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Alzrius's page

Goblin Squad Member. Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber. Pathfinder Society Member. 1,948 posts. 71 reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist.


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Continuing with the series centered around the "reincarnated hero" trope, I just now finished reading the English fan-translation of Mushoku Tensei: Isekai Ittara Honki Dasu ("Jobless Reincarnation: I Will Seriously Try If I Go To Another World"). As with the previous series I mentioned, this was originally written as a series of web novels that are now receiving a light novel, and manga, adaptation. There's been no anime announced that I'm aware of (though once again I'd guess such a thing to be likely).

The first thing to mention about Mushoku Tensei is that it's not at all short. Even dedicating some time to reading it almost every day, it still took me over two weeks to finish the series, and it's not hard to see why. The main story composes two dozen novels that I'd wager collectively total somewhere between two hundred-fifty to three hundred chapters (with most of the chapters being divided into parts). There are also a few supplementary stories, some of which are still being translated. This is not something that can be read in an afternoon.

Mushoku Tensei is the story of a young man named (in his new life) Rudeus Greyrat. After living a worthless life on Earth, and dying while pushing a girl out of the way of an oncoming truck, he's reborn in a magical world. From there, the story can largely be divided into three major arcs: the first covers the early portions of Rudeus' new life, the second deals with a major disaster that devastates his hometown and separates his family, and the third is about his maneuvers and preparations for defeating the series' antagonist.

Now, that's a pretty general overview. Leaving aside my not wanting to give spoilers, the details of this story aren't anything particularly groundbreaking. In fact, Mushoku Tensei epitomizes what I've said before about quality not relying on ingenuity; this series exemplifies the paradigms you'd associate with a story like this, rather than trying to break them. (In fact, given that this story began in late 2012 and became such a hit, I have to wonder just how much it's responsible for the recent spate of "reincarnated hero" stories.) Rudeus is extremely gifted with magic, becomes a famous hero, and ends up having relationships with multiple women at once.

The series' length ends up working both for and against it. The unhurried pace that the story sets can feel frustrating at times - the entire middle section of the story is dedicated to a journey that takes literally years to accomplish, for instance - but at the same time the story's refusal to rush things means that it can spend a lot of time fleshing other aspects out, not just in terms of events but particularly with regards to its extensive cast of characters. This is a series that works far better if you're willing to let it unfold at its own pace, rather than wanting the major aspects of the plot to push forward quickly.

In terms of the overall tone of the story, it dances back and forth between serious and not-so-serious. A great deal of the humor comes from Rudeus being both slightly thick-headed and rather lustful. At the same time, the story isn't afraid to step back from this, and while it never gets anywhere close to what I'd consider "dark," it does have plenty of times when it's not trying to be funny, and even a few instances of being genuinely moving.

Overall, Mushoku Tensei can very well be called the archetype for the (sub-)genre that it occupies, due to both its "dramedy"-style presentation and for how lengthy it is. Getting into this story is quite an investment of time, but if you enjoy shonen-style adventure tales, you probably won't even notice.


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So the recent notation about how "a person dies in the real world, then reincarnates with all of their memories in a fantasy world" is a popular trope now, got me thinking about a few other series that are currently using that idea. To that end, I wanted to post some quick thoughts on a few of those here as well.

This is slightly awkward, as most of the series that I'm familiar with aren't technically anime...at least, not yet. Rather, they're light novels (and were sometimes web novels first), virtually all of which have manga adaptations, but so far haven't had any sort of anime adaptation announced (though I suspect that this is, if not inevitable, then at least highly likely). I call this "awkward" simply because this thread is for anime per se. I'll just have to ask for everyone's lenience in my bending the rules regarding this thread topic.

With that said, I wanted to mention one of the more unusual series that uses the aforementioned trope: Re:Monster.

Re:Monster is the story of an individual from Earth's future, where space travel, aliens, and most notably espers - individuals with psychic powers - are par for the course. The protagonist has the power of absorption, where he can eat (at least part of) a creature and gain some of its powers. Having killed and eaten many alien creatures, he's gained a great deal of powers when the story begins.

...and then a stalker stabs him to death with a taser-knife as he's buying beer from the convenience store.

The story really begins when the protagonist - now named Rou (actually, "Rou" acts as a suffix, with the beginning part of his name being his race, so when he's a goblin he's "Goburou," when he becomes an ogre he's "Ogarou," etc.) - finds that he's been reincarnated as a goblin in a high-fantasy world. However, not only does he remember his human life completely, but he's retained his absorption power (though none of the other powers that he's absorbed previously). Re:Monster is the tale of his life in that other world.

I mentioned before that this series was unusual, and that's not so much with the premise, but with the execution. Each day of Rou's new life is recorded as its own entry; moreover, this is done in a quasi-epistolary format. That is, while this isn't technically him writing in a diary or anything, the presentation is very much in that vein. Each day is written from a first-person perspective, describing the events of that day. Moreover, each such entry is presented as a summary, which means that there's almost no actual dialogue to be found here; conversations and interactions are likewise summarized, rather than presented as they happened.

Rou's new life also defies a lot of narrative conventions regarding how you'd expect a story like this to go. There's no particular antagonist that he's working against, nor does he have any particular long-term goals that he wants to accomplish. Rather, his only motivation is to keep securing and enhancing his lot in life via the accumulation of new powers, more subordinates, more money, and greater influence. It's also worth noting that Rou is very much an amoral figure; he has no use for cruelty for the sake of cruelty, but doesn't hesitate to use, torture, or kill others if that's the best way to accomplish something. On the flipside of that, he recognizes that happy subordinates are the best subordinates, and acknowledges that his closest followers are important to him.

Given that, it's surprising that I found this story as engaging as I did, and it took some time to figure out why. The conclusion that I came to was that this story isn't so much an adventure tale as it is a sort of "sim"-style (or, for those who are familiar with this genre, a "raising"-style) tale, wherein you essentially follow along and watch as something great is built up little-by-little from something small; in this case, Rou's impact on the world around him.

In a canny move, the story helps to push this presentation by conspicuously calling out each time Rou gains a new ability. In fact, Rou even notes that these acquisitions appear in his mind as a sort of "psychic announcement." This isn't limited to gaining new powers either, as Rou also hears similar "pings" in his mind on the rare occasions when he ranks up; that's what it's called when monsters in this world, which can't use job classes the way humans can, hit their maximum level and evolve into a higher form. Rarely, he'll also hear these mental announcements when he's accomplished some sort of great deed (e.g. a quest clear). All of these help to punctuate new instances of accomplishment, and so highlight the story's unusual presentation.

So far there are three hundred some-odd days written, though only a little over two hundred-fifty or so have been translated to the point of making sense (the rest are in various stages of translation by the fan community). Most compose more than a few paragraphs, with the odd instance of an extremely long or an extremely short entry for a particular day. In addition to the novel, there's also a manga adaptation of the story (which is also being fan-translated into English).

While I've often said that innovation isn't that important with regards to how enjoyable a story is, Re:Monster serves as a good reminder that - presuming the story is still told well - doing something a little differently can yield great results.


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thejeff wrote:
It's not a matter of rather, but in addition to.

That doesn't make it right. Literature written by private entities has no particular responsibility to anyone. It doesn't need to offer affirmation to someone, and cannot reasonably be blamed for the fact that it doesn't.

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If what you see from the media in general reinforces the toxic nature of what you're getting from your immediate circles, that helps build the impression that they're right. That it's just how the world works.

The idea of "media reinforcement" isn't one that comes across as particularly compelling. Self-evident fiction doesn't have the power to reinforce any particular ideas, beliefs, or attitudes amongst rational-minded adults. Likewise, you have a rational basis for expecting your immediate circles to be invested in your emotional well-being; you have no such expectation for works created by people who don't know you, and have no particular reason to care about you.

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And of course, in many cases the only exposure to some of these concepts many of the parents, teachers and complete strangers may have is that same media.

