D&D Solar System Syncretism V: Second Pass

We’re taking a second pass on our solar system syncretism. Now that we’ve assigned planes to as many planets and moons as possible, it’s time to look at what’s left over and if we can fix it by adding any extra moons and planets. We’ve actually managed to assign most of the settings (except ones like Dragonstar, which were cut for being way too big to fit inside one solar system, and Stargate SG-1, which were cut for having nothing to do with D&D’s fantasy millieu to the point where it’s baffling they used D&D mechanics to make the tabletop RPG in the first place), and we’re also just about out of real estate, so we’ve really only got a few important considerations to make here in the second pass:

  1. We weren’t able to find room for Wheel of Time, Rokugan, Pathfinder, or Forgotten Realms. Those latter two are being held in reserve because one of them would make a good Earth, but we still need to figure out which one’s gonna get it and what to do with the other.
  2. We have no room at all left for new Magic: the Gathering planes. We’ve managed to get this far by sticking fairly close to analogies for the real world solar system which allows people to import their knowledge of real world science. If you know how many significantly large moons Saturn has in the real world, you automatically know how many significantly large moons Saturn has in the D&D solar system, which means you don’t have to memorize a new fact. Bonus points: If you memorize how many significantly large moons Saturn has in the D&D solar system, you have also memorized a real fact about actual science. The problem is, Magic is going to add new planes. If they don’t happen to fit onto an existing planet or moon that doesn’t already contain another Magic plane, we have nowhere in the system to put them. We can solve this by adding extra moons to Saturn, Neptune, or Uranus and thus intentionally break the consistency with the real world, and we can also keep the consistency with the real world and just hope that all of Magic’s new planes can be fit onto existing moons or planets. It’s also worth noting that Uranus and Neptune could either or both be used as ocean planets to host mostly-water settings like Theros, Ixalan, or the Council of Wyrms, freeing up some moons. The problem is, a major theme of the setting so far is that the moons of a gas (and water) giants have lots of interaction with moons of the same giant. We have to free up either all of a planet’s moons or none of them, because if only some of them are freed up, those blank moons can’t interact with the others.
  3. Krynn is in Pluto’s position. It has a cool thing where being past the reach of the gods explains why the Dragonlance gods keep falling in and out of contact with the plane, but the problem is that Krynn is not especially cold, and people expect Pluto to be cold. I think we can get away with the moons of Jupiter being temperate because, despite being quite a bit further from the sun than Earth, people don’t expect Jupiter to be cold. They do expect Pluto to be cold. Dragonlance, and especially other settings in the far system like Middle-Earth and Game of Thrones, really don’t want to be directly plugged into the greater solar community, though. Partly because having those settings included represents a level of gonzo that some people otherwise interested in the solar system syncretism will want to ignore, and partly because they’ll be changed unrecognizably by prolonged contact with the solar community, so the only way to meaningfully include settings like Middle-Earth is if players get to see the change as it happens.
  4. Mercury is still blank.

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Yule Update: Red Taped

I had hoped to post an update on how Petals and Thorns did in its initial release on Roll20, but instead I am writing about why it has not yet been released on Roll20. Except the answer to that is “I don’t know,” so this is gonna be a short post. The adventure was finished back on Thanksgiving, and since then it’s been tons of database forms, and cropping my cover to fit a very specific format, and tax forms, and then…weird radio silence? So far as I know, everything’s good for my adventure, but a week and a half later, it’s still not in the marketplace, and I’m not getting answers to my emails as to what’s gone wrong. I don’t expect this blog post to affect the situation or anything – I’d just planned to write about how the adventure was doing and don’t know what else to write about except my confusion as to why it’s still caught in red tape.

The Kartoss Gambit: Reversal

Chapter 4

The chapter opens with Danny examining his quest log and deciding that his first priority should be the treasure hunt quest. By that I mean his first priority as a quest. He’s still got other town business to attend to, including a visit to the local mage. There’s a puzzle door you can try and enter through to get a discount from the mage, although the price actually goes up if you’re unable to answer enough questions in the time limit. Danny goes for the puzzle door, answers some math riddles (example: “We have a ten-digit natural number. We know that its leftmost digit is exactly equal to the number of zeroes in the number written out, the digit following it is equal to the number of ones and so on until the rightmost number, which is equal to the number of nines”), and gets a discount of two. He buys a few teleportation scrolls for Farstead and Beatwick and a scroll of “bone trap” that works on level 100 creatures to try and capture the werewolf.

