When Bad Mechanics Do Good: Lord of the Rings Online, Session Play, and Empathy

So, for once, I do not think I need to reassure you, dear readers, that I don’t really mean that something is 100% very bad no good but rather that, if you understood every word I wrote in the title, I a) am absolutely serious b) definitely do understand the … fraught feelings us LOTRO (Lord of the Rings Online) players have towards session play quests.

I have kicked the leeches. I have kicked the leeches more than once and am sure I will again. And yet РI do also have a certain fondness for session play and a desire for it to stick around as an occasional mechanic. And I also, as this article will show, think it can be used to really great purpose and effect.

Unsurprisingly, I also like epic battles. Quite a bit. But, that masochism aside (I kid, I kid, but kidding is more fun than serious answers ūüėõ ), it’s time to head below the “read more” cut for a discussion of consent, choice, Isildur (and his descendants) kind of being a big time jerk, point of view, empathy, and how LOTRO chooses to engage with the Paths of the Dead section of its source material.

There's also a stealthed burglar somewhere in this screencap.

Shrew’s eye view heading north in the Dead Marshes.

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Escher Cats! – Catwoman #49!

I looked into the abyss and haven’t been able to look away since. Seriously. the cover for part two of this two parter isn’t covered in literal spiders but instead in terrible anatomy defying contortions. Also, since last issue was the octopus tentacle … whatever one wants to call it last issue, apparently this time it’s spiders. Or at least spider-women.

Selina too but dang spiderlady your body just does not look right.

Your kink is not my kink. Also I think Morella needs a chiropractor.

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Escher Cats! – Catwoman #48!

For the sake of my readers I am going to skip having an image before the cut because if you have spider issues, this issue’s cover is not for you. It’s really, really not. Maximum tarantulas per inch kind of not.

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Escher Cats! – Catwoman #47

The unfortunate thing about a two-part story is that it gives the artist another chance at making a cover worthy of Escher Girls. And oh is this one ever worthy.

I think She-Cat is laughing because she got off easiest. Most of her bodey is blocked by the building she's climbing? hanging onto?

Apparently Catwoman has an anti-gravity butt and Two-Face is just two legs fused at a right angle directly below his rib cage.

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Escher Cats! – Catwoman #46!

After a month’s hiatus for my Pride Month Post Party and then a series of local power and internet outages, I and my Escher Cats feature are back with … more Doug Moench penned Catwoman issues. Apparently Two-Face doesn’t like starch on his clothes.

You think I'm kidding? You'll wish I was kidding. Oh 90s.

He’s also breaking out of prison and planning crimes against shirts.

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Save Our Apartment! Get More Posts!

Skipping the preamble – my partner and I need $1200 by Friday July 8 or we will be evicted (and then sued for the rent money we still won’t have) on Sunday July 10. Technically the money could be turned in first thing Sunday but all of it needs to be transferred and in the bank before then and the check given to the landlord ASAP.

The eviction notice was delivered this morning (Tuesday, July 5) and includes the remaining rent from last month, as well as this month’s rent and fees (including probably $30 for the sheet of printer paper the notice is on). Flat out we do not and will not have this money in time. My partner’s first paycheck after over a month of full-time work as an in-home Direct Service Provider (two weeks of it unpaid, with fees to be deducted from the first two paychecks) all went to other bills to avoid having utilities shut off and to avoid having him without the car, car insurance, gasoline, and phone service required in order to keep and perform his job, and the next paycheck, to be picked up this Friday (although only part of it will be available til next week – the bank apparently doesn’t trust the company enough to make the entire deposit available at once), will also be going towards working down and evening up the non-rent bills so that we, again, don’t lose utilities or his job.

In case it isn’t clear, he will also lose his job if we lose the apartment, which is what will happen without help.

We have at least been lucky in that so far his schedule has never changed (and it does change often, with often little notice) in a way that leaves us completely unable to visit the food bank in a given week, but everything is literally going into paying and catching up on our bills and into keeping and performing his job and that leaves us not just without the ability to buy groceries but also without the ability to catch up on the rent and come out even. And now we get to either come out even or die.

So, first off – thank you so so much to anyone who reads this and shares it and extra big thanks to anyone who is able to donate. Y’all are awesome. And, second, if you are able to donate,¬†you can donate via Paypal using ittousagi AT hotmail DOT com as the e-mail address. And – any size donation helps. Seriously. A number of stairs can turn into a staircase, but you can’t have a staircase without any stairs, which is my way of saying even the smallest donation is genuinely appreciated and helpful.

Thirdly, I don’t know how this will actually go given my health and partner’s schedule (and the fact that my website is up for renewal this month and I may not end up able to pay the yearly renewal costs), but if you head below the cut I will give a breakdown of some potential post ideas I have coming up for the writing I do on my website for my Patreon (and for everybody – all of my articles are free to everyone, but the Patreon is a nice tip in the jar).