That's not a good enough reason to suggest that self-evident fiction is somehow at fault for not promoting the general welfare.


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Arachnofiend wrote:
Saying you don't like something and then explaining why you don't like it isn't censorship. What kind of blind consumer are you that you're going to decry any criticism of a game's content?

It's more correct to say that we're decrying criticism of the moral character of the people who made it and the people who don't believe that it should be censored. We're decrying that particular attitude being so prevalent that it creates a climate of fear and discomfort. We're decrying the idea that self-evident fictional media has so much power that it needs to adhere to moral regulations.


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Arachnofiend wrote:
I'm not sure which is more bizarre, that you think media and culture are entirely divorced from each other or that you think telling a lesbian that she's going to grow out of her attraction to women isn't going to cause any psychological harm at all.

It's far more bizarre to think that pointing out media's role as being reflective of culture, rather than instructive, is somehow saying that it's entirely divorced from it. The same goes for thinking that a video game is able to cause psychological harm to a mentally-competent adult.


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Arachnofiend wrote:
I'm guessing you've never had to question your identity. If you had, then you would know that being told by everyone around you-your parents, your teachers, complete strangers that you overhear in passing-that what you feel isn't real and is only a phase you need to suppress until it's over is a pretty unpleasant feeling, and having those ideas affirmed by the literature you try to escape from it all with just rubs salt in the wound.

That's not the fault, nor the problem, of said literature, nor the people who wrote it. To blame them, rather than the parents, teachers, and strangers who are actually at fault is irresponsible and misguided.


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N. Jolly wrote:
The fact that the impact of media is being completely phased out in this argument makes me realize that we aren't even having the same conversation.

That may very well be the case, since the whole idea of "impact of media" isn't really one that's worth discussing. Violent video games do not cause violent. Homosexual characters do not make heterosexual people turn gay. Games with "offensive" content do not promote offensive behaviors.

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So as per the original point, NOA has the right to change (since I'm not even willing to consider it censoring at this point) the game to suit the market as they and many others have done in the past to fit the customer base of which they are targeting.

"Rights" are a question of legality, whereas this is a conversation about morality. The two are completely different discussions.

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They did it due to people's moral concerns including a negative portrayal that was harmful to the LGBT community, you don't appreciate things being changed to moral concerns. When something makes the world better for a minority group, I consider that a good change, regardless of the reason. So yeah, you can disagree with it all you want, it still happened and I'm still happy about it.

They did it to preemptively assuage people who would whip up outrage by making the claim that what goes on in a video game was somehow "harmful" to the gay community. No matter how righteous someone's indignation is, that doesn't mean that it's okay to label fiction as being "harmful," since that presumes that self-evident fiction has the power to harm in the first place.


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So I've watched the two episodes that are currently available for KONOSUBA -God's Blessing on This Wonderful World! ("Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!"), and I have mixed feelings about it so far. So far I like it, but I have some familiarity with this series, and I'm doubtful regarding its staying power.

KONOSUBA utilizes a trope that seems to be in vogue these days (or has always been popular and I've only recently noticed) wherein the hero is someone from this world who dies tragically, only to be reincarnated in a fantasy world with all of their memories of their previous life intact. In this case, the hero is one Kazuma Satou, who arrives in the afterlife after dying while saving a girl from being hit by a truck.

Of course, KONOSUBA is quick to make a mockery of this trope, as the goddess Aqua that Kazuma meets in the afterlife is quick to reveal the circumstances under which Kazuma actually died, and openly mocks him for it. After having a laugh at his expense, she explains that he can go to boring ol' Heaven, or be reincarnated in a fantasy world (at his current age, no less) with any one item or ability of his choosing. Angry at being made fun of, Kazuma chooses reincarnation, with Aqua as his "one thing," and the two of them now have to get along in an RPG-style fantasy world.

I mentioned that I was familiar with this particular series before I started watching the anime. That's because this (like so many anime nowadays) was originally a light novel series, with a manga adaptation, both of which have already had fan-translations, under the title "Gifting the Wonderful World with Blessings!" It's from having read these (though admittedly not that much, since the series couldn't hold my interest to get through all of the translated material) that I'm dubious about how much I'll enjoy the anime overall.

Simply put, KONOSUBA is a comedy series first and foremost. While it's technically an adventure-comedy, the adventure part is a very distant second to the comedy. Personally, I don't think that comedy, as a genre, stands very well on its own. There's a reason why it's usually partnered with some other genre (e.g. rom-coms, "dramedy," action-comedy, etc.), and when it does stand alone, it's usually confined to stand-alone movies or series where each individual episode is unrelated to the others. That's not a universal truism, of course, but the "relief" in "comedy relief" comes from the fact that comedy works best when it's letting us take a break from something more serious, rather than being its own sustained thing.

In KONOSUBA, the comedy comes from the fact that Kazuma, Aqua, and the comrades they gather are all incompetent. While they're able to accomplish the tasks they set out to do, it's an unending comedy of errors as we watch them eventually bungle their way across the finish line each time. The problem, at least for me, was that once you realize the show's formula, it gets old fairly quickly. The only question becomes what new way can Kazuma and company make complete asses of themselves while somehow managing to squeak out a win.

It's entirely possible that the series will graduate from this as it goes on; as I mentioned, I didn't read very far in the light novels that have been translated, and the manga hadn't advanced very far when I read it either. So maybe the hijinks will be tempered with a more serious foundation; alternately, the series might simply be short enough that the comedy won't wear out its welcome, simply being a short-and-sweet series that exits before it becomes boring.

Either one would serve the show well, and so far I'm resolved to stick with it and see what it does. The first few episodes are definitely the honeymoon period, when the series' hijinks still feel fresh and new. It's how long it tries to sustain itself on comedy alone that will determine the show's fate.


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As its own thing, I didn't think the novel was that bad. *ducks tomatoes*


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Arachnofiend wrote:
"It's bad, so we fixed it." I agree that it's not really the same, but only because the Soleil issue is much worse than shipping shoddy gameplay (I mean hey, they shipped the grind happy trashfire that was Awakening heyooo).

Except that the statement can more accurately be summarized as "other people think it's bad, so we 'fixed' it to make them go away." It's definitely not the same, since that can't really be considered worse than shoddy gameplay in any sense; one scene that people might not like (and might not even encounter) doesn't ruin the game nearly as much as the game having unbalanced mechanics.


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thejeff wrote:
I really should just stop, cause I know this doesn't go anywhere good, but I keep failing will saves.

That's because you have a low Wisdom score. ;-P

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Two main points: You're right that there are different ideals driving the arguments. I don't think you're right about what they are.

I disagree. That's self-evident, but I feel that it's worth saying again.

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It's not about "offending that side's personal opinions", at least as they see it. It never has been. It's about representation. It's about not reinforcing bigoted social tropes (like gay conversion*). It's about ways media can do real good or real harm.

I know you don't believe that such things actually matter and I don't expect to convince you, but the other side does believe it and that's what's motivating them, not just being offended.

That may be the case, but I believe that that motivation is completely wrong-headed, by which I mean that it's based on a perception of reality that I don't believe matches up with what can be generally observed. I can understand that they're sincere in their belief that self-evidently fictitious media (I say "self-evidently" to contrast it with fiction that is being portrayed as truth, e.g. lies) can influence and shape popular attitudes and beliefs, but I don't believe that to be true.

The hallmark of a mentally-competent adult is that they're able to distinguish between fiction and reality. Playing violent video games does not make you violent. Seeing an openly gay character on a television sitcom will not make heterosexual viewers question their sexuality. Having a villain in a fantasy show be a member of a particular demographic will not make you hate all members of that demographic, etc.

To that end, the entire idea of "media can do real good or real harm" is a canard (and quite often a cover for simply not wanting to be exposed to people, themes, situations, etc. that they're uncomfortable with). In terms of self-evident fictional media, the idea that it has the power to reinforce anything among grown-ups who don't have problems distinguishing between what's real and what's not is a non-issue.

