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Possibility 1: Mormonism is not true, but you sincerely believe that it is and live your life accordingly. Possibility 2: Mormonism is true, but you sincerely believe that it is not and you live your life accordingly. Between these two possibilities, which do you think carries the greater risk? Which would you choose if you could choose one, recognizing that within my hypothetical scenario, I’m stipulating that whatever one comes to believe, that belief has been arrived at honestly and sincerely? Here’s my brief analysis. In the first option, you live your life as a believing mormon, but the religion turns out not to be true. What have you given up and what have you gained? No doubt, mormonism offers a lot, but I find the good things that mormonism offers can also be found within other constructs or communities. Is it really worth it to live the strict standards of mormonism if it’s not actually true? I enjoy my morning cup of coffee and the quiet moments of “zen” that it provides. I enjoy the freedom to responsibly have adult beverages when I feel like it, and the freedom to choose my own underwear. Most of all, I cherish the freedom to follow my own intellect and reasoning and desire to follow the truth wherever that leads without feeling like I must confine my conclusions within a proscribed belief system. These things add value and enjoyment to my life that I would be missing out on in following mormonism. If it all turned out not to be true, then this would be a huge loss for this one life that I get to live. In the second option, I still get to enjoy these same things, but instead mormonism turns out to be true. As long as I am being honest and sincere in my approach, the God of mormonism will judge me according to my sincere understanding of things. In this scenario, I’m really no worse off and got to live a fulfilling life. If the God of mormonism condemns me eternally to some lesser degree of glory for my honest pursuit of truth, well then, I wouldn’t want to be in the same kingdom with that God anyway. So in my analysis, scenario 2 is vastly more appealing and carries far less risk than scenario 1. Of course there are other possibilities than this binary I am setting up, but between the two, what would you choose? Which of these mormon Pascal wagers would you be less scared of?
“Attention all crew; I repeat - Attention all crew.” the ship - wide loudspeaker announced. He and the runtime of Flowers had their arms buried deep in the guts of a Goat gear hauler trying to reconnect its aft starboard repulser module and looked at each other questioningly. With a series of snaps, a waldo from Flowers’ forearm began snapping in the connections on their side, as he thought his own manipulators from both of his forearms and they began plugging in the nine pin connectors on his side. “Mr. Drake and Runtime Flowers to Ops. Mr. Drake and Runtime Flowers to Ops. “Dout leader Mri’x to Ops. Dout leader Mri’x to Ops.” The mostly-human and the robot-looking vessel for his AI friend both produced wondering looks. “Runner!” the mostly-human, Mr. Drake yelled out into the maintenance bay. A Mwraht, a slender bipedal humanoid coated in fur and wearing their moccasin like deck boots and the ubiquitous brown leather smock vest they favored, suddenly appeared, wippingits hands. It was M’arh, a student on the ship learning ship engineering and maintenance from the human and AI perspective. It regarded Drake with an earnest expression in its tilted almond-shaped eyes. “Please run to ops and let them know we’ll be along shortly,” M’arh smiled and mouthed something, and the translator, in a fair facsimile of what M’arh’s voice would sound like if the Mwraht’s mouth could form the words said “At once,Instructor”, and took off. “They never cease to puzzle me.” Flowers said in a voice synthesised and engineered to sound like an erudite Free Wales Easterner with a touch of Old Earth, fitting the bolts on the deflector on his side as Drake thought out a data probe and began running diagnostics on the repulser. Drake looked at him quizzingly, as he split his attention between the connectivity check and his other hand began bolting on the deflector on his side. “There are nuances to their speech, as well as odorant aspects to what he said that you cannot hear or smell, though I have been working on an idea where you could.” Flowers said as he began hooking up the power cables on their side. “Ok…” Drake said as he mentally pushed the diagnostics over to Flowers and pulled a ratchet from the fairing lip he had set it earlier, tightening down the deflector bolts. “Meat bags” Flowers said, shaking his sensor pod. “Your kind are so oblivious!” Flowers announced, withdrawing their arms and standing up to their full two meter height. “And I see your frustration with biological markers at not knowing what I am talking about. Monkey-assed murder hobo meat bags.” Flowers said in a dead pan.He went over and began cleaning it’s arms and legs with an orange-based degreaser. “That is Monkey-assed Augmented murder hobo meat bag to you, you synthetic shit!” Drake said, laughing, joining Flowers at the cleaning station, and began using the same cleaner on his replacement arms. “And I still have no idea what you are talking about.” The humans and Mwarht in the maintenance bay all stopped what they were doing and looked on. In most instances, those words were an invitation to murder. The other Runtimes there, some Flowers, some Neptunian Wind, ignored it and kept working. Flowers sighed, an unnecessary vocalization only, for emphasis. “They adore humans and revere you as something akin to a living deity. The Dout leaders here know you lead the teams that first boarded their ships and took on the Drix raiders to save them. They know you then lead the teams that boarded the Drix slaver destroyer and carried out retributionary subjugation for what the Drix had been doing on the Mwraht ships. “They do not know how you then petitioned the Order and led raids into Drix territory and assaulted the slaver worlds.” Flowers looked at their human friend, and saw the distress in his eyes. Both knew the augmented human, and a small army of fellow Augies and Runtimes had taught the Drix in the clearest way possible to stay out of human space and leave the Mwraht alone in such a clear and brutal fashion whose necessity still bothered the human. Flowers lowered their voice, straightening their friend’s work smock. “M’arh’s grandsire was on that first ship you boarded. Mri’x mother was on that ship and was the one about to be eaten and raped by a Drix, the one you pulled off of her and punched, it’s head rupturing.” Even though they could see their words were causing him distress, Flowers continued. “They love all humans, but they excrete a pheromone musk that is akin to the same one they excrete in their religious ceremonies, but slightly different, when they interact with you, or after a few beers and they talk to you. Their sub vocalizations are completely adoring and submissive when it comes to you. Some of the females and a non-zero number of males fantasize about being ‘taken’, or mated, by you. You idiot.” “Fuck.” “That was implied.” “You fucking pretentious Rooba. You know what I meant.” “Flowers laughed. “Yes, we do. I still love the word play, though.” “I really wish you had been with me. I know, you were tied up on that Artifact World, but I sometimes wish you had been there, to keep me in check. I was not in a good place.” He brushed himself off, found his coffee mug and set off for the passageway that led to Ops. “I have told you before, be glad I wasn’t. Your response was far more measured and restrained than my would have been. It is a flaw in our Matrices. Slavery brings out the ‘murder-bot’ in us, and no one in the Order can figure out why.” “I know that you have the facts of my actions, but it was like I was in the Second War, again. And we both know what a bloodthirsty asshole I was then.” The human, if that term even applied to their friend anymore, remembered what a monster he had been in the Alpha Centauri and Tau Ceti theatres of the Second War. The pain and humiliation of what he had been was written plainly on his face. “You destroyed three hundred and eighty three of my Runtimes, roughly half of which was in single combat. And that was before the Holies shredded your limbs. The Purists still consider you a living dataphage, akin to human allegories of Satan. My kind uses you as one of many examples of why we must never war with Humanity again. “And, strangely enough, the Seekers consider you both a Singularity to be understood and an objective: to breed with you, thinking you are a key to their evolution.” He stopped dead and looked at Flowers shocked. “I will provide logs to prove these statements.” The Seekers were the strangest of the AI’s, in his opinion. They had made themselves biological Runtime vessels, biological bodies, that they wore like clothing, compiling experiences seeking to understand Humanity, their Creators, and evolve past the limitations of being an AI. Not to become human, but to become something that was both the best of AI and Human essences and so much more. “So, I’m a Classical hero to the Mwraht and a boogey man and bad example to the AIs that they want to breed. Great.” Drake pinched his nose and shook his head. “You did not know any of this, I take it?” Flowers asked. “The second war was almost two hundred years ago. When the Order brought me in, you were already a member and I thought they were going with the whole forced-to-learn-each-other thing when they sent us out on that mapping mission; like they did with the Iberrians and the Chinese. I thought the other AI just had a thing about me from the War, which is understandable. “And I had no idea about the rest. I thought that the Mwraht just thought I was the cool teacher.” He shook his head and leaned up against the wall, massaging his temples one-handedly. “Idiot murder hobo.” Flowers said, realizing now that their friend, while brilliant, was oblivious. At that point, Mri’x came around the corner, his fur a glossy black with dark grey stripes. Mri’x looked at Flowers sternly, then nodded at Drake as he passed. Drake looked at Flowers questioningly, who nodded. Both had caught that Mri’x had cut his translator as he passed and caught a gutteral call. “It was a vulgar corollary to ‘Talking Waste Receptacle’. Quite elegant, really.” Drake shook his head and began his way to Ops again. “Send me the specs on the hearing and smelling upgrades. I think I need to upgrade again.” As fast as thought, the files were there, as well as one to improve his language skills with them. * * * Captain Sarah Rees of the Union of Independent Stars Exploratory Vessel SS University of New Cardiff was looking over holographic charts at the central tank with her XO, Lt. Commander Martin. Both had the mocha skin common to Westerlies of Free Wales, she a pixie of a woman shorter than even some of the Mwraht with close shaved hair beginning to show grey. Mr. Martin was taller, but still dwarfed by most of the rest of the human crew. He was a vicious social climber who didn’t care for the civilian crew, though a misstep on his part when he was still Stellar Navy had made him as much of a civilian as anyone else in the crew, a fact he often forgot. And for some reason he loathed the three AI aboard, and looked down his nose at the Mwraht. This led to all sorts of headbutting with Drake’s group of Operations Specialists and Drake himself; who largely ignored and dismissed the little shit. “Leader Mri’x, Mr. Drake. Thank you for joining us. M’arh informed us you couldn’t pull away. Flowers, thank you for coming as well.” Rees said as she moved around to the far side of the tank, in a darkened room full of people at work stations worked with either data plugs or AR sets. Flowers took no insult. They readily accepted that they were Drake’s Executive Officer for his group, and their ego, as such, wasn’t as easily bruised as a human’s” Flowers gave a nod with their sensor pod and took a manipulators-behind-the-back stance the humans were fond of. “Thirty minutes ago” Rees continued, “we picked up a GP general distress beacon from a system that was on our research list. We will be bypassing the next two on the list and based on the current agreements with the Galactic Parliament, we will be going to full power and make best speed for the system in question. It is in uncharted space as far as we, the GP and the Conclave are concerned.” The GP, the System Confederacy, the UIS and the AI Conclave had all agreed to adopt what was essentially humanity’s Maritime Law and all ships receiving the signal were required to render aid. Drake took all of this in and thought out a series of commands to the six Kodiak Class corvettes in the retired Assault Cruiser’s forward hanger, beginning their startup sequence and pinged the comm devices of all of his Operations Specialists. Flowers looked over and nodded. Little known to the crew, except the Captain, those ships could be armed to the teeth with a minimum of work. Flowers sent his command to arm them, the ship systems’ pinged Drake as confirmation and he agreed. Drones began opening the hull and loading the weapons packages, removed fairings that covered weapons ports and began preflighting the weapons, as another set began bringing the ships to life. “We will be ready when needed, Captain. Option two.” Flowers announced. She smiled in somber appreciation. She was glad she had the option. She was about to race into an unknown system to answer a vague distress call with zero intelligence. While this was going on, in the aft bay, hundreds of drones were coming to life as Mri’x brought his group to action. With a thought Drake and Flowers authorized the release of weapons to Mri’x so his drones could be armed. Mwraht drones were some of the best in either race, outside of the Conclave, and the AIs had even adopted many of the construction techniques the Mwraht used, especially their alloy that allowed a small fusion bottle to power the EM Cavity engines, weapons and shields. The fact that the Order had given literal tons of precious metals and set up arcologies for the Mwraht in payment had made the Refugee Mwraht colonies some of the richest ones in known space. Mri’x subvocalized and his translate stated “drones will be ready as well, Leader.” “Thank you, Leader.” Captain Rees said with a bow of her head, then began drawing plans up in the tank. “We know little, but we are past the signal shell, and there is nothing but the beacon and normal noise. “The system is a stable red dwarf binary one, the stars holding about a light-hour from each other, at their closest. We expect that based on stutter, a few terrestrial bodies inside the orbit of a mid-sized gas giant, that is three light-hours out from the outermost orbit of the primaries. We see some wobble that there are a few solid bodies out from the gas giant.” The tank then zoomed on a rough solar system as described, the gas giant was a solid neon green sphere on the display, with a ‘Jx3.1’ tag on it. Three times the mass of Jupiter. The thing wasn’t a true Super Jupiter, but it would play holy hell with the system, and make modelling a lot more hard. The problem was that it exhibited 3.1 times more gravitational influence on its stars than Jupiter did, but that didn’t say how big it actually was. They wouldn’t know that until they came out of the Trough and then Alcubierre drive. The telescopes were essentially useless at this point. “The system is slightly below the gravitic trough we are riding, so we will exit the trough and make best speed in A-Space to it. We will bring the STL drives up to 110% before doing so. After we drop the A-Drives, we’ll make best speed to the signal, scanning as we go. We will do a 150% burn and aerobrake if it is a planet, or cut the drives, rotate and crash burn if it is a ship.” Wow, thought Drake. She is damned serious about this. Those maneuvers would make them extremely visible yet incredibly hard to hit; and give them a high-G escape route if needed. But all of this was also going to play hell with the student-crew of the ship, who had long grown accustomed to 0.6G. It would also mean the Mwraht, who were still adapting to the higher-than-their-normal gravity would need to be in their special acceleration couches. They would still be able to operate their amazing drones, but not much else. The couches took an hour to cycle up to protect the Mwraht, and an hour to cycle off after they weren’t needed. The moves the Captain was planning were not a thing to undertake lightly. She suspected something. Drake pushed more commands at the Kodiak and gave all weapon system controls to Flowers for all of their ships. The Kodiak corvettes were very deceptive Q-Ships. They looked like Massive trans-atmospheric cargo shuttles, but each one had the armor, power plant, FTL and STL drives of a frigate - and the weapons of a Destroyer. Flowers turned to him, head tilted in their predefined “Are you bloody serious?