He next goes to a jeweler, is asked what specialization he would like, and picks gemstone cutting on pure intuition, despite the fact that rings have been his bread and butter since he started this character. He makes the decision on “pure intuition,” because that is how shamans do, apparently.

The next trainer Danny hunts down is the mining trainer.

The Mining trainer was an almost square-shaped dwarf, who taught me the Hardiness specialization for three hundred gold. He even presented me with a patch for my cloak: ‘Swinger’. No stat bonuses, just Attractiveness increased by 1.

Does the “swinger” pun translate to Russian, or is this just a minor title for reaching high (ish) level in a crafting profession that happens to be a pun when translated to English?

Danny doesn’t have any prison buddies to take care of blacksmithing for him anymore, so he decides to learn that profession for himself. The bonus from his crafting stat makes him reasonably likely to find even incredibly precious gems if he gets his level high enough and starts smelting weird magical metals like phantom iron, something which is completely unknown on the forums and in the manual. Danny suspects that manual managers were bribed to scrub any mention of it. The amount of information blackout that goes on in Barliona is really weird considering a playerbase that is presumably at least tens of millions strong (it’s the Illuminati global government’s psuedo-state sponsored entertainment and all). If crafting is so rare that only .01% of players ever discover it, that’s still thousands of players, and apparently none of them have made a forum post or updated the wiki (unless the bribes passed around to keep this under wraps included an extensive coverup, one thorough enough to thwart the Streisand Effect).

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D&D Solar System Syncretism IV: The Far System

We’ve discussed the inner planets of our syncretic solar system, and although Mercury and Earth aren’t getting filled in on our first pass, Eberron and Hyboria form the two pillars of the inner system’s trade routes alongside the Asteroid Belt, which contains innumerable city- and town-size asteroids which support dwarven citadels, giff mercenaries, neogi slavers, and all manner of other principally space-faring creatures pulled in from Spelljammer. We’ve discussed the outer gas giants, more self-contained as they’re further apart from one another and the inner system, especially the remote Uranus and Neptune, for whom regular trade to other planets is unknown, replaced instead by sporadic visitors who usually come for a specific purpose. Now we discuss the limits of the solar system, and dwarf planets that lie beyond them.

First, let’s talk about the Kuiper Belt. The Kuiper Belt is a collection of asteroids and dwarf planets that starts at around Neptunian orbit at about 30 astronomical units from the sun and goes to about 50 AU. That is, the Kuiper Belt alone is nearly as far across as the entire rest of the solar system. It contains at least twenty times as much total material between its asteroids as the Asteroid Belt, although it’s hard to say for certain because we haven’t catalogued all of its objects. We do have a rough estimate of how much mass is out in the Kuiper Belt total, and it’s not nearly enough. There is not enough stuff out in the Kuiper Belt for the dwarf planets there to possibly have formed, given how far from the sun they are and thus how big their orbits are.

We’re giving this scientific mystery the obvious answer: Literal angels and demons used the vast majority of the Kuiper Belt’s asteroids as raw materials to create an unconscionably large ringworld at the limits of the solar system. Presumably, in our real solar system, this ringworld was subsequently dismantled or destroyed and its debris either ejected from the solar system completely or launched into the sun. In the D&D solar system we’re making, however, the ringworld is still there, at the limits of the system, just past Neptune’s orbit. Its circumference is 8 billion miles, which means even at just 100 miles across – a little longer than Hadrian’s Wall across the north bit of England near the Scottish border – it is nearly a trillion square miles. It has the surface area of five thousand Earths. Each individual godly plane described in every D&D and D&D spin-off product ever made could have an entire Earth surface area and the ringworld would still have room to spare.

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The Kartoss Gambit: Questapalooza

For those who are reading these as they come out, yes, this one is late. I didn’t want to do another exhausted post at 2 AM right before going to sleep so I decided I’d just push this one back a few hours and write it in the afternoon when I can more easily focus.

