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Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Personally my take is that there are real biomagical differences, but they’re things like ‘selfies find warm temperature disorienting’ the same way drow burn in sunlight.

The total lack of empathy and inability to feel sorrow and so on are all cultural, but also deeply engrained because the magic constantly flowing through the selfies reinforces it; they’re all magically surrounded by a Protagonist Aura from birth and also constantly wearing masks, etc.

It’s like Discworld Elves: the lords and ladies could be not dicks, but being raised as a perfectly self-assured, never lost, never hesitating noble whose peers are all like that and whose will over the subaltern is law is going to be an effective method of cultural reproduction even before the magic itself has any weird effects.

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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Spire and Black Magic and Strata

Post 9: GMing the Revolution

One thing I really like about Spire: Spire's a game about some pretty dark poo poo. You're outmatched revolutionaries fighting an enemy of endless might in a sea of concrete and teeming masses of elves and other people. Your enemies are willing to do some seriously awful stuff, and you might be, too. To that end, Spire is very concerned with player and GM comfort. This is not just a case of 'we put the X card in'; it's a large part of the GMing section. The game wants you to discuss 'lines and veils' before you begin a campaign, go over things that may be potentially triggering for players or the GM, encourages the use of content warnings (Strata has them on every adventure to go over whether or not that adventure goes places a play-group might not want to), and throws the X Card mechanic in on top of that. The 'Lines and Veils' mechanic is thus:

"I don't want a game about child abuse, that's a line we don't cross.", and now the game will leave that stuff entirely off the table, because that's a Line. "I'm okay with there being torture or sex in the game, but I want the scene to fade to black rather than going into any detail." is a Veil.

This is a really good idea in a game like Spire. Establishing what sort of stuff people are comfortable with (and what they're comfortable with, but don't want to focus on or go into detail about) before play and sticking to it is important. If you're going to play a dark game about dark subject matter, you need to discuss what people are okay with and you need to stick to it, and Spire is consistent and proactive on that in its GMing advice. It's basically the complete opposite of something like AdEva and that's in its favor. No ambushing people with awful stuff and then going 'oh but it would be realistic' or 'well I thought it was deep and it SHOULD be shocking'.

Like most good GMing advice, it also says to use this same time to establish what players actually want to deal with. Not just by discussing what they want to play, but also by paying mind to what kinds of characters they select, what skills and backgrounds they take, etc. There's a great sidebar on 'what a player is telling you they want' for each class. Someone picked a Knight? They almost certainly want some scenes where they get to be 'the have-a-go-hero' in addition to everything else. A Bound clearly wanted to be drow batman to some extent. The Idol is going to have parties, you can't stop them. Firebrands want to actually lead revolutions and write manifestos and improvise and get in trouble. Etc etc. It's no replacement for asking players what they're interested in, obviously, but the class sidebar hasn't been wrong yet in my experience. Similarly, when in play, they encourage trying to say yes to player questions about the world because they often indicate the player is interested in a part of the setting or game and hoping they can engage with it.

Another big thing that I goddamn love: They tell you not to worry about making your plot a surprise. That poo poo can lead to lying to players, hiding information, and the risk your big twist or whatever falls flat. And you know, if all you had was a twist, your story might not have been great anyway. Better to come up with a rough outline of what you want to write about together, then fill in from there. Your plot can still have twists and surprises and suspense even if you've already sat down and hashed out 'We're going to work towards the Allied Defense Force turning their guns on their aelfir officers' or 'Oh drat, the Paladins are moving towards launching an explicit fascist coup and taking over the normal colonialist government and are threatening to start a program of ethnic cleansing'. The characters don't need to start aware that's what's happening, but your players and you working out that's where things are going still leaves room for surprises and suspense (the dice alone will make sure of that) but also makes sure everyone wants to play that story.

Another big thing in Spire, and one of the few bits of guidance it has about its ideas of revolution, is that it's better to subvert than destroy. Spire is written with the perspective that shooting a midlevel official in the head won't necessarily do you any good. Shooting him and making sure his replacement is someone who'll look the other way or pass you money or supplies? Better. Getting blackmail on him so that you can make him do what you want? Also good. Spire doesn't really have a lot of guidance on mass movements or large-scale revolt. Most of the focus is on spy-games, subversion, and cell-based actions. That is, after all, how the Ministry thinks. They're spies. They think spy based solutions are how you do.

At every level, too, you're exhorted to change things wherever you need to or want to. One of the reasons this works is that Spire is very elastic. I'm running a very different Spire than the one written, to play down the cosmic horror and generally focus more on the politics (with plenty of weird magic still, weird magic is cool) and despite making sweeping changes, I can still use almost all the material in the books not related directly to stuff I already changed. This is partly because Spire tells you a lot of what but not a lot of why, which lets you decide why things happen how they do and shift details around often. Spire is also written to be changed and modified; there aren't a ton of 'load bearing' ideas in the story besides 'Giant city, weird magic, ruled by rear end in a top hat elves, oppressed elves, lots of people from all over the world here'.

For instance, there's a section on deciding what to do with your aelfir. Are they really, genuinely alien? Or do they just look that way because they're weird and privileged and have lives of decadence and wealth and ease that make it hard for them to identify with their subjects? Are they just people with a weird culture who don't like to question their government because their imperialism benefits them? Is all the crazy emotionless stuff just how drow see them? Or are they really scary creatures who are fundamentally alien? And if so, does that mean you want a simpler story of fighting evil incarnate, or does it mean they're so distracted they barely register all the power struggles and things and just come down on players like bad weather sometimes so you can focus on other concepts in your story? You have a ton of latitude built into them, on purpose, to tell plenty of different stories with the same concept of high elven oppressors. It's great.

So while I'd like more on revolution and the ways it can look, the GMing advice is generally very good and very respectful. A focus on player and group comfort is important in a game like this, and the GMing chapter does a great job of highlighting how to tailor and alter the very strong setting in Spire. It's excellent work.

Oh, and the big list of questions to ask to ensure you have a coherent and filled in villain is really good.