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100% Organic Natural Free-range Grassfed Queers, a Writing Guide

Do you want to write queer characters into your tv show, movie, novel, comic, or other piece of creative media? Are you worried about it feeling forced or like “token diversity”? Do you just want to write good characters and have any diversity happen naturally in the course of writing or casting or what have you? Are you very certain that diversity will just happen and that you¬†will create queer (and other diverse) characters in your fictive world, just when it happens naturally?

If so, I have a bridge to sell you. I also do have advice (oh do I ever have advice, so you may want to get a snack and a drink and a comfy place to sit and read because this is not going to be a short post), but let me make it clear in case my article title and the above paragraph haven’t –

Even if you are totally, 100% genuine and earnest in your desire and intent to include or introduce queer characters into a piece of fiction you are involved with and not just trying to fob us off with excuses and smokescreens so we will (and/or so our good-intentioned non-queer fellow fans will) keep reading, watching, and otherwise consuming … that inclusion is NOT just going to happen on its own. Spoilers for everything else I’m going to say, but it’s not. And we know it or we learn it, because you’re not the first person with good intentions (or, again, blowing smoke to cover a lack of intentions) who ends up not including us at all, or who throws us one tiny trampled bone after the fact.

Can you tell I'm going to talk about Dumbledore? Can you? And, yes, I know this is movie Gandalf not movie Dumbledore.

A wizard is never late, neither is he early, and neither is he revealed to be gay until the entire seven novel series and five out of eight film adaptations are released. And the wizard himself is dead.

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√Čowyn, Eomund‚Äôs Daughter

     When they had all drunk, the king went down the hall to the doors. There the guards awaited him, and heralds stood, and all the lords and chiefs were gathered together that remained in Edoras or dwelt nearby.

‘Behold! I go forth, and it seems like to be my last riding,’ said Th√©oden. ‘I have no child. Th√©odred my son is slain. I name¬†√Čomer my sister-son to be my heir. If neither of us return, then choose a new lord as you will. But to some one I must now entrust my people that I leave behind, to rule them in my place. Which of you will stay?’

No man spoke.

‘Is there none whom you would name? In whom do my people trust?’

‘In the House of Eorl,’ answered H√°ma.

‘But¬†√Čomer I cannot spare, nor would he stay,’ said the king; ‘and he is the last of that House.’

‘I said not¬†√Čomer,’ answered H√°ma. ‘And he is not the last. There is¬†√Čowyn, daughter of¬†√Čomund, his sister. She is fearless and high-hearted. All love her. Let her be as lord to the Eorlingas, while we are gone.’

‘It shall be so,’ said Th√©oden. ‘Let the heralds announce to the folk that the Lady¬†√Čowyn shall lead them!’

Then the king sat upon a seat before his doors, and¬†√Čowyn knelt before him and received from him a sword and a fair corslet. ‘Farewell sister-daughter!’ he said. ‘Dark is the hour, yet maybe we shall return to the Golden Hall. But in Dunharrow the people may long defend themselves, and if the battle go ill, thither will come all who escape.’

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Kate Kane, Puddlejumper Pilot: AKA, You Can’t Write Queer Characters In That!

What does a queer person look like? How do we act? Do we all have laser eyes and love our mothers and listen to musicals while knitting? Do we weep while clutching skulls and enacting a gay version of the death of Hamlet? How do you, questioning, questing writer or other creator (or approver) of fictional media, actually end up including queer characters and how do you shape them so that they feel “real” to you and so that the queer people wanting representation do not fall upon you like a flock of laser-eyed, mother-loving, knitting-needle-clutching vampires of vengeance?

If I can manage to stop laughing and find a “read more” image, I will try to give you a place to start, because, oh gentle content creator with good, pure, genuine intent, I know you are tripping on, getting tangled in, and even, all unbeknownst to you, drowning in swamps full of mental blockades you may not even be aware are there.

Seriously. The comic this is from is really really queer. Maximum queers per inch of ship footage and all that. Also I just really love this panel.

And unlike the name for this ship full of queers, you are not really going to get answers writ large for you in the sky.

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Dumbledon’t: When Inclusion Happens After the Fact (or not at all)

Dumbledore? What does Dumbledore have to do writing (or not writing) queer characters into fictional worlds? Isn’t Dumbledore canonically gay? Why don’t you look particularly happy? Are you …. cry-laughing into your drink? Should you really be writing as an imaginary person you are talking to?

Those are all excellent questions (and not just because I came up with all of them) and short answer is, besides telling you all to head below the “read more” cut, that Dumbledore is a familiar, well-known, and thus easy to use example who also encapsulates a lot of the problems with leaving¬†queer existence to after-the-fact author confirmation and the imaginations and creative outputs of fandom.

Seriously. I am not over people latching on to the fact that a character paints as a sign that that character is the queer one that the show heads and writers thought of as queer but never wrote as queer and still will not actually name.

Considering how relevant the things people latch on as Signs of Queerness are to actually being queer, I think I’m justified in throwing in some Rankin-Bass dwarves in bags here as the “read more” image.

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