One side thinks that art imitates life (or rather, imitates imagination) and so should be left alone. The other side thinks that life imitates art, and because of that art needs to be controlled.

That's the debate.

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As for your side, it's a completely unreachable and frankly undesirable goal. Free speech is a wonderful thing, but requiring such speech to be free of consequences including "social or economic attacks" is ludicrous.

Even if it is unreachable, that's not at all a strike against it. A society that's free of crime is similarly unreachable, but that's not a argument for giving up on stopping crimes before they occur or investigating them after they do.

However, I strongly disagree that it's at all undesirable. No one is talking about free speech being free of consequences; that's a complete misdirection. However, there's a difference between consequences and censorious actions made by private pressure groups. Implying that consequences includes organized attempts to legally intimidate, harass, or coerce people into changing their behavior to said groups' satisfaction is, quite simply, not okay.

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Free of legal attacks certainly, but social or economic "attacks", whatever such attacks actually are, are the proper response to bigoted speech.

Attacking other people because you don't like the content of their speech is never okay. That includes organizing a group to try and undercut their livelihood, as well as trying to ostracize them from society at large.

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Respond in kind - telling other people what was the problem and why you think it was a problem. When it's a large organization you're dealing with, the response needs to be organized to have any effect.

It's not the act of organization that's the problem; it's when such an organization makes - whether explicitly or implicitly - a threat, or otherwise engages in coercion. Putting together a petition to call for changes is one thing; having that petition say that the undersigned will never again engage with that particular business until said business changes its activities to what the undersigned want is something else again.

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Beyond that, it's far from just the "social justice" side using these tactics nor are they nearly as dominant as you seem to think. As a silly example, wasn't there just a kerfluffle over Starbucks not having an explicit Christmas image on its cups? Or on a smaller scale, the people who've flipped out here everytime Paizo adds a LGTBQ character in something.

It's worth noting that nobody in this thread has talked about "social justice" anything (or "SJW" anything) before you brought it up just now, so you're refuting a point that nobody has made...in other words, made a strawman argument (again). That's why this entire point is misapplied: the sides in question are between those who think it's okay to harass content creators into changing their works so as to confirm to the harassers' views (for whatever reason), and those that think that such actions are not okay (no matter how noble the stated goal is).

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Of course, once you've decided that all these changes are due to the "public climate of fear of social opprobrium and organized economic coercion" then it's easy to use the same tactics to fight them and still be principled.

Except the people who aren't in favor of censorship aren't doing that; your assertion that they are was based entirely around re-framing the debate as one of "SJW vs. anti-SJW" instead of censorship versus freedom of speech.


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thejeff wrote:
No. You're free to apply commercial pressure to not "censor" translated games, by not buying them, by organizing boycotts, by causing a stink on the internets, etc.

Again, this confuses legal ability with moral action. You're "free" to do all of those things, in terms of them being legal undertakings. That doesn't mean that they're necessarily the morally correct thing to do.

That's leaving aside that attempting to use economic coercion to force the changes that you want to see is, by its very definition, censorship, which is why the people who are against censorship don't tend to use those tactics to begin with.

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You are however not free to buy a product that the company in question doesn't want to sell. All you can do is try to convince them it'll be better for them in publicity & actual sales to do what you want.

Or rather, you can try and convince them that doing what they want to do, free from external pressure, is better for them (and everyone else). Yes, it's better for their publicity and maybe even their sales to take the path of least resistance and so give in and accept the censors' demands, but doing so comes with its own costs.

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Which are of course the same tactics you decry from the other side.

Saying that "all actions, and therefore all sides, are equivalent" is disingenuous, because it ignores that there are very different ideals driving the debate. One side wants everyone else to change their works so as not to offend that sides' personal opinions; the other side wants everyone to be free to make whatever they want without fear of social or economic attacks.

Trying to portray these two positions as being equivalent because they both have the same avenues of action available to them (which ignores what actions they actually take) is fundamentally dishonest.


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thejeff wrote:
"I'm not gonna buy your stuff if I don't like it" is a fairly basic right.

Even leaving aside your continued focus on "rights" - which are what you're legally permitted to do - this is a strawman argument, since no one is suggesting that you don't have the right to refrain from purchasing products you don't like.

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Expanding that to informing the company why you're not buying it is perfectly reasonable.

This is also a moving of the goalposts. Writing a letter or an email to a company to explain why you don't want to buy their game is not at all the equivalent of creating a public climate of fear of social opprobrium and organized economic coercion in order to make someone else produce the changes you want to see. That kind of action is in no way reasonable.


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thejeff wrote:
Lemmy wrote:
Scott Betts wrote:
The number of people in this thread complaining about "censorship" is really concerning.

What is really concerning is that people still think sparing someone's feeling is more important than allowing the free market of ideas.

Something offends you? Don't buy it. Support stuff that pleases you. Don't force or pressure others to stop using whatever it is that you find offensive. Truth and freedom of choice are far more important than hurt feelings and political correctness.

So, if their changes offend you? Don't buy it. Support stuff that pleases you. Don't force or pressure others to stop using whatever it is that you find offensive.

False equivalence. Objecting to a mindset of "change your content so that it doesn't offend me" is not reducible to "well, that's just you pushing your ideals onto me."


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thejeff wrote:
1)Yeah, just like an editor or a publisher is a third party between creator and consumer. And yet works get changed based on that all the time. Nintendo is already changing the work for the US audience. That's their role here.

Trying to present this change as being no different than any other editorial decision in the localization process is disingenuous. This isn't a case of changing something because intellectual property rights are different between countries, or lingual idioms don't carry over well between Japanese and English, or local laws require certain things to not be shown.

Rather, this is the editorial equivalent of removing the crosses from the old Castlevania games because it might upset Christians. It's preemptively trying to avoid the attention of morally self-righteous activists who will work to demonize anything that offends their sensibilities.

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2) Is censorship because we think customers won't like this and we'll lose money really at all similar to "fear of reprisal based on previous incidents"? Who is the censor who punished the high-visibility target and cowed Nintendo into doing this?

The censors are the ones who worked to make a scene like this be perceived as socially unacceptable to generate. They're the people who maintained that scenes like that were evidence of a bigoted, morally corrupt mind that hated and feared homosexuals. They censors are the people who maintained that video games have the power to shape popular morality, and so had an inherent duty to only provide content that lauds that morality and indicts that which transgresses it.

The censors are the reviewers who pushed these ideas again and again in their coverage of these games. They're the people who started petitions calling for individuals to be fired from their jobs for making content like this, and the people who signed those petitions by the thousands. The censors are the people who encouraged others never to buy anything from these individuals, the companies they worked for, or the retailers that sold their games ever again, because to do so would mean that you're signing off on hatred and bigotry, and thus become a hypocritical, hateful bigot yourself.

That's who the censors are.


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spectrevk wrote:
I don't like that the scene was in the game in the first place, but you don't get to pick and choose when to be anti-censorship, IMO.

Very well said!

The fact is, it's easy to be in in favor of freedom of expression when the expression in question is one that you approve of. The real test comes when it's an expression that you don't like. At that point, a lot of people suddenly start coming up with reasons for why it's okay to change, remove, expel, or even destroy the thing in question.

Being against censorship means that you're against the censorship of things that you would otherwise not want to exist.

thejeff wrote:
They've got the rights to change it as they please.

The discussion is one regarding the moral/ethical dimensions of free speech versus censorship. By contrast, a discussion of "rights" regarding freedom of expression is a legal argument. These are two distinctly different topics.

Insofar as whether or not this is "really" censorship goes, I think that it is. America has amply demonstrated that it has a lot of people who are willing to work (often in coordination) to socially demonize - and even economically harm - individuals and private companies that create content that they personally don't like. Preemptively changing your work to avoid their wrath is still them acting censoriously.