Next Time: Strata

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

I'm not comfortable with these attempts to humanize the ruling class. You're going to have to boot them down a mine shaft anyway; why make it harder on yourself?

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Halloween Jack posted:

I'm not comfortable with these attempts to humanize the ruling class. You're going to have to boot them down a mine shaft anyway; why make it harder on yourself?

Because "former member of the ruling class who realized the whole thing is bullshit and joined the resistance secretly-or-not-secretly to bring down the corrupt society they were born into" is a staple character in this kind of story.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Halloween Jack posted:

I'm not comfortable with these attempts to humanize the ruling class. You're going to have to boot them down a mine shaft anyway; why make it harder on yourself?

And beyond what Cythereal said, it's intrinsically a better story when your enemy is a three-dimensional person like you with needs and desires who was trying to make his way through the world as best he could than if he's some programmed "evil robot."

Ultiville
Jan 14, 2005

The law protects no one unless it binds everyone, binds no one unless it protects everyone.



Halloween Jack posted:

I'm not comfortable with these attempts to humanize the ruling class. You're going to have to boot them down a mine shaft anyway; why make it harder on yourself?

That’s why you have the choice.

Some folks would rather fight oppression robots to let off steam about how the world isn’t like that.

Some people would rather deal with a situation more like the way the world is, where the human journey too frequently brings people to an inhuman place.

Both are fine and it’s cool that Spire lets you pick.

jakodee
Mar 4, 2019


Halloween Jack posted:

I'm not comfortable with these attempts to humanize the ruling class. You're going to have to boot them down a mine shaft anyway; why make it harder on yourself?

He isn’t making them sympathetic, he’s making them evil, lovely people you should throw down a mine shaft, like actually colonialists rather than evil magic robots.

jakodee fucked around with this message at 18:14 on Nov 26, 2019

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


jakodee posted:

He isn’t making them sympathetic, he’s making them evil, lovely people you should throw down a mine shaft, like actually colonialists rather than evil magic robots.

Exactly. When it's the privilege, the position, etc that make the aelfir act so terribly that people from the outside could conceivably think they're entirely without empathy or sympathy for others, I like that a bit better as a commentary.

Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.



pretty much and giving options on the scale of catharsis - it's very different beating up some weird mask-wearing aliens than it is to punch rear end in a top hat McExploiter in the dick

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


I have no issue with prescribing aliens with shotgun to the face.

But then again I have no problem with shooting an rear end in a top hat elf, either. Sure, you may understand how he got there, but at the end, he's an adult person doing evil, and the imperative to end the suffering of masses now is more important than redeeming Elf Churchill.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Also even if they really do fundamentally need drugs to feel sad and can only empathize with non-aelfir by rational cogitation while chilled to a low temperature and also high off their heads... that doesn’t let them off the hook for being enslavers, exploiters, and so on. They’re still people, just people with a societal-level cognitive difference from drow, and they’re fully capable of abstract moral reasoning.

They just have a vested interest in their moral reasoning ending with “...and that’s why it’s good that we subjugate everyone and everything else.”

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


The one unbendable pillar of Spire is 'gently caress the aelfir government, liberation for Spire'. Lots of other stuff can bend; that bit cannot.

Also as it likes to point out, every aelfir is beneficiary of economic and social policies that crush the drow. This is a major reason most don't want to do anything about it, even if they find it distasteful. They like the money, and they can justify the slavery to themselves in plenty of ways actual empires did and do.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 20:25 on Nov 26, 2019

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


I forget to ask: sure, pistols exist in Spire, but what about other types of firearms? Like Gnoll trench shotguns and drow Moist Nuggets?

Maxwell Lord
Dec 12, 2008

I am drowning.
There is no sign of land.
You are coming down with me, hand in unlovable hand.

And I hope you die.

I hope we both die.


:smith:



Grimey Drawer



Buck Rogers XXVc: The 25th Century

Earth: The Very Birthplace of My Birth

As has been mentioned many times, Earth is in terrible shape in the 25th Century. Wars and environmental catastophers have turned it into a devastated backwater, its population (now a mere 3 billion) divided among corporate states, reservations, and arcologies. Ostensibly the whole thing is under the control of the Solar Alliance, which is in reality the other planetary power groups, meaning mostly RAM. RAM in turn has divided the planet into Regencies, and each Regent is directly in charge of their region, most of them acting like dictators. There’s a mention of mind control through drugs and media censorship, but it’s not really taking- most Earth people really hate RAM.

Most humans on Earth haven’t undergone much, if any, genetic alteration, though mutants exist thanks to various nuclear and biological incidents in the past.



The old cities of Earth have become ruined sprawls, filled with people, gangs, RAM troops, etc. It’s clear the authors are aiming for something between a police state and a flat-out war zone. The exception to all this bleak desolation is the arcologies. The arcologies aren’t described in much detail here, other than that they have adequate food, shelter, etc. However, most of them are directly under the influence of RAM, and life in them is more strictly controlled. Only about a fifth of the arcologies aren’t directly under RAM influence.

There are two major resistance groups on Earth. First are the Orgs, groups of people living in the ruined cities who have managed to set up modestly equipped autonomous regions. They tend to be named after the city they’re in, hence Chicagorg, Newyorg, etc. (This is a straight lift from the original Nolan material.) They’re described as a kind of middle class between most of the poor denizens of the cities- whom the Alliance keeps an eye on to make sure they don’t organize- and the rich citizens of the arcologies, who can easily be monitored. The main drawback to the orgs is they don’t, and to a certain extent can’t really organize with each other— they don’t have easy means of communication and transportation over long distances. Basically each one is kind of a large, well-organized street gang, a potent force in its local area but each with their own agenda.

And then there’s NEO. NEO are the good guys of the setting, a plucky alliance of rebels with the goal of freeing Earth from RAM occupation. They’re described as a “one-time anti-pirate patrol” but we don’t get any more information about their history or formation. Unlike the orgs, NEO has global reach, a space fleet (of sorts- mostly light rockets, maybe a battler or two), and financing from some well-to-do persons and organizations in the arcologies. They’re described as being kinda like the US forces in the American Revolution, always undermanned and underarmed, using guerilla tactics. Their ground presence is pretty weak. Most of NEO operates from orbital bases.

