Misc Discussion Post

In case some new thing comes up and everyone wants to chat about that without taking over a random post.


  1. CrazyEd says:
    So! Exalted! This is a subject I’m pretty passionate about, so apologies in advance. For anything. For everything, probably.

    What they did to The Ebon Dragon in MoEP: Infernals isn’t as bad as in RotSE. If you stat it, they will kill it. Hilariously easy, in The Ebon Dragon’s case. I’m pretty sure it can be done at chargen if you optimise hard enough. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Infernals, but I think its a matter of personal taste. I don’t like transhumanism, for one. But what I do really like? Malfeas. Its one of the most interesting parts of the setting. I love the hierarchy of Yozi and all their various component souls and everything about the idea. I even like the Not-Yozi in Scion whose sub-souls became Judeo-Christian angels as part of a plot to draw worship away from the true gods in a setting where the various pagan mythologies are all true and belief is magical power.

    I do like the mechanics though. I never understood why the core concept of how Infernals were meant to work get a bad rap in the post 2.5 environment unless you count Ink Moneys extras which totally break them because that blog has zero balance or why people always acted like the Reclamation was an inevitability if the existence of Infernals was confirmed in your game insane power level of Ink Monkeys Infernals making it deadly easy to do so aside. The Ebon Dragon is the master of the long game. He started plotting as soon as he became imprisoned in Malfeas. Breaking the Jade Prison was the beginning of phase one of his plan. These two events happened about five thousand years apart. Even assuming the Reclamation is a done deal once it starts, just because your ST introduces a slayer as a boss character doesn’t mean that the Yozi will escape Malfeas within a year if the PCs don’t do anything And the less said about all the changes they wanted to make to Infernals in 3e the better. Unfortunately, I’m not sure which ones stuck around and which ones got reviled so hard they backpedaled on it, like the idea that your PC Infernals were prototypes to test out the shards of Exaltation before the real agents of the Reclamation are created.

    1. illhousen says:

      If you stat it, they will kill it.

      That’s actually not a huge problem in Exalted specifically compared to, say, Lovecraftian stuff. You’re playing as demigods with the power to reshape the world in your image. If you feel like defeating the Principle of Opposition that doesn’t even properly exist, well, you can do that.

      It becomes a problem when the players know mechanics better than the developers, so TED is not as impressive as he should be, but that’s a somewhat separate issue.

      why people always acted like the Reclamation was an inevitability if the existence of Infernals was confirmed in your game

      That’s rather bizarre. Infernals are hilariously bad servants. They’re way too prone to wandering off and exacting vengeance or carve their own little kingdoms or, well, do pretty much everything except their stated goal. And I’m not even going to get into heretical path stuff.

      With Infernals around you honestly should worry more about Infernals being around than about Yozi.

      1. CrazyEd says:
        Oh, true, true. Both The Ebon Dragon, the Incarnae, and probably a lot of other Big Setting Names (the Kukla?) get painfully easy-to-take statblocks. I’ve got no problem with being able to fight and kill The Ebon Dragon, but like I said, a starting level Exalt should not be able to defeat him no matter what he does and how optimised he is. I should’ve said something like “if you stat it, they’ll kill it with laughable ease”. It occurs to me I’ve never assessed the Scarlet Empress’s takeability in RotSE (I outright avoided looking at it to avoid getting mad because I knew I would), but considering she’s a Dragonblooded, she’s probably pretty easy to take out.

        Infernals are hilariously bad servants.

        And, unlike the Abyssals (has anyone here been around long enough to remember when Abyssals were the antagonist splat?), the Yozi don’t have the options of a carrot or a stick to ensure loyalty. They only have carrots that the Infernals can very easily get for themselves with their own power. Abyssals have both the Liege background and the shard-containers which can be used as a leash. And those are for the deathlords; the neverborn don’t even have any motivation to keep them loyal. They’ve got something like twice the numbers the Infernals do, and so long as the Abyssals keep destroying things, it doesn’t matter who they’re loyal to. Forget the yozi, the neverborn are the way more immediate threat. The battle between the Exalts of Creation and the Infernals even has a very high chance of ending in a win condition for the neverborn before it does for the yozi, and the neverborn end actually is an inevitable conclusion (on a cosmically slow scale) even if the Yozi win.

        1. Farla says:

          but like I said, a starting level Exalt should not be able to defeat him no matter what he does and how optimised he is.

          That was intentional. For more of the line godawful stat blocks were an accident, but that was done by the guys who knew the system, and the official line was that, because this was such an awesome book, they wanted it to be playable by all groups…which, of course, means it’s a cakewalk to anyone who’s experienced.

          and the neverborn end actually is an inevitable conclusion (on a cosmically slow scale) even if the Yozi win.

          I’m fond of the idea that the yozi intend to help their siblings – whether or not they can when they seem to have difficulty even understanding it is another thing, but I’d assume it’s on the agenda if only because no one wants to share a house with flayed screaming zombie family members. It also gives loyalist infernals (and why have anything but loyalist infernals, really) another thing to be holier-than-thou about if their plan would, theoretically, address the greatest of the doom clusterfuck Creation faces.

          1. CrazyEd says:
            That was intentional.

            Intentionally bad game design is still bad game design. It’s worse than accidental bad game. At least if it was accidental I could just pretend it was an oversight and not that they thought it was a clever piece of game design. The Ink Monkeys could’ve really benefited from having someone around solely to dismiss their ideas no matter how good they were just to encourage them to think more deeply about them. I remember when someone leaked a playtest document and two charms in the same charm tree could be combined into an infinite xp generator and there were several which were impossible to fix without completely deleting them and waiting until they were working on the Sidereal book. As the person my group comes to for homebrew balancing, even if it was a playtest document, these are not mistakes that should’ve required playtesters to catch.


            the yozi intend to help their siblings

            I don’t understand what you mean by this. Help them how, exactly? Bring them back to life? That’s one of the two golden laws of things you can’t do in Exalted.

            the late-2e idea that Exalts could never be servants

            One of the most fun Exalted PCs I ever played was a heavily indoctrinated Night Caste member of the Cult of the Illuminated. In a game that was otherwise casteless lunars. I have no clue how I got away with this PC concept. The funniest part is that, because the other three or four PCs were casteless lunars and there were three or four silver pact lunar NPCs who found them, my PC kept getting their ideas shot down and they eventually ended up in the same role a Token Lunar ends up in with an otherwise solar party, except it was their Lunar Mate (who they were obsessed with because they had Amnesia, Past Lives 5, and a first age incarnation with a Solar Bond 5 mate they were equal partners with) who held their murder-leash.

            the most control over where their Exaltations go

            Abyssal Exaltations explicitly go to whoever the deathlord commands they do (contingent on the prospective abyssal accepting).

            1. Farla says:

              Help them how, exactly? Bring them back to life?

              Kill them/detach them from Creation/fix them enough that they’re no longer screaming zombies, possibly by just mangling them further.

              The yozi barely grasp the partial deaths they’ve been forced through, so it’s unlikely they’ll do a good job of whatever they attempt, but I am sure they intend to try something. A loyalist infernal ought to be able to claim dealing with the neverborn issue is one of the many wonderful things about giving Creation back to its true masters – especially since that opens up a line of interaction between infernals and abyssals! Loyalist abyssals of one type might want to ally with anyone who could help their ultimate masters, while the other type of loyalist might be horrified at the thought that infernals were going to get in the way of the all-devouring void and continue to allow the suffering of existence.

              Abyssal Exaltations explicitly go to whoever the deathlord commands they do (contingent on the prospective abyssal accepting).

              I mean more in terms of ripping open someone’s mind to check. I know there’s some stuff suggesting the neverborn put them through a wringer post-exaltation and could kill them and try again if they don’t like what they see, but the neverborn are so broken I don’t think they’d even know what to look for – certainly their track record with the deathlords was shit. The yozi are way more functional (including being able to learn from experience) and were doing a better job at making servants from their very first akuma attempt.

            2. CrazyEd says:
              kill the neverborn

              Killing the ghosts of the things which should have been incapable of dying in the first place. That’s just crazy, even for Exalted.

              Honestly, I have to disagree entirely. The yozi want to rule Creation. The neverborn want to destroy it. The yozi can’t rule Creation if the neverborn destroy it. Remember, Creation is the fetter that binds their primordial ghosts. If anything, infernals should be less willing to work with loyalists than renegade abyssals.

              the neverborn put them through ringer post-exaltation

              From what I can recall, the neverborn didn’t really have anything to do with the abyssals. I don’t even think they were involved in cracking the Jade Prison. I think that was either… the Silver Prince or one of the two Scavenger Lands deathlords? It’s the deathlords who do all the scouting for new abyssals. The neverborn just want shit destroyed, they don’t care how. When you think about it, the deathlords have more in common with an infernal. They actually were picked by the neverborn, have no real requirement of loyality so far as I can remember (which is why half of them want to take over Creation as well) and they even received a (third circle) demon to enter an unholy fusion with! Remember, a deathlord is a fusion between the ghost of a powerful Celestial Exalt an what was a third-circle soul of a neverborn.

      2. Farla says:

        That’s rather bizarre. Infernals are hilariously bad servants. They’re way too prone to wandering off and exacting vengeance or carve their own little kingdoms or, well, do pretty much everything except their stated goal.

        This is but one of the many reasons I immediately discarded the bit about them being failed solars who exalt and then go to meet the yozi. They really suffered from the late-2e idea that exalts could never be servants even through honest belief. Infernals should be the most devoted of the cultists, who really believe that this is the right thing. That also solves the problem of them going off in a million directions and wrecking the setting while deluting their yoziness – an infernal should only switch away from serving the yozi by being a PC who has a revelation or by PCs convincing them this isn’t the right thing to do. Abyssals don’t get the best vetting because it’s harder to do and their masters have a bunch of options if they run off. Infernals should have no leashes but be incredibly hard to turn away from their task in the first place.

        1. illhousen says:

          Hm, that actually makes sense considering that they probably have the most control over where their Exaltations go. I mean, if you go to a trouble of stuffing an Exaltation into a demon first, may as well ensure it goes to the right person.

    2. Farla says:

      Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Infernals, but I think its a matter of personal taste. I don’t like transhumanism, for one.

      As someone who likes transhumanism, part of the problem with Infernals was that the rest of the exalts were already transhuman enough and you really can’t get beyond that without compromising the idea that everyone’s fundamentally human and can’t just cut out their own flaws. Dreams of the First Age shows how bizarre and alien the exalts can get when left to their own devices, but you can still see the human base it’s all built off of. Infernals says that people can change anything in any way, while the whole rest of Exalted is built on the idea people can’t change being people.

      As to the fucking Reclamation, it’s because the designers were active all over the forums giving fifty thumbs up to the idea because THEIR exalts were so much cooler than everyone else’s and they were gonna do it (and so if you weren’t playing as infernals your characters’ new plots were all about desperately trying to stop the inevitable infernal takeover) because they could do anything but also they weren’t anybody’s servants and as soon as the yozi tried to boss them around they’d double-re-yozify the yozi but BETTER and into, like, MECHATANK SLAVE ARMOR that’s METAL AS FUCK and then they’d build a brand new creation off their bodies, and it’d have blackjack and hookers.

      Also god I hated what they did with the Ebon Dragon. There’s so many wonderful directions you can take the bits of lore we had about them and instead they erased them in favor of  basically Satan but more of a fuckup and super easy to screw over.

      1. CrazyEd says:
        One of the most infuriating ideas I’ve ever seen in the Exalted community is the idea that characters shouldn’t be shaped by their culture because an Exaltation burns that away. While it’s technically true that Exaltation could lead someone to throwing off parts of their culture they don’t like or agree with, especially with years, decades, and centuries of experience as an Exalt, who you are before you exalt should definitely inform who you are after you exalt. People are heavily shaped by their upbringing, and suddenly having a 30 yard standing long jump doesn’t mean the last twenty or thirty years of your life suddenly have no bearing on who you are as a person. At least when DotFA has people becoming these incomprehensible human-shaped  things, its after they’ve had thousands of years to forget their pre-Exaltation culture. But someone who has only been an Exalt for six months to a year like the chargen power level assumes? Your pre-exaltation culture should still mean something to you, even if it means a complete rejection of it because you’re a Solar born on the Blessed Isle. Culture should never just disappear by the mere process of Exaltation.

