of the Colossus has a huge community of people convinced that a hidden colossus was out there, if only they found the right easter eggs. That kind of legacy makes for a kind of legend that goes beyond just what the game inspires intentionally and keeps it relevant whenever one of the groups obsessed with rooting out easter eggs does actually find a new one.

      Also, mobile posting isn’t working for some reason. I don’t know if it’s a problem isolated on my end, but it’s just a black brick that defies all my attempts to inscribe anything in it.

      • I definitely miss the old-school game culture where wild theories spread by word-of-mouth and they were right just often enough that you felt you had to try every one. There was something special about that. I have very fond memories of Pokemon myths on the schoolyard.

        I’m not having any issues on mobile — are you on Android or another platform?

        • Do you feel as though that social aspect of gaming is what makes a franchise (or particular game within one) so popular? Like, people rumoring about the celebi in Ilex forest, or with me, specifically, the stuff about the regis, back when Emerald was the latest and greatest game in the series. I read an article where the/a creator of the Legend of Zelda made dungeons purposefully difficult, so people would have to band together, form groups on the playground or on the couch together, sharing tips on how to beat it. Mario is a game I can remember passing the controls to a friend who could actually beat that one particular spot I always had difficulty on.

          That social aspect of gaming, that conspiratorial gathering of people solving mysteries, or at least hoping to, I think, is what contributes to major games’ popularities, like FFVII. We as a species are so inherently social that I can’t help but figure that’s why, that games forced us to cluster with likeminded people to find out how to open the cave that let to regirock, or beat floor 8-C in Super Mario Land (I think that’s how the levels were labeled?), even the search for the “true ending” which could reverse Aeris’s death– or any other major video game conspiracy in the era when, like you said, things really did have just enough credibility to warrant investigation.

          Edit: As for mobile woes, I’m using an Apple product. In retrospect, it’s happened before on my Android, though, so it’s probably just something wrong on my end.

    • I would just like to say for my own self-aggrandizement that last night I finally beat the final boss of Romancing SaGa 2.

      • Always feels good to overcome something that’s kicked your ass.

        • I’m very very glad we as a species have moved on from the SNES thing where games were unbeatable because of the final boss, but damn is it satisfying to finally win after like two weeks.

          • Yeah, now the unbeatable boss is off the beaten path, hanging out in a “You Must Have This Much Free Time To Enter” bonus dungeon.

    • Oh, also —

      The guy has too much of his own personality for me to implant my own motivations, but what is there is nonetheless very empty and pretty douchey.

      This is actually intentional. There is what I believe is a legitimately clever twist about Cloud that is a metacommentary on power fantasies and the ways we project ourselves onto video game characters. Whether or not the end result makes for an enjoyable character and story is still a matter of taste, but the dissonance you’re feeling is actually what the writers were going for.

    • There’s no better reason to crash a comment.

      FemC’s outfit is just incomprehensibly stupid, especially considering how most other female characters actually had okay outfits.

      Yeah I have no defense for that. Maybe they were trying to force you to buy a DLC with better clothes for her.

      It’s also annoying that the female leaders are the most controversial ones

      Without getting into it too much, I’ll take it as a trade-off of them being the more interesting characters. Also, a lot of the folks who think Edelgard is ‘controversial’ would be kissing her feet if she was a guy.

    • Well, may as well just copy-paste what I wrote way back when about this game:

      I think FF VII had a very interesting setting and premise, but I felt both were very underutilised. I honestly wanted the whole focus of the game to be on the AVALANCE-SHINRA conflict (preferably with at least a bit more nuance to SHINRA, but I could live with the current cartoonish villainy of the president), with Sephiroth being more tied to it; basically, I’d have preferred it if they cut out everything about Jenova and the Cetra.

      Also, I like swords; actually, medieval weapons in general are very cool. But I think I’d have preferred it if they went whole-hog with the cyberpunk thing, instead of this weird mix and match where I’m thinking “Why the heck would anyone, even supersoldiers, choose to wield melee weapons in a world where firearms are widely available?”

      (I mean, they could have at least tried to handwave it. Dune had a pretty good explanation, for instance, if also more than a bit handwave-y.)

  • WoawBeeko! posted an update 3 months, 1 week ago

  • Ori and the Blind Forest is a game that got me wondering what I look for in art, and why, and how to approach what art is to me in a review.

