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The mayor of Bozeman, Chris Mhel, is accused of being overly aggressive by multiple people. This is a copy of an email I received in regards to that.

September 7, 2020 Labor Day
Members of the Bozeman City Commission, Because I cannot remain silent if I deserve to have any claim to continue to care about the rights, safety, equitable and fair treatment of women to advance gender and all equity in our community, I will do this as an individual and not on behalf of any organization. Preparing and sharing this Statement does not give me any pleasure and I hated to have to go through the pain of these records and memories again in order to respond. These statements of harmful and harassing treatment toward Bozeman City employees by our Mayor strongly influenced me that we who have suffered or witnessed this must step forward. I strongly urge everyone who is reading or listening to this - PLEASE review ALL the attached Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) documents from our current and former City Employees – many from women, but not all – to understand this: those leaders appearing to be women-supporting, liberal or even progressive men who are in power can and in this case with the Mayor, have profoundly harmed our City’s workforce including the 1st and only women City Manager, many have said was our most successful ever. And most employees who all want the Mayor removed. From the Bozeman City Commission Agenda for September 8, 2020, the FOIA Documents – open to read all 3 sections plus those from Commissioner Cunningham (total of 4):
Discussion of Documents Related to Public Records Requests (Sullivan)
I am writing and speaking about my experiences with Chris Mehl, from and since April 19, 2018.
This date is when a leader of a local women’s business organization and I had a meeting with then Deputy Mayor Mehl (DM) to share and exchange around our City for CEDAW women’s human rights campaign to create safe, equitable and fair employment and living conditions in our community. Our meeting goal, quite simply in the same manner of our successful Equal Pay for Equal Work Resolution adopted by the City three years earlier, was to meet with each City Commissioner for an opportunity to educate, exchange around and get their advice about our proposed policy to advance women’s human rights in the workplace, schools, and our overall community through adoption of an Ordinance or Resolution. Over 70 Cities large and small throughout the U.S. have done this. Because at that time Mayor Andrus chose not to meet with any representatives of our campaign, the DM indicated he would stand in for the Mayor and learn more himself. I also indicated to the DM that there would be another representative from the local women’s business organization - a part of our City for CEDAW Leadership team who would join me. In our thorough preparation to meet with the DM – as with every Commission and community leader - we reached out to other current and former City leaders about how to approach and what best to say. At that time, I was warned by several of them that the DM “had a temper” and then I also shared that with this leader accompanying me, having no idea what that information could truly mean to each of us and our lives following. We spent an hour on April 19, 2018 from 4:00-5:00 pm at Sola Café, at the request of the DM, with several other customers nearby in the back section. While we had a carefully prepared outline of talking points of why we are requesting this now and how a policy to advance the human rights of all women and girls could benefit the City of Bozeman, we of course wanted to hear and address the DM’s questions and concerns. This meeting began by the DM with heated accusations made in anger and outrage to us in a shouting communication style about the fact that we dared to ask for this policy and goal – especially since the DM stated the Mayor already said she wouldn’t meet with our Campaign and didn’t we already have an Equal Pay Resolution. He then moved into accusatory rapid talking points ranging from how adopting a women’s human rights ordinance would cost at least $500,000 to conduct a City needs assessment to identify and address evidence of measurable gender and other discrimination and how could we waste the City’s tax dollars that way…..and the fact that children in our City have food insecurity and why should we fund a study instead of feeding the children? In trying to even answer or explore options we couldn’t get a word in for the first 30-45 minutes of his berating, bulling, belittlement and harassing “leadership style” that appeared to communicate his job was to intimidate and diminish us to the point that we would never return to the Mayor or City nor continue to educate and advance for any further women’s human rights.
As we tried to both indicate that such a study was important to identify evidence of where gender and other discrimination existed in the institutions and sectors of our City and also recommend best practices to eradicate them – as recently well demonstrated by the Bozeman United for Racial Justice which only required 2 Marches of thousands of Bozeman residents and we congratulate them! – would cost from $10-20K and we already planned to ask other organizations for their support including MSU, Women’s Foundations, donors and more! In addition, if there was great urgency about Bozeman children’s food security, our Campaign’s issue as well - the results of our study was intended to strategically focus scarce tax dollars on which of our children and families needed assistance. And from lived experience - we know many of them were likely from single parent, underpaid, women-headed households. And that a gender analysis that included race/ethnicity, income, age and more would benefit all city policies, strategic planning, budgeting and employee workplace conditions beyond pay equity disparities to include prevention of sexual, racial harassment and other corrosive and harmful behaviors.
But the DM couldn’t or wouldn’t listen until the final few minutes of this torturous hour when we calmed him down and pointed out some of the less costly or free policies other 70 Cities for CEDAW in the US have used to further women’s safety and economic security in their communities. Meanwhile those Sola Café customers and staff also witnessed the DM “leadership style” and more. After he left, we were asked,” who was that?” We said, “that’s your upcoming Mayor.” After the DM left, the volunteer leader and I tried to debrief this experience because this was so shocking - this was way more than a “Temper” issue - and appeared to be a pattern if we needed to be forewarned before meeting with the DM. In preparation for this Statement to the Commission, I needed to review and decided I will share my notes exchanged with my colleague from that DM meeting - written a day later, April 20, 2018: Quite honestly I did not expect the level to which I felt he [DM] was bullying, belittling and setting up so much opposition that he really didn't want to know any answers to the questions; he simply wanted to use them as a chance to humiliate us. I'm very, very angry and very unhappy about what he did; it was totally unnecessary and it was not fitting for a Deputy Mayor and future Mayor of our community. I'm going to be meeting with [another leader] today about their liaison with the School Board and I'm going to let them know some of what happened and get advice. I am drafting a letter this morning to Chris that follows up with Cyndy's email and why the over 20 people that were consulted about this Campaign did not see it as he did, because I don't think again he read this information very carefully. I'm going to ask you to look at it if you don't mind and share it with [ ] when I meet her with her tomorrow before I send it out. I don't want to do anything in anger. So I'm venting a little but you were wonderful and honestly we didn't need to come in with a bargaining position. We were there to learn what concerns he and the other Commissioners have:
- I had asked Chris specifically in other emails if "you are able to generally support it", or "what exactly can you support" and that was what I thought the basis of the meeting was going to be about.
Since you have so many objections to Our proposed [Bozeman for CEDAW] Ordinance as a model to achieve gender equity in our city, what is a process or framework that can allow the city to stand for gender equity and the health, dignity and safety of women and girls that is of substance and can be acceptable to the city?
The ball is in his court or their court if he's really representing Cyndy Andrus as well. But she would not behave this way - that is for sure. You were great and I couldn't have done it; I couldn't have stood it without you. I honestly did not know that this is what his "temper" is about and it's bad for the City of Bozeman. Thank you again and so sorry we both had to put up with this and quite frankly it's why we need a city ordinance when you have leadership or bosses who treat women like this. It's called gender-based verbal violence and sexual harassment and we are Me Too.
This is what happened, and now I’d like to add why this matters and why our City leadership and community should care and act.
Even though I and the other leader have had to handle other very sexist and sexual harassing situations as well as gender-based violence over our lives, much like every woman – including death threats when I co-founded a program and shelter to address gender-based violence now called The HAVEN – the harsh impacts of DM’s verbal abuse was compounded because of his power as the DM and as incoming Bozeman Mayor. Having never received any apology or clarification about his “leadership style” or any follow up whatsoever from the DM, we drafted several versions of our own follow-up letter to the DM. This letter became so diplomatic to save our women’s rights cause and thus did not adequately address his abuse of power in order to avoid retaliation. Finally we resolved to focus our goal to create and institutionalize policies advancing women’s rights and safety and, now ironically, we decided not to send our letter to the DM. We never even thought this opportunity would occur to address what we now know is a long-standing pattern of the DM’s verbal form of gender-based violence. Instead, what I did is reach out to other leaders in our community to get their advice and felt afterwards that we were not taken seriously and always, in many ways spoken or by inaction, were told the DM’s contributions were more important than his “temper.” But we also learned from other discussions that we were not the only women affected by this pattern of abuse and fear of retaliation. When Mayor Andrus did reach out to me to schedule a meeting in June, 2018, about our City for CEDAW women’s human rights campaign following a City Commission meeting presentation earlier in May with over 100 supporters and nearly 1,000 signatures on our Petition, she wanted the DM to be present. I refused and told her why (correspondence in the other documents) and, upon request, followed up with Mayor Andrus in a lengthy phone call to provide specific examples and details from the meeting with the DM on April 19th. We were grateful she didn’t include him in that meeting. Another result both of us decided for ourselves and the Cities for CEDAW campaign after this April 19th meeting was either to not ever work or meet with the DM or at least always have 3-5 people present to prevent his harmful behavior from bullying and attempting to intimidate us again. Sadly, I also substantially reduced my and our expectations of what could be achieved for the creation of an Ordinance or Resolution to advance women’s human rights as Bozeman policy since that meeting. And as the DM moved into the role of Mayor, this was another way to prevent his attacks. Again, at the painful expense of the most vulnerable women we wanted this human rights policy, education and research to serve. The other volunteer leader quit working with the Equal Pay Resolution and this organization in order to not have to work with Mayor Mehl. She has shared her own story to this effect. Our lived experience as women, men and non-binary people of sexual, racial and/or other harassment and related violence in paid or volunteer workplaces and community leadership - along with the emerging research which is so badly needed here for the City and other workplaces - is now becoming more understood about its breadth and depth. We also know from the #ME TOO Movement that liberal White men – especially when holding the most prominent positions - can present as supporters of women and progressive causes, but do NOT walk their talk. After reading – and I so strong urge everyone who is reading or listening to this, PLEASE review ALL the attached the FOIA documents from our current and former City Employees – many from women, but not all – to understand this: those leaders appearing to be women-supporting, liberal or even progressive leaders who are in power can, and in this case, the Mayor has profoundly harmed our City’s workforce including the 1st and only women City Manager, who many have said was our most successful top Administrator ever. And this “leadership style” has been experienced by other current and previous Commissioners, members of Citizen Advisory Boards, business owners and many more we will never hear from who are also afraid to come forward because if the Mayor is not removed, they will be afraid of retaliation as am I and my colleague. Thinking about future City policies that advance gender and other equity, diversity and inclusion in our community and its workplace, how can anyone feel secure, much less “welcome” in their desire to contribute to our City, as a volunteer or employee, when they learn about this fully documented, unprofessional behavior of our Mayor in violation of the City’s own policies - carefully demonstrated over 2 years with extensive evidence in the FOIA documents by former City Managers Andrea Surratt and Dennis Taylor - if then no substantive action is taken? Now my colleague and I know – the Mayor’s "leadership style" as he defines this – was never only targeted at us, but directed widely, impacting a lot of women at all levels of employment and in our community, including current and former Commissioners, with all harmed in some way. I truly regret that we did not send our fully detailed letter of DM’s bullying, abusive and gender-based harassing treatment to the Mayor and other City leaders two years ago, or had been encouraged to file an Ethics Board complaint, but we believed it would probably be used against us and the organizations we cared about. I ask the City Commissioners on behalf of all who have suffered, been diminished, been humiliated, been afraid and been denied their ability to work in safety and dignity, to change our City’s elected Mayoral leadership now. Thank you, Jan Strout (she/hers) Bozeman, MT
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A trans person's measured take on the trans sports issue

So first of all this post was inspired by GGExMachina's brief statement on the issue:
For example, it is objectively the case that biological men have a physical advantage over women. Yet if someone points this out and suggests that transgender people shouldn’t be allowed to fight in women’s UFC, or women’s soccer or weightlifting competitions or whatever, suddenly you’re some kind of evil monster. Rather than saying that of course trans people shouldn’t be bullied and that we could perhaps have a trans olympics (like the Paralympics and Special Olympics), we are expected to lie.
I've found that this position is incredibly popular among liberals/left-leaning people, especially here on reddit. It seems like, once or twice a month, like clockwork, a thread stating more or less the same thing on /unpopularopinion or /offmychest will get thousands of upvotes. And while I completely understand the thought process that leads otherwise left-leaning people to come to such conclusions, I feel like the issue has been, broadly speaking, dishonestly presented to the general public by a mixture of bad-faith actors and people who have succumbed to the moral panic. And, as I've seen, there are plenty of people in this subreddit and elsewhere who are itching to be as supportive as they possibly can to the trans community but find themselves becoming very disillusioned by this particular issue. By making this post I hope to present a more nuanced take on the issue, not only in regards to my personal beliefs on what kinds of policies are best to preserve fairness in women's sports but also in regards to shining a light on how this issue is often times dishonestly presented in an attempt to impede the progression of pro-trans sentiments in the cultural zeitgeist.

Sex & Gender

The word "transgender" is an umbrella term that refers to people whose gender identities differ from those typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, the approximate composition of "the trans community" in the United States is 29% Transgender men (Female-to-Male), 33% Transgender women (Male-to-Female), and 35% non-binary. (The remaining 3% were survey respondents who self-identified as "crossdressers", who were still included in the survey on the grounds of being gender non-conforming)
While non-binary people, as a group, are probably deserving of their own separate post. the focus of this post will be on trans men and trans women. I will also be primarily focusing on transgender people who pursue medical transition with Hormone-Replacement-Therapy, as they are most relevant to the issue of sports. (Mind that while the majority of binary trans people fit into this camp, there is a sizable minority of trans people who do not feel the need to medically transition.)
What do trans people believe about Gender?
The views of transgender people in regards to Gender are actually pretty varied, although the most prominent positions that I've personally seen are best summed up into two different camps:
  1. The "Trans-Medical" camp
Transgender people who fall into this camp usually consider Gender Dysphoria to be the defining factor of what makes somebody trans. The best way I can describe this camp is that they sort of view being transgender akin to being intersex. Only whereas an intersex person would be born with a disorder that affects the body, a trans person is born with a disorder that affects the brain. Trans people in this camp often times put an emphasis on a clinical course for treatment. For example, a person goes to a psychologist, gets diagnosed with gender dysphoria, starts hormone replacement therapy, pursues surgery, then emerges from this process of either cured of the gender dysphoria or, at the very least, treated to the fullest extent of medical intervention. This position is more or less the original position held by trans activists, back in the day when the word "transsexual" was used instead of "transgender". Though many younger trans people, notably YouTuber Blaire White, also hold this position. Under this position, sex and gender are still quite intertwined, but a trans man can still be considered a man, and a trans woman a woman, under the belief that sex/gender doesn't just refer to chromosomal sex and reproductive organs, but also to neurobiology, genitalia, and secondary sex characteristics. So someone who is transgender, according to this view, is born with the physical characteristics of one sex/gender but the neurobiology of another, and will change their physical characteristics, to the fullest extent medically possible, to match the neurobiology and therefore cure the individual of gender dysphoria.
Critics of this position argue that this mentality is problematic due to being inherently exclusive to transgender people who do not pursue medical transition, whom are often times deemed as "transtrenders" by people within this camp. Many people find it additionally problematic because it is also inherently exclusive to poorer trans people, particularly those in developing nations, who may not have access to trans-related medical care. Note that there are plenty of trans people who *do* have access to medical transition, but nevertheless feel as if the trans community shouldn't gatekeep people who cannot afford or do not desire medical transition, thus believing in the latter camp.
  1. The "Gender Identity" camp
I feel like this camp is the one most popularly criticized by people on the right, but is also probably the most mainstream. It is the viewpoint held by many more left-wing trans people, (Note that in the aforementioned 2015 survey, only 1% of trans respondents voted Republican, so trans people are largely a pretty left-wing group, therefore it makes sense that this position would be the most mainstream) but also notably held by American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, GLAAD, and other mainstream health organizations and activist groups.
While people in this camp still acknowledge that medical transition to treat gender dysphoria can still be a very important aspect of the transgender experience, it's believed that the *defining* experience is simply having a gender identity different from the one they were assigned at birth. "Gender identity" simply being the internal, personal sense of being a man, a woman, or outside the gender binary.
Many people in this camp, though, still often maintain that gender identity is (at least partially) neurobiological, but differ from the first camp in regards to acknowledging that the issue is less black & white than an individual simply having a "male brain" or a "female brain", but rather that the neurological characteristics associated with gender exist on more of a spectrum, thus leaving the door open to gender non-conforming people who do not identify as trans, as well as to non-binary people. This is where the "gender is a spectrum" phrase comes from.
"52 genders" is a popular right-wing meme that makes fun of this viewpoint, however it is important to note that many trans and non-binary people disagree with the idea of quantifying gender identity to such an absurd amount of individual genders, rather more simply maintaining that there are men, women, and a small portion of people in-between, with a few words such as "agender" or "genderqueer" being used to describe specific identities/presentations within this category.
It's also noteworthy that not all people in this camp believe that neurobiology is the be-all-end-all of gender identity, as many believe that the performativity of gender also plays an integral role in one's identity. (That gender identity is a mixture of neurobiology and performativity is a position held by YouTuber Contrapoints)
Trans people and biological sex
So while the aforementioned "Gender Identity" viewpoint has become quite popularized among liberals and leftists, I have noticed a certain rhetorical mentality/assumption become prevalent alongside it, especially among cisgender people who consider themselves trans-allies:
"Sex and Gender are different. A trans woman is a woman who is biologically male. A trans man is a man who is biologically female"
When "Sex" is defined by someone's chromosomes, or the sex organs they were born with, this is correct. However, there is a pretty good reason why the trans community tends to prefer terms like "Assigned Male at Birth" rather than "Biologically Male". This is done not only for the inclusion of people who are both intersex and transgender (For example, someone can be born intersex but assigned male based on the existence of a penis or micropenis), but also due to the aforementioned viewpoint on divergent neurobiology being the cause for gender dysphoria. Those reasons are why the word "Assigned" is used. But the reason why it's "Assigned Male/Female At Birth" instead of just "Assigned Male/Female" is because among the trans community there exists an understanding of the mutability of sexually dimorphic biology that the general population is often ignorant to. For example, often times people (especially older folks) don't even know of the existence of Hormone Replacement Therapy, and simply assume that trans people get a single "sex change operation" that, (for a trans woman) would just entail the removal of the penis and getting breast implants. Therefore they imagine the process to be "medically sculpting a male to look female" instead of a more natural biological process of switching the endocrine system form male to female or vice versa and letting the body change over the course of multiple years. It doesn't help that, for a lot of older trans people (namely Caitlyn Jenner, who is probably the most high profile trans person sadly), the body can be a lot more resistant to change even with hormones so they *do* need to rely on plastic surgery a lot more to get obvious results)
So what sexually dimorphic bodily characteristics can one expect to change from Hormone Replacement Therapy?
(Note that there is a surprising lack of studies done on some of the more intricate changes that HRT can, so I've put a "*" next to the changes that are anecdotal, but still commonly and universally observed enough among trans people [including myself for the MTF stuff] to consider factual. I've also put a "✝" next to the changes that only occur when people transition before or during puberty)
Male to Female:
Female to Male:
For the sake of visual representation, here are a couple of images from /transtimelines to demonstrate these changes in adult transitioners (I've specifically chosen athletic individuals to best demonstrate muscular changes)
Additionally, here's a picture of celebrity Kim Petras who transitioned before male puberty, in case you were wondering what "female pubescent skeletal development" looks like in a trans woman:

How does this relate to sports?

Often times, when the whole "transgender people in sports" discussion arises, a logical error is made when *all* transgender people are assumed to be "biologically" their birth sex. For example, when talking about trans women participating in female sports, these instances will be referred to as cases of "Biological males competing against females".
As mentioned before, calling a trans woman "biologically male" strictly in regards to chromosomes or sex organs at birth would be correct. However, not only can it be considered derogatory (the word "male" is colloquially a shorthand for "man", after all), but there are many instances where calling a post-HRT transgender person "biologically [sex assigned at birth]" is downright misleading.
For example, hospitals have, given transgender patients improper or erroneous medical care by assuming treatment based on birth sex where treatment based on their current endocrinological sex would have been more adequate.
Acute Clinical Care of Transgender Patients: A Review
Conclusions and relevance: Clinicians should learn how to engage with transgender patients, appreciate that unique anatomy or the use of gender-affirming hormones may affect the prevalence of certain disease (eg, cardiovascular disease, venous thromboembolism, and osteoporosis), and be prepared to manage specific issues, including those related to hormone therapy. Health care facilities should work toward providing inclusive systems of care that correctly identify and integrate information about transgender patients into the electronic health record, account for the unique needs of these patients within the facility, and through education and policy create a welcoming environment for their care.
Some hosptials have taken to labeling the biological sex of transgender patients as "MTF" (for post-HRT trans women) and "FTM" (for post-HRT trans men), which is a much more medically useful identifier compared to their sex assigned at birth.
In regards to the sports discussion, I've seen *multiple threads* where redditors have backed up their opinions on the subject of trans people in sports with studies demonstrating that cis men are, on average, more athletically capable than cis women. Which I personally find to be a pathetic misunderstanding of the entire issue.
Because we're not supposed to be comparing the athletic capabilities of natal males to natal females, here. We're supposed to comparing the athletic capabilities of *post-HRT male-to-females* to natal females. And, if we're going to really have a fact-based discussion on the matter, we need to have separate categories for pre-pubescent and post-pubescent transitioners. Since, as mentioned earlier, the former will likely have different skeletal characteristics compared to the latter.
The current International Olympic Committee (IOC) model for trans participation, and criticisms of said model
(I quoted the specific guidelines from the International Cycling Union, but similar guidelines exist for all Olympic sports)
Elite Competition
At elite competition levels, members may have the opportunity to represent the United States and participate in international competition. They may therefore be subject to the policies and regulations of the International Cycling Union (UCI) and International Olympic Committee (IOC). USA Cycling therefore follows the IOC guidelines on transgender athletes at these elite competition levels. For purposes of this policy, international competition means competition sanctioned by the UCI or competition taking place outside the United States in which USA Cycling’s competition rules do not apply.
The IOC revised its guidelines on transgender athlete participation in 2015, to focus on hormone levels and medical monitoring. The main points of the guidelines are:
Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction. It is the responsibility of athletes to be aware of current WADA/USADA policies and file for appropriate therapeutic use exemptions.
Those who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the female category under the following conditions:
The athlete has declared that her gender identity is female. The declaration cannot be changed, for sporting purposes, for a minimum of four years.
The athlete must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to her first competition (with the requirement for any longer period to be based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12 months is a sufficient length of time to minimize any advantage in women’s competition).
The athlete's total testosterone level in serum must remain below 10 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category.
Compliance with these conditions may be monitored by random or for-cause testing. In the event of non-compliance, the athlete’s eligibility for female competition will be suspended for 12 months.
Valid criticisms of the IOC model are usually based on the fact that, even though hormone replacement therapy provokes changes to muscle mass, it does *not* shrink the size of someone's skeleton or cardiovascular system. Therefore an adult-transitioned trans woman could, even after losing all levels of male-typical muscle mass, still have an advantage in certain sports if she had an excessively large skeletal frame, and was participating in a sport where such a thing would be advantageous.
Additionally, the guidelines only require that athletes be able to demonstrate having had female hormone levels for 12-24 months, which isn't necessarily long enough to completely lose musculature gained from training on testosterone (anecdotally it can take 2-4 years to completely lose male-typical muscle mass) So the IOC guidelines don't have any safeguard against, for example, a trans woman training with testosterone as the dominant hormone in her body, and then taking hormones for the bare minimum time period and still having some of the advantage left.
Note that, while lower level sports have had (to the glee of right-wing publications sensationalizing the issue) instances of this exact thing happening, in the 16 years since these IOC guidelines were established, not a single transgender individual has won an Olympic medal
Also note that none of the above criticisms of the IOC policy would apply in regards to the participation of pre-pubescent-transitioned trans women. After all, male-pubescent bone structure and cardiovascular size, and male-typical muscle levels, can't possibly exist if you never went through male puberty to begin with.
What could better guidelines entail, to best preserve fairness in female sports while avoiding succumbing to anti-trans moral panic?
In my personal opinion, sports leagues should pick one of the three above options depending on what best fits the nature of the sport and the eliteness of the competition. For example, extremely competitive contact sports might be better off going with the first option, but an aerobic sport such as marathon running would probably be fine with the third option.

How this issue has been misrepresented by The Right

I'll use Joe Rogan as an example of this last thing:
She calls herself a woman but... I tend to disagree. And, uh, she, um... she used to be a man but now she has had, she's a transgender which is (the) official term that means you've gone through it, right? And she wants to be able to fight women in MMA. I say no f***ing way.
I say if you had a dick at one point in time, you also have all the bone structure that comes with having a dick. You have bigger hands, you have bigger shoulder joints. You're a f***ing man. That's a man, OK? You can't have... that's... I don't care if you don't have a dick any more...
If you want to be a woman in the bedroom and you know you want to play house and all of that other s*** and you feel like you have, your body is really a woman's body trapped inside a man's frame and so you got a operation, that's all good in the hood. But you can't fight chicks. Get the f*** out of here. You're out of your mind. You need to fight men, you know? Period. You need to fight men your size because you're a man. You're a man without a dick.
I'm not trying to discriminate against women in any way, shape, or form and I'm a big supporter of women's fighting. I loved watching that Ronda Rousey/Liz Carmouche fight. But those are actual women. Those are actual women. And as strong as Ronda Rousey looks, she's still looks to me like a pretty girl. She's a beautiful girl who happens to be strong. She's a girl! [Fallon Fox] is not a girl, OK? This is a [transgender] woman. It's a totally different specification.
Calling a trans woman a "man", and equating transitioning to merely removal of the dick, and equating trans women's experiences as women as "playing house" and "being a woman in the bedroom". These things are obviously pretty transphobic, and if Rogan had said these things about just any random trans woman his statements would have likely been more widely seen in that light. But when it's someone having an unfair advantage in sports, and the audience is supposed to be angry with you, it's much more socially acceptable thing to say such things. But the problem is, when you say these kinds of things about one trans woman, you're essentially saying those derogatory things about all trans women by extension. It's the equivalent of using an article about a black home invader who murdered a family as an excuse to use a racial slur.
Now, I'm not saying that Rogan necessarily did this on purpose, in fact I'm more inclined to believe that it was done moreso due to ignorance rather than having an actual ideological agenda. But since then, many right wing ideologues who do have an ideological agenda have used this issue as an excuse to voice their opinions on trans people while appearing to be less bigoted. Ie. "I'm not trying to be a bigot or anything and I accept people's rights to live their lives as they see fit, but we NEED to keep men out of women's sports", as a sly way to call trans women "men".
Additionally, doing this allows them to slip in untrue statements about the biology of trans women. I mean, first of all in regards to the statement "You have bigger hands, you have bigger shoulder joints", obviously even in regards to post-pubescent transitioners, not every trans woman is going to have bigger hands and shoulder joints than every cis woman (My hands are actually smaller than my aunt's!). It's just that people who go through male puberty on average tend to have bigger hands and shoulder joints compared to people who go through female puberty. But over-exaggerating the breadth of sexual dimorphism, as if males and females are entirely different species to each-other, helps to paint the idea of transitioning in a more nonsensical light.
I hope this thread has presented this issue in a better light for anyone reading it. Let me know if you have any thoughts/criticisms of my stances or the ways I went about this issue.
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A lengthy response to essenceofthought's video: "ContraPoints Is Making The Left More Toxic, Not Less - A Non-Binary Conclusion" -- PART 1

note that this is so big I will probably end up editing it just to fix mistakes in using reddit's markdown. I can only beg your trust that I'm not doing anything shady.


This is about the fourth time I've tried to get through this video. Formally I've only watched less than 9 minutes. First, because I really disliked how much I had to say about that much alone. I didn't like a punch in the gut I felt. Second, I felt I had to get through a real review of Natalie's Cancelling. Third, an uproarious thread on breadtube about Graham Linehan aka glinner threatening to sue EoT over his video exposing glinner for wanting to eradicate trans children. I finally got through all that Sunday night, and now I have chance to start this review.

Title (and thesis?) of EoT's video

ContraPoints Is Making The Left More Toxic, Not Less - A Non-Binary Conclusion
Pure reaction: Hard no, says I. Paying attention to the controversy surrounding Vaush, and the fact that Lily Orchard has a following, PigPuncher's shitty video on EoT themselves, and the self-hating army of Blaire White who like to inject themselves into all other trans people's business, I just cannot say there's anything Natalie has done that's special. This sphere of left-twitter and left-tube would be inundated with the same nastiness whether Opulence happened or not.

The Road Bump

The following between the lines is largely copied from my Cancelling review.
First, EoT says that Natalie is only talking about post-Opulence backlash, and thus accuses her of lying about a timeline on some tweets. They're just wrong.
Second, EoT says "Natalie has a fragile ego."
In the very least, this line is hack. Everybody's ego is fragile. That's freshment psychology 101, it's how egos are, it's a feature. It's just saying somebody is being too fragile, and that's an attack on character.
Second, it's fucking mean. It's mean in a general sense. And it's mean in a more personal sense, and I'll tell you why.
I'll mention this later, but I was what I call a first-generation youtube skeptic/atheist. Youtube was founded in 2006, and by 2008, peaking around 2010, we had a thriving group of what the media would call "New Atheists" on youtube. I can drop you a huge list of names, and it's still at most 20% of what was out there. I never made a single video, though I did have a webcam for a short while and regularly hanged out in Stickam with a dozen members of the Rational Response Squad. At first I fell for Pat Condell's shit. I was a big fan of Thunderf00t until his feud with DawahFilms. I apologize to the world. Sincerely. Look, what I want you to take from this is that I've come to be seen as redeemed by many feminists on reddit and beyond, and I think that Natalie is even more redeemable than I. I'm not trying to be a hater. This is constructive criticism.
But also back then, there was Natalie. Under a different channel whose title contains her deadname. I've linked to three different videos on parasocial relationships. Lemme tell you, I've been through 'em. Some that have had intense influence on my daily life, many others not so much. Natalie was, until she started Contrapoints, somewhere in the middle.
From what I've seen over the last 10 years, Natalie has every reason to be sensitive. Fragile, even. I've seen Natalie make meatspace friends with a few of these fellow atheist/skeptics, and they traveled and dined and chilled with one another. They even pulled a couple New Atheist stunts that backfired. Even contributed to a musical collab, which is still funny.
I've seen the community fragment and bubble and burst and burn and mutate. Basically I've watched Natalie lose friends and get hurt, as with many others. And with 10 years of experience, I can look back at old videos where Natalie's old self can be found, and see the unhappiness that she's described.
EssenceOfThought pulling the "fragile ego" line is frankly toxic. EoT only has 2 years of very hard work to look at, and 2 years of public transformation and transition. And EoT seems to assume that the quality of work a youtuber puts out is porportional to how head-above-water they are when it comes to stress levels and strength of will, and wealth of support. And that's wrong.
It's callous. You can't just assume things about people's accumulated life trauma. Calling people fragile as an insult, I've come to find, is morally wrong, because it calls that we celebrate stoic strength as a virtue. And it's always punching down. Every time it's punching down. Looking at somebody who's feeling vulnerable, and going "gross, you're vulnerable!" And EoT has done this despite listening to Natalie talking about a lack of friends in the world. I can't actually name many meatspace acquaintences of hers, much less good friends, besides {Theryn, Olly, Lindsay Ellis, Jenny Nicholson, other people in the few photos with Lindsay and Jenny maybe, Riley and Fiona, Chelsea Manning, Dan Olson, innuendostudios, hbomb...}. Can you? And how long distance most of those are! Almost all of them are expensive-distance. It sucks.
I stopped watching EoT's third video shortly after 8 minutes when they said that, becuase I was just disgusted. And as I said in Chrisiousity's comment section, it looks like a sign to me that in EoT's focus on Natalie the past month, Natalie has evolved in their mind from a popular creator with a specific and powerfully effective flaw, to an outright Adversary, capital-A included. And that's sad. It's the wrong way to go. In early drafts, I refrenced the first two videos because there's a lot of good points made in them. But EoT grows more combative over time and by the third video steps out of line.
Finally realizing what a down-punch the "fragile ego" schtick is, and coming to hate it, just might be the last vestige of being a first-generation youtube atheist/skeptic fan leaving me. I've upvoted this behavior a ton in the past, but I plan to never support it again in the way it's happened here. It's one thing to criticize a political party for being toadies to a man with an actual stereotyped fragile ego, because that's dangerous. It's another to say it to declare a hurt person's vulnerability a crime.
Whatmore, the accusation coudl just as well fit the people he speaks about in the beginning of the video, who lock down their twitter accounts at the mere knowledge that Cancelling was published. Does it just not occur to EoT that Natalie flinches and dodges certain kinds of attacks because she too can predict the punches that come next?