Chapter 2 (cont.)

Danny is able to lure goblins out two at a time, where they’re few enough in number to be easy prey for wolf ambush. Inside are regular, non-dark goblins being used as slave labor, plus a dark goblin warrior and the leader of the outpost. That first one goes down so quick we don’t even really see the fight, Danny just informs us that he quickly kited the enemy to death:

Level thirty. A close combat fighter, being a warrior and all, was running towards me, waving his yatagan around. Think again, wise guy! I can run too. However, unlike an archer, I can summon Spirits as well. The wolves again froze like statues, reluctant to be the first to join the fight. I can live with that – I’ll down this one myself and they can look out for the boss joining the fray. Usually one of those comes part and parcel with a long and hard fight.

I brought down the warrior quite quickly: ten Lightning Spirits and I was done.

That’s not a representative sample of the fight. That is the entire fight. Also, I’ll save you a Google, here’s a yatagan:


After killing the warrior, Danny enters the tent and finds that the boss goblin isn’t, like, a video game boss monster, he’s just a greedy schmuck who’s in charge of the operation. You might think the guy put in charge of a secret mining operation on the other side of enemy territory would be some kind of commando stealth specialist, but he seems like he’s basically just the Govertoad with green skin and a much worse grasp of English. Or Russian. Whichever language you’re reading the book in. I picked this part to stop last time because I figured we were about to go into a boss fight, but apparently the crossdressing seduction wasn’t the build-up to the big climax, it was the bulk of the fighting.

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D&D Solar System Syncretism III: Outer Planets

As it stands, we have the sun encompassing the elemental chaos with Sigil located above, a trade metropolis in the center of the solar system and just high enough above the orbital plane that you can sail directly to your destinations from there, never having to sail around a planet as their orbits will always take them below your path, not into it, until you reach your destination. In place of Mercury we have a “this space for rent” sign, and in place of Venus we have a slightly more poisonous version of Eberron, which is also home to Immoren, the setting of Iron Kingdoms (and by extension, WarmaHordes) Highpoint, the setting of MechDragon, and Kaladesh, the magepunk MtG plane. It’s a world recently hit by its own moon and which is almost entirely consumed by war, except for the continent of Khorvaire, which recently emerged from war and wants nothing to do with that any longer. Thus, naturally, people stopping over tend to come to Khorvaire. We’ve skipped over Terra for now, on account of that being hyper-valuable real estate that we’ll parcel out at the end, while giving Luna over to the Feywild for the light side and the Shadowfell for the dark side. Hyboria and the Young Kingdoms got their origin stories mushed together and deposited on Mars, and that was the end of the inner solar system. Today, we’re going to push further outwards to the gas giants and water worlds of the outer solar system.

First up, we have Jupiter. At some point, we’ll have to rename this to something other than just “Jupiter” and we can’t do that by stealing an existing setting name because Jupiter has no surface and is home to no settings. For now, we’re just going to keep calling it Jupiter. What we’re really here for are the moons: Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa. All of them are bigger than Pluto and Ganymede is bigger than Mercury. We can add additional moons if necessary because, unlike the order of planets, the number of decently large moons Jupiter has is not super common knowledge (although nerdy types do fairly regularly know about these big four, both because Galileo discovered them and because they’re relatively good candidates for colonization in the next few centuries), but in this phase we’re just going to plonk down what settings we have onto the moons available and see how many are still homeless when we reach the end of the solar system.

Jupiter has two moons that are all at interesting and two more that are super boring. Ganymede is the moon with subsurface oceans (although it’s not the moon that might have marine life on it – that’s Saturn’s moon Titan), and Io is the moon that’s a volcanic hellscape. Callisto and Europa are basically just moons. Callisto does have some ice on it as well as a stupendous number of craters, and Europa technically has an extremely thin atmosphere of oxygen, but so far as providing interesting terrain goes, they are both basically just the moon in slightly different colors. This means we are throwing the details out completely. The only thing we are retaining from real science is that Jupiter has four moons (and even that is subject to change further down the line) and they range in size from “about the size of Asia” to “twice as big as Asia,” but bear in mind that Asia is by definition purely land (and small inland bodies of water), whereas any temperate D&D setting we seek to offload onto one of these moons will be at least 60% water, so in practice these moons go from “about the size of Asia” on Ganymede’s end to “about the size of Europe” on Europa’s (I doubt “this would have about the same landmass as Europe if it happened to have the same land:water ratio as Earth” was the reason for naming the moon Europa). Still enough room to locate a single-continent setting – or more than one, if they for some reason do not have oceans.

