Mélange VI

Random thoughts.
  • Watching And You Thought There Is Never a Girl Online? reminded me of real MMOs with a marriage mechanic (e.g.). Seems super awkward. Maybe it's just because I play Destiny with my sister, but unless you're playing with your actual girl-/boyfriend (in which case you can go to hell), it seems like it would either be very uncomfortable, or just too much of a metagame thing, doing it just for the mechanical bonus.

    Seems like it might be better to have the spouse as a person-shaped "non-combat pet"; presumably works best in games like ESO where you can acquire real-estate, since having your spouse follow you around adventuring would be very odd. (Huh, is ESO a community-property setting, concerning homes and other assets owned by one half of a Ritual of Mara pairing?) Maybe if you sleep at home you get a bonus for the next few hours or character levels, like the "Lover's Comfort" rest bonus in Skyrim? (Or an aisai bentô item you can use later, like Skyrim's "Homecooked Meal".)

    Actually an option to sleep with your character's spouse in the euphemistic as well as literal sense (no need to actually be graphic about it, of course) could allow the creation of other "non-combat pet" NPCs: namely children. Rather than being like Skyrim where practically every single child except Jarl Balgruuf's kids and Hadvar's cousin Dorthe is adopted (I guess making Redguard children for the Redguard couples was too hard). That could be a kinda cool mechanic, and would make the world feel a lot realer (if done right, a big "if" in game-design).
  • Thinking of how the Clone Wars were just to keep the Jedi from seeing Order 66 coming, made me realize that Lucas is actually really good at plot, and theme. Now I wonder if Yoda actually meant his warning to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, that going to save his friends at Bespin would really undo his training and doom them all. Now it seems like that was actually a test, to see whether Luke would fall into the same errors the Jedi Order of old had, of forsaking attachment—the whole point of the fall of the Jedi Order was that the Jedi had forgotten that one attachment, to other sentient beings, was the whole reason their order existed in the first place.

    Basically you can view Star Wars, before it was Taken by Disney, as being the Mahayana Buddhist version of Narnia. The old Jedi Order can be compared to Theravada Buddhism, pursuing the path of the arhat, concerned only with releasing oneself but not others from the Cycle of Rebirth. What Luke does, first at Bespin and then with Vader, is the bodhisattva path: of replacing the final desire to be extinguished, desire for Nirvana, with the desire to bring others to Nirvana, and vowing not to enter Nirvana till others do. While attachment to others cannot come at the expense of other goods—that was the path to Anakin's downfall—it's that same attachment to others that can result in their salvation. Including Anakin's.

    Indeed it was the whole attempt to do away with attachment that led to Anakin's excessive attachment, and his pathological fear. The thought you try to put away from yourself becomes the thought that you cannot put away.
  • Got the Pathfinder Monster Codex, and decided my campaign will have boggards, though not called that since that's actually a synonym for bugbear. While their constant cannibalism is indeed how many frogs behave, that's because most frogs are stupid creatures that jump on and devour anything that moves, not something intrinsic to their nature if they were intelligent enough to talk. After all, boggards are not described as being exceedingly likely to engage in necrophilia, but the same stupidity that makes frogs eat each other, also totally routinely makes them try to mate with dead frogs.

    Personally, since my setting takes place during an Ice Age, I think it'd make more sense to have them behave like the viviparous toad, Nimaphrynoides occidentalis, since live birth means you aren't dependent on the availability of standing water to reproduce. Oddly parental care in frogs seems to be more typically the male rather than the female, with the tree-frogs that exhibit care by both parents having evolved it as modified male care. (I assume the relative infrequency of cannibalism in toads is just that most toads are toothless.) Intelligent frogs can still regard you as food without this "constantly eating each other" nonsense.