    This post has two very distinct parts I could not make harmonious; […]

    • Interesting thoughts. I often feel like I have very high — perhaps prohibitive — standards when it comes to art; I tend to feel the “meh” sensation you describe an awful lot. Personally, I diagnosed it as a counterculture outlook; I prefer (increasingly exclusively) art that bucks trends and defies the way things are normally supposed to go, and just by their nature that stuff is going to be uncommon. It breeds a kind of cynicism; I sort of have to resign myself to the likelihood that even indie or “weird” stuff is going to end up conforming to the standard narratives in the end, and be pleasantly surprised when they don’t rather than actively hopeful. Things were different once, but Steven Universe killed that hope pretty dead.

      Also, I worry that I entered the metroidvania genre by playing the best one and now I don’t know what to do, send help.

      You did indeed. I do enjoy several of the Castlevanias myself; Symphony of the Night is particularly popular. They’re still not as good as Hollow Knight though.

      If you want something slightly adjacent to the traditional metroidvania experience, check out Craze’s metroidvania RPGs. I actually made a Reddit post about similar games that are metroidvanias in spirit without being platformers, but I didn’t find much.

      Edit: Why do links no longer work in the RichText editor.

      • I tend to approach art as food: not every meal is going to be earth-shattering, but it fills you up and elevates the good stuff when you have it.

      • I’ve always chalked it up to overload — I think when you play/read/watch as much media as you and I have, you see so many things being done over and over that it takes something really special to rise above the noise. So it ends up in that weird spot where it’s neither good nor bad enough to be entertaining relative to everything else.

        Def an interesting thread, though I will vote against Rain World. It was a game where I think the dev got exactly what they were going for except the problem was it wasn’t any fun. I think it has the exact kind of hard-to-be-hard gameplay you’d really dislike, too.

    • Hm, yeah, I can see how Ori would kind of just get a ‘meh’ from someone looking for more. For me, it was great more for the experience of four adults sitting on a couch together for the first time since they were kids to play a video game. We weren’t looking for more than the game offered, so we all dug it.

       

      Also, I worry that I entered the metroidvania genre by playing the best one and now I don’t know what to do, send help.

      You did, unfortunately. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Hollow Knight is the complete experience. There seems to be some stirring of interest in the genre once again, with people recreating Castlevania: Symphony of the Night with a fake mustache and other stuff, but you’re probably just better off waiting for Silksong.

      • I’ve been playing a farm sim called Forager and there’s a Hollow Knight skin so I’ve just been wearing it everywhere pretending it’s actually a HK spinoff.

    • This is a good post! It’s true that reviews are so horribly specific to the person doing the reviewing, their own taste and personal experiences and the context that they bring to a piece of art. What you mention about not being as unimpressed with Ori if you hadn’t played anything like it before makes me think of everything I adored as a teenager; a lot of it, looking at it now, was meh if not actively bad. But it still had immense power to make an impression on me, because at the time I’d never encountered anything like it. It was more about my own experience, and what those things made me realize was possible, than anything the creator was doing, necessarily.

      I don’t know that I can really imagine a group of people setting out to make a <i>pleasant</i> game, as such… I don’t know of anyone who really begins from a place of, “I want to make a thing that’s just kind of okay.” If it’s something they’re under contract to do and just need to vomit it out to get paid, sure, but I don’t see much evidence that that’s what’s going on in this particular case. But with video games especially, which are hugely collaborative, I think it can be pretty easy for vision to get *diluted*–everybody works on their own thing without really tying it strongly back to the overall desired experience. Even if the team started out with a desire to <i>do something</i>, it’s easy to end up with something where the pieces aren’t all pointing in the same direction, and where some may be actively working against others, and where the central thread is weakened as a result. When it comes to making art, especially in industries like gaming, I think that people often have ambition, but also a ton of shit happens simply as part of the process… Sort of amazing that anything really stellar and cohesive ever ends up getting made at all, actually!

      •  makes me think of everything I adored as a teenager; a lot of it, looking at it now, was meh if not actively bad. But it still had immense power to make an impression on me, because at the time I’d never encountered anything like it. It was more about my own experience, and what those things made me realize was possible, than anything the creator was doing, necessarily.

        There’s a part of me that NEVER EVER wants to revist formative works of mine for this reason, lol, I don’t want to be like, fuck, this really sucks, I was just a kid. I prefer to let certain things live forever in that retrospective bubble.

        I don’t know that I can really imagine a group of people setting out to make a <i>pleasant</i> game, as such… I don’t know of anyone who really begins from a place of, “I want to make a thing that’s just kind of okay.”