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Dragon78 wrote:
So who has seen Dragonar Academy, Umi Monogatari, Bodacious Space Pirates, A Letter to Momo, Summer Wars, Familiar of Zero, Leviathan: The Last Defense, Qwaser of Stigma, and/or Momo Kyon Sword? Also what did you think and if it would be worth owning any of them?

Well, I wrote a short review of The Familiar of Zero last year. The one-line summary is that it's a fun-filled show that knows exactly what it is (harem hijinks during a series of adventures) and isn't ashamed of it.

With regards to Qwaser of Stigmata...it honestly felt like it was trying too hard. The show has a super-serious tenor which works against it in terms of how palatable its execution came across. The show wants to be an action series with titillating moments, but keeps going for "extreme"-style instances of violence and sexuality, which come across as off-putting rather than tension-building.


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Lemmy wrote:
Yeah... I really liked the original show... But this one is tiring. Nothing really happens, characters introductions feel forced, the protagonists barely do anything... Haku is supposed to be charismatic, but he doesn't really display any charisma other than characters magically liking him despite he not saying or doing anything remarkable.

You bring up a good point with regards to how slowly the plot has been progressing. While we do seem to see it picking up now, I really don't think that the entire first half of the show needed to be devoted to introducing and showcasing the cast. That was a process that went on entirely too long (especially when it got to the tertiary cast members, most of whom feel annoyingly one-dimensional).


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Having just watched the latest episode of Utawarerumono: The False Faces, I'm beginning to get a little tired of Haku's character. It's not so much that he's lazy and self-indulgent (or even how that makes him seem cowardly), but that he becomes indignant whenever anyone wants him to do something, even when it's quite clearly important.

His whining in that regard is really beginning to grate on me.


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Just one more day before the next cour of Gate starts!


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Belulzebub wrote:

The Hyenas from Lion King.

Maybe stretching the 'fantasy' criteria, but I 100% support Scar and The Hyenas. The animals' great society is a brutal caste system that functions on the backs of an ostracized and brutalized minority. Scar is not the leader the Lions may want, but he sure as hell is the one they deserve. Scar turned their own gluttony back on them and forced everyone to live in the world they created for the hyenas. Frankly the end of that movie pisses me off still - the fascists are returned to power, having learned nothing. Hooray?

I agree, though I have a slightly different take on it.

Simply put, the "villains" of The Lion King never struck me as very villainous.

As you noted, the hyenas have been unfairly persecuted. For all the talk about "The Circle of Life," it's like everyone forgot that the hyenas - who are scavengers, and thus no real threat to predators like the lions - also have a place in it, and deserve to roam the Pridelands as much as anyone.

But I really have no sympathy for Mufasa, who acted like a complete tyrant. Seriously, you're gathering all these different races - most of whom you eat - to celebrate the birth of your son? Yeah, I get that the Circle of Life bit means that they recognize that they're probably going to be hunted down and ripped to shreds by you when you're feeling a bit peckish, but do they really have to celebrate that system?

Oh, and let's not forget Scar. Under his rule the Circle of Life is supposedly broken...why, because he reintegrated the hyenas into Pridelands society? How could that possibly have destroyed the ecosystem? Seriously, look at how the river near Pride Rock has apparently dried up...how is Scar to blame for that? Yes, he murdered Mufasa, but if we accept that Mufasa was the lion version of Stalin, I have to wonder if a quiet coup was really the wrong way to go. It's pretty clear that Mufasa had numerous followers - most of whom benefited from the system he ruled - and trying to tear the entire thing down would probably have led to open rebellion, which probably would have been worse.

Heck, if you want to run with the whole "the river dried up" thing, I have to wonder who's really responsible for that. After all, Rafiki is pretty clearly a necromancer, able to conjure up the spirit of Simba's dead father. And since dead lions dwell in the sky, I wonder if Mufasa's vengeful ghost was stopping the rain and punishing the whole Pridelands just to spite his brother.

I'm also a bit surprised that no one has commented on how the lions are running a patriarchy, either. After all, all of the background lions are female. What few male lions we see are all major characters, all related to each other (except for Kovu, which was a bit of a cop-out), and most of them die over the course of the series. Yes, one lion with multiple lionesses is how lions actually group themselves in the real world, but if we accept that the lions in The Lion King are sentient enough to understand concepts such as monarchy, ecology, and reverence for ancestors, I have to wonder if they can't question the entire idea of the king having a harem (which is the only way such a system would work, otherwise all of those background lionesses shouldn't be there after one generation).


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Caineach wrote:
The episode was cool but had bad pacing. Too much exposition in the first half, second half was all action until the twist. The action was awesome though. ** spoiler omitted **

I disagree.

I was glad that the show finally addressed one of its major weaknesses: that they've been keeping the central point of conflict between the heroes and the villains unknown to the viewers for too long.

Mysteries can be good, but there's only so long that you can keep the audience in the dark about what it is that the characters are all talking about. It can create some tension initially, but as time goes on it becomes grating to be subjected to drama over something that we're not allowed to share in. That inhibits our ability to invest in the characters', since without knowing what the stakes are, we don't know what they're fighting for, which makes it more difficult to know their motivations.

RWBY kept us in the dark for two years, and it was long past time to pull back the curtain. No more "the queen has started to move," or "I've seen what she's been making, and those things ARE fear," statements that made us roll our eyes at how loaded they were without telling us anything. Hinting at great meaning and importance, without informing us what that actually is, rapidly becomes trite.

As such, that exposition was not only entirely necessary, but was almost cathartic for the show. Now I can actually start to invest in the characters more, because their fights will actually have some greater meaning to them, rather than us having to take it on faith that there's really still some drama despite how often the heroes wallop the bad guys.


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I posted this on another forum yesterday evening:

So last night I was seized by the inexplicable urge to finally sit down and read my copy of the first Birthright novel, The Iron Throne, by Simon Hawke. Having finished it less than an hour ago, I have mixed but generally positive feelings about it.

The Iron Throne is the story of Michael Roele, the last emperor of the Anuirian Empire. It's evenly divided into three parts, the first being the setup and Michael's childhood, the second part being the civil war that Michael fights to retain control of Anuire, and the last part being the machinations that eventually lead him to go to war with the Gorgon. There's apparently a sequel novel, titled War, and based on the strength of this one I might pick it up should I come across a copy, but I'm in no particular hurry to locate one.

I went into this book with a bit of trepidation. Simon Hawke isn't one of my favorite authors; I'd read his Dark Sun "Tribe of One" trilogy (and its sequel, The Broken Blade), and came away thoroughly unimpressed, mostly because I felt that the morally high-handed protagonist was a poor match for the harsh world of Athas. As such, I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the characters in this book. The story centers not on Michael Roele, but on his best friend and high chamberlain Aeden Dosiere. While unexpected, this actually made the novel stronger, as it let us get a feel for the young emperor in a way that humanized him more than I'd expected. Rather than portraying Michael as a Superman-like character, he's instead presented as something of a hothead; his heart is always in the right place, but he's a little more fond of war than Aeden is comfortable with.

The other characters are also fairly easy to relate to, if perhaps a bit too flat in their presentation. We're typically shown what sort of person a character is when they're introduced, and they never deviate from that; while characters can be deceitful and conniving, that's always towards other characters, never to the readers. This isn't as big a strike against the book as I'd have expected, however, because the book's focus on plot, and political and military maneuvering, is a major factor in what happens here, eclipsing the character drama (albeit only barely). In this, the novel does a good job of displaying the political machinations that go along with having high positions. The maneuvering is never complicated, but rather we're shown how the political dimension factors into almost everything that happens, and the book makes these reasons plain and easily-understood.