“ look. Drake just nodded once. This exchange wasn’t lost on anyone there. The Captain looked at Drake in an interrogatory fashion “Armed up the Kodiaks and positioning them for a hot launch, if needed.” The Captain smiled grimly and nodded. “We are planning on a rescue mission, will those changes reduce any capacity for the primary mission?” she asked. “No, Captain.” Flowers answered for them. She nodded and carried on. “Mri’x, obviously, you’ll be couched for this, and I sincerely apologize for that. But something about this has my hackles up.” “As are mine. GP ships do not have automated distress beacons, someone activated it. But we are three thousand light years from GP space, the closest GP race being the Drix.” He approached the holo tank and began expanding the map. “We call this space the Greater Void. It was the territory, long ago, of the ones we called-” the translator cut out at that point and was replaced with the gracile being’s raspy growl. Mri’x looked perplexed and growled again. “I see our translators have been modified to allow the uttering of The Nameless Ones true name.” The map zoomed out farther. Soon, all of the mapped and a few of the suspected Dark Matter Troughs were displayed. They were like shadow arms of the galaxy, spiraling out from the core, a few of them wrapping themselves all the way around the galaxy. “The ones you call the Fae are originally from here,” he indicated, a star not unlike Earth’s, almost a thousand light years from the star they were headed to, but smack dab in a grey band of a different Dark Matter Trough. It was a great curving grey patch that went coreward from the Earth-like star, passing within about fifty lightyears of Earth. The Fae were a recent mystery the Tides of the Universe had dumped upon the shores of Humanity just after the Second War, right before the Fall of Earth. When they sent their pleas for Asylum out, they sent information about themselves. They were the barely viable population that had been running for three centuries in their great world ships made from hollowed out asteroids. What they had been running from was even to this day unclear, but in their tongue meant Dark Brethren. The fact that tongue seemed to contain roots that became Sanskrit was a huge thing. They were tall, whip-thin and pale people who breathed a lower oxygen percentage at lower pressures than humanity, and their normal gravity was about a third of what humanity After First Contact, genetic samples proved they were, or had started out as human, roughly a hundred thousand years ago. “This is the Coreward Flow from what you call the Crux-Scutum Arm through the Orion Arm, and to the Perseus Arm. The Drix call this whole area their equivalent word and meaning for Hell. Their myths say this is where the Monsters live. “The Rest of the GP races call this The Red Zone, it is forbidden to fly here, and if you do, there will be no rescue. So of course this is where my people ran when we fled the Drix.” Mri’x moved the hologram out again, showing this outer rim area that was the Red Zone included Earth, and all known human and AI settled worlds, of all the separate factions combined. “The area is full of thousands of worlds your kind could land on, little to no protection required, unlike the Fae, who it would crush and pressure cook, as it would most of the races in the Galactic Parliament.” He zoomed in on an area at the far end of the Trough. “We ran here, and Mwarht Home is here.” He showed a system in a blue circle. Zooming out again he highlighted the Drix Combine, Coreward of and on the far side of the destroyed system the Fae had come from, hundreds of light years separated the three systems. “We ran through the system the Fae came from when we ran from the Drix. We needed water and anything to recharge our ship farms' biological cycles. “There were no solid planetary bodies in that system, just vast fields of debris where rocky planets were. No moons, no ice giants. Just the star, a larger red dwarf and gas giants and numerous asteroid belts. There were massive radiological signals throughout the system, and tons of debris. Something destroyed this system. In a way, it was a blessing for my people. The ice and debris were easily mineable for what we needed. We even found artifacts of the people that had once existed there. This is where we got our improved FTL drives and much of our weapons and armor technologies.” Mri’s looked somewhat ashamed. It was a racial shame. They hated, deep down, living on the detritus, cast-offs and charity of other races. Before the Drix they had been proud though primitive peoples who had yet to discover flight or antibiotics, let alone space flight. Easy pickings for the Drix. “All of that was about one thousand lightyears from the system we are headed to, a few weeks' travel with your drives, months or years with Galactic Parliament standard drives. This area is one of mysteries and many, many dangers. Any race that could shatter every solid body in a star system is not to be taken lightly.” Mri’x looked up to his Captain, or as they called her ‘Leader of multiple Douts’. “Thank you, Mri’x. Drake?” “We will be ready for pretty much anything. I’d like to request permission for Flowers and Winds of Neptunes to take out their Scout bodies and launch just before we start braking, if we do.” He said. Winds appeared as a hologram of the planet Neptune, and pulsed in cadence with the words it spoke. “As you wish, Grand Master.” and winked out. “Good plan, Drake. I take it you all will be on the Kodiaks with your crews?” “Yes, Ma’am. I’ll leave four of them here, to bring the Field Engineering and field Science students down if the scene is safe. I’ll leave one set up for medical and Flowers can fly it down, if that becomes needed.” “Very well. We are about eight hours out, if we stick to the plan. We leave the Trough in two hours. Drake, M’rizx, set up what you need. Mr. Martin, please take the Conn and give the Old Girl her legs, she needs to run. I’ll be meeting with the different department heads next.” * * * A/N: Lurker posting something HFY for the first time. A rough draft of something bigger I'm slowly working on.
Tips on how to make friends of the opposite sex to you
So I’ve met a fair few people, male and female, who struggle to talk to the opposite sex, for many reasons. Whether you went to an all boys/all girls school, were brought up in a ‘traditional’ environment or just never really thought it was an option, this can be the case for plenty of people. My friends have always been about 50/50 male and female so I thought it might help a few of you if I shared some advice. So you might be thinking, why make friends of the opposite sex? Sounds hard/boring/dangerous/awkward. Here are some reasons:
More friends are better! Why limit yourself to ~50% of the population?
It will make you a more interesting person. The more diverse viewpoints you interact with, the more you learn and the more comfortable you will be with people of all different sorts, which brings new experiences and all sorts of good stuff.
People LOVE matchmaking. Find it hard to meet women? Your new team of (wingladies? idk) will have your back! And vice versa.
The more time you spend around the opposite sex, the more comfortable you will be with them when you are forced to interact at work or other places.
It makes you less likely to cheat! Wait whaaaat? Yup that’s right, if you have a bunch of friends of the opposite sex then it removes the mystique and a bunch of the attraction and also helps you appreciate your partner for more than just what’s in their pants.
Did I mention more friends? More friends!
So, if you’re still with me, let’s get into the not so secret secrets. As you’re painfully aware, the opposite sex are different. They’re weird. They’re not like you. You have nothing in common. That makes it impossible to interact. But what you don’t realise is that you already have the skills to talk to them, you just don’t realise it. Let me give you an example... Say your boss’s boss has a colleague Sam who is very popular and well known for being both smart and friendly. You are placed next to Sam at the end of year dinner. Excellent! You’re super keen to chat with Sam, and make a good impression. However, when you start to talk together you discover that Sam is into mountain bikes and 13th century poetry. You know nothing about this stuff! Sam seems nice but is totally unlike you in personality and interests. Oh dear. However, you wouldn’t just give up and sit silently for the rest of the night, would you? You would speak to Sam respectfully and try to find some common ground and probably have a good time anyway. Let’s break this down into a few key points:
Respect. Treat the opposite sex like you would someone of your grand boss’ level. Not obsequious, since they’re not going to harm you. Just normal, but with a level of respect (I’m assuming your work isn’t toxic, imagine a respectful workplace here). Imagine your best friend’s favourite aunt, that kind of stuff.
Be willing to engage. Don’t shut down, go in with an open mind expecting it to be like making friends with people of your sex who have different interests to yours. It’s just like going out for a day with your best friend’s hiking club (insert relevant better analogy here).
Look for common interests. Most people make things, be it crochet, food or woodworking. Talking about making STUFF one crafts person to another can be a good start. Also way more people play D&D than you think.
Enjoy yourself. If you’re not clicking with a particular person you don’t have to meet them again for coffee next week. Try different people, they’ll all be really different I promise. ‘I’m not like other girls’ is a cliché because all girls are not like other girls. Find the people you get along with.
Look after yourself. Humans can be toxic, male and female. Hang with people who build you up, not tear you down, and do the same to others.
Honestly, all the people of the opposite sex to you are really different. After all, you’re not like all the other boys/girls who were in your school with you, are you? There are men/women out there who are more like you than some people of your sex you’ve met, I 100% guarantee it. So get out there and meet them! Make some friends this weekend! Good luck and have fun :) Note: if you have social anxiety this stuff isn’t going to work for you, you need to work on talking to any person at all first. This is advice more geared for reasonably confident people with friends all their own sex. Also I’m aware this is all binary gender framing, I’ve never met a non binary person who you couldn’t also make friends with by treating them with respect and enthusiasm, I trust you’re all smart enough to work out how to adapt and use this stuff as relevant.
Part 1 What if it wasn’t about anything related to the text? What if it was similar to the riddles that brought me to those pages? What if the mystery behind them was related to their page numbers, or hell the page numbers in general? Once at home I went to work. I told myself once more that I needed to get the full picture. So I went to write down all the page numbers in the book, one after another. When I was done, I took a step back and stared at the result. Yet, there was nothing that stood out to me right away. I haphazardly picked one of the secret pages. Page 427 was in front of page 811. Then I continued. 811, 812, 813, 814, 815, 816, 817, 818, 818, 820, 821, and right after was yet another secret page. This one was page 528. And after that, the regular page numbers continued. 822, 823, 824, 825, 826, 827, 828, 829, 830, 831, 832, 833, 834, 835, 836, 837, 838, 839, 840, 841, 842, 843, followed by another one, page 143. This list of ongoing numbers made me suddenly wonder. My thoughts drifted right back to what had gotten me to do this, the secret pages. What if they weren’t placed randomly? Yet, as I checked their distribution, it felt almost too random. I checked the number of regular pages before and after, put them in sequence, but there was no correlation. Then I got another idea. I added up all the pages before and after, but this also made no sense. Half the results were too big and exceeded the total number of pages in the book, by far. Then, starting at number 111 to 137, which I’d just added together, I got yet another idea. What if I only added together their last digits? The result I came up with was 648. Which was exactly the secret page that followed afterward! My eyes grew wide. I’d had it, hadn’t I? The hint I’d been looking for! I was going livid. Right away I went to the next one and calculated all the preceding numbers, only to come up with an entirely different result than the page number of the secret page following. Cursing I got up. It had been another goddamn coincidence. I laughed, but this time in abject misery, mocking my stupidity. How’d it be so damned easy, you idiot? There was no way. None of this was easy. None of it! But as I stared at the result I’d come up with just now, I noticed something. The result of my calculation was 702. The page number was 351. Wait. Wait. Wait. That’s half of 702! Maybe it really was nothing but a coincidence and I was just grasping at straws, but what else was I to do? The next result I came up with was 176. If I multiplied it by three, it gave me the page number of the secret page that followed it, 528. The number 715, divided by 5, gave me the page number 143 that followed it. I continued adding, dividing, and multiplying and it all checked out. All the page numbers of the secret pages resulted from calculations of the last two digits of their preceding pages. What does it mean though? Does it even mean anything? The exhilaration I’d felt ebbed away, and I sat there, staring at all my calculations wondering if there was any meaning to it. Yet, there had to be, right? This couldn’t have been designed as yet another red herring. This was too damned complex. No, there had to be a reason for this. What if there was an order? If I went through all the calculations I quickly noticed that the result was never divided by the same number. The highest number that a result was divided by was 26, the highest a result was multiplied by was 27. It was exactly 53 different calculations. With that, I started ordering them, one by one, starting backward from the highest division, to the highest multiplication. Then I put the topic of each page behind the numbers in the resulting list. I’d hoped for something. I’d hoped to find it starting with the page about the universe, followed by constellations and stars up to the evolution of apes, plants, and other animals. Yet, it was all mixed-up nonsense. There was no order to it at all! Even when I ordered them in other ways, trying to find any sort of correlation, it was always the same. Nothing, but nonsense. My hands started shaking as anger flooded through me. I crumbled up the stupid, ordered lists and threw them across the room. Then I cursed in sheer and utter rage. This was freaking stupid. This was insane! This was nothing at all, just pure fucking nonsense. I picked up a random object on my table and hurled it against the wall where it shattered into pieces. Then I threw aside a chair I found standing in my way and kicked over the small couch table, creating general chaos in my living room. I was stopped from going any further when my neighbors banged against the wall, screaming to knock it off and threatening to call the cops. That made me stop. The anger went away. I stared in shock at my living room. What the hell was happening to me? Why’d I done that? Why’d I destroyed my things at 1 am in the freaking morning? Then I slowly smoothed out the lists I’d created and put them on one of the few free spots remaining on my living room wall. Who knows, I might need it later. I laughed as I looked from them to the rest of the wall which was now entirely covered. Even worse were the stacks of notes that had accumulated in front of them. I was proud all right, but I also knew that this thing was absolutely insane. Once more, I couldn’t help but wonder what I was doing. Shaking my head, I turned around and made my way to the bedroom. Yet, as my fingers rested on the light switch, I turned around one last time. I stared at the mad lines, the mad paths who were connecting here and there. There was nothing but lines upon lines. Here and there, if I looked hard and long enough, I could almost make out shapes. I froze. What if it was a visual puzzle? What if there was a hint hidden in the shapes of the paths? For days I sat down, drew points and lines and connections, warping them into surreal shapes. This was crazy, wasn’t it? How’d it be visual? There’s probably not a damn thing to be got from this. This was stupid. Yet, I couldn’t stop. Each day, I spent my entire afternoon, my evening, and even half the night, drawing. And eventually, it all came to nothing. There was nothing but mad lines and not a clear shape in sight. I didn’t give up though, wasn’t discouraged. I was beyond that, far beyond that. What if there was something else? Maybe there was a hidden code between these pages? When I was at work, I’d completely forgotten about my former vow not to talk about the book or do anything related to it. Instead, I read up on cryptography. Going through article after article. I read up on Caesar Code and Binary Code, on the Polybius Cipher and Hex Code. I went mad with it. Before long I spent more time reading up on things than doing any of my work. Eventually, I even brought pages filled with numbers with me, cross-checking them for hits of any and all codes. I heard co-workers whispering behind my back, asking me what I was doing and I told them, I just hadn’t closed the weird articles after break time. They knew it wasn’t the truth. They’d heard me mumble, saw the little notebook I was writing in, noticed the endless lists of numbers I brought with me each day. My superior eventually came up to me. He asked me what I was doing with all those weird pages. I told him it was nothing but a little puzzle. “Well, Todd,” he started in a condescending voice. “You’re not here to do any of those ‘little puzzles’, you’re here to do your damn job. Where are the calculations for this month? I’ve been waiting for them all day.” “Oh, I guess, I’m almost done with them, I just need another hour or-“ My voice trailed off when he picked up one of the pages I’d been looking at mere minutes ago. Suddenly, when I saw him holding it, I felt nervous. “What even is this? It’s just random numbers.” He saw my face, saw the way my eyes grew wide when he’d picked it up. The hint of a smile washed over his face as he crumbled it up. He opened his mouth for another remark, but before he could I jumped up from my chair and ripped the page from his hand. He cringed back a step in shock at my reaction. “The hell’s wrong with you?” he screamed at me, but I didn’t listen. Instead, I carefully smoothed out the paper and made sure he hadn’t torn it apart. By now half the office had gotten up to watch the weird exchange. Only now did I realize what I’d done and how everyone was staring at me. Suddenly I felt very watched and almost sunk back into my chair. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to,” I mumbled but broke up under the pressure of all those eyes. “Get back to work and finish those damned calculations! If I see you tinkering with any of this shit again, you can clean out your desk!” With that, he stormed off. I heard people whispering all around me, some laughing, others speaking in a more reserved tone. Yep, I thought, it’s official. I’m the office nutjob. Right away, I forced myself to close all the Wikipedia articles I had still open and put away all my notes. And then, grudgingly, annoyed and half-mad at the distraction it represented, I went back to work. Somehow though, it felt meaningless, calculating all these stupid orders and filling out this customer database. What the hell was I even doing? What if it really was a code? What if it was actually a mixture, a double-code? My mind went wild with ideas. Five minutes later, I found myself holding one of my notes again. I couldn’t even remember taking it out. Pushing it back, cursing, and not a little afraid, I forced myself to work calculations until the day was over. At the moment my shift ended, I jumped off my chair and rushed for the door. People stared at me, looked after me, their faces a mixture of amusement and worry. I didn’t care. I had work to do. The important kind of work! I’d just tried to find another connection between the page numbers of the secret pages when my doorbell rang. I ignored it, but it just kept ringing. When it finally stopped, I sighed in relief. Just leave me alone, I cursed, I’ve got work to do. Then, mere moments later, my phone vibrated on the other end of the room. Dammit, I’d forgotten to mute it again. I waited for it to stop, but it started up right away. Cursing I went over to see who it was and noticed the name instantly. It was my friend Andrew. Annoyed, I answered it. “Yo, Todd, you home?” I heard his voice from the phone next to my ear and more distant, muffled from the front door. My first reaction was one of annoyance. Then I pushed the thought away. What the hell was wrong with me? This was Andrew. He was my best friend, the only one of our old group who still lived in the same city. Right away, I thought about how long I’d last seen him. Surprised I realized that it must’ve been weeks. One glance at the mad mess in my living room told me why. “Yeah, sure hold on,” I said over the phone and made my way to the front door. Andrew smiled at me brightly and held up to six-packs. “Haven’t seen you in forever, how about we have a few! I got quite the story for you, my man!” I smiled at him. “Sure, come on in.” We made our way inside and Andrew had barely set foot into my living room when he stopped. His eyes grew wide as he stared at the wall and the stacks of paper all over the place. “Holy shit man. I was wondering why I haven’t heard from you. The hell’s all that? You working on some sort of project?” “Kind of,” I mumbled a little embarrassed. I quickly picked up the papers on the couch and put them aside to make room for him to sit. “Sorry about the mess.” “Nah man, it’s all right. So, the thing I was about to tell you, you remember Thomas, right?” Thomas, I thought. Did I know a Thomas? Then I remembered him. Of course, I remembered him, he’d been part of our group. I rubbed my temples for a second before I nodded. “He’s getting married and you won’t believe who the lucky girl is!” With that, Andrew told me the entire story of how our friend Thomas had been dating Susan, Andrew’s cousin for the past three months, and the two of them had decided to get married. I listened, nodded here and there, even laughed a few times absentmindedly, but my eyes wandered to my notes again and again. For a moment I spaced out entirely, thinking about an idea that had popped into my mind just before he’d arrived. What if there was something about number sequences? I must’ve sat there for an entire minute, simply holding my beer and staring off at nothing when Andrew waved his hand in front of my face. “Yo, dude, you listening?” “What? Oh, sorry, no, I think I spaced out for a moment.” “All right, man, I got to ask, what’s all this? What sort of crazy thing are you working on? Haven’t seen you this into something in years.” I smiled at him awkwardly and then sighed and pointed at the book. “It’s one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books,” I started. With that, the flood gates broke open, and I told him all about it. He listened, at first curiously, but after a while, his face changed. There was visible concern, as I rambled on about secret pages, strange objects, and cryptography. “Todd, hold on, hold on, what the hell are you even talking about?” I stared at him. “The book. You know those secret pages must’ve some sort of meaning. At first, I thought there was a simple order to them, but it was too chaotic. If you add up all their page numbers though, you get 20670, and if you divided this up by-“ “All right, man, stop,” he cut me off. “So you’re adding up all those numbers, I get that, but for what?” I began explaining again, I tried, but he couldn’t follow me. “Yeah, I don’t get it, man. Just, what the fuck?” “All right, look,” I said and walked over to the wall covered in lines and numbers and started once more. I told him about the different adventure paths, the references, the secret pages, and when and how they appeared. His face was blank as I rambled on and on and on. “Yo, dude, you might want to take a bit of a break, this sounds, well, a bit crazy.” For a moment I was quiet, then a short, nervous laugh escaped me. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” He stepped up next to me, staring at the wall. “Shit man, you did all this? Just for a damned book?” Before I could answer, he reached out and was about to take one of the pages off the wall. My hand shot forward instinctively, batting his aside. “Don’t touch it!” I called out before I realized what I’d done. Andrew stumbled back a few steps, shocked. “Shit man, sorry, I didn’t mean to-“ And then it happened. I didn’t even listen to his words anymore as he bumped against some of the stacks of notes I’d placed neatly in front of the wall. They toppled over one another, the pages scattering all over the floor and intermixing. My eyes grew wide. Oh god, no, freaking god no. Anger rose in me. It had taken me so goddamn long to sort them all out, to order them. There was a freaking method to it all and now he’d destroyed it. He’d destroyed the work of entire fucking days! “What the fuck are you doing?” I screamed at him. He cringed back, only now realizing what had happened. “Hey, didn’t mean to,” he said and began picking up random pages. I ripped them from his hand and pushed him back. “No, don’t fucking touch them. Those two don’t belong together you idiot! Are you freaking insane?!” With an empty face, he watched as I gathered up some of the pages, stared at them, and began sorting them as best as I could. “You know, Todd, that’s what I should ask you.” “What the hell do you mean?” I snapped at him. “You destroyed the work of days! Days! This is-“ “This is what, man?” he cut me off once more. “It’s nonsense. It’s a freaking children’s book, nothing else.” That did the trick. I got up and stepped up right in front of him. “Nonsense? You’ve got no FUCKING idea, how far I’ve come! You’ve got no clue what’ve done already! And here you are telling me this is NONSENSE?” His face had grown hard. For a second he was about to say something, but then he simply shook his head and laughed. Without another word, he picked up his things, the beer, and left. If he said any words in parting, I didn’t hear them. I was already busy re-ordering my notes. It was hours later, when I was done sorting them all out, that I realized what I’d done and how I’d acted. For the first time, I grew truly scared. That hadn’t been normal. That wasn’t me. Why’d I gone crazy like this? I took first one step back from the wall, then another before I went to pick up my phone. When I tried to call Andrew, he didn’t pick up. Instead, the call went straight to voice mail. Then I saw how late it was, long past three in the morning. I wrote him a quick message, apologized for my behavior, and told him he was right. I should take a break from this entire thing. That’s what I did right away. I picked up my laptop, made my way to the bedroom, and this time I turned off the light without looking over my shoulder. I lay down on my bed and started browsing YouTube and told myself to just enjoy it and take a break. Yet, even as I watched video after video, the little voice in the back of my head spoke up again. It told me I should go on, told me to go back to the living room. You almost had it, Todd, you almost had it. Just one more hint and you’re done with it. Then you can let it go and you can- “Shut up, goddamnit!” I screamed at myself to quiet the subconscious voice in the back of my head. “I freaking know,” I said quieter. “God, I freaking know.” I sat in bed, the video that was playing already forgotten. As video, after video played, I was on my phone, checking stars and numbers before I eventually drifted off to sleep. The next morning I didn’t even get to make myself a coffee. I was mad, pissed off and I wanted to finally make progress. For a while, I tinkered about the various codes I’d read about. What if there was a code, but what but if it concerned the entire book and not just the secret pages? What if it was related to the adventure after all? Maybe you could scramble up page numbers and- I stopped and rubbed my temples. Calm down, don’t go crazy. Calm down and take a step back. You don’t even know if there are any damned codes hidden in the book. You did well deciphering all the different adventure paths and the connections between them. You did well discovering all the secret pages. But what if there’s something you haven’t discovered yet? That was the question that told me what I had to do. Something I hadn’t dared to do so far. I had to go through the entire book. I had to make my way through it not following the adventure, but going page by page and look out for anything new. There might be chapters I hadn’t discovered yet, hadn’t read yet. With newfound energy and a new plan, I started right away. My phone rang shortly after noon, but this time, I didn’t even bother with it. I just ignored it. After all, I had more important things to do. This time I didn’t just write down chapters, choices, and connections. This time I wrote down every single thing that came up. I took note of every single object that was mentioned then added the page number, the corresponding path, and any reference I knew about it. It was a momentous task. I spent the entire day doing it and barely made it through the first 130 pages. The next day, Sunday, I didn’t even finish another hundred. The further I came, the more objects I noticed, the more combinations, and references. At times, I even had to go back, to cross-check things, and to change notes accordingly. It was the most enduring task I’d ever attempted, concerning this damned book and probably my entire life. It took me weeks. I finished stacks upon stacks of notes. I went to the office supply store multiple times a week buying stacks of papers I ended up filling by the day. Work during this time was barely an afterthought. I was barely functioning at all. I was typing in numbers and names almost on autopilot. By now I didn’t even get stares anymore. I was entirely ignored, a shell of a man, a ghost that stumbled to his cubicle in the morning and rushed back home in the evening. Days went by, then weeks, as I slaved away over the book’s many pages. Until one day, when I was finally done. I can’t even say how many weeks I’d been at it. There were stacks of hundreds of papers, maybe even more. Notes, references, objects, names, words, anything basically. I’d just created a table of how often each and every single object appeared and in which setting when I noticed a new hint. I stared at it with a giant grin on my face. The Ruby Orb had been the very first object I’d added to the table. It appeared in all paths:
Fantasy - 31 times
Space - 3 times
Stone Age - 2 times
Ocean and Pirates - 11 times
Desert Ruins - 29 times
Mountains - 17 times
City-State - 7 times
Ancient Rome - 5 times
Jungle Tribes - 13 times
Small Village - 19 times
Underwater Civilization - 23 times
As I wrote those numbers down, there was something about them. Somehow I knew those numbers. I went over them, staring at them for a while before it hit me. I cross-checked it online, and I was right. They were all prime numbers! Yes, I thought, I’d found something new! I quickly rechecked another object, the Desert Orb, and realized it was the same here, too. This one’s appearances made up a simpler sequence. It only appeared once in the city-state, twice in fantasy, and finally 11 times in the desert ruins. I couldn’t help but grin. I did it for another object, this one the Ebony Stick. It too appeared in all paths and its number was increased by two, starting at 4 and going up to 26. That’s when I knew what I had to do. I had to go through all the objects, all the hundreds of objects in the damned book, and check how often they appeared. There was a correlation, another part of the puzzle. I was exhilarated, in a state of glee and unbound excitement. These number sequences, maybe they were the key to figuring out what the secret pages meant, or maybe the page numbers in general. I started laughing. I could feel it, I was so damn close. I slept when necessary, ate when necessary, right there on the living room floor. It was only once that I thought about work, only in passing, and the idea that I should go never even came to my mind. My phone was at the other and of the room. I ignored it entirely during that time. It wasn’t important. This right here, that’s what was important. I was done by the end of the week. It was long past midnight on Saturday when I’d finally deciphered the number sequences of all 311 objects in the book. When I was done with my work, I looked at the tables of objects in a state of awe. I spread them out in front of me and marveled at the dozen or so pages. For a moment I was about to dive into them when I realized how tired I was. For the first time since the beginning of the week, I picked up my phone. It was off, must’ve been for days. I connected it to the charger and turned it on. I was bombarded with a plethora of notifications. For almost a minute the damned thing started ringing and vibrating. There were a few messages from Andrew, asking how I was doing and if I’d stopped with my damned obsession yet. I laughed and closed the chat. I’d also received countless emails. Most of them were from work and only now did I remember that I hadn’t shown up for an entire week. They started normal enough, reminding me to call if I was sick, became reproachful after a day or two, and finally angry. The last one told me this was the last straw. I should come in on Monday for a talk and be prepared to clean out my desk. It was strange how little I felt about it, how little it mattered in the grander scale of things. I almost laughed again as I threw the phone aside and laid down to catch some sleep. When I woke up, I went right back to work. I tinkered with the number sequences, looked at each one of them, added them up, multiplied, and divided them. It was the Crown of Ice that finally made me look up. When I added all its appearances together, I came to a total of 1000. This damned thing, I thought, it was by far the most common object in the damned book. I started to read up on it in my notes. It was said in the Manuscript of the Seven Seas, that the Crown of Ice was found in the Crypt of the Dragon. The Crypt of the Dragon was located in the desert ruins. I went back to it, page 1544, and read the part again. There were three choices. One sent me to leave without the crown and sent me back to a desert tribe. Destroying the crown ended in painful death while the third option was wearing it. All right, wearing the crown opened a secret passage that sent me to the location of the Magic Water and from there back on my way through the desert. Dammit, I thought I had something! I was about to go back to the list. Maybe the number thousand was another coincidence. Then something made me look up. The crown appeared in the desert ruins a total of 53 times. I thought about it. The desert ruins one was by far the shortest path. How long was it in total again? I stepped up to my living room wall and counted the chapters. When I followed them, there was only a single path that was longer than 50. It came to a total length of 78 chapters before it started from the beginning. Chapter 53 described what you found if you opened a chest hidden in the Ancient Pyramid. I read the entire chapter again. It was titled ‘The Treasure Chest.’ There was a total of 289 gold coins in the chest. When I went back to the list of objects, I noticed that the gold coin was mentioned a total of 289 times. The same was true for the sparkling diamonds. There were a total of 33 in the chest and the object itself came up 33 times in the book. I almost laughed when I noticed that it was true for the third object in the chest as well. I got an empty page and like a child, I wrote the words Chest, Pyramid, and Treasure in huge letters at the top of it before I went and added all the two dozen objects in the chest. While I did it, I wondered if there was something like this for every other object in the book. What if every object’s number of appearances was mentioned somewhere in the book? Not just in this chest, but just somewhere. And then, on a whim, I asked myself another question. What if certain objects didn’t? What if there were just a few or maybe just one whose number was mentioned nowhere? Maybe those were the important ones! For the entirety of Sunday, I followed through with this idea. I calculated, I added objects to yet more lists, I followed through paths and loops, studied my notes, and slowly, the number of objects remaining got smaller and smaller. Eventually, just as I’d hoped, there was a single object whose total number of appearances was mentioned nowhere. It was a small, red die. One that was mentioned here and there, only in passing when people played a game of dice in bars or the streets. There had to be something to this damned thing, I knew it! After this entire week, no after all these entire months, I finally had something, I’d finally narrowed it all down to a single object. A shiver went down my spine when I realized that this might be it. This might be the solution that I’d been searching for all this time! I went back to my notes about the red die and all its appearances. Here a few kids were playing with it in the streets, there was someone holding it in their hand, and here it rolled onto the floor when a fight broke out. Finally, I found what I’d been looking for. There was only a single instance in the entire book where you could interact with it. It was in a bar in space where you could join a futuristic game of dice. When the game was done, you could pocket the red die. The short chapter that followed it was mundane and almost unimportant. But when I read it, I noticed something else, not in the text, but the choices below. Weren’t they the same as in the chapter before? I went back to the preceding page and reread it. Yes, the same two choices, sending you to the same two pages. Almost as if picking up the die didn’t matter at all. Making it appear as nothing but a red herring. And I grinned. I grinned wider than I had ever before. There had to be a hint here, no, there had to be a way of finishing this entire damn thing. I wrote down the entire paragraph and went back to work, studying it. I checked everything that was mentioned in it: the page number, the chapter title, colors, words, anything I could think of. Until late in the morning hours, I pondered over this one, single paragraph. I could barely keep my eyes open when I stumbled upon it. It was silly, but I exploded with joy and was suddenly wide awake again. The number of words in each sentence was eight. The number of sentences was eight as well. There were eight sentences here, with eight words each. This was no coincidence. This was it, the total number of words was 64, the square number of eight. There was too much here for it to be a coincidence. I rushed back to the buck, almost stumbled over my feet, and threw open page 64. Like a crazed, starved animal I poured over the words on the page, almost pressing my face against it. The chapters, there had to be something here, the solution had to be right in front of me. Yet when I was done reading it, I was dumbfounded. The entire page comprised a single chapter, a chapter I knew damn well. And I realized that I knew the number 64 damn well, too. I was at the beginning of the fantasy setting. I read once more that I was a young farmer, standing in front of a burned down far, the bodies of his dead parents next to him and that I was about to set out on a grand adventure. For the next three hours, I analyzed every single word in the paragraph, every single one and I found as many hints as I could search for. I went back to the die paragraph and slowly I came to another conclusion and then another. The number of certain letters corresponded with the number of other objects in the space path. If you put certain letters from certain words together you ended up with yet another number. I followed every single one of them, but each one ended at another mundane position in the book. I slaved away over those as well, reached and analyzed them and I found more hints, more connections, more clues. And the longer and the more deeply I analyzed them, the more I could find, if only I wanted to. There was almost an endless number of nonsensical clues and hints if you wanted so. They were all leading me on, leading me around in a circle, on and on and on and on. And I sat there, over the damned book, over hundreds, if not thousands of pages of notes. I sat in front of an entire wall covered in information and I laughed. For long, terrible minutes I couldn’t stop laughing. This was all crazy. This was all entirely and utterly crazy. And finally, it clicked. At this singular moment it finally and ultimately clicked. There was no solution. The book had no solution. It finally made sense. I’d slaved away for weeks, no for months, and all I’d done was to walk in circles, continue from one hint to another, only to be sent back to the beginning. The entire damned book was a loop, a loop of loops with secret loops that sent you to more secret loops. And then, for the first time in months, I closed the book and put it away. After that, I slowly went and took down all the mad pages from my wall, stacked up all the notes, and put them together in a box in an almost apathetic state. I was done. All of this had been utterly meaningless, a fundamental waste of time. That night, I didn’t sleep. I lay in bed, contemplating a lot of things. My life, my work, the book, and why I’d been so taken by it. Yet, as with the book, there was no solution. There was nothing to it all. The next day, with the book in my backpack, I made my way back to the store. It felt as heavy as the world, an endless number of possibilities all resting on my back. I knew I had to return it, I had to get rid of it before it might throw me into another crazy fit. When I entered the store, the old man looked up. “Can I help you with,” he started but broke up, a surprised look on his face. “Well hello there, young man. Haven’t seen you in quite a while.” I only nodded, took down my backpack, heaved out the book, and brought it to a rest in front of him. “I’d like to return this.” The old man probed me for a moment. “We’ve got a no-money-back policy,” he said and pointed at a small, almost illegible sign behind himself. “Yeah, that’s fine, I just want to get rid of it. I’m done with it.” “So, you got your reward then?” I couldn’t help but laugh a little. “Guess so.” “What was it?” the old man asked curiously. “It’s meaningless, there’s no end to it. It just goes on forever.” “Oh,” he mouthed with an expression of surprise. “You ever tried it yourself, old man?” “Did once, when I was younger, but I got nowhere. Was too damned hard for me.” “There’s one thing I’m wondering about. Who the hell wrote a thing like this? I mean, it’s freaking insane. How’d’you ever write something like this?” “Well, to tell you the truth, there’s something I didn’t tell you when you first came in. I originally bought the book from a street merchant, half a century ago. He told me a few things, and I learned a few more over the years from other people.” “Like what?” “There’s nothing but rumors of course. The merchant told me it was written by the Devil himself. Then someone told me it was supposedly written by Machiavelli back in the day, to confuse a man who’d wronged him and drive him mad. There was also a guy who was convinced it was the work of aliens. The most plausible thing I heard is that there’s no single author, but that it was written over the course of centuries, with each new writer adding to it and extending it, making it better and ever more complicated.” “Heh, sounds about-“ I started, but the old man raised a hand and pushed his head forward, towards me. “There’s one more. Someone else told me it was written by no other than God himself as a big, giant joke about our earthly existence itself.” I laughed, but it was a weak laugh. Nothing but a giant joke, that fit it damn well, didn’t it? And as I stepped out of the store and stared at the city surrounding me, watching the urban bustle, I began thinking. People were hurrying past me, on their way to work, cars and buses rushed down the streets. As I watched it all, this ever-repeating bustle of civilization, I realized that it was all another never-ending loop. On and on and on we all went, doing the same thing over and over and over again. And as I walked on I started laughing. Maybe that was all right and maybe it didn’t matter. Who knows, maybe the book was true. Maybe all of this, all of life, all of existence, just like the damned book, was nothing but God’s big, giant joke.
My uneventful hysterectomy experience + smooth recovery at 4 1/2 weeks postop
I'd like to show my thanks for you folks who have provided so many useful tips on this sub by sharing my fairly standard/normal hysterectomy experience and week by week recovery. It's a long, detailed post but TL;DR: my experience is similar to folks who have had a normal recovery with no complications and manageable pain and discomfort and I highly recommend surgery! (I'm including insomnia and mood swings as normal, since I kept my ovaries and I'm coming off hormonal medication as well, lol.) I waited until 4 weeks before posting because even though I felt great during the first few days after surgery, I wanted to wait and see if complications and weird stuff popped up afterwards. Nope! It has been a delightfully smooth recovery: only very little spotting 2 days after surgery then no bleeding even up until now. My surgeon checked out my vaginal cuff 3 1/12 post-op and she said it was healing nicely, no pain when she touched the cuff and no bleeding. Background:
I'm a non-binary (they/her pronouns,) femme- and androgynous-presenting 35 year old, overweight and sedentary except for light walking. No kids, never gave birth or had an abortion. No top/bottom surgeries and no hormones apart from norethindrone 5-10 mg to stop bleeding/periods and manage pelvic pain a year before surgery. Most of the dysphoria for me post-op is the swollen belly (I look quite pregnant especially during the first 3 weeks) but I'm trying to reframe the swollen belly as looking really cute :) and that the swelling will go away eventually, even though it'll take months. But having no uterus is really awesome! I like the emptiness and lack of heaviness and fatigue from the uterus/fibroids/endo. I did grieve losing parts of my body but this process was months before surgery.
First surgery ever for adenomyosis, endometriosis, and multiple fibroids; total laparoscopic hysterectomy (LAVH): delivered 7 cm fibroid vaginally (!), only kept ovaries and a vaginal cuff was sutured where my cervix used to be. 6 cm endometrioma on right ovary removed, endo excision on partially obliterated cul-de-sac and uterosacral ligaments. Biopsies confirmed adeno in uterus and endo in endometrioma and excised tissues. Took hormones until 3 1/2 week post-op checkup when surgeon allowed me to stop using them. Surgeon expects low recurrence of endo.
I had short notice (3 weeks) for my surgery due to COVID-19 precautions at the hospital, but I was waitlisted for almost a year beforehand.
How the weeks played out post-op:
After surgery: going under anesthesia and waking up in the recovery room happened in seconds. I felt pain which was 3-4/10 but never really went beyond 5-6 (at that point I requested pain meds); most of the pain came from gas pain which touched on the parts that had surgery so it hurt, but I didn't have the dreaded shoulder pain. The catheter was uncomfortable but I asked the nurse to adjust the tubing which sort of helped. I wore the hospital robe during my overnight stay, which had some tiny blood stains from my incisions. I mostly slept and was woken up by nurses during their rounds of checking my blood pressure and temperature. I drank coffee and lots of watejuice after my catheter was removed the next morning and before being discharged. Didn't use my phone and didn't need my toiletries, wore the same maxi dress and slip-on shoes as what I came in the hospital with.
Week 1: most of the discomfort and pains (especially gas) happened this week: ice packs helped along with taking OTC pain meds (tylenol/acetaminophen and naproxen) on a regular schedule and narcotics (tramadol) only a couple of times cause I was afraid of constipation. I made sure to include stool softeners (eg Miralax) in-between pain meds. No fatigue and only 2 days of light spotting; no discharge as well. Incisions were healing normally and were itchy at the end of week 1. Had urine leakage so I purchased additional incontinence pads but I already had this issue prior to surgery. Watched a lot of Netflix/Prime Video while reclined on couch and paced around the house a lot (usually after peeing a lot due to all the fluids) to help get rid of gas/prevent blood clots; activated charcoal didn't helped me, I had to ride out the gas pain. Had pressure while peeing but wasn't painful, also peed a lot due to drinking lots of fluids and eating soups. My BM on the second day was gassy and loose at first, but became more solid when I had another BM that same day, so I didn’t phone the surgeon’s office. I had more BMs than before surgery (went once a day before, then twice a day post-op) and I used a small stool in lieu of a Squatty Potty to help me poop; doing the "moo" sound instead of straining was a big help! I was also really hungry and ate more than usual; more like frequent, smaller meals: a lot of toast/rice, some fruit, and lots of soups with chicken and vegetables. No housework and didn't lift anything heavier than half a gallon (~2 litres.)
Week 2: I had fewer abdominal and back pains compared to the first week and I continued to feel great; ab/incision pains went away eventually by the end of this week. No discharge but still felt pressure from peeing, so I purchased urine tests that were a dollar each from the pharmacy (which also checks for blood and proteins) and I didn't have a UTI. I still used ice packs at the start of the second week but stopped them once I started taking a small dose of cannabis during the day and edibles at night. I stopped naproxen before taking cannabis but this point, I could have also taken tylenol if cannabis wasn't a option, but I didn't like the idea of taking tylenol for long periods of time (can affect the liver.) I gradually increased my walking from slow walking around the block to averaging about 3-4k steps up and down sidewalks in the neighbourhood despite walking very slowly. My surgeon allowed me to do light low impact exercise two weeks onwards. My belly felt more swollen after long walks, likely due to increased activity. Felt tired in the afternoons but I attribute this to the long walks and sleeping less than 8 hours. Still no housework and didn't lift anything heavier than half a gallon (~2 litres.) Felt more emotional this week, cried a bit from post-op blues (wasn't major depression, but thinking about what my body went through up until this point made me sad and angry) but my husband listened to my feelings and I felt better.
Week 3: I felt my body starting to normalize (fewer BMs, not so hungry/thirsty) and sitting down became more comfortable (fewer instances of external genitalia soreness) but "Beware Week 3" is correct! I did ~9000 steps one day at the start of week 3 cause I felt so good (big oops) and I felt more tired in the afternoon and a bit more soreness (mostly leg soreness from the long distance walked.) I rested a few days after and took it easier and it's all good. Still no discharge and even on the 3 1/2 week mark when my surgeon did the post-op checkup, my cuff was healing well and my ovaries looked well. Surgeon recommended pelvic floor therapy as I mentioned the urine leakage. Started to get really bored but walking helped, just not overdoing it. I tried modified, really gentle yoga/pelvic floor exercises/chair yoga and felt sore, but rested afterwards and the soreness resolved. Pressure from peeing continued to decrease, now I can feel my bladder emptying when I pee and I sit for a little bit after peeing for the rest of the pee to come out. I was cleared to drive but at this point, twisting was still uncomfortable. I started experiencing insomnia so when it got really bad, I would take cannabis oils/edibles again and I was able to sleep continuously.