        As to the fucking Reclamation

        Do I smell hints of someone who dislikes the Ink Monkeys as much as I do? If the opinion of the Exalted community on this site is as negative towards them as I am, words can not express how happy that makes me, and how much less I fear this discussion turning into heated arguments. How do you feel about Evocations and the new Exalt types of 3e?

        1. Farla says:

          Like so many, I was enthusiastic about those-who-would-become-Ink-Monkeys when it began. They promised knowledge of system mechanics and beautiful charms. And then, Infernals! Which had such beautiful charms people argued that despite chapters of rape and stupid, it was still worth it for those alone! Sure, the interpretations of the yozi weren’t quite Games of Divinity level, but nothing but GoD is GoD.

          And, glory of glory, they were going to write MORE charms! They would bring this greatness to all the exalt types! …well, to solars. But that’s okay, solars are the main exalt, and who cares the lunars still have the most boring charmset ever? And…did they seriously just let solars resurrect if they die nobly protecting people, violating both the no-revival and the n0-objective-goodness clauses in one go?

          But hey, a few charms that show we are operating on completely different visions of the setting are no big deal. I can just take out anything I don’t like! And the promise of overhauling the existing mechanics into something functional for everyone is a much bigger deal.

          Exalted 2.5!!! …and there’s Shun the Smiling Lady nerfed, because a charm that exists to make powerful people hunt you down and beat you to death was overpowered and needed more reasons to never be used by anyone, so evidently the rebalancing is not really going to be helpful to me who wants like, balance and not solaroid superiority.

          All while churning out lore I hated more and more each time. Gee, what if the Sol Invictus wasn’t literally the sun, and also what if we insisted you can’t call him that anymore for some reason, and also he’s basically Jesus??? Also he totally rides Luna lol, also Luna is definitely always a sexy woman now, busy splitting her time between sexing him and lesbian sexing Gaia, also did we mention we know what Luna is now and it’s a sexy murder honeypot.

          OH HEY WE HEARD YOU LIKE ABYSSALS SO WE MADE A TOTALLY DIFFERENT DEATH EXALT AND WE’RE GOING TO MAKE A BUNCH OF COOL STUFF FOR THEM INSTEAD BECAUSE THEY’RE SO MUCH BETTER. ps now any god can make an exalt at the cost of their own life because it’s not like it’s a major feature of the setting that gods aren’t very self-sacrificing or anything. Hey wait no we do have some non-solar stuff! Here’s a naked chick. No it’s empowering because she chooses to be naked.

          In conclusion I barely know how 3e works because I stopped paying attention midway through the beta test period. I should probably check again to find out what cool stuff the liminals got that I can staple back onto my abyssals.

          1. CrazyEd says:
            The most insidious part of MoEP: Infernals is… the Ink Monkeys didn’t have nearly as much to  do with the book as you might think. Go look up the credits. I only think one of them even has any credit as a writer, and I think he was the one who basically burned his ties with the others halfway through the 3e kickstarter. I think it was around the time one of them had a cancer scare, and I actually think it was the one who had the scare, come to think of it.

            I can just take out everything I don’t like!

            As someone who likes the idea of samurai RPGs but hates Legend of the Five Rings (the only “samurai”-focused game out there), let me tell you the two worst lines the designers promote the game with. Both sound totally fine on paper and I didn’t actually have a real problem with either until I became an L5R GM.

            L5R your way!

            • What You Think It Means: Oh, they’re decoupling the mechanics from the current metaplot, so I can play in the past or future, and more easily make changes to the setting without overhauling the system and vice-versa.
            • What It Actually Means: If you don’t like it, fix it yourself. And if you ask why a rule was written in a certain way (such as why the school renowned throughout the empire as the preeminant masters of the naginata lack the skill that governs naginata use), so that you can know the thought that went behind writing it that way, too bad! You’re free to change it however you like, though, L5R your way!
            • What The Fans Think It Means: You can totally add to the setting or reimagine it in alternate ways (space-opera L5R!), but if you want to modify things, you’ll get no help here. (No joke, I once posted on the AEG forums asking for, if memory serves, thoughts on my rewrite to the clan wizard school of a clan that specialized in entreating with fox spirits in the fluff, so that their school’s crunch was about entreating with fox spirits, and I got nothing but questions about why I’d want to change it and defence for why the canon version made sense).

            Rokugan Is Not Japan

            • What You Think It Means: L5R takes place in a fantasy setting heavily inspired by Japan, but it takes some divergences in the name of both wanting to be easier to learn than a college course on Japan (like simplifying the imperial court structure and culture) and making it more suitable for play as an RPG (such as allowing equal opportunity female PCs), and you can’t expect 100% historical accuracy.
            • What It Actually Means: Reading a book on medieval Japanese history and culture will often give you the exact opposite that a book on Rokugan would give you on the same topic.
            • What The Fans Think It Means: You’re a no fun bastard for wanting people to memorize books and books of history (that you consider more interesting than the setting that was purpose built to be interesting) even though we’re going to memorize these books and books of setting fluff without complaint.

            So here’s another Death Exalt

            Remember that time one of them “clarified” that Abyssals aren’t the Exalts of Death, they’re the Exalts of Murder? Hooh boy that was a fun day. I don’t really have a problem with Liminal Exalted in a vaccuum (from what I can recall of them, at least, which can basically be summed up as “Promethean: the Exalted”), but all the new Exalts step on too many toes. The “problem” with Half-Castes (come to think of it, half-castes better fit the definition of a liminal being than Liminal Exalted, don’t they?) was that they couldn’t compete with Exalts (which was the point), so Exigents now. The problem with Sidereals is their continued existence, so Getiman now.

            Remember how the core religious structure of the Scarlet Empire is that being a good peasant who keeps your head down will reward you with a better life next time around the wheel of reincarnation and the Exalt types that you become in this life by being disruptive to the social order are all demons (sort of like the dichotomy between Hinduism and Buddhism)? Last I checked, exigents had Immaculate Order approval, because its hard to claim their demons when the god who made them can set up a soap box on the street corner to tell everyone they didn’t steal his power.

            Here’s a naked chick.

            This is Exalted. You’re really going to have to be more specific.

            I barely know how 3e works.

            Last I checked, it worked like 2e but with the damage-resolution system of Final Fantasy: Dissidia taped onto the top of it, accuracy is no longer the combat god-stat (now its damage for pretty much the exact same reasons accuracy was the god stat), half the charms modified what dice results gave what successes in what situations (because Excellencies were bad so we had to go back to 1e charmsets with 50 “this charm gives +1 dice when doing X Action”), and computing your dice totals is so complex they literally had to custom build a dicebot to handle it (and not just for online play either, it was a general use tool that you could use on your phone for real-life games). So I guess I’m still stuck with 2.0 with half of the TCA errata (also non-Ink Monkeys work, if I recall). I hope my players will all be okay with “you all meet at an orgy” instead of “you all meet in a tavern”…

            Not that it matters, for me, because 3e could literally be the most perfect system ever devised by man and I’d still hate all the changes they made to the fluff supposed in the name of making it more like early 1e (which, as a reminder, is the system everyone immediately dropped- even my friend who owns literally every 1e book- the moment 2e’s core dropped) because they don’t realize all that mystique was because only three books were published in the first six months of the run to provide any answers to the mystery of the setting and even if they completely reboot the setting instead of awkwardly stapling in their new Exalt types, people are still going to remember the previous two editions. The only book I’m considering looking at is the DB book because it promises lots of stuff about the Heptagram I might be able to steal. It was supposed to be out in the first six months of 3e (which was, if I recall, slated for a 2012 Q4 release with a collector’s edition core within the year) so it should be coming out in the next year or two, probably.

            You can reboot a system, and you can reboot a setting, but you can’t reboot a player. And if they dont’ believe that, I’d like them to talk to any Planescape who dropped older D&D editions for 4e before 4e Planescape was released. Those poor bastards. Oh well, at least it calmed down 3e fanboys from cawing to their STs about how they should switch from 2e to 3e the day the corebook dropped, even if they were playing non-Solars. Somewhat, at least.

            1. CrazyEd says:
              Hah hah whoops I meant to take out the bullet-point list of unrelated L5R criticism and leave this one in instead! Blame my accursed lack of an edit button.

              did they seriously just let solars ressurect

              I think the main problems I have with the Ink Monkeys, in no particular order

              • Half the biggest 2e Is Unsalvagable Sins they spent the second half of 2e harping on were ones they created in the first place and the other half were ones they exacerbated to insane levels.
              • There’s no internal criticism. I can’t remember how many times a new Ink Monkeys release would come out and it’d look like half-formed ideas sketched out for homebrewing. I made alpha versions of homebrew with more polish than their finished versions… which leads us to
              • So many times, it seems like their only form of errata was “oh god, please forget we released this” after fan reaction was “it took me only one read-through to find five ways this was broken”. Remember the debacle that was the 3e preview PDF for Abyssals? After the tenth time in a row you use “oh, we were only pretending to be stupid/going over the line to see how far we could go” I think everyone has stopped believing it. But hey, they’re not rape-ghosts, they only meant “ravish in the Victorian romance novel sense”. So they’re just ghosts which are so overcome by their passion for you that they can’t help but force themselves upon you sexually. It’s totally different, you guys.
              • So much of their work was broken on the conceptual level. I mentioned this in passing earlier, but one of the charms in the playtest document was a Lore charm that allowed a Solar to study something for a few days and make a prediction based on what had happened in the past (I believe the example was predicting the next time a volcano would errupt) and reality would rewite itself to make the solar correct. As if Sidereals didn’t already have enough on their plate with Creation being like “Jurassic Park after the power goes out” because all the Lunars (all of them) who hate them for some reason.

              There are probably more categories to lump the problems I have into, but let’s start with those three/four (the second and third are kind of two halves of one), since they’re probably the biggest.

              Oh, and I just remembered: 2.5e was a slap-dash bandaid they put zero effort into and never intended to finish because it existed solely to get the Ink Monkeys the third edition. Not really a pattern in the individual events but this is definitely one of their worst things.

  2. CrazyEd says:
    Miscellaneous is just a fancy way of saying “pen and paper RPGs”, right?

    So while I was reading through some of the older reviews on this site, someone once suggested half a decade ago that Farla read the Ciaphas Cain books from the Warhammer 40,000 series (which struck me as odd considering those are generally considered one of if not the best WH40k novel series, especially for people new to the setting and people who actively dislike the setting), it got me thinking about what other RPGs might be popular on this site (WH40k wasn’t one of them).

    Obviously, there is a decent number of Exalted fans around, but what about other RPGs? Is there an RPG system/setting you absolutely can’t stand? That obscure niche RPG you’ve always wanted to play but never got the chance (besides Unknown Armies)? And, relevant to the comment that inspired this one, what RPG-inspired books would you recommend to read or avoid like the plague?

    I’ve personally always found the original Dragonlance trilogy a fascinating series. A lot of post-D&D “Tolkienian” fantasy has been accused of just aping Tolkien’s style without his substance (a valid complaint) but its fascinating to see just to what degree Dragonlance takes that to. If you’ve ever wondered what Lord of the Rings would’ve been like if Gandalf was fused with Tom Bombadil, I can’t more heavily suggest any book other than the first Dragonlance trilogy.

    Also, kender.

    But the most important question I could possibly ask here is: Does non-official fiction set in RPG settings count as fanfiction? Do individual RPGs run in published settings count as collaborative fanfiction? This is a question that’s been bugging me for about nine of the ten years I’ve been obsessed with funny shaped dice, but I’ve never had enough contact with the fanfiction community to get an answer until now.

    1. illhousen says:

      Obviously, there is a decent number of Exalted fans around, but what about other RPGs?

      You can check out Tabletop RPG section/tag, I’ve reviwed a number of things I enjoy, plus performed a lengthy dissections on Dresden Files RPG and DragonRaid.

      As to my current favorites:

      – Don’t Rest Your Head

      – Polaris

      – A Penny for My Thoughts

      – The Mountain Witch

      – Unknown Armies (everything but mechanics which I actually dislike)

      – Over the Edge

      – Cat

      – Some takes on FATE system, which is a pretty good system for doing something weird and your own.

      – White Wolf stuff is hit and miss, but when it hits, it’s pretty great.