    (Unlike in core Pathfinder none of my races eat their own, and far fewer—only ogres/orcs, hyena people, lizard people, frog people, and maybe some cat people—eat other intelligent beings. Goblins hunt other humanoids for Predator-style trophies, but taboo eating intelligent beings.)
  • All the idiots saying "if Baby Yoda is 50, then 900-year-old Yoda is in his mid-30s": first off, they never said Baby Yoda was specifically two. Second off, he's about a foot and a half tall, being as long as Mando's forearm. Yoda is 2.2 feet tall, according to the official sources. 1.5 divided by 2.2, times the average height of an adult male human, yields 3 feet 11 inches—the average height for a six-and-a-half-year-old, according to the CDC. Which is still quite a young little child, and probably easy to mistake for a toddler (he's not really a baby) if you're not familiar with the relative sizes involved. And if he's six and a half, Yoda's 900 becomes 117. (Yes the child has that hover-stroller thing, but we put children who can walk in those all the time, because their legs are short and they get tired, not some age cutoff. Yoda is shorter as an adult than the 3rd pecentile of American two-year-olds.)
  • Redoing some things about my setting's scripts. Decided the giants will be the ones who have the "increasingly complex zigzags" numerical notation, since it makes sense with their octal numbers, which can use the zigzag's corner as a representation of the space between fingers; think the main human script will use the Hebrew or Greek type of numerals, since they have 27 letters. Then they just repurposed the first nine as digits, and maybe use a space for zero, like Chinese rod-numerals did?

    Also thinking I'll actually have the Thalassocratic Valyrians' script be the one that gets the Etro script treatment, something like cuneiform since they have more than a little influence from Mesopotamia; the other human scripts will be uncial, blackletter, and runic versions of theirs. And then the Tainish Egyptians on the other side of the world will have something similar to the symbols on the Lantern of Osiris in the current "season" of Destiny 2, which also appear on the thing Osiris used in the first expansion to navigate the Infinite Forest. (Is that Vex writing? I think it's Vex writing.)

    I realized my Dwarven had words that end on vowels (which was going to cause trouble for their script), a -ka suffix that marked nouns as feminine (like the -t suffix in most Afro-Asiatic languages), but I changed it to an -ok suffix. Also the pronouns—the only non-triliteral words in the entire language—had ended in vowels, and their roots still do in every case except the unmarked nominative; in the nominative, though, they switch vowel and consonant, so the word doesn't end on a vowel.
  • Can we talk for a minute about how Frozen and Frozen II are unworthy to scrub the toilets of Tangled and Rapunzel's Tangled Adventure? Tangled had very probably the best Disney princess since Aurora, and the best Disney prince period. Mother Gothel is one of the best villains in all media—someone pointed out, watch how she uses touch, and its withdrawal, to manipulate Rapunzel. And Rapunzel's Tangled Adventure is the best fantasy outside a video game in the English language. It's a better expansion on the original than the Aladdin animated series, high praise indeed, although unfortunately I can't give you a link to the best example without spoiling an incredible twist that you need to see.

    Frozen, meanwhile, is a Frankenstein's monster sewn together out of the corpses of more drafts than the David Lynch Dune, any one of which would've been a better movie. Its villain, who has absolutely no reason to exist and is not necessary for the plot, is not only the only person in a position of power who actually lifts a finger to help the people of their kingdom, he also makes his own plan more difficult (let that guy shoot Elsa and he just has to worry about finding and wooing Anna, which'll be easier she's grieving), just to fake out an audience he isn't supposed to know he has. It's also based on a story from the 1840s where a girl saves a boy, helped almost entirely by female characters, but sure Disney, keep pretending you improved on the source material.

    Frozen II is a sequel that nobody over the age of ten actually wanted, and its theme is hilarious hypocrisy considering Disney's concurrent pusillanimity RE: Hong Kong and the live-action Mulan (also Xinjiang but the Mulan star hasn't actually endorsed the Konzentrationslageraufseher there, like she did the HKPF's "fraternal assistance"). (One also wonders how it's received in, oh, say, Turkey, pretending for a moment that most Turks understand how that movie's theme could be relevant to them.)
  • Incidentally, Rapunzel's Tangled Adventure has characters who quite neatly slot into Pathfinder classes. Eugene's a rogue, of course, as are most of his social circle, but Lance is a bard (see the third season); Cass is a cavalier, Varian is an alchemist (duh), Adira is probably a cavalier too, Lord Demanitus was a wizard or possibly a summoner, and of course Mother Gothel is a witch. Rapunzel is a cleric, with the power of her hair being her channel energy ability; the Moonstone Opal is an artifact that switches her channel ability from positive to negative energy whether she wants it to or not. (I judge the quality of a fantasy show partly by whether it makes me want to play a tabletop game.)
  • Watching Bokutachi wa Benkyô ga Dekinai (whose title means "We Can't Study" not "We Never Learn"), specifically the episode where Ururaka and Kirisu-sensei have that conversation in the locker-room about how Ururaka shouldn't worry about feeling nervous in her swim-meets, because she always will (Kirisu speaking from experience, having been a figure-skater), revealed something. Namely, though the Bechdel test is absolutely worthless for most purposes, it's actually a very valuable tool in evaluating, of all things, harem series. If a harem series doesn't pass the Bechdel test, it's probably too purely wish-fulfillment to be worth the time.

