I am not a top-100 player, as given the inevitable RNG of effects, matchups and draws in card games, and the lack of rewards for ranking up in LoR, I simply don't see the point in painstakingly grinding up to such a level. The highest I've climbed is low Diamond, but considering the above knowledge, I believe that at a certain skill level (perhaps at around Platinum), it's more about how much time one can put in than how skilled they are. HOWEVER, considering all this, I have the absolute conviction that this deck is a top-100 worthy deck.
This is the only deck that I've played since Day 1 of Call of the Mountain, with various modifications, and I believe that it is a completely undiscovered meta unicorn. I've never faced a similar deck on ladder, and my deckbuilding experiments with any other archtypes have left me completely unsatisfied with the lack of interaction and agency, as well as the sheer counterability of the vast majority of tools currently out there. A lot of people are frustrated with the current meta - a lot of points of which are covered by BruisedByGod in his recent video critique. To summarize his main points:
Most answers are completely outclassed by threats
Sheer lack of healing options locks out deckbuilding choices
Most top-tier strategies prey on lack of interactivity (Pirate Burn, Lee Sin OTK, Star Spring)
This is a Control deck which, while originally devised to prey on the inevitably popular Aurelion Sol and Troll Chant and abuse the broken, flexible toolbox of Invoke on Day 1, also manages to both answer all 3 of these problems efficiently.
Lunari Duskbringer x 3
Spacey Sketcher x 3
Lunari Shadestalker x1
Pale Cascade x 3
Unspeakable Horror x 2
Vile Feast x 3
Simply the best available early-game that an Invoke Targon deck could hope to muster - Diana functioning as both early game and late-game removal (we have just enough Nightfall Synergy) for practically no investment, Pale Cascade being legitimately one of the most broken cards currently in the game, and the ping cards also serving a modicum of uses at all stages of a match. Spacey Sketcher has been severely underrated so far - providing critical tools for certain matchups and/or providing early game minions without needing to actually run them (a fundamental weakness of faster decks top-decking late). Its 'discard-replace' synergy with our late-game, as well as Duskpetal Dust and meta-call flex cards is just icing on the cake. Finally, note how every early game card I've chosen scales well and still plays a role as the game goes later; as removal, Elusive blocking, tool-building, Burst-speed Nightfall, pings and cantrip Combat Tricks. This is an often overlooked but fundamental difference between Control early-drops, and aggro early-drops (such as Precious Pet). ~
Sunburst x 3
Vengeance x 3
These two cards, combined with any generated Obliterates, form the only proper removal this deck has - and were the catalyst for me creating this deck in the first place. All three of these removal types leave almost NO room for the opponent to interact with them, and I believe that is the sole condition for a high-cost removal spell to be playable in the current game state. NOTE: Ruination is easily and always played around at a high-level of play - and leaves the opponent with ALL of the agency/choice to play around it/bait it exactly how they wish, instead of you (whose only options are to play the card too early and get out-tempo'd afterward, use more than 3 mana elsewhere to catch-up at which point it becomes unplayable, or lose the game to a sudden-attack completely at your opponent's discretion) - the ultimate NO-NO for this deck: I never even considered putting it in. ~
Meta Call Flex Spots
Divergent Paths x 2
At times I feel as if this card could be cut to 1 copy, but right now 2 feels great against the current meta, and drawing into at least one is almost necessary in order to compete with Star Spring (Obliterate is conditional and too great a tempo loss early on). In other metas previously, I've experimented with 1 copy of Passage Unearned, as well as 2 extra copies of Lunari Shadestalker. ~
Literally Everything Else One Could Ever Hope to Need
Lunari Priestess x 2
Solari Priestess x 3
Mountain Scryer x 3
Moondreamer x 3
Starshaping x 3
I still believe that Invoke is one of the most broken mechanics currently in the game. This is one of the heaviest late-game decks I can possibly imaginable, yet the only cards above 5-mana we run are removal, and our mid-game minions and healing straight up provide whatever early OR late-game tools we might possibly need in any matchup - it's simply overly flexible (flexilibity in card games being a MUCH bigger deal than most people give it credit for) and not enough of a tempo/stat sacrifice IMO. I think that Invoke as a mechanic is even stronger when ran in bulk, and especially in a Control deck - as the game goes on slowly you generate a toolbox that can handle just about any dynamic situation that meta decks can throw your way. The spell-mana nerf to Living Legends has balanced it out quite a bit, however the same-nerf to Cosmic Inspiration still hasn't convinced me that it isn't in the top 5 least healthy effects that a game based on carefully stat-balanced of minion trading could ever have (hit me up with your Cosmic Inspiration hate!) - a large proportion our games are won by this disgusting effect. Solari Priestess and Starshaping need no introduction as some of the most popular, utilitarian Invoke cards, however Mountain Scryer and Moondreamer (not so much Lunari Priestess) really put in the work, and I've never seen anyone else play these cards. The former provides crazy mana-advantage as the game goes on given our huge focus on Celestials (it's a shame we can't afford to push its Invoke chances even higher), and the latter has juuussst the right stat distribution at 3/5 to blockade most midgame tempo plays out opponent might go for. NOTE: Aurelion Sol is straight up unnecessary to compete late-game, is always burdensome and clunky draw, ruins our surprise factor (though that doesn't exist anymore with this post being made), and we often outvalue decks running him anyway (don't forget that the original premise of this deck was 'How can I best remove Aurelion?'). ~
Matchups/Strategy (Order Based on Mobalytics Tier List)
Lee Sin (60/40)
A somewhat favored matchup - although more recent lists that have cut Bastion in favor of Nopify may be a bit more in their favor (a proper Ping Counter). Hard mulligan for Spacey Sketcher, Sunburst and our pings. Generating Silence (Equinox) for Mentor of the Stones/Zenith Blade is our main early game goal. Our Mid-to-Late game goal is removing all 3 Lee Sin's at the expense of practically everything else (the rest of their deck is pretty much completely irrelevant, but rushing them down is also pretty much impossible) - after which our win is basically guaranteed.
This matchup is sadly the most binary thing: Sunburst/Vengeance/Ping's VS Lee Sin/Spell Denial/Zenith Blade
The rest of both decks are basically irrelevant other than to slow down the level up/speed up the level up/Draw into above cards
Draw Draw Draw + Always save enough mana to Removal Spell + Ping if the opponent has 4 mana up late game
I believe that we are very, very heavily favored if played properly (although it's a VERY nuanced matchup to play right), and most of our losses come from bricking our early-game draws and/or not drawing/generating a single Starshaping/Golden Sister as their burn damage inevitably builds up. Hard mulligan for all 1/2 cost cards (only keep 1 Pale Cascade with a 1/2 cost minion).
NEVER, EVER play early minions proactively (e.g. NO turn 1 Lunari Duskbringer unless they play something) - only ever match however many minions the opponent has AND trade right away to minimise Make it Rain/TF value (For instance, if you proactively play a minion with nothing to trade it into, and then find yourself needing to play, say, Diana/Solari Priestess later - the opponent is basically guaranteed free additional AOE value: make EVERY chump blocker count)
ALWAYS open attack into Powder Keg's (usually with our single developed minion)
Take ANY trade you can get (even if somewhat unfavorable) to clear both sides of the board going into turn 8 - one of the ways we can lose is if Riptide Rex clears our heavy board and we only have time to develop one chump blocker before the onslaught - especially because Riptide is MUCH stronger against minions than the nexus > Late game, try to keep both sides of the board as empty as possible
If you find yourself with priority against their activated Plunder past turn 8, play small minions to bait out Rex without having to pass the turn OR play larger minions, especially with uneven health like Moondreamer to protect the rest of your board from potential cannons
ALWAYS try to find a NON-Rex'able position late game to develop Golden Sister, and save Pale Cascade if possible to protect her from Noxian Fervor and recover 6 previous health
ALWAYS have enough mana to remove Leviathan if the opponent has more than 8 mana on any given turn (prioritise Leviathan over Swain himself)
Sacrifice minions to TF attacks and remove Zap Sprayfin ASAP to minimise chip damage (which really builds up)
Be careful and make sure you always have a way to prevent Swain connecting with the Nexus (even if they develop him this turn and open attack the next); Pale Cascade is a good tool here
Pirate Aggro (55/45)
We are much more prone to bricking on draws here than Swain/TF, as we need quite a specific hand to deal with their onslaught - This is probably our most draw-dependent, low-agency matchup by far - as face-deck matchups tend to be. In addition - Captain Farron is much more effective against our removal strategy than the likes of Leviathan. Nonetheless, from my experience I think that we're still every-slightly-so favored in this matchup - often winning by the skin of our teeth. Starshaping/Golden Sister are mandatory late-game, and not bricking by not drawing/generating either is also basically a loss. Hard mulligan for all 1/2 drops, and keep a single Sunburst for Gangplank if your hand is already looking great.
There's nothing much to say here given the nature of their deck - pray your draws are good and take the obvious trades
A very unfavored and binary matchup (see below as to why) that has luckily become rarer recently. Mulligan for Removal/Invoke cards.
Save Starshaping for when you can actually make use of the heal (don't just play it on turn 3 because they're 'starting off slowly' - it's very important to maximise your leeway to survive Atrocity later on)
Try to remove Trundle on curve with Sunburst/Vengeance
Generate/Stockpile removal throughout the midgame
Sadly, none of these choices really matter in the end and the match comes down to luck - if Warmother's pulls a Level 1 Tryndamere on their attacking turn, the obvious open attack followed by a loss is all but guaranteed (Vengeance doesn't stop Atrocity in this case - leading to too great a health/tempo loss, and my previous Passage Unearned tech to deal with specifically this scenario simply wasn't worth the dead card in other matchups). We can also lose to a big levelled Trundle, or simply not generating/drawing into enough removal. Sadly these cases happen more often than not. Warmother's generated too much tempo if left unchecked by hard removal for even a single turn so there is little leeway for bad luck.
If Warmothers' timing and Invoke/draws are on our side, the matchup becomes pretty simple - Smartly use about a removal spell on their big guys for about 8 turns, play around Ruination and Atrocity, then cruise to victory.
This deck was basically created on Day 1 specifically to destroy Trundle/Asol. Sadly though, even at 75/25 the matchup is worse than it should be due to the nature of Invoke RNG - if one player draws into Cosmic Inspiration and the other didn't the match is over, full stop + the occasional shenanigans involving The Great Beyond uninteractibly going face and non-stop Living Legends value. Mulligan for Sunburst, Vengeance and pings.
Remove Trundle ASAP with Sunburst (Vengeance/Obliterates are best saved for Asol so getting Sunburst value while Trundle is still unleveled and 6 health is a big deal in terms of removal distribution)
Always try to remove Asol on the first turn he's played with Vengeance chaining into a ping to minimise the opponent's chance of getting game-winning Invoke RNG/matching your late-game value with free Celestials
If you still haven't drawn a ping late game, try to fish for Crescent Strike with Spacey Sketcher
Play around 7-mana Asol (Augur of the Old Ones) as much as possible
Pray you draw Cosmic Inspiration and the opponent doesn't
Discard Aggro (80/20)
I don't know why this deck is considered competitive - maybe because our matchup here is basically as favored as TF/Swain except without any gameplay nuance required on our part. Mulligan for 1-2 drops. Keep Solari Priestess/Sunburst if hand is good. Only necessary statistical losses to bad early draws against an aggro archtype.
Make obvious trades. Play around Mystic Shot on Diana. Chump block Draven/Jinx. Remove Draven/Jinx. Profit.
Another draw dependent, but quite favored matchup. Quite difficult to play though - you need to balance maintaining some modicum of tempo whilst also being able to deal with their crucial threats. Mulligan for 1-2 drops ESPECIALLY Pale Cascade/Pings, and Removal.
DON'T play ANY minion with less than 3 attack from turns 1-4 UNLESS you're getting tempo'd into the ground OR you have Pale Cascade (otherwise Fiora gets a free trade and the opponent gets to use their buffs reactively rather than proactively - giving you less leeway to remove her)
Save ping's for Fiora Barrier's, NOT Fleetfeather Tracker UNLESS you're getting tempo'd into the ground
Save a removal spell and mana for turn 3 Fiora, turn 4 Shen, turn 6 Genevieve and turn 9 Brightsteel UNLESS you're getting tempo'd into the ground
Basically the Pirate Aggro matchup but a tad bit slower and with no burn - giving you more leeway to make up for bad draws both early and late.
Make the obvious trades, pray to draw well and don't to let Genevieve get 2 attacks off
Basically the Trundle/Asol matchup except with no 'must remove ASAP' threats giving you more leeway to make up for bad draws. Celestial RNG and especially Cosmic Inspiration still give them a chance to win as usual. ~
Shyvana Dragons (50/50?)
