sfp 6 127 for web

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  • Markus

    I wouldn’t’ve killed him. The threat was useful, but making good on it doesn’t actually do anything for Gurwara. He has no need to maintain a reputation of keeping his murder threats in the future.

    • Wahahaha

      Very emotionally charged situation though. He may not have been thinking straight. It is entirely possible that he did kill him.

      • Shweta Narayan

        I keep trying to imagine being in this situation and… maybe it depends a lot on how the doctor reacted to the patient dying? Esp. because it’s emotionally charged, it’s really different if the doctor goes defensive vs if he actually like reacts to his patient dying.

        It’s probably p hard to work like that for hours to save someone’s life without seeing them as a person at least a little. I think? IDK this might be naive.

        • Freemage

          Part of the issue there is that stress can cause someone’s reactions to alter wildly. The doctor could have been legitimately distraught over his inability to help the patient in the first place, but then had his heart hardened by the presence of the gun, turning the effort to save the life into something totally self-focused.

          Or, as you posit, he could have spent hours trying to save a life, and felt completely devastated by that failure, even if he’d known going into it that there was no hope.

          One common cause of victim-blaming is the failure to realize that people are weird and eccentric–there is no ‘one reaction’ to any particular scenario that is invariably more sincere than others. Rape victims, as an extreme example, can be all over the map in how they process what they’ve been through, and police with specific ideas about how a rape victim “should” react (ironically, sometimes derived from attempts at training them to be ready for specific issues that could lead to self-harm) are more prone to doubt women who don’t show the supposedly ‘classic signs’.

          • Shweta Narayan

            Totally, but similarly stress is going to affect the reactions of “me” with the gun, I’m no more a rational agent than anyone else. So I would probably end up reacting to the doctor’s reactions.

  • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

    Oh he totally killed him. That “story of violence to soothe her worries” can end in two ways:
    – Either he’s telling that to her so that she has leverage against him in case she’s ever suspicious of him spilling the beans of her being a tableslamming tyrant. Interesting choice considering she always has the leverage of hurting / killing him at any point without consequences

    – Or the entire story is fake (that wouldn’t be out of character, the very first words he uttered on this webcomic were lies) but he knows Alison well enough to know the death of the weak and innocent in a fit of righteous fury is the only thing that makes her sleep with a smile

    • Weatherheight

      “I shot him, of course. I keep his knucklebones from his fingers and toes in this little bag. It should be sufficient to convict me if you feel I have breeched your confidence.”

      “Um… Professor… This bag weighs like 40 pounds…”

      “Well, of course, I had to kill all the townsfolk as well, since they might have seen me at his door…”

      I admit, I was hoping the friend survived… And six months later, after they healed, they went on a pogrom killing thousands, including the doctor and his village.

      Ah well…

      • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

        Oh my God, how did I not come up with that ♥

        I’m not sure how facetious my own pitch is, though. Gurwara looks to be in his sixties, and was in his twenties at the time of that story. Wouldn’t a statute of limitations apply?

        • Mechwarrior

          Murder and war crimes generally don’t have a statute of limitations.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            We do have those here in France (well, for murder at least) so I was trying to take a look at Indian law and then I remembered I can’t read

          • Weatherheight

            So, did you mean to link to what appears to statutes of limitations for civil law and are jerking our collective chains to see who would read it?

            If so, +1000 internets. 😀

          • Nuremberg pretty conclusively established that the one true war crime is losing.

          • Mechwarrior

            Pfft, that was well established long before Nuremberg.

          • Tylikcat

            I am deeply amused by this little battle. (The location is a few blocks from the house where I grew up, though golly gee whiz it’s gentrified since I was a kid…)


          • Yeah. But Nuremberg formalised it.

            They had the best-trained kangaroos ever at Nuremberg.

          • Mechwarrior

            What, are you disputing the guilt of the convicted in those trials?

          • Nope.

            OTOH, i remember Admiral Gallery’s comments on the subject or a closely related one (Admiral Gallery was the commander of the task group that captured the U505):

            He said that it wouldn’t have bothered him a bit if the troops who liberated Auschwitz and Buchenwald had simply stuffed the camp personnel in their own gas ovens. But once they were allowed to surrender, they should get a truly fair trial.

            {Neither he nor i doubted the result of such a fair trial.}

            I was just expressing my disdain for the {unnecessarily} vindictive trial mechanisms designed to make sure that the right verdicts were reached, when it was Very Unlikely that most of that bunch could have avoided what they got no matter how the court was organised.

            Consider the cases of Doenitz and Raeder.

            They were originally to be brought up on capital charges for waging unlimited submarine warfare.

            They were saved from that when Admiral Nimitz {and Halsey, i believe} pointed out that what they were planning to ask for a death sentence for in the Atlantic was pretty much what THEY had received medals for in the Pacific.

            Quoting Wikipedia:

            For the postwar trial of German Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946, Nimitz furnished an affidavit in support of the practice of unrestricted submarine warfare, a practice that he himself had employed throughout the war in the Pacific. This evidence is widely credited as a reason why Dönitz was sentenced to only 10 years of imprisonment.

            Any trial that tries to execute a defendant from the losing side for doing what someone considered a hero by thew winning side did is biased and potentially rigged.

          • Random832

            How many people on the allied side were convicted?

          • Shweta Narayan

            Actually no. You’re more right than you seem to know, so forget the disclaimers. There WAS stuff equivalent to the Holocaust on the Allies’ side. I know of two things; there are probably more:

            1. Recently-ish declassified documents make it clear that Japan was desperately trying to surrender when the nuclear bombs were used. They were not necessary. The thing we’ve all been told about how they stopped a massive land war with major further fatalities is a lie.

            They were intended as a statement, a deterrent to the USSR. Nor did the Allies care that plenty of prisoners were also killed; Asians didn’t matter.

            2. In the Bengal Famine of 1943, more than 3 million Indian nationals starved to death for lack of food that was available. The british not only didn’t send aid, but demanded that Bengal continue to export food to them. And here’s what Churchill had to say about sending them aid: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”

            There’s a lot of apologism over this quote, and pointing at things Churchill said in other contexts that were less bigoted, but those actually prove only that he tailored what he’d admit to his audience & couldn’t be trusted.

            Note that this is an oversimplification; there were many many other problems leading to the famine. Thing is they all trace back to how the British ran (read: stripmined) India, though they certainly weren’t all Churchill’s fault. I don’t remember the exact numbers but there were something like more than 10 times as many famines under British rule than in the millenium before it.

          • Mechwarrior

            That’s an example of realpolitik, not kangaroo courts.

          • Eric Schissel

            Though that specific tribunal, iirc, went to some length to _claim_, at least, that the principles being established applied to the countries and citizens in the room on all sides – which is (I think) one reason why its memory is recalled and referred to all the more.

    • Tylikcat

      Though I think Alison would have stepped back at this point, which might be equally important.

      • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

        Assuredly, and before he called that an “assurance”, I would likewise had assumed for Prof.
        But how far would she have twisted Max’ arm if he, like the doctor, just didn’t perform?

        • Tylikcat

          Oh, I’m not convince that Gurwara walked away…

          I would have expected her to at the very least dislocated the shoulder and damaged the shoulder capsule – she honestly might have been at a bit of a loss to figure out what next, because she was using a great hold for restraining people without harming them, not something best suited for torturing them into doing things.

          (I mean, just as a reasonably well read anatomist and martial artist… think it through, folks – figure out what functions you want to preserve. So, say, don’t damage the hands of a surgeon. Look at the areas that have the most clustered sensory receptors – hands, feet and genitals kind of jump out, that way. And then it kind of depends on what you’re aiming for – dislocating fingers hits one of the few things that really tweaks me. Damn. Possibly caning the bottom of the feet. I’m sure the folks that have spent a lot of time on the psychology of torture – not to mention edging around the Geneva conventions – are far more sophisticated, but this seems basic.

          …if anything Alison being so inept in her coercion – though good enough! – lends charming verisimilitude.)

          • Weatherheight

            “Hands, feet, and genitals kind of jump out, that way”

            ::stares in horrified fascination::

          • Tylikcat

            …I’m a neurobiologist. Have you ever seen a sensory homunculus? That’s a anatomical model remapped to show the density of neuron receptors. I’m including a link:


            (I was going to upload an image, and maybe it will be included – that’s not how it used to work – but it’s a penile homunculus, and while I’ve used this very one as a teaching aid, I wouldn’t want to, er, shock the children. O-kay – I guess links autoload images now. Welp!) Anyhow, sensory receptor density is not evenly distributed throughout the body. It’s sparsest at places like on your back, whereas it’s very fine on your finger tips. …it’s actually a bit more complicated than that, and you have overlapping areas covered by the same neurons that then deconvolute the signal, in super high density areas – some great math there! – but you get the idea.

            So, yes, that just kind of springs to mind. I think I have mentioned that I study the twin arts of taking bodies apart, and putting them back together… except I’ve been super distracted by slug mouths and squishy robots, because I’m easily led astray like that.