        I don’t think it’s so much an active “Let’s make it just okay,” as it tends to be a passive focusing on the wrong things. I think a not-insignificant portion of indie games are born less from a creative spark and more from people who like games wanted to make a game for the sake of making one, and as a result they end up focusing on things like putting all their effort into background art (seriously, why are indies so obsessed with background art) instead of things like story-gameplay integration. I think games are starting to hit the level of ubiquity that previously was only applicable to novels where people so take them for granted that no one stops to think about how much artistry goes into good ones; if you can speak you can write a novel becomes if you’ve played a game why not make one. While I’m very much in favor of art being accessible, it does have the consequence of diluting the pool a bit.

  • Inside: Niche, Guacamelee!, I & Me

    Niche
    Turn-Based Strategy

    The first problem with Niche (A GENETICS SURVIVAL GAME, as it insists on obnoxiously subtitling itself in my Steam library) is that while it […]

    • I am also HIGHLY suspicious of three guys names Chris Harvey, Ryan MacLean and Graham Smith writing Mexican people as lecherous assholes.

      Hahaha, yikes. In somewhat related news, I was naturalized last week! Yes, American citizenship is definitely still something to be proud of. Now Chris, Ryan, Graham and I are countrymen, brothers even. Feels good.

      I mean, this sort of thing is bound to happen, particularly in America’s current political atmosphere. Amusingly, Mexicans have little to do with the current immigration waves. Ah, racism.

      • Yes, American citizenship is definitely still something to be proud of.

        Is it? Is it really?

        Naw, I’m just messing with you. Congratulations, Roarke! :-)

      • Congrats! I fantasize every day about fleeing to Canada, a magical place where medical bills don’t ruin your life and there aren’t mass shootings every week.

        John Oliver talks sometimes about how weird it is to be an immigrant where you’re so happy to be here and love the country so much but also are hyperaware of its problems and the weird cognitive dissonance that creates. It’s interesting to hear, because I’m coming to the middle from the complete opposite side; I grew up in a very MURRICA household and — like a lot of similar millenials, I think — am having to contest with all the “this country is the best” stuff I got fed was utter bullshit.

        Anyway, 2019’s slogan for me has been, “Is the world really an irredeemable dumpster fire or is that just my depression talking? Who knows!”

    • Update: Aritana and the Harpy’s Feather has been on my list for a while, can’t believe I forgot about it.

      I renew my recommendation! :-)

    • I had a similarly lackluster experience with Niche, but for different reasons. I was really drawn to being able to breed for certain characteristics, so that was what I was playing for and it was just /so/ /tedious/. I spent three times the amount of time playing the game just writing down the potential breeding pairing and each units traits and age, trying to keep track of everything so that I didn’t breed in a blood weakness and trying to preserve as many letter types immune systems as I could. I realized that, while it had potential to be fun as a breeding game, it wasn’t with the current interface because of the dearth of functions to sort through your breeding options, so I dropped it. Different experience from you, but same result.

      • Yep, same. I also thought the tutorial really skimped on explaining the breeding mechanics.

         

        You might like Equilinox — it’s going to be in the accompanying QuickRecs post, and I found that it scratched the itch Niche didn’t. It’s more macro than Niche — you’re working on evolving whole ecosystems instead of individuals — but I’ve really been enjoying it.

  • WoawBeeko! changed their profile picture 3 months, 4 weeks ago

  • Nothing

  • WoawBeeko! became a registered member 3 months, 4 weeks ago

  • So, I decided to try out Devil Survivor 2. I reviewed the first game a while back; this one is a spiritual successor kind of sequel, with no direct relation to the first game’s events. I did not like it nearly as […]

    • God, finally someone who had the same experience with this game as I did! Except how I accidentally let Keita die and felt bad about it at the time. Also, I played the 3DS version which came with an extra storyline that was also really blargh. It’s just more blather about how Yamato is the bestest and really good and cool while glossing over the fact that he’s a horrid person. I had a huge writeup about this game mouldering in Google Drive for years. It may finally be time to set it free! If you’d be interested. I actually did rant about it a little a few weeks ago when FGO was stressing me out.

      A lot of the blehhhh story makes more sense when you consider it’s a REALLY derivative story: nothing in the storyline hasn’t been done better by SMT: Nocturne, including the evil social darwinist leader. Chiaki <3333333

      Surprised you didn’t mention the huge sexism problems. Because like a lot of modern Atlus games, it’s sexist as hell.