Week 4: Smoke from west-coast forest fires kept me stuck at home so I continued to rest (watch TV and Reddit,) do a little bit more bending/squatting and even picked up a load of laundry under 20 pounds (surgeon cleared me to lift anything under 20 pounds but no lifting furniture for 3 months.) No bleeding despite doing those movements. Swollen belly is very slowly becoming less swollen but it's still swollen. I can tolerate wearing high-waisted leggings/joggers now but jeans and anything too tight around the belly (even tank tops/shirts) are a no go. I still have persistent lower back pain but no abdominal pain so I wonder if my back took a lot of the pressure from day to day activities instead of my abs; massage and heat packs help.
What helped me pre- and post-op:
Positive self-talk/reassurance, even though I was worrying a lot before surgery. I reminded myself that hysterectomies are common procedures (high success rate) and that I have a support system (spouse, housemates, psychologist) to help me with recovery. Reading recovery stories on this sub helped me have a realistic view of the surgery. I also mentally braced myself if my ovaries had to go but thankfully my surgeon was a rockstar and that my right ovary with endometrioma ended up being healthy.
My husband took a couple of weeks off work to help me out: he dropped off/picked me up from the hospital, got groceries and helped prepare food on stovetop, and assisted with getting me in/out of bed and with showers. I would suggest having help from a partnefriend/family member at least a week post-op as second week isn't as bad as the first week.
Having food delivered sometimes! Having easy to prepare food made by my husband/parents that was easy to reach/reheat also really helped me.
Purchasing items to prepare for recovery:
Raised toilet seat + arms for a really low toilet, especially helpful for the first couple of weeks when my ab muscles were so weak and sore. Also baby wipes!
Small pillow for the drive home (to cushion against the seatbelt) and holding against my belly when standing up/walking on the first week. I also purchased another cute, soft whale plushie from Miniso (like a Japanese dollar store) to sleep/cuddle with.
Bath chair for showetub. It was so comforting to sit and have a hot shower as I can't have a bath until the 8 week mark. The moist heat helped with the soreness and it was nice to be able to shower and towel-dry myself independently. I still needed help to get out of the tub to avoid falling/slipping, a suction cup grab bar and tub mat also helps with this.
Wedge pillow + lots of pillows on my side and under my knees. I shared a bed so I went with this option but I'm sure those C-shaped pregnancy pillows will also help.
Multiple plastic cups with straws: I was so thirsty and having watejuice on hand also helped me have regular BMs. Glasses were heavy during the first week and the plastic cups helped me get extra fluids in.
Hanes nightshirts (my fave! looks like a giant t-shirt that goes down to my knees) and Fruit of the loom plus-size high-waisted panties from Amazon, both 2-3 sizes up for the swollen belly. I was peeing so often in the first couple of weeks from soups and drinking so much water that I didn't wanna fuss with pants. I wore other (thrifted) t-shirt dresses and slip-on shoes for walks cause I didn't want anything touching my swollen belly.
No effort/easy to swallow food such as applesauce and pudding. As naproxen had to be taken with food, I ate applesauce and pudding with naproxen when the timing was before/after meals. Also pudding was a nice treat when I felt so crappy.
Popsicles! My throat was a little sore from intubation, so the ice chips were heavenly in the hospital, and popsicles helped a lot during the first week. It was the height of summer as well at the time, so popsicles also helped keep me cool.
Following pre- and post-op instructions from hospital and doctor's office. I stopped vitamins and asprin-like meds a week before surgery, followed the no food after enema the night before surgery, and only drank the approved fluids (water and apple/cranberry juice) up until an hour before I was admitted to the hospital. If you don't follow pre-op instructions, you may be denied surgery. For post-op, my only instructions aside from the OTC pain meds schedule were no full intercourse and no baths/swimming for 8 weeks, light low impact exercise 2 weeks onwards, and visit the ER if any symptoms of surgical complications show up (didn't need to). So in addition to that, I followed the guidelines that I frequently saw on the sub: no bending, no lifting over 5 pounds, and going up stairs one step at a time and taking breaks when needed.
Lots of slow walking. (I didn't have restrictions from my surgeon but if you do, follow them.)
Cannabis (in small doses,) which is legal where I live. After I finished 10 days of naproxen, I stopped tylenol and I tried 5 mg THC/CBD edibles at night and I was finally able to sleep for 6-7 hours straight. The cannabis numbed my pain in a more effective way compared to tramadol, tylenol, and naproxen. In hindsight, I wish I took cannabis sooner instead of bearing with tylenol and naproxen but I followed doctors orders and I didn’t know if the cannabis would interfere with anesthesia post-op. I also took a high CBD oil (1.5 mg THC: 25 mg CBD) during the day, which helped mute most of the pain during the day on the second week.
Having a routine. Since I'm having an easy recovery, having a routine helps me not feel down and have things to focus on/look forward to. My routine is having a couple of walks between breakfast and dinner and watching TV/reading a book during the afternoon/after dinner.
Please feel free to ask questions, I'm happy to help! I hope your surgery goes smoothly as well and for those recovering, I hope your recovery continues to be smooth sailing. :)
Why I Can't Do Surgery and Hormones, and why that bothers me!
I cannot physically transition for some very valid reasons. This will be a longer post, but if anyone is interested in giving support to someone who has a unique transition path, that would be much appreciated. Firstly, I am a singer and worked so very hard to build up my singing voice from mediocre to awesome over the past 9 years, and I thus do not want to risk permanently altering my instrument and having to start from square 1. I have had voice dysphoria since elementary school, but I, like many other transman singers, chose not to go on T for vocal reasons. Secondly, while I would love to grow a moustache (and I have tried and failed miserably lol) I have trauma surrounding hairiness. I am Greek-American and thus am quite hairy for an AFAB individual. I was bullied severely for being hairy from elementary school to high school, so getting any hairyer would not be an option with my trauma. (And I've worked through it in counseling, but having been bullied by literally 30 people throughout my young life, I will never be comfortable with the hair growth T would bring.) And by the way, I have reclaimed this in my drag persona, King Camp Gillette (named after the man who invented the razor) because screw bullying. Thirdly, I have manic episodes and probably autism as well and that combination makes me particularly sensitive to many drugs and medications, meaning even coffee makes me manic while it wouldn't for the vast majority of people. That's what my psychiatrist said. So, going on Testosterone would give me a big risk of having a manic episode, and I don't want to risk my stability for T, especially when manic episodes are so disabling and literally destroy brain cells, and I've already had far too many of them. So, those are the reasons I can't do T. And I also can't do top or bottom surgery. I have an anxiety disorder and huge phobia of driving. I don't drive because I'm absolutely terrified of a car accident, severe pain, or bodily harm of any kind. So, having any kind of surgery that is not necessary to save my life would not work with my anxiety/phobia of bodily harm. I also have a medical issue with my chest already, so that makes me doubly not want to get anything done to it. Also, a few things about this frustrate me. One of my heroes, the gay trans man Lou Sullivan, said in an interview "thank god I was able to get surgeries and hormones, because I would have been miserable as just a crossdresser." I mean, I know that was the 1980s and our views on gender have evolved since then, but I have a feeling some folks still believe this into the present day. And having a hero of mine say that is a bit demoralizing. In that regard, its harder for me to feel valid when I haven't altered my chest, had hormones, etc. I would even go for bottom surgery if I wasn't so terrified of surgery! My former best friend said "you fetishize gay men" and as a queehomoflexible trans man, that was super insulting and transphobic, and he wouldn't acknowledge that it was (and thus he's a "former" friend). But those kind of insults sting even harder because, as someone who doesn't have a flat chest, a beard, a deep voice, or a phallus, its hard to feel like a real man, and I worry like hell people see me as a fake "fetishizer" because I can't transition. I am a binary trans man, and I identify completely as a man. But that being said, as a queehomoflexible trans man, and just as me in general, I like to wear skirts and dresses sometimes, and that does not reflect my gender identity, I just see it as a facet of being comfortable with feminine side as a queer man. Well, if I were on T and had a moustache, i could wear a dress or skirt and still be perceived as man. It's frustrating, but I'm trying to not let it stop me from presenting how TF I want to. So, if anyone has any thoughts on any of that, it would be much appreciated. In the future when I'm able to have insurance cover gender therapy, I will totally get some help on these issues. In the meantime, I would be grateful for any ideas from other trans men. But I would like to add, I am happy about the way I look. Being a queer trans man, I actually really like the twink/kinda androgynous vibe I have, and I've lost 17 pounds this year so far. So, while I do wish I could pass better, I am still grateful for who I am and how I look despite not being able to medically transition.
Day 6: The Tools You Think You Need, and Altar Talk
Originally I looked up a few big ol' lists of "essentials" for witches. I looked at lists of altar necessities and Wicca specific tools, and you get the idea... it was a lot. Mostly it was a lot of "dicks and wombs," but we'll get to that. I had originally planned to go through a list of tools one by one and talk about correspondences and substitutes, but the more I went down that road, the more WRONG it felt. When I first started this project, I asked a group of experienced witches what they wish they had known when they first started and what they'd like new witches to know. About 150 witches responded and there were 2 things that came up more than anything else:
You don't need to buy ANYTHING
Your path is YOURS
The third thing was to protect yourself from scammers and predatory people, and we already covered that. I will have entire days dedicated to certain tools and practices later in the month. This is just the briefest overview of some tools and altars. While you don't NEED to buy anything for your altar, and you don't NEED an altar at all, you might WANT to. If you look up the correspondences for most common altar items you will find a lot of things that are considered to be "masculine" or "feminine." Typically, feminine is associated with darkness, passiveness, quiet, home, and CONTAINERS. (Circles and triangles often represent containers. Containers = womb.) Typically, masculine is associated with light, activity, exploration, and pointy things. (Because pointy = penis.) Just remember that you are allowed and encouraged to create your own associations. You do not have to subscribe to this binary. I reject it passionately, but I don't have a problem with anyone who enjoys it. There can be a sense of empowerment that comes from it. Your path is yours, and if it involves a bunch of dicks and wombs, I support your decision. I just don't want anyone stumbling into a bunch of dicks and wombs because they learned it was the "right way" to do things. (I'm officially done saying "dicks and wombs" now.) Even though you are the only tool you need, you may WANT some. In my opinion there are 3 main types of magical tools. Functional, mood setting, and religious. There are hybrids and exceptions and other ways to classify them, but that's how I'll be doing it here today. Also, I'm talking about non-consumable items that are meant to be reused often. Most functional tools (chalice, cauldron, mortar and pestle, boline) have very simple substitutes. (Chalice = cup, cauldron = cooking pot or bowl, mortar and pestle = spice or coffee grinder, boline = knife. A boline is a hybrid of religious and functional. If you follow the religion, you will probably want to follow the recommendations. However, since that religion is Wicca, it's usually okay if you don't/can't.) Tools that exist for purely magical reasons (like a wand, athame, and scrying tools) are completely unnecessary, but they can be helpful to get in the mood and they can also be a lot of fun if you love shopping or if you're the crafty type. I have made many wands, and I'm planning to make another one soon. One of the first, when I was probably 15 or 16, that I used for about 4 years and probably still have somewhere, is one that i made from a bone and a quartz point that fir perfectly into one of the joint ends. I used a leather cord around it and made a velvet lined box stuffed with herbs to store it in. Most recently, I used a bamboo toothpick. I may use the stem of white or purple sage to create a new wand soon. I have one of each on my wall right now and something about the fragility of them is really calling to me right now. Of course, the job of a wand is to point, and most of us do that pretty easily without a specialty tool. An athame is also a Wiccan tool, and purely religious. It is not used for physically cutting anything and often does the same job as a wand. Scrying tools may seem necessary, but these are also among the easiest to replace. My black mirror has never been a specialty made mirror. It does technically cost more, but that's because I use the easy to clean, shiny, deep black surface of my phone. There is literally nothing more connected to me. It holds all of my secrets and connects me to the world. With either the phone completely off or the screen off, it has always been useful to me. We will cover and try a few methods of scrying next week, so I will give you quite a few options then. Some things, like tarot cards, can't be replaced. If you want to do tarot readings, you need tarot cards. If you want to do card readings, you can use cards other than tarot. You can use oracle cards or a deck of playing cards (my favorite.) Honestly you can use anything, but these three options will give you a strong starting point without forcing you to create an entire system on your own. My general advice for tools is this- you don't need it. If you want it, buy it. If you want it and can't afford it right now- find a substitute. If you aren't sure if you want it- practice with a substitute first. Think about what it's for, what it means, and what it means to you, before you buy it. (If impulse buying benefits your life and doesn't harm your finances- go bananas! I'm not here to steal anyone's joy, just offering practical tips for the people who feel pressured into spending.) Your assignment is this: Look up a general list of tools and really think about the tools you want. (Remember that you don't need them and that it is perfectly okay to have things because you want them.) Make a note of the things you don't need and don't want, For today's part 2 we are going to talk about altars. I posted a picture of mine in here sometime recently, so you can see what my current setup looks like. There is no standard or correct altar. I'll probably repeat this on Day 8, but do be a little wary if you choose to post pictures of your altar. For some witches, this is akin to posting a picture of your driver's license. It can be an intensely personal space and there is an idea that someone can hex you using that information. I don't have a problem posting mine because a huge part of its function it to just be pretty and feel witchy. I do still cover, remove, or replace certain things when I take photos, so I do somewhat believe this idea. Also, make sure that you don't have any identifying information (like your actual drivers license) in the photo/s. If you want to know if it’s okay to have or not have something on your altar, the answer is yes. If you want to know if a certain size, shape, or orientation is okay for your altar, the answer is yes. Anyone who tells you you’re wrong will NEVER reach the levels you will, because they choose to sabotage themselves. They are restricting themselves. Even in deity work. While some people do choose to worship a deity and then start researching to find the deity that fits them, a lot people are called to serve or work with a particular deity. A LITERAL GOD who is calling you does not care what’s in your hand when you answer. They just don’t. The moon doesn’t care, the earth doesn’t care, your ancestors don't care, the fae don't care, nothing and no one that will lend you its energy gives a single fuck what you are pointing with. The energy responds to how you relate to energy. So your altar should include the things that help you do that. If that means a deck of cards and joint- great. If it means a glittering collections of crystals and candles set atop a gorgeous hand-painted tapestry- also great. If it means you put your tools in a box that you stash under your bed and you open it up for an instant altar- awesome. If it's a repurposed mint tin with a crystal, a candle, and a pinch of herbs- adorable. Again, if you follow a certain religion, you may want to follow the conventions of that religion. If what drew you to witchcraft was largely the aesthetic, make your space as beautiful as you want. If you really don't want an altar and you'd rather just store things in places where they won't turn into cat toys, be swallowed by toddlers, or collect dust- do it. If you want your altar to hold your tools nearby so you know where to find them- EXCELLENT. Are you noticing a trend? When I started out, my altar was on a nightstand in the north corner of my room with a black crushed panne velvet altar cloth, and dark EVERYTHING. I had pewter pendants, a black plastic chalice with dragons or something on it, I had pentagrams on things, I had my tarot cards in the dark green crushed panne velvet bag I made. I had my wand in it's box, and I had my Book of Shadows. I had incense. SO MUCH INCENSE. And herbs. So many herbs in baggies and bowls and just chilling out in my multiple mortars and pestles. I used to put offerings on my altar- something I don't think I even have room for now. I went through a long period with no altar at all, and a stint of an "altar in a box." If you look for the picture post, I describe my current setup there. My life and my values have changed. Sometimes I do miss the dark vibes and the heaviness of the smell of bags of powder incense and the wax drippings and the very "ready for ritual" feeling I got. Now I see my altar and I'm "ready for work." I don't Like everything else in magic, it will change with you. And like everything else, it should be in tune with your values. Tomorrow we will look into those, and try some automatic writing. Don't worry, it probably won't hurt.... So tell me (if and as much as you are comfortable...)