In addition to sheer space, there’s theming. A lot of our worlds have some overlap, and I don’t want Jupiter to be “the ghost planet” whose moons are all slight variations on gothic horror (i.e. Innistrad, Ravenloft, Diablo, etc. etc.). These moons form a community but are entirely different celestial bodies, so just like the terrestrial planets, I want each one to be noticeably different from the others. Unlike Hyboria and Eberron, where we stitched together settings with similar premises (swords and sorcery with ancient precursor people and magepunk, respectively), here on Jupiter we’re situating different settings near to one another to create little planetary neighborhoods with some decent variety to them. Since the gas giants of Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus all have a significant number of sizable moons (though often they’re barely able to hold a single small continent once water is accounted for), each one can serve as a mini-solar system unto itself. Birthright and Greyhawk have a fair amount of overlap, but if Golarion is neighbors with Innistrad while Oerth is neighbors with Ravnica, that does a lot to help distinguish them.

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The Kartoss Gambit: Crossdressing to Victory

Chapter 2

Danny’s coming back to his house from the graveyard and is intercepted by his landlady.

“When did you manage to get out?” asked Elizabeth as soon as I stepped into the courtyard. “I thought you were having a lie-in until noon, but it looks like you’re quite an early bird.”

“I thought I’d take a walk,” I said, side-stepping the question, reluctant to bring up the monster. “I decided not to wake anyone, climbed over the fence and went to check out the local surroundings.”

“I thought I’d take a walk” is indeed side-stepping the question – telling her why you left instead of how – but then you answer the question anyway, so why bother with the side-step?

Danny has some kind of Shaman(?) power that lets him talk to dogs, and he uses it on Elizabeth’s guard dog Tiny Tim. This gives him the stunning insight that level 70 werewolves are more dangerous than guard dogs. It’s actually a pretty cool scene (though too long to copy/paste here) and a perfectly good way to establish how the power works, but he gets a little pop-up and everything that tells him that what he’s learned is that the monster “terrifies even the largest and most vicious dogs.” Thanks for the tip, Barliona, does it also frighten hamsters and small children?

After interviewing the dog (Clouter sees the dog terrified by the thought of the werewolf and gets after Danny for scaring the pooch, which may or may not be relevant later), Danny turns to the obvious source of information: The wiki and forums. Naturally, it wouldn’t be much of a story if the solution to the entire quest line was already catalogued, but Danny does discover that the quest isn’t tied specifically to the village of Beatwick, but is rather a “variable quest.” So far as I can tell, what that means is that it doesn’t always start in Beatwick, but instead can spawn anywhere. A forum search reveals that the monster is a “Vagren” and is level 100, even higher than Danny’s initial estimate based on its damage output (which he did say was a minimum).

Continue reading “The Kartoss Gambit: Crossdressing to Victory”

The Kartoss Gambit: World’s Most Obvious Werewolf

I’ve had some other books recommended that I am at least 60% certain I’ll like, but I’m returning to Way of the Shaman, mainly because I don’t really have the kind of time to dedicate to the “tracking down what to read next” portion of this that I did back before my business started taking off. So we’re reading Way of the Shaman book 2, the Kartoss Gambit. The book doesn’t bother with a recap, so neither will I, but here’s a link to the table of contents for the last one if you forgot/missed it.

Chapter 1

I boldly stepped into the portal and prepared myself for long struggle with the Governor.

“I boldly did what I was told by an authority figure whom I dislike but am subject to.” I think I’ve got a different translation this time around, which may or may not be better than the last, but either way it is a translation and I wonder if the word used for “boldly” in the original Russian means something slightly different. It feels less like Danny’s channeling the ambition of boldness and more like he’s bracing himself to run a gauntlet.