          • Weatherheight

            I dabbled with going into cognitive psych for a bit, so i’m well familiar with the drawn version of this. I must say, the statue is pretty cool (and a bit .. yeah.. just.. yeah…).

            Incidentally, I’ve always found it a bit fascinating the the sensory homunculus bear a striking resemblance to various versions of humanoid ne’er-do-wells in fantasy literature. I sometimes wonder how many of those images were directly inspired by the homunculus image.

          • Akiva

            The absolute first thing that jumped out at me about that statue was its eerie resemblance to racist eugenics lit. (And Weatherheight, I think that’s probably more what the “humanoid ne’er-do-wells in fantasy” are based on, however unconsciously, not the sensory homunculus.) Is that just a weird coincidence, or was this homunculus also developed around the same time the Victorians and friends were trying to make science out of white supremacy?

          • Tylikcat

            The rough proportions are pulled out of the sensory cortex – if you go up to google images and put in “sensory homunculus” you will see versions that include the labeled cortex as well, which might make a bit more sense. When I’m teaching I use both – I like this one because I find that it sticks in the head (and because the more commonly used ones tend to have tiny penises, which, if you’re going to have penises at all is wildly inaccurate – I mean, guys, I’m pretty sure you can back up from personal experience that there are a lot of sensory receptors there!)

            …is it the lip size you’re responding to? The round head? (I have only skimmed through a bit of the science of racism bullshit, so I’m likely missing cues here.)

          • Freemage

            The giant phallus definitely makes sense for a male homunculus, but I admit, my brain is trying to simultaneously imagine and run screaming from a female version.

            Also, I think even the male version makes one oversight–the nipples should proportionally be larger than the areolae–they should certainly be the dominant feature of the torso.

          • Akiva

            I think my idea was more the reverse—eugenicists of the time saying “hey we know this science about how many more nerves there are in the lips, isn’t it interesting how the “lesser races” have big lips? We can probably find other ways to prove the association.” I’m thinking of illustrations purporting to be of Black, Jewish, and even Irish people from around that time, they all play up the same characteristics. The protruding nose and mouth, large lips, rounded receding forehead/small head, ears that stick out (which the sculpture also has for some reason), and of course the oversized genitals (which are either alluded by oversized hands and feet, or we’ve just decided they go together for some reason) are the main features you see in the whole genre of racist cartoons, applied indiscriminately to just about every non-white “race”. (Though of course European Jews and Irish people have largely or entirely attained whiteness in the last century or so.)

            I can’t find the specific (possibly Nazi-era?) anti-Jewish illustration I was thinking of (the internet searches I tried were already pretty stomach churning), but this image from the Scientific Racism Wikipedia article is about the same character and quality. Warning, obviously—racist caricatures of a Black man and an Irish man compared to a white Brit. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Scientific_racism_irish.jpg

            Could also just be a coincidence, I guess… *shrug*

          • Tylikcat

            I was actually conflating two things, too – this does more or less reflect nerve density, but the sensory homunculus is drawn from the area devoted to these features in the sensory cortex, which isn’t exactly the same thing, though there is rough equivalency between them. (There’s some interesting work done in rats, for instance, where if you cut their spinal cords at T8-10*) the area of the motor cortex that used to devote itself to the hindlimbs shifts to more finely cover the trunk. Gizster, IIRC – neat, neat stuff.

            I haven’t seen any evidence of such? I mean, this kind of crap gets dug up all the time, and the part of history I know the best is neurophysiology land.

            * Which, BTW, doesn’t mean the spinal cords stop functioning, just that they stop communicating with the brain – you still get a lot of central pattern generation activity, so you’ll see stepping in response to weigh shift, that sort of thing. A lot of these rats walk just fine, though they don’t manage fine motor control on, say, ladders.

          • Weatherheight

            The humanoid monster types from most fantasy works are far, far, far older than the victorian period. Some are on the borders of prehistoric (the Northern Eddas, the Rigveda, and some Sumerian scrolls spring to mind – much of tolkein’s critters spring from finnish and norse influences). But I do agree that eugenics certainly did have influence on how appearance manifested as time has gone along.

            The sensory homunculus came out the work of Wilder Graves Penfield (OM CC CMG FRS) (January 26, 1891 – April 5, 1976). So victorian ideals being incorporated isn’t too far fetched, but as I understand it, this a proportional map of nerve density with areas of more dense nerve ending concentration being larger. Since Victoria reigned roughly from 1837 to around 1901, your observation seems pretty plausible.

            Compelling thoughts. 😀

          • Shweta Narayan

            I think perhaps it’s a less direct effect, like: Those are the bits we focus on disproportionately in general, so we focus on them disproportionately and make them different from us to create horrors & scapegoats.

            e.g. we have so many receptors linked to the lips that we’re very sensitive to lip size, and notice it strongly in other people, and it becomes part of the racist stereotyping that eugenics is based on.

            Given which, the image of the homunculus might reinforce that tendency, but it’s pre-existing prejudice being “confirmed” if anything, cause if it was just bad science, then the homunculus shape would imply “brains believe lips are important & big lips are best”.

            also, if someone needs a grotesque image, chances are what comes to mind is the aspects of the human body that the brain’s highly invested in, and altering them in ways that don’t feel right to the often-culturally-isolated writer. People have just as much variation in say cheek size as lip size, we just don’t notice it.

          • Loranna

            In keeping with the RPG theme from earlier posts, that is one whacked-out homunculus, and I would not want to mess with the wizard who made it!


          • Freemage

            Ever seen the anime Ghost Dog? The sensory homunculus plays a major role in one character’s description of brain activity. Very cool series. and yeah, that image is gonna give me nightmares, thanks.

          • Tylikcat

            This isn’t even from the lecture series that I usually get feedback about giving people nightmares.

          • Weatherheight

            I have, and it’s a very intriguing series if you know something about cognitive and clinical psychology.

            The ending, IMO, didn’t quite follow through with the first half of the series, but I still enjoyed the series as a whole.

        • Tylikcat

          BTW, if you are bailing, I do hope you’ll stay in touch via other means. I use the same nym on twitter – that’s probably the simplest point of contact.

      • Walter

        Alison, if it was a stranger on the table, wouldn’t have made the threat. If it was Feral in an equivalent situation, well, we know she’d pull the trigger.

    • Stephanie

      “he knows Alison well enough to know the death of the weak and innocent in a fit of righteous fury is the only thing that makes her sleep with a smile”

      This is an extreme mischaracterization. It’s been thoroughly established in the canon that Alison despises her inclination to solve problems through violence, is actively working against that tendency in herself, and feels like absolute shit when she slips back into it. She certainly does not think fondly on the times she’s hurt people.

      • cphoenix

        Clem’s comment below makes it clear they don’t even understand the distinction between “perform” and succeed, and they think the doctor didn’t perform. That observation is necessary to even make sense of the comment you’re responding to.

        I’d call Clem a troll, except that pretty clearly they’re actually mentally twisted enough to think like this: Anyone doing wrong must be punished with unpleasant consequences, but anyone who hasn’t done wrong must never receive unpleasant consequences, and there is a bright obvious line between these two categories, and everyone must agree with them on where that line is, and Max is clearly on the innocent side.

        And, of course, any commenter who mentions difficult choices they’ve had to make in real life may be scorned and their choice made light of, even if it was a life and death choice.


        Yeah, Clem is the reason I don’t read this comment section much anymore.

        • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

          You too.

          • Pythia

            …I knew…

            And I here thought it was *my* sarcasm-detector that was broken…

            …Also, I can tell that four people have done this, so yay, but I’m just going to keep leaving it here. http://tab.gladly.io/?r=11141785

        • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

          Dammit. Seriously? Nine people liked this?…
          You are so fucking wrong about everything you claim in it and so many people agree…? the death of the weak and innocent in a fit of righteous fury is the only thing that makes her sleep with a smile, seriously? How can that even convey anything else than how pathetically wrong the Alison-hating persona I wear is?

          Dammit, I love Alison…

          You win. Bye everybody.

          • Stephanie

            I don’t think anybody knew that your Alison-hating persona was ironic until this post. This information casts a lot of your previous comments in a new light, but it’s not surprising that people found them abrasive when they thought you were serious, is it? I completely understand why you’re hurt by people upvoting a post that’s meanspirited toward you, but I think you will see their opinions about you shift dramatically if you make it more obvious when you’re being ironic.

          • Shweta Narayan

            You’re kind but as a subset of anybody, my opinion isn’t likely to shift. Not after being accused of supporting abuse because I’m leery of fandoms’ love of wishing harm upon characters of color, across media and stories.

          • Stephanie

            That’s fair. I shouldn’t speak for everyone. Better indicators of irony might not always be enough to shift the opinions of people with whom Clem has had adversarial interactions. They have said some unkind things to me as well, and I’m still not sure how many of those were secretly satirical.

          • Shweta Narayan

            Why should it matter? The effect is that they were hurtful and have zero remorse over it.