The largest flaw in The Iron Crown is in how it uses the Birthright setting's chief villain, The Gorgon. That's because it doesn't use him very much at all. The real villains here are Michael Roele's elder sister, Laera, and the Archduke of Boeruine, Arwyn. The latter is the immediate threat, being an ambitious man who plunges the empire into civil war in hopes of attaining the throne. The former is a seductress, determined to avenge her hurt pride over Aeden dumping her when the two had a teenage fling. These are the stories that largely drive the plot.

These two stories also don't fit together very well. The first third of the book does a very good job setting up the second third; the explanation of Aeden's duties to Michael work to lay the foundation for Arwyn Boeruine's ambitions, which erupt into the civil war that the middle of the book deals with. It's the last third of the book that doesn't really fit. The only connection is Laera, whose pettiness and desire to avenge her wounded ego serve as the impetus for the book's final sequence of events. But this feels somewhat minuscule compared to the political backdrop presented in the earlier two-thirds of the book. It would be one thing if Michael's final war, against The Gorgon, was a natural extension of the regional politics at the time, or if The Gorgon had been a motivating force all along. Instead, things come to a head largely because Laera has been nursing a rather petty grudge for years, and almost by accident falls in with The Gorgon to put the final part of the novel into motion.

It's the one major discordant note in what was otherwise a rather pleasant read. There were some other complaints that I had too - the near-total lack of magic, for example (especially clerical magic, which seems to be totally absent here) - and I suspect that were I to closely compare the details of the book to the Birthright Campaign Setting (since this takes place 551 years before the time in the boxed set), I'd find some anachronisms, but those are altogether minor issues, and don't really take away from the story as a story.

Overall, The Iron Throne is an entertaining read, if only a mild one, and does a good job of showcasing one of the most important moments in the campaign world's history. Insofar as D&D novels go, it's one of the better ones.


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I'm interested!


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Duiker wrote:
They actually each have full page write-ups of fluff. It's just that they're scattered throughout Bestiary 5 in an elaborate code embedded in the number of vowels per page.

It would take someone with a beautiful mind to crack that code.


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Kullen wrote:
Alzrius wrote:
It's not "limiting their effectiveness" so much as it's saying "this doesn't happen in a vacuum; what are the consequences?" At least that's how it looks to me.
Kind of like casting create water!

Or making several hundred pages of house rules to try and hard-code the answer to every conceivable problem into the game system.


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Jiggy wrote:

The circumstances of play? Here's the circumstances of play:

• My sorceress flying invisibly over to the hostage and DDoor-ing him to safety under the noses of the baddies, followed next round by my martial allies trying to fight their way past the enemies to get to the other hostages and stepping on the fire traps along the way (the traps I didn't even know were there because I flew over them).
• My brother's cleric saying "Oh, it's gonna take us a couple days to get to the site? The day before we get there, I call up my deity and ask what we're likely to face, then the next day prepare spells that will specifically help with those obstacles." Meanwhile the martials in the party just carry their standard gear.
• The martials in the party saying "Look out, it's a golem! No help from the casters on this one!" Then my wizard conjures an extradimensional pit that it almost can't help but fall into, and the oracle blasts its hapless carcass with (Su) powers that don't care about SR.
• A party member magically peers through the wall and sees a cultist working on the wake-the-BBEG ritual, guarded by some mooks; also sees that the door provides a choke point so that the guards can keep us from disrupting the ritual. So I just DDoor the party right up into the cultist's face and wreck him in the surprise round.
• The forest is nasty and forces Fort saves every X amount of time while we travel in search of survivors, so the druid turns into a gargantuan creature and lets all the slowest people ride on her back, halving the number of Fort saves we all have to make.
• Someone attacks the ooze, and discovers that doing so splashes them with CON drain. My cleric walks up and teleports the ooze to Hell. And then we magically cure the CON drain.

The list goes on. And those are all real stories from actual games.

"The circumstances of play"? That's exactly the thing that casters have a near-monopoly on getting to interact with.

Let's do this Clue-style. Sure it could have happened that way...

But it also could have happened this way...

  • The baddies made their Perception checks to notice your sorceress, since her spellcasting wasn't Silent, and proceeded to shoot her out of the sky with readied actions that several of them had taken. Worse, since she just got one of the hostages out of there, the rest of the baddies realized something was up, and started slaughtering the other hostages. Well done.
  • Your brother's cleric's commune spell only gave yes or no answers, along with the occasional "unclear." While he might have gotten the occasional five-word answer, that really didn't help very much, and his spells ended up being not very useful. Meanwhile, the martials' all-purpose gear worked just fine.
  • Your wizard had already expended his extradimensional pit on the previous encounter, and your oracle only had one use of their supernatural ability left. The golem proceeded to butcher said oracle after getting hit with it.
  • After DD-ing into the room, you can't take any other actions, so your character gets killed during the surprise round by the enemy characters that can still act during it, since they perceived your not-Silent spellcasting through the wall. But nice job getting the rest of the party there.
  • As a Gargantuan creature lumbering through the forest, the druid kicks up enough debris that it creates a cloud that reaches high enough that the characters riding on its back are still subject to Fort saves.
  • Your cleric walks up to the ooze and tries to plane shift it. The ooze makes it save, and your cleric takes CON drain from touching it in addition to having failed, and will likely be the ooze's first target on its turn.

    Those are the circumstances where the casters don't have anywhere near a monopoly on anything. Sure, all of those are situational, but that's sort of the point: everything is situational, and there's nothing about your list versus my list that makes any one of them more or less plausible than the other.


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    So...what is the fan-servicey hand doing?

    Or do I not want to know?


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    Kirth Gersen wrote:
    Well, sure, you can DM-nerf the casters under control, and DM fiat that the martials get to do everything cool, and all is honey-dorey. But in these debates, people are arguing that, "Gee, wouldn't it be nice if the rules themselves led to that kind of game play, instead of the DM having to force it in that direction?"

    That's rather reduction ad absurdum isn't it? There's a big middle ground between "strict adherence to the RAW" and "DM nerfing fiat," which doesn't require the DM having to "force" anything. By that same token, the people who don't see the point of this debate don't care about "the rules themselves" providing a solution, because oftentimes they find a solution to already be present in the part of the game that the rules don't cover: the circumstances of play.


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    Jiggy wrote:
    The biggest element of the C/MD is about how the character gets to interact with the world.

    The kicker here is that "how the character gets to interact with the world" is bigger than what can be enumerated as class features.

    This entire debate is really another take on the whole "Combat as Sport vs. Combat as War" debate regarding how to approach the game.

    If you look at the efficacy of martials versus casters purely in terms of class abilities, then I don't disagree that the former seem horribly limited compared to the latter. But the reason so many people see this as a problem that exists on paper more than in actual game-play is that there are plenty of ways around this particular problem if you don't really care where your character gets his solutions, just so long as he gets them.

    The obvious example of this is the martial who takes Leadership and gets a caster cohort. To the people who care about measuring class abilities first and foremost, this is all the proof they need that martials are irreparably useless compared to casters. E.g. "you see? Your solution to the Disparity is to simply have your martial take a pet caster! You're granting the central premise!"

    To the people who don't care about measuring classes purely in terms of classes, however, that's an irrelevant point. All they care about is that they're playing a fighter, and now said fighter has pretty much as many options on the table as the guy playing the caster does. So for them, the "problem" has been solved.

    Leadership is the most extreme example, but the point stands regarding anything that gives a non-caster greater ability to affect a situation but isn't part of his class build (or is even written on his character sheet). It could be a stack of magic items or having the favor of king of the realm. To some people, non-class abilities are a deflection from the real debate; to others, they demonstrate why the debate is meaningless.


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    Kirth Gersen wrote:
    The fighter and wizard enter the arena. The wizard plane shifts to West Palm Beach and has mojitos.

    Sure, but plane shift has a 5-to-500-mile off-target landing. So the wizard actually plane shifts to Ave Maria and has mosquitoes.


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    thegreenteagamer wrote:

    I dislike classes.