      I also have a lot of thoughts about how the Neutrality alignment has deoriated from a legitimate stand against an unfair system, choosing your own path and rejecting the existing ideas of how the world should be (law and chaos) to the kind of wishy-washy centrist “the status quo is fine and if you want to change it you’re bad” attitude described in this post. I think it’s symptomatic of a lot of changes in Atlus’ creative process in general. A lot of their earlier stuff is rough and experimental and unafraid of doing things that would make its players feel bad. Like, in the first Etrian Odyssey, your party is pretty morally awful in that they do genocides for tourism, ruin the town’s economy, and the final boss is the guy who’s trying to fix the post-apocalyptic earth. When the game got remade for the 3DS years later they retconned all that out in favor of a generic save the world story.

      If this is more representative of the Shin Megami Tensei series as a whole, I can’t say I’m impressed.

      I’d say this is pretty representative of the newer SMT games, so agreed.

      I could rant about Atlus games more since I love to do that because they’re an endless well of disappointment but I’m going to stop before this post gets too big.

      • Like, in the first Etrian Odyssey, your party is pretty morally awful in that they do genocides for tourism, ruin the town’s economy, and the final boss is the guy who’s trying to fix the post-apocalyptic earth.

        To be fair, the final boss who is trying to fix the Earth is also the one who mandated genocide. I don’t think you need to feel bad about that guy.

        One of the things I did appreciate about Dragon Age is that it did force you to choose between irreconcilable characters and decisions at certain points; I’d have liked to see that here.

        That was part of Bioware’s attempt at being ‘dark’ fantasy; it was a reaction to more or less the previous decade of wRPGs trying to always give a peaceful solution. I agree that they had the right idea to shake things up, at least, but I don’t remember how well-executed (or not) it was.

        • I agree that they had the right idea to shake things up, at least, but I don’t remember how well-executed (or not) it was.

          Very well-executed, in my opinion. That was one of my favorite features in the first game — I think you can see me gushing about it in one of the pokeauthors posts. Unfortunately they dialed it back a lot in the second game despite that being the one with a clear faction division — the only irreconcilable choice is between Anders and Sebastian, and Sebastian is too unlikable for that to have any pathos.

          Still wouldn’t have saved this game because the characters are so shallow I see no reason to choose people over ideology, but in theory it could have done a good job of selling the neutral route.

          • I would have been better off skipping DA2; I didn’t play Inquisition because of it.

            DA:O had, what, Loghain vs. Alistair, Harrowmont vs. that little shit brother, Branka vs. golem dude, yeah, I can see there were a lot of irreconcilable factions. I think it helps, actually, to have relatively smaller factions fighting in minor struggles while you try to unite people for a larger one, if you want them to be irreconcilable with one another. IIRC, you could make peace between the werewolves and Dalish, somehow. It actually felt even better among the backdrop of zero compromise.

            • I was also referring to the breaking point choices, like if you corrupt the sacred ashes with Leliana watching. Those hit really hard because it’s not just an inability to reconcile two strangers, it’s your own friends drawing a line. That’s exactly the kind of pathos DeSu2 needed for “Why can’t we all just get along?” to feel at all valid. When you can recruit everyone on the idealist routes anyway… what reason is there to go neutral at all?

              • Ah, yes. It was nice to actually lose companions sometimes if you offended their beliefs enough. That’s still not very common.

              • To be fair, why would you even?

                Though I suppose that if you side with crazy dragon cultists, you kinda deserve your party members leaving you.

              • Because it was the only way to get the Reaver specialization, duh. How else would I gain a title that edgy and grimdark?

                Also because, while I normally can’t stomach evil playthroughs, desecrating a holy person’s ashes and being treated like a huge douchebag for it is acceptably lulzy to me.

              • Just do the quest and reload, like a normal cheater. Specializations need to only be unlocked once and then stay unlocked forevermore even if you start a new game.

              • I didn’t get this far by going back on my whims. Unless Morrigan disapproves, then I HAVE to reload.

              • Though I suppose that if you side with crazy dragon cultists, you kinda deserve your party members leaving you.

                I just didn’t realize doing what they said would actually work. The dragon cultists were clearly crazy wrong about every other thing, they were specifically crazy wrong about why it would wreck the ashes, why would I think it’d work? They’re a holy relic, you think they’d be a bit more durable!

              • But everyone knows holy relics need to be extemely fragile to justify even more extreme measures to defend them!

              • Pokemon is trash 

            • I didn’t play Inquisition because of it.