      – Fiasco is just fun

      – Savage Worlds for the sake of nostalgia-ridden adventure. It’s like D&D but more to my tastes

      – I fondly remember Ars Magica as one of the first tRPGs I actually owned, but I didn’t play it much

      – deadEarth for sheer entertaining value. Try to generate a character and you’ll know what I mean

      – currently I’m reading Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine (from the creator of Nobilis, though I didn’t actually read Nobilis), which appears to be pretty great if a bit dense and opaque to my liking. It has rules for character arcs, it’s amazing

      Probably forgetting a bunch of stuff, but those are games that I liked (or liked something about them) that I can remember off the top of my head.

      Is there an RPG system/setting you absolutely can’t stand?

      Aside from the obvious like FATAL and Hybrid? Well, DragonRaid just baffled me with its mechanical decisions, and I don’t care much for the underlying ideology. I’m easily bored by complex rules, so I generally avoid the likes of GURPS and D&D.

      Nasuverse RPG has genuinely offended my sensibilities by being a goddamn monster of a book that clearly has no idea how to adapt shit.

      Aside from that, I’m generally cautious in my RPG choices, so I didn’t encounter much awful stuff that I didn’t want to find for pointing and laughing purposes to begin with.

      That obscure niche RPG you’ve always wanted to play but never got the chance (besides Unknown Armies)?

      I actually played Unknown Armies on numerous occasions. It works in accordance with its themes, but mechanics is really not my cup of tea.

      The actual answers would be:

      – Monsters and Other Childish Things

      – Little Fears

      – Houses of the Blooded

      And, relevant to the comment that inspired this one, what RPG-inspired books would you recommend to read or avoid like the plague?

      Well, Godwalker is a fine novel for Unknown Armies, though, really, if you want Unknown Armies novel, the Last Call by Tim Powers is a better choice. It’s not actually about UA at all, but it certainly captures the feel anyway.

      Currently I’m reading Fable of the Swan for Chuubo’s, which so far is pretty good. A bit surreal, a lot pastoral and a bit horrifying, good combination.

      I’ve personally always found the original Dragonlance trilogy a fascinating series.

      Meh, honestly, when I read it, it just left me with a feeling of emptiness. A lot of stuff happened, but it didn’t feel like it had any meaning, and you could hear dice rolling in the distance.

      Writing your novel based on your game sessions is not the best way to approach the task without some really heavy editing.

      Does non-official fiction set in RPG settings count as fanfiction?

      Yes, you can even find some in the Pit.

      I would suggest A Green Sun Illuminates the Void, an Exalted fanfic. It’s a crossover with Familiar of Zero, though, but you don’t have to read it to understand what’s going on (and you’re probably better off avoiding it anyway because it’s a forgettable harem light novel that gained traction in the fandom solely due to an easy crossover mechanism and some cool stuff in setting lore. The fic in question reworks a lot of plot and setting elements to make the work, well, not shitty).

      Do individual RPGs run in published settings count as collaborative fanfiction?

      You mean, like, session transcripts and play-by-post games? No, the usual term for them is RP. They’re banned on the Pit and in general are rarely of any interest to anyone outside of people involved in the play.

      TRPGs in general are very in-group oriented when it comes to narrative decisions. What would be considered a terrible idea in the fandom can be easily accepted in play because it ties to some in-joke or match your tastes or whatever.

      1. CrazyEd says:
        Oh yeah, now that you mention it, I remember reading that review of the Dresden Files RPG. I think skimming that book, long before I ever actually read anything of the Dresden Files, was my first introduction to FATE all those years ago. That was probably… 2008 or ’09, I wanna say? I don’t exactly remember when that book came out.

        As to my current favorites

        Jeez, you sure do like the rules-light narrative systems, huh? I’ll try my best, for the sake of civility, not to make a huge textdump on how I feel about those. Suffice to say, it ain’t good (though most of it is specifically directed at FATE), and I vastly prefer games that just dump a whole bunch of things to simulate a world and let me handle the story all by myself. I eagerly await the day that the tracksuit-wearing nutters on 4chan’s Traditional Games board finish their overhaul of Riddle of Steel (though, last I checked, their game was at least as functional as RoS is, despite still being in beta).

        Chuubo’s Marvellous Wish-Granting Engine […] appears a bit opaque

        That’s kind of the author’s signature mark at this point.

        I’m easily bored bored by compelx rules

        All the rules you need for GURPS, minus huge lists of things you can buy, can probably fit on a 15 page print-out. GURPS Ultra-Lite is about that big, I think. The compelxity is front-loaded at chargen. Buying skills is a bit of a hassle, but using skills is just 3d6 roll-under all day every day. I started really getting into GURPS after I tried AD&D and found I liked it more than either 3.5e (because its terrible) or 4e (too slow and I hate all the equipment that’s needed). AD&D 2e is definitely a product of its time, though, and GURPS does basically everything I liked about AD&D far better.

        clearly no idea how to adapt shit

        Man, oh man, I hope you never read Pokemon Tabletop Adventures if you couldn’t handle the Nasuverse RPG.

        Unknown Armies

        I’ve ran UA once completely by the seat of my pants. It should’ve been a lot more terrible than it was. Something I discovered while doing so is that a great place to find fodder for Unknown Armies is, of all things, the Kamen Rider series. Some of the darker shows, like Kamen Rider Kuuga and Agito, could literally be adapted into Unknown Armies games with absolutely zero modification if you cast the PCs as the police officers who are forced to deal with the Monsters of the Week as well as the Tokusatsu Hero who is just as unknown and terrifying from their perspective (to the point where Kamen Rider Kuuga was labelled Unidentified Life Form #2 during his fight with the first MotW, who received the #1 designation, and then was later labelled #4 when his powers fully developed and his default form changed during the fight with #3).

        Incidentally, if any one here likes Madoka, I highly recommend both Kamen Rider Ryuki and Kamen Rider Gaim. You’ll easily be able to see the parallels between Madoka and Ryuki and Kamen Rider Gaim is kind of like… what would happen if PMMM magical girls were involved in the Holy Grail War of F/Z, sorta? Gen Urobuchi really likes Kamen Rider Ryuki.

        Houses of the Blooded

        John Wick is my RPG Arch-nemesis. I could probably write an entire blog tearing down his entire blog. HotB has a mechanic where you gain a bonus for helping out members of your clan but are compelled (in the FATE sense) to help out members of your clan. What a debilitating flaw! And that’s not even the worst balanced aspect in the game. That one would be the one every clan gets by default because its objectively the best clan aspect that literally every playtest group took because it was objectively the best.


        Exactly. That’s what makes it so fascinating. But, for the record, only the first novel was written like that. The second and third had the novels written first and then turned into adventure novels to lessen the episodic nature of the first novel. It works, but only so far as it feels like someone writing a game of D&D where the DM controls all the characters instead of a novelization of an D&D game people played before.

        the Pit

        … The Pit?

        Familiar of Zero

        The only thing I know about this series is that one of the characters finds a pair of M72 LAWs that are known in-setting as Wands of Destruction.

        forgettable harem light novel

        I’ve probably read worse. I can chew through the harem genre like y’all go through YA novels (most of them aren’t nearly as bad as the stuff on this blog). I feel bad for admitting this, but I’ve seriously considered writing a serious article analysing about how Daily Life With Monster Girls fails even on the level of shameless fanservice (but it’d probably just turn into an essay on why Interviews with Monster Girls is everything I actually wanted from Monster Musume and more because Interviews with Monster Girls is a legitimately good series I would recommend to anyone reading). But first I’d have to find a series that succeeds at the goal of being shameless fanservice to compare and contrast it with… and that’s a rabbit hole I’d rather not go down. 

        session transcripts and play-by-post games

        I was thinking the actual games themselves, or for a more The Pit acceptable format, the replay genre of novels in Japan. Not quite session transcripts, but… the first Dragonlance novel, actually! That would probably count as a replay novel in Japan.

        1. illhousen says:

          Jeez, you sure do like the rules-light narrative systems, huh?

          That I do (though the number is misleading. Most of them aren’t meant for long campaigns but rather for short, 1-5 sessions modules, after which you put the game away and move on to something else before returning to it a year later if you liked it).

          I approach role-playing primary as a collaborative storytelling and generally like games that put some direct narrative control into players’ hands. It helps that my group has three people more comfortable in GM position than that of a player.

          If I were to critisize narrative games, I would say that it’s crucial for everyone to be on the same page regarding what you want to get out of the game and where you want it to go. Games built on different paradigms generally handle players with varying tastes and ideas better.

          You also need to be invested in crafting a story over other considerations as in some narrative games munchkinning is pretty easy but pointless.

          All the rules you need for GURPS, minus huge lists of things you can buy, can probably fit on a 15 page print-out. GURPS Ultra-Lite is about that big, I think.

          I know, but using GURPS Lite feels kinda pointless. Where GURPS shines in the sheer amount of quality stuff produced for it, which allows you to combine various parts to craft a game with exactly the characters you like in exactly the setting you want. But, of course, that does require engaging with more esoteric rules and figuring out how everything fits together.

          Stripping all that and just running the core rules simply gives you a pretty generic system with a grounded flavor. I’d rather use Savage Worlds or FATE in its place.

          John Wick is my RPG Arch-nemesis.

          Well, I read the game a long time ago, and I didn’t have an opportunity to play it, so can’t really comment.

          What I remember is a pretty evocative world and an intriguing combination of adventure and strategy.

          … The Pit?


          I was thinking the actual games themselves, or for a more The Pit acceptable format, the replay genre of novels in Japan.

          No to the former (fanfiction generally assumes written fiction, not perfomance act), yes to the latter.

          1. CrazyEd says:
            When it comes to games, I’m definitely the sort who plays with people who play until they get bored with the game and it quietly goes off in the corner to die.

            I don’t have anything against collaborative storytelling and all the buzzwords narrative games like to throw around. I just think its totally not needed for an RPG to make rules around creating a narrative. Honestly, the RPG I’ve felt more hindered by the rules than any other, ever? FATE. Having to tie absolutely everything to the narrative is a fucking pain. Sometimes you want a cool piece of gear because its a cool piece of gear. The RPG where I’ve felt like the rules didn’t matter the most? FATE. It feels like freeform to the sound of clattering d6s. The RPG where my character has felt the least distinct from the others? FATE. Everyone gets the same +2 bonuses, they just get them to different things.

            If I were to criticize narrative games

            I think my biggest problem with narrative games as a whole, and not just FATE specifically, is that they’re almost exclusively rules light. Games like Legends of the Wulin, while not my cup of tea, prove you can have a narrative RPG with a good amount of teeth to its system. I once encountered someone who was utterly flumoxed by the idea that Song of Swords (that Riddle of Steel upgrade I mentioned awhile ago) was an indie game but not a rules light narrative RPG.

            For the record, Song of Swords is basically designed around simulating medieval combat as realistically as humanly possible while still being playable. When I last checked up on it, I am not sure if there was literally a single rule dedicated to non-combat things yet (though they will have those in the finished product). It is a game where literally every cut you receive has some chance of going septic. Why in the hell would you think that has any business being either a narrative game or a rules light game?

            I’ve never had any problem running narrative as fuck games in a system designed around simulating an environment but it is impossible to do the opposite, so for me, narrative games are just redundant and seeing “indie rules light narrative game” has become a keyword for “game made by someone who doesn’t know how to make mechanics”.

            Just look at John Wick’s Blood and Honour. Somehow, he made a mechanically terrible rules light narrative game. Go look up the minimum and maximum ages on the aging chart. If you roll literally perfect, your character can live to something like 212.

            (For FATE specifically, its that because of the aspect system, your character basically has to come to the table fully formed at the start of session 1. I need a few sessions to really settle into a character and how I’m going to play them and what their backstory was like.)

            GURPS Lite and Ultra-Lite aren’t separate rules systems. GURPS Ultra-Lite is the distillation of GURPS into the only rules that you actually need to play with. All GURPS books are still totally compatible with Lite and Ultra-Lite (which are just heavily abridged and condensed versions of the player’s guide) and you can add-on as many rules as you want. But even if it were just a grounded generic RPG, I’d prefer the resolution mechanic (3d6 roll under vs. your skill) against FATE’s (where your average result is equal to your skill rating because fudge dice have an average roll of 0). When I put it that way, I actually feel like GURPS gives me a lot more freedom to do anything I want while still offering satisfyingly crunchy rules for everything I want.