Shutters and Shitters

The first signs I saw that Contrapoints had published her video on cancelling were a number of nonbinary people who I know on Twitter locking their accounts.
How does EoT do youtube? Subscriptions aren't necessarily endorsements. It's like an RSS feed. Does EoT wait for friends to watch and react videos before they watch them? Seems like a good way to always be primed a certain direction.
It's really amazing how different people can act vs. how they see themselves. The cancelling of Natalie on twitter is full of piss and bile, raw hateful reactions and lots of people who have not really read into what they're mad about. But Natalie publishes a video about being hurt by it, and they slam their shutters and nail 2x4's across their doors. EoT has told us they've done this in anticipation to attacks from Natalie's fans. The stans.
The timing EoT describes here indicates that none of these people wish to watch or listen to Natalie's video. They are riding on three claims:
  • There mere existence of Natalie's video is a directive from Natalie to attack nonbinary people.
  • Implying Contrapoints Stans will attack before they've actually watched the video.
  • Admitting that the content of Natalie's videos have nothing to do with her supposed influence?!
Dealing with this takes us on a journey. One I suspect contextualizes a whole lot of problems we're going to see in the rest of the video.

Gamification, cults of personality, stans, armies, and fault.

I need to present these videos:
Like it or not -- see it or not -- youtube and twitter go together in a shit sandwich that has been gamified for toxic consumption by bad players for a decade. Breadtube is a loose coalition of fans who have a common agenda in that they are sick of how the alt-right benefits so much from youtube's algorithm and does so much harm to the world.
The way things have been going, all an alt-right youtuber has to do is make a video where they make personal attacks on a vulnerable channel, and without even having to explicitly order it (though often enough they will), their fans will en masse attack the targeted channel and their friends with repetitive harassment until they're forced off youtube and twitter, even if they have to abuse the reporting system to do so.
That last video by Skeptical Squirrel, an imaginitive parody creation by Kevin Logan, illustrates that despite what they say, alt-right youtubers and other youtube personalities of the reactionary type are completely aware of what they are doing. They are not pretending to order fans around in that video. They are practicing, and celebrating that they can. And when they make followup videos in which they laugh and praise "anonymous" and "uncontrollable" mobs for the way they've attacked the targets of their videos (such as Sargon Of Akkad "laughing" at "weaponize autism"), they are telling their fans that their harassment is good. They are rewarding it.
For years now, whether you're aware of it or not, dear reader, this is how fans come into it on youtube. It is a tacitly constructed facet of youtube fanbases that it is rewarding and expected to harass the perceived enemies of the youtuber. That Skeptical Squirrel video is from January 2017, about harassment Jeff Holiday and Bearing had been consistently ramping up against Kristi Winters for a year and beyond.
People have been saying that Natalie has been instigating harassment campaigns with her videos. And so has EssenceOfThought. I am hereby telling you: We are at a point where one can hardly be a popular youtuber without a massive group of fans behaving this way on your behalf. It takes real work to stop it. But there are definitely ways to tell that a youtuber is not intentionally doing it, and ways to tell that a youtuber is definitely trying not to. I do not see any sign that Natalie wants her stans to do what they do, and I definitely see in her videos that she does not make targets out of anyone.
I say to you all, that if you want to accuse Natalie of instigating harassment campaigns, by necessity with the way EoT talks about Natalie in their videos, EoT would have to be even more guilty. And I do say, regardless of that conditional, that the way EoT speaks is irresponsibly having a boosting effect on the twitter screamers who are witch-hunting Natalie. At 1:20 of this video, EoT says that enby people on twitter are responding to "her presence," and this shit just ain't true. They're anticipating other people attacking them. Which they will do regardless. EoT is equivocating Natalie with these toxic twitters, taking away the twitters' agency and giving it all to Natalie. Beyond bogus.

What has Natalie even done?

The focus is first on her association with Buck Angel. So far, the only things Natalie has done so far are thus:
  1. Receive and repay compliments when she was injured.
  2. Repay further words of kindness with a cameo without vetting.
That's it.

Wildly Disproportionate Response

She has refused to vet after Opulence not only because she (like so many of y'all) doesn't want to see people she's befriended as baddies, but because even if she does, she will receive no forgiveness when she issues an apology, instead receiving a tidal wave of I-told-you-so's and more harassment. They've made it perfectly clear that if Natalie works with anybody even one flaw away from Sainthood, they're going to do it all over again. Let it here be said that if you still want Natalie to disassociate from Buck Angel (and I do), then you must make it so that it's not a lose-lose situation. You can't punish somebody for something, then punish them again for apologizing, and that's clearly what you want to do. You showed it when you went after Lindsay Ellis, Hbomberguy, Philosophytube, and others. Clearly she is unforgiveable in your eyes. It's bullshit. You're assholes that deserve no fucking sympathy when you act this way. You were kicking her and are kicking her when she's down, and Buck wasn't, and that shit matters when you're in that kind of situation as much as it does Natalie. Buck was being better than y'all in the moment. Fuck. Off.
So I have a real problem (one I should've seen from the beginning) when over and over, EoT makes these videos and starts statements, ad nauseum, with "What Natalie is doing is..." It gives the impression that Natalie is out there on social media doing a thousand things. She's not. She's done the 1 thing that she's being cancelled for, the unvetted cameo, and she has not touched her twitter in a couple months. But EoT is making things worse, which makes the title of this video highly ironic. An honest way of going about it would be something like, "So this mistake she's made..." -- and you do need to describe it as a mistake and not a deliberate attack -- "... has had these x, y, and z consequences." It's hyperbolic at best and demonizing at worst when it's "She's doing this" on repeat. That's increasing toxicity in the discourse.
You're not started the fires, EoT, but you've tossed a lot of dry cow patties around. And you can only do this so long before we say yes, you are responsible for the direction a wave goes one of these days soon.

Media illiteracy or just plain propaganda?

As for the people who are hiding from Contrapoints Stans, nonbinary or not, even without the stans around, you'd still have received some backlash. Claiming the pronouns video was attacking nonbinary?? If a hundred people responded with "What the fuck you dumb shit," then tough cookies, because that is ridiculous. That section of the video y'all attacked is exactly the same as the tweet she covers in Cancelling. It had nothing to with binary or nonbinary, had nothing to do with actual validity of trans identity, but instead was about strong vs weak argumentation aimed at cis people. Have you have at some point in your life been discussing politics or scientific ignorance and had somebody bring up, "Well, it seems like this kind of argument doesn't work very well. But when you tell them this thing that way, they start to get it faster." That's what was going on in the video and the twitter conversation.
And then your opinions somehow transformed into thinking that same section of the video was truscum. As if many of you have decided that anything problematic towards nonbinary people is the same as truscum ideology. Sheer nonsense. It's the other way around. All truscum are anti-enby. But not all anti-enby are truscum. There was nothing about transmedicalism in that video no matter how you look at it.
The worst thing the Pronouns video did was not tackle the case of enby perspective. In fact, Natalie went out of her way to make sure people do not confuse the experience she's illustrating as applying to nonbinary folk, by including the modifier, "In a binary world." That's not an attack on enbies. And if she even tried to cover an enby perspective, it's likely you'd attack her for that, too. Lose-lose. That's not valid criticism, and no reason to initiate cancellation. Pro-tip: if everything your enemy can say is wrong, then you too also cannot be right. When everything is evidence of your claim (Opulent Girl Bad!), then nothing is.
As for The Aesthetic, Justine did not win the debate. Just because she got to have a long winded endcap does not mean she was indended as the winner. There's just about nothing to indicate that. Justine's position just needed a lot more words to convey. You may be used to upvoting and reposting videos where the protagonist "wins" a debate by having a long Final Attack on the antagonist that makes them sit down in shame. But you should be able to tell from Natalie's videos and tweets alike that she doesn't operate that way. You need to up your media competence, and ditch the prejudice against Natalie that has to exist to even make the erroneous leap in interpretation that you made.
So why would Natalie do anything different in this current situation? The same people who are attacking her for associating with Buck Angel are also the ones witch-hunting her based off of lies about her videos. I think you can see how one can easily begin to think that some of the claims of emotional injury caused by her videos are falsified.
And don't think I'm saying Contrapoints stans aren't a problem. They are. The people who hate enbies have swarmed to this bucket of chum fore sure. Some of them are attacking me because I want honest depictions of flaws of EoT's videos and I'm not willing to unsee Buck Angel's shittery just because they think doing so would make Natalie feel better and provide us all with a new golden shower, er, golden egg, er, video. Oh yes. There is indeed too many Contrapoints fans who've decided that they need to whitewash Buck Angel so they can kiss Natalie's ass, and part of doing that is attacking Buck's critics, which has indeed become an attack on nonbinary people themselves. Because this is how parasocial relationships evolve when the detached personality fills a very real need on the side of the consumer. Especially on youtube, where as I've said fanships enter into the situation with assumptions about how detractors are to be treated. Then everybody plays Not My Nigel.
Natalie isn't instigating, and she's not a "force of destruction." The force existed before her. If it wasn't Natalie, it'd be somebody else. It'd be more people like Blaire White, Shoe0nHead, Jaclyn Glenn, etc. I mean how the fuck has Blaire White become background noise in this obsession with Natalie Wynn. Blaire's the one that makes series of truscummy attacks on people.
Imagine thinking Natalie is inspiring more of these attacks on enbies than Blaire white. I can't. But you're doing it. Yer doin it, peter! Yer doin it! Go get that dastardly Captain Wynn Hook.
But I don't want to attack nonbinary people for being nonbinary. I want to rebuke some people who're the real culprits of toxicity.

We are in a wicked hive of scum and villainy.

Like I said, EoT calls Natalie
"...a force of destruction, all intention aside."
First of all, when you say "what she's doing" all the time, you're pretty well implying there's lots of intent.
Second, gosh, does this line sound famliar. Where's the last place I heard it? Oh yeah. When Lily Orchard attacked the Pronouns video as anti-enby and pro-truscum: "Glass of Water: Natalie Whinging" And it also reminds me of something.
Natalie has been made into a villain. No, really, that's what's happened with EoT's progression and with their phrasing. Since I've already used Extra Credits once, I'll do it again. Does it seem a little off, maybe a little condescending to compare these video essays to video game design? Maybe. But it's not wrong. Expository and argumentitive essays require world-building, it's part of the job. Me, Natalie, EoT, everybody.
EoT can't seem to make up their mind about what kind of villain they perceive Natalie to be. They actually said "force of nature," but the thing about force-of-nature villains (FONV) is they are a symptom of the system. Attacking them directly and holding them personally responsible for groups of people harmed is short-term good at best, and tacitly endorsing the system at worst. It's pointless to do just play whack-a-mole with individual FONV. Example: Trump. So why focus so much on Natalie and not the online community that is splitting over her videos on interpretations of them that are clearly a combination of error and invention? Going after the boss baddie is what you do when you have a narrative villain. EoT seems to think knocking Natalie off the stage will lead naturally to some end. There's a hidden teleology to it. And I don't think it goes where EoT thinks it does.
What we're seeing here is a system of discourse in which a person can be scapegoated for cycles of back-and-forth attacks as if they caused it, when in reality those cycles are automatic. A key in an ignition got twisted, but it wasn't Natalie who dun it and it sure doesn't make sense to point at her every time you don't like that the motor is still running.

Half a millenium in Natalie's mind

20 years ago in a human lifespan is a long time. It's not really doing any good to harp on Natalie for thinking so. EoT makes Natalie's argument against 20-years-back research as some kind of vapid and malicious thing, but it's not. Natalie argues against doing 20 years into Buck's past based on three possible points, and you'll find some over the span of the video and her recent appearances in the media such as her interviews by NPR, and The Hill's Krystal Ball (both of which I am sure were published while EoT was in post-production or after publication); a couple we can think of ourselves:
  1. People change so much in 20 years it's like attacking a different person.
  2. 20 years ago she was a child, and she wouldn't want somebody to do this to her. It would feel like endorsing the same be done to her.
  3. If somebody has genuinely changed, repented -- even if only in private -- then it's like double jeopardy.
  4. The majority of the time when we see somebody digging that far into the past for dirt, it's done for malicious reasons and serves deceptive purposes. Given the strawmen used to attack Natalie, it doesn't seem like the request for her to do so is in good faith, nor what has been presented by those attacking herself. The pattern of bad faith attacks on Natalie do not lend to trusting that the accusations against Buck are in good faith; they seem as disproportionately powered by gossip as anything else in the 2 years of attacks on her. So, it seems prudent to refuse humoring them.
  5. If the victims don't want want to bring it up, it's an invasion of their privacy as well. We'd have to ask them directly because evidence is scant. Sometimes you have to respect when the victim doesn't want to re-live trauma.
In order to have a good case, one has to argue against each of these in turn. Which EoT does not. All we get is "I don't give a fuck." So allow me to present the arguments.
  1. Buck was in his 40's when this went down. 40 year olds are well established generally, and Buck had already established his identity long before, beginning medical procedures at 28, and soon felt his transition was complete. Read his wiki. Analyzing the pathology of habits requires going back long distances in time no matter how proportionally large that time leap seems. If a wrongdoing done recently is the same kind of wrongdoing done long ago, then it's relevant, long ago or not.
  2. It's quite a human thing to forget important differences in the lives of people we've recently befriended, especially when we're hurt. We can only offer our personal promise to not do that, and discourage others from doing so.
  3. Buck has ever faced real consequences or learned.
  4. We can only offer our personal promise we are not doing that, and discourage others.
  5. Fine then. There's more than enough readily-available material to cancel him anyways.
See how that's reasoned and compassionate argumentation? Much better than "I don't give a fuck."
You can't argue justice from "I don't give a fuck," EoT.
Notice though that there were counter arguments people probably are making that I refuse to.
I will not dismiss #2 on the basis of being an appeal to emotion, because it's not one. Bullies argue that their behavior is justified by implied permissions, and I will not enable it. I will not signal to them that it's justified or excusable.