I’m nitpicking a single word choice, though, and while normally I’d feel justified in picking nits on the opening line (this is the opening line, by the way), this is book two and was first released in 2015 (I think? That may be the publication date of the translation I’m reading, not the book itself), well into the rise of the online book market. I’m pretty confident that the overwhelming majority of people who read this line will have already read the first book, and if they got this far, they aren’t putting the book down because of one word out of place.

After a few paragraphs of Danny ruminating on how this is going to suck but he’ll get through it, dammit, and keep his special chess pieces no matter what the governor tries to pull, he gets a pop-up:

To the player located in a prisoner capsule!

The one.

You have earned ‘Respect’ with the Pryke Mine guards and are being transferred to the main gameworld.

You have the option of taking part in the adaptation scenario: ‘The Governor’s Castle’. Time to be spent at the location ‘The Governor’s Castle’: 2 months 26 days. Role taken: ‘Castle craftsman’. Conditions: eight hour work day, a weekly salary, the results of the daily labor go to the Serrest province; every seventh day is a holiday, development of crafting professions (up to level 30 inclusive) – at the expense of the Governor. Reward for taking part in the adaptation scenario: Respect with the Serrest Province, two items of the ‘Rare’ class.

Should you decline, you will be sent to a random settlement in the Malabar Empire and your reputation with the Serrest Province will fall to the level of ‘Hatred’. Do you wish to take part in the adaptation scenario ‘The Governor’s Castle’?

So apparently Danny can actually just tell the Governor to pound sand. He starts weighing the pros and cons of accepting the “adaptation scenario,” a weird bit of jargon which I can’t tell whether it’s something introduced in book one but translated differently or if that’s a brand new term. This translation has been much less 1:1 so far, which is good, but it might be a bit before I stop wondering about the seam.

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D&D Solar System Syncretism II: Inner Planets

We have our raw materials all sorted, so now we start with one end of the map (I’m going with the sun) and fill in everything that’s easy and obvious. Once the obvious stuff is filled in, we can see how much we have room for left over to try and save stuff from the chopping block.

We’re going to start with the sun. And the sun is the elemental chaos. Or maybe it’s not so chaotic anymore. What’s important is that the gods use this place as a reserve of raw materials with which to create the universe (or maybe one god – I’m actually importing this idea from another setting I made with one of my brothers, where it was just the one god who did the creation, but for the sake of syncretism I’m assuming no master creator deities and instead more of an Order of the Stick approach, where lots of different pantheons had to work together to make worlds). It is surrounded by a blindingly bright wall of pure radiant energy, not fire, and past that barrier are the standard earth, fire, air, and water planes as depicted by the 5e DMG (which is only a minor update on how they were depicted in most earlier editions).

Above the sun is the city of Sigil. It’s a torus, but the city is on the inside of the torus, so when you look up from Sigil, you see more Sigil above you. The exterior of Sigil is far too hot to sustain life, constantly bombarded by the heat and pure energy of that radiant shield encircling the elemental planes. It is, however, full of astral docks. The sun, you see, is goddamn enormous, which means that if you’re at the top of it, you are actually quite high above the orbital plane. From that perch, it is easy to see the rest of the solar system (if you have good telescopes – Sigil does) and plot a course to any orbit. Sometimes it’s easy to go from one planet straight to another because they happen to be at a similar point in their orbits, but other times the two are on opposite sides of the sun – and that means regardless of where your journey starts or ends, half the time it’s somewhere between a slight detour to right along the way to stop at Sigil.

Underneath Sigil is the spire that leads up to it. It is not infinitely tall – we’re going to make a lot of things previously called “infinite” merely “unimaginably large” – but it does reach from the center of the sun up to far above its surface where Sigil lies. In the center of that spire is a space elevator leading from Sigil down to the Outlands, which you might more properly call the Inlands, since they are the center of everything. The center of the elemental chaos, connected by teleportation gate to each of the outer planes, and directly below Sigil, the trade center of the solar system.