            Wick has an article on his blog titled “Chess is not an RPG”. You can look it up if you want, but the gist is that he hates weapon stats because (to use his example) no one will ever kill someone with their bare thumbs or a teacup because the axe statline is so much better. I feel this misses the point. Killing someone with a teacup is impressive because a teacup is a less effective weapon than even your bare hands, let alone an axe. If axes and teacups were mechanically equal, why would anyone ever use an axe?

            And, to top it all off? Some guy on 4chan figured out that if you appropriated statted the character Riddick (Wick’s teacup assassin) in GURPS? He’d have high enough stats to reliably kill people with teacups. So, yes, GURPS actually can model the scene he’s saying is impossible outside of narrative games… and unlike that narrative game, can actually model what makes it impressive.

            Evocative world

            … Hah, sorry, I was thinking of Blood and Honour, a samurai RPG Wick made based on the basic ruleset of Houses of the Blooded. Houses of the Blooded is pretty much just all the goofy court intrigue that makes new people hate Legends of the Five Rings (pretty much everyone who joins an established L5R group as a new player has a “my first PC was totally dicked over by a bunch of people who thought they were clever because I didn’t have an encylcopedic knowledge of the setting specifically designed to trap you into seppuku for any little misstep because that’s what Wick believes samurai fiction is like” story because L5R fans can get bloody obsessive) and his boner for the aristocracy as a standalone game. Remember, this is the man who made a game about the Enlightenment period, but made magic a bloodline ability (where every magical bloodline was also noble) and explicitly asked the question “I wonder how the enlightenment would’ve gone if the nobles actually were better than the commoners?” to someone interviewing him about it. And no, it’s not like that was the point of the game. It was just supposed to be a fantasy game about pirates and fencing and shit like that.

            Houses of the Blooded literally has a sourcebook for option like “going outside”. John Wick made an RPG where the ability to go outside was a separate sourcebook. And the kicker? You don’t actually use it to go outside. It’s for telling stories of the wilderness adventures of Unblooded not-elves to the noble court of a household of Blooded not-elves so they’ll accept you into their court and you get to be a noble too and you’ll never have to go outside ever again. The book titled “Wilderness” takes place 100% inside a court room and does not feature the wilderness (outside of flashbacks).

            1. illhousen says:

              I just think its totally not needed for an RPG to make rules around creating a narrative.

              Strictly speaking, it isn’t needed for an RPG to make rules about anything. Freeform is a thing, and I had fun playing it on occasion.

              I do know that “but I can do it in other types of RPG” is a standard objection to narrative games, but it always struck me as silly. Yes, you can, but generally you need to put in more effort and preparation to achieve the same result.

              I find narrative rules helpful in framing the story and engaging the players, and generally I have more fun playing Polaris than GURPS, so Polaris I play.

              I think my biggest problem with narrative games as a whole, and not just FATE specifically, is that they’re almost exclusively rules light.

              For me, it’s a feature. I do much prefer rules that I can exlain in five minutes and that don’t require much preparation to play.

              Why in the hell would you think that has any business being either a narrative game or a rules light game?

              I would rather ask why the fuck would I want any random wound to have a chance to go septic if I’m unlucky with my rolls, causing me to miss a dramatic fight on account of being bed-ridden?

              Look, I get that the appeal of simulationist games is extreme verisimilitude: the character’s concerns are your concerns because they have the weight of mechanics behind them, the world feels more real because various objects are defined in mechanical terms and don’t change to suit the narrative, etc.

              But, personally, I feel that trading verisimilitude for a narrative-driven light rules is fair, and I have more fun that way.

              For FATE specifically, its that because of the aspect system, your character basically has to come to the table fully formed at the start of session 1.

              Not really, at least not in the current paradigm. There are rules for leaving most aspects blank and filling them in during play as you figure out who you really want to play, or changing aspects on milestones if you feel they don’t really fit your character or want to reflect character development.

              GURPS Lite and Ultra-Lite aren’t separate rules systems.

              Yes, yes. What I meant is that you do actually need to use those books in order for using GURPS to have meaning.

              As for resolution mechanic, I prefer d6-d6 for FATE. Mostly because I have a fuckton of d6s but no fudge dice as they’re hard to find where I live.

              Don’t care about Wick as a person, so can’t comment there. I found Houses of the Blooded something I’d want to play and see how it goes, that’s pretty much the extent of my opinion on everything that has to do with him.

              Overall, it’s clear by that point that we have very different tastes in RPGs, so I don’t think that line of discussion is productive.

            2. CrazyEd says:

              Well, technically, I was talking about RPGs mechanical systems, freeform is just about the only option that isn’t a valid consideration. Even FATAL is technically more of an RPG system than freeform, even though freeform is  an infinitely better mechanical system to play FATAL in than it is (if for some insane reason you want to play FATAL for any reason in the first place).

              You need to put in more effort and preparation.

              Like I said, no I don’t. I just do what I’m want to do. I’ve only ever had a problem with mechanics getting in the way of roleplaying when playing narrative systems, because in narrative systems, everything has to be tied back to the narrative and sometimes things are just narratively unimportant.From a GMing perspective, the most annoying mechanics in narrative games are the ones that attempt to provide rules to GM Fiats. FATE has been more of a roadblock to playing the kind of characters I want to play than Exalted 2e.

              You can have a strong story driven game in a simulationist game like GURPS or a gamist game like Shadowrun. You can play the mechanics with zero story in a simulationist game like GURPS. You can simulate a neutral world in a gamist game like Shadowrun. But a narrative game can’t be played on its merits as a mechanical system or simulate a world on its own. It’s the least fexible vertex of the triangle.

              missing a dramatic fight because of a septic wound

              The fight only has the importance you attach to it. Song of Swords is an incredibly lethal combat system, which is why (much like UA) the combat chapter starts out by saying how much you should avoid combat. Deciding to intiate combat should always be a very calculated maneuver. The only reason you should decide to draw your sword is because you need to kill something, not because the story tells to it needs to be drawn. One of the most bizarre decisions the Song of Ice and Fire RPG made was that it uses a system reminicent of FATE to determine when a PC dies from combat. Like… did they forget their source material?

              trading vermililitude for narrative-driven light rules

              Why do they have to be light rules? Crunchy narrative systems are rare, but they do exist. FATE is one the most harmful things I’ve ever seen happen to homebrew mechanics. Why craft a mechanical system to perfectly reflect the game you want to run when you can just write up a setting and attach it to a FATE PDF?

              not in the current paradigm

              Are you talking about that one version of FATE that reduces skills down to something like five adjectives that give your characters bonuses based on if they’re good at doing Flashy things or Forceful things or something like that? I remember there was some version of FATE like that which I just had to put my foot down on when my GM tried to change our FATE game to that, because something like four out of the five were basically the core concepts of my character’s manner of acting or something like that.

            3. illhousen says:

              Like I said, no I don’t.

              You do. At the very least, you need to stat up important NPCs, while in, say, Polaris it’s all on the level of description, and in Don’t Rest Your Head you just need to pick a number of Pain dice to roll.

              FATE has been more of a roadblock to playing the kind of characters I want to play than Exalted 2e.

              Well, what can I say? I had the exact opposite experience with FATE and narrative systems in general, and aspects in particular were helpful in emphasizing the kind of stuff I wanted to happen in the game and the kind of character I wanted to play.

              But a narrative game can’t be played on its merits as a mechanical system or simulate a world on its own.

              And neither should it be. Like, I’m not sure why you would use a system for something it wasn’t meant to do if you have alternatives available.

              If a system is unsuited for a task or hinders play more than it actively helps, you should switch to a different system.

              I get that sometimes people are attached to a specific system and use it for everything and sometimes they play with people who don’t want to learn a new system and would rather stick with something everyone in the group knows, but I don’t really have those concerns.

              Why do they have to be light rules?

              Because I don’t like crunch, I don’t care for it, and it needs to justify its existence before I give it a time of day.

              I get why other people are into it: if you’re a power gamer, it can be an interesting logical puzzle to solve, and if you’re into simulationism, it allows you to reflect everything there is to know about your character in mechanic, giving it more weight, but neither particularly appeals to me, so.

              Are you talking about that one version of FATE that reduces skills down to something like five adjectives that give your characters bonuses based on if they’re good at doing Flashy things or Forceful things or something like that?

              No? DFRPG has rules for changing your aspects after a session, FATE Core reduces their number to three, if I recall correctly, other versions I’ve seen allow you to leave aspects blank and fill them in as needed.

            4. CrazyEd says:
              You need to stat up important NPCs.

              Not statting up NPCs is, like, GM Streamlining Tip #1. The only reason I ever stat NPCs past keeping track of what I roll for any given reason (something I only do because I personally like it to be consistent) is because I feel like giving them a full character sheet.

              If you have alternatives available

              That’s how I feel about narrative RPGs. If I have one thing that can do X and one thing that can do X and Y, what do I need with the thing that can do only X?


              sometimes people are attached to a specific system

              “Doesn’t want to learn a new system” has described most of my experience with hardcore FATE players. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever convinced someone who started with games like FATE to try an RPG with more crunch to it than FATE and I’ve known a fair few people who stopped playing any game with more crunch to it than FATE after being exposed to it…

              I’m starting to think a lot of my problems with narrative games (a lot of which I assign to FATE because its the D&D of rules light narrative games and one of the narrative games actually meant for long-term continous play, unlike the others you mentioned) is stuff like this. I can deal with it limiting my actions in a game by just not playing the system, but… it’s getting to where its starting to limit the gaming environment. People don’t want to put in the effort to learn a new system even if that new system would work better for their game than FATE just because it has more math.

              I’m not saying this about you specifically, but I’ve met a ton of people who have been made super lazy by FATE, but who don’t want to go all the way and lose the Pen and Paper RPG Crowd’s respect by just going fully freeform. FATE, to them, is the system you learn when you don’t want to put an iota of effort into learning a system. That’s why I called it Freeform with d6 Noises earlier.

              Because I don’t like crunch

              Honest question: Then why not just play freeform? If you have a group that is good for FATE and all into that collaborative storytelling and sharing narrative responsibility and all that jazz… your group is probably the kind of group that’d have zero problem just doing straight up collaborative storytelling without the pretense of playing a pen and paper RPG system. Even the usual answer of “combat” doesn’t apply here, because you have to basically accept being hurt or killed in FATE to be hurt or killed.

              What’s the difference between a GM compelling your aspect, and a person in your collaborative story group to go “hey, you know what your character might do in this situation”? It is extremely easy for aspect compels to be turned into “your character wouldn’t do that” alignment fiats except you have to pay a resource to tell your DM how you’re going to play your character. That’s probably warning sign #1 for a bad FATE GM.

            5. CrazyEd says:
              Splitting this into two because it had trouble posting (urgh and I left a huge blank space where I cut this out of that post too).

              If it hinders more than it actually helps

              Only tangentially relevant, but in that Chess Is Not An RPG article, when John Wick was advocating for narrative systems with such a frevour he managed to sound wrong to assert that chess is not an RPG, he had the “brilliant” suggestion of getting a sharpie and crossing out every rule it took you more than ten seconds to explain how it improved your game or something along those lines. I was running an L5R game at the time, so I took his advice, already having half an idea what would happen. That was around the time I gave up trying to make L5R more suited to my game (I once jokingly asked one of my players to explain to a non-player how my samurai game resembled canon L5R and he said “… uh… the clans?” until I reminded him of all the changes I made to what clans existed and didn’t, and how they operated) and started looking for another system to run my samurai chanbara adventures in (that I could acutally convince people to play because L5R is the D&D of samurai RPGs- no one wants to learn a new game so why not just play L5R?), because he was right (for a given definition of “right”), I just didn’t want to take the time to cross out chapters and chapters of mechanics (why does a game that claims to be about moral greys have an objective honour score on a scale of 1 to 10 with a chart of honourable and dishonourable actions that add or subtract to your honour broken down into the tenth of an honour point?). I’d really suggest you learn more about John Wick before you try getting into any RPG he’s had a hand in. He has some odd ideas about game design and some really odd fans.

              Yeah, I’m starting to think that there’s a length limit I keep running into here. Some of these comments are getting to be the length of blog posts in their own right… Sorry about that.