I surprisingly, haven't faced too much of this deck yet personally, but looking at it's cards compared to ours, I think the matchup would be about 50/50 (an otherwise favourable looking matchup affected a bit by their high tempo removal and guaranteed Cosmic Inspiration in the form of Kadregrin). ~
This matchup is dependent on whether we draw removal for Ashe somewhat on curve, how much tempo they manage to build early on and whether we draw good enough to afford to play around Reckoning. Mulligan for Sunburst, Solari Priestess, Pings and Diana (only if you've already drawn support) as our other standard early drops are all pretty ineffective against theirs.
Remove Ashe ASAP
Try to Vengeance Sejuani on the attack if she directly attacks your Frostbitten minion in order to prevent the free value trade and maintain tempo on board.
Play around Reckoning as much as possible, especially if it wouldn't affect their own board too much compared to yours - maximise your 5+ attack minions to theirs if Reckoning begins to look more likely
Try to bait out an invested attack/Frostbite support for Trifarian Gloryseeker before pinging her - especially because Elixir of Iron is a bit rarer nowadays
Probably our most favored meta-deck matchup, and unfortunately rarer recently. Their win conditions - Kalista, Blighted Caretaker tempo, Neverglade Collector and They Who Endure simply don't stand a chance against our toolbox. Most losses come from unanswered Blighted Caretaker tempo. Mulligan for Spacey Sketcher, Sunburst and Pale Cascade.
ALWAYS pick Silence (For They Who Endure) or Stun (For Blighted Caretaker) off Spacey Sketcher
Try to hold a minion to play on turn 3/4 to kill an attacking Kalista with Pale Cascade AND get the Nightfall card draw
Play as reactively as possible with your pings - playing them proactively will almost always be answered by Glimpse Beyond, and when they run out of gas later on they will be forced to play their Glipmse proactively - your chance to strike!
Silence/Sunburst Blighted Caretaker as it comes down
SAVE Vengeance for They Who Endure - going into the late game, stockpile Silence/Sunburst and Vengeance and maintain enough mana (usually open-attacking) if necessary (IF can still afford to play They Who Endure that turn) to use one of the former followed by Vengeance to counter into their Atrocity: with this line of play, it's basically impossible to lose the combo
The biggest downside and sheer impossible matchup of this archtype. Maokai manages to pack even less interactivity/inevitability than we do, and the nature of our deck gives us no chance of out-tempoing Deep early OR late. Auto-concede. ~
A simpler aggro matchup than the others. Mulligan for 1-2 drops - especially Spacey Sketcher and Diana, as well as Sunburst.
ALWAYS pick the Stun spell off Spacey Sketcher, and save it for Diana, or of lesser priority, Nocturne/Ephemerals off Stalking Shadows
Removing Nocturne ASAP with either Sunburst or Vengeance is a HUGE priority
ALWAYS play around Pale Cascade
Play around Atrocity and Doombeast damage later on in the match
Another matchup that I haven't faced too much of just yet. Mulligan hard for Divergent Paths and Solari Priestess - Once we remove their uninteractive element trump-card in the Landmark win-condition, if we can survive their early tempo, the rest of the match should be a cinch given our heal/health-ignoring conditionless removal for their Champions. ~
Thanks for reading up to this point, and pardon my formatting, the ridiculous length and the sheer pomposity of it all. I still think Invoke is flexible to the point of being broken and the only reason the matchup spread is so good. I also think that with the release of this guide - more people will come to recognise this archtype and the element of surprise affecting enemy mulligans against an assumed more aggro, Nightfall-focused Diana archtype will be lost. People will also know to play around less common cards such as Sunburst, and I expect winrates to fall somewhat across the board. To conclude this guide, I'd like to say that this is this is not a healthy deck. At the deepest level, this deck is fundamentally about removing agency from your opponent and giving it to yourself, as well as securing the critical boon of having inevitability over your opponent in a game with the nature of LoR. If all decks were like this, LoR would completely cease to be fun. What else do I think is unhealthy right now? - Simple: anything removing interactivity from your opponent - ESPECIALLY as a win condition; Maokai, Star Spring, Cosmic Inspiration, Lee Sin. The avenues through which these cards can be interacted with are way too limited right now. A lot of the metagame nowadays is about having an uninteractable win condition, or focusing damage to face so fast the opponent has no chance to react - another form of non-interactivity. Here's hoping that the meta in the near future heads back in the direction of the close but fair midrange board battles we all came to love back in vanilla LoR. ~ (slinx4)
Gentlemen, Ladies and those otherwise addressed - we know you've been waiting for a good thing, and the survey results are finally ready! The answers were collected from you all during August 2020 with 1428 unique replies. That's a participation of 0.5% of all subscribers! That's really not too bad, when you keep in mind how popular these kind of surveys are. But we here at /peloton want to show you that this is all about presenting the information in the subreddit to cater better to our audience! Updated after a few hours to include some more historical data the final edit that for some reason wasn't copied properly
Without further ado, let's get cracking on the response
You and Cycling
1. Where do you live?
Largely the same picture as ever, with the US leading the way, the UK in second and then a sliding scale of Europeans countries. Slovenia continues to pick its way up the pile for obvious reasons! World Map to demonstrate
2. What's your age?
Pretty much the same as last year, with the usual reddit demographics of majority 20 somethings dominating.
3. What's your gender?
More normality here for reddit.
4. How much of the men's season do you watch/follow?
March '18 (%)
August '18 (%)
WT Stage races
WT One day races
Non WT Stage races
Non WT One day races
Literally everything I can consume
Whilst GT following may be down (somehow), all the lower level stuff is up, which makes sense considering how desperate we have been for any racing during the season shutdown.
5. Do you maintain an interest in women's professional road racing?
Do you maintain an interest in women's professional road racing?
Still very much a half/half interest in women's cycling on the subreddit.
6. How much of the women's season do you follow?
The following is true for the half of you that follows womens cycling.
Just the biggest televised events
Most of the live televised/delayed coverage stuff
All televised racing
Down to .Pro & beyond
7. How long have you been watching cycling?
Under a year
25 years +
Simplified the years a little this time, but whilst we have a fair number of newbies, most people have picked the sport up since around 2013/14.
8. Do you have like/dislike feelings about WT teams?
Once more, 14.4% of people really don't have feelings on the subject. Of those that do:
So, the most popular team this year is Jumbo-Visma, followed by Quick-Step & Bora-hansgrohe. Least popular are Ineos & UAE. As per usual, no one cares about NTT & CCC, with nearly 81% of users rating NTT as meh. Pretty damning stuff. Lastly, we have the usual historical comparison of how teams have fared over time, normalised to respondents to that question on the survey. Things to note then, firstly that the Astana redemption arc is over, seeing them back in the negative, maybe Fulgsangs spring issues helped aid that? The petrodollar teams of UAE & Bahrain are stubbornly negative too, with Israel keeping up the Katusha negative streak. Meanwhile, at the top end, EF & Jumbo go from strength to strength, whilst some others like Sunweb are sliding over time - their transfer policies no doubt helping that.
10. Do you ride a bike regularly?
No, I don't
Still a fairly small group of racers out of all of us
11. Out of the sports you practice, is cycling your favourite?
A new addition to the survey prompted by a good point last time, just over half of us rate cycling as the favourite sport we actually do.
12. What other sports do you follow?
Association Football / Soccer
Track & Field
Esports (yes, this includes DotA)
Motorsports (Not including F1)
Football always tops the charts, and Formula 1 continues to rank extremely highly among our userbase. Those who have a little following below 5% include Sailing, Fencing, Surfing, Boxing & Ultra-Running. Other cycling disciplines
13. Out of the sports you follow, is cycling your favourite sport?
Good. Makes sense if you hang out here.
14. How often do you participate in a /Peloton Race Thread whilst watching a race?
I always participate in Race Threads during races
I follow Race Threads during races
I often participate in Race Threads during races
I rarely/never participate in Race Threads during races
Slightly less invested than before, reverting back to an older trade.
15. How do you watch Races?
Free Local TV
Desperately scrabbling for Youtube highlights
Paid Streaming services
Year on year, paid streaming services go up - the increasing availability of live content legally continues to improve, and so do the numbers on the survey.
16. Where else do you follow races live (in addition to watching them)?
We can safely say that most of us were wrong about this one. That's not a lot of confidence in Richie Porte either, the man who was to finish on the third spot of the podium. Alexander Foliforov (0,23%) had just a tiny number of votes less, and that man wasn't even in the race.
24. What for you was the defining cycling moment of the previous decade?
We had a lot of brilliant suggestions, but these were the clear five favourites when we tabulated the results.
2018 Giro - Chris Froome Solo Attack
2016 TDF - Chris Froome Running up Ventoux
2019 TDF - Landslides, First Columbian Winner, Pinot's bitter abandon - This was one race for the ages
2016 Paris-Roubaix - Mostly known for Tom Boonen losing. Also, some guy called Mat won.
2019 AGR - MvdP with his incredible catch-up for the win.
Honorable mentions go to the Giro 2018, which had Tom Dumoulin winning, and of almost identical fascination to many of you - Tom Dumoulin going on someones porta-potty in the middle of the stage. Little bit of recency bias perhaps, but that's better than ignoring that this was for the last decade and firmly insisting Tom Boonens 2005 WC win was the biggest thing. Special shoutout to almost all the Danes present in /peloton who voted for Mads Pedersens WC win last year. It's an understandable reaction.
25. Any suggestions for the Survey?
Could you add a section on rider popularity, same as for the teams?
Ask how people became interested in cycling
Ask how people watch cycling (e.g. TV Channels/Streaming etc.)
If you could be an animal for one day, which one would it be?
Would you wear a facemask while watching a cycling race live?
Which race do you look forward to see the most every year?
Favourite riders of your own country?
How many bikes do you own?
We promise to feature one of these suggestions in the next survey Suggestions
Always have a “no” or “not interested” option
We will try to implement this. But it will also skew results. About the Survey
More questions about womens cycling would be nice.
Less questions about womens cycling
The subscribers are torn on Women's cycling, nearly a 50/50 split there as the survey showed - The moderators at /peloton are firmly in the "more cycling is better" basket, and we will continue to get as good coverage of womens cycling as possible.
Are you trying to give the moderators PTSD? Because this is how you give the moderators PTSD.
26. Any suggestions for the sub?
More stationary fitness bike related content
ALSJFLKAJSLDKJAØLSJKD:M:CSAM)=#/()=#=/")¤=/)! - Your moderator seems to be out of function. Please stand by while we find you a new moderator
The Weekly threads are great for these types of questions, where several people can contribute and build up once it is understood which information is relevant.
Allow limited doping talk in result threads.
Our experience is that "limited" will never be so, if we're going to moderate it fairly. Moderating is not a popularity contest, but believe it or not, we're actually trying to be as fair as possible. and for that, we need rules that are not subjective. Unless you have a stationary exercise bike.
Written original content is always great - recaps, old race reviews or interesting rider bios, etc.
More non-race threads
Try and do some AMAs with pro cyclists, coaches, trainers, etc
All of these are good suggestions, but remember that all of you can also contribute - The mods are sometimes stretched thin, specially in the middle of hectic race schedules. It's easier if one of you has a way to contact a rider or a person of interest and can facilitate the initial communication.
Standardize major event thread titles for better search.
We've worked on this! The Official Standard is now as follows: [Race Thread] 202x Race Name – Stage X (Class)
A wiki that explains how races work. Roles of diff riders/support staff. History of racing.
This sounds as a nice community project for the after-season, and hopefully many of you subscribers can contribute.
Tidy up the sidebar!
Come with suggestions on how to tidy it up!
Don't assume everyone reading is a man, "thanks, bro". But that goes for all of Reddit. I know you can't fix that.
We have chastised all the mods. They are now perfectly trained in gender-neutral pronouns. Be well, fellow being.
Have a buy you a beer link for the mods for all the work you do.
If we can implement this for hard liquor, you know we will.
Remove the spoiler rule during grand tours. It kills the hype.
The spoiler rule is one that is discussed frequently - in general - some users absolutely hate it, but a majority love it. Perhaps we'll include a question in the next survey to see how this divide is exactly.
Lose the spoiler tag when it is for serious things; Lambrecht death, Jakobsen fall.
We actually do - whenever there is a matter of life or death, we think public information is more important than a spoiler rule. But at the same time, we try to collect all the different posts into one main thread, so to keep things focused and letting very speculative posts meet with hard evidence from other sources.
Less downvoting of opinions that differ from the fashionable consensus.
This is a tough ask of the internet. While we can agree that voting should be done accordingly to what insights they bring, not subjective opinions, it is very hard to turn that type of thinking around. We can ask of you, our subscribers, that you please think twice about hitting that downvote button, and only do so because of you think a post is factually incorrect, not because it differs with your own subjective opinion. That's the primary analysis of the survey! Feel free to contribute with how you experience things here!