            Whatever their intent, it was malicious.

          • Beroli

            Yes, there’s a pretty big difference between “I have a persona” and “I have an aggressive persona which you should know better than to take seriously and if something I say bothers you, that’s your problem, not mine.”

          • Shweta Narayan

            I’d call it something worse than an aggressive persona but yeah.

          • AustinC123

            I don’t believe you. You are either bullshitting now in order to keep your troll-plates spinning, or the least successful practitioner of irony I’ve ever seen.

        • Chani

          There’s a “block user” feature! 🙂 It’s hidden, but, click the little grey down-arrow at the top-right of a comment.

          • Shweta Narayan

            This is great to know!

            What I’ve been doing is, if you click on their username it takes you to their profile, and block is an option if you click on the “…” link. I had no idea about the dropdown directly from a post 🙂

        • Shweta Narayan

          I had that problem too, though with Izo before Clem. The block feature is a blessing.

      • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

        You take my word way too seriously sometimes

        • JeffH

          The official slogan of Internet trolls everywhere…

          • cphoenix

            Also Trump.

        • Stephanie

          I know you were exaggerating, but even when I correct for the exaggeration that statement mischaracterizes her to an absurd extent. It’s pretty much the opposite of the truth. If you intended it to be completely sarcastic, as in you meant the opposite of what you wrote, then I apologize. But interpreting it as completely sarcastic doesn’t seem to fit either with the rest of the post or with what you’ve previously said about Alison.

          • thebombzen

            I think it’s pretty clear that this is a mischaracterization, but I interpreted this as “Clem used something obviously wrong because it’s funny.”

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            It’s supposed to fit with a murdery, awful and despicable version of Alison I pretend to interpret while I actually genuinely like and relate to her.

          • Psile

            I’m gonna be completely honest with you here, I don’t think your satire is being read as such by anyone. I’ve seen you argue your points very passionately in a way that doesn’t suggest to me that you are being disingenuous. Perhaps if you are playing ‘devil’s advocate’ it would be helpful to preface your comment with some kind of indicator because it isn’t reading as such. Right now it’s just coming off like you’re saying something inflammatory then hiding behind a wall of comedy when you get called out on it.

          • Loranna

            *slowly raises her hand*

            I, for one, have been reading Clem’s posts as satire for just about all along.


          • Weatherheight

            Seconded – The first few posts were like “uhm…” but I soon realized that Clem and I share a bit of an evil sense of humor and a difficulty with taking anything too seriously or with proper respect.

            But yeah, I get why some / many folks read it otherwise.

          • Tylikcat

            I kind of remember, early on, being a bit confused by Clem? But that was, like, back in Moonshadow days. …and I’m pretty sure Clem has mellowed out since then.

            (Sorry, Clem. I’m afraid this is actually true.)

          • Freemage

            Given the structure of Clem’s nickname, I’m wondering if they’re French. This isn’t just idle speculation–French satire is very much built around the notion of being an ultra-extreme version of what you’re mocking, and holding to the satirical pose at all costs. (This became an issue after the terror attacks on Charlie Hebdo, when after the initial wave of sympathy, people began looking at some of the covers of the magazine, and not realizing that yes, they were satire. Without that context, they come across as amazingly racist and Islamophobic.) A key part is to play it ‘straight’–you never deliberately highlight the absurdities and hypocrisy of your pretended positions, instead letting others realize it, and then realize how horrible the views you’re satirizing must be.

            You see this very rarely in English-language satire, especially taken to that extreme. The closest in modern times would be the Colbert Report, which deliberately undercut the satire by being patently ridiculous (instead of just playing awful views straight). The only other English-satire model I can think of of that nature would be, of course, Swift’s A Modest Proposal. And it didn’t work as well in English as it would’ve in France, historically–at the time, far too many people thought the suggestion that the Irish poor should be selling their children as foodstock for the English aristocracy was dead serious.

          • Stephanie

            Like Psile said, it’s really hard to distinguish between your satirical murderous interpretation and your sincere analysis. It came as a genuine surprise to me when you said you like and relate to Alison just now. Maybe an “/s” would help?

          • The problem is that now we know you’re attempting to be subtly ironic and wrong-foot the rest of the discussion with tongue-in-cheek satire, we can’t tell when you’re actually employing that tactic and when you’re trying to be serious.

            Like many others on these boards I was entirely unaware that you were maintaining a satirical persona and position throughout. Some few of your posts read as satire to me, but only the odd one every so often; not enough by any stretch to have led me to intuit from them that your entire presented position was a false one! And certainly not one meant for amusement as opposed to, say, attempting to troll. The limitations of text-based communication combined with a completely deadpan delivery that doesn’t appear to differ much from your legitimate points. Especially for those of us who came to the comments section later (and around the time of several large blowout arguments!). Even now it’s impossible for me to tell, for example, whether your original post was the satirical version, or whether the phrase “I actually genuinely like and relate to her” is actually the backhanded joke, after all. Your sincere commentaries are just too similar.

          • …The other issue with this approach going unstated is that it encourages those people who have legitimate grievances with the comic, the characters and the writing to become more entrenched in those positions under the false assumptions that you actually support their positions. Without naming any names there have been a few big blow-out arguments which could have been significantly shortened and calmed if everyone shared a mutual understanding of who was, and who was not, trolling via satire…

      • Shweta Narayan

        This is a characteristic mischaracterization. I don’t think Clemens’ mind can be changed about either Al or Gurwara being Inherently Monstrous For Reasons.

        • Stephanie

          Well, apparently they were being sarcastic about that the whole time and actually like Alison? It’s confusing to me because they argued that position so consistently and for so long. But I guess it was meant as a Stephen Colbert kind of thing?

          • Shweta Narayan

            Yeah. that just makes my opinion of them go *down*.

            “Haha I was just joking all along” is the standard cop-out of people who enjoy upsetting others but can’t cope with the response. If they didn’t mean it, they were still not doing it as parody, they were doing it in order to upset people.

            I would respect “they really meant it”a lot more than “they just wanted to yank people’s chains”.

            Note that they say this *now*, when people are sick of their nonsense and *they* are getting the nasty effects, rather than before when they were causing pain to others and knew it.

            (Also: Colbert’s type of humor, when it’s good, punches up not down; and people know it is intentional humor. Also, it’s funny, which Clem has never been.)

          • Stephanie

            Yeah, it’s also frustrating to learn that all of my exchanges with them were apparently a waste of time. There’s no way they didn’t know that I thought they were sincere, so the considerate thing would have been to tell me ages ago instead of doubling down.

          • Shweta Narayan

            yep, it’s an inexcusable jerk move.

  • Weatherheight

    If Arjun ever is the GM for a pen-and-pencil RPG, I am so at that table.

    • Grant

      We’d have to have some sort of death tournament to see who gets the honor. No more than five or six people win.

      Wonder what type of characters he’d like best?

      • Weatherheight

        Heh. I feel that.

        Years ago, in the very late 80’s, the university I went to had a D&D group that got very organized and decided to run a really big campaign – ten GM’s all working together in a single world, where the characters could move from one area to another in the world, provided the GM had space. They were expecting about 60-75 people to show up.

        That first night, our players consisted of roughly 130 people (the president of the club was very good at promotion). So all the GM’s were told to double the expected people at table from 6 to 12 (which, by the way, was a bit of a blast – hard to ride herd, but made for a lot of options for the GMs since the players had so many more options in their “tactical rucksack”, so to speak.

        The prez then asked each GM to describe their campaign – I was like the seventh or eighth GM, and I was a bit tentative. Everyone else spoke in really general terms and I read the prophecy I had written for the game’s premise. I felt a little lame. So after everyone had said their piece, we walked to our tables, and the prez asked everyone to choose a GM to join their game. I had something like 25 to 30 people stand by my table (Roughly half the group picked four GMs). I asked the prez, “So.. uhm.. problem here. Is it okay to have a roll-off? Is that how we should resolve this?”

        He looked at me and said, “well, a caged wrestling match and pistols at dawn are out of the question, so yeah, roll-off it is.”

        Took three roll offs to whittle it down.

        • soulpanda

          I’ve always wanted to have an experience like that, where you could move from region to region and land with different DMs. I’m glad to know it’s been done before. Someone lived the dream

          • Freemage

            During the reign of 3.x, the official convention campaign structure for convention play did this, to an extent–the U.S. was divided into regions that mapped to parts of the classic Greyhawk setting. Each region had their own governing body, responsible for setting local policies and writing modules. If you had the wherewithal to travel to other parts of the country (or were lucky enough to live in the Chicago area, where three regions were a stone’s throw from each other), you could play in those regions’ conventions and get some insight into the local plotlines and flavor.

            Of course, scripted mods in a timed format are pretty much the opposite of sandbox GMing, but it was an amazing co-op culture of world-building and gameplay, and actually gave players reasons to load up the van for a road-trip where you crammed eight people in a hotel room for a long weekend and spent most of your time in a loud room overflowing with people from around the country.