              I’m playing it now after soft-dropping it a while back. It’s pretty OK. I’m not sure I like the open-world aspect of it. The navigation is rather clunky in that I have to constantly play the guessing game over whether I can jump on this rock or it’s actually an impassable barrier more powerful than any demon. Plus, I just generally prefer more limited-space RPGs. They’re tidy, easy to explore in full and find everything there is to them instead of abandoning some collections because fuck fine-combing vast spaces.

              Still, I’m mostly having fun with it. Being in charge of a major organization is cool, the characters are fairly likeable if a bit on the archetypal side (though some do have some interesting quirks and depth to them), there is a lot of side quests to lose yourself in (even if some of them are repetitive. No, I don’t really need to deal with the rifts in every single location I visit, thanks).

              It’s also doing OK on representation front, though it’s subtle like a brick wall about it. Pretty typical for Bioware, it’s reasonably progressive but really, really clumsy about it. It’s still better than the alternative, though.

              • Almost as soon as I picked up Inquisition and saw it had the same gameplay as 2, I dropped it. It’s like if you tried to play too many Bethesda open-world games in a row. Your body would revolt in self-defense. I was interested in seeing if the series would return to form in terms of writing – tone, characters, lore and the like – but I think I got to where Varric rejoined and just stopped.

      • Surprised you didn’t mention the huge sexism problems. Because like a lot of modern Atlus games, it’s sexist as hell.

        Oh it super is, but not in any way worth commenting on. The women are all fetishes and there’s gross anime perviness, but that’s not really anything new or notable. Unfortunately.

        It’s particularly a shame when the women were so good in the last game (even if the importance did slant male). Never thought I’d miss Yuzu but she was still better than any of the women here. :/

        Except how I accidentally let Keita die and felt bad about it at the time.

        Yeah he ends up joining the fascists, so nothing of value wast lost. I want to be sympathetic towards him since he’s just a kid and has traumatic backstory reasons for believing in social Darwinism, but… he’s still old enough to hold responsibility for his actions, and like all the demon tamers, is extremely dangerous.

        And you’re totally welcome to write up your own post if you want! We take guest reviews. Maybe you can tell me whether the earlier SMT games are worth looking at — I tried playing the first one but the gameplay was too opaque and grindy.

        • Oh it super is, but not in any way worth commenting on. The women are all fetishes and there’s gross anime perviness, but that’s not really anything new or notable. Unfortunately.

           

          Yeah, but the thing I was thinking of was the time you had to tell all your female party members to “act sexy for me” for important plot reasons. That moment pushed it from “ugh stupid anime shit but whatever” to “ugh this game”.

          Yeah he ends up joining the fascists, so nothing of value wast lost. I want to be sympathetic towards him since he’s just a kid and has traumatic backstory reasons for believing in social Darwinism, but… he’s still old enough to hold responsibility for his actions, and like all the demon tamers, is extremely dangerous.

          Yeah, I let him live on NG+ (and he can’t die in the new story content the 3ds remake adds anyways) so I did feel better about it later.

          Fuck Keita.

          And you’re totally welcome to write up your own post if you want! We take guest reviews. Maybe you can tell me whether the earlier SMT games are worth looking at — I tried playing the first one but the gameplay was too opaque and grindy.

          Sounds good to me! Should I submit it by email? I’m gonna have to tweak the post a little since it was initially intended as a forum post.

          The SNES SMT games aren’t really notable for their gameplay. I’d say they’re more notable for establishing a foundation and common archetypes for the series, so reading a LP for the story should be fine. I and II are mainline entries, and if is a weird side game that eventually led to the Persona series. Also one of the few games in the series with a female protagonist. And some decent female characters too. 2 female protagonists vs the legions of hell!

          PS2 era had a bunch more weird spinoffs that I haven’t played and also III aka Nocturne. It was intended to subvert a lot of established series motifs: the Law and Chaos heroes, the protagonist being a demon instead of a human with a computer program, and a really weird post apocalyptic setting with really striking aesthetics. It’s hard as balls and kind of dated and definitely has some goofy bits (I’m looking at you, Dante.) but it’s worth checking out. Especially because a lot of the ending routes in DS2 are trying to ape the aesthetics and ideas of  Nocturne’s Reasons without really ‘getting’ it.