A proposal to eliminate the spread of COVID-19 in Ireland
This is a long one. There is no TL;DR, but Google tells me it should take about 10 minutes to read. Or, you can skip to The Plan - Summary if you want the bullet points. But why should you give this any time at all? My background is in data analysis. Making sense of numbers is what I do for a living. I have been studying COVID-19 since I was locked down in March and the experience has been frustrating in equal measure. The difference between what was happening on the ground, and the story that the media told was genuinely alarming. The government / NPHET never even tried to stop the virus getting into the country, and no one held them to account for their (non)decisions. The disastrous consequences are all around us, and much of it was preventable. Six months later, and the country has barely moved on. The ‘experts’ have no goals and little control over the virus. The media frame every issue as a crass binary choice between more or less restrictions and are otherwise happy just to have people to point their fingers at. The government / NPHET has nothing to offer the people, other than admonishments to do better and repeated cycle of restrictions. Meanwhile students, artists, the over 70s, small business owners, the entire events and hospitality industries, and regular people who cannot WFH have been left swinging in the wind. Some have been evicted, others are relying on drugs to get by. This situation is not just a problem for one or two parts of our society: this is a widespread degradation of our quality of life. If I can do anything to help, I feel obliged to try. Context As I see it, we have three choices:
Give up = ‘herd immunity’ / Great Barrington Declaration
Take the path of least resistance = ‘Living With The Virus’ (living in fear of the virus)
Solve the problem = elimination / eradication
I won’t argue over technocratic definitions like ‘elimination’, ‘eradication’ or ‘suppression’. These distinctions are semantic in an environment of oppressive civic restrictions, mass unemployment, waves of business closures, and general misery. Whatever gets us to a place where we can live our lives as normal (or close enough), and the public health infrastructure can take care of the virus, that’s what I’m aiming for. This proposal cannot work without public support. No proposal can work without public support. Public adherence is the single most important variable in the equation, yet it is the one that the politicians and the media and the ‘experts’ have ignored. FG burned through a lot of goodwill in the first lockdown (and money, and resources, and lives…). Instead of vilifying people who aren’t adhering to the rules, policymakers need to recognise the sacrifices that the people made (which were subsequently squandered) and they need to earn that trust back. This proposal cannot work without support from the North. That doesn’t mean that we need to convince them to adopt our plan. It means we need to convince them that the goal is worthwhile and achievable. From there we can work together to coordinate our policies. Managing our own affairs with competence, would be a good start. Picking up the phone to talk to them, instead of trying to browbeat them through the media, would also help. Irrespective of your goals or beliefs, some facts are certain: there will be lockdowns, there will be government spending to support the economy, and the virus will demand public health resources. All of that will happen in the coming months and years, whether we have a plan or not. The question is whether those resources are used to solve the problem, or whether they are wasted on a plan that keeps us going around in circles. So yes, there will be lockdowns in this proposal, but they will not be FG lockdowns i.e. lock them down and throw away the key. Through intelligent policies and a greater mobilisation of resources, we can do so much more with our lockdowns to reduce the burden on the people and make their experience more tolerable. Indeed, that trade-off always exists in public policy: better policymaking = happier people. Which is why the politicians usually get the blame, and rightly so. We need to move to a more ‘war time’ mindset. Not because we need a shared enemy to unite us, but because we need to mobilise every possible resource at our disposal and focus it on the single most important issue affecting us all. We need more tests, we need vehicles for mobile testing units, we need facilities for quarantines. Wherever there is spare capacity, we need to find a way to put it to good use. We need to take most of the power away from the narrow-minded medics, and get the rest of our society and our civic infrastructure involved in planning e.g. community representatives, legal experts, business leaders, An Garda, the army etc. People want to invest in their communities, they want to help their friends and neighbours. There are people all over the country who would rather be volunteering as part of a national plan to get rid of COVID-19, than to be sitting at home on the PUP, going crazy listening to the ‘experts’ – who failed to prevent this – talk about more lockdowns. We need to harness that latent energy and build it into the plan. One of the most important factors that is within our control, is the degree to which policymakers communicate with the people. And I mean real communication, not press releases or attention-seeking speeches from the other side of the world. We need to talk to the people, listen to them, answer their questions, take their feedback on board. The people aren’t stupid. They know a good plan when they see it – which is why few are paying attention to the ‘Living With The Virus’ stuff – and they have valuable information that can help make that plan work. Underlying these points is a need to create intelligent rules, and to enforce them strictly. Strict does not mean harsh. Strict enforcement is not authoritarianism, and it is not an invitation to a fight; it is simply administrative competence. In the context of a contagious outbreak, administrative competence is the difference between life and death. I’ll finish this section with the caveat that all parameters are suggestions or placeholders. The exact numbers will depend on resources, on more data and further analysis, and on input from communities and other stakeholders – all of which is within our control. The Plan – Summary Like any problem in life, if you can’t solve it directly, you break it down into smaller, less complex parts. Instead of putting the whole country into lockdown and trying to eradicate the virus from the whole island at the same time – a miserable experience for all – we should go county by county until the job is done. We seal off a county, flood it with resources, clear it of COVID-19, and then let it reopen as normal. We repeat the process for neighbouring counties and then combine them when they are cleared, to create a larger ‘Cleared Zone’. The process continues and the Cleared Zone keeps growing until it covers the whole island. This approach allows us to focus our resources on one area at a time (nurses, doctors, tests, volunteers etc) instead of spreading them over the whole country. We can be more comprehensive in our testing and quarantining measures, and more confident in our plans. Short, sharp, strict lockdowns work best. By maximising the ratio of resources to population, we also lower the burden on the people. In particular, we minimise the amount of time that people spend in lockdown, and the less time they spend in lockdown, the more likely the plan is to work. This structured approach also makes it easier for us to measure our progress and make reliable forecasts. We can allocate our resources more efficiently and plan our responses more effectively. Observers can watch our progress and judge for themselves whether it is a good idea (i.e. politicians in the North and / or protestors in Dublin). Perhaps most important of all, the structure makes it easier to explain the idea to the people and get buy-in before anything happens. We can outline the plan, explain how it works, explain how it compares to the alternatives, and then give them realistic estimates of what would be required and how long it would take. Then we can hear their feedback and take the conversation and planning from there. I have heard any people talking about elimination and ZeroCovid, but do any of them have a plan for getting to zero? Or a plan to get the people on board? Step 1: More structure and responsibility from leaders Step 2: Less uncertainty, easier decisions, better outcomes, less stress for everyone Step 3: Profit. Elimination. The Plan – Implementation We isolate a county and lock it down for an initial 3 weeks. An Garda man the county borders. They are supported by the army, who provide boots on the ground so that An Garda aren’t stretched. Most routes are closed off so that all essential travel goes through a few well-manned checkpoints. If we do a good job with planning and communication, there won’t be much work to do. We test systemically high-risk households and high-risk individuals early and often i.e. large households and essential workers. With help from local volunteers, medics screen as many people as possible every day. We use multiple measures and repeated applications to improve the quality of our results. We want to identify and remove cases at the earliest possible point, both to reduce the chance of further infection, and to protect the individual’s health. Low risk confirmed cases (young / healthy) go to a safe and comfortable quarantine. Local hotels and guest houses could be used, ideally before we invest in building quarantine facilities. Local taxis, kitted out with extra protective equipment, could take them there. High risk confirmed cases (older / comorbidities) go by ambulance to local medical facilities as required. During this period, we work with local politicians, community leaders, residence associations etc to ensure that everyone is looked after (in reality, these conversations will have started weeks before). We get our neighbourhoods communicating, looking out for each other, making sure they’ve got enough food or heating or whatever else they need. Local volunteers and taxi drivers can do odd jobs like sending packages, collecting prescriptions, lifting heavy stuff, or just checking in on people. If it is feasible, we can even invite local artists to play gigs for people in their streets or apartments. Towards the end of the second week, we begin a mass testing program with the ultimate goal of testing every person in the county (scale depends on resources). Once we have completed the tests and cleared the confirmed cases into quarantine, we can begin a slow, staggered opening process. We must be especially conservative at this point to ensure no slippage. When one county is clear, we move to the next one, and repeat the process. When we have cleared two bordering counties, we can join them together in a bigger Cleared Zone and the process continues from there. Eventually the Cleared Zone covers the whole country, except Dublin (or more realistically, the Pale). What would the other counties do while they wait for their turn? I’m assuming that, they would be doing whatever the ‘Living With The Virus’ plan dictates. This proposal succeeds in line with what happens in the sealed off zones, so I am more concerned with them. However, it would speed up the process if the bordering counties could be encouraged to get a head start. If the plan is going successfully, I’m confident they would. With its population density and its complexity, Dublin / the Pale will be the last county to be cleared. However, given that every other county would be cleared by that point, and with so much effort having been put in, it might make more sense just to burn Dublin down. We could go with a concrete mausoleum as per Chernobyl, but it might be easier and quicker if we just raised the city and started from scratch. The country needs to rebalance, so it’d be two birds with one stone. Or maybe we call that plan B. Dublin’s plan A would follow the same principles as for the rest of the country. Break it into smaller parts, focus resources on one area at a time, use layers of risk measures where precision isn’t an option, and get cases as early as possible, using whatever resources available. By that stage the rest of the country would be clear and the demand for medical resources low. We would have learned a lot along the way, and we would have plenty of ammo to throw at the problem. In general, the more resources we have, the faster we can move. The county by county approach that I have outlined above is too slow. With greater resources, we can increase the number of counties that are being cleared at any one time. One option is to work by province. Another would be to define the zones with respect to observed travel routes, in order to reduce the risk of leakage and reduce the inconvenience on local communities. At the end of the day, lines have to be drawn somewhere, and some people will inevitably lose out. The better we communicate with people in advance, the lower the burden on the people and the more of these problems we can avoid. Following on from that, one of the skills we need to take from this crisis is the ability to isolate and quarantine regions. Whether it is a city, a town, a county, a specific building, or even the entire country, we need to be able to seal it off and control movement in and out. This is an essential tool for outbreak management – whatever the outbreak and whatever the disease. The same goes for individuals. We need to be able to create and operate safe, comfortable, and effective quarantines, and to do so at short notice. It should be a matter of national embarrassment that FG and NPHET couldn’t even organise a quarantine in a pandemic. The whole process might take 3 to 4 months. That means we would have cut off all non-essential air travel for that time, but it doesn’t mean the whole country is in lockdown for 3 or 4 months. The lockdown is staggered, and the individual’s experience will depend on their location and their place in the ‘queue’. The first group of counties to go into lockdown will also be the first to come out. Once they have eliminated the spread of the virus, they will return to a normal, although somewhat isolated, society. The experience steadily improves as more and more counties join them in the Cleared Zone (or steadily deteriorates, depending on your county pride). While the first group is in lockdown, the rest of the country continues as normal i.e. living with the virus. Everyone watches as the first group goes through its lockdown (just think of the #banter). Several weeks later, as the first group is opening up, the second group is preparing to go in to lockdown. As the second group comes out, the third group goes in etc etc and the staggered lockdowns roll like a wave across the country. Every county goes from Living With The Virus -> intelligent lockdown (needs a better name) -> Cleared Zone. The earlier you are in the queue, the less time you spend Living With The Virus and the more time you spend in the Cleared Zone. The individual would only be in a strict lockdown for a matter of weeks, maybe 3-6 depending on the complexity of the region and the resources available. For counties with smaller populations that have shown that they can do a good lockdown, it will be quicker. For Dublin, it will be slower. Strengths I think this proposal has a lot of strengths. It’s a plan, for a start. We haven’t had a plan since this thing began (the FG lockdown wasn’t a plan – it was the inevitable consequence of not having a plan). The leaders take more responsibility to lower the burden on the people, it mobilises idle resources, and it fosters communication and community across the country. These are three strengths that I want to emphasise. 1 It provides clarity This might be the most important point. Uncertainty is painful. Uncertainty is a cost. Even if the bad thing is unlikely to happen, just the fact that it is a risk, or that it could happen means that you live with a cloud over your head. Suffering is bad enough on its own, but suffering for an unknown length of time is torture. And if that period is determined at the whim of a politician or an ‘expert’, that is a recipe for society-wide anger and even civil disorder. With this proposal, we can forecast the length of the period of lockdown with greater accuracy. The people will be able to understand what is being asked of them. We can make plans around resources required versus those available. The economists can make forecasts. Businesses can plan their finances. The people can plan their weddings, book their holidays, get back to training, sign up for courses, and have things to look forward to. At the end of the day, any successful proposal must remove the uncertainty and provide meaningful clarity to households and businesses. 2 Never let a crisis go to waste This plan will require tools and capabilities like rapid local testing, safe quarantines, rapid isolation of towns and regions, emergency decision-making frameworks etc. If we don’t have a capability, then we need to build it. When people say ‘never let a crisis go to waste’ this is what they mean: you build the tools in the crisis that will help you protect yourself from the next one. Nature works the same way. You lift weights until the muscle fibres tear, then they grow back stronger. We build aerobic endurance by pushing ourselves to a limit, then our body naturally reacts to increase the limit. A vaccine works similarly by stimulating antibodies for the disease. Well, we need a civic emergency vaccine for Ireland. These tools are the antibodies that will protect us next time. The sooner we build them, the better. Now is the time, not later. 3 It's the only way we can protect the economy The risk to the economy isn’t the next few months of revenue. We can borrow to cover lost income in the short run. The real risk is a wave of defaults that precipitates a financial crisis. As more individuals and businesses are put under financial pressure, more borrowers will default on their debts. But one man’s debt is another man’s asset, so as the borrowers default, the lender’s financial situation also deteriorates. Defaults are contagious, and if a wave of defaults threatens a major lender, the entire financial system will be at risk. Only an elimination plan can protect the economy. Along with the virus and the uncertainty it creates, we need to eliminate the risk of financial contagion. Weaknesses Could ya be arsed The End Goal Think about what’s on the other side of this… This is a massive challenge – the kind that defines a nation. However you think of your community, this would give you something to be proud of for generations. It would be like Italia ’90, except 10 times bigger, because we would be the players, we would be the ones making it happen. We’d become the first country in Europe to eliminate the virus. And of all the countries in the world, we’d be doing it from the largest deficit too. Those Taiwanese and Kiwis made it easy for themselves with their preparation and their travel restrictions and their competent leaders. Our challenge is much greater than theirs, but they show us what is possible. Have you ever wanted to scoff at the Germans for being disorganised? Wouldn’t you love to have a reason to mock the Danes? Aren’t you sick of hearing about New Zealand? Let’s make the Kiwis sick of hearing about the Irish! If we take this challenge on, the world’s media will be on us. The FT, the Economist, the NYT, the Guardian, Monacle, Wired, the New Scientist, China Daily, RT, Good Housekeeping, Horse and Hound, PornHub… all of these international media empires would be tracking our progress, interviewing key people, reporting daily, willing us on. The world is desperate for good news, and we can be the ones to give it to them. We would become a model for other nations to follow. They would take the Irish model and adapt it to their own situation. Instead of us copying other nations, they would be copying us. Instead of a pat on the head for the diddy little Irish fellas, we would be literally LEADING THE WORLD. Back at home, we get our lives back, and society can breathe again, free of restrictions. The over 70s come out of hibernation. The students go back to university. The protests stop because people go back to work and we announce an inquiry into what exactly happened in February and March. The pubs go back to being pubs. Our hospitality industry is taken off life support. The tidal wave of bankruptcies is avoided. We can play sport and celebrate the wins. We stop talking about things we can or can't do. Just imagine that first session... And imagine how good it would feel knowing that you had worked for it, and knowing that you had set the nation on a better path for generations to come... I think it’s worth a lash! Don’t you?