Buck's past IRL victims have not consented and IT IS NOT OK

I will not argue that invading the privacy of and subjecting the victims to reliving their traumas is necessary for the greater good, that the needs of the many (other for future victims) outweigh the needs of the few (which happen to be the ones I want to re-traumatize for my vendetta). One of my early favorite feminists Amanda Marcotte once made this mistake and argued that police were correct to arrest a woman and force her to testify in a trial against her rapist. Yes, this did happen to a real rape victim. She recanted and changed her mind after fellow Feministing contributor Alexandra Brodsky wrote the following article. Bold emphasis is from me:
edit: actually I've decided to try and using reddit's 'code' markup to change the font/background/spacing of what I want to highlight. - nevermind on that, I forgot what it does to linebreaks.
Earlier this week, the Daily News reported that a Cowlitz County, Washington survivor of an alleged kidnapping and sexual assault, perpetrated by her ex-boyfriend and an accomplice, was jailed when she refused to cooperate with the prosecutors on the case. The story didn’t rise to the forefront of feminist news until feminist writer Amanda Marcotte wrote a defense of the decision, arguing that the County did what it had to do to stop future violence.
The Cowlitz County case is awful, and I disagree with Marcotte’s conclusion, but neither is really an aberration from how we view criminal justice and victimhood. Two worrying parts of Marcotte’s piece implicate our larger national conversation about sexual violence: we mistakenly think survivors are irrational girls rather than agents navigating impossible obstacles – but, simultaneously, that they have more responsibility to us than we have to them.
[heading:]Confused girls
Running through Marcotte’s piece is a common threads I hear in discussions of survivors of intimate partner: a belief that the abused are irrational. We see this assumption in the pathologization of “battered women’s syndrome,” where survivors’ self-defense is understood as a symptom of delusion. We see it in the patronizing explanations of “why they stay” that talk about women (always women) untethered from reality, tumbling without agency through cycles of abuse. We see it, too, in Marcotte’s characterization of the victim’s relationship with the defendant as a sort of blinder, distorting her view of the violence and so discouraging her from working with the prosecutors:
Research shows that a victim’s refusal to cooperate with a prosecution is more about her relationship to the abuser. In this particular case, the victim has a long-standing history with one of her attackers, which suggests that she probably doesn’t see this in the same way that someone kidnapped and assaulted by complete strangers would. While there are some interventions that can help reduce the problem of victims who recant out of these complex feelings, there’s no silver bullet of counseling that will get all victims to see things the way prosecutors want them to.
We don’t know if the survivor in this particular case was abused by her ex-boyfriend when they were together, so the analogy to research on intimate partner violence may not be relevant here at all. But the rhetoric is nonetheless eerily similar – and similarly destructive. Of course we hope victims leave and, if desired, take action to ensure their future safety and to hold their abusers accountable. But to pretend that survivors stay or refuse to cooperate with the police only because of “complex feelings” simultaneously ignores the very real restraints on their freedom and denies them the agency they’ve maintained.
Manipulation and emotional abuse can create undeniable psychological barriers to leaving or seeking help. These obstacles are no less real because they are not tangible; though they are complex and they are intimately felt, Marcotte’s characterization of these burdens as “complex feelings” belies their nearly physical weight. But we also must recognize the undeniable material barriers survivors face. For example, abuse often renders survivors financially dependent on their abusers (we can’t know if the survivor was dependent on he boyfriend in this case, but we do know she is now homeless). And a trademark of relationship abuse is isolation – as a result of the abuse, survivors often don’t have friends or family to whom they feel they can turn for help. To make matters worse, abusers often charm those closest to the victim, so that those who do reach out for support or who pursue prosecution are often met with disbelief and anger from those they love. Tragically, in these situations, the decision to stay or to forgo legal intervention may be the result of an impossible, but by no means irrational, calculus. The options and risks are unjust, but the agent isn’t erased.
We urgently need to change that calculus. It is essential that we provide professional and community services to help victims of IPV leave abusive relationships. That work is so important precisely because the restraints on survivors are more than just “feelings” — whether psychological or material barriers, they are very, very real.
So, too, are the reasons why most survivors don’t trust the criminal justice system to help them out. As I’ve written about previously, those who report to the police are more likely to find insensitivity or harassment than a conviction: is it really such a shocker that victims don’t want to cooperate with a system willing to lock them up, to criminalize their survival? Plus, while I definitely know some survivors comfortable with the prison system, others see incarceration as just another iteration of the violence they work to end.
Maybe victims don’t “see things the way prosecutors want them to” because they aren’t blind to the violence in their communities and in our criminal justice system that, yes, complicate the decision to cooperate with the prosecution of your ex. We should talk about what responses to interpersonal violence would look like in our feminist state, but that’s not the conversation we’re having here. Now we’re talking about how real people navigate real choices. And we can’t pretend real obstacles don’t exist.
[heading:]You owe us
Marcotte writes that “always erring on the side of victim sensitivity means putting some very bad men back out on the streets, where they will likely attack someone else.” I 100% agree that stopping perpetrators can help prevent future violence, which is one of the reasons I think it’s so important to provide survivors with safe, trauma-responsive accountability processes. The calculus, though, doesn’t have to boil down to us vs. her, our safety weighed against her comfort, because robust responses to violence centralize support for survivors as a collective responsibility that promotes the common good.
On the most basic level: I thought we’d been over this before: violence is caused by the violent, not short skirts or alcohol or confusion or, at least of all, victims. We usually talk about victim-blaming as putting the responsibility not to get raped on potential victims, rather than potential perpetrators. However, we see a similar logic in the insistence that it’s survivor’s job to stop violence against others, even at the expense of their own healing and safety. If they won’t make that sacrifice, we’re prepared to punish them. As much as the U.S. criminal justice system likes to pretend it can distinguish between imprisonment as punishment and imprisonment as logistical aid (see: pretrial detention), all time spent behind bars is punitive.
Also, even if you buy the carceral logic that prisons are our great hope, locking up survivors who report won’t help the courts catch rapists. As Melissa McEwan wrote at Shakesville, “If we’re really concerned about preventing future assaults, then we have to foremostly make it safe for multiple survivors to report—and publicly revictimizing one survivor in this way stands to discourage multiple victims from reporting. That is bigger than even this one rapist.” McEwan’s point rejects Marcotte’s belief that the interests of survivors and interests of the broader community are in tension: we are only safe as a whole when we support survivors. It is only then that victims can come forward and give us the chance to hold perpetrators accountable.
Stepping back, I resent the way this issue has been framed, both in media and private discussions, as one of individual vs. collective safety – as though survivors are unwilling to talk due to some deep selfishness – not only because its wrong but because it distracts us from the communal duty we’re so eager to ignore. Of course any feminist resistance to violence requires collective responsibility for the collective good. But our first question here should be what we, as a community, can do to support a survivor – not what the survivor should do to help us. What local structures can we set up to provide care to those who need it? How can we create safe opportunities for survivors to come forward? What community responses to harm can we build to hold abusers accountable in a country that has abandoned victims to a broken criminal justice system? Let’s talk about what we can do, rather than what any given survivor owes us.
Here’s the thing about violence: it’s hard to stop. That’s scary. I find it terrifying that we really, truly have not yet found ways to stop assault or abuse, or structures to respond to this violence when it occurs. I understand why many hold on to our belief in the criminal justice system when there aren’t alternatives onto which we can comfortably fall. I understand why we want to believe we live in a country where a victim would of course want to cooperate with prosecutors. I understand the temptation to count conviction rates and the clang of prison doors shutting closed like beads on a rosary, the comfort of pieces moving regularly, as they should, as though we’re going somewhere better. But when the methodical plodding ends with a survivor of violence in jail for choosing to deal with trauma on her own terms, perhaps its time we lose a little faith and rise up to do some good.
Now. Buck did not rape anybody. We are talking about the victims of invasion of privacy and public denegration. But this article says a lot.
I said in a youtube comment section that Buck deserves to get vetted "all the way back" because he considers himself a leader. And I'm ashamed to say that until I was writing those 5 arguments against digging up the dirty specifics on that divorce drama, I hadn't thought of this stuff either.
Nobody has asked Lana Wachowsky or her wife. They're not talking about it. And if they don't want to talk about it, then.. what? If you force that information out into the day, EoT, then you are punishing her. You are re-traumatizing them to fit your purpose.
Think about that. Look what this has become. The more you harp on Buck's marriage, the more likely somebody's going to violate that privacy and, dare I say, terrorize those two women with their personal lives, probably their doxx too, going public. Stochastic terrorism much? People have probably already tried to contact these people on social media. It's probably already started. They want to leave it behind and now y'all won't let them.
Can you really say you're doing this for the sake of victims?
Officially: the "investigation" into Buck Angel's divorce must stop right now.
submitted by Aerik to u/Aerik [link] [comments]

On Society and the LGBT+ Population in Remnant


My intended meaning seems to have gone largely misinterpreted in the comments on this post. I probably didn't help things by being in a somewhat grumpy mood before I started replying to the comments. Given how widespread such responses seem to be, it's pretty clear that this is my fault, and I did not effectively communicate my intent within the post itself. Probably would have benefitted from some time spent editing and revising it, but, it's already out there.
It's also huge, and, rather than spend hours on rewriting the thing, I have elected for the lazy (and slightly hypocritical) option of writing this foreward in an attempt to clear up my intentions here.
This post is not an attack on the CRWBY or the show. I was not trying to imply that the CRWBY has done a bad job of LGBT+ representation (they've been very good), nor am I saying that Remnant is poorly designed. Stories all benefit from points of conflict. I do not see the conclusions I reach as bad writing or storytelling.
So, what was I actually trying to do? My goal was to dispel the notion that Remnant is some sort of LGBT+ Utopia, where everyone would immediately have everything figured out, loudly announce it, and face exactly 0 disadvantages as a result. I had hoped to draw some attention to some apparently minor factors in doing so that could get people reconsidering what they mean, and understand how deep sexism, cisnormativity, and heteronormativity run in both our society, and Remnant's.
And, if we're being right honest, the whole thing was kicked off by someone telling me that Weiss can't possibly be into girls because she would have told us by now... A statement that definitely got under my skin.
In any case, this post did not apparently meet those goals.
I still think I made some good points in there.
Anyway, here's the original, as posted. I have made no edits below this line:


Some of you may have noticed a sizeable portion of my word count on this Sub has been directed towards discussing and explaining LGBT+ issues. One of the common things I see in these discussions is this idea that Remnant has "No Homophobia", or other expressions of similar ideas. I'd argue the actual show refutes that assertion, and, rather than have that burried in the comment section of some other only tangentially irrelevant post, I feel this deserves it's own discussion.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that a show set in a post-homophobia world is somehow a bad thing (normalizing the existence of LGBT+ folks is great), nor am I saying that the CRWBY has been bad at handling LGBT+ issues. On the contrary, Rooster Teeth has moved itself to the forefront of major media productions in handling such issues, and, as a lady who is in the acronym twice, I am eternally grateful for that.
I can definitely see the reasoning and appeal behind Remnant being post-homophobia. Given the way Grimm work, small towns would not benefit from ostracising people based on factors that are more or less random (as far as we know) in people. Shunning a family member because they happen to be, say, gay, would no doubt draw Grimm and likely lead to the death of the village. In addition, we're not shown any groups explicitly against gay people by, say, denying them the ability to buy cakes.
There's even been mention (though I haven't seen proof, and don't want to put words in their mouths) that the CRWBY itself has declared Remnant homophobia-free... but to know if the actual work supports it, one must consider it from a death-of-the-author viewpoint, so for the purposes of this post, I shall not consider outside statements to be anything other than expression of intent. For instance, I can certainly buy the idea that the CRWBY has no intent to directly address homophobia within their story.
So... what does the actual story say?

Part One - Gender Norms, Roles, and Expression

Some of you may ask, what does Gender Expression have to do with sexuality? First, I would like to point out that the fourth letter of LGBT, isn't a sexuality, and I am addressing all of it in my post. Second, it is important to consider where a society draws its lines on these definitions. Gender, and its expressions, are a continuum. There is no one easy on-off signal to draw the lines for us, such as "all girls have bows" or "female Pikachus have a differently-shaped tail". There are people who are visibly female with a large number of masculine traits, or vice versa, or people whose expression is so middling as to not give a clear idea of what they may be mentally or physically. In order for "straight" and "gay" to be meaningfully different, a line must be drawn somewhere, even if it's incredibly fuzzy.
And it's not like you can just go around pulling down everyone's pants before you decide if you might be attracted to them, so one's private, hidden parts are not meaningful to this dicussion.
There is also a history of, at least in the real world, people across the entire LGBT+ spectrum defying gender norms, but we can't necessarily assume this is true of Remnant.
We can, however see how Remnant enforces these norms in the show, and from what we are given, it seems that Remnant has some fairly rigid norms.
Sure, in regards to occupation, Aura and Semblances provide a strong counterargument to the idea that women might be "worse" at jobs like, say, being a Huntsman. RWBY is a remarkably feminist* show in terms of allowing women to fill a large variety of societal positions, but it is not perfect. Regardless of the main cast composition, the ratios of people fulfilling these roles is still skewed male: at least three of the four headmasters are male, Vale's council is shown to be primarily, if not entirely, male, we are shown exactly one female instructor for any sorts of combat training, mooks in the White Fang and other groups are still primarily male (this is getting much more even in newer volumes, however; I can't say that the Belladona family's guards seems to skew strongly in one direction or the other), and what few examples of more "subservient" positions we're shown, such as secretaries, receptionists, and waitstaff have been mostly female.
These expectations extend to the way the people of Remnant dress. Outside of Uniforms (and even those are very gendered for the schools), women are shown in distinctly "feminine" clothes, and men in "masculine" ones. Ren gets to be a good, if singular, example of a man with a more feminine presentation, but take away the long hair and it ceases to blur any lines. For women in more masculine dress, it's even more rare, despite real-world's society's greater acceptance of women in suits than men in dresses. Perhaps it's a stylistic choice, but the only female character I can think of that leans masculine in their dress is Tock, who is both a villian and part of an already marginalized group. Women in the show fight in high-heels and "combat" skirts, for gosh sake, and while I actually really like that aesthetic on a personal level, the fact that you'll never see such things on male characters, and that "butch" presentations are so rare for female characters, says a lot about Remnant's societal expectations, especially condsidering the value placed on self-expression, and that isn't even addressing the big example.
What happens when, in the course of the show, an apparently male character (Jaune) elects to wear a piece of fabric that has been arbitrarily assigned to a "feminine" presentation (a dress)? He gets laughed at. By everyone. By the people who are presumably accepting. It's not just Cardin being a dick. While this isn't harmful to Jaune, who is doing is as attention-drawing pennace to prove a point, and not as a reflection of who he is, imagine, if you will, if that reaction occurred because a Trans Woman chose to wear clothes whose societal expectations more accurately matched her gender. Such a reaction would be (and is, when it happens in the real world) positively traumatizing. Remnant's gender norms are enforced to the point where it is generally considered acceptable by its society to attempt to supress subversions of it through public, near-universal ridicule. I doubt that was the point that the CRWBY was intending to make at the time--I imagine it was a reflection of their own expectations based on what happens in the real world--but the message still comes through, loud and clear.
Remnant is not a safe place for people who subvert gender norms. Remnant is not a safe place for transgender people who do not yet, or choose not to, pass.

Part Two - Heteronormativity

Not all examples of what is damaging to LGBT+ people is as obvious as public ridicule. Many of these things are subtle, and require some thought to realize what damage they may do. Many aren't done out of direct homophobic / transphobic intent... mostly, they're done out of tradition, but that does not make them harmless.
This section, I have no doubt, will be somewhat controversial. Many people's gut reaction to it is going to be defensive, as these things are done commonly, again, without the intent to harm, and very few people like the idea that something they've done or regularly do might be harmful. Please, keep an open mind, and don't take anything here as a personal attack against actions you may have taken.
One of the biggest struggles young LGBT+ folks go through is figuring out who they are. Our path to self discovery is obviously hindered by the obvious stigmas; nobody wants to be oppressed or underprivileged, and they really don't want to be put in danger or denied familiar support. To avoid these issues, many LGBT+ folks attempt to suppress and self-deny these parts of who they are, because their lives would be easier if these things weren't true of them. For many of us, it's something that we could have known from a very early age, but spent some time in denial.
But even if fear of being disowned by their families and shunned by their friends isn't something same-gender-attracted people in Remnant have to worry about, they still would have reason to hide it: so long as it is treated as an exception, and so long as humanity remains adverse to exceptions (and Remnant's humanity very much is. See: The Faunus), they will be under pressure to do so.
How does Remnant's society treat it as an exception? There are a few ways. To start, Weiss sarcastically suggests some stereotypical girl things to Ruby shortly after meeting her, in an attempt to dismiss her as vapid and uninteresting. Weiss specifically calls out talking about "cute boys", without consideration of the possibility that it might be desired, or even preferable, to also talk about "cute girls". We also have Jaune, who only ever brings up the possibility of Pyrrha going to the dance with--or even being asked to go by--a guy. I seriously doubt Jaune has had a discussion with Pyrrha about her sexuality, either, as I don't see a way in which they could where Pyrrha could hide the fact that she's something of a Jaune-sexual.
To address the argument that I'm sure some of you have at this point, yes, it is "more likely" in both of these cases that the person being talked to/about would go with the option presented, but discounting the alternative possibilities is still reflective of an idea that the alternative possibilities are unusual and abnormal, descriptors most people are keen to avoid.
There's also the handling of "flirting" in the show. In a truly post-homophobia society, flirting becomes a powerful tool to signal interest in a person without demanding a return of said interest. This is why people who flirt *cough*Neptune*cough* tend to do so quite a bit, to a large number of people, and we do, in fact, see quite a bit of flirting in the begining of this show, but it is almost entirely between opposite-gender pairings. The only exception we're shown is Yang who, even if she doesn't actually "flirt" that many times in the show, we are intended to believe that she does so quite a lot, and does so where she clearly doesn't actually mean it (like with enemies). This means that she can, say, flirt with girls, in relative safety from judgement of her potential sexuality, because the people around her assume it doesn't mean anything substantial (as much of the FNDM did). Otherwise, what we're shown is devoid of same-gender flirting. It just so happens that, in the real world, same-gender flirting tends to be fairly rare as a result of how easily it draws out incredibly negative reactions from people; that many treat someone who does it as some kind of pervert and predator.
So if flirting would be the safest way to indicate to people that you might be gay without going out of your way to specifically say it, why don't we have any of it? The answer, I think, is that it really isn't any more safe in Remnant than it is in the real world; that the poor reactions are also present there.
But perhaps the strongest piece of evidence we have comes from Monty himself. When asked if there would be LGBT+ people in the show, he talked about how the characters maybe hadn't figured that out for themselves yet. This, I'll remind you, is a show where most of the characters started out at the age of 17, where they have already completed puberty, or at least most of it. In the real world, this is not a crazy late age to come to terms with who you are and what you like, but our world has plenty of homophobia and heteronormativity. In a hypothetical world without such factors, they'd be far more likely to have figured it out much earlier. We can, once again, use the real world as an example, as, in areas of the world where LGBT+ people are more accepted, and where people do things like asking about potential same-gender partners or asking people's preferred pronouns, people start identifying as LGBT+ at a much earlier age. This should not be confused with "more people being LGBT+", as there isn't really a way to "make" someone LGBT+ or not.