    The "test's" relevance to other genres is more variable, because the female characters may have other reasons for never having conversations about something else—if, for example, the major female characters know each other because their boyfriends/husbands are friends, they're not all that likely to talk about anything else. E.g. Kaya and Miho in Bakuman happen to have been school-friends before they got married, but if they weren't they would only know each other through their husbands; even as it is most of their conversations afterwards probably involve the topic of their husbands in heavy rotation, since almost every major event in both their lives has been related to those two and their manga careers. But in a harem series, where it's a given that the girls are there for the harem, if they can't have any other conversation then there probably isn't enough work put in.

    Also…does anyone apply a reverse Bechdel test to works for a female audience? (If you don't think it's an issue—that and a female version of everything feminists complain about in supposedly male-centered media—go read some shojo manga. Or josei. And then we can remind you of the only-qualified value of the test, because something like Dolls by Naked Ape passes the reverse-Bechdel with flying colors…because it's deliberate slash-ship bait. Just like how every yuri manga, for an audience so pathetic their masculinity is threatened by having a fictional dude be the POV-character who gets their wish-fulfillment harem, passes the original version.)
  • I decided that the modern human witch-nation in my setting, as opposed to Evil Atlantis/Thalassocratic Valyrians, are actual witches (as in as a character-class), but the dark elves aren't; they're just scary druid-archetypes. Their goddess is not a fiend and doesn't deal with fiends, any more than the goblin or ogre gods do, she just has utilitarian evils and blood-sacrifice of speaking beings, but not deliberate taboo-breaking. (There isn't much to pick between Rome and Carthage in practice, even if the Romans don't pretend their infanticide is holy.)

    I think the modern witch-nation will still have clerics but they use the same mechanic as the witches, which mechanic I haven't entirely worked out; I think the clerics use a deliberately twisted version of their god's iconography, and specifically pervert their dearest taboos (infanticide for the guardian-mother goddess, necromancy for the death god, etc.)—and all really draw power from the ape-goddess. The very word for "ape" in many Indo-European languages has an implication of undesirable mimicry, e.g. simia and "similar" have the same first two syllables for a reason, and the verb "to ape" means what it does for the same reason.


Sierra and Two Foxtrots VI

SF and fantasy thoughts. None tabletop RPG-related!
  • Mandalorians are severely oversold. In Karen Traviss's works, of course, but even outside them. In reality, the idea these guys were a credible threat to the Jedi is ludicrous. Even without using the Force to enhance his perceptions, a human Jedi can focus on up to eight objects (all humans can). Humans can also continue to perceive objects up to 17,500 meters per second, 0.5% the speed of light (though not necessarily to actually notice, or otherwise begin to focus on, an object moving anywhere near that fast; you're quite likely to never see a bullet in flight, for instance, which is why Jedi use precognition to block shots with their lightsabers).

    Since "size matters not", neither does inertia, so a Jedi can move something—say, a Mandalorian's helmet—at any speed they can still perceive, i.e. up to 0.5% the speed of light. Anything that impacts anything else at that speed does so with the force of a quarter its weight in TNT. If a Mandalorian helmet weighs the same as a modern riot helmet, a quarter its weight is about 12 ounces of dynamite. And even at a minuscule fraction of that theoretical maximum, their heads can still be made to impact the ground so hard their heads and helmets crush like overripe grapes wrapped in foil. One unarmed Jedi can kill eight Mandalorians in less than a second.