            Then WotC decided to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, came out with 4th Edition and pulled all support for the Living Greyhawk campaign. It was… not their wisest maneuver, and the convention circuit has never fully recovered, though I understand 5th Edition has begun undoing some of the damage.

          • Weatherheight

            From what I’ve seen, 5th ed is pretty well set up for this kind of play. The rules were streamlined to make play go faster and the degree of Munchkin Moves seems to be way lower than 3.5 or 4th.

            Not really a fan, mind you (the rules structure is an overreaction to the innumerable complications of 3.5 and 4th, IMHO), but they did a great job of creating a system suitable to this kind of play.

          • Dean

            Meanwhile, if you lived in Australia, you could only play global mods, or mods set in your home region unless you physically travelled to the US or Europe, except for one session at one particular convention every year.
            Why no, I’m not still bitter.

          • Weatherheight

            Yikes – parochialism strikes again.
            My sympathies, Dean – that sounds kind of rough.

          • Freemage

            I will never defend the US-centricism of the regional system. Hell, it was almost as bad for folks in parts of the US, if you lived in widely rural areas of the country. The LG system was in desperate need of more equity on that front, and I don’t discount your bitterness over it at all. One easy help would’ve been to allow GMs from other regions to ‘carry’ mods to out-of-region events. This could’ve led to tourists from the rest of the world bringing a little slice of their own pie with them whenever they traveled (possibly in exchange for crash-space at one of the players’ houses…).

      • Zorae42

        I wonder with his views on morality if you could get away with playing a Paladin that most GMs would consider Lawful Evil (and thus not allowed to keep his powers) as long as you made a convincing argument on why what you did didn’t technically count as evil. Or whether he’d set aside those views for the purpose of the game.

        • Campor

          Depends what game you’re running. 5th Edition DnD lets you play a Paladin of any alignment, you just take an oath that best fits your particular character’s goals and intent. You could almost get away with it being called an axiom.

    • Tylikcat

      Oh, I am so in. My last serious game* had the most amazing digressions into linguistics and cooking (and history, of course, considering the setting, but really more linguistics and history) but I though I was a sandbox-y sort of GM who liked putting my characters in ethically ambiguous situations and see how they work things out. I would adore suffering at his hands 🙂

      * I am not counting the game I ran for my nerdsons.

      • Mitchell Lord

        Yeah. My problem is when I do that to my group, two of the players pull out iPods.

        • Tylikcat

          It was a good group for it. One of the requirements is that everyone wrote up backstory (over email, with me) so I had hooks to pull. Leverage was required. It was a setting loosely based on Western China, where it abuts both Turkic Central Asia and Tibet* – heavily Wuxia influenced because it was a RPG after all.** (More or less based on Song dynasty IIRC – but I fudged a lot.)

          Everyone was human, but class and ethnicity were incredibly important. Some of the people came in with a fair bit of background knowledge – the guy playing a Tibetan Buddhist monk, for instance, was actually in the process of being ordained in a different Buddhist tradition. Other folks… not so much. But then, that worked for their characters in some cases. (One character was a very new to town Mosuo woman – totally anachronistic culturally, probably, long digression there, but appropriate via Wuxia tropes – and she was smart and competent but super out of place. I… okay, I gave her a few ethnographies on the Mosuo ahead of time, and she really got into the role. But for the last city before you hit the badlands where everything starts? The character was out of her depth.) Our comic relief was best embodied by my ex-husband, who was playing a Mongol (and hence had a ethnic affinity for horses, which turned out to be to his monetary advantage) …who had come in to Han lands because he wanted to learn the more refined cooking methods of the Han, for to impress the woman of his dreams. (This was one of those character overviews I sat there staring at for a while wondering if I was going to let him get away with this. But I had said “Wuxia inspired” and I knew he could cite equally ridiculous source material…)

          …so they were a tight group with solid senses of humor. And then I set out to traumatize them.

          * Ahaha, this is already such a political statement.
          ** As the previous campaign, run by someone else, drew to a close, I thumbed threw someone’s copy of “Oriental Adventures”. Within twenty minutes smoke was coming out of my ears.

        • Weatherheight

          Heh. Want to play a mind game?

          Every time they pull out the iPods, ostentatiously pull out a small notebook, completely different from the ones you usually use for notes, and note the time and the names of the players.

          Sooner or later,they will ask what’s up.
          You reply, simply, “Oh, this? Just making some notes…”
          And move on.

          At this stage, you have options – enjoy the mind game or begin applying the “Distracted” penalty during the game (-4 to notice anything as long as the buds are in the ears) or even apply an EXP penalty of a token amount.

          In my D&D game, I give participation EXP of 100 points per character level – if you actually role play your character and don’t do anything else, you still get EXP. Story awards are also adjusted by participation, so this adds up after awhile. Sooner or later they begin to notice that others are advancing faster than they.

          Make sure you codify your system first and explain to the characters that it’s in effect before you do something like this, though. I will admit that the only person ever to truly run afoul of this did not deal well at first, but he eventually got on the bandwagon and decided that roleplaying and finding out about the world can be as fun as slicing and dicing.

          Of course, he then started wanting to know details of the setting that his character had no way of knowing, and he got very frustrated when I kept saying, “That is a good question, isn’t it?” and moved on. 😀

          He’s got past that too, now.

          • Random832

            This seems like an unsustainable model of the DM-Player relationship. They’re not having fun, so you notice and punish them by making the game even less fun.

          • Weatherheight

            You’d think, wouldn’t you? And yet it has worked on eleven separate players, all of whom left the game because they graduated college or moved to a job out of state, not because they were unhappy with the game. Each and every one said that they had more fun when they were paying attention.

            The players who have left my game are the ones who wanted everything to go their way, for their characters to never fail, who needed to be the center of attention, who needed to always be the one to save the party, who made video-game-play decisions and wondered why the NPCs didn’t react in the expected fashion, and so on. That kind of player won’t have fun in one of my games. Then again, those players rarely last long enough to be problematic – after a month or so, they decide my game isn’t for them, and they head on out.

            I’ve been running for at least one group of at least 7 players once a week for more than 25 years continuously (30 years continuously next August – maybe I do need a life), with over 75 players pass through the game (actually more like over a hundred, but my early records are.. less than stellar). Average time in game per player is over three years. And that’s just the D&D Games – add another 20 or so additional players that have passed through my Champions game that never played in my D&D games. I usually have a waiting list of two to three players at any time (I’ve started closing the game size at 8 players due to space limitations in my home).

            It sounds harsh, but letting people know certain kinds of behavior won’t fly at your table is essential – if they choose to engage in that behavior thereafter, then provide incentives and punishments. There’s always another game out there that might be more to their taste. I’ve left games because the GM style of play wasn’t to my taste, and I’ve never resented them for not playing to my taste – if I’m not having my fun, that’s on me, not the GM.

            Further, there are other players at the table. If a player is seriously detracting from the other players experience (and the GM is a player at the table), the GM is obliged to inform the offending players what it is they are doing that’s problematic (this assumes the GM also finds it problematic). If they continue, then they’ve asked for it. The game is never about one person every second. I have no problem if someone wants to work on something else, provided they can pay attention. But “two of the players pull out iPods” implies to me that they are plugging buds into their ears and tuning out, and Mitchell Lord’s posts make them seem a straight shooter. I’m assuming they have informed the players that this is not cool. The implication given by those players is that the GM’s time isn’t valuable – why, exactly, are they at the game then? Should the GM increase his or her efforts to cater to those two when they disrespect his efforts?

            I have the same issue from time to time with my current GM (his level of preparation has been waning of late and his tendency to ignore or minimize player contributions has been increasing of late), but I try to keep the side chatter and other noisy distractions to a minimum as a sign of respect for his effort and, if I do something else, I make sure I can listen to what’s being said and chirp in in character when appropriate.

            The GM is also part of the game – they aren’t there solely to fulfill the player’s desires. They also are there to have fun – and players who tune out are a serious buzzkill. And, again, I’ve had players who tried to run games themselves tell me it’s pretty annoying when you put in the effort and the players are just killing time until the fight.

            Sorry for the rant, but so many players act like the GM is their entertainment monkey and never run a game themselves. It’s very different from the other side of the screen.

            Also, I’d like to apologize to all the non-RPG folks for this tangent – I am suddenly aware of being “that guy” :D.

    • Superfrick

      I have a GM who is like this. But, we learned that we cannot play superhero games with our group because only two of us actually play super heroes, everyone else plays a hodgepodge of sociopaths wearing capes.

      • Weatherheight

        The trick to good GMing is fair and reasonable consequences when someone goes off the rails. I do not say this is an easy trick.

        Once had a player want to run a character of a pan-dimensional race (basically, it was “Alien Nation” meets “The Kzinti Wars” – bunch of Kzinti got stranded and decided annihilation was bad strategy). I said “Sure, but be aware that the social deck is going to be stacked *way* against you.” The player drew up a flame-projecting Kzinti – after the character was added to the team, protesters began showing up outside the base pretty regularly (“Kzinti Incident Survivors Support”). This was my way of letting the player know that people are watching. After several fairly normal combats, the character blew up a flower shop – partly on accident, partly on purpose (I will admit, it was effective tactics).