Part Three - What This Means for RWBY

With the evidence above, it seems that, even if it's okay to be in a same-gender relationship in Remnant, seeking one out is, at the very least, frowned upon. Additionally, we have evidence that being transgender makes you something of a persona non grata in Remnant.
Of the main cast, we only have compelling evidence of two of them being potentially LGBT+ at this time: Blake and Yang, both of whom seem most likely to fall into the bisexual† category. Of the main cast, they also seem the likeliest to express this openly, what with Blake being an activist and Yang seeming self-assured and largely unconcerned with people's general opinion of her. Jaune has, interestingly, willingly defied gender norms, and would likely also not have much issue with openly expressing it, but that boy is aggressively heterosexual, and it's definitely not a bad thing to have a straight, cisgender character who does defy the norms.
We also have a major side character in Ilia, who is a lesbian, whose backstory is built around hiding who she is for acceptance before shedding that mask and angrily fighting back against those who would choose to oppress her, but even then her admission of her crush on Blake is treated as shocking.
For most everyone else, the jury's still out. Particularly since Monty expressed that the CRWBY tries to look beyond character's genders in determining which pairings fit for the story (something I address in detail in this post). Just like Yang and especially Blake gave each other those looks all throughout Volume 6, despite having both implied some interest in men before, Weiss, Nora, Ren, Sun, and Neptune could all very reasonably also have some level of same-gender attraction that has yet to be expressed. Neptune, you'll note, despite his cool-guy persona, went out of his way to hide the fact that he couldn't dance, so he could also reasonably have a desire to flirt with everyone, not just those that look feminine, but hide it to avoid judgement. Sun, we haven't really seen show attraction to anyone other than Blake, so we don't actually have any clear indication of what he likes. Ren and Nora, well, they're not likely to break up after all the story work put into getting them together, so they'll almost certainly go unexplored in terms of any further attractions (bar one of them turning out to be transgender), but that doesn't mean they couldn't be Bi. Weiss showed interest in Neptune, but has also been trained to have something of a disinterested mask becoming of her high-society upbringing, so it's hard to read what she wants. She would certainly be under pressure to not create any waves that don't directly benefit her family; even her simply going to Beacon was considered a defiance. Also, Blake, Yang, and, lately, especially Ruby have been shown to be able to get her to at least lower that mask. This could be platonic, but it doesn't have to be... seeds have been planted if the CRWBY wants to make more of it, such as Weiss holding Ruby's hand after catching her from falling off the Cordoven bot, and the CRWBY's made a big deal out of handholding in the show so far.
As for Ruby herself, there's not a whole lot to go on. Whether this is because she's oblivious, reserved, or just has bigger things to worry about is hard to say. We have nothing to suggest any sort of firm attraction to men, and I know a lot of people who support the idea of her being Ace. The only thing we have that might suggest an attraction to anyone comes from this scene where she gets unusually flustered from a compliment Emerald gives her. She notably does not have this sort of reaction to any of the other times she's been complimented by anyone. It is a very "I just got a compliment from my crush" reaction, though, as it exists in a vacuum devoid of any other indications, it's not really proof of anything.
The FNDM also has a few extremely common "headcanons" that suggest other characters have some level of same-gender attraction. I've seen more support for Crosshares (Coco x Velvet) than all the other possible straight pairings involving team CFVY combined, to the point where I had to actually check that it hadn't been confirmed somewhere, and Tai getting with his "Entire Team" has achieved memetic status.
But now, to address something of an elephant in the room: Transgender characters. I did say I'd be talking about the whole acronym, after all. Rooster Teeth as a whole has shown that it's not something they're completely afraid of addressing, with Gen:Lock, but in RWBY, aside from a suggestion that the First Mate of the V4 boat "Pride" is non-binary, we got nothing. Unfortunately, no matter how they might go about including transgender people, it would be controversial, because our mere existence is considered controversial. I also trust the CRWBY to put more effort into it than "Hey! Look! A Trans person! Aren't we inclusive?" (Yeah, I'm talking about you, Bioware). So, in considering how they might go about this, I will not shy away from major characters, nor will I discuss what they might do with "extras" that the main characters don't really interact with.
How might the CRWBY add some transgender representation? It's a little late to go the Gen:Lock route and take a main character and have them already having figured it out, while also being fairly open about it. One way could be to have a major character who transitioned quite a while ago, and is in "stealth" mode where they don't really let people know about it. To borrow an example from my personal headcanon, consider if, at birth, Qrow and Raven were identical twins, and part of why Qrow has been so much more loyal to Oz than Raven is because Oz facilitated his transition. For this to be shown in the show, it wouldn't need to take a huge amount of the show's runtime; a picture of the Branwen twins arriving at Beacon that Qrow quickly tucks away in embarassment, or a flashback showing them with the bandits pre-Beacon could show it pretty effectively. Another way to handle it could be to have a side character come out and transition, and have main characters react to it. Jaune finding out he has one fewer sisters than he thought he had and actually has a brother, for instance, or something like we later run into team CRDL and find out that Cardin's bully tendencies came from a place of dissatisfaction and repression, and that she's a happier, calmer person when she's not trying to force herself into a masculinity box she doesn't fit in. Both examples would address it without needing to take up an entire arc for themselves, and the latter is a more common experience among transgender people than you would think.
Because it would necessitate a major arc in a show that already has issues with having enough time to cover everything they want, I don't expect that we'll see one of the main characters transition during the show, as much as I like the idea of Maiden powers getting transferred to someone everyone thought was a guy, and having to deal with what that means. What I will say is, despite the stereotypes, any one of the main characters could be trans and it would still be consistent with what has been shown so far.
Y'see, there isn't some sort of easy "tell" that someone might be trans. The biggest indicator we have in real life is a strong desire, occasional or otherwise, to exist as a gender other than the one doctors assumed they were due to their baby junk. There's nothing inherent about being trans that would cause, say, a trans woman to wear dresses as a child, and lots of us get really good at "presenting" as the gender we were assigned at birth. We are constantly told "there were no signs" by people surprised by the idea that we might be trans, but the reason they didn't see any is because of the effort put into hiding them, because, again, being trans is something society doesn't want you to be. A character transitioning on screen would also allow us to follow their reasoning and decisions as they go through with it, address the fact that they've been hiding it, even from themselves, etc.
If there's one thing I would like you to take away from this part, it's that none of the characters in the show have been eliminated from the possibility of being transgender.
Moving on to another letter in the acronym I haven't given quite as much lip service to... CRWBY, can we get some actual on-screen gay men with speaking roles at some point? Saying that a few characters are gay outside the show isn't really helpful there. Show, don't tell, please.


The Remnant we see in the show is not terribly supportive of LGB folks, and is outright hostile to Transgender people. There's not even reason to believe gender non-conformity is accepted. As a result, the idea that any characters in the show couldn't be LGBT+ because that character would openly express it if they were doesn't really hold water; they'd have plenty of reasons to hide it, even from themselves.


* Because I know someone's going to misinterpret the word "Feminism", and take it as I mean the show is hostile to men, I'd like to point out that Feminism is about fighting for gender equality. The reason why it's called "feminism" and not something like "equalism" is the same reason why "Black Lives Matter" did not call themselves "All Lives Matter". One party is clearly disadvantaged in society, and reaching the point of true equality involves improving the situation for the aggreived party. If you turn it into something pithily meaningless, like "All Lives Matter", people will assume the goal has already been accomplished, just because it doesn't effect them, and would be dismissive of the actual problems people are trying to fix. Feminism is actually pretty good for men, too, considering they also suffer from the impacts of the toxic forms of "masculinity" and rigidly enforced gender norms.
† I use the term Bisexual here, and not "pansexual" because while the latter tries to be less transphobic by being more explicitly inclusive of trans people, it ends up other-ing trans people and implying that they are not simply men or women. Plus, the B is in the acronym, and I've never run into a bi person who isn't also attracted to non-binary people.
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Hellbound V - The Deals