NEO is organized mostly like an army, with a bunch of Battle Groups run by Strike Leaders, who in turn answer to Group Leaders, and above that you have Captains, Generals, etc. The NEO Council is said to be pretty diverse and was even kinda disorganized- then along came Buck. Buck Rogers was made an honorary council member when he was revived and joined the group, mostly because of his status as a figurehead. However, he’s taken it upon himself to try and shake up NEO and set out a clear agenda, including the expulsion of all RAM forces from Earth and recognition of NEO as the de facto government of that planet. It’s not all military, though, NEO is working to try and get sympathetic appointees on the Solar Alliance and build up alliances with other forces opposed to RAM such as the Mercurians and Ishtarians.

The Earth chapter closes out with a look at the LaGrange Colonies. The Colonies are in orbit at the L-4 and L-5 LaGrange points in Earth’s orbit, their orbit stabilized by the gravity of the moon. These were the earliest space colonies, mostly abandoned when more advanced ones were set up on other planets, so now they’re havens for smugglers, pirates, and NEO forces. They’re described as a collection of old hulks and space junk, easy to hide in.

Next up: Bang! Zoom! Straight to the Moon!

LazyAngel
Mar 17, 2009



JcDent posted:

I forget to ask: sure, pistols exist in Spire, but what about other types of firearms? Like Gnoll trench shotguns and drow Moist Nuggets?

Less the former - Gnolls seem to lean more heavily on magical weaponry - but there's a whole range of firearms, from cheap pistols that are as likely to explode in your hand as hurt someone to precision-crafted hunting rifles. In general (bearing in mind my firearms knowledge is pretty limited), we're looking at late 19th/early 20th century?

Human-engineered galvanic weaponry is a whole other thing...

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Dragonlance!



Introduction AKA "What is this hot garbage?"

Back in The Elder Era of 2e AD&D we had a lot of big settings with a lot of content. Post-apocalyptic Dark Sun/Athas, high-concept Planescape, grand strategy Highlander intrigue in Birthright/Cerilia, the loving Forgotten Realms full of Greenwoods' magical realm bullshit, venerable classics like Mystara and Oerth(Greyhawk) that were inherited from 1e and fading into the background. Alongside those, we had Dragonlance. Now, I'm gonna be honest: Dragonlance is some incredible dogshit, but when I was 15 and a young nerd, it was totally the poo poo. I read the books, because oh man, there were books, based off a primary module chain, which the developers played through and then published as a book series. There were prequels. There were spinoffs.

Dragonlance's world, Krynn, was big in terms of its franchise. It even had a lovely direct-to-VHS(if it wasn't late enough to qualify for DVD, I don't believe it did) adaptation of one of the first books. It had a series of videogames made, probably some of the earliest D&D franchise videogames ever, released around the same time as the original Pools of Radiance(and if I remember right, even using something of the same engine). No one ever made a lovely Planescape or Birthright cartoon. Though both Birthright and Dark Sun got videogames.

Now obviously, a lot of people worked on this poo poo, but the two primary names are Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman who are reasonably prolific within the fantasy(and to a lighter extent sci-fi) sphere. The other big TSR project they were, as far as I remember, both part of was Ravenloft(though not in as leading roles as Dragonlance), and aside from that they've just been writing a shitload of books. They wrote, no surprise, the Dragonlance books. They wrote the Death Gate Cycle, they wrote a bunch of other stuff I've had no exposure to but which all seems pretty low-rent by-the-numbers fantasy.

Now, these two are bad writers. Not Chris Fields-level bad, I'm pretty sure menstrual cycles have no mentions at all in the books. Not Ed Greenwood-level bad, this isn't going to be their sexual fantasies crammed on to ink and paper. But keep in mind these are the fuckers who invented Kender. These are the assholes who wrote a 7-book series(the Death Gate Cycle) which had a few interesting ideas and periods of solid writing, and then decided to cap it all off with "IF'N Y'ALL'D JUST FOUND JESUS, NONE OF THIS APOCALYPSE WOULDA HAPPENED."

So, how am I going to get revenge for what these fuckers did to my spongey, impressionable teenage brain? To ensuring that the first D&D setting I was ever exposed to as a 10-year-old when a cousin decided to run a game was Dragonlance rather than something good?

I'm glad you asked, because here's the loving game plan:

First I'm gonna go through the world book, with all of the DEEP DENSE LORE, as well as what rules set Krynn aside from generic D&D.

Then I'm going to go through the entire canon adventure module path.

And I'm dragging you fuckers with me.

Dragonlance Intro

Aside from the disparaging intro I've written, the book also has its own introductory section.

quote:

Adventuring in Ansalon differs from adventuring in any other fantasy setting. The DRAGONLANCE saga is high fantasy-a struggle of Good versus Evil and the triumph of heroism in the face of overwhelming odds. Hope, honor, loyalty to one’s friends and gods, courage, self-sacrifice, and perseverance are the meat and drink of adventures on Ansalon. This World Book provides the one-of-a-kind color and flavor of Krynn. From its mundane features, such as exchange rates and month names, to the esoteric psychology of dragons, Krynn is unique.

While I know you're meant to love and hype your own product, this seems a bit full of itself. What setting isn't full of Good vs Evil fights, especially back in those days where (intentional) moral grays in RPG's were a somewhat rarer meal? Oh poo poo, the exciting and rare chance to be a good guy! Holy gently caress! Not that I don't like being a clear-cut good guy on the side of good sometimes, but this just feels up its own rear end.

quote:

On Krynn, you will meet many unique races—kender, draconians, minotaurs, gully dwarfs, and high ogres, to name a few. On the other hand, some stock fantasy creatures do not appear—lycanthropes, orcs, half-arcs, and halflings. All of the races and beast of Krynn, however, are marked by individuality and diversity. Every creature-even goblins and hobgoblins—are fully detailed and three-dimensional. A sense of wonder and amazement surrounds every creature of Krynn.

