Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Have you discovered The Hybrid?

I know I've talked about it here and there and everywhere, but I'm frankly not done because preorders are still open which means y'all can still get it.

A while back, Ginger Hoesly threw out there that she was considering putting together a 12th Doctor and Clara Oswald zine. A few months later, and it's on sale, with all sorts of neat merch attached and a frankly astonishing set of writers and artists on board.

What's great — and what enabled me to take part — is the fact that this was more a zine-thology (aha!), with both art and stories. I'm not big into the zine scene, but I understand it's largely art-based. So doing this gave me a chance not only to create a new story for one of my favorite TARDIS teams, but also to work with some old friends (like Mike Dent and Paul Driscoll) and some new-to-me talent.

The proceeds from this will be going to One to One Children's Fund, for which Jenna Coleman is an ambassador. And there are a lot of different ways to go about supporting them. There's a digital book in case you're not keen on shipping costs, or if funds are low but you still want to contribute and get something nice in return. There's a print book to hold in your hand. There are also merch packages. What's that about?

Again, in the new-to-me world of zines, there's fan-made merch you can add on to your order. In this case, the merch orders also raise money for the charity, so it's more goodness all 'round. The bundles for this work kind of like stretch goals on crowdfunding. At the time of this writing, the bundle includes three prints. When they hit 25 orders, everyone who orders a bundle (including those who already paid) will also get three stickers and an iron-on patch. At 50, all that plus two acrylic charms. And so on.

There's also the Cloister Bundle (which I named, I'm so proud), which includes a book, merch bundle, and an acrylic standee designed by zine artist staypee. If you're not familiar with acrylic standees, they're rad — basically another alternative to figurines. They're all the rage in Japan.

Preorders are open now, and since I have a lot of Who types following me, I'm sure there's some of you who will need this in your life in some form. Bonus? Mine is apparently the first story in there. So new weird Kara fiction, no waiting.

Let me know if you preorder a copy! I want to see who in my circles is buying these up. And once they get shipped out, I'd love to know which stories and art people especially like.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Return to Camelot: Fate/GO and the New Legend of Bedivere

Yes, we're here talking about Fate/Grand Order again. I do this a lot... and admittedly, one of the reasons I do it a lot on here is because my writing for Crunchyroll, VRV, We Are Cult, and The Sartorial Geek is allowing me more scope to talk about things I love in multiple areas. That does, however, mean that a lot of what would usually have been my blog fodder is now elsewhere. Which, don't get me wrong, is good. But it also means the stuff I cover on here will be a lot more chill and a lot more personal.

It also explains (in addition to other blog-ly duties) why I've gone to once weekly on here. If you'd like more from me, absolutely hit up my feeds on the other sites.

That. Aside.

I recently finished, save for the Free Quests, the Camelot storyline of Fate/Grand Order. And if you know anything about me, it should surprise you zero that this is the one I've been gearing up for. Even the very opening of it intrigued me: a journey back to the Crusades, only to discover that there were no crusades, and that Camelot and the era of Ozymandias both existed at odds in this time.

Even for a franchise already steeped in Arthurian lore, this Singularity of Fate/GO takes some massive, crazy turns. The jumping-off point of the story this time is the now-common legend of Bedivere returning Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake at Arthur's death, so that Arthur may die. In all versions of this telling, Bedivere tries twice, unable to part with his king, and is admonished. The third time, he throws it back, the Lady catches it, and Arthur dies.

This entire Singularity is kicked off because Bedivere couldn't make it happen on that third try. And what wowed me about this whole mess is that, really, this could be a "respected" piece of Arthuriana.

So, quick version — as quick as I can make this Once Upon a Time style soap opera heck-mess. You (the player) and your faithful sidekick Demi-Servant Mash Kyrielight meet a Servant claiming to be named Lucius. But you discover soon after that he's actually Bedivere, and yet he is not part of the Bizarro World Camelot that's landed here. If anything, he seems desperate to put an end to it. Also, he has a super powerful silver arm. But using it too much wears him down.