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Reason for Hindutva (Request the Mods to pin this if they wish to)
Big long post coming up. Okay. This is a reply to one person's comment about Hindutva in this sub, and I felt that anybody who is looking for the reason for Hindutva should read this, hence I'm posting this as a separate post here. Any changes to my post are welcomed and I apologize beforehand for the looong post and any mistake/error that may have crept in. Please suggest changes if any needed. There is a direct comparison between Indian conservatives and (usually) American/Western RW. Thus, Western definitions and interpretations of social & political issues (binaries like Left Wing vs Right Wing, secular vs communal, etc.) are mapped directly onto India with little to no understanding of either the dynamics of Indian society, or its history. Let's talk about one: Islamophobia. In countries like America, Islam is a micro-minority that is growing slowly, and because of the appearance of being harassed by Right Wing Americans for over two decades (and the general perception of Muslims, their unnecessary harassment at the hands of law enforcement & general public), there exists sympathy for their community from the "inclusive Left", just like there's sympathy for the Black community ( bec. of higher levels of poverty, ghettoisation, etc.). This exists for Brown skinned Hindus too. There's an appearance of their community being 'otherised' in society over the last 20 years, and because of diversity, inclusion, & identity politics, Muslim community has found a new supporter in the Left Wing (SJW, Democrats, etc.). Other than 9/11 and a few other isolated terror incidents, Islamic terrorism has not impacted America to the level White supremacist & police shootings/killings have, and the vast majority of deaths have not happened at the hands of Muslims. There are jihādi nutjobs in the Muslim community, and I'm sure the FBI is tracking every single one of them down to keep America safe. Then there's the case of RW White supremacists who are literally "phobic" about Muslims and Islam, thinking that all Muslims (in America) are terrorists by default, and want to halt immigration to Muslim countries, and want to send Muslims back to their home countries. The majoritarian Christian community has the (relatively) large American conservative population in a tight grip, so the question of Islamic proselytism, and the establishment of a Shari'a state simply doesn't exist as a major threat to America right now. Let's just say that there's currently no major threat from their community to America as a whole (I don't think the govt and intel agencies would allow that to happen). Islam is a slightly different flavour in America than in India. Let's walk (fly?) over to India. The Muslim community is the second largest majority. Their population in India is nearly 3/4th the population of America. ~200 million Muslims live in India. India is surrounded by 2-3 Muslim countries (Pak, Afg, Bang). The history of the relationship between Hindus and Muslims is NOT peaceful. Muslims ruled tyrannically over the Hindus for over 500 years, oppressed them, destroyed thousands (>30000) of holy sites & temples and then just as a Hindu empire was being re-established, the British swooped in to lord over India for ~150 years. India is probably the only major failure of Islam, since they were unable to convert majority Hindus to Islam. Countries like Syria, Jordan and Israel/Palestine, which were Christian & Jewish lands were fully occupied by Islamic forces. Powerful empires in ancient & medieval Iraq - Iran fell to Islamic forces, who gave the locals two options: convert or die. To save their lives, the entire stretch from Turkey and Israel/Palestine to Iran converted to Islam. Millions of non Muslim pagans have died at the hands of Muslims. Buddhist majority countries like Afghanistan fell to Islamic invaders and Central Asia was also taken over by them. Over the centuries there was a forceful adoption and integration of Islam in these societies and historic native pagan and non Muslim religious sites were systematically destroyed and mosques established atop them. Simply put, Central, West and South West Asia converted to Islam under the sword. Not due to choice. Islam is an extremely regressive faith that refuses to evolve. Coming back to India. In 1947, an entire country was ripped apart from the motherland India and was formed on religious lines (Pakistan and later, Bangladesh). Now, every nation from Turkey in the West to Afghanistan & Pakistan in the east was one large Muslim bloc. East of India, countries like Malaysia and Indonesia became Muslim, China was atheist and Myanmar and Sri Lanka were/are far too weak to stand up with India to counter these foreign invading Islamic (& Christian) forces. After Independence, the government tried to establish a secular state (again, trying to copy paste from the West), with no real understanding of the real India, or what it meant for the average Indian to be part of the Dharmic faiths (Hinduism and it's daughtesister religions). Separation of Church and State is a very Western concept, and shouldn't have been implemented in India. The British had divided Hindus to such an extent that there was no real identity for Hindus to mould or shape their community, and start fresh. On the other hand, Muslims did have a model to look up to: Saudi Arabia version of Sunni Islam, the medieval Indian Islam, and Iran's Shia Islam. Now, successive governments slowly began to appease Muslims for their vote, because the Muslim community was less fragmented than the Hindu community, and tended to vote as a bloc for certain political parties. The Hindu community on the other hand, was broken up into several small caste based fragments, and regional political parties rose to represent may of these individual communities. Hindus tended to vote as a caste instead of as a religion. Politicians being politicians, and with ample amounts of interference from foreign actors, Hindu community has never been united as a single bloc in the last 70 years. Add to this the shift of the Hindu populace towards the left (socialist, non religious) post-independence, and the majority Hindu community slowly lost touch with its faith, religion and Hindu social & religious issues. Coming back to the topic of Muslim invaders: as I stated earlier, Islamic invaders brought in their own tribalistic culture, and negatively influenced India's own historically superior society. For many Indian Muslims today, they see this Islamic rule as a kind of "Golden past" and the means to establish Islamic rule over India. However, for us Hindus, it is a matter of life and death and most importantly, self-preservation of the native culture and ideologies. Check out the Kashmir issue, and the cultural genocide and exodus of Kashmiri Pandit community from Kashmir at the hands of Islamists. There has been a slow but constant deracination in Kashmir, to establish it as a Muslim country following Shari'a law. 5000 villages and town names in Kashmir were changed to Islamic names from their historic Hindu/Buddhist names in the last 50 years. Hindu nationalism arose because of an anger of the Hindu population verily against this. "Hindutva is Hinduism that resists": Hindutva merely resists such attempts to erase Hindu and associated Dharmic faith history, it is a movement for Hindus to stand up for themselves and establish a Hindu state along Hindu Dharmic principles. It is a movement that resists the Muslim & Christian conversion activities in Indian states like Kerala, Kashmir, Assam and West Bengal (and their goal to establish a Islamic state very much like Kashmir, to drive out non Muslim 'kafirs'). This is a concerted campaign, bankrolled by foreign state actors like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan towards Islam, and Western countries like UK, France, and US for Christianity. Thus, Islamophobia cannot exist in India, because the term has no meaning here. Hindus are not irrationally scared of Muslims. The fear is justified in more ways than one. There is a brutal bloody history of Hindu oppression at the hands of Muslims (and even to this date it continues in Muslim countries), and there is a visual live evidence of what goes if India becomes a Muslim country. In countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, religious minorities do not have any rights, and women are traded and sold like slaves. Hindu and Sikh women are kidnapped, forcefully converted to Islam and married off to men much older than them. In India, a similar practice is going on: i. Love Jihad - Muslim men take on Hindu names and prey on gullible girls from the Hindu faith and forcefully convert them to Islam after marriage. ii. Little girls as young as 7-8 years old are kidnapped and sold in Arab countries to rich sheikhs. Both of these have an overwhelming amount of evidence and reportage. Hindutva is a self respect political movement for the Hindus. The whole of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is Islamic, so many South American and European countries are state Christian, and some South East Asian countries are Buddhist too. There doesn't exist one single Hindu country for the self preservation and development of Hindus. Heck, a global minority religion like Judaism has a home state in Israel. And just to clarify, no, the establishment of a Hindu state does not mean Muslims or other minorities cannot live in India, or cannot practice their religion. A Hindu state would allow Muslims and Christians to practice their faiths without impinging and infringing on local faiths, without exploiting the natives, especially the poor and sub altern communities. A Hindu state would truly be a model for multi religious, multi cultural, diverse society because the nature of Hinduism itself is to accept and tolerate a multitude of diverse opinions and thoughts. Islam and Christianity have a history of killing alternative opinions and heterodox schools, while Hinduism accepts them, or at the least, tolerated their presence. If religions like Sikhism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism (Parsi), native tribal faiths, Buddhism, Jainism and even atheism can live in peace with Hindusz for over 1000 years of history, why cannot Muslims? Why can't Christians? End.