"Unlike those other, lesser, unheroic games, our creatures are fully detailed and described!" Let's not mention that minotaurs are hardly unique to Dragonlance, that gully dwarves are basically just dwarf hobos, and high ogres are just pretty ogres that know magic.

Just absolutely up their own rear end.

Ye Historie of Ye Dragonnes & Lances

Year 0, Day 0, Minute 0, Second 0, a GRAND DIVINE DEITY that's never relevant to the plot again wakes up, writes the blueprints for creation and then immediately subcontracts it out to a Good God and a Bad God, with a Neutral God for the tedious administrative business, before rolling over and resuming his nap. Looking over the job they've been given, the three gods then promptly subcontract the work of creating existence further to a bunch of minor gods. Thus our relevant cast is, for now: Paladine(very good), Takhisis(very bad), Gilean(very neutral,) and Reorx(has hammer, is the one doing the actual work of creating things while everyone else just administrates).

The good and bad gods each make themselves a batch of dragons and promptly start fighting so hard that they almost break the world even before it's had a chance to really exist, forcing them to call a truce. About five minutes later they then start fighting again, this time over who gets to own the stars. Eventually they pry the stars out of heaven and decide that this is great material for making mortals out of, and that's where all of the animals and sapient species come from.

Anyway, then we get like 10,000 years which can be summarized as "ogres enslave humans, humans do not like being enslaved, put an end to that. elves tsk tsk but don't interfere or help the humans because they're useless dickheads, plan a colonialist war against a bunch of dragons because they want more trees to live in." Not satisfied with stealing the dragons' lands, the elves also literally capture their loving souls and imprison them deep under vast mountains. The gods of magic help the elves do this and are imprisoned on the moon. Or all three of the moons, anyway, there are three. This is a stupid and meaningless plot point because literally the next paragraph is "some shenanigans happen and dwarves go to the moon and liberate the gods of magic." This is also what causes goblins, minotaurs, gnomes and kender to exist. So in a slightly roundabout way, we can blame elves for the existence of kender. loving elves.

This whole mess has also created a magic meteor that wanders across the world making unspecified changes to it. Trying to hide from it, the dwarves dig into the ground, find the stones full of dragon souls and, going "what the gently caress is this magic garbage?" just toss them up to the surface, awakening the dragons to go fight the elves again. Everyone in this setting is an incredibly moronic fuckup. A bunch of wizards show up, and this time rather than just trapping the dragons' souls underground, they wave their arms around and trap their physical bodies underground, too. Deciding that magic can do some stupid and awful poo poo, the wizards decide to make Magic Laws and from then on you're only allowed to do magic if you're a licensed wizard of Good, Neutral or Evil. So yes, you can be a licensed magic supervillain in Dragonlance, complete with wearing pitch-black robes and cackling evilly.

A bunch of other incredibly stupid poo poo happens, like kender suddenly getting their hands on a flying fortress out of nowhere and crashing it into a mountain, an entire dwarven city disappearing because no one can remember where the front door is and the elves being very concerned by "the half-elf problem" which sounds like a very unsubtle way to say that the elves are huge racists worried about racial purity.



The next section of Dragonlance history involves a lot of these guys, THE SOLAMNIC KNIGHTS, who are mostly remarkable for often being featured with sick manes and even sicker facial hair. Takhisis scams a bunch of lizardmen into hiding dragon eggs in dwarven mines, which the dwarves mistake for gems, and sell to people, and then the eggs hatch, the wyrmlings eat their owners, and flap away into the world to cause chaos. It seems like an extremely convoluted plot compared to just having the dragons' parents hatch the eggs and then unleashing them from their nests. Also somewhat, uh, flawed by the fact that most gems aren't just sold pried straight out of the ground but are usually carved and faceted, probably something that an egg would not tolerate well, even a dragon egg.

But whatever, this stupid cartoon villain plot brings the worlds to its knees until a Solamnic Knight named Huma, who's banging a dragon, is the first to figure out the secret of poking dragons with a really long stick(okay, so Dragonlances are supposedly something real special made for killing dragons and do have magic powers, but in the setting they're literally mass produced, and thus it's somewhat hard to take them seriously, and considering how ruinously loving dangerous they are to dragons, it's also hard to take dragons all that seriously as a threat... in this setting about how scary and cool dragons are). Eventually Huma and his girlfriend give Takhisis a good poking with his lance and she agrees to gently caress off and stop ruining the world for a while, taking the dragons with her. Both good and evil dragons are put in eternal hibernation at this point, so they'll stop loving the world up at the behest of any angry gods.

While all this is happening, a lil' burg called Istar becomes a big ol' trade center, allied with dwarves and the Solamnic Knights, they get loving rich and immensely loaded, using their economic power to brute force open new markets and increase their wealth(the only ones who manage to serve as a roadbump to their economic dominance are the cutesy, random innocent kender who organize massive market manipulation and threaten to crash the continent's economy until Istar makes them tax-exempt.). This is where Istar goes: "Man, being rich sure also makes us right. Since we're the richest, we're probably also the rightest!" and declares themselves the continental center of truth, morality and righteousness. Their next step is to start sentencing all criminals to death in the gladiatorial arenas, which mysteriously makes Istarian clerics start losing access to their high level spells. Probably just a coincidence.

Then they start burning wizards at the stake, except the ones they need to cast mind-reading spells on all comers, checking if they're committing any thought crime.

quote:

The Kingpriest tried to elevate himself to godhood and command the other gods. He used their gifts to the world to control them. The gods were wrathful. True priests disappeared from the world. The gods sent thirteen signs to warn t h e people of the coming Cataclysm. The Solamnic Knight Lord Soth, although given the chance to save Krynn from the Cataclysm, refused. On the thirteenth day of Yule, the third of the new year, the sky burned and a fiery mountain fell from the heavens. It dragged lstar to the depths of the ocean.