Meanwhile, in Camelot, we have a really weirdly godlike version of good ol' Altria Pendragon. She's surrounded by the usual suspects (Gawain, Tristan, Lancelot, Agravain, and Mordred), all of whom are completely down with her plan to find pure humans and welcome them into the walls of Camelot, and kill the impure ones. Even though this is super un-King-Arthur-y and they all know it. (Well, except for Lancelot. He's running a refugee camp on the quiet.)

So what's going on? Who is this Altria Pendragon who clearly looks and sounds like our Altria enough to know it's her, but who's got some really weird concepts of what "saving humanity" means? It's all down to Bedivere and his arm.

In the earliest legends, Bedivere only has one arm. So if we go by that, at the moment of Altria's death, he should have one arm and one Excalibur. But here he is, a millennium and a half later, with two arms and no Excaliburs.

Filling in the blanks yet?

Fortunately, it's laid out for us: when Bedivere tried a third time to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake, he once again failed. He couldn't go back to his king after a third failure, so he just... took Excalibur and wandered off, alone with a magic sword of immortality and his guilt. He eventually washed up half-dead on the shores of Avalon, where Merlin crafted him an arm out of Excalibur, on the condition that he then "return" it to his king. Bedivere was never a Servant... just a barely immortal human who'd been running himself down for more than a thousand years out of guilt.

But since the sword wasn't returned, Altria couldn't die. Instead, she took up her spear Rhongomyniad (a weapon mentioned in passing, usually as "Ron"), whose power eventually took control of her, making her its avatar. In fact, late in the chapter she becomes referred to as Goddess Rhongomyniad, signifying there's more of the spear's will to her now than her own. And this plays big-time into the game's story's endgame, but as a stand-alone story, it's so beautiful and heartbreaking.

I'm absolutely not even remotely shocked that it was turned into a stage show.

Overall, I really do like Fate/GO's stories, but this one in particular was so stunning simply because of the Arthurian lore it was already building on. The game gets silly and jokey and self-aware, but I always marvel at just how well it knows what it's talking about, regardless of era.

I wish people could experience this story in full — a knight so overly loyal to his king that he caused centuries of harm, and how he did penance for it — even if they're not into the game. It belongs in a book of lore. Granted, the bit about Sherlock Holmes breaking and entering a library of magic might be a bit weird in the midst of it, but whatever man. It's Fate.

The next Singularity is going to be a big one, as we finally approach the Big Moment for this particular story arc. So I'm kind of happy we're coasting along on a self-aware magical girl story for now.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Building Character: How Random Questions Round Out an OC

So before we kick this shindig off, let me make one thing very clear: if you write in any respect, you are a real writer, and this article is for you.

I don't care if you're published, unpublished, a tabletop gamer, an online roleplayer, or creating characters for something someday. I don't care if you write original works, fanfiction, or whatever the hell else. You put metaphorical pen to metaphorical paper and create something new where there wasn't something before, I consider you a writer, and anyone who tells you otherwise can come and fight me.

With that said.

Character creation is, for me, one of the most fun and also the most daunting elements of creating a story. And I say this from multiple angles. I'm currently retooling some characters for an upcoming published series, creating completely new ones for other works, and rolling up a Tiefling cleric for my friend Emily's 5ed game.

I'm a hybrid planner/pantser when it comes to writing: the end is in sight and I know what needs to happen to make the ending make sense, but I allow breathing room for the characters to decide they have other ideas. That said, I need to know my cast before I start, or at least enough to have their basic motivations down.

Creating an entire new fictional human (or whatever species they are) is difficult. For real humans, you're looking at some pretty infinite scope when it comes to motivation, feeling, changing feelings, and the like. Certain personality traits may develop over years and decades, and change when confronted with certain events.

I don't believe that you need to know your characters inside and out to write them. I believe only that you need to come in with enough that, if you were hit with a sudden question, you could extrapolate from what you have.

Emily has a fun way of helping build our D&D characters: she'll jump at us (online, not in reality) with a completely arbitrary question. We have to answer right away, even if that means making something up. It could be what the character's favorite smell is, a food they refuse to eat, their favorite time of day, etc.