Commander Sam Robinson – Valkyrie – Standing before the city gates of Hil’Sania  
“Ah crap, we’ve been calling them assholes all this time?” Sam asked.  
Þorgeir coughed, “Yeah, seems so commander. Looking at the inputs it seems that the probe is receiving both the elven words and the direct translation in binary. It’s really freaky, but I guess that’s how magic works? I guess? It’s making the translation process go really fast.”  
“Uh, commander, I think they’re waiting for us to respond,” Myrael cut in.  
“Ah crap, ok. Everyone, let’s turn on the charm offensive. Turn on our speakers, don’t talk about anything remotely confidential and use our callsigns,” Sam replied.  
“That’s our charm offensive?” Jacqueline asked.  
“Uh, wait, ah crap. I will take my helmet off and show them that we mean no harm, I guess. None of you take your helmets off unless ordered to, alright? If the skinny dude can conjure up a mountain of food and the actual Mage has a ring that lets him speak in multiple languages at the same time, then we’d do good by not underestimating them,” Sam answered.  
Sam took a deep breath and slowly took her helmet off and moved towards the Mage. She noted how this Mage, Ilfundel as he called himself, looked like he came straight out of a fantasy movie. A middle-aged looking elf, with red wizard robes, a long and gnarled staff with a lightly glowing orb at the top, and most importantly, dangerous eyes. Even though he was of a different species, the intent behind his oversized eyes was clearly that of caution and skill, honed by experience as she felt herself being appraised and saw the Mage stare at every possible part of her power armour, looking for potential danger.  
“Thank you for allowing us entry, Mage Ilfundel. We apologize for calling you the wrong term, it was simply a misunderstanding,” Sam said as she shot a glare at Arundosar who instantly sucked in a breath and looked away.  
“Not a problem. My Apprentice here has a tendency to lash back at those who scorn his kind. But enough of that,” Ilfundel replied.  
“Ah, yes. We have noticed some of that behaviour,” Sam answered and then continued, “Regardless. I am Valkyrie, and this is Camper [Myrael], Alien [Jacqueline], Icebear [Þorgeir] and lastly Barhead [Alix]. It’s a privilege to meet you all.”  
The Mage seemed to raise his eyebrows at each of the names, but decided to ignore it and replied in kind, “A privilege indeed. According to our history books the last time a human visited the plane of Arenal, was close to 15 centuries ago, so to see you all here is an amazing sight indeed. What is even more amazing is that the stories of the citizens you’ve rescued appear to be an understatement.” As he said that the mage pointed to the cage where the still unconscious POW was. He continued with measured words, “Yes, taking a pit fiend as a prisoner is extremely difficult. And I assume that you have done so with the help of your armour? Just a single glance at it just shouts power.”  
“Ah, yes.” Sam answered. She sensed where the conversation was going next and lied, “They are a powerful tool of humanity, but really uncomfortable. Have you ever worn armour? It’s really a shame we can’t get out of ours now that we are in a safe place again.”  
The raised eyebrow of the Mage now went accompanied with his other eyebrow. “Ah, you can’t get out of them? Why not?” Ilfundel asked.  
“Well, it’s a bit of secret, but that’s how they are made. It saves, uh, space and energy and it made it easier to design if you don’t have to worry about the user having to be able to do everything. It’s how we can get them to be so big. It’s not a worry as long as you have a team of support personnel,” Sam answered while trying her best to maintain a poker face.  
“I suppose that makes sense. The last entries into our history books was that you humans and your knights were quite fearsome in your armour and on horseback. But I notice that you are not on a horse and most of the rescued people told me that you can fly and carry no swords and have magical shields?” Ilfundel asked with yet another raised eyebrow and an intense stare.  
“Ah, yes. Our magics have advanced quite a bit. But I, uh, know very little of them, I’m just a soldier,” Sam replied.  
“Mmmh. Very well. I understand,” the Mage said with a disappointed smile. “I was going to ask you all to leave your weapons and armour at the gates, but I suppose that’s not really feasible, is it? I will ask the captain of the guard to make an exception for you all, after all, you did save a lot of our people. I will request however that your prisoner will be kept under guard by both our guards and my colleagues. I hope you won’t object?”  
“Of course not, so long as one of our own can observe the prisoner at all times,” Sam answered.  
“Very well, that can be arranged. You may enter the city, and are now under our protection, though I suppose you won’t need it. May I suggest we walk and talk a bit towards the tavern? I’m sure you understand that I have many, many questions,” Ilfundel said as Sam breathed an internal sigh of relief.  
Sam was grateful for the inbuilt tech of the Paladin suits. Having shared camera feeds and a mic and audio setup that allowed for subvocalized communications allowed Sam to focus on the conversation with Ilfundel while her squad kept sending updates from themselves and the probe that was flying high above the town for Sam to watch and listen to later.  
When they finally reached the tavern, they subtly switched whoever was talking to Ilfundel, with the nature of the conversation constantly shifting between the world of the elves and the world of humans, and this third world called Arenal. The world where the Elves came from, is called Ljosalfar and seems to be quite similar to this world, much like most worlds as the mage explained.  
Looking around and listening to descriptions that the Mage gave, Sam guessed that they were in a medieval era town in a medieval era society. Jacqueline guessed that it was closer to a beginning renaissance era or perhaps late medieval era society, due to the high-quality steel they had and a surprising number of merchants that were wondering around on the market square, near which was their tavern. The fact that they had stone paved roads, and not all-too shabby houses with plenty of flourishes and colourfully painted doors and windows added to the sense that the city they were in wasn’t poor.  
More questions were asked and answered. It seemed that the elves were unified under the rule of the Ljosalfar empire and that the empire extended its reach quite far into this third world, Arenal. Arenal was the common dimensional plane that bordered all other planes and as such, any border tensions, new settlements, colonies and the occasional vassal kingdoms were in Arenal. The only exception was a vassal subterranean kingdom named Dokkalfar, home of the drow. They were in open revolt against the elves after they had rejected their rule after being subservient to them for well over 5 centuries when another emperor had united all the people on the world of Ljosalfar. This knowledge had answered a bit of the questions Sam and the squad had about Arundosar, his heritage and why the other elves were quite clearly being hostile to him.  
The conversation quickly turned to the situation on Earth and how humanity had progressed so far so quickly. Sam answered what questions she could but often played the role of being just a dumb soldier far from home who didn’t know about much about the complex nature of how exactly their technology and magic worked. She did explain that the humans were still divided and did not serve a single ruler. The Mage was clearly sceptical and explained that every civilized species only truly made advances when a powerful centralized ruler could allocate all the funds necessary to perform ambitious projects that increased the people’s knowledge of technology, magic, or other matters. The Mage explained that this was the way that the gnomes, halflings and even the orcs and giants did it. The dwarves were an exception, but their ways were strange, and perhaps so were the humans as well he conceded.  
Sam just nodded as she tried to comprehend that they were now fully stuck in a fantasy novel full on with fantasy races. At least knowing that this dimensional plane of Arenal bordered all other dimensions, made it quite clear how it was that things such as grass and chicken, as well as human words had seemed to migrate here. And the idea of elves and other mythological creatures had migrated to Earth.  
Eventually they reached the Mage tower in the middle of the square. It was a 60 meter tall round tower made of blue-grey bricks and a flat top. Ilfundel explained that it was a repository for knowledge, arcane materials, and an academy for what few magical practitioners there were that visited this close to unclaimed territory. There they dropped off their devil prisoner and left behind Alix and some obviously nervous city guards to watch over the POW in the dungeons as they went to the massive round library to continue their conversation.  
“Alright everyone, just a few more important questions and then we’ll go to the tavern and have dinner. After that Þorgeir relieves Alix and we re-assess the overload of information we just got and re-plan,” Sam sub-vocalized to her squad. In rapid succession she heard 4 soft “affirmative” through her earplug and contemplated sitting down on the luxurious dark wooden polished seat in front of her. The other tables and chairs, floors, walls and bookshelves were all of the same material in this library. There were easily thousands of books all around her as the library continued to spiral up another four or five floors, with a stone spiral staircase in the middle of it all. Sam wanted to sit down, but quickly didn’t as she realized that only stone or steel could support her suit’s weight. She remained standing, while the rest of the squad were slowly walking around and secretly taking tons of footage of interesting looking books.  
“Mage Ilfundel, I thank you very much for your introduction to your world, I only regret that I do not know more about mine to be able to give you more information about my world in kind. And I am sorry that I impose on your hospitality again, but I must insist on asking one more pertinent question,” Sam said as she looked Ilfundel intently in the eye. “You’ve told us that you need magical crystals and a magic user to be able to open up a portal. And that depending on how large you want the portal and how long you want to keep it open, the bigger the crystal or more powerful magic users you would need. But we don’t have any crystals at all. And we are just soldiers and aren’t capable of magic. Could you help us get home?”  
The Mage rubbed his chin and contemplated the question a bit before he answered, “Yes. I had been wondering about that. It’s quite strange really, the history books clearly state that humans didn’t practice magic when they first came to Arenal and thus were always reliant on the other species to open up a portal. And yet here you stand before us with a very magical suit of armour.”  
Sam could feel the doubt of the ever-skeptical Mage on his tone of questioning, but continued nonetheless, “Ah yes. Like I’ve explained earlier, our magic is a bit different and there is just an extremely small portion of humanity that is capable of magic. Like, one in a million.”  
The Mage sighed once more as he seemed to get an answer that he didn’t really like. “That’s alright, I can still help you. I can lend Arundosar to you, he is capable of opening up portals and could use the practice. He is not an expert on it and would require a larger crystal to open up a portal for your size, but if you keep the portal open for only a few days instead of a few weeks, then it wouldn’t be a problem. In return,” Ilfundel said as he gave a sly smile, “I would like to take custody of your prisoner and thoroughly study him. Don’t worry, you can have him back when you return to Earth.”  
“Everybody hear that?” Sam subvocalized.  
“Aha! You were lying!” Ilfundel boasted out, “You are telepathically speaking with your fellows right now, aren’t you?”  
“Uh-“ Sam said as she looked like a deer in headlights. “Ah, crap. No. I mean, we don’t have magic. It’s the suits that allow us to talk to each other. Please, we didn’t lie. If we really lied about knowing magic, would we really ask for your help, or even come here in the first place to get help to get home?”  
“Mmh, true. Alright fine. I’m sure there are many secrets you are keeping from me, I can see it in your eyes. But you are not enemies of the empire, so I’ll let it be. But I must insist on getting something out of this for me, or else this would have just been a massive waste of time. Let me experiment and study on your prisoner and I will keep to my word and help you all to get home, alright?” Ilfundel said as he folded his arms and looked a bit discontent at how this negotiation was going.  
“We get him back when we return to Earth?” Sam asked.  
“Yes, and you’ll have my Apprentice on loan until he has opened up a portal,” Ilfundel replied.  
“Sounds like a good deal, commander,” Myrael said along with some positive murmurs from the rest of the squad.  
“Wait!” Jacqueline cut in, “Is Arundosar going to use that magical ring of translation? How else are we going to understand him?”  
“Good one,” Sam subvocalized back and turned her attention back to Ilfundel. “Alright, we accept, as long as Arundosar gets to use your ring. He won’t be very useful to us if we can’t understand him.”  
Ilfundel looked at Sam and then at his magical ring and pondered her request before answering, “That’s reasonable. Alright, I agree. It’s a deal then.”  
“A deal, let’s shake on it,” Sam replied.  
“The soldier you had guarding the devil can leave now. Don’t worry, you can come see him anytime, and you’ll have him back when you return to Earth. Just ask me and I’ll arrange it,” Ilfundel said as he took off his ring and then slowly turned to Arundosar who was at his side and started speaking in hushed tones in elven that Sam could suddenly no longer understand.  
“Record everything,” Sam subvocalized, “I want to know what he really wants from us.”  
Admiral Dai – Dimensional plane of Earth – UN Headquarters, N.Y.C.  
It had been a busy week, filled with papers, meetings, conference calls, heated discussions over phone calls and tired face-to-face negotiations. Taking stock of the score, admiral Stephen Dai re-evaluated this past tiring week. Disbelief amongst the citizens of Earth quickly turned into extreme and even radical changes. Churches, long-time dying, found themselves overwhelmed by erstwhile atheists now afraid of hell’s portals opening up. The first cries of populists proclaiming an end to peace and safety who needed your vote and support to reform laws and thus to survive were accompanied by madmen proclaiming this to be the coming apocalypse but needing donations to save your soul.  
Nations in the UN were behaving in a similar manner. Every single member wanted to have more information, while demanding more security in the form of returning fleets and warships. They all neglected the Alpha Centauri pirate insurgency in face of personal peril. Countries already started shifting their trading priorities to get more fuel and rare earth materials to be diverted from colonies and to go to Earth, in preparation, of whatever may come. An entire species was panicking.  
Worse yet, some of Earth’s leaders who were not susceptible to panic due to years of political manoeuvring to become a player at the top, were now precisely the people who were the only ones who could rationally respond to this crisis and had zero incentive to do so. The United States proclaimed a state of emergency, recalled 3 heavy cruisers and a dozen lightweight-class ships to help with relief efforts, whilst congress quickly passed a crisis budget that doubled military spending to stave off political and populist pressures, and perhaps cynically, win the vote for the next set of elections. In response, China’s president had issued a similar state of emergency and recalled 1 of 3 dreadnought class ships from the Luyten system, accompanied by a full fleet of an assortment of a dozen capital-class ships and close to a hundred lightweight-class ships. This prompted Russia and India, along with the British commonwealth to recall significant portions of their fleets as well, which meant that Europe could not stay behind and retreated large portions of their fleet back to Earth as well. And just like that, the efforts of decades of peace-making was undone in a week. The bad days where a single press of a button could obliterate millions were back.  
The moments of silence and grief, the endless headlines and talking points, the sheer number of questions, regular commerce grating to a halt, all of it, were extra side-issues that put extra stress and pressure on the now fragile political landscape. The only blessing, Stephen cynically thought to himself, was that those devils attacked almost every major political player simultaneously, dispelling any notion of some sort of conspiracy or powerplay from a single country. Not that that stopped crazy people from spouting these theories. Regardless, the stage before him, the UN assembly room, where he was negotiating with all of humanity for its future, was a chaotic and perilous stage indeed.  
Stephen heard the audio prompt, sighed, and moved towards the podium and was granted the rights to speak to the assembly by the Speaker. To his surprise, almost every country had reacted favourably or positively to his amendment and his proposal to ramp up spending and production to quickly get rid of the Alpha Centauri problem so that they could all focus on this new problem swiftly and cohesively. Almost every country was going to vote in favour of it. All except China. And over the course of the past 36 hours, China had effectively been lobbying, bribing, bullying or blackmailing another 42 countries to join their stance. Stephen took his seat behind the microphones and cameras and turned them live, “Speaker, I am ready for the next round of questions and remarks regarding the amendment of the proposal for the ‘Star Shield’ initiative.”  