            6. illhousen says:

              That’s how I feel about narrative RPGs. If I have one thing that can do X and one thing that can do X and Y, what do I need with the thing that can do only X?

              Because the game is better at doing X.

              DRYH is a game designed to simulate a quick ride to heel feeling where you get very powerful very quickly but also become increasingly more erratic and get closer and closer to complete collapse or insanity.

              Now, you can certainly do something like that in GURPS, but that would be either mostly on pure role-playing level, unsupported by mechanics, or you’d have to do some juggling of rules, utilizing resources other than the core system. The end result is likely to be less simple and elegant than DRYH.

              The principle applies to other types of game as well. You can run verisimilitude-focused game on gamist system, but you would be hitting abstractions and breaks from reality here for balance purposes, so really, you’re better off with a simulationist system.

              “Doesn’t want to learn a new system” has described most of my experience with hardcore FATE players.

              That is weird. I like FATE, and it has more range than a lot of other narrative systems (I mean, the Mountain Witch is a game about a bunch of ronins going up a mountain to kill a witch. It’s technically possible to play other scenarios in it but pointless), but it does have its own flavor and its limits, and there is a lot of narrative systems that do specific narrative things better than it.

              FATE, to me, is basically a default system to use when I don’t have something better suited for a specific game, not something to use in every situation.

              Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever convinced someone who started with games like FATE to try an RPG with more crunch to it than FATE and I’ve known a fair few people who stopped playing any game with more crunch to it than FATE after being exposed to it…

              That’s probably because crunch is extremely unattractive to a lot of people.

              It is useful sometimes, for specific purposes, but if you can achieve the same results in a more rules-light system, it’s a benefit.

              Honest question: Then why not just play freeform?

              Because I do feel that the rules of narrative games are helpful to me: they help frame the story, to emphasize the aspects that are important to the narrative and let the rest fade into background, to create a sense of objectivity, to prevent disputes by regulating narrative rights, to engage everyone equally and not let the more charismatic players to steal the spotlight, etc.

              Naturally, I can do it all in a freestyle game, and I do play them on occasion, but I found that everything works better with the narrative rules.

              What’s the difference between a GM compelling your aspect, and a person in your collaborative story group to go “hey, you know what your character might do in this situation”?

              The reward system and a formal resolution in case of disputes.

            7. Farla says:

              I would rather ask why the fuck would I want any random wound to have a chance to go septic if I’m unlucky with my rolls, causing me to miss a dramatic fight on account of being bed-ridden?

              It’s funny how playstyles can end up wrapping back around. There’s a bunch of OSR people, who are all about minimal narrative rules and maximum horrible stuff happening at random to characters. who’ve been bringing up the same problem that bad outcomes need to result in something that lead somewhere new, rather than just sitting around.

              Rolling to find out if you’re not able to play for a while is boring. Rolling to find out you’ve got a countdown timer until you die, and do you press on and risk more or retreat and hope you get lucky in surviving, that’s got more you can do with. That sort of lethality also works best in a shorter game, much like the heaviest narrative system does, and the reward is also more about getting a good story from it, but instead of collaborative crafting, it’s mad libs.

            8. Farla says:

              Honest question: Then why not just play freeform?

              As someone who hates crunch far more than they do, just because ugh so much stuff to keep track of, and who has way less experience with RPGs – rules give a nice structure for semi-random outcomes. It’s easy to say that the players beat the unimpressive rat, it’s interesting to discover the rat beats the players in a series of improbable but evidently not impossible rolls. Pure freeform has the risk of people going for the more obvious, likely answers each time. Also, I think forcing a certain amount of uncertainty and failure on everyone makes individuals more willing to play suboptimally – when no one can be perfect, letting your character make an extra mistake for the sake of a fun story stands out less than if the other players have decided everything goes fine for them each and every time.

            9. CrazyEd says:
              Funny thing is, even though I love Song of Swords (which evolved from people running Deadliest Warrior type theoretical matchups on 4chan’s /tg/ board in Riddle of Steel), I absolutely hate character death! Most of my skills at balancing encounters comes from my desire to precisely manipulate the outcome of the game so that the players think they’re in as much danger as possible without actually having danger. For the most part, a player has to try die for it to happen. It’s kindasorta like railroading the difficulty level, but the very first arc where I did this as a matter of policy instead of natural inclination was one of my best received arcs. The players fucking loved all the action and danger!

              I happen to run very story-focused games, so when a player just dies at random and kills a ton of character-specific subplots and who knows what else without any satisfying resolution when a PC gets an unlucky arrow to the eye by a bandit.

              And that’s when I decided two GMing theories were bullshit.

              • The first is John Wick’s “Die Hard” theory. Remember how, in Die Hard, John McClane’s feet just got more and more ravaged as the game goes on? Well, Wick is a very adversarial GM, and thinks that players as a group have the most satisfaction the harder they have to snatch it away from the jaws of adversity. But then I got to thinking about his example. In Die Hard, McClane gets beat up, yes… but his victory is never actually in question, is it? He is never in the remotest bit of danger and the viewer knows that. They’re interested in how he’ll win, not if he’ll win.
              • The very concept of the GM as a referee. GMs aren’t referees, at least not the sort you see in soccer or football. We’re not here to be impartial mediators between two adversarial sides. We are one of the sides, after all! No, what a good GM is is like a pro-wrestling referee. We’re here to keep things civil but to also take a folding chair in the back of the head when the plot says the rules need to take a backseat for the moment.

              Pro-wrestling matches are carefully crafted spectacles designed to maximize viewer enjoyment. In all but the most gamist of games, we’re not competing against something to prove our skill at an event, we’re a bunch of people acting out as dudes in funny costumes who beat each other up.

              The two oddest places you can learn how to GM are a guide to BDSM relationships (and the oddest place you can learn about how to have a BDSM relationship is the nWoD Core- I used to have an excerpt from the Storytelling chapter which I’ve had people guess was from a BDSM manual and the BDSM manual below it was from the GMing Tips section of an RPG) and a pro-wrestling smart who can tell you what makes a storyline work over or not. You gotta know how to sell an attack or my difficulty-railroading falls apart.

  3. Nerem says:
    I’ve been playing a lot of D&D 3.5e/Pathfinder (it’s a hybrid campaign) lately. Had a lot of fun. My current main character (you can make teams of 5 to mix and match with other players to send out of missions) is such a delightful little blender, I almost feel sorry for the GM who runs more normal modules. 14d8+33 per swing (and I can swing up to three times!) at level 5 feels so good.

    1. CrazyEd says:
      I don’t mean to sound derogatory, but how much actual roleplaying are you doing? 3.X definitely has the upperhand over 2e and 4e when it comes to gamist number-fights… sorta. In 4e the way classes work is much more regimented (in that way people reviled as being like Pen and Paper WoW when it first came out) and because it was written by someone with far more knowledge of how statistics and mathematics work there are infinitely less totally broken options, and the idea of “builds” really don’t exist in AD&D (you basically just choose your race, class, roll ability scores, derive a ton of stats, and then buy equipment) which limits the system’s ability to provide that sort of game. Based on what you said, it shoulds like you’re group is just bringing five sheets to the table each week and trying to beat the math-based labyrinth your DM put in front of you. And, don’t get me wrong, that’s a totally valid way to play if that’s what your group is into (and I would suggest you look up the board game Descent if it is), but it’s totally incompatible with how I personally play RPGs.

      But with that said, I find Pathfinder to be one of the only game systems remotely as infuritating as John Wick’s (and, from what I’ve seen of my friend ranting about the system and its creators, PF currently has their very own John Wick-type person working on it). 3.5’s flaws are largely due to the designer sticking to his guns about what he thinks the game should be like. Wizard supremacy is something he did on purpose. Of course if magic worked like it did in 3.5, wizards should be way overpowered compared to fighters, thieves, and priests. But you invented magic and said it worked that way first so that’s no excuse.

      But while Pathfinder has a lot of this sticking-to-your-guns we-did-this-on-purpose mentaility as well, a lot of the more terrible parts of the system just honestly seem to be like they wrote something broken and didn’t realize it. And let’s not pretend here, Pathfinder exists to cater to a demand 3.5 players had for a game that was more like 3.5 and like 4e. I’ve seen some people call it 3.75, because it was supposed to fix 3.5 the same way 3.5 was supposed to fix 3e, but their attempt was about as effective as 3.5’s attempt to fix 3e. Pathfinder is probably a better game, mechanically, than 3.5 but… just barely, and the setting has all the most problematic parts of Exalted’s but without the parts that make me want to defend it on the internet anyway.

      1. CrazyEd says:
        Pathfinder exists to cater to a demand that 3.5 players had for a game that was more like 3.5 and less like 4e.

        That’s the first comment I’ve made on this site that I didn’t obsessively review before posting, and I make a mistake so large just by omitting one word. At times like this, I wish I had an edit function.

  4. CrazyEd says:
    Yesterday, the American Gods television series premiered on Starz. Did anyone else watch it? I’ve got some thoughts but, without saying too much, so as to avoid spoilers, I’m not that optimistic about it. I’ve got legitimately no clue whether or not the first scene (featuring a bunch of vikings having a big pitched battle on a beach) was meant to be taken as a dramatic opening to the series or a black comedy.

    The violence was more over the top than AMC’s recent adaptation of Preacher, and that series had a vampire character that acted like he was a brujah from a game of Vampire: the Masquerade. And not Vampire: the Masquerade played the way that White Wolf intended it to be played. Vampire: the Masquerade as it was actually played by nerds in 1995. Full-on blood-drinking superheroes V:tM.

    1. Nerem says:
      Oh Starz. I remember their ill=fated attempt to make a Noir adapation. It was pretty clear it was going to be awful, considering the first announced thing they did was add in a male love interest for the two protags.

    2. APen says:

      Oh, hey. Just noticed this. How do you think they did with American Gods, now that season one is over? I think it’s been pretty faithful to the spirit, if not always the letter, of the book so far. The cinematography is beautiful, casting is spot on, and I’ve enjoyed their expansions, like with Laura. All the same, I don’t think they got the pacing quite right. The first season didn’t feel entirely satisfying.

  5. CrazyEd says:
    Yesterday, I was browsing through a sale the local public library was having to raise a bit of money, and I saw a copy of Beautiful Creatures, plus a sequel or two, for cheap. For a bit of a laugh, I decided to buy it (but avoided buying any sequels). I also bought a small book of sidestories featuring secondary characters from The Hunger Games, with a blurb on the back that threatens to analyse in-depth how the Hunger Games are a metaphor for the War on Terror.

    Is this when y’all start chanting “one of us, one of us”?

    1. SpoonyViking says:

      Traditionally, we’d have to also cut off your face and limbs. :-P

      1. CrazyEd says:
        You can have my limbs after I publish a fanfiction entitled “Riley, the Evil Slut (Who Isn’t Particularly Evil Or Very Slutty)”. I still have a chance to escape, but if I write that, you can have my hands. I’d have proven that I’m not responsible enough to keep them.

      2. CrazyEd says:
        I have finally made it to the chapter in which Ridley appears (and gotten to about the point where they sit down to have dinner).

        My ordeal begins now.

        (Oh my god, I’ve basically made characters like Ridley before and its amazing simply how much different they can seem just by having the narrative villify them instead of treating them like normal people who just happen to like teasing their loved ones’ love interests.)

  6. CrazyEd says:
    I’ve been threatening to do this for awhile now, but it finally happened. I finally went and did it. I blame you all, but mostly Mini-Farla.

    Behold, my descent into darkness, in 900 words. I had to write it so y’all have to read it. If anyone needs me, I’ll be carving a pentacle into my chest to complete my contract with the fanfiction demons.

    1. CrazyEd says:
      I don’t want to make a habit out of these unsolicitated advertisements, but I just wanted you all to know that I went and did it. I wrote fanfiction for no reason other than the fact that I had an idea and I wanted to write it. And then I put it on the internet for other people to read. I guess I’m truly one of y’all now.

  7. Act says:

    Random: Does anyone have feelings on Anne McCaffrey?

    1. Keltena says:

      I never read her myself, so all I know about her is from seeing online discussions of some of the more fucked-up details in her books and some of her famously batshit interactions with fandom. I know Pern had a super dedicated fandom back in the day, though. (Possibly it still does, I don’t know.)