The point is not to know this fact; the point is to open a gateway to questions, which encourage you to think creatively and find the way to big answers. As an example, a discussion she and I had about my aforementioned Tiefling cleric, Fight-the-Good-Fight-in-Faith, where I was led to create spur-of-the-moment responses:


Emily: So what's Faith's favorite smell?

Me: Um. Burning leaves in autumn.

Emily: Why that specifically? Is there a memory attached to it?

Me: She and her dad would make little backyard campfires in autumn and pretend they were on adventures.

Emily: Aw, that's adorable! Why didn't they use wood, though? Were they too poor?

Me: Mom said they had to only use wood for important fires, so Faith and her dad would use leaves and stuff.

Emily: Sounds like Mom was the strict one?

Me: Not strict so much as having common sense and just knowing what was needed to keep things in order. Dad was the "fun one" and Mom was the "disciplinarian," but there was no meanness or anything.


See? Now I had a clear view of Faith's parents, whose outline before had been "They're nice and also still alive," as well as a context for how she was raised. And those are two things that can be used as jumping-off points for a lot of bigger questions about motivation and history.

I see a lot of lists online of "30 Questions About Your OC," and they're super-good. I have several saved down and use them as a jumping-off point. But they're most useful as a starting point, with each question leading to a "Yes, and" dialogue.

For example, let's take a question like "What's a food your character refuses to eat?" Let's say the answer is avocado (because I don't like avocado). Why do they refuse to eat it? This could go off in a lot of directions:

* "They just don't like it." Are they a picky eater in general? Is there anything else they refuse to eat because they just don't like it? What do they tend toward food-wise if they are a picky eater? Does this limit the places they go to eat or shop for food? What would that mean regarding the people they run into on a regular basis?

* "It's a texture thing." Are they especially sensitive to food textures? What about others, like fabric? Is there anything else they avoid because of texture sensitivity?

* "Their parents made them eat it a lot." Were their parents pushy or well-meaning about food? Did they try to push any of their other preferences on your character? Did they ever tell their parents they were burned out on it, or was that kind of communication not a thing between them? Are their other pieces of parental influence they've shunned in a similar way?

* "They're allergic." How allergic: a bad sensitivity or full-on hospitalization? How did they find out? How do they deal with being sick? Are there any other allergies or illnesses they deal with?

Bear in mind the point is not to give or receive the third degree. It's to inspire your brain to tick over, draw comparisons, and create. And, oddly, it's a much easier and more natural path to an answer than just going "Tell me about your character's parents."

I'll admit I've stolen (borrowed?) Emily's method for a lot of character creation work I'm doing now. And it works extremely well in tandem with more familiar styles of planning. After all, we're all made up of the sum of our experiences. So why should our characters be any different?

Incidentally, I'm really looking forward to telling you guys about her campaign when it rolls out. Stay tuned.

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Thursday, August 16, 2018

"Share Your Rejections": From a Writing Perspective

I know I've talked before, here or elsewhere, about rejection as a writer. Specifically, how realistic expectations are, and how we've come to sort of have a skewed view of rejections vs. acceptance from a writing standpoint.

It came to mind as I was skimming the #ShareYourRejections tag — which is equal parts bizarre, sad, and the occasional story of beautiful comeuppance. It's a mix of creators getting their work rejected and people being turned away from jobs for strange and unfair reasons.

So I guess before I start anything else, I'll share my rejection. Or rather, rejections. Because I'm a writer, which means rejections are kind of a part of life.

When I was about twelve or thirteen, I wrote a book. (Don't be impressed, it was like 50 pages long and not great.) This was back when you didn't have things like Submittable and online calls for pitches, so my grandfather and I would buy writers' magazines and look for people who were accepting unsolicited submissions. We printed out my "book," packed it up, and sent it over.

Now, obviously, looking back 25 years I know my grandfather was not expecting my first childish crack at writing to get published. He was teaching me how to send off a manuscript and giving me the experience of actually going through the process. He was probably also setting me up for the experience of rejection (and if for some reason someone out there wanted to pay money for a preteen's super-mini-novella, bonus).