          DS: You covered the Devil Survivors but I liked Strange Journey enough. Self-contained, adult protagonists, crunchy (painful) dungeon crawling. Not the remake though, it adds a bunch of dumb stuff that takes away from the original game (all you need to know about the remake is that Demeter is a little girl for no reason). First SMT game I played. Has a lot of callbacks to SMT I with the first person dungeon crawling and the storylines for the Law and Chaos heroes.

          3DS era: I feel like you’re gonna have the same issues with the original games you had with DS2 but the remakes (DS1/DS2, Soul Hackers) seem alright. Haven’t played any of the IV games but what little I heard seems pretty rage-worthy. Both in terms of the shitty ‘yaaaaaay the status quo is great’ takes on neutrality and the awful, pandering female characters.

          • Yeah, but the thing I was thinking of was the time you had to tell all your female party members to “act sexy for me” for important plot reasons. That moment pushed it from “ugh stupid anime shit but whatever” to “ugh this game”.

            Ohhh yeah. And the one who actually ends up doing it is Airi, the fifteen-year-old. I purposefully avoided talking to her in the leadup in the vain hopes that surely even this game had standards, and no.

            Should I submit it by email?

            Sure, we have a contact page in the navbar.

            Sounds like the SMT games wouldn’t be fun to play, but the LP Archive has LPs for a bunch of them, so I’ll check that out.

      • I could rant about Atlus games more since I love to do that because they’re an endless well of disappointment but I’m going to stop before this post gets too big.

        I’d like to hear your thoughts on Persona games (they’re still Atlus’ property, right?). I’ve heard some good things about the anti-authoritarian message of P5, but I can’t play it, so can’t really confirm them.

        P3-4 were an extremely mixed bag in regards to their social stances (the treatment of trans people in P3 is… ah… a thing, and I can rant about Kanji and Naoto in P4 for hours. There are just so much to unpack with them). On the other hand, at least I didn’t get the impression they were advocating for the shitty centrism, but it’s probably because they were focused more on personal struggles and connections over taking a look at the bigger picture (the way Naoto’s conflict is presented, even ignoring trans issues and focusing on sexism, is telling here).

        • I dunno how much I can help with the Persona series since I only played P3P and lost interest after they stopped adding female protagonists, but I did really like this review of P5 that focuses on the way it treats the female characters. My impressions are that the wish fulfillment-y bits of P5 get in the way of the anti-authoritarian aspects it wants to tell: i.e. it is hamstrung by the fear of making the audience uncomfortable lest it ruin their power fantasy. I think the term is ‘establishment punk’?

           

          What frustrates me about Atlus so much is the huge backslide they made in regards to progressiveness which I blame on the changes in management but that’s a different story. Why can the protagonist be gay in a game from 1999 but the only gay characters in their 2018 game are gross stereotypes? Digital Devil Saga has several noncis spoiler characters that aren’t treated in a gross way as well.

          • Thanks for the link. It was disappointing but not surprising. Persona games always had an issue with their female characters in the romantic context. I think the conclusion reached by the article, that the devs are willing to make a stance for progressive causes for only as long as it doesn’t get in the way of (presumed male) player’s empowerment fantasy, is the right one.

            Unfortunately, I’m not that familiar with Atlus’ history, so can’t make comments about it. I’m looking forward to your guest review, though.

            • Kinda reminds me of the difference between KnK and Tsukihime (both narratively and their initial commercial reception), or the Fate route of Fate/Stay Night. At the end of the day, these are media properties that need to be sold, and you’ve gotta remember the kind of person who buys this stuff in Japan.

              Just remember, one of Japan’s best selling light novel authors has fully admitted to being unable to write female characters who don’t fall in love with his male protagonists, and he seems far from being the only light novel author who can’t.

              No matter how progressive a story an author writes, in order to get it published to a wide audience, he’s going to have to get past the corporate fairy asking why neets and otaku will want to buy it.

              • To be fair, the work that has started the modern LN boom was Boogiepop, which gave us girl!Batman and was generally fairly decent with female characters, so I don’t think open pandering is inherent to LNs or that works devoid of it won’t be published. It’s just that fanservice-heavy works have an in-built audience that’s going to consume basically anything that’s technically readable, while abstaining from such elements and trying to sell your work on other merits carries more risks.

              • Eeeeeeh, I’d argue that, while Boogiepop started the original LN boom, the modern LN boom was started by OreImo, which… well. None of that stuff you said. Of course.