What tools are you giving yourself permission to not have? What are you giving yourself permission to buy (if/when you can?)
Has your idea of your perfect altar changed at all?
How is meditation going?
Again, we'll revisit most of these things through the month, I just wanted to throw something a little lighter at you today and reinforce that you don't need to buy anything, before I start recommending a bunch of "things." See you tomorrow!
All information presented is copyrighted material, you may not reproduce any part in any way except as permitted by US Copyright law. For info about reproduction permission, DM me. My current goal is to turn this into a book, and perhaps repeat this type of "course" in the future. I truly believe there is no cost of admission to witchcraft and I will never ask you to buy anything (from me or otherwise.) If you wouldlikeand are comfortablyableto leave a tip, I do have CashApp, Venmo, and Paypal. (Starving artist is a lifestyle choice, but not-starving artist is great too. And no, I'm not actually starving, but I am looking at paying some money to get this project turned into a book and I've got my eye on this tarot deck...)
Just to give you guys a realistic perspective of what a project like Retard Bot really is up against, and the difficulty of printing free money... This shit is really really really realy hard. I've been coding every day non-stop for three (four?) months, spent $4K on data and drives to store backups of it, plus another $3K+ on the beast of a PC you need to process so much data, and I'll need to spend another $8-12K on buying more PCs to basically create a tiny supercompute cluster for RB to process machine learning. I'm 26,000 lines of code into this and probably half way done. You have to be prepared to code your own ultra fast localized GPU accelerated database that outperforms everything else because traditional databases are way too slow to crunch through this much historical data the hundreds of millions of times needed to train the machine. If you hope to have any chance of succeeding "taming the beast" you have to be an actual autist, obsessed with problem solving to the point of doing it months on end without stepping outside. They hire the most glorious cases of asperger genius autist godlords who never leave the basement except when their minifridge runs out of mtn dew and they have to go put more on mom's grocery list. The autists that figure this shit out are the type that squeal REEEE bc they've had too much human interaction when they see the mailman walk past a fucking window. As someone once told me, you're up against companies that blow holes in the sides of mountains to route their fiber optic cables on a little shorter of a path so they can access trades with latency a tiny fraction of a millisecond faster than the next autist. Communication at the speed of light is something these quants get annoyed waiting for. Many of these companies waterboard their quants with mtn dew to force harder work, compiling research and IP over decades. These autists are chained to desks in dungeons with a steady drip of cocaine and coffee driving their little binary crunching brains to squeeze out one more hundredth of a percent yearly return. It's either prove you're a genius or fail with this game. I don't underestimate how unlikely it is that my attempt would work. But I'm crazy enough to try and obsessed enough to follow through. I'm obviously autistic enough to put this much thought into a single post on Reddit... and this is how much I think through everything. Maybe I can pull it off. The results are looking promising right now but it's too early to say for sure. Just know what you guys are getting into if you're going to try something like this. Sure use it as an opportunity to learn to code, but maybe don't sell your mom into slavery to scrape together the $3-5K you need to buy the historical options data for a project like this. I know what you're thinking. "My mom's worth at least $12K" No she's not. Don't lie to yourself autist. And if you succeed in something like this, don't fucking dance. For every one of us who makes it, 99 others just threw away their mom's retirement fund on PRPL calls. https://reddit.com/link/i7ybef/video/uexycvg7dfg51/player
First of all, thank you very much to everyone who took part in the second ever Reddit Romance Club community survey! We mods were absolutely amazed by the high number of responses, so thank you for making this such a vibrant and engaged community! You all rock. After grinding the (many) numbers, here are the results, which we hope you will find as interesting as we did. Just a note: this survey was opened at the end of May and closed shortly after the June release, hence its questions only barely included Legend of the Willow and did not include Dracula: a Love Story. For this reason, we have not counted the (very few) replies that have been given in the "other" boxes mentioning characters that were not yet available as Lis/known as LIs in the May release (think Leo, Vlad, Kazu etc) as this would have not been fair to those who had answered the survey before the June update. Having said that... buckle up for the ride! Lots of interesting info ahead. ----
💎Question 1: Which RC story is your favourite?
https://preview.redd.it/rlq02ktm0y951.png?width=1890&format=png&auto=webp&s=7ac99dcf156eba4a1e7a25e118cedb51ed21847c No one will be surprised to find out that Heaven's Secret is the top story in this community right now, chosen by over 45% of the respondents. Our nostalgic heart is very happy, however, to see some old favs still make the podium - albeit trailing significantly behind. Moonborn and Shadows of Saintfour score second and third place, only separated by a handful of votes at around 11%, but newer release Chasing You is already breathing on their neck at 10.7%. A healthy mix of new and old stories follows: Sails in the fog is in fifth place with 7.8% of the preferences, while Legend of the willow, after only a few episodes, already scores a very good sixth place, in a tie with Seduced by the rhythm at 4.3% of the votes. Queen in 30 days is seventh with 3.5% and My Hollywood Story is eighth with 1.2%. Last place goes to Wave Patrol at 0.4%, which sadly doesn't come as a shock given the general feeling that the romantic/reputation points system was too complicated. ----
💎Question 2: Who are your favourite LIs?
https://preview.redd.it/x17lqdnw3y951.png?width=1020&format=png&auto=webp&s=6d560448445a77f5f076fcce43358b1dbb94c094 HS being the most popular story unsurprisingly propels some of its main LIs onto the podium with supersonic speed. Bad boys rule, with Lucifer taking the crown with a whopping 65.7% of the votes and Alexander (CY) taking silver at 49.3%. The nice guys are not too far behind, though, with Dino in third place at 47.4% and Max (MB) only just about missing the podium in fourth place at 45.3%. We go back to bad boys with Brandon (SBR) in fifth, but soft spoken Sam (CY) is ready to balance things out again with his sixth place. The most surprising result on top of the rankings is Jake (WP) who makes the top ten with a very healthy seventh place. He is really hard work, but obviously we all think he's totally worth it! Old favourites Michael (SOS) and Victor (MB) still hold onto the hearts of their fans by scoring eight and ninth place respectively. First among the women - and the only female LI to make the top 10 - is the delightfully devilish Mimi (HS). Waves' mate Sebastian misses the top ten only by a hair, placing himself in 11th place with a healthy 20.7%. Bodyguard Adam is the most favourite LI in Q30 in 12th place, followed by a row of SOS boys, with John, Derek and Aaron scoring very similar percentages in 13th, 14th and 15th place respectively. Sweetheart Ray is no longer the most favourite LI to come out of MHS, as in this round he ends up in a tie for 16th place with none other than his almost polar opposite, rough and ready Captain Jeff. Leonard from Q30 (17th place) ties with Cherry from SOS but at least he beats his brother Richard (20th place) in the heart of the readers - and we all know that he'd be pretty pleased with that. Claire (SBR) is the second most favourite female LI in 18th place, while mysterious Luke (SOS) completes the top 20 in 19th place. Here are the rest of the Lis who placed lower than the top 20: (21) Carlos (SBR) 9.2% (22) Justin (SBR) 8.6% (23) Benny Bart (MB) 8.4% (24) Tarino (MHS) 8.1% (25) Gino (MHS) tied with Stephanie (SOS) at 7.8% (26) Dante (MB) 6.9% (27) Andy (HS) 6.3% (28) Mike (MHS) 6.1 % (29) Alek (WP) tied with Dante (CY) at 5.9% (30) Kayla (WP) 5.3 % (31) Alex (MHS) 3.9% (32) Chris (SIF) 3.4% (33) Frances (MB) 3.2% (34) William (SIF) 3.1% (35) Trisha (MB) 2.6% (36) Charles (SBR) 2.1% (37) Orlando (SBR) 1.8% (38) Chris the bodyguard (MHS) tied with Adi (HS) at 1.6% (39) Ellen (MHS) tied with Manta (SIF) at 1.2% (40) Masked Man (SOS) 1.1% (41) Ellia (CY) 0.8% (42) Mermaid (SIF) 0.6% (43) Simon (MB) 0.4% (44) Charles (WP) tied with Emma (Q30) and Jackie (SIF) at 0.2%. These lower rankings include some LIs that, based on the discussions we see on the subreddit, we were not expecting to get as many votes as they did - and vice versa. Dante from CY has more votes than Orlando from SBR? And Chris the bodyguard (MHS) beat the Masked Man (SOS)? Say what... Also: Jackie (SIF) definitely deserved a lot more votes! We might have to start a hashtag or something. ----
💎Question 3: Which non-LI character you’d romance in a heartbeat?
https://preview.redd.it/vd1u59tk10a51.png?width=863&format=png&auto=webp&s=df9e41d03e7af6b60396f96dbfed685b8e425b8e Here are the top 15 most desired LIs in this community: To absolutely no one's surprise, Geralt (HS) takes the top spot with 39.1% of the readers eager to unbuckle his sexy neck belts at the first occasion. Dreamy Xander from MB takes a very respectable second place with 23.2%: we will forever long for his full lips and crisp linen suit. Another MB favourite, Prince Ethan Wood completes the podium with his Matrix-style coat and intense eyes, but sassy and sexy demon Austie (HS) is not very far behind in fourth place. Vampires Dustin Chase in fifth place and - although at quite a distance - Sophia in sixth join the ranks of the many LIs who sadly never were in MB. Cute lifeguard Zoey from WP ranks seventh, and no worries if you don't remember who she is: her screen time was about 5 minutes total - but enough to end up in a tie with angelic mentor Misselina from HS. Frenemy Candy from SOS makes eighth place, while evil stunner Monica from MB clutches ninth. To complete the top 10 is no one else but grumpy Angel Fencio (HS) - we obviously all want him to show us his collection of talismans - tied with Bean from MHS, who sadly had the audacity to get married to someone else. In 11th place is SOS great friend Bobby, whose bravery in the face of untold horrors gave him a special place in all our hearts, in a tie with another WP lifeguard, Ryan (yeah, we have little recollection of him as well). Party-loving and OSHA nemesis Anthony Wood (MHS) is in 12th place, while scheming yet gorgeous Julia (Q30) takes 13th. In 14th place is no one else but our dear Sailor Bobby - an option that was added as humorous but instead raked up a fairly respectable 14% of votes. As they say, if you are not handsome you should be handy, and no one is a better dress maker than Bobby! Plus, how can we forget when he disguised himself as a tribesman to save Adelaide from becoming soup? He ends up in a tie with a fan favourite, sweet angel Sammy (HS). Completing the top-15 is another HS angel, the ethereal Leeloo. This question also had an "other" box, where people could add names that were not included in the list. For all those (quite a few!) people who wrote Dino (HS), Sam (CY) and Orlando (SBR)... we choose to believe you misread the question, but if you didn't... oh boy, have we got good news for you! A few people also wished for Rachel (CY) and Hiro (SBR) to be LIs, so that's another happy ending there as per the latest release. Some also wished for Diego, Baron Samedi and Jackie from SIF, and Joseph, Christian and Gustavo from SBR to be LIs, and we are happy to say that, although their routes might be a bit hidden and not all of them can be endgame LIs, you can most definitely already hookup with/romance all of them. Check the wiki for details! A few people asked for the coffee shop owner in CY... we have the feeling that we know who at least one of them is, and truth be told, that beard is dreamy so we can see their point! More bearded LIs please! Those who asked for Fyr... far from us to kink shame here, but let's just hope he turns out to be human at some point! We also have some Seraph Crowley (HS) and Angel Mora (MB) fans amongst us, as clear proof that no one is ever too old for love, plus WP Agent Phillips' manbun has also scored him some eager fans. But that one person who asked for Sean from MB... we hope for your sake you are also about 12 years old because otherwise you need an old priest, a young priest and also a police officer. ----
💎Question 4: Which LI do you think is overrated, and why?