“Thank you, admiral. The first question is from the People’s Republic of China. Ambassador Zhang, you may speak,” the UN’s Speaker said.  
Stephen raised his eyebrow and pondered. Usually China would have their proxies talk endlessly to tire out the other countries and would speak themselves much later, sometimes months or years, only to swoop in, talk of ‘this-is-going-nowhere, decide-on-this-now-so-we-can-move-on’, and sway the vote in their favour. If China was willing to talk after 36 hours, then they must have something cooked up.  
Ambassador Zhang turned her microphone on live and began. “We of the People’s Republic of China have been against this proposal for reasons we have already explained in previous sessions of the UN assembly. However, we have a new amendment to submit that if included in the amended proposal of the admiral, would make us amenable to voting in favour of his proposal.”  
As Stephen listened to the translation coming in both of his eyebrows went up. They were being aggressive on the diplomatic scene. Normally they were only aggressive on the military side of things. Something was wrong. Stephen looked down at the inbuilt screen panel and saw an attachment that had the newly submitted Chinese amendment. The 15 minutes of break to allow for quickly skimming through the 40 page monster had caused a greater commotion than last week. China wanted to bring back drone warfare.  
2 hours went by as the planned question session turned into a heated discussion about China’s amendment.  
“The enemy is not spaceborne, it only engaged by land and air, and presumably is further capable of seaborne activity. All the UN members have specialized in space operations, not on terrestrial operations. While both the UN Space Defense Fleet and national armies can perform terrestrial operations, none have the scale necessary to do so sustainably for every major metropolitan area on Earth. The only still-maintained expertise that could perform this task and is available to us is drones and drone operations. The only short-term solution we have to properly defend ourselves adequately is through drones. The UN prohibition on drones must end for the safety of humanity!” the Chinese Ambassador spoke as she gave their main rationale.  
Korea, Japan and many other South-East Asian countries immediately objected, “We have not forgotten what happened to the territories you invaded with those drones! We will not allow this to happen!”  
“That was well over a century ago, and you do not have veto power,” the Chinese Ambassador responded swiftly and coolly. The resulting screams and shouts were disruptive enough that the whole assembly retreated for dinner. And by sheer coincidence, Chinese state tv had broadcast a new segment showcasing the building of a 4th dreadnought vessel, bigger than the other 3, followed up immediately by another segment that proclaimed that China’s multiple state agencies were talking of starting up agricultural and fuel production subsidies that would make China more self-sufficient on those two sectors within 6 years. TV dinner was never fun at the UN.  
China was being really aggressive. Their play was ‘give us what we want, or we walk and do it anyway’. Was this a calculated move? Or was this reactionary and panic? What was China’s goal? And most importantly, how could Stephen keep the peace whilst ensuring that the ‘Star Shield’ initiative was accepted? It didn’t help that UN members were now completely forgetting formality and protocol and were just acting out of emotion.  
The US delegate, had accused China in backroom talks of wanting to police their own population in an even more totalitarian manner, with China replying that such drones helped prevent massacres in the Luyten systems before, while completely ignoring the question of repressed domestic protests.  
Another 4 hours had now passed, making 27 without sleep. Stephen had to admit, even here the tactic of stalling and patiently bullying and tiring out everyone was working, although usually it wasn’t in such a heated and aggressive manner. In a strange turn of events and almost against protocol, it was now his turn to ask questions, even though he was not part of a member state delegation and was only the initiative submitter.  
Stephen had to take a gamble. Was China taking a calculated move? Or were they panicking and grasping at any straw they had? If it was the first, his question would worsen the situation considerably and set Earth back on the path of drone warfare. If it was the last, he might salvage the situation, and Earth would just maybe set back on the path of drone warfare and he would get his proposal passed.  
Stephen tried to push his stress and tiredness away and began to ask, “Ambassador Zhang. The enemy’s capabilities are on 2 sides of an extreme. They are both superior and inferior. They can simultaneously open multiple and fully functional wormholes within a gravitational body. And yet they fight with swords and shields. My question is, what happens when the enemy engages with your drones and they manage to capture sophisticated gunpowder weaponry, or worse, energy and railgun weaponry, or other technology they can reverse engineer?”  
Something snapped. The ambassador was silent and slack-jawed as she thought over the implications. After a full minute of awkward and oppressive silence, the Chinese delegation started to speak to each other in hushed whispers, despite the Speaker’s prompt for them to answer the question. It was panic then, Stephen sighed gratefully. The Chinese panicked and overreacted. Their rule not being democratic, was always more fragile in that it had to keep its citizens permanently placated and peaceful, violently or otherwise. Drones would’ve been a good solution for that, both against an enemy combatant as well as domestic threats.  
But the Chinese government wasn’t stupid. Giving the enemy any potential whatsoever to gain a disproportionate advantage would be a grave strategic error that could cost humanity everything. The hushed whispers turned into hurried phone calls, and a few minutes of delay turned into another 4 hours of waiting as the Chinese delegation finally returned to the floor of the UN assembly. Admiral Zhang indicated to the Speaker that she was at last ready to answer Stephen’s question.  
“Admiral, we believe that it would be a grave strategic error to allow the enemy any opportunity to reverse engineer human advanced weaponry,” she finally said. “Your question opens a glaring flaw in our amendment, and so we have taken some time to correct that mistake. We propose to the floor that the assembly should take some time to read the new amendment. We believe it will both address our concerns regarding Earth’s safety as well as compromise enough to allow the ‘Star Shield’ proposal to go through unopposed.”  
In the half-hour break that followed Stephen read the amended amendment and then laughed at the brilliance of it. The UN prohibition on drones was targeted specifically on armed drones, but exempted police-keeping forces that did not carry projectile-based weaponry, meaning only humans were allowed to carry and operate firearms, railguns and laser weaponry. The Chinese amendment circumvented this by explicitly stating that the millions of drones that they and other nations had, would only be allowed to carry melee weapons and shields.  
Another 2 hours passed as each delegation talked with their own respective governments and finally the ‘Star Shield’ proposal with its 2 extra amendments was passed. Stephen was silently basking in the victory with his own team of administrative workers and diplomatic aides and thought that perhaps finally he had figured out the political game and that it wasn’t so bad.  
He woke the next early afternoon to the news that the Chinese dreadnought would not reverse course despite the newly signed proposal and that the 4th dreadnought’s construction would continue as planned. In fact, the production facility would be expanded to start mass-producing a new prototype material that would be used for swords and shields. Stephen cursed and realized that he still hated politics as always.  
Devil Lord Azzazzel – The Horned Death – Dimensional Plane of the 9 Hells  
Azzazzel stared into the scrying orb and looked at the fat pig-beast that was clearly overcompensating by covering the top of his head down to the last tip of his tail with spikes and horns. “Gabruziel, how goes the raiding?”  
“Fine enough, though the prey here is hardly resisting. It is clear that none of those petty kingdoms and pathetic towns were prepared for a full invasion force of 50 legions. But I am having some difficulty with sieging a heavily fortified mage conclave as well as 2 deeply burrowed dwarven fortresses. I will need more contingents of siege-breakers from you. Some more pit fiends would do fine,” Gabruziel said in his slow drawl that managed to slobber spit and slime everywhere.  
“While we are of equal rank, our master still chose me as the leader for this invasion. I will not give you anything, you foul beast!” Azzazzel growled out. “Listen to me and obey! Belial has awoken and our master has regained his connection. In turn I have gained his location. He is held captive by a Mage elf whom Belial will surely try to corrupt from within his cage. Irrespective of his ability to break free, you are to move on from your current sieges and march all your forces straight for the border of the Sylvan Empire. It is conveniently near the border with the human’s dimensional plane, so your plans will not change much. I will maintain my plans and reinforce you in 3 weeks from now with the main bulk arriving in another 4 weeks after that. Go!”  
Gabruziel growled back in anger, “I will do no such thing without more support from you! You may be the leader of this invasion, but you will fail without me setting up a proper breeching point and supply chain. I have already suffered enough losses from the dwarves and orcs, and the Sylvan empire outmatches them both, especially in magic! While I may be punished and demoted for failing in my mission, you will be stripped of all power by our God himself! You have more to lose! So if you want to succeed, you will send me more pit fiends and other magic resistant siege-breakers!”  
Azzazzel’s horns flared brightly in an almost white-hot flame out of pure anger, “RAGH! Fine. You shall have your support. But if I still fail, I will drag you down with me and let our master consume you first!”  
Gabruziel grinned, exposing his sickly yellow and many sharp tusks. “It’s a deal!”  
Apprentice Mage Arundosar – Dimensional plane of Arenal – tavern in Hil’Sania  
“It is a strange experience to be sure,” Arundosar said as he kept staring at his new Ring of Translation while the humans kept eating. Arundosar had long given up on the voracious appetite of the humans who after half an hour were still eating, demanding more soup and chicken from the overworked tavern owner. Not that the surly elves behind the bar were to be pitied, they would just send the bill towards the city who would have to pay according to the reward they gave to the humans for rescuing all those families.  
“When you say certain words or especially when you say certain concepts that are strange to us, it seems to try and give me a feeling of an idea that tries to come as close as possible to the figurative meaning of the word, while I actually hear a word or words that most closely resemble the literal meaning,” Arundosar said as he continued the conversation on his own.  
“Can you give us an example?” the red-headed commander asked.  
“Sure, your name for instance. You say f- v-, uh, vall’keeree, right?” Arundosar asked as she nodded in confirmation. “Right, all I heard the first time you said it with the ring on was ‘warrior-maiden’ with a feeling of fierceness, and a deep, red-blooded focus. Like peering down at a ruby in a darkened hallway, and if you angled it just right so that a single ray of sunlight would hit it, you would see a glorious burst of fire from within.”  
Sam nodded while the others smiled and started nudging her. “Yeah, that sounds like our commander alright,” the biggest and most resembling a drow male, Camper, said. His name was directly translatable.  
“Camper is a strange name, are all humans’ names so strange?” Arundosar asked, “I mean no offense of course, just curious.”  
“Oh, no offense taken. They’re not really our names, but codenames, short new names that we use whenever we can’t use our real names. Like when we are in unknown territory, like now,” Camper said.  
“Ah, makes sense. You humans have been absent from Arenal for centuries, so of course it would be an unknown territory to you all. It’s no wonder then that the devils attacked you then. They tend to invade dimensions that are weak or isolated, so that no one will come to their aid. It increases the number of slaves and riches they can take,” Arundosar explained with a sneer.  
“Yeah, bet they’re regretting that decision now,” the large white male with pale blond hair, Icebear, said. His name was also directly translatable, although Arundosar had never seen an ice-bear before. Although, looking at him now, he figured he may as well have. He was a large and pale man who strangled a dire bear to death and was scaring the commoners around him constantly by wearing its fur and growling like an utter madman when his commander wasn’t around. The humans had a strange sense of humour. Funny, but definitely strange.  
“Alright, that was a good meal,” the commander said as was done destroying her second whole chicken. She turned to the Apprentice and asked, “what’s the plan for tomorrow, Arundosar?”  
Arundosar thought for a bit as he replied, “Ah, well, it all depends on you really. My master said that I was to help you all open up a portal to home, and I need a crystal for that. Now the Academy sells-“  
“We’ve been over this. The reward from the city is 50 gold pieces. Buying a crystal according to everyone here is at least 10.000 gold pieces. We can’t afford that,” Valkyrie answered. “And no. We are not selling any pieces of our armour or technology to the Academy.”  
“Yes, I understand, you were very clear about that, haha” Arundosar said half-heartedly. They were understandably adamant against such things, they were truly powerful suits of armour. But the reward he would get for it made him try in earnest. His master had promised him an instant promotion to Journeyman as well as a glowing recommendation to start the process of becoming an official Mage depending on how many secrets, both magical and non-magical, Arundosar could bring back from the humans to his master.  
“Well, that leaves 2 options. We dig for it ourselves and risk a tunnel collapse, getting robbed, finding no crystals at all, or potentially get raided by competing miners,” Arundosar said and noticed that none of the humans looked very impressed or willing. “Or we go win the main prize at the adventurer’s guild. I’ve seen it, it’s quite a sizeable crystal, enough to open up the portal for your size for at least a month, even at my Apprentice-level skill.”  
The humans seemed more enthusiastic, if still sceptical at that option. The one they called ‘Alien’, was the only one who really smiled at that option and seemed consistently ready to skip sleep and go sign up right now. Alien was translated strangely for Arundosar. He heard it as ‘foreigner-from-beyond-Earth’, with a deep and dark feeling along with a mysterious even dangerous after-feeling to it. And yet she looked so sweet and innocent, it was quite bizarre to Arundosar. The other names were quite fitting so far, as although he also didn’t understand the nickname of ‘Barhead’, he could imagine that the smallest of the human women could perhaps drink a lot.  
“However, the adventurer’s guild is a bit of a meatgrinder as the commoners say. You either get lucky or you are very skilled and you win big, or you die on the job either from dangerous and wild animals, gangs of thieves and robbers, a crazed lone mage, poisonous plants and other hazardous terrain, competing guilds, some kind of evil mastermind with an idiotic plot to conquer a kingdom, or stranded in a strange and unexplored planar dimension where the winds could fill your head with nightmares and make you fight each other,” Arundosar almost nonchalantly said with a slight shrug as he listed off the most common ways to die in the meatgrinder.  
“Oh, please commander, puh-lease!” Alien almost shouted as she pleaded with Valkyrie.  
“Gods-fucking-damnit. Fine. If only because we have no guarantee of quickly finding a crystal at all while mining. We’ll get some rest tonight and tomorrow morning we’ll see how much effort it takes to win a damn-fucking magic crystal so we can get home,” Valkyrie replied in defeat.  
“It will probably be a lot more effort, but almost assuredly much, much quicker,” Arundosar said. “Mining a large enough crystal to be of use may take months, if you even know where to look. Winning big in the guilds can take as little as a week, if you are strong enough. And I think you are,” Arundosar said with a wink. “I’ll be here tomorrow morning. Oh, and don’t spend any of that gold.”  
“Why not?” Icebear asked.  
“The sign-up fee for the guild is 50 gold pieces per adventuring party,” Arundosar replied as he got up, ready to go to his sleeping quarters in the Mage tower.  
All the humans simultaneously grumbled and complained about wanting to buy souvenirs, but Valkyrie cut them off and finished the conversation, “Alright. We’ll bring the gold pieces with us tomorrow. Easy come, easy go, I guess.”  
It's slowly building up, more action to come :D!
submitted by Ma7ich to HFY [link] [comments]