Peri-areolar top surgery with Dr. Fischer - the pre-op report
Hi everyone – this is a follow-up to a post I made about a month ago, asking if anyone would be interested in the details of my then-upcoming top surgery. I’m officially post-op now (five days!) and working on a ridiculously detailed writeup. This is the first part, which goes right up until the surgery itself. I’m going to wait a few more days to do the post-op one so that I can go up to the process of getting the drains out. Feel free to skip to the end to get to the salient info, and to comment with any questions about stuff I might have left out! So, without further ado, how I got here: First the basics. I'm 31 years old. I live in Maryland. I'm five feet tall and weigh around ninety pounds, give or take a couple in either direction. My chest measurement before surgery was about 28 inches, and about 26 "underbust." I've never been on testosterone or puberty blockers. I've never really had to wear a binder, and avoided it because I knew that I had to be gentle with that tissue if I wanted the results that I'd really hoped were possible. Keep this in mind - I'm hardly an average representation of anything, so my experience is most likely atypical in a lot of ways. But I'm hoping the overall information could be helpful. I came out when I was 25, though I'd known since high school. Top surgery was on my radar, but trans stuff was on the fringe then - I read a lot of "butch lesbian who got top surgery" blogs, which was the only thing that made it seem possible for me, though the thought of paying for it (I was overestimating the cost by almost double, and too scared to actually look it up) seemed unthinkable. I didn't know about anything but double incision surgery, which was pretty horrifying to me. So I put the thought out of my mind for almost ten years. When I aged out of my parents' insurance and got my own, most plans had a line specifying that they did not cover anything meant to "alter the patient's physical sex," or something to that effect. This changed a few years ago, but at the time I didn't qualify for sick leave at work, and I was still paying off my student loans. Along the way things progressed - I started using a new name, then changed it legally, and then my state started allowing "unspecified" gender markers on driver's licenses. I paid off my loans and saved some money, without acknowledging to myself what I was saving it for. And then I got a letter at work, informing me that they were now required to provide medical leave for anyone working over 15 hours weekly. And suddenly a lot of things came together, fast. My mom has always been supportive of me, but she was not very happy to hear about this. After talking it over a lot, we ended up going together to a therapist who worked with both trans people and families - incidentally, our therapist was also nonbinary, and we had to take a break in our visits while they recovered from their own top surgery. We visited them a few times over a few months, and they suggested that I at least look into getting my surgery covered by insurance, and directed me toward the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health. I had done research on several of the big names in top surgery, particularly those who do a lot of peri-areolar surgeries - I was very not into the idea of double incision, and knew that, while I was not the seventeen-year-old kid on T who's a sure thing for peri, I had a chance. But getting it covered would make the financial hit more bearable. I did some research on insurance coverage. When it came time to renew my Medicaid coverage, I switched to an MCO that had a history of working with Johns Hopkins. I contacted them about finding a therapist to write a letter for me, and about getting a consultation - I expected to have a long wait to meet with Dr. Devin O'Brien-Coon, but they suggested that I come in much earlier and meet with Dr. Benny Tan, who had only recently come to work at the Hopkins center, so I got my letter and scheduled my appointment with him. Dr. Tan had just started at the JH center when I had my consultation with him, and while he had a lot of previous experience doing breast cancer mastectomies, he was clearly a lot less familiar with top surgery. He was adamant that I was ineligible for peri-areolar surgery, and would have to have double incision. He seemed to have some weird misconceptions about the details - at one point he said that no one ever regains any nipple sensation after surgery (???), and when I mentioned the concept of the eventual shape of my chest being somewhat dependent on how much muscle I can develop through exercise he sort of laughed and said, "Well, maybe if you decide to become a bodybuilder." When I asked if I could see post-op pictures of some of the previous procedures the center had done, I was told no, that Dr. O'Brien-Coon didn't want to suggest that there was any guarantee of a specific kind of results. He seemed like a nice guy. He answered the questions I had, and my mom's. But I did not feel good about this. At the same time, I was trying fruitlessly to get any information at all about whether I would, in fact, be able to get this covered by insurance. I won't go into the boring details of one million phone transfers, but after several days the question was resolved: because the insurance required a previous twelve-month period of hormone replacement therapy, I was out of luck. At this point I wasn't even upset - it just made it clearer that my original plan was what I was going to go with. Finally, I paid $100 to have a consultation with Dr. Beverly Fischer in Lutherville. Dr. Fischer was one of the surgeons I'd been researching from the beginning - she's been performing surgeries since the 90s, including a lot of peri-areolar surgeries, and she also is the most local of the surgeons I'd looked into. I'd seen pictures online that people had posted of her work on people with body types very much like mine, and I was impressed. Dr. Fischer doesn't take any insurance (you can try to go through a process on your own afterward, and perhaps get at least a partial reimbursement from your insurance, but that's up to them), but I had the money saved, and I felt it was a fair trade to have a greater level of control over the experience. Since Dr. Fischer has her own small facility, the consultation was very smooth and low-key. Again, my mom went with me (this was right before covid started, but even now she allows one visitor to come with a patient). She looked me over and assured me that I was definitely a candidate for peri (they all say "keyhole" there, which confused me, but I'm going to keep saying peri, by which I mean full circular incisions around the areola). We were given a breakdown of the cost ($9,700) and shown into a little room where they gave us a binder of pre- and post-op photos to look at. Again, her work is very impressive - my mom, who was not familiar with the different styles of surgery, was reassured that they did not look as scarred up as she was probably expecting. This was a much better experience than I had at Hopkins, enough to convince me. Then the pandemic hit! Needless to say, things were on hold for a while. The library I work at was closed for over two months. In June, we started working again, but with a very minimal schedule. I'd been doing almost double my baseline hours by filling in for vacant positions, but now I was working fifteen hours per week maximum, meaning I didn't lose any substitute pay for taking sick leave. So I called Dr. Fischer's office and made the soonest appointment I could, for September 16th. I made a 10% payment over the phone ($970) and scheduled my appointments for three weeks prior to surgery. Three weeks before surgery: I went to Dr. Fischer's office for my pre-op appointment. Because I'd already been measured during my consultation, this was mostly a lot of information and question-and-answer sessions with their surgical coordinator Shannon. My mom came with me (all of us wore masks, and we had temperature checks when we came in, as well as standard "have you had any covid symptoms or been out of state" worksheets to fill out). Shannon brought out a set of the drains and showed us how they'd work (they are still stuck in me at the time of this writing, so I'm trying not to think about it too much!), and gave me a folder of pre- and post-op information, plus the sheet to give to my primary care doctor when I went to get my bloodwork done. The instructions were pretty standard - try to eat a lot of protein in the weeks before and after surgery (raises your red blood cell count so you recover faster), get up and walk around on the first day (helps the anesthesia junk work its way out of your body), don't lie on your back eating applesauce the whole time (you're not going to hurt yourself, live your life, just be gentle). Mentioned, but for some reason not included on the printed sheet: there's a one-day-post-op appointment the morning after, just to check everything out - this means that AFTER your surgery you shouldn't eat or drink after midnight, and through the morning, just in case there's an unexpected need to put you under to correct anything. I brought them a check for the remainder of my payment - $8,730. As weird as it seems, seeing the money actually come out of my bank account didn't bother me at all. I'd saved that money with this in mind, so it seemed natural to finally use it. They also gave me a stack of four prescriptions, which I filled on the way home: One pre-op anti-nausea pill, one pre-op Xanax, several post-op pain pills (hydrocodone and acetaminophen) and several post-op anti-nausea pills. Fortunately this was covered by my insurance, because I sure did NOT need all of these. I went within the week to get the required physical and bloodwork at my regular doctor's office, and just handed them the sheet that said what results needed to be sent to Dr. Fischer. Apparently there was some kind of faxing error and I didn't find out for a couple weeks that they hadn't gotten the results, but that was fixed by some relatively simple phone calls. I'd recommend calling a week after the blood test to confirm that they've received everything. I put in a request for six days off work - starting and ending on a Wednesday, with a normal weekend between. They usually recommend ten days, but I have a very low-activity job and only work short shifts, so they agreed that eight days would be fine. This is another factor that might have been different if I had been getting double-incision surgery, which I've heard can take a few more days of recovery. Some days later, I got a call saying that the anesthesiologist wouldn't be able to be in on the Wednesday I was scheduled for. I was all set to move everything forward by a chunk of time when they clarified that no, they wanted me to come in one day earlier. Well, okay then. I added a Tuesday to my leave. I am told that I will need to get an "excuse note" to take back when I return to work, which I haven't asked for yet, but will probably get at my one-week-after appointment. A few days before surgery: This is the time to get things in order wherever you'll be staying. Of course you can't prepare for everything, but I did as much laundry as I could, made sure I had plenty of prepared food in the house, checked out a ton of books and DVDs from the library. Trimmed my hair and nails. Note that you are required to shave your armpits so the tape doesn't stick to them when they bandage you up - if you're not used to this, I recommend doing it a couple days in advance, because it's a Bad Time. Night before surgery: I got the usual confirmation call from them the Monday before my surgery date. I got everything together (medication. Sweatpants, button-up shirt, socks, slip-on shoes, COTTON underwear, which is the only kind you may wear in surgery. The folder of information. My old ipod and headphones). I went to bed relatively early as I knew I was going to be up early, though it might have been better to stay up and have a late snack before the midnight deadline. Day of surgery: September 15th - my surgery was scheduled for 9:30, and my arrival at 8:30. I was told to shower and wash my hair, to only use antibacterial soap (we had the Dial orange bar) for my body. I used baby shampoo on my hair, because I wanted something that wouldn't leave any weird residue, since I knew I wouldn't be able to wash it again for some days. Deodorant is allowed, but no lotion. Brushed my teeth. No food, no drink, no chewing gum. I went to the surgery center with both my parents, but right now they're specifying only one guest per patient, so only my mom came in. There's a little retirement community and some stores around, so they had somewhere to hang out while they waited. I left my mom's phone number with them on a post-it so they could call her when they needed to come back for me. I took my bag and went into one of the patient rooms, where I was given this hilariously large toga-looking thing to change into. I gave them my bag of meds, and they came back with a tiny bit of water for me to swallow the Xanax. The anti-nausea one dissolves in your mouth and tastes like strawberry mentos. In a little tiny room with a ring light, they took a series of pictures of me from ribs to neck, at straight-on, side, and three-quarter views. Later I looked back at a computer screen and saw these pictures and briefly thought "who the hell's that?" Not that I'd had any doubts before that I was making the right decision, but that made it pretty clear. Dr. Fischer came in after that, and drew about three dashed lines on my chest. My assumption is that these were so that when my skin shifted while I was lying down, she would be able to see what parts corresponded to where when I was upright. I asked briefly about what kind of resizing she would do around my nipples, which are very slightly asymmetrical, and she said that she uses a kind of template that would make them turn out a bit smaller, and, yes, the same size. The anesthesiologist came in to give me the rundown on what would happen when I was taken into the operating room. I would put on a hairnet, I would get an IV that would put me out, then a mask of gas to keep me unconscious. A small tube would be put in the back of my throat to keep my airway open, and might give me a sore throat for a couple days after (spoiler: it did, but it wasn't too bad). Some kind of contraption of sleeves would periodically squeeze my legs to promote blood flow. All fairly standard, probably. So they let my mom come in and hug me, and I said, "see you soon!" and they walked me back. Sorry for the huge cliffhanger, but this thing is way longer than I thought! I'll be back with the post-op section in a few days, ok? And definitely comment any questions you might have. Recovery is boring. TLDR:
Total cost was $9,700, which was not covered by insurance, but depending on your provider it's possible to get reimbursed afterward for at least part of the cost.
Check with your insurance about getting coverage. Be persistent. They might have weird requirements that knock you out of the running, but it's worth seeing what options are available to you.
I had a copy of my therapist's letter sent to the surgeon before the procedure
Three weeks before surgery, there's a physical and bloodwork that has to be done by your primary care doctor, and the results faxed to the surgeon. I'd recommend calling both parties to confirm that the documents were both sent and received.
You'll need to be off work for at least a week, and more likely ten days, so plan for that.
Make sure everything you need is really accessible before you get back. If the cabinets are higher than your shoulders, put the dishes on the counter. It's like anti-baby-safing your house.
You definitely need someone to drive you to and from surgery, and I really, really recommend having someone you trust to stay home with you. Somebody asked about this in my previous post, and here's my updated answer: while you could technically be by yourself most days after the first, I really would not recommend it.
The night before, you must stop eating and drinking before midnight, but you might want to have a late snack if your surgery is later in the morning like mine was. I did not take this advice and I probably should have.
The day of surgery, no food or drink in the morning. Shower, wash your hair, and use antibacterial soap on your body. You can wear deodorant but no lotion. Shave your armpits if you haven't already. Brush your teeth. They will call you the day before and let you know exactly when you need to get there.
Stuff to have with you: Clothes that somebody else can put on you, including a shirt that opens in the front. Sweatpants are great. A skirt would probably be even better. The bag of pills they prescribed to you, plus any other meds you take normally (I brought my inhaler, but didn't need to use it). Just give them the meds and they handle giving you anything you need while you're there. A snack in case you have to take the pain meds on the way home.
Don't panic! People do this all the time, and the doctors know what they are doing. It's a lot of faith to put in someone you don't really know, but they want to do the best job they can.
Good luck to everybody reading this! I am feeling good. My recovery's been great so far and I'll go into more detail when I come back for the next part of this.