https://preview.redd.it/nea26zpyj2a51.png?width=855&format=png&auto=webp&s=dfeefda0ad627357d4a76c4e2fef0f3b4a42deca Here are the top 10 most overrated LIs in the game according to our community. You know how they say never rest on your laurels? In a surprising (or maybe not?) twist of fate, some of the most liked LIs also topped the most overrated rankings, which goes to show that the beauty of our community is that we all have different (and sometimes opposite) opinions! So please let's not fight in the comments, haha. The most overrated LI crown goes to Lucifer with the 21.9% of the votes, (which is almost as him winning an Oscar and a Razzie on the same evening) mostly due to his behaviour, which many identify as "toxic", "abusive" and "triggering". Many readers are "not comfortable with his choking/manhandling of MC", and his "lack of respect for personal space". "Being treated poorly in the hope to finally reach a hidden soft side does not seem worth it". Some think "he needs therapy", and wonder "why he's still behaving like a teen while he's possibly thousands of years old". A reason why many dislike him however, is also "the daily flood of fanart that features him": we might all be a little Lucifered-out here on the subreddit! Tied in second place (pun fully intended!) are Alexander (CY) and Victor (MB) at 11.5%: the reasons given for both of them are surprisingly similar. Both boys are into BDSM but neither seem to "truly know the rules of consent" and people think that they "overstep boundaries a little too often". Both have been described as "creepy", "controlling" and "plain weird". Victor is also guilty of being "boring" ("I asked for a tea not for your life story in India!" - someone wrote). Both have been invited to "drop the Christian Grey act" and some people think "they would be arrested in real life if they acted this way". Oh boy. Justin (SBR) completes this unflattering podium at 9.1% because of his "obnoxious outbursts" and the way he treats MC. He is "rude" and "mean" and people seem to be willing to "pay diamonds to put him in his place". Hopefully that won't be necessary! Jake from WP is fourth at 7.8%, the main reason being that he is "too difficult to romance", "too expensive and still rude", and that "we have to solve the Da Vinci code to get him" - as someone hilariously wrote. Bad boy Brandon (SBR) scores 6.1% of the votes landing fifth place, with the word "jerk" being the most recurrently used to describe him. He is "arrogant", a "vanishing act", and "he is never nice to MC for long". Come on, Brandon! You can do better! Unclaimed Andy (HS) takes sixth place with 4.5% for being "jealous" and "annoying" - although we would maybe argue that he's not really that overrated, as far as we can see from the sub... In seventh place is Max (MB) at 4.1% but we are confused by the person who mentioned "his abs being too perfect" as a reason for disliking him. Of course, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, so... fair enough? Other words used are "too boring", otherwise many people voted for him but did not really give a reason why. Max needs to work on his PR clearly! Another tie in eight place sees Adam (Q30) and Dino (HS) score 3.7% of the votes. The Royal bodyguard is described as "a barbarian" and his behaviour as "possessive" and "controlling", while the main complaints against Dino seem for the vast majority to be directed to his looks: comments range from "his eyes look disproportionally big compared to his head" to "his hair seems separated from his face" to some people calling him a "Fabio lookalike". Beauty is in the eye of the beholder indeed! Gruff Captain Jeff (MHS) makes ninth with 3.3%, mostly because of "the dodgy power dynamic between him and MC" and his "bullying": "I like puppies is not a free get out of jail card!" someone wrote. The fact that SOS Luke "drugged MC" bags him unanimously the tenth spot with 2.8% of the votes. Not in the top ten but voted often enough to deserve a special mention are John (SOS) because of his "murderous tendencies", Derek (SOS) because "people only likes him for his glow-up", and Leonard (Q30) as "he took Emma's spot as the third main LI in the story" and "that was a cop out!" Plus "he seems so good only because the other two are the worst", someone quipped. ----
💎Question 5: Which LI do you think is underrated, and why?
https://preview.redd.it/t29ndbj8n2a51.png?width=1007&format=png&auto=webp&s=c817ac45f70f9210476feda212af736ad18b8f17 Let's all cheer ourselves up with the opposite end of the spectrum! Here are the top 10 Lis that the community think deserve more love! The answers in this question were a lot more fragmented, with a lot of random characters getting very few votes, so the ranking percentages are significantly lower than in other questions. A few people chose to write "every female LI" as this question's answer, and this is reflected in the rankings below, where way more female characters are mentioned compared to other questions. So RC, we need more screen time for badass, gorgeous, interesting female LIs! HS still carries its weight as the most popular story, with three of its main LIs topping the rankings, all lamenting the fact that they are "unfairly overshadowed by bad boy Lucifer". Andy tops the list with 8.5% of the votes: players think he is "a really good guy", "sweet", "cute", "caring", "thoughtful". They admit "he has flaws" but he "will help if you need him" and "will stand up for those he cares about". It's nice to see him getting some love! Devil cutie Mimi ends up as a close second with only a few votes of difference, at 8.1%. She is "cute", "badass", and "so cool". Many people wrote they don't usually romance female Lis but they chose her nonetheless because she is "a great LI in every way". Someone wishes RC would "flesh her out a little more" and "give her more screen time". Third spot is for Dino: a "sweetheart" and "the cutest man in the game". Jake from WP nabs fourth place with the 4.9% of votes. Players thinks the focus is too much on how hard he is to pursue, while "he is totally worth it", because after the initial coldness he becomes "sweet", "kind" and "caring". His "love for his family is another big plus", and he is always "supportive", "mature", "loyal" and "intense". Someone also wrote that "his sex scenes are amazing". Gorgeous dancer Carlos from SBR is in fifth place: he is described as "cute", "great personality", "respectful" and "the sweetest". One to watch for sure! Prince Leonard (Q30) ties with Claire (SBR) in sixth place. Leonard is "complicated", "interesting" and "clever", while Claire is "sweet", "mature" and "loyal". Seventh position is for Michael (SOS) - "cute", "affectionate", "funny" - and Kayla (WP) who's "really nice" and "one of the first female LIs that didn't seem like a complete afterthought". Eight place goes to Sam (CY) - "wholesome", "the right amount of naughty and nice", "a sweet and likeable guy" - in a tie with Chris (SIF) - "funny", "strong", "loyal", "always has your back". Ninth place is another tie between Sebastian (SIF) - "sweet" and "supportive" - and Alex (MHS) - "amazing personality", "really helpful". Last but not least the tenth place is a foursome: William (SIF) gets some love for being "good", "solid", "loyal" and "fun", in a tie with Charles (SBR) - described as "perfect", "romantic" and "caring", as well as "hot", "sexy" and "gentle" - Jackie (SIF) - "an under-appreciated king", "handsome" and "fun", and Frances (MB) - a "real badass" and "one of the best LIs in MB". So, time to replay your favourite book and try out one of these Lis instead than your usual one! ----
💎Question 6: If you could eat or drink one thing from the RC universe, what would you choose?
https://preview.redd.it/q1oepb874y951.png?width=1108&format=png&auto=webp&s=fbd376a81dffac4123ffdfd8963ef87164466f35 Max (MB) might no longer hold the crown of most loved LI in the game, but his cooking skills still hold strong. A whopping 37.2% of the people in this community would eat anything he prepares. Getting drunk on Glyft at the HS Academy takes second spot with 23.1% of the preferences, while a sugar rush after a light BDSM session in CY is all what the 13.2% of us want, completing this delicious podium. In fourth place is pizza with a bunch of MHS friends, fifth is potential death - as long as ice cream and Jake from WP are involved - and sixth is Anthony Wood's juice at one of his epic MHS parties. Dinner at the SOS circus is seventh, chosen by a fearless 3% of the community, while canapés at a jewellery fashion show in Q30 score the eighth and last place. ----
💎Question 7: If you could spend a weekend in any RC story, would you:
https://preview.redd.it/0nxu9upf4y951.png?width=680&format=png&auto=webp&s=2cbcbded6cb23da8f9f16e96e7cd65be46dee8fd An entire weekend in the RC universe! What mischief is our community planning to get up to? It looks like HS is once again top of the list, with over 38% of players willing to test their wings and get some strange and possibly corrosive blue liquid down their unclaimed throats. But LOW's gorgeous backgrounds and atmospheric setting have convinced the 16% of us to go explore a Japanese village, and possibly meet some mysterious cutie. Adelaide and her SIF crew navigate steadily in third place: 10.7% of us would follow them over the edge of the world and beyond. In fourth place is a spot of murder mystery fun in CY, as 10.3% of us would happily explore a British family mansion - bloodshed possible but not guaranteed. A diplomatic trip with the Q30 Sagar Royal Court appeals to the 6.1% of us, especially if a romantic sunset is on the bill. The quaint and frankly unsettling SOS woods do not scare the 5.7% of us, but as long as no one picks up a nice bouquet of flowers, we should all be ok. In seventh place is our favourite vampire popstar Benny Bart (MB) performing at the Taste of the Night, while eighth is a dance marathon in SBR, inclusive of a trip to romantic Paris. Tarino's somewhat unusual directorial skills in MHS score ninth place, while hot surfers in WP's Miami end up last. ----
💎Question 8: If you could get more episodes of a series that has now ended, which one would you choose?
https://preview.redd.it/qts8kk8i9y951.png?width=766&format=png&auto=webp&s=2b7135c2692b604dd9c9ad4b14bafa93cd4ecad0 It's time to go down memory lane! We loved all the stories that RC has now completed, but which one we miss the most? Side note: SIF and WP were still ongoing when this survey was first opened hence they are not featured in this list. Horror story SOS takes a clear lead, with over 47% of our community wishing we could get more adventures with MC and her friends. MB is second, with a healthy 34% of readers wishing to spend more time in the company of vampires and werewolves. Q30 is third, with 13.3% of readers missing its Royal Palace and all the intrigue coming with it, and last but not least is comedy MHS, which is missed by 5.4% of this community. ---- And now, some questions about this community's gaming habits: ----
💎Question 9: How do you usually approach LI relationships?
💎Question 12: What genre of story do you enjoy the most?
https://preview.redd.it/9ht7sl4u5y951.png?width=908&format=png&auto=webp&s=834f8b8a3f6a0c9465a3b9e74d5a3f70dfe77b9c With new stories always coming up, we were curious to know which genres this community enjoys the most. Despite the game being called Romance Club, the top of the genre ranking goes to Fantasy, with a striking 74.1% of preferences. But no worries: Romance is a steady second with a great 70.8% of the votes. Third place goes to Mystery with 65.7%. Adventure comes fourth with 55.2%, followed by Horror (42.5%), Historical (35.1%), Science Fiction (29.1%) and finally Comedy (26.4%). A very small number of people (too little to make percentage) also asked for drama, thriller, detective/crime, heist/spy, high school/teens, superheroes, zombies and time travel. All great ideas! The community has spoken though: RC, give us elves and gnomes and medieval tales of debauchery and magic! ----
💎Question 13: How long have you been playing Romance Club for?
https://preview.redd.it/irpho4w06y951.png?width=832&format=png&auto=webp&s=2f4cfd29dd89db03bfc910a5355ad8d47844668e We were curious to know for how long we all have been playing this game we love. The survey showed a good mix of old and new readers, with a clear tendency towards long-term reading, which makes us so very happy to know we are all just equally addicted. 36% stated that they have been playing for over a year, 23.6% for more than six months, 17.8% for more than three months, 16.1% for more than one month and 6.4% for less than a month. Welcome one and all, we hope you are all going to be here for the long haul! ----
💎Question 14: How did you find out about the game Romance Club?
https://preview.redd.it/3rcvli496y951.png?width=745&format=png&auto=webp&s=c48166ce7feee6ee5dab1c00fac3ea6dd3ab43ff The main way in which our community has found out about RC is through the app store/google play store (70.9%). Another subreddit is a source for 13.5% of us (we probably have to say thank you to our friends at Lovestruck and Choices!) while a friend recommended the game to 8.7% of us. Instagram (3%) and Facebook (1.5%) are also popular sources, but 2.4% of us arrived to the game through adverts, which is to us the most interesting data since in the mod team we haven't personally seen any adverts for this game - ever - so if anyone has screenshots, please post them in the comments, we are super curious! Some users (too few to make percentage) also mentioned videos and memes on TikTok or Youtube, Google Search, Tumblr, Twitter, Vkontakte or even their own sister(s) as a source. ----
💎Question 15: Which operating system do you play the game on?
💎Question 16: Which other story games do you play?
https://preview.redd.it/pcyngwew6y951.png?width=807&format=png&auto=webp&s=1e3f1f4956dfb8bc4e247d6a179a4153b62fc7da Here are the top-10 story app games we play in this community, aside from RC. Unsurprisingly, market leader Choices comes first with 53.3% of the votes. Another giant in the field, Episodes, comes second - although with quite a substantially smaller percentage of votes, clocking at 28.1%. The top-three is completed by UK TV show-inspired Love Island with the 24.6%. Chapters is the fourth most played game at 24.2%, followed by Lovestruck and Love Sick - tied at 16.1%. Moments is sixth at 13.1%, new entry on the market Stories: Love and choices follows in seventh with 5.3%, Journeys is eighth with 4.7% and The Arcana is ninth with 2.6%. The top-ten is completed by Tabou Stories: Love Episodes in a tie with Originals - both at 1.2%. Some also reminisced about Storyscapes (gone too soon but not forgotten!) and many other game apps were mentioned but by too few people to make up for an accountable percentage. We surely discovered some games we had never heard of before, though, including: Fictif, Heart's Choice, Everlasting Summer, Fancy Love, Romance: Stories and choices, Secrets: Game of choices, Fictions: Choose your emotions, Mystic Messenger, City of Love and many, many more... so thanks everyone for all these new suggestions! And to that one person who selected half a dozen games and then commented with "it is a problem!" ... trust us, you are in very, very good company here!! ---- And lastly, some demographics: ----
https://preview.redd.it/hgiuu3dq7y951.png?width=785&format=png&auto=webp&s=106185756ec1cfd67c4c1bb94a8bda1ce6f5a6d3 How old are we? The survey has spoken: 44.7% is between the ages of 18 and 24; 28.1% is between 25 and 35; 21.1% is 17 or younger; 6.1 % is 36 or older. We must admit that we did not expect so many people to be on the younger end of the spectrum! Butwe hope everyone - of all ages - will always find this subreddit to be a safe, welcoming and friendly place where to discuss this game we all love. We mods work hard every day to keep this the most relaxed and fun RC space on the net and we feel so lucky that you are all as awesome as you are! ----
💎Question 19: What is your gender identity?