      1. Act says:

        Yes, she is the one who’s up in arms about fanfic. I knew it was some old-timey female fantasy writer, but couldn’t remember if it was her, Anne Rice, or both.

        1. illhousen says:

          Anne Rice is rather famous for her hatred of fanfic, threats of lawsuits and turning her fanbase against people she doesn’t like, which includes fanfic writers (also critics).

        2. Keltena says:

          She was strongly against (and aggressive in taking legal action against) fanwork involving her own characters and setting, yeah, though not necessarily OCs based on her worldbuilding. But the part she seems to be infamous for is doing her best to be absurdly controlling of the exact details of what was allowed in those OC fanworks and roleplays, especially regarding accuracy to/compliance with canon. You couldn’t use her canon characters and setting, of course—but you still had to know and comply with the exact canon stance on how dragons worked, what colors they could come in (and you still couldn’t use the canon color that was supposed to be special and one-of-a-kind), what people of what gender could be what type of dragonrider… This also overlapped partly with fans’ issues over some of the more offensive details in her books, I think; Pern canon apparently included detailed, uncomfortably homophobic rules for how sexual orientation relates to being a dragonrider, based on McCaffrey’s… unique conceptions about homosexuality (uh, warning for homophobia and talk about rape in that link?), and I’ve heard fan stories about roleplays getting C&D’d back in the day over not complying with McCaffrey’s guidelines on the subject.

          All of what I know is from osmosis (Pern fandom was before my time), but Fanlore seems to have a lot of detail for the morbidly curious.

          (As it happens, Anne Rice is also extremely up in arms about fanfic—or any criticism of her writing, or the idea of using an editor—but in a more seriously batshit way. Like, “has doxxed fanfic writers and threatened to contact their workplaces” batshit.)

          1. CrazyEd says:
            She was strongly against (and aggressive in taking legal action against) fanwork involving her own characters and setting, yeah, though not necessarily OCs based on her worldbuilding.

            Coming from pen and papers RPG, I have always found this kind of thing interesting. I can’t comprehend how there are two A Song of Ice and Fire RPGs when GRRM is apparently against fanfiction.

            I totally understand where he’s coming from with all the legal implications of fanfiction and copyright defence and all that jazz. He’s just extremely leery about protecting his copyright because it’s his livelyhood, and reasonably so. Model train collections aren’t cheap. I could probably get a full ride to a good four year college without a single penny of debt if I sold my father’s (which was once his father’s and has trains that date back to the dawn of model training). On that level, the RPGs make sense, because they’re officially licenced products. They generate income and don’t challenge his copyright.


            I think this is the root of his beliefs, from his LJ (wow LJ is still a thing?):

            [Marion Zimmer Bradley] had been an author who not only allowed fan fiction based on her Darkover series, but actively encouraged it… even read and critiqued the stories of her fans. All was happiness and joy, until one day she encountered in one such fan story an idea similar to one she was using in her current Darkover novel-in-progress. MZB wrote to the fan, explained the situation, even offered a token payment and an acknowledgement in the book. The fan replied that she wanted full co-authorship of said book, and half the money, or she would sue. MZB scrapped the novel instead, rather than risk a lawsuit. She also stopped encouraging and reading fan fiction, and wrote an account of this incident for the SFWA FORUM to warn other writers of the potential pitfalls of same.

            That was twenty years ago or thereabouts, but that episode had a profound effect on me and, I suspect, on many other SF and fantasy writers of my generation.

            Even without being a published author who derives his income from selling his creativity, I could totally understand how this would scar him for the rest of his life and impact his feelings on the subject. It’d be hard not to understand where he’s coming from.

            If I was a professional author, I’d probably make the unwise move of getting totally down in the trenches of my fandom… and my fandom would hate me for it. As you might know by now, I’m not a particularly “fandom-y” kinda guy. If, for example, I saw someone shipping two characters who absolutely hated each other, I’d have an unbelievably hard time not going “hey, these two characters hate each other, what the heck are you doing?” and that kind of thing.

            So what would happen if I ran into this same situation? It’d probably be a pretty scary situation, and if it happened to me, I’d probably grow to hate fanfiction of my series just as much as if it became populated with fic that doesn’t care about the source material like all those pokemon fanfics that Mini-Farla reviews that are just high school slice-of-lifes with pokemon names.

            Here’s the stance author Charlie Stross takes (according to the comments of that same LJ post):

            “I do not mind you writing fanfic using my characters and sharing it with your friends unless you do so in a manner that f**s with my ability to earn a living. . . . I am not a precious sparkly unicorn who is obsessed with the purity of his characters — rather, I am a glittery and avaricious dragon who is jealous of his steaming pile of gold. If you do not steal the dragon’s gold, the dragon will leave you alone. Offer to bring the dragon more gold and the dragon will be your friend.”

            Despite being a precious sparkly unicorn who is obsessed with the purity of his characters, this seems like a totally fair compromise to me. MZB’s mistake was making it be plausible that she could’ve plagarized the fan work by reading and critiquing fanfic of her work. I’m sure loads of people wrote about Voldemort’s secret daughter Harry’s son had a crush on long before JK Rowling ever did, but no one can sue her over Harry Potter and the Cursed Child specifically.

            In this case, and without knowing it for fact so I’d love to know if I’m wrong, I earnestly believe that the fanfiction community sided with MZB. It seems to generally take a negative view of commercially publishing fanfiction (at least without filing the serial numbers off a fanfiction that uses little more than the names of the original work like what happened with Fifty Shades of Black, which GRRM actually seems at least “more okay” with than just straight-up fanfic).

            A lot of the blame here can be placed on Micky Mouse copyright laws. Japan doesn’t seem to have a problem with Comiket. Hell, tons of mangaka see it as free advertisement, and at least one (the author of Hayate no Gotoku) publishes doujin work there as a barometer to see if fans are still interested in him. But in America, if someone allowed this, suddenly they lose their entire damn copyright and anyone can publish whatever the hell they want. Copyright laws were intended to foster creativity, but they’ve been stifling it ever since the first time Micky Mouse almost went into public domain. Despite building its empire off the back of the public domain, Disney has done more than any other company in history to damage it.

            While looking for that first quote, I also found this one.

            There was a lot of talk about copyright, and whether or not fan fiction was illegal, whether it was fair use (it is NOT fair use, by the way, not as I understand the term, and I have a certain familiarity with what is and isn’t fair use thanks to my own experiences with THE ARMAGEDDON RAG)

            From what I could find, it seems like this is a reference to problems arising from how every chapter of The Armageddon Rag begins with a quote- one or two lines of lyrics from a well known rock song. It seems GRRM, at the time, thought that constituted fair use. From what I can glean from the wikipedia article, not having read the book, I’d actually agree with him. The book uses a lot of pop culture as part of its themes, but when he named the band the book focuses on “Nazgul”, he wasn’t claiming to have invented the nazgul. A google search shows me that an actual metal band named Nazgul has been active since 1995.

            I decided to consult my own attorney, one of the country’s leading experts on copyright law. He said, “In my opinion these are fair use, but there has never been a conclusive test case on the matter. If you use them without permission, you will get sued. I think you will prevail in the end, but the music publishers will fight you all the way, and the costs of litigation could run well into six figures. I am prepared to argue your case to your last penny. We can win a historic judgment.”

            These two cases seem kind of apples and oranges: One is noncommercial derivative work, and the other is the use of copyrighted material in its original form in a commercial work. If he hadn’t been intending to sell The Armageddon Rag, I don’t think it would have been an issue anymore than non-commercial fanfiction is. I totally agree with Martin’s lawyer here: I think it’d be fair use, and he’d win the case, but it’d be a long and drawn out case costing oodles of money that the lawyer would fight to the last penny.

            A commenter on Martin’s livejournal has this to add.

            So in my opinion, the fanfic writers should keep their little fanfics as long as they aren’t hurting anyone, just trying to get some practice writing with familiar pre-established settings and characters.. and the authors should keep on disapproving, but not trying to actively stop the fanfic writers (that is, getting their sites taken down, etc)

            This actually seems to be the approach Martin de facto takes. To my knowledge, he’s never attempted to sue someone for noncommercial use of his ideas. This is also, on an unrelated note, why I totally disagree with his stance on it as a creative exercise (and why you’d think he’d be against licencing his properties for RPGs). I think a lot of the reason why so much fanfiction is bad is because it’s written by younger authors who have little experience writing in general. I think fanfiction can kind of help, in this area.

            I love creating characters and having them interact with each other, but I often end up deadlocked on a project when I struggle to make the world make enough sense to satisfy me because I’m a huge stickler for internal consistency. I think that’s part of why I grativated to RPGs- the world comes prebuilt but you have to populate it.

            When teaching people how to shoot, I always suggest using steel targets and red dot sights. It’s much easier to aim a red dot than traditional iron sights, and hitting steel gives you an immediate and physical response that shooting paper doesn’t, which excites newbies. There’s nothing like hearing that PING for the first time that makes you want to yell about how you hit it. And once someone masters the absolute basics, proper stance and whatnot, you might move them onto more difficult to use optics or graded targets. But the first objective should be getting rounds on target. Grouping comes second.

            To me, that’s the greatest power of fanfiction. By using established characters or settings, you can focus on writing a technically proficient and engaging story. And then, preferably, you should branch out into writing your own characters, and settings, and maybe even original fiction.

            When I was in high school, I made the mistake of taking Metalworking 1 in my freshman year. I wasn’t very good at it. I only passed because I aced the bookwork, and my teacher “recommended” (in the politest way a flannel-clad metalshop teacher who I think was actually missing a finger or two could) I didn’t take Metalworking 2. I agreed with him.

            But to this day, I can’t help but think how I would’ve done in Metalworking if I had taken Woodworking 1 before it, instead of in my final year because I had a free slot. Wood is a far easier material to work than metal and many of the processes have direct parallels. Would I have done better filing my projects to a flat mirror sheen if I had all the experience sanding wood I gained in woodshop?

            Even judicious use of canon characters can help a writer. By looking at a character, and trying to understand the reasons why an author decided to write them as such, they can improve their own character creating by applying those processes to their own work.

            But I also understand the creative aspect of it- like Martin, I’m definitely someone who also treats characters as his children. Whenever I buy an NPC ally or detail family members for a PC or something, I never feel like the GM portrays them quite correctly, and I can never seem to explain what I feel they’re not getting. When my friend told me that they thought I was almost as good at writing for his PC as they were, it was pretty much the highest praise I’d ever gotten as an RPG nerd. It actually felt insanely weird to use a well characterized and extremely detailed character in the second fic I posted (and linked above please give me all your clicks and feed my ego), and I do not at all think I did the character justice. It just felt… icky. Like wearing someone else’s clothes, or using their laptop.

            That’s why almost all of the canon characters I’ve used were ones that have little to no extensive characterization, or failing that, having them feature in extremely minor and inconsequential roles. I think the canon character my fics have spent the most time inside the head of is… Ser Bonifer Hasty. Who wasn’t even important enough to make it into the show. Martin might have a detailed conception of them in their head, that is different from mine, but I’m making as good faith an effort as possible to be 100% true to his characterization of his creations. That’s probably the major reason my both my works are based in an alternate history that branches from the canon 17 years before the start of the first book.

            There’s a lot more but holy shit I just realized that all this is just my thoughts from reading page one of ten of this comments section of a single livejournal post so I’m outta here.

            (For the record, I have written exactly 2,988 words of fanfiction at the time of this post, so clearly I am the ultimate expert on the topic.)

            1. CrazyEd says:
              And, on that note, I found this interesting video which perhaps explains at least one of the appeals of writing fanfiction.

    2. SpoonyViking says:

      I’m interested in the “Pern” series, but I’ve never read it.

    3. illhousen says:

      I know very little of her, and what I know is mostly word of mouth, so I avoid forming strong opinions on it.

      What I’ve heard is as follows:

      – She writes about dragons (I think it’s one of those “fantasy, but actually there is a sci fi explanation underneath” type of settings? Could be confusing her with someone on that point);

      – There is some weirdness connected to homosexuality in her books details of which I don’t remember;

      – She opposes fanfiction (or used to oppose, at least) but is OK with RP.

      Are you planning on reviewing her works?