FutureICX AMA with nblaze (Midos) and the ICON Pilipinas Community
Hello ICONists! Today we’re happy to outline and highlight the intricate components of FutureICX, our vision for the dapp’s future and the reason for its creation through this AMA with ICON Pilipinas. Many community members have highlighted questions they’d like answered and were happy to discuss the foundations of our project, our ideas and how FutureICX differentiates itself from other gamified trading applications within the blockchain sphere! We look forward to answering all of your questions! nblaze: Hey everyone! As most of you probably know I’m nblaze from ICON P-Rep team Midos and together with the P-Rep team Sharpn we have built the FutureICX.io app, which was released earlier this week. This has been quite a long and exciting journey which started almost a year ago and we are all very excited that we have finally been able to achieve such a successful app release with so much positive feedback coming in our direction. Jenny: How did you come up with the idea for FutureICX and how was this project started? nblaze: Well, as a long-term holder of ICX, I have always been fascinated by ICON’s system and was looking into ways to contribute to it. I began extensive research surrounding the best P-Rep teams to delegate my ICX to, but somehow this did not feel enough, and I wanted to do more for the chain (and respectively for my investment). After jumping through a lot of different plans and ideas, including lotteries, raffles, games, payment systems etc., I noticed that a lot of people in the trading channels love to make predictions; long story short, approximately half a year later I partnered with the Sharpn P-Rep team. We’re extremely grateful for a Grant that the ICON Foundation and the ICONation teams provided us and we continue to press forward with amazing results. Jay: Throughout the entire development journey, there's sure to be plenty of ups and downs experienced. What's one particular fond memory that stands out to you the most? nblaze: Oh, I would need to go all the way back to the planning phase of FutureICX. I had gone to bed pretty late one night as I was very excited about the Dapp idea, but somehow, I constantly kept hitting a brick wall in trying to figure out how it would work. No matter what I thought of, several hours of planning later I have thought of something critical that would be a major issue. That night I was tired and honestly becoming a bit discouraged that I would never find a system that would work. After going to sleep, I woke up approximately an hour later with a clear idea about the system that I would like to use for FutureICX. I had no sleep from this moment onwards, just got to my computer and worked on it all night. It was really an ‘Eureka’ moment that I'm quite fond of. Jenny: What are your plans, either near-term or longer-term now that FutureICX has been released? nblaze: Of course, we are still working on FutureICX’s current state and are making sure that everything is running well. The app is stable, and players are happy with it. We have already started making plans for our next development stage through and although I cannot share very much, I can tell you that we are aiming for 3 additional original trading games, additional trading pair predictions and maybe even different crypto payment options. Hopefully everything will go well, and we would be able to reach those targets (and who knows, maybe more). Twitter and Telegram follower questions theanerz: What is the Mission and Vision of FutureICX? nblaze: I like this question as it is simple and yet very complicated to answer. FutureICX is aiming to be a multi-purpose platform that could be used by a wide range of players. It could be used as a mean to get additional gains from trading, as a learning tool, as a proof-of-skill or even as a fun app that you can have fun and gamble on. It is also very beneficial to the ICON chain as it not only creates transactions, it could also be a replacement of the ‘exchange’ trading in which no ICX are leaving the system (thus reducing sell pressure and increasing the price of ICX) and finally as a tool which can reduce the circulating supply as the ICX tokens placed in predictions are locked until the outcome is processed. I wrote an article a few days ago about this exact topic – what has inspired us to make the app and what are the benefits of using it. Anyone interested can find it at this link: https://forum.icon.community/t/futureicx-io-vs-conventional-trading-article/1069 ricnnobre: FutureICX is a platform for traders and therefore a minimum of knowledge in technical analysis is needed to predict where the value of ICX is going. Doesn't that restrict the audience that will use the platform? nblaze: True, the platform is for the most part aimed at traders, however most people that trade in it are not professionals. This allows for beginner traders to have a tool where they can compete with a lot of similar skilled traders instead of professionals, whales and institutional traders and this makes FutureICX a good learning tool to use. The prediction times are also fixed so this eliminates second-guessing and reacting emotionally on a trade that you have already set. As you are not competing against the bank, this also gives the players the opportunity to progress with their prediction sizes as they get better and even potentially make a living out of this if they are good enough and hit their predictions on a regular basis. It can of course also be used as a fun gambling tool as a lot of traders seem to be using the exchanges for that anyway. RGerburt: DApps in which users spend money without obtaining any benefit causes loss of interest over time. Does FutureICX have any form of reward for traders who fail to succeed in their predictions? How to maintain the loyalty of users, mainly those who are not good traders? nblaze: We have put in great efforts in trying to be helpful to such players. FutureICX offers dividend returns (each 1 icx that you spend gives you 1 dividend point and the dividend points respectively give you a % of the dividend pool, which is 10% of the amount of ICX that all players spend, at the end of the week – you can see details of that on top of the main screen and in the ‘help’ section, which is the place where our system’s theory is located). One of our awards also gives returns to the player that has spent the most. If that doesn’t work, you can always go for an ‘influencer’ strategy and have your friends and followers generate dividends for you (every 1 icx spent by someone that registered via your affiliate link gives you 0.5 dividend points) lavicrep69: They call us Betlords of the Icon Pilipinas we are one of many supporters of FutureICX. I just would like to know, because for us statistics and achievements are really a big deal. I saw the "Tropies (Sniper, Marksman, Cannoneer, Monthly) and the ICX reward" that you will get from consistent playing/predicting. I’m just wondering if you have global ranking of top players on each trophy or tier like a data base link on blockchain that we can always check to improve our standing? And will we have a "copy prediction options?” I’m sure it will be a good idea coz we can follow players and see their statistics. nblaze: There are such options, but we are planning to expand on those. In your ‘Profile’ page you can see how many awards you have earned, the most recent ones and how much you have earned through them. The monthly awards are also giving a monthly ranking of the top 10 players and giving them rewards for it. However, we do understand that we will need to and will improve even more in this direction nhene00: The market today has a lot of development projects on the blockchain platform. One of the factors that makes the platform appealing to many users is its special features. So, what are the outstanding features and advantages of FutureICX to attract users and investors? nblaze: We truly believe that our app was designed in a really unique way. You have the exchanges, binary options and futures on one hand, you have the raffles, lotteries, casinos and games on the other. We try to be none of those and to provide a new experience to our players. We also think that we offer a unique system, created from scratch, that benefits a lot of different types of players and strategies. As every other platform though, we would need the users/community’s support and feedback in order to progress even further. We do not believe that this will be an issue with ICON’s community though. ThomaXMiller: How will the dividends/point system work? When will the $3000 Pool be distributed? nblaze: You earn dividend points with every prediction that you and your affiliates make, and you get a % of all prediction amounts respectively to the amount of points that you have at the end of the week CHARLoTTE9o: If it’s less risky and much more profitable for traders, how will you and the whole team benefit from this? nblaze: The app has built in 5% commission, that is how we profit (you can see the full details in the 'help' page of the app). It is also not much more profitable for all traders of course; it simply provides better opportunities (according to our own deductions of course) than a normal exchange would. Ketz23: DeFi is one of the hottest topics in the blockchain space right now. Can $ICX share your opinions on DeFi with us? Do you think that DeFi will disrupt the existing financial system? What is Unification approach towards the DeFi sector? nblaze: I don’t think that I’m qualified enough to give such comprehensive opinion in Defi in general I’m afraid. willydavec1: You mentioned earlier about gambling, more games to play, In this era where there are tons of cryptocurrency gambling addicts, do you have any plans to minimize their addiction? A good project needs to care for its users/gamblers/players. Do you have any plans for them, any limitations? For example, 1000 USD worth of loss, they must be restricted for a few hours, something like that. nblaze: I believe that it would be hard to get addicted to our app - its 1 prediction/day or week, that is not a major concern imo. Also please keep in mind that this is no gambling application - you are not playing against the house and you can easily be profitable long term. So, an 'addiction' could mean improving your trading skills and making a living out of this. Neajmik: The hardest thing about any business is not building a product. What is often the hardest is getting people to use the product. How will FUTUREICX team resolve this to make your project become mass adopted and be more attractive in investotraders eyes? nblaze: True, we are doing our best from the app's side - getting feedback, building a product that our players like, promoting it to the best of our abilities. I think that the rest is up to the actual players: if they like it, they will naturally promote the product. I also think that the affiliate system would help a lot with that as a player could earn by being a 'promoter' and not even playing a single game (although not playing would limit his potential gains). SiliLovers: How does it feel after the first daily prediction was resolved earlier? nblaze: Amazing. 2500 ICX placed in predictions on the first day, quite a bit of positive feedback, happy winners all around. I love it! lavicrep69: If I am an ICONist and use d’apps like ICONbet how will you convince me to play FutureICX if it was my first time? nblaze: We wouldn’t. We believe that ICONBet has their own player market and we have ours. The activities on both platforms are completely different so there will be no need to pull players from one to the other. ICONists could play easily play on both and be equally happy with their experience Neajmik: What are the ways that FUTUREICX generates profits to maintain your project and how can it benefit both investotraders and your project simultaneously? nblaze: We have a 5% commission for that, so we don’t actually aim to benefit from the players' losses, on the contrary, we try to limit them for the less experienced traders. That is why each prediction amount is split into: 80% into the selected reward period pool, 5% towards the weekly/monthly awards, 10% towards the dividends and 5% to our team so we can keep improving the Dapp. That gives players opportunities to gain, even if their prediction did not come true HiImGroot: What are your plans for global expansion; is FutureICX focusing on only trading at this time or are you focused on building and developing your Dapp for more quality experience with users? nblaze: We’re hoping that with the second phase of our app we will be able to go into different crypto markets as well. This is still a long shot of a plan and requires a lot of variables to piece together but if we are able to do this, that would generate ICX transactions (as our Dapp is fully based on the ICON chain) while we are processing predictions that are payed with other cryptocurrencies. matT325: Where do you see FutureICX 2 or 3 years from now? nblaze: As a large gamified trading platform with a lot of players, many more trading games and options and working with a lot of different chains and projects while generating icx transactions in the process. LadyCrows: To advertise a project, you need to provide benefits and features, security aspects of the project. How does FutureICX differ from other decentralized trading applications? nblaze: There are quite a bit, so I’m not sure that I can list all of them in one short message. We have multiple gain channels, tiered rewards, dividends, awards, independent affiliate gains, our Dapp is fully decentralized (so every transaction is secure and verifiable), we are using a decentralized oracle for results (fairness and security), our tx process time is short and recorded on the chain thanks to ICON as well. ThePredator11: Why did you choose this platform name "FutureICX? nblaze: This was entirely a team Sharpn contribution. I picked Midos as an app name - they suggested FutureICX and we went with it and kept Midos as the name of my P-Rep instead. CryptoHodler22: If you put in an amount of $ICX for a long term prediction you can't stake them. Is there a form of divided for long-term wages? nblaze: That is absolutely correct – you would not receive any staking rewards for the duration of the prediction and that is the main reason that we have not set up a ‘monthly’ prediction or something like that. FutureICX is not aimed to make long-term holders to unstake their bags and come play. It is focused on the circulating ICX that instead of going to the exchanges, can come to ICX and have greater benefits from that. In terms of if the players are not losing from locking their ICX into a prediction on FutureICX, instead of staking them, the staking rewards for 10 days are around 0.2% - with FutureICX the rewards start from 120% and you could earn up to 450%/day if you know what you are doing I think that as with anything else, you have to balance your targets and decide what would be the best strategy for your money Ramle13747634: What is the greatest risk that you've taken before you do the first move of making the FutureICX that was released recently? Is it worth it to take the risk? nblaze: I think that building FutureICX was a very large risk in itself for me as in order for the project to see the light of day, I have personally spent almost an year working on it without any payment so far (while financing some parts of the app’s development out of my own pocket) and without any guarantees that I would be able to finish it. However I think that it was worth the risk and I would definitely do it again – I have not done this app to make money and have no delusions that it will make me rich or something. Im just happy that Im seeing it live and players loving it so far. This motivates me to develop FutureICX even further and provide even more fun experiences for the Iconists Neajmik: You received a lot of questions related to utilities and technology, future vision etc. So now I want to ask what do you want to receive from the community? nblaze: The greatest support that we can receive from the community is spreading the word about our app, about your opinion of it (good or bad it doesn’t matter – you are entitled of your own). At the end of the day, we have designed the app to be attractive to newcomers and to reward properly the proactive players assisting us with that task (via the affiliate bonuses), however our PR resources are limited and we would appreciate any help that we could get. So if I have to summarize – talk with people, brag, show off, discuss, even rant about FutureICX to people, it will all be of help to us and will also earn you extra gains 😉.