https://preview.redd.it/kkr5bm1x7y951.png?width=810&format=png&auto=webp&s=90068fd1b9c2762f5b181b56af647848529c14e2 The overwhelming majority of this community (93.5%) identifies as female, while 4.6% identifies as male, 1.3% is non-binary, 0,4% identifies as genderqueer and 0.2% marked themselves as confused. The fact that MC is gender-locked female and that LGBTQ routes are limited in the game is certainly one of the reasons why our community is not more diverse. Hopefully RC will expand their stories to include more diverse gender choices in terms of MCs and LIs, so to allow more people to enjoy their great storytelling skills. ----
💎Question 20: What is your sexual orientation?
https://preview.redd.it/iskgfuk38y951.png?width=749&format=png&auto=webp&s=0d0cd01d9bedfb1f577206939bc22b959bc6921e Here's the sexual orientation of our community: 70.1% identifies as Straight/Heterosexual 22.5% identifies as Bisexual 1.9% identifies as Lesbian/WLW 1.7% identifies as Pansexual 1.5% identifies as Gay/MLM 0.4% identifies as Aromantic 0.3% identifies as Aromantic/Bisexual 0.3% identifies as Asexual 0.3% identifies as Demisexual 0.2% identifies as Asexual/Biromantic 0.2% identifies as Asexual/Heterosexual Once again, we hope that future plots featuring more diverse MC/LIs will attract more diverse players to our community. ---- That's all folks! We hope you found these results interesting and we look forward to a new survey once we hit 5000 users! Until then... happy gaming and thanks for making this awesome community as great as it is! :) 💎 RomanceClub mods 💎 💎u/LauraVi 💎u/swankytutu 💎u/directormmn 💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎💎
THE SEARCH FOR THE GREATEST SWITCH SHMUP: EPISODE 28 – Raiden V: Director’s Cut
Before I begin, I just want to remind everyone that all of my reviews can be found at my site: www.azormx.com. I tried to keep it as minimalist as possible, and it doesn't have any add or any other intrusive elements, so the content is king. Do check it out, as reviews are usually live there before I publish them elsewhere. Any way, on to the review! The shmup genre hasn’t been a mainstream genre in a long time. To be honest, I don’t think it ever was, even during the arcade days. While we certainly don’t have a shortage of shmups, let alone new release, they usually come from smaller teams. Indies have taken it upon themselves to become a guiding light for all of us. Their creations have been nothing short of amazing! However, we don’t really have anything we could call a “AAA” shmup. We do seem to have the next closest thing: Raiden. Developer: Moss Co. Platform: Nintendo Switch Release date: Jul 25, 2019 Price: $29.99 Tate: Unfortunately… no. This really needed to have TATE Raiden V: Director’s Cut is a vertical shmup set in a fictional but real world. It claims to be the original bullet-hell, and after playing it extensively I gotta say that I agree. Raiden V features some intense air combat, coupled with giant bosses and some jaw-dropping transitions between areas.
THE GREAT INTRO CHECKLIST
Right out of the gate, what caught my attention was the intro. The best way I can put this is that it has everything great about shmups in a short video. It has a great track, it has giant enemies, it has ships and it even has pieces of lore I do not understand! Simply amazing! Most importantly, it is a very accurate portrayal as to what you should expect from the game. Unlike other shmups, Raiden goes all out in the presentation department, with the story taking a mayor role. Another way I can put this, is that it certainly feels like a considerable effort was placed in every element of the game. Raiden V features a level of polish that very few shmups can claim to have.
WELCOME TO THE CUSTOMIZATION STATION
One of Raiden’s strength is the amount of customization you have available for your ship. At the beginning of the game, you can choose between one of 3 different ships: Azuma, Spirit of Dragon and Moulin Rouge. Each of these ships has different stats in terms of attack, defense and speed. They also have their own sub-shot which is always firing along with your main cannon. On top of selecting a ship, you can arm yourself with 3 out of 9 different weapons. Those 9 weapons are grouped into 3 categories: Vulcan, Laser and Plasma. You can pick, or rather you must pick 1 for each category. The result is a combat style that is unique to you. During your play throughs, you will encounter several power-up orbs. These orbs will power up each of your weapons up to 10 times! Each of these orbs can be either red, blue or purple depending on the weapon it powers up. The orbs cycle the colors, with an outer dot indicating a timer until it changes colors. This allows you to control which weapon you want to power up, giving you the flexibility to pick your own style or choose a weapon for the occasion. The best part is that absolutely no power-ups are lost upon death! This means that you are free to retry to your heart's content and play at your own pace. Raiden won't punish you or set you up for failure with an unrecoverable situation. I didn’t put too much attention into weapon selection at first. I figured it wouldn’t be too relevant, as I would probably just play the entire game with a single weapon, but the advanced scoring mechanics and the rank system were quick to make me second guess my decision.
At the core of Raiden V, there are 2 main systems to be aware of: your rank and your flash level. Both of them measure your combat capabilities, although in different ways. Your flash point gauge is a score multiplier that tracks how fast you defeat your enemies. By defeating enemies as soon as possible after spawning, you can earn higher multipliers to increase your flash gauge. By having quick kills, you can raise it to higher levels to increase your score. Your rank, on the other hand, only concerns itself with how many enemies you’ve defeated. Your rank doubles as the deciding factor of which path you will be taking. Raiden features branching paths with an A, B, C or S version of each stage. Depending on your total destruction rate, you will either move up or down in rank after a stage. While I do not know the exact numbers, I believe having more than 98% destruction rate will increase your rank, 90 – 98% will keep it as is and <90% should decrease your rank. S rank stages are presumably harder than A/B/C stages, with C being the lowest. Apart from having a higher score and challenging yourself with the difficulty, the importance of S rank is getting the true ending. In order to truly watch the ending of the game, you need to reach the final stage on S rank using a single credit. You also need to power up your 3 weapons to level 10. Once you meet those conditions, you will be able to challenge the final boss. Alternatively, you could just fulfill the level 10 weapons condition to fight the true final boss.
THE BEST CHEERLEADER
A new addition to Raiden V is the cheer system. By accomplishing certain in-game milestones like a certain number of enemies destroyed, you will get an achievement. These achievements are broadcasted to any players connected to the leaderboards. They can then “cheer” on your achievement to increase your cheer gauge. This goes both ways, as you can also cheer the achievements of your fellow Raiden players. Once the cheer gauge is full, you can unleash it to clear the screen and gain a drastically stronger sub-shot. Think of it as a devastating bomb, only more devastating and easier to fill. It clears screens and decimates even the bosses. Perhaps many people won’t think too much of it, but I found it really interesting to know that there’s someone on the other side celebrating my achievements. Likewise, there were times where I left my game on pause to do other stuff, but held on to my controller to provide support for my comrades.
Everything I’ve mentioned before plays out in the general strategy of the game. Assuming you want to get the best results, you need to know where to hit and how to hit hard. For the untrained eye, most shmups just look like games where you fire away with complete disregard and hope the enemy dies. This is definitely not the case in Raiden. In order to succeed, you must be able to find your rhythm and read the stage. Learn the enemy formations and strategize the quickest kills. Be there before the enemy arrives and take them down before they realize what hit them. If you want to face the true final boss, then you must also learn to juggle your weapons and find the moments to upgrade them. Maxing a weapon and then switching is a recipe for disaster, as you don’t want to be on the later stages with a level one weapon and risk your flash level or destruction rate. With so many weapons and ship types, your strategy to succeed will be unique to you!
One of the main selling points, at least per the game itself, is the story. Raiden V features an extensive story that is fully voiced and occurs as you play the game. This story elements come as the prologue and epilogue scenes, as well as all the events happening mid stage. As you fly your way to the levels, characters will be advancing the story by having conversations and narrating the current events. The dialogue is available on one of the gadgets located on the right side of the screen. You can read anything you might have missed and even pause to read the on-screen log of events (up to a certain number of events, as the log scrolls to open way for new text). As for my opinion of the story, I have absolutely no idea of what happened during the game. I played my fair share of runs, but I found it next to impossible to focus on the dialogue while trying my hardest to survive. The voice acting would have been my saving grace, but I found the sound mixing to be the opposite of ideal for listening to dialogue. I even tried lowering the sound effects and BGM to see if I could focus on dialogue to no avail. The text is also incredibly small when playing on docked mode. It gets even worse when playing handheld.
THE WORST CHEERLEADER
Out of all the voices, Eshiria’s was the one who got on my nerves the most at the beginning. Other than having her role as navigator on the plot, she also critiques your gameplay. In-between stage scenes, she will provide commentary describing your gameplay. She will be quick to point out if you did well, but also if you did poorly. On my early runs, when I was still learning, it would tilt me to listen to her complaining to me about stats I did not understand. And perhaps, a huge part of my problems was a lack of understanding of the game mechanics. I listened to her complain about my destruction rate without knowing it was about my rank. She also complained about destruction speed without me knowing it was about the flash point. The problem is that the game never bothered explaining any of its mechanics to me. I really looked around for some sort of tutorial to no avail. I had to resort to 3rd party resources. While that isn’t uncommon, I really don’t like games with obscure mechanics that can’t be discerned in-game. Once I got better and consistently reach the S levels, I finally started to value her advice. Of course, I wouldn’t count on everyone reaching the same enlightenment as I did. In my opinion, her comments would more often than not add insult to injury. Once again, it’s not really the commentary, it’s the fact that none of what she said made practical sense until I started digging on the wiki.
GADGETS AND THE SCREEN REAL ESTATE
Perhaps the worst omission from Raiden V is the lack of a TATE mode. Vertical shooters don’t really have an excuse to do this, with the existence of add-ons like the flip grip or rotating monitors. Instead, Raiden decided to make the most out of the free space and add several gadgets. In standard fashion, these gadgets will keep your stats like score, flash level, the dialogue and even hi-score statistics. Your left gadget can even be cycled between the score chart and cheer notification, in-game tips and global statistics. Out of those, the tips are definitely the winners. They do give some important advice, such as staying on top of the guns of the first boss to avoid damage.
NOT A FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD
Every stage is divided into smaller scenes. These scenes serve as a way to catch your breath and tally your score. There’s even a nifty “restart scene” option that allows you to replay a scene. Choosing to restart will deny you the option to upload your score to the leaderboard, but serves as a great way to practice or even “fix” a run to so can get to the true ending. Every once in a while, the action will pan out and open the way to a bigger stage, with you looking smaller in comparison. I admire the grandioseness of the resulting scenes, but they were also quite impractical. Think about your weapons, the destruction rate and the flash gauge. An extended stage means longer travel distances from side to side. Having a bigger stage means you move slower, which reduces the pacing of the game to a crawl. Reaching enemies quickly becomes a struggle. Worst yet, I’ve counted times where it took me whopping 5 seconds to go from side to side of the stage.
THE OG BULLET HELL
Despite all the fun of blasting enemies quickly to gain flash levels, I gotta say that I found the combat, specifically the bullets, to be lacking in grace. For a game that’s the original bullet hell, most enemy volleys feel like bullet showers. There’s no finesse in them, just a bunch of bullets moving towards you. Dodging them isn’t fun, it’s survival. The problem only gets worse in higher difficulties where the bullets just go faster. Not all patterns are as bad though. While the vast majority will be just a bunch on increasingly faster bullets thrown at you, some exceptional patterns will show from time to time. As a result, fights tend to be very hit or miss, with both hits and misses being on their respective extremes. What certainly doesn’t help is that the bullets are very hard to see. As pretty as the backgrounds might be, they are very busy and the quick motion makes them into a blur. Bullets don’t have their characteristic outlines or color palettes to become distinguishable. Some even blend with your own vulcan. The result is a lot of cheap kills caused by intentional obfuscation. It this was their intention, then perhaps I’m being too harsh, but you know visibility is usually one of my pet peeves in shmups.
REPLAYABILITY AND LONGEVITY
As far as game length goes, I consider Raiden V to be one of the longer ones. I was surprised after my first run of the game, as it took me 50+ minutes to complete the campaign. Usually, my baseline for shmups is around half an hour, which made this one almost twice as long. While I’m not fond of longer campaigns, I know a lot of people would certainly be glad to know there is plenty of content. Of course, playing through the campaign isn’t enough to view the entire game. If you recall, most stages have 4 versions of themselves. Those versions are separated by the ranks: S/A/B/C. This means you would need at least 4 runs to see everything the game has to offer. There’s also 6 different endings to uncover. Also new to the Director’s Cut edition are 2 bonus levels. These level are slightly different from your typical levels. The bonus missions will challenge you to fight a new boss ir oder to obtain medals. Dealing damage will detach the medals from the boss, allowing you to catch them. Gather enough medals and you will advance to the next phase. Higher medals mean higher ranking. Taking damage will take medals away from you, so surviving continues to be a priority. Lastly, there is a new boss mission mode that allow you to play “boss rush” missions. These missions have certain conditions, like using a specific weapon or fighting at a specific HP level. The targets are usually 1-3 bosses. Boss mission is a very fun arcadey mode for those who enjoyed the boss fights and want more of them.
If there’s a factor that merits my highest praise is the sound department. Simply put, the OST is fantastic. The track length syncs perfectly with the stages, and it always fits the mood. I just couldn’t get enough of the OST, and listening to it while writing this review was the recipe for a perfect Sunday! I also got some good coffee that would make the captain proud. For all the praise the music gets from me, it still is dragged down by the terrible sound mixing. Similarly to the voice acting, I tried to mess with the sound settings to increase the volume and reduce the sound effects, but it still wasn’t enough. The tracks were great but I struggled to listen to them amidst all the explosions. The calm moments were great, as they let me listen to the songs in peace.
Raiden is a master class in shmup design for the wrong reasons. Its high points perfectly illustrate how shmups should look and feel. The low points also show what you should NOT do when creating a shmup game. Despite all of this, it all comes down to how fun a game is. Raiden V is a very fun game. It isn’t different, but it’s certainly very polished. I delivers some levels of quality that are notably absent in the majority of the games. As a concept, I feel like it serves as an example of how current gen shmups should be. The execution fell flat in some regards, but as a whole I was satisfied with the time I spent with the game. It does come with a hefty price tag, so my advice is to check this game out when you find a decent sale. I got mine at -70%.
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