It didn't really go well for anyone involved. Lord Soth, in particular, was a spectacular fuckup. Perhaps next time the Gods shouldn't trust their last hope to someone who murdered his wife just so he could deep dick an elf instead, because he ended up killing both himself and his new elf wife just because some randos he met on the road told him she was a ho, turning himself into an evil Death Knight who hangs out in his fort being whiny for all time(until he inexplicably ends up in Ravenloft).

The mountain also hit Istar so hard it punches a hole through reality into the Abyss, giving Takhisis a back door into reality, which she uses to prepare for taking over the world. Again. Good Gods really not knocking this one out of the park.

While the good dragons are napping, Takhisis sneaks in and steals all their eggs, then kicks them awake and tells them she'll kill their kids if they try to interfere in this attempt at world-domination. This gives her a monopoly on dragon power for the coming war that she's plotting. Her plans are slightly foiled by the fact that some wandering idiot found her Plot Artifact(tm) lying in the woods and pried a part of it off as a souvenir, which prevents her from returning to Krynn in physical form. Her amazing godlike senses also fail to find him because he gets locked up in jail by a bunch of dwarves, and apparently police procedure trumps divine power.

Not being content just being one flavour of evil, Takhisis passes the time by jamming Tanar'ri into the good dragons' stolen eggs, making them explode into evil dragon dudes. Most of these dragon dudes are idiots who explode/melt/petrify on death or otherwise inconvenience their attacker if killed.

This is about where the canon adventure path and modules start. Takhisis kicks war into high gear, starts conquering the world and generally does pretty well at it. Elves get stomped, humans get stomped, dwarves get bottle up in their fortresses. It's all coming up Takhisis. Except then the Canon Heroes(tm) find the Dragonlance blueprints(which no one had, of course, thought to keep track of), figure out the blackmail Takhisis has on the good dragons(and rescue the eggs) and it all turns around. They stop Takhisis moments before she manages to manifest physically on Krynn and drag hordes of Tanar'ri with her, and all goes well except for the part where this doesn't make Takhisis legions completely vanish and they still hold large parts of the continent under their control. The main timeline ends at this point, except for an incredibly stupid bit that decides to introduce time travel to the setting, with several of the Canon Heroes going into the past and loving things up but ultimately changing nothing about how history turns out.

Next Up: Fantasy Geography!

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

There were a couple of weird Dragonlance side-scrollish games, but the majority were running on the Gold Box engine developed for Pool of Radiance, yeah.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Am I correct in assuming the elves are meant to be good and right in all they do in Krynn despite acting like racist dicks?

Cooked Auto
Aug 4, 2007

If you will not serve in combat, you will serve on the firing line!




I do love hyper bitter F&F write ups at times. :allears:

Also guilty of reading the first couple of Dragonlance books when I was younger, like the first two trilogies at most before dropping them. I think I read more David Eddings books than Dragonlance as a wee lad.

Also I think you typo'd half-orcs as half-arcs in the beginning.

Night10194 posted:

Am I correct in assuming the elves are meant to be good and right in all they do in Krynn despite acting like racist dicks?

Pretty sure that is the case yes. As per usual.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Cooked Auto posted:

Also I think you typo'd half-orcs as half-arcs in the beginning.

I copy-pasted that bit straight from the book's PDF, so I didn't typo it, Dragonlance did. :v:

Cooked Auto posted:

I do love hyper bitter F&F write ups at times. :allears:

Well it's good to know you enjoy 90% of my reviews!

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


PurpleXVI posted:

Dragonlance!



Introduction AKA "What is this hot garbage?"

Back in The Elder Era of 2e AD&D we had a lot of big settings with a lot of content. Post-apocalyptic Dark Sun/Athas, high-concept Planescape, grand strategy Highlander intrigue in Birthright/Cerilia, the loving Forgotten Realms full of Greenwoods' magical realm bullshit, venerable classics like Mystara and Oerth(Greyhawk) that were inherited from 1e and fading into the background. Alongside those, we had Dragonlance. Now, I'm gonna be honest: Dragonlance is some incredible dogshit, but when I was 15 and a young nerd, it was totally the poo poo. I read the books, because oh man, there were books, based off a primary module chain, which the developers played through and then published as a book series. There were prequels. There were spinoffs.

Dragonlance's world, Krynn, was big in terms of its franchise. It even had a lovely direct-to-VHS(if it wasn't late enough to qualify for DVD, I don't believe it did) adaptation of one of the first books. It had a series of videogames made, probably some of the earliest D&D franchise videogames ever, released around the same time as the original Pools of Radiance(and if I remember right, even using something of the same engine). No one ever made a lovely Planescape or Birthright cartoon. Though both Birthright and Dark Sun got videogames.

Now obviously, a lot of people worked on this poo poo, but the two primary names are Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman who are reasonably prolific within the fantasy(and to a lighter extent sci-fi) sphere. The other big TSR project they were, as far as I remember, both part of was Ravenloft(though not in as leading roles as Dragonlance), and aside from that they've just been writing a shitload of books. They wrote, no surprise, the Dragonlance books. They wrote the Death Gate Cycle, they wrote a bunch of other stuff I've had no exposure to but which all seems pretty low-rent by-the-numbers fantasy.

Now, these two are bad writers. Not Chris Fields-level bad, I'm pretty sure menstrual cycles have no mentions at all in the books. Not Ed Greenwood-level bad, this isn't going to be their sexual fantasies crammed on to ink and paper. But keep in mind these are the fuckers who invented Kender. These are the assholes who wrote a 7-book series(the Death Gate Cycle) which had a few interesting ideas and periods of solid writing, and then decided to cap it all off with "IF'N Y'ALL'D JUST FOUND JESUS, NONE OF THIS APOCALYPSE WOULDA HAPPENED."

So, how am I going to get revenge for what these fuckers did to my spongey, impressionable teenage brain? To ensuring that the first D&D setting I was ever exposed to as a 10-year-old when a cousin decided to run a game was Dragonlance rather than something good?