    4. Y says:
      I read the first Dragonriders of Pern book a few years ago. For the most part it was pretty solid, but there were a few massive, massive problems that has made me reluctant to read the rest. I’m not sure if you’ve read them or if you’re planning to or are just curious, so I wont post any spoilers, but just know that although its hailed as being a massive step forward for female characters in sci-fi/fantasy, this really isn’t evident from the first book. At all. It’s kind of atrocious, actually. 

      Based on a whole lot of other things I read about the series that convinced to but the first book, I’m wiling to bet that it get’s way better, but since there are so many books I’m really not sure that it’s worth the effort of getting to that point. Idk, there was definately a lot of cool things, so if you’re curious it might still be worth a look, but there are some very, very bad things.



    5. Dragonriders of Pern has the honor of being boring enough to cause teenage me quit halfway. And teenage me did not quit books halfway, no matter how shitty. I don’t even remember why it was so goddamn boring but it’s the only fantasy/sci-fi book teenage me left unfinished.

      So I have a mild antipathy for Anne McCaffrey but no idea why exactly. It’s always possible that teenage me was wrong or that particular book was just bad.

  8. Act says:

    Has anyone read Roxane Gay’s Hunger? I found it absurdly triggering like 3 pages in and asked my husband to screen it but his to-read list is so long. Basically as someone with an ED I want to know if it’s a good book to have for others’ benefit even if I can’t read it myself.

    Mr. Act said he’d read one or two of Gay’s thinkpieces and thought she had some really good takes RE: the fat experience, but he wasn’t thrilled at the disparaging, oppression-olympics-y way she talked about ‘Lane Bryant fat’ women as having it too good. I’m not super interested in having a book in which a fat woman attacks other fat women for not being fat enough to have the Real Fat Experience.* That said, it is a subject that can be tackled in a nuanced, caring way, so maybe in longform it’s less an issue.

    *IME, I’ve been a lot of weights and personally, once you move past ‘socially acceptably thin’ I’ve found the treatment to all be pretty much the same. I’ve also found that, in treatment, the experiential lines are drawn in a similar way, thin and not-thin, with no extra ‘most fat’ category.

    1. CrazyEd says:
      I haven’t read it, and I don’t really know precisely what is and isn’t triggering for you, but just from reading the wikipedia page it seems like it might be a bit much for someone with an ED even if its not in the same circumstances as you. Was the intention to possibly recommend it to people who don’t as a sort of “this is what it’s like” kind of suggestion or something like that?

      I don’t know precisely what Mr. Act means by “Lane Bryant fat”, but the article (by way of The Atlantic) says “Gay gained weight in the wake of her trauma, as both a means of comfort and of protecting herself from the world, and describes the book as being about ‘living in the world when you are three or four hundred pounds overweight, when you are not obese or morbidly obese but super morbidly obese.'” so… it doesn’t sound promising as far as oppression Olympics go.

      If you can find a sample PDF or something online, I’d be more than willing to give it a read for you. I tried finding one myself, but the only link I could find was on HarperCollins’s website, and it wouldn’t load for me.

      Incidentally, though, I have a question about Mr. Act: When you mention “Boyfriend” in your older posts, is this always referring to Mr. Act, or were there multiple people to bear the title Boyfriend on this site before one levelled up into Mr. Act? I was reading an older thing, and I was just wondering if these two people are always the same person, for continuity purposes.

  9. CrazyEd says:
    (Conversation continued from the thread here.)

    A lot of the things you’re objecting to seem to be created by the intersection of “customisable player insert avatar” and the generation mechanics

    Yeah, it sure seems like it. I think my opposition to “customiseable player insert avatar” characters (be it in Fire Emblem or Bethseda/Bioware games) comes from my RPG background, where the game (through the GM) really is capable of the emergent gameplay that these sorts of games desire to have. Without that level of reaction from the game, with a totally customiseable avatar, it basically becomes a matter of “which cute animu girl do you like the bestest?”

    Even when indulging in the odd bit of shipping in non-interactive mediums, I refuse to just pick two characters to ship based on liking them individually. The relationship needs to make sense for the characters. Earlier today, I was talking about how Yaoyoruzo Momo is basically the only thing I like about My Hero Academia, and that she should’ve been the main character because she would’ve been so much better as a main character.

    But I couldn’t find a character to serve as her love interest support. Male or female, I could not think of a character I thought would make sense for her as a romantic pairing, so… I didn’t ship her with anyone.

    While working on my ASoIaF fic series, it felt dirty thinking that I might have fic tagged with “Viserys Targaryen/Sansa Stark” and “Aegon VI Targaryen/Margarey Tyrell”, even though it’d make perfect sense in the context of the fic. They’d be arranged marriages made solely for political reasons to solidify the throne’s alliances with their respective families; nothing more. And yet, the thought disgusts me.

    Also, unfortunately for your imagined tsundere scenario, none of the children come back before the parents are paired off.

    Yeah, this isn’t surprising at all. It limits the “picking the bestest animu girl” potential I talked about. You usually see it in non-interactive mediums like light novels or manga. Some games might have it, but if they do, they don’t also have player-insert avatars. Those sorts of games rarely even have tsundere in them to begin with, and if they, they’re typically your “archetype first, reasons later/not at all” sort instead of an actually well constructed tsundere like Tohsaka Rin.

    But if you’re a person who enjoys the familial interactions, there isn’t as much of that as there could have been, and based on what you’ve said here I expect it would disappoint you.

    When playing Exalted, I pretty much exclusively play Dragonblooded. I’ve basically memorized every important branch of the Targaryen family tree (so many Aegons, so many) and think that people who have a hard time keeping all the characters of Game of Thrones straight to be not trying hard enough because really you guys it’s dead simple.

    No amount of family shenanigans is enough for me, whether they be the scheming dynastic politics kind (like ASoIaF) or the cutesy family slice-of-life kind (like my ASoIaF fic).

    That ends up being worse because, given the way the game’s “holy blood” mechanic functions, incestuous pairings end up being advantageous from a gameplay perspetive.

    Like I said, I play Dragonblooded. Believe me, I know what this is like, and more. So much more. So much shamefully more I don’t even want to mention examples.

    Halfway through writing my most recent ASoIaF, I realized something and said to myself “wait, isn’t this character the PoV is seeing surrounded by shoujo romance flowers his half-sister?” to which I replied “Yeah but Targaryen so whadya gonna do?”

    Fiction has broken my ability to care about fictional incest. Send help.

    almost all of her dialogue boils down to “I like women! Ooh, I heard she’s pretty, I can’t wait to meet her! Did I mention I like women yet?” without actually using the words gay or lesbian anywhere

    From her wiki page:

    In a quote that was removed from the North American and PAL versions of Radiant Dawn, she says that her motive for joining the Crimean Army was to “meet all the pretty girls.”

    … Yeah, I’m pretty sure my FE fangirl would’ve liked this character. They’d see eye to eye on so many things.

    but while more realistic, that’s a lot of character design work and writing to do only for the vast majority of it to go completely unseen by almost all players.

    Yep. Like I said, this is something you need a human GM to handle. RPGs > Video games.

    maybe with adopted children making an appearance in some cases

    I actually think this is part of why there are so few gay characters in Fire Emblem. It’s kind of your typical fantasy setting, where things like lineages and shit are extremely vital. You can’t have someone destined by blood to pick up their father’s sword and save the world from the Demon King if the character doesn’t have their father’s blood because they were adopted. Add on top of that the shipping mechanic, and well…

    And, technically, I suppose there could be bisexual characters, but even going past your typical bisexual depiction problems, they’d all be slotted into heteronormative relationships for the purposes of producing the next generation anyway. So that’s its own tricky situation, especially since you’re working with a limited amount of time and story content to spotlight a particular character. Maybe you’d be willing to take that compromise, or maybe you wouldn’t. That’s up to you. In this case, it’d kinda be a situation where you’re pigeonholed into some stereotype no matter which road you go down.

    1. CrazyEd says:
      Well, part of the plot of FE4 is that between all the politicking and betrayals, a cult leader arranges for the courting of two characters who are (unknowingly) half-siblings so that their children got dominant “evil dragon god” genes.

      Yeah, this kind of thing wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow to me anymore. This would be pretty par for the course as far as Exalted is concerned. Hell, if you replace”cult leader” with “family matriarch” and “evil dragon god” with “good dragon god”, you’ve basically got Dragonblooded.

      (Many of the nobles in that game are descended from ancient heroes and those blood bonds give them the right to wield legendary weapons – which is why the substitute children are generally weaker)

      Ah, and this is precisely the kind of Typical Fantasy Setting elements that I was talking about in my above post about homosexuality and adoption and whatnot.

      the only sign of incest was the occassional healer girl overly attached to her big brother

      Now this, this I can not stand for. Trick brother into fucking sister to revive the evil dragon god all you want, but I have to draw the line are “onii-chan, am I kawaii?” bullshit.

      You know how that game’s about having to choose between two warring kingdoms

      Uh… everything I know about this game is what I’ve been told and the fact there are a paired set of games (like Pokemon) and I think the dark colour scheme one has a lilac haired ara ara who tries to tempt you to her faction.

      But go on, I’m following you so far.

      but that doesn’t help

      Now you’ve lost me. Why not?

      Oh, and the songstress who’s portrayed as the Official Love Interest is later revealed as Corrin’s cousin.

      … Eh. Medieval fantasy setting. Everything checks out there.

      Rhajat in Fates

      Oh son of a bitch her name’s an anagram! I didn’t notice that, I just saw a picture of her in the cast list.

      1. Falconix says:
        Now you’ve lost me. Why not?

        Sorry, I keep assuming the trailers are common knowledge.

        Essentially, Corrin is “born in Hoshido, though raised in Nohr”. Their mother is/was the Queen of the “light Japanese”-themed nation, but got abducted at a very early age – early enough to not remember their origins – and raised in a tower in the “dark European”-themed nation, ostensibly as a part of their royal family (which includes “ara ara”). While the king is anything but kind to his hostage, the Nohrian siblings see Corrin as one of their own. So… not related, but Westermarck is in full effect.

        Should you choose the game that has Corrin side with Hoshido (or download the campaign where you refuse to take either side), it eventually comes to light that Corrin’s mother had arrived to Hoshido with baby Corrin in tow and later married the widowed king. So she’s not the birth mother of any of the Hoshidan royals, so they’re not related to Corrin after all. This usually is revealed because the Queen had left a message for the crown prince to reveal should Corrin court any of them, just so everyone know the relationship is not incest. Which… way to transparently cover your rear, IntSys.

        (Both sets of siblings, if courted, will still treat Corrin as a sibling even in love declarations – because this is all about doing an “I love you, oniichan!” without making it look gross)

        1. CrazyEd says:
          Wow, kinda sounds like they were planning on people playing the dark colour scheme game and splitting it into two branching paths/games was an afterthought. That, or I’m just biased because I’ve been blinded by the wavy violet hair. It’s not lilac, but I’m not that picky.

          Both sets of siblings, if courted, will still treat Corrin as a sibling even in love declarations

          Yeah, Japan kinda has this thing. It’s like… this preestablished relationship that is inherently closer than any outside person could ever hope to be, or something. I once heard it perfectly summed up why Japan loves its imouto/childhood friend romance characters, but I can’t for the life of me recall where it was. It could very easily be fixed by establishing that they don’t consider each other siblings (if he’s the hostage of a foreign king, it could easily be done in such a way that they went out of their way to make him feel like he’s an outsider, so that he wouldn’t form those familial bonds), but that’s part of the appeal  for the creepy animu guys (the creepier ones than me, I mean). It wouldn’t be remotely hard to conceive of a scenario where they don’t treat each other like brother and sister, or even stop treating each other like brother and sister once their romantic feelings emerged, but they intentionally didn’t do that for a very specific reason.

          because this is all about doing an “I love you, oniichan!” without making it look gross

          Except in that case, it seems like it’s more “your onee-san loves you”. Which, honestly, in my experience? Actually does tend to be a bit less creepy than “I love you, onii-chan” so long as they don’t go ridiculously over the top like most imouto-type characters do. I think it’s because the imouto option usually tries to play up the older sibling/paternal type stuff, so it’s sorta like perving on both your little sister and your daughter at the same time. Though, with what you’ve told me about these newest games, I’d totally believe it if you told me there’s a character who could be your little sister or daughter depending on the choices you make.