        The character was asked to stand down from active duty until the incident could be reviewed. After the review, it was determined the character had engaged in unnecessary and excessive force – she was imprisoned for 2 years following the trial (minimum sentence). The player contemplated fighting but the other PCs pointed out that the didn’t want to beat her up but they would be obliged to do so if she resisted arrest.

        It didn’t help that during the investigation she read from her works of poetry and choose a pithy little verse entitled, “Humans… are Stupid.”

        • Superfrick

          I meant as a group they suddenly all wanted to play the worst most egregious aspects of Wolverine+Punisher+Midnighter+Moon Knight+Preacher etc. It was crazy! he wanted to run what was supposed to be sort of a “Silver Age with Consequences” storyline and it fell flat. Any other campaign it worked. But the group just doesn’t “get” heroes who aren’t also moral free killing machines.

          • Weatherheight

            Certainly, and you can let them do that – but apply the consequences of acting like a villain to the heroes. To beat my point to death, it’s up to the GM to have the NPCs react appropriately and follow through.

            The authorities are only as stupid as the GM lets them be – I have, on occasion, had PCs who have decided that they are the GMs find out that the NPCs are just as powerful as they and that they too can play not-fair. Why take on the whole team when you can divide and conquer?

            In this case, though, Freemage is likely onto something – the GM may want to consider either (a) rebooting the campaign and spelling out to the players the type of game they would like to run or (b) consider rebooting the game with a genre that is more in keeping with the style of play that would fit the characters generated.

            And always, always, always provide in-game reasons for adhering to the “feel” of the game.

          • Superfrick

            What I’m trying to express here is that I understand your point, and with the other players all but deliberately trolling the GM, me, and the setting with their actions it quickly became not fun as instead of getting to punch robot dinosaurs created by a mad scientist, it became congressional oversight committee-the game. It was a case where the players were showing such a… contempt for superheroes that we then had to move on to another setting, where oddly enough all the players were playing a much more balanced and cohesive group with personalities and morals across a broad spectrum.

          • Freemage

            Yeah, that’s not so good, and your group is probably better off just avoiding the whole thing. By any chance, were these players children or teens during the 90s? The Dark & Gritty era of comics, following the admittedly brilliant deconstructions of the genre in Watchmen and The Dark Knight Rises/Returns, has a lot to answer for.

          • Weatherheight

            I hear you.

            I think part of that whole era rises out of our increasing awareness of the flawed nature of our heroes. CNN and other 24-hour new channels started up around then, and we ended up finding out a lot about folks that in the past we might never have known. Nobody got off scot-free – actors, politicians, sports stars, preachers – they all got a chance to show their worst natures.

            Increasing awareness of how our flaws affect our whole lives and a greater willingness to talk about trauma and how it impacts our lives also became more of a thing then. Comics reflected that as well and a lot more stories came out examining the underpinnings for the motivations of comic book characters. Peter David’s examination of the Hulk is, IMO, one of the best plotted and most logical justifications of a character affected by physical and emotional abuse as a child.

            I feel like far too many writers of comics in the 90’s, however, didn’t do nearly enough research into the mental and emotional conditions about which they wrote. And they ended up elevating behaviors that perhaps should have been examined reflectively instead.

            Nice point. 😀

          • Freemage

            I’ll admit, that while I’m a raging fan of SFP, I’m also fond of non-deconstruction approaches that just legitimately embrace some of the tropes that the D&G 90s ditched. These newer incarnations benefit from the deconstructions–they usually do a good job of avoiding some of the accidental pitfalls of the earlier eras (such as the implicit racism, sexism, etc). But they do so while embracing the tropes that are core to genre. (Examples: Love & Capes, Miss Melee.)

          • Weatherheight

            Good story is good story, whether Dark and Gritty, or Super Sweet.

            May I recommend JL8 as a splendid example of the latter. 😀

          • Weatherheight

            Ah, I apologize – I completely missed that. What I’m hearing you say is this wasn’t just “I want to be a bad-ass”, it was more “I want to screw with the GM’s campaign choice as hard as I can”.

            If that’s the case, yeah, sometimes dumping the campaign is the only way to go. That’s pretty harsh.

            Because I’m a nosy donkey, did the GM change or just the campaign setting?

          • Superfrick

            Haha! No, we kept the same GM. Different setting. He’s been our GM for 20+ years at this point and has run everything from nihilist horror to anime-ninjas.

          • Weatherheight

            Hmmm.. usually a time-tested GM with consistent players can make anything work, unless it’s a genre he doesn’t run well. I, for one cannot do Hard Science Fiction – a la Traveler – well, either as a player or GM (that is, well by my definition – others may disagree on my degree of success).

            Something definitely freaky is going on there – now I kind of want to sit in on a game or two of y’alls to try and puzzle it out. 😀

          • Superfrick

            Not really. It’s just some of the players not understanding that not every super-hero is Midnighter. But they were perfectly fine playing within the strict honor/dishonor codes of a Samurai game, or the alignment systems used by many sword & sorcery games.

      • Zorae42

        You only gave a vague description of what happened, but that doesn’t sound like it should prevent a super hero campaign. Look at the Avengers: Black Widow is pretty amoral, Iron Man is extremely Chaotic neutral, Hulk is also kind of amoral, and Thor is pretty neutral good but since he’s an alien some of his culture doesn’t line up with ours. Honestly, Capt America is the only one in that group that has a reasonable “hero” personality.

        Oftentimes in campaigns my friends come up with these crazy, off the wall characters that are fun, but don’t really have personalities that compliment getting things done. So I wind up playing a down to earth, levelheaded, healer that acts as a sort of ‘Mom’ character to try and guide the more over the top characters into doing what we ‘should’ be doing. It’s pretty rewarding being the glue that keeps the party together and the one that keeps them on track. Don’t like playing it all the time (the character usually winds up being kind of bland since they exist to be what the party needs rather than their own character), but it allows hodgepodge groups to function.

        Obviously if you’ve got people who are actually playing straight up villains then such a character probably won’t work. You need to iron out that sort of thing before you start playing so you can either all be villains, or so that people can tone down how villainous their characters are.

        • Superfrick

          Yes, sorry. I mean they were playing straight up villains. In other campaigns they tend to mellow out and play different sorts of characters, but superheroes? Suddenly everyone wants to play Murderfist the baby-eater.

          • Freemage

            You might want to give Necessary Evil a try. In it, the PCs are the supervillains from the start–but then, aliens invade and wipe out the heroes in one big smack-down, and it’s up to the bad guys to fight against the invasion, purely out of self-interest. It’s for the Savage Worlds system, which I’ve found to live up to it’s “Fast, Furious, Fun” tagline.

      • Arkone Axon

        So… the average Marvel superhero of the last few decades?

  • zellgato

    Still singing that he’s a former nemsis of hers.

    • Rugains Fleuridor

      Seems a stretch.

      • zellgato

        I dunno the way the conversation and the moralistic standpiont, and her point in character development..

        She could use a “former baddy turned into a decent human” story.
        Whether he ends up being related to mind reader or not.

  • JohnTomato

    Was going to do a snark about universal health and found that I couldn’t.

    Killing for peace is like fucking for chastity.

    • Dartangn

      Which is a laudable attitude, except if one person decides that it’s not true, we’re all dead because violence isn’t stopped by being nice. Hugs weren’t going to turn back Hitler, if you’ll forgive my godwining.

      • Marc Forrester

        That was more of an entire nation deciding it’s not true. While people are making that call one at a time it’s feasible to wrestle them to the ground and call a shrink.

      • cphoenix

        It’s OK, Trump made Godwin’s Law obsolete.

  • Thomas S

    I am impressed. IMHO Motivation achieved, a second death not needed.

  • Fluffy Dragon

    He might be lying, he’s done it before… but lying about what?
    Perhaps he himself was the doctor?
    Though it wouldn’t be much use as persuation then.

    Probably more that he’s saying that him threatening the doctor’s life in order to make him do the right thing is equal to -or more accurately worse than- what Al did to Max.

    • AnonoBot9000

      Well, more that he threatened and potentially took the doctors life, over what he perceived to be prejudice, without proof or justification.

      The doctor looked at the patient who had been bleeding from a chest gunshot wound for several hours, and claimed there was nothing he could do. He was then forced to work on him at gunpoint, in a small town doctor’s office.
      Not in a well equipped hospital, he was probably not a surgeon, had no support staff, and was under duress. Unsurprisingly the patient died.

      What is the more likely scenario here?
      That the doctor decides to risk his own life with a madman pointing an assault rifle at him, and lets someone he has ideological differences with die while working on him, knowing he will be following after?

      Or that he called it correctly in the first place, and there was simply nothing he could do, either due to the wound itself or his personal experience/resources available.