    A lot of the "balance" issues would be solved if you were just given a number of points with which to make a character using abilities from any class.

    I agree completely. I've been using a book that allows for point-buy d20 characters for a while now, and I'm much happier for it.

    Milo v3 wrote:
    What would be the point of calling that game pathfinder?

    The fact that it is still Pathfinder, I suppose.

    The skill list is the same. The combat mechanics are the same. The spell lists are the same. The monsters are the same (though they can be modified as per characters). The equipment list is the same, etc.

    The only difference is that you can make the characters you'd like to have, instead of trying to kludge together something that resembles your idea via various classes, archetypes, feats, prestige classes, and other character-building mechanics. Whether it's The Dark Lord Sauron or Rainbow Dash, you can - notwithstanding level requirements (e.g. having enough points) and the setting's background assumptions - build exactly the kind of character you want, and it's still useable in your Pathfinder game.

    Charon's Little Helper wrote:
    I've yet to see a point-buy system with any amount of crunch without crappy balance.

    If you define "balance" as "restraints on the available choices so that all choices are confined to the same baseline of power/effectiveness/options," then I suppose that's true. But that can't really be helped.

    When you have more choices, then the results of those choices will fall across a wider range of whatever metric you're using to measure them. The way you keep results within a specific area that you want them to fall into is by increasing constraints on those choices. That's a perfectly fair method of game-design, and game-play, but Pathfinder honestly seems to be trying to have its cake and eat it too.

    You don't have to look very far to find plenty of threads here saying that the "balance" in Pathfinder is already borked. "Linear fighters, quadratic wizards," "why are rogues so awful to play?", "multiclass characters suck compared to single-class characters outside of very specific level dips, and the Core classes are useless when compared to the ACG classes," etc. And this continues to compound as we get more and more feats, archetypes, prestige classes, and even base classes as time goes by. If Pathfinder isn't giving us the level of balance that so many people here seem to want, then what are the inherent restrictions of class-levels really giving us?

    Charon's Little Helper wrote:
    In class-based systems you can force people to take weaknesses for the really cool abilities. In point-buy, everyone will just take the 3-4 best ability combos.

    This is the point that bothers me the most; this idea that balance is so necessary, so important, because it's all that's protecting us from our fellow players around the table (or even from our own worst impulses).

    Saying that you need to "force people" to take weaknesses, or that "everyone will just take the best ability combos," comes from a place that says that everyone is trying to "win" the game; that they cannot and will not be able to stop themselves from point-whoring and building the most munchkin characters they possibly can, and that only the RAW can constrain them. Players, in this line of thought, will see a limit and inherently try to push against it, will always make a character that can "win" any challenge or conflict, and aren't expected to have any sense of restraint or empathy with regards to the rest of the group.

    Worse, this idea tends to become self-fulfilling. Once players intuit that the rules exist as built-in checks on their own worst impulses, they tend to let those impulses run wild, confident that the game has implicitly sanctioned them, and will naturally keep them on a leash.

    (This also ignores that the very nature of point-buy is to function as a toolkit. That means that, thanks to the a-la-carte nature of the lists of powers and abilities, it's not only possible but expected that some will be modified or disallowed for a given campaign.)

    The players who want to go hog wild and "win" against anything the GM, or the rest of the party, can throw at them will find a way to do so. Munchkins and optimizers are going to do what they're going to do; they're not made by issues with the rules. They're a mindset that they bring with them when they sit down at the table. If you're looking for balance that can force those kinds of players to play well with others, then few games will manage to live up to that, no matter how much you constrain the available options. One of my favorite examples of this is chess, which on its face is an extremely balanced game, and yet a skilled player will decimate a neophyte player each and every time they play.

    I won't say that balance doesn't have any place in the rules at all, because it does, but there's a large portion of it that's brought to the table by the players, and by the GM. Players that have an interesting concept in mind that they want to try out, and are cognizant of how that impacts everyone else (which doesn't mean capitulating to the other players, nor ignoring them completely), are usually going to be more fun to game with than the optimizers. Yes, Stormwind's Fallacy says they're not mutually exclusive, but having one party member who blazes through everything and makes every other character obsolete tends to not only be no fun for everyone else, but also boring to play.

    On the flipside, it's important to remember that the GM is not a computer, running the campaign in a total vacuum for what the PCs do; it's not wrong to make challenges that are tailored to the party in the form of some monsters, enemies, and NPCs taking proactive countermeasures against the PCs before the PCs ever meet them. That's because the game world tends to be a dynamic place, and the NPCs have information-gathering abilities open to them. As the characters level up, bards will sing of their accomplishments, vanquished foes will be speak with dead'd or simply raised, divinations will be cast, palms will be greased, old allies and family members will be seduced, charmed, or gotten drunk and let slip the PCs' secrets, evil gods will send their servants omens, messages will be sent back from the future, hidden cameras and clairvoyance spells will be used to spy on the party, and about a bajillion other things will happen to tip the bad guys off.

    By that same token, this will NOT happen all of the time. There will be plenty of times when the PCs will be facing enemies that can't be proactive, ranging from unintelligent foes (e.g. mindless creatures) to environmental hazards (e.g. a trap-laden tomb) to foes stuck in a permanent defensive position (e.g. the mummy lord who only stirs when his crypt is violated). And some enemies will just be caught unaware or with inadequate preparations; some of them won't even have heard of the PCs for whatever reason, or will have heard of them but not realize that they're gunning for them. The PCs shouldn't have their greatest strengths minimized and their weaknesses capitalized on at every opportunity; good GMing is knowing how and when to do this, and how and when not to. It's being engaged with where the campaign is going, rather than being an unengaged referee.

    Yes, point-buy characters can be "unbalanced" - they can be unbalanced right from first level - but that really doesn't say anything about the difference between point-buy and class-level characters, since the latter can be unbalanced too. But it says a lot about someone who'd build that kind of character in the first place.


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    There were several instances of that, where there was a general rule that magic and psionics did not interact, but there were multiple instances of specific spells/powers that broke that rule. It was pretty interesting (I think they were all in the CPH, if I recall correctly).

    By the by, does anybody remember Paradigm Concepts' Arcanis setting for 3.X? I bring it up because their Psionics Unbound book was the only instance I've ever seen of a 3.X/Pathfinder campaign having psionic-magic transparency and psionic-magic non-transparency going on at the same time!

    The way they did that was (I haven't read the book in several years, so my memory is fuzzy) there was another "type" of psionics (much like the Shadow Weave in 3.X Forgotten Realms), which was the kind used by the Voiceless Ones (e.g. the stand-in for the illithids), and if you tapped into it, you went from using the default transparency rules to using the non-transparency rules.

    EDIT: And lest we forget, WotC had its own direct translation of the Shadow Weave for psionics as well: subpsionics.


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    Wolfgang Baur wrote:

    Happy to see this line continue, as it is hands-down the best expansion material for the fey seen in Pathfinder.

    And 10 new player races? I'm in!

    Amen to this. The section on the Preternatural Planes alone was worth the price of admission for the first book.


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    Usually, when I pick a new anime to watch, I find something at random. Every so often, however, I'll hear a recommendation from somewhere and decide to follow it. That was the case with Overlord, a thirteen-episode series which I heard about from you guys here on this thread. On a whim, I decided to give it a whirl, even though I didn't really know anything about it except that it seemed popular here.

    ...thank you guys so, so much for that.

    It's been quite some time since I've seen an anime that I liked as much as this one. Simply put, this show was excellent. It's rare for me (since I got streaming services) to watch a show more than once, but in this case I've gone back and watched parts of the show multiple times, just because I enjoyed it so much.

    The premise of Overlord is that, a little over a century or so from now, there's an extremely popular "dive" (e.g. virtual) MMORPG that, after over a decade of popularity, is going off-line. One fellow, melancholy over losing his favorite game, decides to remain logged in until the shutdown...only to find that the world is still there after it happens, and that he's now become a part of it!