I'm glad you asked, because here's the loving game plan:

First I'm gonna go through the world book, with all of the DEEP DENSE LORE, as well as what rules set Krynn aside from generic D&D.

Then I'm going to go through the entire canon adventure module path.

And I'm dragging you fuckers with me.

Dragonlance Intro

Aside from the disparaging intro I've written, the book also has its own introductory section.


While I know you're meant to love and hype your own product, this seems a bit full of itself. What setting isn't full of Good vs Evil fights, especially back in those days where (intentional) moral grays in RPG's were a somewhat rarer meal? Oh poo poo, the exciting and rare chance to be a good guy! Holy gently caress! Not that I don't like being a clear-cut good guy on the side of good sometimes, but this just feels up its own rear end.


"Unlike those other, lesser, unheroic games, our creatures are fully detailed and described!" Let's not mention that minotaurs are hardly unique to Dragonlance, that gully dwarves are basically just dwarf hobos, and high ogres are just pretty ogres that know magic.

Just absolutely up their own rear end.

Ye Historie of Ye Dragonnes & Lances

Year 0, Day 0, Minute 0, Second 0, a GRAND DIVINE DEITY that's never relevant to the plot again wakes up, writes the blueprints for creation and then immediately subcontracts it out to a Good God and a Bad God, with a Neutral God for the tedious administrative business, before rolling over and resuming his nap. Looking over the job they've been given, the three gods then promptly subcontract the work of creating existence further to a bunch of minor gods. Thus our relevant cast is, for now: Paladine(very good), Takhisis(very bad), Gilean(very neutral,) and Reorx(has hammer, is the one doing the actual work of creating things while everyone else just administrates).

The good and bad gods each make themselves a batch of dragons and promptly start fighting so hard that they almost break the world even before it's had a chance to really exist, forcing them to call a truce. About five minutes later they then start fighting again, this time over who gets to own the stars. Eventually they pry the stars out of heaven and decide that this is great material for making mortals out of, and that's where all of the animals and sapient species come from.

Anyway, then we get like 10,000 years which can be summarized as "ogres enslave humans, humans do not like being enslaved, put an end to that. elves tsk tsk but don't interfere or help the humans because they're useless dickheads, plan a colonialist war against a bunch of dragons because they want more trees to live in." Not satisfied with stealing the dragons' lands, the elves also literally capture their loving souls and imprison them deep under vast mountains. The gods of magic help the elves do this and are imprisoned on the moon. Or all three of the moons, anyway, there are three. This is a stupid and meaningless plot point because literally the next paragraph is "some shenanigans happen and dwarves go to the moon and liberate the gods of magic." This is also what causes goblins, minotaurs, gnomes and kender to exist. So in a slightly roundabout way, we can blame elves for the existence of kender. loving elves.

This whole mess has also created a magic meteor that wanders across the world making unspecified changes to it. Trying to hide from it, the dwarves dig into the ground, find the stones full of dragon souls and, going "what the gently caress is this magic garbage?" just toss them up to the surface, awakening the dragons to go fight the elves again. Everyone in this setting is an incredibly moronic fuckup. A bunch of wizards show up, and this time rather than just trapping the dragons' souls underground, they wave their arms around and trap their physical bodies underground, too. Deciding that magic can do some stupid and awful poo poo, the wizards decide to make Magic Laws and from then on you're only allowed to do magic if you're a licensed wizard of Good, Neutral or Evil. So yes, you can be a licensed magic supervillain in Dragonlance, complete with wearing pitch-black robes and cackling evilly.

A bunch of other incredibly stupid poo poo happens, like kender suddenly getting their hands on a flying fortress out of nowhere and crashing it into a mountain, an entire dwarven city disappearing because no one can remember where the front door is and the elves being very concerned by "the half-elf problem" which sounds like a very unsubtle way to say that the elves are huge racists worried about racial purity.



The next section of Dragonlance history involves a lot of these guys, THE SOLAMNIC KNIGHTS, who are mostly remarkable for often being featured with sick manes and even sicker facial hair. Takhisis scams a bunch of lizardmen into hiding dragon eggs in dwarven mines, which the dwarves mistake for gems, and sell to people, and then the eggs hatch, the wyrmlings eat their owners, and flap away into the world to cause chaos. It seems like an extremely convoluted plot compared to just having the dragons' parents hatch the eggs and then unleashing them from their nests. Also somewhat, uh, flawed by the fact that most gems aren't just sold pried straight out of the ground but are usually carved and faceted, probably something that an egg would not tolerate well, even a dragon egg.

But whatever, this stupid cartoon villain plot brings the worlds to its knees until a Solamnic Knight named Huma, who's banging a dragon, is the first to figure out the secret of poking dragons with a really long stick(okay, so Dragonlances are supposedly something real special made for killing dragons and do have magic powers, but in the setting they're literally mass produced, and thus it's somewhat hard to take them seriously, and considering how ruinously loving dangerous they are to dragons, it's also hard to take dragons all that seriously as a threat... in this setting about how scary and cool dragons are). Eventually Huma and his girlfriend give Takhisis a good poking with his lance and she agrees to gently caress off and stop ruining the world for a while, taking the dragons with her. Both good and evil dragons are put in eternal hibernation at this point, so they'll stop loving the world up at the behest of any angry gods.

While all this is happening, a lil' burg called Istar becomes a big ol' trade center, allied with dwarves and the Solamnic Knights, they get loving rich and immensely loaded, using their economic power to brute force open new markets and increase their wealth(the only ones who manage to serve as a roadbump to their economic dominance are the cutesy, random innocent kender who organize massive market manipulation and threaten to crash the continent's economy until Istar makes them tax-exempt.). This is where Istar goes: "Man, being rich sure also makes us right. Since we're the richest, we're probably also the rightest!" and declares themselves the continental center of truth, morality and righteousness. Their next step is to start sentencing all criminals to death in the gladiatorial arenas, which mysteriously makes Istarian clerics start losing access to their high level spells. Probably just a coincidence.