                There’s nothing inherently pandering about the Light Novel format (since, after all, it’s basically just a young adult novella with about a dozen illustrations), but the Light Novel genre has definitely decided that it’s going to be about not just pandering, but putting that pandering right in the title so you know what kind of pandering you’ll be getting. Choose Your Own Light Novel Plot below the Read More. And there’s no indication that’ll change any time soon.

                There are a lot of cringy manga (many of them based on light novels), but… for every trash manga, you could probably name a pretty good manga, or even a great manga. Good light novels are exceptionally few and far between, and most of them are older than the age of the demographic buying LNs today. Modern light novels are a hell of a lot less like Boogiepop than they are like The Middle-aged Man Who Just Returned From Another World Melts His Fathercon Daughters With His Paternal Skill.

                Which is a real light novel. That actually exists. And received a manga adaptation.

                In an world… : That’s an extremely generic fantasy world with unexplained video game mechanics that allow the author to make massive skills lists to pad out chapters on their LN website.

                … Our protagonist… : A.) Is a NEET who dies or commits suicide and is transported to the extremely generic fantasy world OR B.) is someone who acts exactly the same as A but was born in the extremely generic fantasy world.

                … Who is special because… : A.) He has a character class which is commonly viewed as the weakest, but through simple logic which would naturally occur to anyone who plays the class long enough, is secretly the strongest class OR B.) He is the strongest class.

                … And with this power he decides to… : A.) Live a slow-paced life of easy living OR B.) Get revenge on the normies who wronged him.

                … With a… : A.) Harem of cute girls OR B.) Harem of cute girls aquired through slaveomancy.

        • I think that was kind of intentional, at least as far as Persona 4 was concerned. It really learned hard into the persona one wears for themselves, especially compared to Persona 5, which was more about the persona one wears for society (though I can’t speak for P3, since I don’t really remember any of it).

          I think that’s part of why people interpreted Naoto as a commentary on transgender issues is because things like internalized transphobia essentially being that kind of self-denying persona; even though at one point she pretty much says her reasons for crossdressing are that if she had to choose between being a detective and being female, she’d pick being a detective in a heartbeat. The fact that people took it as a commentary on trans issues rather than sexism, despite the fact that she pretty much says “I present as a boy because girls can’t be detectives that’s just silly whoever heard of that” is… hm, I don’t know the word for it. Interesting in its own right,  suppose?

          Considering the rest of the story, if she was transgender, I feel like it would’ve made more sense if she started off trying to present as her birth gender and either being uncomfortable in that role or more comfortable in the other (depending on how they’d want to frame the story), and then slowly transitioning to presentation as her identified gender. Which… now that I think about it… is kind of like what actually does happen in the story, but in reverse: She starts off presenting as the gender she believes she needs to be perceived as in order to be accepted by society, and slowly shifts to showing her true self by the end (to the point she’s stopped crossdressing in that supplemental novel). And that’s kinda what Kanji does. He presents as hypermasculine to compensate for his feminine-coded hobbies, and over the course of the game, comes to more accept that side of himself being normal.

          Which, speaking of Kanji… eeeeh, I dunno, I don’t got as much to say about him? Maybe something about gender non-conformance and toxic masculinity, or… something like that? But, honestly, I see the argument for Kanji being at least a little bit attracted to men far more than I do for Naoto being transgender, so… yeah.

          • Well, a thing about Kanji and Naoto is that issues with them have layers. Firstly, they could have been gay and trans man, respectively, with some tweaks to their storylines, but they aren’t, which raises the usual issues of representation.

            But alright, it’s not the conflicts the game was going for. So, let’s talk about conflicts that are present.

            Kanji has feminine-coded hobbies, of which he’s ashamed and so overcompensates by presenting this hypermasculine image and kinda failing at it. As you say, over his storuline and the SLink, he comes to realize that the division between “masculine” and “feminine” hobbies is mostly bullshit and he should do what he likes, and people would accept him. That’s a good message, but it’s severely undermined by the fact that in the main plot, a lot of scene with him end with “ha ha, that’s gay” punchline. Yosuke is afraid to sleep with him in the same tent, there is stuff with him during that game on a city trip and the date cafe, etc.

            So the message becomes, “it’s OK to accept yourself, but people would still mock you for not comforting to the ideals of masculinity.”