Next up, Mercury. As mentioned earlier, there is a bizarre paucity of volcano planets for us to use for not!Mercury. Mercury could also be used as a desert planet, but we’ve already got one of those in Mars, whose dusty red landscape is better known to the public than any other planet but Earth’s. Having a pale blue dot that’s all temperate and normal with a desert planet just beyond is the bare minimum for allowing people to import knowledge of our solar system to understand the super-setting faster (and I really don’t want to demand people learn a whole new solar system from scratch – if I can keep the number of sizable moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn the same, I’d like to, even though most people don’t have the first idea how many large-ish moons Saturn has).

Complicating matters, the one volcanic world we do have is Phyrexia, which needs to be in close proximity to its targets of invasion in Mirrodin and Dominaria, which means it needs to be a moon orbiting a gas giant so that those two planes are also moons, thus explaining why Phyrexians have targeted those two. If Phyrexia is Mercury while Mirrodin and Dominaria are orbiting Saturn, it’s super weird that Phyrexia skipped over the entire inner solar system on their way to invade not one, but two worlds. It works much better if they’re all in the same planetary neighborhood.

I’ll get to the outer planes from planescape later on, but suffice to say that I wanted them all in one place and have what I think is a pretty cool idea for them, so I don’t want to use Mercury as the Lower Planes planet with Baator and the Abyss and so on (although it’s not a completely unworkable idea – if you consider the sun’s gravity well to be the “bottom” of the solar system, Mercury is the lowest reach of the system except for the sun itself, though this is complicated somewhat with this “sun is an elemental supply depot” concept). As a side note, I also don’t want to combine Phyrexia with Baator over on Io. There’s definitely some overlap between the two, with Phyrexia even being referred to as “the Nine Hells,” but scratch the surface and Phyrexia’s got a lot of differences. They could definitely be stitched together if we didn’t have enough real estate for both of them, but again: Bizarre lack of volcano worlds leaves almost nothing to put in the Mercury slot.

I’d like to give each of the four inner planets a noticeably different climate, though – no doubling up on desert worlds, especially since Amunkhet and Dark Sun are the only desert settings to go around and neither comes close to filling up Mars by themselves. so I’m leaving Mercury blank for now. It’s a problem I’ll have to come back to and solve in the second pass. It may end up being an uninhabitable wasteland or the blasted remains of a setting I dislike. Fans of whatever setting ends up melted probably won’t approve, but if I end up going that route it’ll be using a setting I had no room for anyway, so they weren’t going to be happy to begin with.

Next, Venus. There are two routes to go with this one: Venus as tropical world on the basis that it’s closer to the sun than Earth but further than Mercury and also is colored green in the sky, and Venus as smoggy world on the basis that it’s a burning toxic hellscape in real life because the actual solar system is just no fun. We’re going with smoggy world, because giving Venus three settings is a good use of real estate, and we only have two mutually exclusive options for a tropical world: Ixalan and (sort of) Zendikar, which are separate Magic: the Gathering planes and therefore should be located on separate worlds if possible, since it’s explicitly only possible to reach one from the other with magic superpowers. Using just one (underdeveloped!) MtG world is a waste of Venus, which is nearly as big as Earth and can perfectly well host multiple different small-ish settings. Eberron, Kaladesh, the Iron Kingdoms, and DragonMech are located on Venus, which we’re calling “Eberron” as a world name. DragonMech is puny, having significant landmarks so few in number that they come across as barely the size of France, and Kaladesh is barely more than a city-state, with its major landmarks being limited to the city of Ghirapur and a handful of villages located in the prerequisite mountains, plains, swamps, forests, and islands nearby. The Iron Kingdoms can fit into a single continent, and while Eberron nominally has several continents, it doesn’t really need them to be Asia-size continents – Australia size is more than enough for many of them.