      My guess is the story is going to turn out as, that he kills the doctor for letting his friend die, then shortly after finds out the doctor actually shared the same faith and just wanted them to leave before he was found out. Since there was nothing he could do to save him.

      • On the last page he said “I tell you now,” implying that he is still convinced the doctor wanted his friend to die. That might actually be true, since he admitted it was just the conviction of his heart, but at least he is definitely not going to discover it if so.

  • Lostman

    Yeah, I was right. So it’s a filthy-filthy split between him breaking down, or killing the doctor in rage.

  • Pol Subanajouy

    That’s the interesting thing about war. When permission is given to kill so many idealist suddenly turn blood thirsty. I wonder if Al’s answer or his ending even matter. He might just be making a point about how little we can predict what any human will do given certain circumstances. I’ve long maintained that humans are highly chaotic creatures fundamentally.

    • Lostman

      If you want a case study how brutal humans can get in war; look up eastern front of the second world war.

      • Weatherheight

        Already done, have actually had nightmares about some of that stuff when I was younger.
        For additional insight into brutality, read up on the evils the Khmer Rouge, any intertribal/religious/economic war in Africa, and the Aztec and Mayan cultures. Those folks on the equator are pretty creative (I leave out Europeans in the Western Hemisphere because you have to sleep sometime).

        Not strictly apropos of this conversation but it’s just so good I have to share – for those folks in the US, I’ve been watching a PBS documentary series about African history called Africa’s Great Civilizations with Henry Louis Gates as the host. If you’re feeling a bit under-read about African history, this series is quite watchable and gives a lot of insight into African history and the ways cultural bias plays out.

  • FlashNeko

    I swear, if he’s building towards a “The Lady or The Tiger” conclusion…

  • Kifre

    Mmm satisfying visual of Guwara in profile reversed, right under the Doc profile (which looks far more like Guwara than the bb-Guwara silhouette)…

  • GreatWyrmGold

    “…Well, I don’t think I can honestly answer that. I’ve lived my whole life in a country where you can bring someone to the ER and get them operated on without using death threats. So this is kind of outside my personal experiences.”
    “Dammit, Alison, use your imagination!”

    • Zorae42

      Not right now we don’t. But if any of those BS extreme anti-abortion people get their way while they have control of Congress and the Presidency, we very well could become a place where that’s necessary.

      • GreatWyrmGold

        I hope not…
        Also, the worst you can say of them is “anti-abortion”?

        • Zorae42

          I’m not sure what you mean by your question. If it’s clarification on how being”anti-abortion” could lead to that state, I meant the very extreme anti-abortion people. Where even in the cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother they believe abortion should be illegal.

          In which case they’d literally be denying women life saving care. Which could mean that you very well might need death threats to force doctors to save people.

          • AshlaBoga

            There’s been a couple of extremists who have killed doctors who preform abortions. I would call them murderers.

          • Freemage

            Actually, the violent extremists are, in a bizarre way, the only ones who actually believe the movement’s ‘murder’ rhetoric. If you literally believe that an abortion provider is killing innocent children, then it becomes reasonable to use lethal force to stop them. (And yes, to bar exclusions even for rape or incest, at least.)

            Of course, the vast majority of them are NOT motivated by a desire to save the innocent babies; they’re motivated by a desire to punish women who dare to have unapproved sex, or otherwise seek control over their own bodies. They simply use the murder rhetoric as a bludgeon to curtail any dispute.

            (If anyone ever disputes this, ask them why the majority of anti-abortion activists also oppose universal access to contraception and early sex-ed, the two strongest, tested means for reducing unwanted pregnancies. If abortion is murder, then anything is acceptable as a means of reducing the number of abortions, including teaching teenage girls about condoms and giving them access to IUDs. If, however, it’s actually about sex, then it’s clear why they oppose contraception.)

          • Mary Lea

            I preface this with: This is NOT my own personal belief.

            I agree with Freemage’s first paragraph wholehearted. I’d imagine that “committing an actual murder makes things better” by that one murder, according to their belief system, then presumably preventing many more murder. If that take that doctor’s life, then that doctor can no longer end the lives of unborn babies, therefore their murder is “justified” as the ends justify the means.

            What I find unfortunate is how closely this parallels several arguments I’ve seen repeatedly supporting Alison’s actions with Max: I.e. a smaller offense now for a much greater good later, makes the initial offense acceptable in certain ways. Similarly, the initial offense of the “victim” (wouldn’t save lives/killing babies/being generally bad people) seem to morally justify vigilante violence against them in the eyes of some.

            Obviously it’s not a perfect parallel, but I find both consistent with the consequentialist viewpoint, just applied to different core beliefs and values.

            I – what’s the opposite of preface? – this with: These are my overall impressions from reading the comment extensively over the past months. I obviously don’t hold strongly to a consequentialist viewpoint, but try my best to understand how others find it important/useful.

          • Freemage

            The tricky part about consequentialism is that you need everyone to agree, not only on what the consequences will be, but also where you stop making connections.

            It’s usually very easy for a consequentialist to rationalize a particular behavior now based on a specific result coming later down the line, and both skipping over any intervening steps, and also ignoring anything after.

            Here’s one I’ve heard a few times over recent years, usually tossed out as an aside during Confederate Flag debates:

            “The North should’ve let the South secede, or at least not elected Lincoln, triggering the secessionists. Slavery was going to die out, anyway, so it was just a matter of time, and all the lives lost in the Civil War would’ve been saved.”

            The easy slight-of-hand to spot, of course, is that if slavery had lasted another 4 decades or so, the number of humans who died in chattel slavery conditions would’ve vastly increased.

            But there’s another one, more subtle. It assumes that the end of slavery itself would’ve been just hunky-dory, with freed slaves getting their citizenship papers and able to earn their own way in the Libertarian Utopia of the Alternate South.

            The problem there, of course, is that it requires us to believe that white Southerners would’ve accepted freed slaves as equals and allowed them full participation in society–an assumption belied by the brutality of American segregation, Jim Crow and lynchings. One science fiction author I read posited a different outcome, with laws passed treating slaves as extensions of their masters (and thus, not able to just be released, as any harm they caused would be the master’s fault); this, in turn, leads to the establishment of special camps, where the slaves could be housed, in gender-separated facilities (to prevent breeding) until they died of old age.

            Of course, those camps always seemed to be underfunded and overcrowded, and somehow, the women in the camps kept getting pregnant (though often with a child whose skin was halfway between that of the mother’s and her jailor’s). And so, after awhile, in this story, the good white folks decide, without ever actually passing a law to this effect, that maybe they need to help this process along a little bit. A final solution to the problem, as it were.

            The story is told from the perspective of a photographer who is going around to the last of the former campsites still extant, and taking a record of the traces of human suffering there, before they can be burned and forgotten.

            So yes, consequentialism is important as part of an analysis of determining your course of action, but it absolutely cannot be the be-all and end-all. I’ve been walking the line on Ali’s actions–I believe she was wrong, though arguably understandably wrong, for both personal reasons and because of the extreme situation she was cast in.

          • Mary Lea

            I appreciate that you mentioned “vast majority,” implicitly acknowledging the existence of exceptions. I just felt compelled to share an anecdotal evidence of one such exception: my mother.

            I know she had had an abortion earlier in life, a brother or sister I never met, but I only learned of it much later, when she had mentioned she felt guilty of murder. I was pretty young, but she mentioned that she’d gotten pregnant when my parents marriage was rocky, and she felt it was a bad time to have a child. I still have no idea if my father ever knew, and now that she’s passed, I don’t have the heart to ask and risk that he hadn’t.

            Anyway, she said she’d already begun to regret it significantly sometime later. But it got particularly rough when she went through some significant value/belief changes later, when she came to believe that life began at conception, which meant she had ended her child’s life. As a result, when she ended up conceiving unexpectedly, later in life, while chronically ill (with a disease whose treatment was supposed to make conception impossible).

            Despite all the doctor’s insistence on having an abortion to save her own life, that – between her age and her illness, the baby wouldn’t never survive anyway – she refused, and chose instead to move forward with having what would be her son. She did manage to give birth – 8 weeks early – to a healthy tiny baby baby…who will graduate high school this spring.

            She passed, 5 months later, due to complications of the disease that had been accelerated by the stresses of pregnancy on her body. My brother never knew his wonderful, loving, and actually otherwise pretty liberal (for the 90s) mother, and my father and I lost her far too soon. Neither my brother nor I had/will have our mother for our high school graduation, marriage, birth of children. I love my brother dearly. I loved my mother dearly. They’ve each, at various times, been my best friend. The thought of having had to choose between the two… But my mother essentially made that choice for us, and I honor that choice.

            Had she aborted, I believe it would’ve been under an expectation of self-defense: every medical professional told her trying to carry the pregnancy to full term would kill her…and in some ways, it did. She would have had a prognosis of another 5 years, on average, for her progress, assuming no new opportunities for treatment. Since my brother has lived 17 so far and may well live a longer life, was it a “beneficial trade” for the “greater good”? If my brother had died at one (when he nearly died), would it been better to abort? If he died at 5, would it be a toss up? If he had died at birth, would she have been wrong?