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Alternate CoS Asian Deiselpunk Setting PART 2: Reign of the Storm Shogun
Continued from previous Post: https://www.reddit.com/CurseofStrahd/comments/gwaj5b/alternate_cos_asian_dieselpunk_setting_part_1/ (Player) New and Variant Backgrounds: Some slightly altered backgrounds to give more ways to integrate your character into the world. Some of these backgrounds are simple reskins of existing backgrounds with new flavor text to help give potential character ideas. Variant Soldier: Samurai Skill Proficiencies: Athletics, Intimidation Tool Proficiencies: One type musical instrument or Calligraphy Set, vehicles (land) Equipment: A banner bearing the crest of your clan or Daimyo, An ornate helmet and mask known as a Kabuto, a Calligraphy Set, A scroll stamped with the Imperial Seal denoting you as serving a Daimyo, a fine Kimono, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp Feature: Way of Bushido – Anyone may follow the path of Bushido but you have devoted your life to following a strict personal code of honor. Bushido demands service, and so you have sworn yourself to a master or " Daimyo ". A Daimyo may be a local noble, the Jade Emperor, or even a childhood friend. It does not matter who a Daimyo is to a Samurai, only that they serve them with Honor. As long as the Samurai remains Honorable and obeys the will of his Daimyo he may requisition basic equipment and horses for temporary use as well as dwell for free in most inns. The owners of the equipment and innkeepers do this with the understanding that the Samurai will have his Daimyo cover the costs with interest to them later, though there are limits to this trust no Gunsmith will provide a Gun to a Samurai even just to borrow for free. Variant Folk Hero: Ronin Some Samurai do not follow a Daimyo, but instead swear themselves unto the weak and the innocent making them collectively his Daimyo. These roaming Samurai are called Ronin and they venture to the remote reaches of Daichi to bring justice. The Ronin follows a strict personal code of Bushido that always includes " Protect the weak and innocent " among its edicts. As long as the Ronin follows this code his background Skill, Tool, and Language proficiencies as well as Background Feature are identical to the core Background Folk Hero with the exception of his equipment. Equipment: A set of artisan’s tools (one of your choice), a humble unadorned Helmet and Mask called a Kabuto, a warm traveling Kimono, Scrolls detailing your lineage and status as a Samurai stamped with the Imperial Seal, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp Variant Criminal – Shinobi: Sometimes referred to as Ninjas by common folk, Shinobi are a cloister of loosely connected and often competing clans of professional assassins and infiltrators. Shinobi are masters of stealth and subterfuge and while the image of the black clad warrior made popular in Kabuki plays is certainly a major aspect of the Shinobi it is not all that they are. Though there are always exceptions most Shinobi Clans work for coin or for an ancestral Daimyo in much the same way a Samurai does, though it is rare that individual Shinobi serve a singular master. The most infamous clan are the Rain Maidens who have long served the Storm Shogun. Shinobi are identical to the Criminal background in all ways except the following alterations to the background feature: Feature: Clan Contact You have a reliable and trustworthy contact who acts as a liaison to your Shinobi Clan. You know how to get messages to and from your contact even over great distances; specifically, you know the local dead drop locations, secret handshakes to contact messenger Shinobi, and trained messenger raven rookeries who can deliver the messages for you. As long as you are in good standing your Clan is willing to aid you acquire basic supplies and occasional vital information to aid you in your personal endeavours. Variant Acolyte -Shrine Maiden: While men are permitted to watch over Kami Shrines it is traditional that a lone Maiden watch over the smaller way-shrines along major roads, these women lead very solitary and lonesome lives and it is not uncommon for them to occasionally be filled with a period of wonderlust where they seek out adventure before returning to their duties. Sometimes these Maidens have families that will live nearby but the Maiden is expected to live and sleep within her Shrine for most of the year. While this is tradition, there is no actual law requiring the Shrine Maidens to remain at their posts or to live solely within the Shrines and it is not particularly frowned upon for them to have lives outside their work. Variant Entertainer – Geisha: An exclusively female profession of extremely skilled entertainers who spend their lives training in matters of conversation, party planning, tea serving, singing, acting, and often many other skills that serve well in keeping rich and powerful guests happy. Geisha is a highly honorable and respected profession that takes years of practice to attain the lowest rankings, while there are males who have obtained the same degree of skill and who’s abilities are identical to a Geisha’s they are simply called Entertainers. Geisha are sponsored by great noble houses, there are strict requirements and examinations to attain rank and title the cost of which can often indenture common Geisha to service to one of the great noble houses. Variant Outlander – Vajra: A nomadic people of traders and merchants, they travel openly and without fear of the dark evils of the Storm Shogun under the protection of an ancient pact. They are reviled by many, refused entrance to most towns and villages but even so they are a peaceful people on whom the economy of Daichi depends. They revere their ancestors and believe in reincarnation, they do not worship the great Rakasha but do revere it and thus all Rakasha and tigers are sacred to them. They travel on the back of great elephants which carry their homes, their culture is rich and vibrant with a fondness for oral storytelling. Identical in all ways to Outlander core background except exchange language choice for Language: Vajra and add Tool Proficiency: Musical Instrument. You may begin play with a Sitar, a guitar like instrument. New Background – Invader: You are a descendent of the coalition of nations that came to conquer Daichi one thousand years ago. While many still serve the Shogun Ishin you have chosen instead to join the other defectors in living peacefully among the people you once conquered. While despised even more than Vajra you serve an even more vital function in keeping the engines and machinery within the cities and villages of Daichi running. While the Invaders are from many nations their culture has eroded and homogenized over time. Their legends speak of a " Homeland " but none can remember the name. All invaders have a special innate affinity for their blood magic fueled hemo-diesel technology and all can instinctively repair and maintain it. Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Arcana Tool Proficiencies: Tinker’s and Smiths Tools Languages: Invader’s Trade Tongue Feature: Born Engineer – You instinctively know how to perform repairs on all manner of machinery magic and mundane. You may cast as a Mending as an Artificer of your level. Further, whenever you are in an annex or industrial sector of a city you may call on the aid of your fellow Invaders for access to crafting machinery, temporary use of simple vehicles, and a place to lay your head in the factory barracks. (Player) New Subclasses: Editorial Note: Due to some of the listed subclasses being from 3rd party content that I have purchased I cannot directly copy class abilities into this listing. The actual subclass will be presented as Handouts in-game. PM me if you require further information regarding each subclass. Barbarian: Path of the Juggernaut: You have built, scavenged, stolen, or otherwise acquired a titanic Diesel Suit. While most barbarians disdain armor you have made it into a focus for your Rage. Ability Preview: Unstoppable – By expending a unique resource called " Momentum " you can burst through non-magical walls, furniture, and other barriers. Path of the Iron Rider: You have formed a unique bond with a Tsukumogami Dieselcycle which you can call as a Familiar. You channel your rage into heavy firearms as you ride against the storm. Ability Preview: Iron Horse – You can call a spirit possessed Dieselcycle to yourself using the Find Vehicle spell. Ability Preview: Bullet Rage – Instead of channeling your Rage into melee strikes you may instead empower Firearms, eventually reloading and firing with blinding speed. Bard College of the Geisha – You are a professional of beauty and grace, your words, songs, and dances inspire in ways no other Bard can compare to. This has cost you the potency of magic and martial knowledge of other Colleges but strengthening and supporting your allies is more than worth it. Ability Preview: Fascination – When an ally uses a skill empowered by Bardic Inspiration they also have Advantage on that roll. College of the Vajra Weather a true born Vajra or one who has adopted their ways and culture, you have earned many of the unique powers of the foreign nomads. Farsight, Curses, and other oddities to aid allies or confound enemies are yours to command. Ability Preview: Flash of Despair – You grant your enemies a moment of your own foresight, showing them their own imminent failure. You may use your Bardic Inspiration to grant penalties to your foes in the same ways you grant boons to your allies. Cleric Thaumic Engineering Domain: You have abandoned the old religions, accepting the new gods of Science and Reason. You are a man of logic not faith, but you do not ignorantly deny the existence of gods. Rather you recognize that they are a natural force in the world in much the same way as wind or fire are natural forces, and being a scientist at heart you have made it your speciality to put a microscope onto the powers of the divine. Ability Preview: Armor of Divinity – You have discovered the underlying magical force that grants moments of supernatural protection to the Faithful and applied this theory to a physical suit of armor. You can summon a suit of diesel armor at will that is empowered by your knowledge of the divine. Ability Preview: Theological Scholar – Where most Clerics dispense Wisdom you dispense Knowledge. Your spellcasting modifier is Intelligence, other class abilities that would scale off of Wisdom instead scale off of Intelligence. Ability Preview: Spark of Creation – You slowly begin to apply your theories regarding the creation of life and the universe, fabricating advanced Automata with a spark of divine life. Druid Circle of the Machine: While most Druids protect the deep forests and natural wonders of the world, you have chosen to see to the needs of the Cities and their people. Viewing the wonders of technology as a creation just as worth of protection as any waterfall or mountain you have found a way to channel the raw powers of technology through your body to overcome the limitations of other Druids. Ability Preview: Iron to Steel: You realize that Steel is just another form of iron, manufactured weapons are made from base natural components. You are proficient with Firearms and are not hindered by wearing metal armor or weapons. Ability Preview: Machine Shape – The ultimate expression of your beliefs, you channel the raw force of technology and creation through your flesh to become one with the Machine. When you Wildshape you may change the Type of your beast shape to Construct. Ability Preview: Automata Companion – As many druids surround themselves with the beasts of the forest you surround yourself with mechanized allies. You gain an Automata companion in the shape of a Beast. Monk Way of the Jade Bailiff You have sworn an oath to venture out into the distant reaches of Daichi bringing law and justice with you. You are trained well in the art of subdual and investigation, you never kill when arrest is a possibility. Ability Preview: Pacify Suspect – You use your advanced hand-to-hand combat training to grapple or disarm targets while overwhelming them with a flurry of blows. Way of the Singularity To obtain enlightenment is to comprehend infinity and eternity both, but flesh is finite and limited. In your journey to the nirvana of perfect understanding you have chosen to forsake flesh for augmetic steel. You have already installed numerous cybernetic implants within your body and will continue to do so, every pound of flesh lost bringing you closer to perfect understanding of the cosmos. Ability Preview: The Flesh is Weak – Among various other augmentations you replace a full limb with a cybernetic augment. You may channel your Ki through this augment to bend the universe to your will, casting specialized Automation Spells. Rogue Drunken Master You realize that life is about more than just fighting, obtaining wealth, or rising through social ranks. It is a vital necessity for all living beings to relax and enjoy themselves, to this end you have made it your lifestyle to spread your mastercrafted brews far and wide. Ability Preview: Good for what ails you – Your Sake is more than just simple rice wine, you have brewed it with ancient techniques gifted to the mortal races by the Kami at the dawn of time. These are not just booze but potent elixirs that replicate the effects of many Potions. Alternate Drunken Master – hanoyu MasteMistress – While mechanically identical to the Drunken Master you have chosen to master the complex and delicate art of the tea ceremony rather than the bar room brawl. You use mystical tea leaves gathered from secret sanctuaries in the deep woods often tended by forest sprites rather than hard liquor.’’ Ranger Automata Hunter Many in this world embrace technology, but not you. You hold special animosity and hatred for the industrialization that is poisoning Daichi, for the Automata that slaughter innocents, and for the slowly receding natural world. You have spent a lifetime learning the special weaknesses of machines, turning their own strength against them. Ability Preview: Breaker Weapon – You have constructed an Anti-Tank Rifle, Thermal Torch, Piston Hammer, or Buster Sword. These weapons are customized to your exact specifications to destroy machines and bypass their armor. They are also still effective against organic targets, though their size tends to get in the way. (Player) Misc. Player options, New Warlock Patron, Feats, Equipment, Familiars. Editorial Note: Much like with Subclasses as some of this content is 3rd party I only provide flavor descpritions rather than actual rules which are instead provided through the compendium legally. New Warlock Patron: Logic and Reason – Pacts with eldritch entities from beyond time are but a crutch to you. Through overwhelming knowledge of science and the deeper mechanisms that drive the cosmos you have become your own Patron. Ability Preview: Space-Time Recollection – By using advanced knowledge of light particles and chronology magic you can view past events within an area up to 24 hours past. While you cannot willfully speed up or slow down the viewing of these events you can specify a general time frame such as " Morning, Early Afternoon, 9:45 PM " Eldritch Invocations of Logic and Reason: Binary Linguist – You can communicate with any Construct flawlessly, it always understands you even through pure body language. You in turn can understand the same. Equipment: Prosthetic Limb 50 GP – Loss of Limb is a common reality to the people of Daichi, necessitating such crude augmentations. While gorgeous paragons of artisanal mastercraft, or cunning advanced combat prosthetics do exist this is neither. This limb represents a modest workman’s limb. It does not come with excessive adornments and his simple unpainted steel. This device runs on 1 sp worth of Diesel fuel per day and perfectly matches the function of an organic limb. While the limb can replicate strength of up to a score of 20, being set any higher than the user’s natural strength would result in the limb tearing itself free or otherwise damaging the user. DieselCycle, Price: Varies – The Dieselcycle is the most popular form of personal transport across Daichi, extremely rugged and reliable these two wheeled motorized vehicles can cross all manner of difficult terrain at breakneck speed. Many varieties of Dieselcycle exist, mirroring various breeds of horse and mule. Dieselcycles use the stat block of the specified Mount though with an intelligence, wisdom, and charisma score of 0, Type – Construct, double the listed HP and Speed, and with Bite or Hoof attacks becoming Ram attacks. Dieselcycles cannot move or operate without a Rider but unlike Horses do not feel fear and have no minds to warp with magic. A dieselcycle is destroyed