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Sew You Want To Be A Hero Is Worse Than Stuff And Nonsense Except When It’s Better

Part 1: Threadbare Returns
Part 2: The Novelization Of A Dungeon Crawl Is Still Boring
Part 3: Halloween Wars
Part 4: Undead
Part 5: Spooktacular Free-For-All
Part 6: Dark Side
Part 7: Power Gaming
Part 8: It’s Not Ogre Yet
Part 9: Dark Side Boogaloo
Part 10: Magic Tea Party
Part 11: Threadbare Really Needs To Stop Trying To Criticize Racism
Part 12: The Final Battle Begins
Part 13: Finale

I can only assume that Threadbare author Andrew Seiple either isn’t hearing criticism of his attempts at anti-racist themes or else he just doesn’t care, but Very Special Chapters about racism have destroyed both of his books that I’ve read so far. The second book of the trilogy, Sew You Want To Be A Hero, was overall an improvement on the first, but the flaw that most crippled the first book has, if anything, gotten worse. Sew You Want To Be A Hero tends to focus more on fights with large parties which allows them to bounce back and forth between multiple perspectives based on whoever’s doing something interesting, and thus is far less prone to retreating into detached narration of the fight, which is good, because when Threadbare actually describes its fights, they tend to be really good.

This book is also far less enamored of the big reveal, especially as time goes on. What big reveal moments it does have tend to be resolved within a few pages rather than, as with Anise Layd’i’s identity in Stuff and Nonsense, the entire book, and by the end the book is relying much more on the question what’s going to happen next rather than what’s going on right now. People who’ve been reading these posts as they come out are probably getting sick of hearing that, but I’m gonna drop the one reference in here anyway, because it’s an important note to make for people who’re only reading the summaries.

And on top of that, the book has shaken off the aimlessness that was the original’s second biggest problem. Whereas Stuff and Nonsense was just a string of four-ish random side quests dumped onto an eleven year old girl and her favorite toy, Sew You Want To Be A Hero is about Threadbare finding Celia again (whose name is also Cecelia, now). Threadbare has Compulsive Hero Syndrome and is regularly distracted from his quest by people in need, but when he finishes saving his friend or the townsfolk or whatever he’s gone chasing after this time, he immediately reorients to his main goal of finding Celia, which gives all these episodic side quests a sense of narrative cohesion.

Part of the problem with Sew You Want To Be A Hero is that it’s developed one new flaw: Death has become completely meaningless. This wouldn’t actually be a problem if it’s something they’d figured out before anyone had died, or even if the people who had died in book one were treated evenly. Caradon is completely dead, beyond saving, but Zuula, who died at almost the same time (and didn’t she actually die before Caradon? I forget, but it was a question of minutes either way), is still around and can be preserved from death indefinitely by Threadbare’s necromancer powers. Caradon’s death is a big deal, but it’s the only death in the entire story that’s irreversible and you can feel the hand of the author demanding that Caradon and only Caradon stay dead. Having a “no one really dies unless there’s a TPK” mechanic is perfectly fine for a LitRPG setting, but having the climax of the first book revolve around “holy shit, people are actually dying” only to then pull back and say “ha ha, just kidding, nobody ever dies for real except when the plot demands it” is a pretty big problem.

Not as big as Threadbare’s persistent and consistently terrible anti-racist chapters, however. The internet is full of “keep your politics out of my media” types who are suspiciously only angry when left-wing politics form the thematic foundation of a work, so I want to be clear that the problem here is not that Threadbare wanted to have an arc about how racism is bad, the problem is that Threadbare botched that arc so horribly that it is actually super racist about it. The African American fishman in the Outsmouth arc is an obedient lackey to the evil racist Hatecraft for basically no reason at all, except that apparently when white guys start barking commands in an unknown language, African fish people are immediately compelled to obey. This is also the second non-white culture that has been depicted as fundamentally non-human, with the running total of actual human black people in the story still coming in at zero. In fairness, not every human character’s skin color is explicitly described so some of them could be black (or Arab or whatever), but Celia has frizzy red hair which makes her implicitly white which makes her relatives implicitly white, which covers Melos, Caradon, and Anise, by far the most prominent human (or ex-human) characters, and the others just don’t have skin color described at all.

I wouldn’t normally consider this a big enough problem to discuss in the summary, but like in Stuff and Nonsense, Threadbare has specifically drawn attention to how Racism Is Bad, which makes its failures in that department stick out like whoa. The story’s trying to win brownie points for being all woke and progressive and whatever, but it’s completely oblivious to how it is in fact being racist every time it brings up how opposed to racism it is.