  10. Nerem says:
    So I’ve been playing the latest Super Robot Wars Original Generation game, the Moon Dwellers. It’s the first one in English in a long while, and while the translation isn’t shoddy (it was done in a month on a whim since they were translating one of the crossover games officially that was coming out not long after), and the balance of the game is pretty amusing. Since you start off with all your super badass end-game units from the previous stuff. But they’re actually kind of awkward to use, since a lot of them require higher skill levels to use all their attacks or require high Morale that you won’t get in early missions. It’s kind of a fun way to balance them, despite them being REALLY powerful.

  11. Act says:

    I took an editing test for a freelance gig today, and I genuinely can’t tell if they know ‘chuckles’ isn’t a speech tag so it shouldn’t be followed by a comma, or if my correction will be seen as wrong.

    1. Socordya says:

      Actually, chuckles is a proper noun, because it’s the name of a specie.

      1. illhousen says:

        Besides, the original text must have been written in such a way on purpose, so changing it would go against authorial intent, which is disrespectful. Also, it’s just a matter of preference and doesn’t really matter.

      2. Keleri says:

        This actually hurt me, well done.

  12. Roarke says:

    Why is the Edit button broken?

    1. illhousen says:

      It isn’t. Though it disappears once you get deep enough into nesting.

      1. Roarke says:

        Seriously? For me, when I’m editing a post, it takes two tries to make the change go through. First time I hit Submit, it just gives the same message, and I have to click Edit again to bring up the window (with the changes still there) and hit Submit again for it to make the changes.

        1. illhousen says:

          Ah, I see, yes, that does happen for me as well.

        2. Act says:

          This has happened for me every once in a while, but then it fixes itself and I just kind of assume I had a bad connection or something. If it doesn’t go away on its own let me know.

  13. Act says:

    My little brother who is definitely not 22 because holy fuck how old am I made a silly mobile game about dogs and I’m so proud I’m abusing my powers here to shill for it <333

    Cons: You need an iPhone because idk

    1. Roarke says:

      (don’t have an iPhone) My brother is 20 and I have really young parents so I can’t escape the feeling that I’m old as balls.

    2. SpoonyViking says:

      Cons: You need an iPhone because idk

      What a shame!

  14. Zephyr says:
    Does anyone here have thoughts on Sheri S. Tepper’s books? I recently reread The Family Tree, and while I still love the big reveal halfway through and the clever writing hiding it, some of her ideas and attitudes are… I don’t know. She’s regarded as being an ecofeminist, and while the environment stuff comes through loud and clear, the feminist stuff seems a bit… In The Family Tree, at least, a lot of minor female characters get characterised in very negative ways, while the equivalent minor male characters are neutral or positive, and much of the plot is still driven by the main guys. There’s also a couple of points with regards to mental health issues that are extremely off-putting. I’m not sure if it’s just a product of the time (Family Tree was 1997, most of her other titles were earlier than that) or what. Does that sort of thing pop up in her other books as well? I’ve read a couple of others, but a long time ago. Any thoughts?

    1. Act says:

      I’ve not read her, but labels like ‘ecofeminist’ tend to get applied to any woman writing about Issue X regardless of whether or not her writing has anything whatsoever to do with feminism. People basically see women with thoughts as feminists.

      When I did my big ‘which women have won Hugos/Nebulas that I want to read’ sweep a couple of months ago I decided against her, but I’m not sure why, actually.

      1. Zephyr says:
        My personal feeling is that while I definitely think she’s a feminist (reading interviews with her, she talks a lot about how important education for girls is and about her personal experiences with the wage gap), for some reason it’s not really coming through in the minor details of her book. I’m kinda judging a lot off the one book I’ve read recently: I thought the main female characters were done well but it’s stuff like the characterisation issues and a lot of background or worldbuilding details that I can’t tell if they’re deliberate or not. There’s also some weird stuff about biology and gender. Do you mind if I quote a passage I’d like to get your thoughts on?


  15. CrazyEd says:

    >Your vehement admiration is by no doubt unique. I thoroughly enjoy you going through the effort of reaching out to me, albeit I am completely clueless as what you ever hoped to achieve with that.
    >Did you imagine me thanking you for your support? Did you imagine me giving you some half-assed words of encouragement?
    >I am in the process of writing the next book in the series, did you think you would encourage me in some way? The only thing you have accomplished is wasting my time by responding to you when I could be writing the book. Are you happy with that? Does your ego feel fulfilled now that an author has finally replied to you, no doubt you’ve reached out to many authors, we know your kind. You have delayed my book, but I have no doubt you feel very good with yourself indeed, because you have received a response.

    >With the upmost love and respect –


    >In high-school Pat was something of a class clown. His hobbies included reading a novel or two a day and giving relationship advice to all his friends despite the fact that he had never so much as kissed a girl. He also role-played and wrote terrible stories about elves. He was pretty much a geek.
    >For the next seven years Pat studied anthropology, philosophy, eastern religions, history, alchemy, parapsychology, literature, and writing. He studied six different martial arts, practiced improv comedy, learned how to pick locks, and became a skilled lover of women. He also began writing a satirical advice column which he continues to this day: The College Survivial Guide. Through all of this he continued to work on his novel.
    >Now Pat teaches half-time at his old school as an assistant-sub-lecturer. He is underpaid but generally left alone to do as he sees fit with his classes. He is advisor for the college feminists, the fencing club, and, oddly enough, a sorority. He still roll-plays occasionally, but now he does it in an extremely sophisticated, debonair way.


    I have known her longer, my smile said. True, you have been inside the circle of her arms, tasted her mouth, felt the warmth of her, and that is something I have never had. But there is a part of her that is only for me. You can not touch it, no matter how hard you might try. And after she has left you I will still be here, making her laugh. My light shining in her. I will still be here long after she has forgotten your name.


    So these are apparently all things that were written by Patrick Rothfuss (though from my source, it doesn’t seem 100% certain on that first one). Knowing about Rothfuss only from this blog and these quotes, I have to ask… Act, how in the hell did you get through this guy’s books?

    Is there some context from that last quote (which is actually taken from The Name of the Wind) that isn’t on that page that makes that except any less cringe-y?

  16. Keltena says:

    I was wondering, did we ever determine if it’s possible to make an Umineko spoiler post that won’t show up in the New Comments section? I feel like we could get a lot of use out of one.

  17. Y says:
    Has anybody here played Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura or Pillars of Eternity? I haven’t but they seem right up the alley of a lot of the people who comment here, so I thought I’d ask for opinions. I’ll almost definitely play Arcanum soon but I’m less sure about Pillars.

    1. Roarke says:

      Yes on Arcanum. It’s a good game. Pillars I plan to return to one day. It’s one of those games I have but never play.

    2. illhousen says:

      Arcanum is reasonably good. There are some things I dislike, like the xp gain system which gives you more xp for hitting (not killing, it’s per hit, as I recall) an enemy than for completing quests, some magic schools are vastly superior to others, etc. Overall, though, it’s worth playing if you like games like Fallout.

      Pillars is a game I have but don’t play indeed. It’s made in the mold of Baldur’s Gate with more modern design. It’s OK but doesn’t really do anything unique from what I’ve seen.

    3. Y says:
      Thanks. Arcanum is super cheap on steam andI’ll probably play it as soon as I finish my current Fallout play through.

  18. CrazyEd says:

    Where was that post where Farla interacted with the alchemical nonsense this post talks about?

      1. CrazyEd says:

        Yes, thank you, this was it exactly; though I now also recall that there were posts where she tore into this same person for The Great Drooble’s Blowing Gum Conspiracy as well.

        This is some SS+ ranked english majoring.

  19. Act says:

    OH man y’all should check out “The Orphaned Heroine in the Hunger Games Trilogy” by Alison L. Bewley; I was all ready to be indignant about being made to read it for a class but it’s basically about how Katniss as a feminist icon is bullshit and it’s the most sexy paper I’ve ever read.


    “When it comes to her own survival, Katniss Everdeen is a self-sufficient,independent heroine who does not require a savior. Her androgyny and genderfluidity in the context of survival are potentially empowering to readers as wellas to future female heroines—but only if those readers do not look too deeply.While her balance of stereotypically masculine and feminine traits makes herseem to occupy the position of an active subject and heroine within her narrative,her relationships with other characters and groups in the trilogy revealthat she is a reactive object to be desired or used by others. Thus, although sheno longer occupies precisely the same narrative role as the traditional orphanedgirl, her position as an object of mimetic desire is not much of an improvement.The genre of young adult dystopian literature requires some degree ofreactivity from its protagonists; however, Katniss is an extreme example of areactive character and lacks the agency that some scholars have attributed toher. Her idolization as a “strong” female character is based on superficial traits.While the narrative role that she occupies has developed in many ways sincethe earliest depictions of female orphaned protagonists, Katniss still owes muchto her literary predecessors.Notes

    1. mcbender says:

      Is this available to read anywhere that isn’t paywalled? It sounds like it’d be worth reading, but I can’t find a source that’s publicly available.

      1. Act says:

        Shoot me an email ([email protected](dot)net) and I’ll email you a PDF. Same for anyone else who can’t find it online.

        1. SpoonyViking says:

          It seems to be available only at Project Muse – can’t even find it on Jstor. Anyway, I’d like a copy, please!

          1. Act says:

            just shoot me an email and I’ll send it along. not trying to post it here and get myself DMCAd.

            1. SpoonyViking says:

              Sorry, thought you’d still have my e-mail! Anyway, just sent it. Thanks in advance!

            2. Act says:

              I def had it but was searching your screenname instead of your actual name like an idiot.

            3. SpoonyViking says:

              Hah! No worries, that just means my online handle is doing its job.

        2. mcbender says:

          Thanks. I really appreciated reading this. I’m not sure I have a whole lot to say about it, on reflection, but it’s good to see this conversation happening in academia (and honestly, reading this paper made me feel rather nostalgic for academia even if I was never in a field remotely close to this).

          The issue of character passivity in narrative is a rather interesting one – thinking about it, I don’t necessarily think it should be problematic in an ideal world to depict passive or reactive characters, because people like that do exist (for better or worse I’m kind of one of them), it’s when that passivity is allowed to be depicted as heroic or praiseworthy that it can start to be a problem (plus, of course, the intersection with and reinforcement of gender norms).

          When I think about it, I’m actually not at all surprised readers don’t pick up on Katniss being a passive and reactive character, because they tend not to in other cases (Harry Potter is another great example of a passive-reactive character who is almost never discussed as such), and there are a lot of them in fiction.  A character can be passive and/or reactive and still do things that look like taking action in a vacuum, too.  “Villains act, heroes react” has its own tvtropes page, iirc… I think that often functions as a good lazy shortcut for a lot of writers, especially if they’re writing plot-driven (as opposed to character-driven) narratives.

          I don’t know if that actually adds anything to this discussion, but it’s where my mind went after reading it.

          1. Farla says:

            I think there’s a big distinction in reactive vs passive, though. Like you say, traditional heroes are often reactive, but a passive hero is rare.

            Deciding to sacrifice herself for her sister, or win the games, those are reactive. But Katniss sits around while other people react to things and plan a response, then whines about whatever bits of her role they bother telling her about, then half the time they were lying to her about what her role really was and she whines about that but doesn’t actually do much. (And when she does react to things, it’s often pointless or counter-productive to the overall plot.) I feel like the second book’s ending is a really good example here. She missed the initial hints, then the entire plan was made without her, then coordinating the plan is done without her, then it happens without her even knowing about it, then even when it’s happening she still can’t figure out what’s going on, then she trips into the one (minor) action they wanted from her, but what matters is that she was super photogenic accidentally managing to complete the plan other people thought up so she’s THE AWESOME MOCKINGJAY HERO OF THE REBELLION!

    2. Farla says:

      Katniss is an extreme example of areactive character and lacks the agency that some scholars have attributed toher

      Now that I think about it, I wonder if this is a superficial feminism issue.

      Some people want to be able to praise something as progressive without having to challenge any of their existing prejudices. And other people support things based on osmosis so they’ll echo the first group without having ever seen it. 

      (And while it’s probably too specific for an article talking about the general tropes she fits, I’m still mad that midway through we’re told that Katniss never really supported herself and her family, people were giving her bonus pity money because of who her dad was.)


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