            With Naoto, her conflict revolves around how she’s not treated with respect she deserves because she’s a kid and a girl. The conflation of the two is actually interesting because infantilization of women is very much a thing, and it could have gone interesting places. But then her SLink focuses solely on how important it is for her to not rush out of childhood and enjoy it while it lasts, while the issue of sexism is kinda… not really mentioned much again. And, I mean, the issue of her being a kid is going to fix itself in time, the issue of sexism is not.

            though I can’t speak for P3, since I don’t really remember any of it

            P3 has an absolutely delightful beach scene where three boys, including the protagonist, try to pick up girls. They’re awful at it, so they get turned down each time, until they come across an older woman who’s very willing to basically do one of them right now. Despite them still being in high school, which is… ah…

            But then! What a twist! One of the boys notices that the woman – gasp! – has an Adam’s apple!

            It is treated as a shocking reveal that obviously ruins any chance of romantic entanglement, and the woman reacts with something like, “Damn, and I’ve almost got me a boytoy.”

            So, yeah, it’s a standard “trap” narrative about how trans women trick honest straight men into sleeping with them, with a side dish of pedophilia.

            • Firstly, they could have been gay and trans man, respectively, with some tweaks to their storylines, but they aren’t, which raises the usual issues of representation.

              I’ll accept that this could’ve been the case (as much as it could’ve been with any character), and could’ve possibly been what they originally intended to do (though I’ve never heard anything to imply or deny that), but I was speaking only of what the finished product presented. Datamining found evidence that they might’ve had plans for Yosuke to be a love interest at one point (or something of that nature, I forget the exact details), but in the finished game, he’s not.

              So the message becomes, “it’s OK to accept yourself, but people would still mock you for not comforting to the ideals of masculinity.”

              … Well… To a large extent, that’s still kind of true? People mocking men for feminine-coded behaviour is still pretty much just as common today as it was when the game came out. I suppose the right way to deal with that would be to add “but that shouldn’t influence your own feelings” or something of that nature, but I feel like it’d be kind of disingenuous to say it’d be all rainbows and sunshine if you just accept yourself. That’s setting an unrealistic expectation, and could improperly equip anyone who takes that message to heart.

              But I don’t see how that would make him gay. Like I said, I see the argument that Kanji might like guys to some extent more than I do Naoto being transgender, but… a lot of that is from the comic relief scenes you mentioned, and not his Serious Deep Themes Important Stuff story arc.

              With Naoto, her conflict revolves around how she’s not treated with respect she deserves because she’s a kid and a girl. […] And, I mean, the issue of her being a kid is going to fix itself in time, the issue of sexism is not.

              I also don’t see what this has to do with the trans interpretation. I’m kinda getting the feeling at least one of us is talking past the other? Am I missing something or something?

              • I’ll accept that this could’ve been the case (as much as it could’ve been with any character), and could’ve possibly been what they originally intended to do (though I’ve never heard anything to imply or deny that), but I was speaking only of what the finished product presented. Datamining found evidence that they might’ve had plans for Yosuke to be a love interest at one point (or something of that nature, I forget the exact details), but in the finished game, he’s not.

                I mean, I don’t know anything about behind-the-scenes stuff, I’m only talking about the game as present, and what is present is a story that at first seems like it’s going to deal with issues of sexuality and gender identity, and then doesn’t. I can believe that the devs didn’t intend it that way (well, with Kanji at least they definitely intended to at least reference homosexuality), but that’s the impression a lot of people got before being disappointing.

                Basically, it’s not just that they aren’t gay or trans, but that, based on the beginning of their storylines, you kinda expect them to be, and then they aren’t.

                Whether it’s fair to blame the game for betraying such expectations is a separate issue, but I can’t exactly blame the people who do, considering the low number of such characters in media.

                … Well… To a large extent, that’s still kind of true?

                We aren’t talking about random people, though, but about the protagonist team, the people who have helped him to resolve his issues in the first place and became his friends. The scenes in question are also presented in a way that makes it clear that the player is supposed to laugh at the gay jokes as well, rather than find them insensitive at best, thus normalizing such behavior.

                It’s not that such behavior is presented as something you’d have to deal with, but rather as something natural that shouldn’t be questioned and should, instead, be embraced.

                But I don’t see how that would make him gay.

                I also don’t see what this has to do with the trans interpretation.

                I was talking about my issues with them in general rather than specifically gay/trans interpretations. I mean, my second paragraph is basically, “OK, so now let’s engage with the conflicts the game actually wants to present.”

              • Sorry guys, but I think this has reached the point where you should move to misc discussion.

  • Mostly polite today.

    re: Your review to fast car
    7 Julypeetas
    A response to your review at https://www.fanfiction.net/r/13313951/

    hi! i’m not trying to be a professional writer or anything but i […]

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