            I don’t know. I just don’t know…which is my difficulty with consequentialism, as mentioned in my post above. Even when I feel most secure in my predictions of consequences, things can ultimately change.

            I personally consider myself Pro-Choice, Pro-Life. I haven’t had to face the situation myself, so I admittedly can’t know how I would respond in the same situation; but I currently feel I’d be against abortion except in those extreme cases others have mentioned: rape, threat of life, etc. Although I feel some…uncertainty about the rape exception, even speaking as someone who was sexually assaulted at gunpoint, and mentally acknowledged the reality that I might have to face that very choice, since I didn’t know how far things would go. I certainly would’ve held nothing against my mother if she’d chosen to abort in the case of my brother.

            And yet, I believe that’s ultimately the choice each woman has to face. Not just in those extreme cases, but in every case. I think we ultimately have to answer to our own values, philosophies, and personal belief systems. I can disagree with someone, believing their action to be wrong, but also support their right to make a wrong decision/action. I’m whole-heartedly against those who use violence against clinic or individuals, or hateful methods. But I also belief in providing people with plenty of information, and time to try to consider how they may feel about their decisions in the future.

            I’ve already said waaay too much, and need to head to a meeting. I suppose TL:DR – While some (maybe most?) are definitely about the sex thing, some have truly sincerely held beliefs, and aren’t violent about it. Hopefully we don’t vilify them with the rest.

          • Olivier Faure
          • Freemage

            The linked article is interesting, but I find the notion that we can never evaluate the motivations of others to be facile, at best. It can be difficult to do from a single instance, but when you get a broader assessment of their actions and claimed motivations, and the actual consequences of those actions, it eventually leads you to a place where you can say that they are either liars or fools, because their actions will never get where they claim they want to go, and such is apparent on the face of it.

            And I reject utterly the citation of Natural Law, which is entirely built around the preservation of the status quo, for the sake of the empowered against the oppressed.

          • Olivier Faure

            Okay, yes, but this kind of besides the point. Plenty of people do counter-productive stuff; and most people don’t consider statistics when supporting a policy (unless the statistic goes their way); so seeing people do stuff that ultimately goes against their agenda isn’t strong evidence they’re lying about their agenda (see also the other examples in the SSC articles, or vegan people who don’t consider the fact that farming kills small animals, people who drop starfishes back into the ocean instead of pushing for wide scale starfish-catching infrastructure that would greatly reduce the number of dying starfishes).

            My point is, saying stuff like “they’re motivated by their desire to punish women” is a gross oversimplification at best, and it’s tribe-pushing. Instead of trying to understand different opinions, you’re asserting a narrative. “The Enemy is evil, the Enemy pretends to care but only does so to better hurt us, etc”.

            Sure, it’s partly true, and you make good points, and I do think Pro-Life is in part motivated by puritanism, that itself is partly about “desiring to punish women”. But I think that in your heart, you basically did the Allison thing and made the decision to shout “The Enemy is hideous, the Enemy has no redeeming trait”, and the reasoning came later.

            (well, this is oversimplifying it, in real life people get both tribe signals and actual reasonings all the time, so there isn’t one that “came first”; but my point stands)

          • Freemage

            There’s a difference between choosing to not pursue every avenue that advances your agenda (not pushing for wide-scale starfish rescue infrastructure), choosing to pursue a least-harm compromise course (vegans accepting that plant farming kills small animals, but still causes far less animal suffering than industrial livestock farming), and actively working against your stated purpose (opposing open contraception access when you claim to oppose abortion). The latter is, at best, willful blindness, typically the result of deferring the hard part of thinking it through to someone else (the ‘fool’ portion of my earlier ‘liar or fool’ statement).

            And I can absolutely demonstrate that the GOP hierarchy does not actually want to ‘solve’ the abortion issue by reducing the desire for abortions:

            In the 90s, there was a push for a ‘partial birth abortion ban’. Never mind that the term doesn’t actually have a medical meaning, or that it was being pushed with a lot of the lies that typically surround the anti-abortion movement; it was popular in the polls, and Bill Clinton signaled that he would sign an acceptable bill.

            Now, the bill had language in it that created an exception for “the physical health of the mother”. Clinton wanted to eliminate “physical”–thereby allowing late-term abortions in the case of severe psychological damage. The GOP-controlled Congress refused to make that particular concession. Clinton vetoed the bill, Congress refused to pass an amended version, and the bill died. At the time, the GOP claimed that including mental health issues would make the ban too easy to bypass.

            Now, it’s worth remembering that the GOP pushes for ‘waiting periods’ before an abortion, ostensibly on the principle that forcing a woman to think about what she’s about to do will let her reconsider (as opposed to just being a hurdle she’s put through to punish her). But if waiting periods do that, then so would any delay–especially a delay that forces a woman to make an appointment and talk to a mental health specialist about her decision. So if we accept the GOP position on waiting periods as sincere, then it’s inescapable that they deliberately refused to pass a law that would have, by their beliefs, reduced the number of abortions, because it wouldn’t have been by enough.

            Okay, so fine–maybe they felt they needed to hold out for long enough to actually be able to push through the full bill. Except…

            Once George W. Bush was elected, every GOP congresscritter suddenly developed a laser-accurate case of amnesia that kept them from even discussing the possibility of an anti-abortion bill. They had a stronger hold on Congress, and the White House, at that point. But inexplicably (not really), they opted to not even mention abortion–certainly nothing about ‘partial birth abortion’.

            Now, the leftist position is consistent–the fetus is not a person and therefore deserves no rights that would surpass the will of the mother. But the GOP’s position is that the fetus is a legal and moral ‘person’. They literally ignored the deaths of however many thousands of such persons, because they don’t actually give a damn.

            And the rubes keep voting for them.

      • Olivier Faure

        Your deshumanizing a political group, and representing them as a strange hateful outgroup saddens me.

        • Zorae42

          I don’t see how I dehumanized them, I merely stated how I felt about them and pointed out how their desire to ban all forms of abortion could lead to desperate people taking desperate measures. As far as I’m concerned, the extreme anti-abortion group is a hate group.

          Anyone who insists that a woman who is the victim of rape MUST give birth to a child conceived from that act, and thus walk around for 9 months with a constant reminder of said rape (if not 18 years if they’re unable to give the child away), is a monster. Anyone who demands a woman to be forced to undergo surgery to attempt to save an ectopic pregnancy rather than take a medication to make it go away, or to undergo chemotherapy and pregnancy simultaneously needs to fuck off. There are women who have delivered through these circumstances, but not everyone is up to doing it and forcing them to do so is criminal.

          The fact that most of the proponents that are actual law makers are men who don’t even have a basic understanding of how women’s bodies work is fucking appalling. Things like “legitimate rape” and “their bodies have a mechanism to shut that down” from our goddamn congressmen in charge of this stuff is horrifying. Not to mention some of their proposed bills have rhetoric in them that could consider a woman who has a miscarriage a murderer.

          The fact that most of them are also against contraception (you know, something that does cut down on unwanted pregnancies) and against Planned Parenthood (which offers a multitude of other women’s health services) only cements their status as a hate group in my mind.

          Maybe if they spent less time holding up pictures of fetuses and more time talking about adoption, or if they actually supported better sex-ed and availability of contraceptives, or if they spent less of their money on campaigns to make women feel bad about a very difficult choice they had to make and spent more on research/funding for medical techniques to deliver babies earlier (and then take care of premature babies) then I would view them as a legitimate group. Since that would indicate they do actually care about the children they’re supposedly saving as well as the mother they’re insisting on having said child.

          And honestly, I personally don’t agree with any of the anti-abortion people. But at least the moderate ones are merely misguided rather than straight up hateful.


    I think Gurwara might be lying here, or rather has switched up the roles for some unforeseen purpose. The fact that the doctor’s profile matches Gurwara’s perfectly, while young-him does not, is telling. It also stands to reason that a medical professional would have the education and the intelligence to become a professor later. Maybe he’s fabricating the story for Allison’s sake, maybe it’s a setup for a moral. But the author and the artist of this comic are way too meticulous to juxtapose the profiles like that for no reason.

    • Preacher John

      Old Gurwara has a broken nose tho?

      • Eva Smiljanić

        Maybe we find out just how it got broken next page

        • Tylikcat

          I’m wondering if piano wire is involved. I mean, with the rest.

  • Preacher John

    Fun facts:

    noun: gurdwara; plural noun: gurdwaras
    a Sikh place of worship.
    from Punjabi gurduārā, from Sanskrit guru ‘teacher’ + dvāra ‘door’.

    • Shweta Narayan

      Also, Gurwara is apparently a p common Sikh last name.

  • Hiram

    . . .’You’ shot him in the leg and kicked him in the face a couple times, forcing him to spend the rest of his life walking with a kick-ass cane and scars? Maybe he left the medical profession to become a teacher?