The first rejection letter I ever got still sticks with me. "I think you've misunderstood. We publish books for young adults, not by young adults." Which. Look. Again. S.E. Hinton cases are rare when you're talking going through an actual publisher.

But I remembered that all the way up through high school. You're not a grownup, so you can't do it. It has nothing to do with whether or not you're any good. We aren't even addressing that. It's because you're a kid.

You'd never see that today because Twitter piranhas would pick the company clean in ten seconds flat for discouraging a child. But in retrospect, eh. Maybe they really did think I was that confused.

More recently, I had a story rejected because. Eh. It wasn't quite what they were looking for. That's fair. That's actually the major reason people get rejected. You have a hundred submissions and twelve spots. 88 people have to be told "no," and some of those are going to be really good writers who stuck the landing only slightly less well than another really good writer.

After my rejection, I shopped the story around again after giving it an edit. Another publication took it happily. Nice.

The first publication wrote back, saying they were starting a podcast where they would discuss stories they had rejected and why they rejected them, so people could better understand what they were looking for in submissions. And could they use mine.

Before you say that sounds like a good idea, let me just note that they didn't mean "editors in general," they meant "specifically them." As in, "here's why this story didn't fit this particular publisher's standards."

Before you say that still sounds like a good idea, this was an obscure company with very specific tastes.

If it were about editor picks in general, or keyed to something that could be more widely applied, I'd probably have let them. But as it was very insular, I saw no point. Well, that and I'd sold the story already.

It was nice emailing them saying "Sorry, I can't let you use my story to explain why it wouldn't get accepted because it just got accepted."

Okay, those are mine.

So like. For a writer, rejections suck. They're no fun. You bust your butt with an idea, and it feels very personal. If the story was a passion project, it feels like a personal insult. If you wrote for a specific pitch, now you're stuck with something extremely specific and nowhere to send it.

Learning to live with rejections doesn't mean not being bothered by them, because we are not robots. Rejections suck! I hate them! They aren't fun! Whenever I get one I get all cranky, and then I feel like a big baby. Sometimes I take it way too personally. Sometimes in my own mind I put way too much blame on the publisher.

I can be bothered by getting a rejection while still understanding that it's an inherent part of my job. And that writers far better than I are getting just as many rejections over work far better than mine will ever be.

I kind of laugh at the "So-and-so was rejected twelve times before their book sold." Bully, man. Twelve rejections is a slow month. Again. Not fun. Sucky. But also part of life.

That's why I love the #ShareYourRejections tag right now. For writers, it's helping to hear just how many people go through it just how often. It's a good reminder that being a successful creator does not mean you've reached some magical point where everything you do gets accepted from now on. Not unless you are entirely self-funding and produce your own content from beginning to end.

And it's a reminder that you're not the only one who's had a pretty gross rejection letter. Some very successful people have been told some shitty things about specific projects that are now coming to a bookshelf or theater near you. It doesn't mean everything we create is bound for greatness. (I've got a bottom drawer that will prove otherwise.) But it's a reminder that different perspectives exist. Sometimes the editor is wrong. Sometimes you and the editor are wrong for each other. Sometimes, yeah, you really need to go back to the drawing board.

Keep sharing your stories. Y'all are awesome, and I love seeing how many of you are achieving greatness.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

I AM INNOCENT: Casual Gaming Gets Skinned

Full disclosure: I did not play the entirety of I Am Innocent. I cannot speak for the ending of the storyline of the game; however, I played enough chapters of the game's various functions that I have a pretty damn good idea of what the experience would be like in the long term. While I admit up front that I cannot judge the game's plot based on its ending, I do feel that the fact that I did not finish it is a pertinent point in this piece for a variety of reasons.

First, though. What the hell am I on about.

I Am Innocent is a smartphone game I saw advertised on Instagram. It was free with in-app transactions, which usually means pay-to-win or pay-to-work-less-hard. Even with that proviso in my face, I was intrigued. It was a real-time story in which you received clues, hacked information, and solved puzzles to unravel a story and save a life.

My jam.