Tormuse's DDLC mod review post

Hi everyone! :)
These days, there are quite a lot of mods for Doki Doki Literature Club and it can be tough to decide which one to play... So I decided to take it upon myself to go through each mod, one by one, to give my own spoiler-free (as much as possible) reviews of them! :D I might live to regret this decision, but I thought it would be nice to have reviews of everything in one place and I'll do my best to say positive and negative things about each one. I've only gone through a few of the mods so far, but I'll work on this list over time and edit it to add more in. Anyone who wants to post their own reviews can feel free to do so in the comments. (You're welcome to disagree with my reviews down there too if you like; in any case, remember to be nice and tag spoilers)
EDIT: Unfortunately, there appears to be a character limit on this post, so I can't write all my reviews here! :( I'll continue down below in the comments instead.
Doki Doki Sandwich Club by FailSandwich
This mod replaces the in-game music with music from Super Mario games and replaces some of the graphics with images from and references to Super Mario games. There are no script or gameplay changes; it's just the original DDLC with a few cosmetic changes. It's sure to amuse Mario fans, but other than that, there isn't much to say about it.
Doki Doki Literature Club: Another Moment With You by Guardian_Bravo
Trigger warning for depression and suicide. A mod that re-imagines Act 1 of DDLC without a self-aware Monika or any of the Act 2 shenanigans. This is part one of what promises to be a four part series that's going to be released episodically, one part for each of the girls. This part, entitled "Bundle of Sunshine," has most of its focus on Sayori, but has some hints of a new backstory for Monika as well.
The mod largely mirrors the original Act 1, but with minor differences in characters and dialogue, including a somewhat less dense MC. Much of it feels like a retread of the original, but there are enough interesting new details added here and there to keep it interesting. Also, since this episode focuses on Sayori, it obviously deals fairly heavily with her depression, so be prepared for a bit of a feels train.
Focus On Me by NitrosGaming
Trigger warnings for Suicide, self-harm, domestic abuse, and lots of jump scares. This mod is short, (having a very abrupt end in the middle of a random conversation) but is utterly incoherent from beginning to end. I can't figure out what the plot is or what the author intended any of this to mean. It starts out strong, with some nice intro music and custom graphics on the menu screen, then when you start, it talks about the events of DDLC, criticizing the main character for not helping the girls with each of their respective issues that they're dealing with... and after that, everything just gets bizarre.
The action jumps around from scene to scene without giving the audience time to figure out what's happening and very little of it makes sense, with frequent jump scares thrown in at seemingly random intervals. People not only act out of character, but they don't act like human beings, and in fact, don't act with any sense of basic logic at all. There's a scene which I think is supposed to be an argument, but it's more like people spewing random sentences that don't seem to have any connection with each other and then it asks you to make a choice of who you're siding with, and I couldn't figure out what the argument was or who was on what side.
It's also buggy as hell, with characters appearing and disappearing or shifting around or overlapping each other at odd times, scenes where characters are speaking lines that look like they were supposed to be internal monologue, and at one point, an image that failed to load with an error message flashing on the screen, and another point where a poem randomly appeared on screen in the middle of a conversation and then everyone continued like nothing happened. It doesn't help that there are tons of grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, with shifts between present and past tense and between first and second person. (Also, lots of British slang and terminology, but that's fine; it made me smile when Sayori told MC that he walks "well quick") :)
MonikAI by PiMaker101
Not exactly a mod, but a nice app for all the Monikans out there. :) This app puts an image of Monika on your Windows desktop in her pose from her room in Act 3 of DDLC. She has a variety of facial expressions and she talks to you in a little text box underneath her, reacting to things you do on your computer in real time.
She has reactions to a variety of apps, programs, and webpages... I haven't tested them exhaustively, but I know, at the very least, she responds to Steam, Firefox, Notepad, Ren'Py, Task Manager, DDLC, Youtube, Facebook, Wikipedia, Google maps, Reddit, the DDMC subreddit, Netflix, and I'm sure many more. (She even has a custom message if you're playing the Doki Doki Rainclouds mod, which I thought is a nice touch) :)
You can bring up an options menu by pushing Ctrl-Shift-F10. (I mention that here, because it isn't well notated and you might miss out on a lot of features otherwise) You can re-size and reposition Monika, (in case you want her in the corner while you work) alter her brightness, and select the frequency that she makes idle conversation. Her image sits on top of every window you have open, but becomes translucent if you mouse over her so she won't get in the way of anything you're doing. She disappears if you play any full-screen game, though.
It's an overall, solidly constructed app, but unfortunately, she presently doesn't have a whole lot of idle dialogue in her program and it doesn't take her long to start repeating herself. Still, she's a work in progress and the MonikAI Discord server (link within the above link) accepts suggestions if anyone wants more dialogue to be added... Though this has the added consequence that her tone sometimes changes based on who wrote her dialogue; it still mostly feels like Monika, but there are occasional strange lines like the one for Youtube which includes the phrase, "let's just try not to get to the weird side..." I get what she's trying to say, but it's a weird turn of phrase that doesn't sound like Monika to me.
Doki Doki Weatheard World by Calentar-Games-Dev
Trigger warnings for suicide, self-harm, and domestic abuse. I'm at a bit of a loss of how to review this mod because it ranges from bizarre to incoherent. On the surface, it takes place after DDLC's Act 3, only this time, Monika has decided to restore everybody, including herself, and restart the game where you and she get to retain your knowledge of everything that happened in Act 1 and 2, and you get a lot of extra choices in dialogue and stuff like that. It's a fine premise to start from; so far, so good. Some people act a bit out of character, (like Natsuki and Yuri are eager to share poems this time) but that's easily forgiven, since this is a mod and the author is free to do their own re-interpretation of the characters.
But then things get weird... And I don't mean the good kind of weird. Strange dialogue gets seemingly randomly spliced in places it doesn't seem to belong. At one point, MC was talking to Sayori casually and suddenly, out of the blue, he confessed that he loved her and the dialogue from Sayori's love confession scene from the original DDLC was awkwardly copy/pasted in, complete with the CG of Sayori in her pink shirt, hugging MC, even though she's in her uniform before and after the CG. It makes no sense whatsoever, and after that, they carry on talking casually like nothing happened and no reference to them confessing their feelings is ever talked about again.
And things got weirder after that... The whole last half of the game is utterly, utterly incoherent with scenes and dialogue thrown slap-dash together, including death scenes of the girls, seemingly randomly. None of it makes any sense, and it ended with a message from the mod author saying that I got the "bad ending." I still can't make sense of it, since none of the options I had seemed to have any connection to anything that was happening, but just for the heck of it, I restarted and tried completely different options every step of the way and I was still treated to the weird, incoherent series of scenes and told again that I got the "bad" ending.
It's so nonsensical that now, I honestly can't tell if that weirdly out-of-place love confession scene was intentional or not. It doesn't help that there are quite a few grammatical errors in the mod, with weird switching between first, second, and third person in the internal monologue, not to mention switches between present and past tense that are hard enough to interpret at the best of times, but when things start going nuts, I can not, for the life of me, figure out what the author meant to say. I mean... I can see that the authors put a lot of work into this mod, so maybe this just shows that I don't "get" their artistic vision or something, but this whole thing just left me confused and unsatisfied.
Doki Heika Banzai by chankamaster
Trigger warnings for... everything! :o I have to imagine that when the author of this mod was planning it, they had a checklist labeled "How to be as offensive as possible." :P It is a joke mod in an alternate timeline where the Literature Club is set in 1945 Japan at the end of World War 2. It includes jokes about suicide, self-harm, physical abuse, rape, necrophilia, and PTSD, and jokes that are racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist. It also includes a lot of glorification of Nazis, Hitler, and other Axis powers. (For example, the main character wears a shirt with a Swastika and the words "Just Aryans" on it and Yuri is seen holding a copy of Mein Kampf) Speaking for myself, it made me super uncomfortable to play through this and made me regret my decision to review every DDLC mod, but I'm pretty sure that this is the author's intent, so... mission accomplished, I guess? :P Features plenty of WW2-themed art and music and new sound effects.
At this point, I could probably just end the review... I'm tempted to drift into meta commentary about the state of society which might not be appropriate in the context of a video game mod review, but then again, this is my review and I can write what I want, so here goes... :)
I'm not a fan of censorship. I think people should be able to say or create whatever they want, and I can see that a lot of effort went into the making of this mod, so I can respect it as a creative work and I know that plenty of people will enjoy it and not have any of the problems that I had playing it. I know that people are probably about to make fun of me for saying it made me uncomfortable or defend it by saying that they are "just jokes" that aren't meant to be taken seriously. That being said, glorifying Nazis doesn't sit well with me, even as a joke, because their existence is based on blind hatred that got millions of people killed for no reason and there are still plenty of people today, walking among us, some of whom are in positions of power, who still think like that and would like to see millions more people killed. Frankly, the idea of such people enjoying and laughing at this mod turns my stomach enough that I decided I couldn't let it pass without comment.
As for the rest of the jokes, again, you can say what you want; I recognize that humour is subjective and it is normal for different people to find different things funny... but I kind of feel that when 90+% of your humour is based on hurting people who are already hurting, then it might be time to rethink some of your life choices. (Erm... I mean that in the nicest way possible) :) The world is a big place and there's enough happiness for everyone; you don't need to find your happiness from bullying people. So... yeah... I'll get off my soapbox now. I just want everyone to make an informed choice about what kinds of media they enjoy. :)
Dokis and Dragons by Papo_Swing
The Literature Club has been replaced by a Role-Playing Game Club! Join the girls on a quest to rid the land of the goblin menace, but be careful, for not all is what it seems! :D
A fun little mod that simultaneously makes fun of role-playing tropes and DDLC, probably best appreciated by people who play Dungeons and Dragons and similar games. Personally, I've only played D&D once and it was a very long time ago, but I was still able to get most of the jokes and really appreciate the tongue-in-cheek nerdy humour throughout. It's a bit short, but there's a lot packed into it, with lots of in-game choices and some randomness to keep you guessing.
I particularly like how each of the in-game characters match the Doki that they're based on, like Sayori's character interrogating a goblin by tickling him, Natsuki's character being hyper aggressive and always ready to kick ass, and Yuri's character just repeatedly getting lost in her imagination any time her mind wanders.
It is possible to die, so don't take for granted that Monika, the game master, will go easy on you, but fortunately, you seem to be able to save and load as many times as you want, so you should be able to achieve one of the mod's multiple endings easily enough.
Doki Doki Rainclouds by paulchartres, AKA Cykadev
Trigger warnings for detailed portrayal of depression and suicide. This is DDLC from Sayori's point of view. This mod is all about Sayori's journey through depression, and is basically all sad all the time. Remember to take care of yourself while playing this mod so you have a safe experience. Personally, I was only able to get through it by doing it bits at a time.
This mod is absolutely dripping with atmosphere. It's got tons of new art and new music and is full of atmospheric effects like altering of familiar backgrounds and songs to help convey the heavy emotions of the story. Even the title screen may make you instantly feel sad as soon as you witness it. It also has creepy nightmarish sequences complete with jump scares, so be prepared!
This mod shines the most during the scenes where Sayori is alone. Her internal monologue reflects the stream of consciousness of the mind of a depressed person very well and I can only imagine that this must have been a deeply personal (and probably really hard to write) project for Cykadev. It also has some nice scenes where Sayori is alone with her other clubmembers outside of the club. (Something you don't really see in vanilla DDLC) I'm particularly fond of the one with Yuri. (I may be biased in that Yuri is my favourite Doki, but it's seriously a really sweet scene) :)
It is not perfect, though. It integrates dialogue from vanilla DDLC into its story with varying degrees of success and often feels clunky and repetitive during those scenes. A lot of those scenes go back and forth, line by line, between the original dialogue lines and Sayori's internal monologue reacting to that line, which is a fine idea in itself, but it actually starts to get tedious in some places, because the story loses momentum and sense of narrative flow as it sort of stalls every second line. I personally feel that there were a number of missed opportunities to connect the internal monologue lines together to make it flow better as a cohesive story. It also doesn't help that a few of Sayori's internal lines contradict each other. It's fine to change up the canon a bit; any good mod should do that, but it should at least be internally consistent.
Doki Doki Do You Lift Club! by paulchartres, AKA Cykadev
Trigger warning for jump scares, complete list of them in spoiler tags: Three of them; The first time Yuronk shows you her "move," it jumps to the extreme close-up creepy-eyed Yuri from DDLC Act 2... At the end of the second day, there's a nightmare scene that includes Sayori's dead, hanging body and broken-necked Natsuki... At the festival, Monicules announces that she's doing a dubstep performance; the song she plays is ear-bleedingly loud, guaranteed to destroy headphones and ear drums; make sure to turn your sound down at that part.
This is a joke mod that is relentlessly silly and does not remotely take itself seriously. (It's a little amazing to me that this is made by the same author as Rainclouds!) The Literature Club has been replaced by a "Lifting" Club for working out and the girls have been replaced by hyper-muscular versions of themselves. So the club is trying to prepare a lifting demonstration for the festival and it's your goal to impress the girls with your "sick moves" instead of with poetry.
Personally, I felt that some of the jokes got a bit repetitive, but it was still entertaining enough to see these bizarre caricatures of the girls interact with each other, including... Slavyori, the vodka-drinking, squatting best friend; Buffsuki, who talks in third person and you won't like her when she's angry; Yuronk, shy, but lifts with passion and has a fondness for pens; and Monicules, with her amazing thighs and sizeable ego. Obviously, there's a lot of new graphics in this mod, including new sprites for all the girls, and some new backgrounds, and there are a few new songs, including a pretty cool remix of Your Reality.
I did feel that the jump scares were weirdly out of place with the silly, goofy tone of the rest of the mod, especially the nightmare one, but I guess that's just part of Cykadev's sense of humour. (Or maybe he was warming up for Rainclouds) :) I feel I should also mention that there are a smattering of grammar and spelling errors that were mostly easily ignored, but did trip me up a few times when I wasn't sure what was meant, including a part where the Main Character takes Yuronk and Buffsuki aside but addresses them as Yuronk and Monicules, which made me momentarily confused about who he was talking to and why... so the mod could have used a bit more proof-reading, but it didn't detract too much from the overall enjoyment of it.
Doki Doki Easter Hunt by EVM02
A very short mod that specifically takes place during this year's Easter, April 1, 2018. The 5 members of the Literature Club take part in a school Easter Egg hunting event. The story starts light-hearted and fun (with Wholesome Sayori interaction) and then later, during the hunt, takes a dark turn. The whole thing takes about 10 minutes to play, so there really isn't much for me to say about it except it's got a few new backgrounds added for the hunt.
Doki Doki Just Monika Club by 15LarueA
I don't wish to be mean to the author of this mod. I really don't. I would much rather foster a spirit of encouragement for new mod authors... That being said, the only way I can see to enjoy this mod is if you laugh at the quality of the writing. Sorry, but I'm still reeling from MC telling Yuri, "Walking around naked in your home is the best feeling ever," in the context of talking about books while they're in school and Yuri having no reaction to it. (WTF?) O_o
Apparently, this mod takes place at the end of DDLC after Monika killed everybody, except everyone's alive? And MC is aware of everything that Monika did? I think? There is very little to establish the setting, so it's not clear.
The action and scenes in this mod jump around weirdly so you can't tell where you are or what's happening, everyone acts out of character, there are lots of grammar and spelling errors, including lots of switching between past and present tense, and it ends very abruptly after less than five minutes of gameplay. The curious thing is I went into the game files and there's a fair bit more dialogue in there, but there's a "jump" command that skips over it, so you can't see a majority of the mod. Is this intentional? I have no idea, but a majority of the comments in the mod's post are bug reports, so it seems that the author released a buggy, nonfunctional mod as a full release. It's stuff like this that makes me think that this subreddit needs to establish some kind of minimal quality control for mods.
Sayori Shoots up DDLC! by chankamaster
As you might expect from the title, the story is that on the day of the festival, instead of killing herself, Sayori decides to shoot people. There isn't a whole lot else to say about it, really... it's a short, 20 minute, dark humour joke mod, though there seems to be more focus on jokes about school shooters than the actual shooting.
This mod is made by the same author as Doki Heika Banzai, so when I started, I was bracing myself for some deliberately offensive humour, and... well, there was some, but it was actually a lot tamer than I expected. For a mod with this title, I expected more blood than this; in fact, I'd say vanilla DDLC was bloodier than this... I was actually disappointed. A majority of the mod was the build-up to the shooting and the actual shooting was quite short. Still, if you wanted a mod where a sweet, innocent girl goes on a homicidal rampage, it does the job, I suppose.
True Literature Club (TLC) by Tormuse
(Trigger warnings included in the above link) I made this mod myself, so I'm kind of biased, so feel free to take this review with a grain of salt. :D That being said, this mod writes a new end to DDLC, starting from the decision point where you select who to spend the weekend with and ends at the festival. It has almost no new art, since the focus is on the story. It is intended to be a wholesome, heart-warming story that gives happy endings to all the Dokis with plenty of drama and plot twists along the way. (And a few jokes here and there too) :D There are four possible endings, one for each girl, including a secret route for Monika.
I wrote the characters to be as true to the original as possible (Even studying the original dialogue to capture the nuances of their personalities) to try to capture the look and feel of DDLC's Act 1. That being said, I did throw in some plot twists to keep things interesting and keep the audience guessing, so don't take anything for granted. ;)
The beginning of the mod is identical to vanilla DDLC up to the weekend decision point, so prepare to use the "Skip" button a lot to get to the start of any new content. (And depending on how things go, you might need to do it a second time to get to Monika's route) Apologies for that. I promise that any future mods I make will begin at the beginning. :)
Doki Doki College Club by DokiDokiStar
A short, linear, goofy, light-hearted mod (which gets a little less happy later on) that shows the cast of DDLC in college. It's an alternate timeline where DDLC never happened, so nobody knows each other, (except MC and Sayori) but they happen to meet in college and happen to join a literature club together there. Not much to say about it since it's so short, but it's full of jokes and memes and some new backgrounds and playful graphical effects.
Monika After Story by therationalpi and co.
A mod that simulates your life with Monika during Act 3 of DDLC. The whole mod is you looking into Monika's eyes in her room while she talks to you, only with new artwork for different poses and expressions for her. It has all of Monika's Act 3 dialogue from vanilla DDLC plus a fair bit of new dialogue. The new dialogue is fairly well-written and I can see that care was taken to make sure it matches the tone of Monika's original dialogue. It also features a menu for looking at previous conversation topics, sorted by category, in case you want to review anything she's said before, plus an option to bring up a new topic she hasn't said yet, and an option to tell her how you're feeling, which she will react to.
The really neat thing is that the new conversation topics added by the mod are filtered in slowly, so you can't get to them all in one session, in order to keep you coming back to Monika for more in future sessions. Some of them include questions that she asks you that she then incorporates into future dialogue. (Side note: Props to the authors for adding a non-binary gender option for when she asks your gender; it's nice to be inclusive) :) She also has different dialogue based on the time of day or night that you are playing as well as artwork to reflect whether it is day or night.
It also has additional options for selecting what background music to play and games and other activities you can play with Monika. You start off with the ability to play Pong and Chess, but others slowly filter in over time, including Hangman and a little piano keyboard where you can play the piano.
I do seem to have encountered a bug, though, (I think? Side note: I'm playing version 0.8.0 and it's gone through a few updates) where she stops bringing up topics automatically and just sits there, endlessly, wordlessly staring at me, even when I turn on "Repeat Topics" in the settings menu. She'll still talk to me if I manually push the "Talk" button, and I see there are still topics there that she hasn't talked about, but I was really hoping that she'd go through them on her own without my input. It's possible that she's doing this because she wasn't meant to be left open for several hours. (I wanted to make sure I tested her properly) :) The other thing that bugs me is that adjusting the text speed doesn't work; she always talks at the same slow pace. (I mean I'm kind of a slow reader, but not that slow!) I guess this is to recreate the feeling of Act 3 where she takes control of things, but I would have liked the ability to pick up the pace a bit. Oh well, it's still a very well put together mod that I can see had a lot of thought and care put into it, so I'm sure stuff like that will be smoothed out in the next release.
Yuri Route by kadeisacoder
This mod crashes on startup and doesn't work at all. In fact, there's a quote from the author in the Reddit post that says, "I hate this mod dearly thats why i removed its link you can find it on my github but still it doesn't represent me in a good light." I don't know why this mod is even on the list. Clearly, the author doesn't want anyone to play it.
DDLC RPG by ProfessorHerb
Trigger warnings for references to depression, suicide, self-harm, and domestic abuse. Not a mod, not even a visual novel. It's a Japanese-style role-playing game featuring all the characters of DDLC with all new graphics in a top-down view of the school, the Literature Club, and other locations. It features a lot of the original songs, plus a few new ones based on the originals.
The story is that after the events of DDLC, Monika brought everyone back, inserted them into a new game, and apologized and made up with the girls about everything she did during DDLC, ready to start a new life with them... but something isn't quite right in this new game world, so it's up to the girls and MC to go on a quest to fix it. Along the way, they'll battle their own inner demons as well as creatures they find within the game world. The dialogue and story ranges from wholesome to humourous to dark and does a good job of representing everyone's personalities from the original DDLC. I particularly liked the little interactions between the girls showing how they've developed as characters in this post-DDLC world.
As you level up your characters, they get stronger and gain new abilities related to their traits from DDLC... Monika gets coding abilities, Sayori has powers of wholesomeness, Natsuki's powers are based on baking, Yuri gets powers of weirdness, and MC has poetry powers. Their abilities are fairly well varied and balanced and keep things interesting, although I never did figure out how some of the mechanics of their abilities work even after playing through the whole game. For example, Sayori and Natsuki's magic points get restored at the beginning of each battle, (as do everyone's hitpoints) but Monika and Yuri have "TP" in the place of magic points and those seem to get reset to a random low value at the beginning of each battle, even if you restore them fully just before the battle. (Though they recharge each time they attack or get hit) Since the value they start at seems to be random, it can make strategizing tricky, because Monika and Yuri may or may not be able to use certain abilities at the start of any given battle. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing; it just struck me as a bit of an odd choice in game design. (Although it's possible that I just totally misunderstood how TP is supposed to work)
One other thing: I'm going to save you a bit of trouble and draw your attention to the "cancel" key. (default is X but you can redefine it in the menu) In addition to canceling menu choices, it brings up the menu in the first place! (which you need for just about everything, including checking inventory, skills, etc.) It's also used for backspacing MC's name at the very beginning of the game if you want to rename him. Using one key for these things isn't a problem in itself, but it isn't exactly intuitive to push X for all these things, which led to some frustration on my part until I figured it out.
Doki Doki Yandere Club! by CastelloV
A very short, very silly joke mod in which the girls of the Literature Club are obsessed with the main character and fight each other for his attention. It starts, looking like vanilla DDLC and new content begins at the point where you first officially join the club. (So you can just skip up to that point) Features new art for the girls with intense "yandere" looks in their eyes. There are quite a few grammar and spelling errors throughout, including rapid switches back and forth between past and present tense, but I was still mostly able to understand it.
It also features an Easter Egg... And I use the term "Easter Egg" loosely, because it's actually a majority of the content of the mod and changes it from being a somewhat amusing but forgettable mod to a hilarious and epic mod. :D I don't even get the references, but it was pretty entertaining. Anyway, to unlock the extra content, just name your character Smoo.
Doki Doki Literature Club, the Normal Visual Novel! by -PM_ME_SOMETHING
Trigger warnings for depression, talk and jokes about suicide, self-harm, and domestic abuse. A mod that re-imagines DDLC as a regular dating sim without all the Act 2 craziness and without anyone dying. It includes everything from DDLC's Act 1 and then, at the weekend decision point, you pick one of the four girls and you're locked into that girl's route for the rest of the game. You experience the festival, followed by a series of scenes between you and your girl of choice with maybe some implied sexy times if you play your cards right. ;) It includes a new casual outfit for Monika.
One thing I do have to commend this mod for is the integration of Monika into the poem game. She gets a little chibi version of herself that hops when you pick words she likes and she gets a few extra lines if she likes your poem. Unfortunately, she gets so few extra lines, (maybe a couple dozen or so) that it kind of feels like the author needn't have bothered with all of that. I think I would have preferred if the mod had started from the weekend decision point, and those extra lines had just been included in the post-festival section of her route. It would have saved me from doing a lot of skipping. (Aside from those few lines, the rest of the beginning is identical to the original, so be prepared to lean on the "skip" button for a while)
Doubly unfortunately, I'm sorry to say that this mod lacks polish, to say the least. It has some pretty glaring mistakes that reflect a lack of playtesting from the author, such as Monika spontaneously changing outfits multiple times in mid-sentence, Natsuki randomly disappearing and remaining invisible while you're talking to her, and an utterly incoherent beginning of Sayori's route which was a lot of awkard copy/pasted and spliced scenes and dialogue from the original game with new stuff that made it totally nonsensical. There's also a confusing bit before the festival starts that I think is supposed to be a flash-forward/flashback thing that could have been made a lot clearer.
Also, also, I felt that the mod doesn't capture the girls' personalities very well. This is par for the course in a mod; it is perfectly fine for any author to re-invent what characters are like, but this mod tries to integrate new dialogue with old in some places and it feels very jarring to go back and forth between them. Some parts are better than others, but I particularly found Monika's character to be pretty bland. I mean she confesses to be in love with you within five minutes of conversation, which I'm sure some people would love, but it just doesn't feel like her, so I kind of feel like, "what's the point?" I was also bothered by MC joking about suicide right after his conversation with Sayori about her depression; for a mod that otherwise seems to be trying to be wholesome, it feels very, very out of place. I think the part that bugged me the most, though, came at the end of Yuri's route: Over Yuri's vocal objections, MC forcibly pulls up her sleeve to look at the cuts on her arm. (Which he does after zero discussion of her self-harm habit) For someone who is depressed enough to self-harm, this would be a pretty traumatic thing to experience, but Yuri seems indifferent about it. Then, after a few words, he starts kissing her and turns it into a make-out session. I can't begin to tell you how utterly icky and creeped out I felt to witness that.
Doki Doki Meme Club! by pooshscams
Trigger warning for transphobia. A short joke mod in which the Literature Club has been replaced by a meme club, where the members share memes with each other and make fun of "normies" all afternoon. (Including the Natsuki "trap" meme and a random image of Pepe the frog, for some reason) The characters are not very nice to each other in this mod, with lots of fighting and insulting each other, so don't expect any wholesomeness here. (I think Yuri got the worst of it, personally)
I have to be honest... most of the jokes went over my head. (I guess I'm too much of a normie, myself) :P There are lots of references to memes I'm not familiar with and an extended section where the girls are discussing music groups and songs I'm not familiar with. Basically, this mod feels like it's directed at a very specific audience; I'm not sure what that audience is, but it seems that I'm not in it. I expect that people who are more into memes will appreciate it more than I did.
Doki Doki Literature Club: The Festival by Ninjo07
Trigger warnings for scenes of Suicide and self-harm. A mod that imagines the events of the festival and the week that would have followed if Monika hadn't interfered and caused all the Act 2 stuff. The club gets a new member... a boy named Wallace who MC quickly finds himself competing with for the affections of the girls of the club, as everyone continues trying to impress each other by writing poems each day. The scope of their rivalry quickly grows, though, and it's revealed that there's a lot more going on than it first appears. The mod features the classic MC sprites for Wallace and a lot of new poetry!
One thing that I absolutely have to commend this mod for is the setup at the beginning. It assumes that you've played DDLC before and gives you a choice of doing just the poems over again or choosing which of the girls you liked/disliked/spent the weekend with. This is a far more elegant way to start the game than forcing the player to play through Act 1 over again like most mods of this type do, my own included. (Seriously! I wish I'd thought of doing this in my own mod!)
The other thing I liked was the coding work in the late game. I can't talk too much about it because of spoilers, but they did stuff I didn't know you could do with the code, so that was pretty cool and made the ending very interesting. I do feel that the middle stuff on the way to the late game lacked some polish, though. It felt like each day was in a rush to be over, with all the focus being on the conflict with Wallace and so in a lot of cases, the girls end up getting a lot of "filler" dialogue as a result. (ie. "This poem is good," or "I didn't like this poem," as their entire critique of your poem)
Lastly, there was one other thing that bothered me and it's technically spoilers, but it relates to the trigger warnings I mentioned, so I think it's important: There are two nightmare dream sequences, one which is Sayori's suicide scene copy/pasted from the original game and Yuri's suicide scene also copy/pasted from the original game. I really don't know why they're there, since they just don't fit with anything going on in the story or with existing themes. They seem oddly out of place and there doesn't seem to be any reason for them to exist except to re-traumatize players, I guess.
(Continued in comments below)
submitted by Tormuse to DDLCMods [link] [comments]

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