    Killing, injuring or stalling a doctor in a war zone is just condemning more people to death.

    • Rugains Fleuridor

      But it feels reeeal good that he can’t get off scot-free.

    • Tylikcat

      Let us review the attacks on MSF hospitals from the past couple of years. (This isn’t addressed to the OP personally, just, damn, that situation.)

  • Rugains Fleuridor

    I can only hope the doctor was able to convince him that everything he could do wasn’t enough. But from the way he’s wording it… he so shot that guy.

  • Graeme Sutton

    “I tried to shoot him, but the mechanism broke, because this was back in the 1970s when the M-16 was a piece of crap. So I tried to use it as a club and beat him into unconsciousness. Then I went outside and found an AK-47 in the driveway that had been run over by a tank after being buried in mud for 3 years, brought it back in and shot the doctor with it. Man that was a warrior’s weapon.”

    • Weatherheight

      I know I shouldn’t want to upvote this, but the twisted side of me is giggling so hard now.

      Is it wrong I’m hearing Tim Allen’s voice saying this and it was followed by, “Huh, huh, huh!”

    • HanoverFist

      Actually the M-16s early problems were mostly due to a last-minute change in powder composition and a lack of maintenance (the troops were told it was “self-cleaning”) once the started issuing proper ammo and cleaning kits the problems cleared up.

      Also while the AK is impact-resistant, will tolerate ammo of abysmal quality and can go without cleaning more or less indefinitely it does not handle mud well. It has a big open slot for the charging handle to ride through that allows mud right into the fire control group. AR pattern rifles on the other hand have a handy-dandy dust cover that keeps all that nastiness out of the working parts.



      • Graeme Sutton

        That was a major part of the problems, but there were also design problems with the weapon itself that were only fixed with the change to the M16A1.

        • HanoverFist

          Most of the changes made to the A1 had little to do with the early issues.
          The most significant changes were:

          The flash hider went from a “prong” style to a “birdcage style” because they would catch on things.

          The rear sight went from simple 2-position unit to a more adjustable design.

          A raised “fence” was added around the magazine release to prevent it from being pressed accidentally.

          Chrome-lined bore to reduce barrel-fatigue and allow for more time between cleanings.

          The only changes that had anything to do with the operating mechanism were:

          Modifying one end of the cam pin so that it couldn’t be put it in backwards.

          The addition of a forward-assist, which allows the user to force the bolt forward if it doesn’t want to go into battery. But this is almost never used (in fact a lot of companies that make AR-derivatives don’t include them in order to save weight and cost) because:

          A) Regular cleaning and proper ammo have made the AR into a pretty reliable weapon.

          B) If it doesn’t want to go, then forcing it will usually make the problem worse.

          • Graeme Sutton

            I’m no expert but my understanding was that the lack of chrome lining on the bore was one of the main issues brought up on the inquiry into it’s reliability.

          • Shweta Narayan

            meanwhile I was here goin “pretty sure that’s a gun…” so this is all rather eye opening 🙂

  • Sendaz

    I am going to go with the Professor started ranting at the Doc, even getting Doc on his knees before him getting ready to shoot, but then has doubts and frustrations making him hesitate from pulling the trigger.

    He then storms off to vent into the night, however he is seen by the locals who assume the Doc was helping him and they go in and kill the Doc, thus inadvertently fulfilling the death threat. Prof comes back for his friend’s body only to find two corpses (or possibly more if there was a family there and all were judged guilty by the locals) at the house.

    Thus leaving him in the odd quandary of causing the Doc’s death even though he didn’t….

    • AshlaBoga

      I hadn’t thought of that. Seems possible.

    • Not only does that make a lot of sense, it’s also a far more fitting allegory for Alison’s current situation. She has no idea whether Max will face future repercussions for her actions beyond their direct effects. People will at the very least start to wonder further about the increased rate of biodynamic development. Could this potentially lead to his death?

  • Psile

    Reading the comments about the professor, and by extension Allison, it really blows my mind how judgmental people are about violence. In our civilized society violence should not be resorted to in order to solve problems, except in the most extreme of circumstances. Many people will go through their whole lives experiencing true violence maybe a handful of times. It is entirely possible that someone could go their whole adult life and never be personally involved in any kind of violence. That’s fantastic and absolutely the kind of society we should strive for. If we could make the entire country that way, and then the world, it would essentially be a utopia.

    However, Allison doesn’t live in that world. It’s easy to think she does. She enjoys most of the benefits of typical suburban middle-class life. She dresses like a typical 20 year old, goes to college, and so forth. She’s also been involved in no less than 3 mortal struggles in the last year. Life and death mortal struggles where she had to deal with someone trying their level best to kill her, someone she cares about, or even just an innocent stranger. Three times she was in a situation where violence was pretty much the only answer. She could be called upon to visit impressive violence on someone tomorrow and it would scarcely affect her life at all, assuming she came out on top. She’s trying to be better, but she has a somewhat different view than most people.

    Truthfully violence is currently a necessity in our society. We live in relative peace because there is a squad of people a reasonable distance away ready at any moment to murder anyone who poses a threat to that peace. Even in European countries with a less militarized police force there are still special squads on standby whose job is to kill the fuck out of anyone who harms the community as a whole. Expand that globally. In America, many are quite critical of how much we spend on our military. There is definitely something to these arguments, and I think our culture has an unhealthy obsession with what should be the last resort to problem solving. However, the US has without any question the most formidable army on earth right now, not even counting nuclear weapons. The two and three spots are occupied by Russia and China, respectively. Both of those countries are more than happy to expand their power using military action, and it is fair to say that the knowledge that the US has the ability (on paper, at least) to wipe them both out at the same time discourages excessive military action. Obviously, it doesn’t discourage everything and there are still numerous atrocities all over the world that are not acted upon by any of the ‘progressive’ armies. Still, the concept of a world where democratic and autocratic military forces are equal rather than democratic forces being heavily weighted by America is not appealing.

    I’m not pro violence, but I think it’s easy for us to judge violent people. Alison is trying her best to not be a violent person while simultaneously being someone who may be called upon to use violence to protect everyone. That’s a narrow road to travel, and I guess I’m inclined to forgive some missteps even though such missteps might have terrible consequences.

    • Tylikcat

      …considering I was just writing about how she did a piss-poor job of torturing Max*… I’m kind of laughing my head off at the moment. Oh, dear.

      * Though I’ve previously written defenses of both Alison and Max.

    • Mechwarrior

      The problem is that Alison uses violence as her go-to method of accomplishing things. Where an ordinary person would choose to retreat, deescalate, or negotiate, Alison punches.

      • Psile

        And that isn’t always a problem. In fact, it usually isn’t a problem given what’s expected of her. Allison tends to lean on violence as a way to solve problems more than most people, and that’s a flaw. However in this world we also very much need her or someone like her to be violent. Also, I don’t think that violence is her ‘go to’. I think that the first thing she tries to do is reason with people. Even when Cleaver attacked her in the middle of the city at the beginning she tried to talk him down. She then went to visit him and was able to reason with him so that he is perhaps a bit less likely to escape. Allison has shown herself more than willing to resort to reason with her enemies in most cases, even after already being assaulted. Honestly, I’m still not sure that Allison’s most recent ‘mistake’ was so very terrible, given the circumstances.

      • Danygalw

        For example, when?

  • martynW

    What point would killing him have made? If the doctor was one of a dozen prisoners, killing him would at least impress the rest that Gurwara meant business. But it’s just the two of them now. Either the doctor did his best, or was willing to die to let the patient die. Even from pure heartless logic, killing him now would accomplish nothing but pure mindless vengeance.

    Unless Gurwara thinks that the doctor would hunt him down later.

  • Silenceaux

    An older page from Alison (http://strongfemaleprotagonist.com/issue-3/page-74/) seems relevant again. Gurwara probably doesn’t know it, but no matter what his decision this experience lends yet more credibility to him in Alison’s eyes. Gurwara held a man’s life in his hands, and has a much more intimate understanding of the morality of violence.

    • Tylikcat

      Oh, I’m pretty sure Gurwara knows it.

  • Mitchell Lord

    Rationally? Let the doctor go. But that depends how pissed I was at my friend’s death, and how close my finger was to the trigger…

    If I took the irrational action…I would regret it the rest of my life. Note that Allison DOES have blood on her hands, because she got PISSED at what someone did.

    • AshlaBoga

      Yeah, well Mr. Flamethrower and the Doctor here are somewhat different. But it’s rather telling that I remember that incident so easily isn’t it? I suspect I must regard that as murder on some level.

  • Stephanie Gertsch

    Allison answers, “Sir, I believe I would have flown my friend to the nearest hospital earlier, deflecting bullets with my body. However, I realize that may not be an option for everyone.”

    Dan Ariely did a study on threats and rewards as motivators. He found that neither worked, because the subject was so stressed out they performed poorly compared to their normal ability.