So, the concept. You're dicking around on your phone and chatting with people. You have a couple characters established up front: your ex Stella, who you're still on good terms with, and your hacker buddy Eric, who can make Internet magic happen and occasionally throw you some in-game cryptocurrency. You get a little while to chat with them and choose between responses to affect what sort of terms you're on with them.

Then the mysterious untraceable text comes in.

You talk to two unknowns: a man being held captive, and his captor. You start off knowing nothing about either of them — only that you will decide whether the captive lives or dies. Fortunately you have friends with skill sets, so you can set about figuring out what the hell is going on. And then... the real game begins.

Yeah, basically I Am Innocent is a mash-up between a real-time mystery game and a casual color-matching puzzle. And that's... fine. It's probably a two-way solution. It gave the creator of the casual game a way to get it out there, and it's a way to make hacking more interesting in the context of the app itself.

You progress the plot via this "hacking" method: earning stars to unlock new texts from the various characters, and solving all the puzzles in a set to gain info for Eric so he can help you along. Your cryptocurrency (which you can also buy with real money) is, as it turns out, what you use for extra turns and hacks in the game itself. So those fictional pennies get very dear very quickly.

The story of the game, as far as I got, is pretty interesting. There's a lot more to you (a nondescript adult male) that you learn as you go along. You lost your little sister nine years ago, and it may be something to do with the desperate captive. Or it may not. Depending on who you believe. The loss has affected your relationships with pretty much everyone you know, unsurprisingly, and part of the game involves repairing these relationships via text.

I'm divided when it comes to the storytelling. On the one hand, there's definitely some intriguing stuff going on here. On the other, the dialogue leaves something to be desired. Many of the conversations involve you and your conversation partner reminding each other in long expository style of things you both already know. And while I understand that we as the player need story and the texting conceit deprives us of prose... there are ways to create informative dialogue that don't force everyone to be Mr. Exposition.

For this reason, the tenser moments play out better and are more immersive. It's when we step backwards into needing to learn about your sister, or why you and Stella broke up, that it gets stilted.

(As an aside, the first conversation with your father is rough... he messages you out of nowhere basically going "Where did I go wrong with you?" and a few more messages in a maudlin tune begins to play over your headsets as you text back and forth. That was... a choice.)

Honestly... I uninstalled the app because my frustration with the puzzle game was not tempered by my engagement with the story. The concept intrigued me, and the structure of the app is awesome, but the flow (or lack thereof) of the dialogue sort of put a damper on my engagement. How can I put it... this feels like the first draft of a game I'd love to play the final version of.

Others may feel differently about it and 1) not be bothered by the dialogue, 2) be less crap at puzzle games or at least more ready to put up money to be good at them. The photos used are gorgeous, and the creators know it: the photographer is credited and linked in the app, and for good reason.

It's clear that, much like the team solving the mystery within the story of I Am Innocent, there's a multifaceted team behind the creation of it. And it's so very "almost there" for me that I'm certain it will be a hit for others. But I want to see this group at the top of their game. I don't feel like this is it. But I think they have it in them.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

A moth flew into my tea last night.

I'd seen it fluttering around out the corner of my eye on the right-hand side, as I was working on social media posts for the next morning. The Internet had been slow all day, to the point that I couldn't even do my side job of watching an episode of anime to prep a Twitter post. I gave up and did what I could. I was tired already — insomnia leading to nightmares leading to oversleeping.

I can't wake up from nightmares. Paul asked me if it's the same for good dreams. I said no, I'd mind a lot less if it were.

I had another kettle of hot water ready, so I was going to swig the last big of cooling tea in my cup and then swap it out. There was something floating in it, dark and still. It was a moth. Likely the moth.

Shame. I actually kind of like moths. I rescue them from the tight folds of the curtains over the den's back door, where they tend to squeeze away without realizing they'll get trapped. In return they'll likely chew up my sweaters. But whatever.

It lay there on the surface, drifting and completely still. On the one hand, I had to laugh at myself for not noticing a moth taking a header into the teacup literally two inches from my left hand. On the other, I was a bit sad. It couldn't have been there long.