    By itself, this may sound like it's no different than other shows that use the "MMORPG pulls players in" idea that underlies shows such as Sword Art Online or Log Horizon. However, there are three important differences that set Overlord apart:

    1) Insofar as the protagonist (who is initially named Momonga, but changes his name to Ainz early on) is aware, he's the only person to have been brought over like this. Moreover, he's become his avatar, which is essentially a lich!

    2) As a guild leader who was in his guild hall when the changeover occurred, he has his entire guild at his disposal. That is, all of the items, NPCs (who are fanatically loyal to him), and other resources that his guild - which among the pre-eminent ones at the time the game was shut down - are at his disposal from the beginning.

    3) Outside of his guild, the world he's been brought into is not the world of the MMORPG. This is a different world, and its inhabitants, magic, and creatures are nowhere near as strong as what Ainz is used to from the original game. This means that he and his subordinates are essentially starting out as demigods from day one.

    This backdrop sets the series, which is essentially the story of Ainz figuring out, not so much why this has happened (let alone do anything about it), but rather how to best approach the circumstances that he's found himself in. It's here that the series showcases its genius.

    The reason Overlord works so well, at least in my opinion, is that it's a power-fantasy that manages to not feel gratuitous. This is actually rather hard to do, but the show adroitly manages to pull it off; rather than have its main character work very hard to eventually acquire great power (that's relegated to the backstory of his having played the MMORPG for years), the story instead has him start out with great power and then use it to work very hard.

    That makes all the difference. Given that Ainz has the power to effortlessly devastate any opposition that this new world can throw at him, you'd think that this would be a fairly boring series. After all, if there's no real challenge, then it's just a show about some guy yawning as he curb-stomps opponent after opponent. But that's not what happens here. Instead, Ainz acts extremely cautiously; even when he picks up that he and his own are far stronger than anyone else, he refuses to take that for granted. This creates a sense that his victories, even when they're inevitable, are very well-earned.

    To put it another way, this is the best kind of power-fantasy: one where the use of power (rather than the ends) is shown to justify its possession.

    It also helps that the show is quite clearly influenced by D&D Third Edition with regards to its magic. Specifically, spells are divided into ten "tiers" (e.g. spell levels 0-9), there are metamagic effects (e.g. spells can be cast as "Maximized" or "Widened"), and there's even "super-tier" magic, which is said to be "more like a skill than a spell" (e.g. epic spellcasting). While I'm not sure that it was meant to be an easter egg per se, I couldn't help but think of it that way. To be clear, the show doesn't limit itself to D&D-style casting - it makes it its own, in terms of having spells and metamagic effects, etc., that are unique to it - but the parallels are too strong to ignore.

    For all of my praise for the series, however, it does have its flaws. The major one being that the pacing in the last major arc of the series isn't able to accommodate the degree of exposition that it needs. This results in several things happening that don't quite make sense at first blush. The major ones that come to mind are:

    Spoiler:
    Near the end of episode ten, the sequence where Shalltear runs across an unknown group of people and becomes mind-controlled goes is never given more than the barest hint of an explanation about who those people she met were and why all of that happened.

    Similarly, near the end of episode twelve, Ainz modifies a Widened wail of the banshee with a special skill of his, "The Goal of All Life is Death." Why he does this, and what that skill does, is never explained.

    To be fair, these things do have explanations, you just have to look beyond the anime to find them.

    What does that mean? Well, for those who don't know, Overlord is based on a series of novels. Some Googling should take you to a website where a translation team has been posting these novels in English, and if you're a fan of the anime then I strongly recommend that you do yourself a favor and go read them; they live up to the axiom of "the movie is good, the book is better." (Not to mention, that translation team has also translated the bonus materials, such as the audio dramas and the manga inserts with the Japanese disc releases.)

    Currently, they've translated nine novels, which are all that have been released in Japan so far. They've announced that they won't be translating subsequent releases, however, due to the series receiving a domestic release in Spring/Summer of 2016, but what's there now is enough to make for some good, long reading (to put it in perspective, the anime covers the events of the first three novels; even if you've watched the show, I recommend reading those again to help get used to their pacing and pick up on some details overlooked in the anime).

    Having said all of that, the anime still holds its own very well. Except for the issue I mentioned before, the series does a very good job of maintaining a level of excitement during its actions scenes, not in spite of knowing that Ainz and his subordinates are going to win, but because of it. They act cautiously enough that we end up rooting for them when they finally cut loose and destroy the opposition. Since the characters never become indulgent or unconcerned with what could happen, their successes still feel deserved.

    Overall, Overlord was a great deal of fun, and I absolutely recommend it to anyone who thinks they may be even remotely interested in it.


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    Irontruth wrote:
    Did I say it's the RPG books job was to raise awareness? I don't think I did. Let me check. Nope, I didn't say that.

    Did I say that you said that? Because I don't think I did. Let me check. Nope, I didn't say you said that.

    I'm the one saying that it's not the job of an RPG book to raise awareness of a particular issue, because it's not. I said that because it's a salient point, not as some sort of direct rebuttal.

    Quote:
    Were you quoting me and directing the comment to someone else? That seems to happen a lot.

    Not nearly as often as your weird presumption that responses to you themselves attributable to you. That's just bizarre.


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    Irontruth wrote:

    That said, I think having this conversation is good, if for no other reason than someone who has been hurt by the inclusion of those rules can feel more comfortable to speak up and say so. I think it's a great opportunity for us a community to say "Hey, it's okay to speak up for yourself if you want".

    I'd rather do that than clutch our CRB tightly and yell at them "GET AWAY!"

    I agree that it's good for people to be able to converse about the things they like and don't like.

    What's not good is when people who don't like some bit of fiction posit that its inclusion has caused them harm. Or rather, the idea (whether made by implication or overtly stated) that whatever harm they've suffered is the fault - intentional or not - of those who produced said content, and that their having done so was immoral, with the only remedy being an immediate apology and cleansing of the offending material so that it meets the approval of the wounded party.

    For that matter, it's not good to presume that anyone who disagrees with that course of events is necessarily immoral, and that such people can only be motivated by, at best, ignorance, if not outright fear and malice.

    The reason this isn't good is that it flies in the face of the very inclusivity that is ostensibly being fostered, wherein those who don't live up to the standards of those who claim harm are shunned as individuals displaying gross moral turpitude, which means that it becomes acceptable to dismiss them from a given community.

    Gate-keeping in the name of righteousness is still gate-keeping, and saying "we want more people in our hobby" comes off as hypocritical at best when it's followed by the statement - even if it's unspoken - of "so long as they're the right kind of people."

    By contrast, saying that you "wouldn't want people who believe X to be a part of the hobby anyway" means that you actually are clutching your CRB and yelling "GET AWAY!" at them.


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    So I'm watching Dog Days at the moment, and I'm not at all sure what to think about it. (This is a mild rant more than a review.)

    The show's rampant optimism, which it refuses to characterize as naïve, seems more suited to a slice-of-life show than any sort of action/adventure series. Literally, nobody in the show is operating from a place of bad faith; everyone is not only idealistic, but seems to agree on exactly what those ideals are - the only opposition comes from people who either don't have all the facts, or are misunderstanding them.

    Because of that, I'm not sure how to take the whole "war is a fun-filled sports festival" premise that undergirds the show. The visuals are fun and pretty enough, I suppose, but there's absolutely no sense of tension at all when the combatants are all good-naturedly laughing and having fun, even when they're unleashing huge blasts of energy on crowded battlefields.

    The only explanation I can come up with is that this is a series that's about its characters, rather than a particular plot, but even that doesn't seem to hold up. The cast is just large enough that none of the characters seem to get very much screen time, and there's almost no personal development to be found.