Then they start burning wizards at the stake, except the ones they need to cast mind-reading spells on all comers, checking if they're committing any thought crime.


It didn't really go well for anyone involved. Lord Soth, in particular, was a spectacular fuckup. Perhaps next time the Gods shouldn't trust their last hope to someone who murdered his wife just so he could deep dick an elf instead, because he ended up killing both himself and his new elf wife just because some randos he met on the road told him she was a ho, turning himself into an evil Death Knight who hangs out in his fort being whiny for all time(until he inexplicably ends up in Ravenloft).

The mountain also hit Istar so hard it punches a hole through reality into the Abyss, giving Takhisis a back door into reality, which she uses to prepare for taking over the world. Again. Good Gods really not knocking this one out of the park.

While the good dragons are napping, Takhisis sneaks in and steals all their eggs, then kicks them awake and tells them she'll kill their kids if they try to interfere in this attempt at world-domination. This gives her a monopoly on dragon power for the coming war that she's plotting. Her plans are slightly foiled by the fact that some wandering idiot found her Plot Artifact(tm) lying in the woods and pried a part of it off as a souvenir, which prevents her from returning to Krynn in physical form. Her amazing godlike senses also fail to find him because he gets locked up in jail by a bunch of dwarves, and apparently police procedure trumps divine power.

Not being content just being one flavour of evil, Takhisis passes the time by jamming Tanar'ri into the good dragons' stolen eggs, making them explode into evil dragon dudes. Most of these dragon dudes are idiots who explode/melt/petrify on death or otherwise inconvenience their attacker if killed.

This is about where the canon adventure path and modules start. Takhisis kicks war into high gear, starts conquering the world and generally does pretty well at it. Elves get stomped, humans get stomped, dwarves get bottle up in their fortresses. It's all coming up Takhisis. Except then the Canon Heroes(tm) find the Dragonlance blueprints(which no one had, of course, thought to keep track of), figure out the blackmail Takhisis has on the good dragons(and rescue the eggs) and it all turns around. They stop Takhisis moments before she manages to manifest physically on Krynn and drag hordes of Tanar'ri with her, and all goes well except for the part where this doesn't make Takhisis legions completely vanish and they still hold large parts of the continent under their control. The main timeline ends at this point, except for an incredibly stupid bit that decides to introduce time travel to the setting, with several of the Canon Heroes going into the past and loving things up but ultimately changing nothing about how history turns out.

Next Up: Fantasy Geography!

I also recall Dragonlance from my high school days. It definitely wasn't perfect and there were many, many ways that it was up its own rear end. Still, it was kind of cool to see a full-on campaign saga that about more than a mediocre excuse for some underground robbery-homicide. The Cataclysm wasn't so much about "finding Jesus" as finding that Jesus got so loving pissed at Jerry Falwell Jr mouthing platitudes while sucking Donald Trump's dick that he dropped a mountain on Liberty University.

The kender were kind of rear end in a "why the gently caress aren't these little bastards murdered on sight?" kind of way. I did like the Draconians. They made a nice change from "Oh nos. The Orcs are on the warpath. Yet again." The idea that Ogres are ugly and stupid because of a curse punishing them by taking away their brains and beauty was kind of cool, too. Minotaurs being a bad-rear end seafaring race instead of dumb cow-looking fucks wandering around mazes was nice. Mages having an full-on organization that tested your rear end to see if you were worthy to learn cooler magics (and you died if you weren't) was pretty neat.

Cooked Auto
Aug 4, 2007

If you will not serve in combat, you will serve on the firing line!




PurpleXVI posted:

Well it's good to know you enjoy 90% of my reviews!

You do write with a certain level of bile unmatched by others.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Everyone posted:

The Cataclysm wasn't so much about "finding Jesus" as finding that Jesus got so loving pissed at Jerry Falwell Jr mouthing platitudes while sucking Donald Trump's dick that he dropped a mountain on Liberty University.

Oh no, the specific JESUS incident was in the Death Gate books, sorry if I was unclear.

Everyone posted:

Mages having an full-on organization that tested your rear end to see if you were worthy to learn cooler magics (and you died if you weren't) was pretty neat.

Also in part incredibly stupid because Evil Wizard Inc. has big ol' super-visible clubhouses and no one's cottoned on to the idea of burning them down. Like, you'd think that part of being a Good Wizard(tm) would be not tolerating the guy one lab over turning peasants into clams or whatever.

That Old Tree
Jun 23, 2012

nah




My only meaningful contact with Dragonlance was a PUG in high school RPG club where the DM basically took a bunch of people who have no familiarity with the setting and led them around to watch war set pieces before Paladine showed up at some siege and solved everything. Even by my dumb teenager standards I thought it was terrible, and for years I was especially disgusted by (I thought) the DM being such a lazy piece of poo poo he named his god of goodness "Paladine."

MollyMetroid
Jan 20, 2004

Trout Clan Daimyo


Night10194 posted:

Am I correct in assuming the elves are meant to be good and right in all they do in Krynn despite acting like racist dicks?

The novels are like, extremely clear that the elves are racist isolationist dicks and that their behaviour is both inexcusable and needs to be changed. There's an entire sub-thread about it through the Chronicles because Laurana and Gilthanas try to basically shift the elves attitudes to be less shitheaded.

Dragonlance, and the Chronicles, are not good, not well written, but the crime of treating elves as perfect is at least not one that can be laid at their feet.

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



PurpleXVI posted:

Oh no, the specific JESUS incident was in the Death Gate books, sorry if I was unclear.

Mormon sci-fi/fantasy authors always seem to go loopy sooner or later. See also Orson Scott Card and Twilight lady.

MollyMetroid
Jan 20, 2004

Trout Clan Daimyo


Orson Scott Card's most famous work opens with the small children playing kill the "bugger" he did not go loopy he was already there.

Ithle01
May 28, 2013


PurpleXVI posted:


Also in part incredibly stupid because Evil Wizard Inc. has big ol' super-visible clubhouses and no one's cottoned on to the idea of burning them down. Like, you'd think that part of being a Good Wizard(tm) would be not tolerating the guy one lab over turning peasants into clams or whatever.