I picked up the cup to go splash the tea, moth and all, out the front door of my office. As I did, the moth twitched one wing. I wasn't sure whether it was me jostling the teacup or if it still had some life in it, so I dipped a finger in the lukewarm tea and tried to scoop the moth up. Nothing at first. Then a frantic flapping of wings, as though the sudden realization that it had help was enough to make it want to have another go at getting free.

It fluttered frantically as I scooped it up under two fingers, then climbed up on a knuckle and began drying its wings. It was a run-of-the-mill cabbage moth, a little darker than I usually see (though that could be because it was wet). It arched its abdomen up as it perched on my finger and dried itself off. I intended to take it to the door of the shop so it could get back outside, but it took off before I could.

I dumped out the tea and made some fresh.

A few minutes later, it flew back, headbutting my hand before taking off again. I let myself entertain the idea that it was giving me a little boop of gratitude. In all likelihood, it was probably just lost.

I do wonder if we do that ourselves. Drop in the drink and realize that, without someone reaching out, there's nothing we can do. When someone does reach out, we scramble. All we need is the first boost out. The rest, we can handle under our own steam.

Animals and insects can't ask for a hand. We can. We don't. We don't because we're trained not to. We have to be completely self-sufficient. And yeah, there are some areas of our life where we sort of have to learn and be ready to handle things on our own in a pinch. Without some degree of self-sufficiency, we won't get far, or have the confidence to.

But we have the power to ask for the hand up. For the five seconds to just lift us out. Not a great deal of emotional lifting. Just the moment to give us a foothold so we're not drowning in our own emotions. And we can do the rest. We just don't realize we can until we have the foothold.

Even animals ask for help. There are stories everywhere of deer, birds, foxes, and feral cats running up to the nearest human to rescue their young from a ditch or get something unstuck from them. Animals that can't use words run to the nearest apex predator for help. We have words and are terrified to use them for fear of looking weak.

Yesterday morning I told my grandfather "I'm sad." Two words. We talked. I knew why. But even though I know better, the world leans gently on me with the idea that admitting to sadness, sitting down and needing to just cry for a few minutes and say "I feel this way," is a weakness. It's not.

I'm not un-sad now. But I'm better than I was. I'm relieved. I'm out of the drink. I'm still drying off.

I didn't see that moth drop into my tea two inches away from me. Your friends can't always see when you drop, either. It's hard. But try. It's not the same as being an "attention whore" — demanding attention is not the same as needing a moment of emotional support.

Really. Give yourself that gift. Don't be me. Don't be the fool who needs to build an entire metaphor out of a bug falling into her tea just to realize it's okay to talk to people.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Fate/GO: A Summer of Arthuriana

NOTE: This piece covers the second half of the summer event currently running on the Fate/Grand Order US servers. If you are currently playing and don't want spoilers for the second half, come back when you're done. Otherwise, read on.

The special events of Fate/Grand Order have managed to strike a weird and welcome balance, and it can't have been easy. I've talked before (and probably will continue to talk) about how the mechanics of each event are tweaked here and there, and how they're slowly but surely finding their format. I also say this with full awareness that the US server is two years behind and the JP server is on to a second story arc, but even so.

The other difficulty they face is the story concept. Because it has to be three things: it has to be engaging, it has to be themed to whatever's going on, and it has to be largely "irrelevant" to the main story line. From a writing standpoint, I class that as both a "challenge" and a "bitch."

The game's first summer event made it happen, creating an alternate island world cut off from Chaldea and a time travel mystery that unfolds over the course of the two-part campaign. The summer theme allows for new versions of fan-favorite Servants, with Scáthach tidily hand-waving the new Summons by "altering their Spirit Origins" so they can be comfortable at the beach. Side quests allow for both one-on-one time with the new Servants (so you'll be more motivated to whale for them) and an opportunity to pick up higher-end goodies. And there's even a choice-driven mechanic that, while only influencing one cut scene and your map, is still pretty cool.

What I wasn't expecting was for the game to go this hard into some fairly obscure Arthurian legend.

He's a Big Pig.