when it reaches 0 HP and requires 1 GP worth of Hemo-Diesel to operate per day. Familiars For sake of simplicity these entries will be kept brief, giving a short description of each new Familiar instead of a lengthy stat block. Lesser Pheonix The smallest species of Pheonix, an extremely minor Kami. One should not summon such a creature if they are not prepared to give it proper reverance. Helper Automata A small robot built to aid it’s maker. These Automata can be built into any shape from very small humanoids to mimicking animals, or more crude and utilitarian bundles of spidery limbs and tool armatures. Some are even shaped as extra mechanized arms to hold things for their masters. Giant Silkworm Come in both " naked " and " fuzzy " varieties, these creatures provide the economic backbone for many mountain communities that make their living by weaving dazzling Kimono. They are calm tempered, vegetarian, and have no bite. Popular with small children. Giant Flower Mantis Temperamental hunters this creature is as likely to bite and slice at it’s handler as it is an enemy. One rarely refers to these beasts as a " Familiar " for they more tolerate than serve their summoners. Giant Hawkmoth The later stage of the SIlkworm’s life cycle, now possessing two great scythe limbs they become aggressive carnivores, though they retain the bonds they held in their larval stage with human owners and often are kept as beloved pets for many years. Fu Dragon The least of the Dragons is still a mighty Kami. These Dragons will serve entire family lineages for generations as long as they are properly revered and respected. Ancestor Spirit When a young Wu Jen or Warlock needs further guidance than can be given through mere rote memorization of ancestral tomes, sometimes an Ancestor will voluntarily leave Heaven to give spiritual guidance directly. Feats For sake of simplicity Feats are cut down to just brief descriptions rather than the entire Feats entry. Racial Feats are not repeated here, they are listed in or near their racial entries in the Race section. Bonded Weapon Wielder You attune your soul to a particular Weapon. You may call this weapon to your hand as a Bonus Action as long as it is on the same Plane as you. This Weapon no longer needs to be Attuned if magical. Hengeyokai Ancestry You either carry some Hengeyokai blood in your veins, or if you are already a Hengeyokai discover enough of your hidden ancestries to unlock a new Animal Form. You may shapechange into an animal ( though not a Hybrid ) or a new additional animal form if already a Hengeyokai. Tattooed Special Prerequisite: You have earned the respect of a master Monk or Maiko who has chosen to gift you one of these magical Tattoos. The tattoo is filled with magic and grants you a particular benefit dependent on the tattoo you earn. Firearm Mastery Countless hours with a gun in your hand have paid off by allowing you to engage in melee combat with a gun among other benefits. Novice Inventor Through constant experimentation you have dipped into the Automation magic of the Invaders. Gaining one of their spells and a Cantrip. Augmented You have taken into your body extensive cybernetic improvement. You become more faster, stronger, or tougher and your mechanical parts make you more resilient. If you could before, you can no longer hide your cybernetic nature, your limbs and organs are obviously artificial. (DUNGEON MASTERS) Okay with the general setting and player info out of the way we can talk a bit about the actual campaign. While I won't post all my notes here I will give enough of a general overview such that DM's can use it as a jumping off point if they so wish. The True Backstory of Daichi and the Storm Shogun: Isak was raised in a family of wealth and status with a glorious military history in a nation resembling 1920's America. He was brought up with the understanding that war was a glorious and honorable endeavor where the strong defended their ideals on the field of battle. Advances in technology and politics robbed him of this delusion however, wars of defense became wars of colonial conquest. Officers who once led from the front now telephoned their orders as men died by the thousands to machine gun fire. Isak grew to resent and hate his own people for failing to live up to the fantastical narrative he had been raised on. When Isak conquered Diachi he soon found solace in it's path of Bushido, the Samurai of Daichi embodied the world Isak wished to live in and so he sought to emulate them, eventually renaming himself the Storm Shogun Ishin. Ishin soon received orders that Daichi was to be colonized and her people marched onto reservations. Ishin's leutenant and childhood friend Mara ( Rahadin ) was of a people similarly subjugated and made certain Ishin knew fully what these reservations would do to the people of Daichi. Ishin promptly sought a means to betray his commanders and save Daichi. Delving deep into an ancient temple formed of Amber from the World Tree he uncovered the prison for the Four Great Perils. Hearing the whispers of Taowu who easily convinced Ishin that if he released them they would in gratitude draw Daichi away from the Material Realm such that it would be safe for eternity, however this act required a sacrifice in the form of the " ultimate betrayal of the one you love most. " Ishin despaired as he knew it could only mean killing his beloved sister. Ishin's Sister never entered the army but dissapointed her family by taking up the trade of a humble engineer, she was hesitant to accept Ishin's offer years ago to come to Daichi but relented to see her beloved brother again. During her stay at the former Imperial City she met a street thief named Yoko and the two quickly fell in love. Ishin returned to the city from his journey to the Amber Temple to discover the two being married beneath a sakura tree. Ishin quickly slew the Samurai Honor Guard ( The Player Characters ) and then murdered his own sister in cold blood. As life left her he looked to Yoko and knew that the betrayal was not sufficient, he had to first take from his sister the thing *she* loved the most before his betrayal would be truly ultimate. However with his sister dead Yoko flew into a rage and fought the Shogun with every dirty trick she knew, forcing the shogun to kill her. Taowu was furious at the Shogun's incompetent failure, yet with his betrayal half-complete the Great Perils were still able to manifest partiallin in Daichi and swiftly swept it away from the Material Plane while creating the eternal Typhoon in the process. Now empowered by the Great Perils, the immortal Storm Shogun has been trapped in a thousand year long cycle of murdering his sister, her lover ( Ireena ), and their four guardian Samurai ( The Player Characters ). On the thousandth anniversery of his failure the Great Peril's hold on Daichi will wane and it will crash back to the Material Plane, destroying the world in the process. To save the world either the Storm Shogun must prevail......or the Samurai must find a way to undo the damage he has caused. Meanwhile in the sleepy Kimkaro Village four humble Samurai are called to the home of the Daimyo who lies on his deathbed, he wishes to see his adoptive daughter Yoko one last time before he passes and has asked you to fetch her........ (Dungeon Masters) General Plot overview: This is how the game is intended to flow and be resolved. It is of course very much up to individual Dungeon Masters to modify this to fit their players and narrative. Obviously no plan or plot survives first contact with Players so adjust as needed. I've woven in plotlines from some other Modules I have to pad out areas I felt needed it. Level 1: The party goes to find Yoko at her home outside the village walls and discovers that an Automata ( Animated Armor ) she has been scavenging parts from has sprung to life, possessed by a ghost screaming about it's Hunger. The ghost is Shinzo the Eater, a spirit astrally projecting from his emaciated corpse in the Death House. After defeating the machine the party visits the Daimyo who offers his blessing for the party to leave the village.....after they help resolve the current issue with the polluted river. The River the village relies on for fish has been dying off with the river goddess refusing to answer prayers. The party spends a week searching without avail but while fishing Yoko finds a talking Koi Fish claiming to be the River Goddess! She needs to pass through the Dragon Gate at the top of a nearby mountain to resume her true form. (Dungeon Master) The " River Goddess Koi " is actually Jin-Hao the daughter of the true river goddess Jin-Zhi, he has been cursed into a koi fish as punishment for her arrogance and hubris in attempting to solve the poisoned river problem herself while her mother was away attending to matters in Heaven. Jin-Hao tried to use advanced magic far beyond the Wyrmling and accidently caused a massive lightning storm ( Nobody died thankfully ). It should be very obvious to the players that the Koi is lying and she will confess the truth under fairly little scrutiny as long as the party is kind. A journey upriver ensues where the party must brave several skill challenges to overcome obstacles, there is always an extremely easy path that merely takes a long time to navigate. Jin-Zhi has engineered this to teach her daughter ( and the players ) patience. Weather the players succeed or fail the skill challenges Jin-Hao comes to realize that taking time and being patient solves more problems more easily than rushing ahead. Try to reflect in roleplay her slowly becoming less of a whiny impatient child and more level headed and patient as the player's progress. Eventually they will come to the Dragon's Gate and pass through where a final challenge awaits, Jin-Zhi in the form of a Tiger. This test is not for her daughter but rather for the Players, to see if they will be worthy of the gift she has for them. After Jin-Zhi takes 40 HP damage ( adjust as needed for party size. ) or the party is reduced to 0 HP ( They cannot die while in the Dragon's Gate and Jin-Zhi will resurrect them if they somehow do. ) she will adopt her true form and do the same to her daughter who will become a Lung Dragon once more. If the party has taken the lessons learned during the journey to heart, encouraged Jin-Hao to do the same, showed honor, teamwork, and courage in the final combat ( weather they won or not ) , and generally been polite she will reward them with a Clam of Patience. Clam of Patience: Wonderous Item, Uncommon - This pearlescent creature produces a single use Pearl of Power once a Week. This pearl is known as a " Fruit of Time " and will crumble to dust when used or when the Clam produces another. Jin-Zhi will offer to allow Jin-Hao a second try at fixing the river but the young dragon has learned her lesson and says she is not ready. Pleased with this Jin-Zhi explains to the party that the River's poisoning is from a dam downstream that is flooding the river with pollutants. She allows the party to ride on her back as far downstream as she is able to go before she reaches the edge of her allotted domain. At this point the party should be Level 2. If the party has grown attatched to Jin-Hao consider allowing them to retain her as an ally for the coming dungeon ( Silver Dragon Wyrmling ), if not grant them Inspiration. Level 2: The party reaches the Dam which has an ancient house built on it in the style of the Invaders. This home belonged to Commander Durst, a cruel and wicked military officer who was " encouraged " to build his home far from any civilization as a form of exile by the Storm Shogun. This house is effectively identical to the Death House, however Rose and Thorn are replaced by Shinzo the Eater, Durst's son who was trapped in the deep watershed of the estate and starved, feeding on the corpses of his family after the Shogun slaughtered them upon his rise to power. ( The Shogun was ignorant of Shinzo's presence as he was hiding at the time. ) Shinzo soon became a horrifying emaciated Oni that is trapped within the building. Use the stats for the Shambling Mound though roleplay the Engulf Ability as Shinzo stuffing people whole into his horrid mouth lined with rows and rows of razor sharp teeth. Consider removing the Animated Armor ( The party already fought an Automata ) and making the Specter non-hostile. Replace the Grick and Mimic with more Asian themed monsters of equal CR.( I use creatures from the " Monsters of the Orient " complete Beastiary. ) Upon completing Death House the Dam begins to crumble and disintigrate, cue the party ( hopefully ) dramatically escaping just as the dam breaks and the poisoned waters are freed. Jin-Zhi in grattitude uses her magic to stop the dam from otherwise causing catastrophic flooding and the River is soon restored to health. The party levels to 3. Level 3: The funeral of the Daimyo was delayed due to the pressing issue of the River. Now as the party returns they may proceed with burying Yoko's adoptive father, the arrangements go off without a hitch. However a mysterious individual is present, a woman in the uniform of the Storm Shogun's tank battalions. This woman is Lieutenant-Commander Mara Strahd's right hand woman ( Rahadin ). This character embodies the role of femme fetale but is more honorable than Rahadin and if she witnesses the Feast of St. Andral's event she can be convinced to betray the Storm Shogun. She explains that she is an agent of the Storm Shogun and has come to declare the new Daimyo of the village. Considering the party single handedly are responsible for the River being cleansed she asks them for their recommendations and honors their requests, she holds relatively little regard for Shang as Daimyo and will only declare him if asked to. ( She dislikes anyone who acts through Proxy so make this clear unless Shang accompanied the party during any stage of the adventure ). She commands the party to go to The Imereial City to inform " the traitors " of the new Daimyo's appointnemt and issues them travel passes if they do not have them already. At this point the game proceeds as normal for Curse of Strahd with reflavorings where needed. Old Bonegrinder is now a Tea Plantation run by three White Haired Witches, Dream Pies are replaced by Dream Tea. The Abbot is now the Maiden who operates a vast shrine at the village of Kreza, where she creates horrid amalgamations of Flesh and Metal. ( Cyborgs replace the Mongrelfolk ) The Imperial City is Vallaki, I allow the option to have a " golden ending " to the questline in which the Jade Emperor is ousted but his wife the Empress enters a political binding agreement ( or marriage if you want ) with Evangaline Pentageist and the Jade City remains free while improving the lives of all citizens. Evangaline keeps the Shogun placated with hidden loyalty without turning the city over to him wholesale. The biggest departure is the removal of the Martikovs. I repalced them with The Troupe, a band of 36 highly skilled Kabuki Play actors and actresses who each own a distinct Mask. The party has hints of these masks throughout the adventure and slowly learn that there is a massive information network of these players. Inspired by the White Lotus from Avatar the Last Airbender, they preserve the story of the true origins of the Storm Shogun and help the party realize that they have been reincarnated dozens of times only to fail, this helps them learn from past mistakes. The second greatest departure is that the Shogun's Sister ( Sergei ) is also reincarnating. She and Yoko have over time retained memories of each other despite their constant reincarnations, though the memories are vague and dreamlike. This is how Yoko has slowly become a skilled engineer while the Shogun's Sister has slowly become a street thief in the Imperial City. The two should meet often throughout the adventure, first as adversaries but slowly growing to be lovers. NOTE: Doing a love story, particularly one that does not involve players, is hard to make engaging. Imply rather than show, have Yoko show up later than usual at night and say how much fun she had while out with a " Friend " etc. etc. I had Yoko be a Kitsune for this adventure and had the Shogun's Sister reincarnate as a Tanuki just for the fun of it but feel free to make them be of any race. You can make the Shogun's Sister Male if you wish, I personally just felt like adding some diversity to the campaign. Wooooo! That was a long journey but we mostly got through it. I know there's alot that's glazed over but that's just part of my DMing style. I don't really write down every possible thing because honestly my players are gonna blow 90% of those plans up before they even make contact with them. If your curious to know more about anything just let me know and hopefully I didnt' bore you too much!
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