I always thought of it as being like the Guild of Calamitous Intent from Venture Brothers. They're evil, but like the good wizards aren't all that interested in doing much about it and would rather the evil wizards just regulated themselves. Good has a very strange definition in Dragon Lance as evidence by elves being the race created by the gods of Good. I guess what' I'm trying to say here is that alignment systems are bad.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


D&D alignment has never led anywhere good. My perception of D&D elfs has always been colored by reading the Complete Book of Elves young. With the race war holiday where the elves get hosed up on magic wine and go out to murder orcs and take trophies. This was treated as whimsical and fun.

I wish I still had my copy to cover after Spire, come to think of it.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Night10194 posted:

D&D alignment has never led anywhere good. My perception of D&D elfs has always been colored by reading the Complete Book of Elves young. With the race war holiday where the elves get hosed up on magic wine and go out to murder orcs and take trophies. This was treated as whimsical and fun.

I wish I still had my copy to cover after Spire, come to think of it.

What always stuck with me from the Complete Book of Elves is that wood elves are canonically aligned as Neutral rear end in a top hat. I forget what exactly it was, but it basically implied they were a bunch of surly contrarian fucks species-wide.

Ithle01 posted:

I always thought of it as being like the Guild of Calamitous Intent from Venture Brothers. They're evil, but like the good wizards aren't all that interested in doing much about it and would rather the evil wizards just regulated themselves. Good has a very strange definition in Dragon Lance as evidence by elves being the race created by the gods of Good. I guess what' I'm trying to say here is that alignment systems are bad.

Much too self-aware, there's an explanation somewhere in one of these books, surely, but it's going to be much dumber than that.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

Aquatic elves got a malus to Wisdom, because 'living underwater leads to two-dimensional thinking'.

I'm pretty sure the author apologised for that book, years later.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

That's like a Peter Gabriel lyric or something.

90s Cringe Rock
Nov 29, 2006
:gay:


Elves being enormous assholes dates right back to Tolkien. Galadriel's husband Teleporno literally exists to get her across the ocean without being tainted by Fëanor's bullshit. That's his purpose. He's a hot bit of rough with a boat.

well, it depends which version you read

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

PurpleXVI posted:

But whatever, this stupid cartoon villain plot brings the worlds to its knees until a Solamnic Knight named Huma, who's banging a dragon, is the first to figure out the secret of poking dragons with a really long stick(okay, so Dragonlances are supposedly something real special made for killing dragons and do have magic powers, but in the setting they're literally mass produced, and thus it's somewhat hard to take them seriously, and considering how ruinously loving dangerous they are to dragons, it's also hard to take dragons all that seriously as a threat... in this setting about how scary and cool dragons are). Eventually Huma and his girlfriend give Takhisis a good poking with his lance and she agrees to gently caress off and stop ruining the world for a while, taking the dragons with her. Both good and evil dragons are put in eternal hibernation at this point, so they'll stop loving the world up at the behest of any angry gods.

The iconic nature of the Dragonlances came in the book series and adventure path where the PCs find an old forge fortress for making said weapons. They have to either guard (or liberate it, depending on the Edition) from the Dragonarmies who for obvious reasons don't want it falling into the hands of those who oppose them.

It's very much akin to the fantasy cliche "earlier golden ages" where once plentiful magic has now faded into legend. In fact, the reclaiming of said forge (along with gaining the aid of the good-aligned dragons) is but one of several factors which helps turn the tide against Takhisis' Dragonarmies in the long run.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Teleporno is an awesome elf name.

Leraika
Jun 14, 2015

slime time



Teleporno, son of Ufoporno

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

PurpleXVI posted:

Also in part incredibly stupid because Evil Wizard Inc. has big ol' super-visible clubhouses and no one's cottoned on to the idea of burning them down. Like, you'd think that part of being a Good Wizard(tm) would be not tolerating the guy one lab over turning peasants into clams or whatever.

I do not know if this was elaborated on in the main book series, but in the Legends of the Twins sourcebook (3rd Edition) it details various alternate timeline Krynns. Most of them are "what if?" scenarios based on key aspects changing in the setting: what if the Kingpriest successfully defied the gods and became a god, what if Raistlin ushered in the Apocalypse and became a god, what if the Heroes of the Lance failed, etc.

I forget if it was detailed in either the main default timeline or the Kingpriest Ascendant Timeline, but the final Tower of High Sorcery (Wayreth) was spared by Istar due to revelations that destroying all of the Towers would usher in destructive magical power which would tear across Krynn. Therefore the Tower of Wayreth was tolerated as a necessary evil.

As for the "EVIL TOWERS" not being burned down every Tower of High Sorcery is blanketed with powerful magic that affects the surrounding area. The masters of the Towers can selectively choose who is and is not affected to allow safe travels for wizards and their allies to and from said towers. To use a modern-day analogy, the Towers are like Wizard Fort Knox or Wizard Pentagon. It is possible for a concentrated force to attack them and do some damage, but they're both prepared for that contingency and local powers are loathe to act too rashly given the inevitable casualties.

As for wizard lairs outside of the main towers getting burned down, this is something that can and does happen in the setting. Anti-magic sentiment (both arcane and divine) is widespread in the time period in which the book series and adventure path takes place. Which interestingly is part of why said Towers exist: to provide wizards with a safe haven (divine spellcasters are kind of their own special case depending on the era).

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 20:21 on Nov 27, 2019

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




Who the gently caress is raistlin and why does he have such a stupid name?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



The only Dragonlance books I've ever liked were the Dwarven Nations trilogy, which primarily feature a bunch of annoyed, pragmatic short people taking the piss out of Dragonlance humans, particularly wizards.

e: also they stop one of the Towers of High Wizardry from being made. I don't think that part got paid attention to by any other Dragonlance materials?

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Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

wiegieman posted:

Who the gently caress is raistlin and why does he have such a stupid name?

The 1980s ur-Emo.

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