Culhwch and Olwen is an oldie when it comes to Arthurian legends -- potentially the oldest of prose stories to mention King Arthur, as it's dated to around the 1100s. It's also not one you're going to be heavily invested in unless Arthurian legends are Your Thing.

In the latter half of the story, the hero Culhwch is tasked by the father of his beloved Olwen (a giant named Ysbaddaden... whoof) with a quest. Which is... to go get a comb and a pair of scissors with which to take care of Ysbaddaden's beard. Okay, fine. But the comb and scissors are on the head of a giant boar named Twrch Trwyth. Which is pronounced "torhhhgh troyse," before you give yourself the same aneurysm I ended up with.

Which, okay. Except that only a very specific dog can hunt Trwyth. And only on a very specifically made leash, which can only be held by a very specific person, and actually Culhwch go get your cousin Arthur, he can help.

The upshot is that King Arthur hunts and kill Trwyth, but not before discovering that said boar also has a razor tucked up on top of his head, too. As you do. Culwch brings the three items back to his soon-to-be dad-in-law... and then has to go kill another boar named Ysgirhyrwyn. But that's not really relevant here so.

What is relevant is that Trwyth wasn't always a boar — in the tale, he's the son of a prince, cursed to take the form of a boar with poisonous bristles. He also has seven piglets. So there's a lot more going on here than just "dude has to go kill animal for loot."

All that said. As heavily as the Fate franchise leans on these legends, I was genuinely not expecting the beach episode to do a deep dive like this.

Though I guess the demon boars everywhere should've been my tip-off.

A Summer Adventure

If a giant cursed boar-man packing a toiletry kit on his head isn't weird enough for you, Fate/GO's summer campaign just adds to it: Altria (the game's female analog to King Arthur) encounters Trwyth on the mysterious island where your team is stranded, and is immediately recognized. The moment is a bizarre throwaway soon buried under the other Servants begging you to build them castles and theme parks, but it stayed pretty heavily in the back of my head. After all, the main storyline is currently exploring an alternate Camelot, where a differently-motivated Altria has taken over the Crusades.

By the campaign's second arc, we discover that a temporal loop has dropped your party back on the same island you just left mere days ago... except for the island, it's been two thousand years. Highly-evolved boar piglets have, with the help of a now-hibernating Thomas Edison, nearly made it to their own space age. (I swear I am not making a damn bit of this up.) But then disaster strikes.

"Disaster" has taken the form of Twrch Trwyth, so fueled by hate that he has become an eternal monster in much the same way Servants become Heroic Spirits, and has created a mechanical body for himself to stay alive until such time as he can disguise himself as Altria, destroy the island, and tarnish her good name forever.

I swear. I am not. Making any of this up. (Though frankly, this storyline is downright sedate compared to the majority of Arthurian romances.)

As I said before, I kind of expected an Altria-centric story. Because even though main plots and event plots rarely cross over in any sort of essential way, the Camelot story is Kind Of A Big Deal. And any time a new Altria is introduced, it is also a big deal. (Hell, there was an event about the proliferation of Altrias.)

As a character, Altria may not be one of the core figures in Grand Order: she, like the rest of the Servants, is there primarily for support and fan service. You yourself, Mash Kyrielight, and the team back at Chaldea are the "stars," as it were, with others shifting through the spotlight during different stories. But so much of the mythos is rooted in these legends (with an equal footing in the Celtic) that there are a few things you will always see return. And it's wonderful, honestly.

Like. Honest talk, cards on the table. The Fate franchise started as a porn game. Lots of popular franchises did. (Maybe someday I'll talk about why that's a thing.) It hasn't exactly just discarded its past -- while Grand Order doesn't contain nudity, you've got entire events focused on characters in swimsuits, you've got alternate versions of Nero (also a female iteration) with a wedding gown with a butt window. You've got Mata Hari for Christ's sake. I'm really not going to look you in the eye and tell you that this is high literary art with no regard given whatsoever for a consumer desire for scantily clad girls.

I'm just saying these nerds are really doing their homework and I'm wondering how they're going to impress me next.

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