    That fact is why Palpatine went to all the trouble of starting a war and playing half the galaxy against the other half, to put enough death and malice into the Force that Order 66 would get lost in the shuffle and the Jedi wouldn't see it coming.
  • Which is of course not to say that The Mandalorian is not the best thing Disney has done with Star Wars since getting their grubby paws on it, because it is (well, second-best); it's just important to remember that Mandalorians are something of a paper tiger. (At the very least they should've had—in Clone Wars or Rebels, say—a Sith do the helmet-smash thing, and then inform them that the only reason they were ever able to fight the Jedi is the Jedi were going easy on them.)
  • Dragon Prince is mostly pretty good, except that you would never let a deaf lady be a soldier (maybe a behind-the-lines officer). Even if she weren't ambush bait and incapable of doing guard-duty, and she is, enemies with spyglasses would be able to see her signing.

    But there is one huge flaw in the worldbuilding: how is it only now, and only Callum, that figured out how to do magic as a human? And how is Esran's ability to talk to animals not magic? Humans were so desperate to get magic that they decided to call out to the Deep and live as death and devastation. Nobody tried Callum's method before? Or noticed people who can talk to animals? Bullshit.

    I do also deduct a significant number of points automatically for there being no major male elf protagonist. (Seriously, someone needs to tell people who produce fantasy, particularly fantasy art, that the elf species has a male half.)
  • Come to think of it, the existence of male elves is something that Warhammer Fantasy did actually grasp (but guess what the playable elf in Vermintide isn't). Pity they tore the setting apart in the stupidest way possible and then sewed the pieces of its corpse together into "Age of Sigmar". (The dumbest of the decisions in question being Malekith being the true Phoenix King all along.)

    Usually when someone guts an IP and hangs themselves with its entrails, it's ideologically motivated—Disney Star Wars, Star Trek Discovery, Marvel Comics. But in the case of Warhammer Endtimes, it was simple greed: Fantasy Battle wasn't selling as well as 40K, so they decided to destroy it and make something more like 40K. Apparently the fact they could retool their generic fantasy races into things that could be copyrighted was a big part of the decision. Unfortunately it seems people are still buying the minis and playing the game, but the funny thing is you can basically never find any actual fans defending it as anything but a pis aller.

    Another shameless cash-grab own-goal by Games Workshop would be Warhammer Adventures, which are middle-grade novels set in the 40K and Age of Sigmar universes. At the point where I run out of fingers counting the reasons that each child in the 40K branch of the series would be executed by their own government, it is officially not a kid-appropriate setting.
  • So the real theme of Elder Scrolls Online is probably "Beauty of Dawn"—which is basically a sampler of references to Elder Scrolls lore. "Days and nights of venom and blood" is a quote from Brief History of the Empire, describing the post-Reman dynasty anarchy of the Second Era. The Serpent is of course one of the signs of the Tamrielic zodiac. "Beauty of dawn" is what "Tamriel" means in Ayleidoon. And, of course, there's a reference to the White-Gold Tower.
  • Between Granblue Fantasy and Cerberus, for some inexplicable reason anime based on phone games are actually often really good. Chain Chronicle: The Light of Haecceitas might be too, if it didn't start in the middle and thus make it very hard to give a damn about anything that happens; I give it bonus points for including the Scholastic term for "individual identity" (literally "thisness").

    If you also consider stuff like Sengoku Basara (except for End of Judgment, which was absolutely phoned in), Tales of Zestiria, and of course Ace Attorney, it's clear anime can just in general buck the curse that plagues adaptations of video games. Probably because the people making the adaptations actually give a shit about the games and their stories.
  • Related to that issue with Chain Chronicle, the anime of To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts is an absolute train-wreck, and a monkey could see why. They front-load the backstory, rather than us only finding out about it when Nancy does like in the manga. It'd be like if Trigun (which really needs to get the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood treatment) had had its first episode be Vash and Knives on the ship.

    Just in general, if your anime is about a drifter with a dark past and some ordinary person cast into contact with them, you have to keep the past "dark" in the other sense or you'll strangle all narrative tension. First give us a chance to see how the character is perceived; then make us suspect that there's more to them than meets the eye; and only then show us the backstory. You can't do it out of order.
  • It occurs to me, the mechanic of the Altars of Sorrow, in Shadowkeep, where killing Hive enemies adds time back to your clock, is not just a game mechanic. It's actually a direct aspect of the story and setting. It's the Sword Logic. The Hive give you additional opportunities to thwart their dealings with the Darkness, when they die—because the Sword Logic says that they deserve to be thwarted if they die instead of killing. (Of course the Darkness says that those who cannot claim and hold existence might as well never have existed…while talking to someone who was returned to existence by the Traveler.)