    All of this leads in to the biggest question mark about the series: it has a playful, almost innocent tenor to it, to the point where I would be tempted to wonder if it was intended for children...and then we get the fan-service. Naked girls turn up with surprising regularity over the course of the show, mostly due to "battle damage disintegrates clothes" (alongside a few helpings of "walking in on them in the bath by accident").

    Even with this, I can't figure out what the show is trying to accomplish. The fan-service isn't particularly salacious (it never gets to the point of needing censoring)...except then we see Rebecca's magical girl transformation at the beginning of the second cour, which is shockingly erotic. Fan-service, by its very nature, is supposed to be a bonus with no real impact on the larger plot, but the clash in tenor here makes it slightly awkward.

    I'm only three episodes into the second cour, so the show has plenty of time to figure out what it's trying to do...but I'd be surprised if it did. Ultimately, Dog Days feels like an anime with no real point to it. It's a bunch of young teenagers who get together, enjoy what amounts to competitive sports without any applicable life lesson or personal growth, with cute girls losing their clothes every so often. Even when there's a hint of real adventure, it feels perfunctory, with everything happening exactly as you'd expect it to.

    Anyway, just my off-the-cuff impressions.


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    Does anyone else find themselves humming "ah-wemic-way" as the background in The Lion Sleeps Tonight sometimes?


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    So this week's episode of Utawarerumono: The False Faces should lay to rest any questions of whether or not the series is a sequel or a reboot (it's the former).

    Seeing some of the old cast again was great, and it was enough to make me wonder if

    Spoiler:
    Kuon was the child that Hakuoro had with Yuzuha...at least until I remembered that that subplot from the game was removed from the anime as a consequence of excising all of the game's ecchi material
    ...hence why that idea is obviously not the case.

    Still, I hope that the show plays up its connection to its past, rather than trying to string it out over the length of the series. When the cast members remain ignorant of stuff that we, the audience, have already put together quite a while ago, it tends to weigh a show down as we wait for them to play catch-up.


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    Knights of Sidonia was, to my mind, one of those anime that gets better the more time you invest in it. I thought I had the series pegged after a few episodes, but I was wrong.


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    Imbicatus wrote:
    Arcane Trickster and Mystic Theurge are both horrible.

    Mystic Theurge, Arcane Trickster, Eldritch Knight, et al were among those prestige classes that existed purely for the sake of trying to patch the worst holes among multi-classing, so that some of the most obvious multi-class combinations (e.g. an arcane spellcaster and something else) could be at least somewhat viable.


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    I mentioned before that I had a brief bout where I was completely misjudging anime series based on their descriptions or initial presentation. One of those series was When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace (Inō-Batoru wa Nichijō-kei no Naka de), a twelve-episode series that I came across on Crunchyroll.

    The series overview stated that it was about a group of high school students who suddenly gain super powers, only to find that there was no obvious venue in which to use them: no mystic war to fight, no supervillains to battle, etc. Reading that made me think that this would be a sort of post-modern take on super powers as an idea; that this would be a deconstruction of what it meant to have greater abilities than ordinary people while trying to live an ordinary life.

    ...as I said before, I was completely and utterly wrong.

    In fact, When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace is a comedy series, and while it hints at having dramatic moments from time to time, they're never enough to call this a "comedy-drama." In fact, if I had to put a finer definition on this, I'd call it a romantic comedy, though even that's being slightly too generous in trying to classify the level of humor we see here.

    Before I go any further, I need to take a moment to define a particular term: chuunibyou. For those who don't know, chuunibyou (which literally means "middle-second sickness" (e.g. second year of middle school, which is usually eighth grade) though it's usually translated as "middle school syndrome" or even "teenage delusions") is a term for a social phenomenon wherein someone in their early teenage years will act in a very obtrusive manner, typically by presenting themselves as being involved in circumstances that are (usually obviously) fictitious.

    That is to say, a teenager with chuunibyou will act like they're part of something "special" in a way that commands the attention of those nearby. That kid who says that he's a vampire (who just happens to be immune to sunlight...and everything else)? He's got chuunibyou. The guy who comes in wearing bandages all the time and talks about how it's from his having demolished an entire street gang on his own that morning? He's got chuunibyou. The most famous example, though, are when someone acts like they're involved in some sort of supernatural circumstances, usually in an extremely melodramatic manner.

    I bring this up because chuunibyou is a central aspect of what's going on in When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace. Or rather, it's a central aspect of the show's central character.

    The show revolves around the five members of their school's Literature Club, those being four girls - Tomoyo, Chifuyu, Hatoko, and Sayumi - and the sole male member, Jurai (though that's what the subtitles call him, the "commercial break" screen sometimes Romanizes his name as "July," rather oddly).

    The story starts when, just as the description said, the five of them gain super powers from out of nowhere. And these are not minor powers. Tomoyo can manipulate the flow of time. Sayumi can restore anything to its original state (which she typically uses for repairs and healing). Chifuyu can create matter and space - any matter or space - with a thought. Hatoko can manipulate air, earth, water, fire, and light in any combination. And Jurai...can make his right hand manifest a heat-less, black flame (which can't ignite anything else or cause any damage; it's purely cosmetic).

    The setup here is that Jurai is heavily stricken with chuunibyou, and so takes to these powers - even his own useless power - like a duck to water. While the other club members have better abilities than he does, he's far and away more adapt at figuring out how and when to use them, both in terms of accepting that such powers are a part of them now, and with regard their use in their everyday lives.

    It's this premise that makes up most of what When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace is about, which is (as mentioned before) a quasi-romantic comedy as Jurai over-dramatically helps the girls in the Literature Club through whatever problems they're having. His good-natured bumbling, which invariably turns out to be the correct way of handling whatever situation he's faced with, also invariably wins the girls over one at a time, so that by the end of the show they're all quietly admitting that they've fallen for him, lending harem atmosphere to the series.

    Personally, I can relate to what the show is trying to do (or at least what I think it's trying to do), which is defy expectations by presenting the setup for a mystical adventure and then doggedly remaining comedy slice-of-life. I'm just not sure how well it works. The individual episodes are funny enough, but there's a lingering sense that there's quite clearly more going on with this, and that the main characters are being almost willfully ignorant by not taking their situation more seriously. This creates - for me - a sense of expectation that erodes what would otherwise have been a laid-back comedy.

    Having said all of that, it's a delightful irony when - two-thirds of the way through the show - we find out that

    Spoiler:
    there is a reason why they suddenly got these powers, and that it's set against a larger backdrop. It's just that, through a combination of luck and manipulation, they're all completely in the dark about it, allowing them to go about their lives in blissfully ignorant of the bigger picture. That the show is about a group of people who should, by all rights, be minor characters in somebody else's epic is the real twist here.

    Overall, When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace is a moderately funny show whose hook is deliberately not taking its premise in the way you'd expect it to. But subverting expectations alone isn't enough, and doesn't seem like quite enough to keep the resulting story interesting. Other than its examination - if not celebration - of chuunibyou, there just isn't that much here. When you're using something so big to prop up a tale that's so (comparatively) small, there needs to be something more than the caught-off-guard-humor from the resulting absurdity.


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    Isonaroc wrote:
    This especially. There are lots of (honestly overpowered) reality changing spells that I absolutely love, but think that being able to be cast by one dude with a standard action are ridiculous. We need more long rituals requiring multiple spell casters, and we also need more spells that @&$# up the people who cast them. Simulacrum would be (slightly) less ridiculous if you had to burn your constitution (and not allow it to be healed by conventional magic) or something to cast it. Spell casters should still be able to do epic crazy world altering stuff (because, let's face it, that stuff is awesome), but it should be much more difficult and taxing.

    It's almost like these spells should have casting times longer than just a standard action, have components that are difficult to find and/or be cumbersome to use, be so difficult to maintain that any disruption causes you to lose the spell automatically, and require the caster to burn off something like experience points or years of their life in order to cast them.

    ...Nah. Who'd ever play a game where that was required?

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