So, I’ve been making these game design posts for the past couple weeks, mostly ruminating on how things might work in a game system very similar to D&D but not quite. It started as really truly random musings, but then I spent a day traveling to an airport, waiting around at an airport, and then flying on a plane between airports with very little to do and my brain kept turning things around and I realized how to relate my original post about an alternate spell system to Adventure Song, my D&D-successor game that I’d kind of stopped working on because it was getting too kludgy and much more mechanically complex than I’d wanted.

Fitting the two together kind of required taking a more traditional D&D approach to spells in place of the 4E-style “spells as just one example of a thing that can fill a slot all characters have for powers” model, but once I did that… a lot of the kludge fell away.

Embracing the simplicity of the traditional six attribute system over one that generalizes thematically linked things the way D&D’s does also helped.

And of course, since my goal with Adventure Song is to make a game that is recognizably descended from D&D in a way that appeals to gamers who like or wanted to like or used to like D&D, using the same six attributes on more or less the same scale is probably a good idea.

During my spare downtime on this trip, I’ve been putting together a playtest version of the revised and simplified game. It only allows for human adventurers of the classic four core classes, though with some customization. And free multiclassing, but since there are only four classes to swap between and the alpha version is only going to go to level 4 initially, that’s not much of a sell.

This is the proof-of-concept build, intended to make sure that the rules make sense and are playable. Usually when I work on something like this I get distracted by spinning out ideas that should come after that solid foundation has been laid and tested (other classes, higher level rules and content, et cetera), but I’ve been keeping a pretty strict focus on what you might call “the core and the floor”.

Even though it won’t be as strongly in focus for the initial test version, I’m excited by the multiclass scheme I’ve come up with, which is essentially the 3E “take a level in anything” approach but with an inherent layer of protection against combinations that will either break your character or break the game.

comments

There’s a Reason it’s Called Reproductive Freedom.

“Pro-life” my ass:

The Irish Times

:



Two investigations are under way into the death of a woman who was 17 weeks pregnant, at University Hospital Galway last month.

Savita Halappanavar (31), a dentist, presented with back pain at the hospital on October 21st, was found to be miscarrying, and died of septicaemia a week later.

Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination.

This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.

She spent a further 2½ days “in agony” until the foetal heartbeat stopped.



Mr. Halappanavar told the paper that he asked a consultant if they couldn’t induce labor and save his wife, but was told no. “The consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country,” he said. “Savita [a Hindu] said: ‘I am neither Irish nor Catholic’ but they said there was nothing they could do.”

Savita might as well have been treated by witch doctors, then sacrificed to some idiot god she didn’t believe in. I can’t imagine what a nightmare it must be for everyone to know exactly what could be done to save your life, to be surrounded with the technology capable of doing it, but to be denied survival because of superstition — “This is a Catholic country” might as well be stated, “this is a stone age culture.”

Once again, we see idiotic and brutal math involved with the “pro-life” position. Quite a while back, I wrote a post about the abortion ban in Romania under communist dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu. Ceaucescu banned abortion in his country and women began dying in epidemic numbers overnight. And it was all entirely predictable. As I wrote at the time, women abort because they feel they have to — that they’d risk their lives to do it proves they feel they have no choice. And to return to that brutal math:

So what we see is that when abortion is illegal women — who are indisputably alive — die. And, since these women are pregnant, that hypothetical unborn life would logically be dead too. The math doesn’t really work. As a lifesaving measure, banning abortion sucks.


Keep in mind, Savita Halappanavar died not so that her “unborn child” could live, but so that the fetus’ heartbeat would stop. There was no saving this pregnancy, they were merely prolonging her agony to satisfy some unscientific and entirely philosophical argument. Nothing about this death serves any point at all. It was stupid. This is a tragedy unworthy of a 21st century nation.

And this would be the state of American medicine if a whole lot of people had their way. Further, this would be what any Catholic hospital could do if even more had their way. A woman could be told she must die to serve her failing fetus, because that’s what the hospital’s “religious freedom” demands. The patient’s religious freedom? Screw that. This is a Catholic country hospital. Oppression equals freedom.

This whole “pro-life” frootloopery is about more than idiotic theories about rape. It’s about more than temper tantrums over contraception coverage. It’s about women’s freedom. Not in any abstract sense, but in the very real “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” sense. In the sense that they get to refuse to be sacrificed to satisfy someone else’s religion. That they’re free to be guided by their own beliefs and their own moral code, not those handed down on high from the Priests of the High and Holy Government Order.

It was the Halappanavar’s misfortune that they didn’t live in a free country and that misfortune cost Savita her life. It was an entirely avoidable tragedy — which is why I, for one, will never stop fighting to avoid similar American tragedies.

-Wisco

[photo via Irish Times]

5 things Republicans Think are More Dangerous Than High-Capacity Assault Rifles

What are Republican priorities for America? Let’s put them in the context of the theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado — what do Republicans believe is more important than keeping an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round clip out of the hands of lunatics?

Porn
Not child porn, just everyday, run-of-the-mill porn. Just days ago, the Huffington Post reported that Mitt Romney is assuring religious conservatives behind the scenes that he would “vigorously” crack down on porn. “[Romney foreign and legal policy director Alex Wong] assured us that Romney is very concerned with this, and that if he’s elected these laws will be enforced,” one religious right leader said. “They promised to vigorously enforce federal adult obscenity laws.”

So porn, more dangerous and in need of regulation that an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round magazine.


Independent thought
The 2012 platform of the Texas Republican Party includes the statement, “We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.” The Texas GOP says the language was “an oversight on the subcommittee’s part,” but did not deny that they opposed critical thinking — suggesting that, yeah they don’t like kids who think for themselves, but they wouldn’t have put it so blatantly if they’d known people were paying attention.

Critical thinking skills; more dangerous and in need of regulation that an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round magazine.

Voting
While Republicans would argue that it’s the God-Given Right of every American to own as many guns of as many varieties with as many cases of ammo as they see fit, they seem to believe that voting is a super-dangerous activity that should — as far as possible — be restricted to responsible people who can be counted on to vote Republican. A recent Brennan Center study found that voter ID laws would disenfranchise nearly 11 million legal voters, to fight nearly nonexistent voter fraud.

Voting; more dangerous and in need of regulation that an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round magazine.


Birth control
I’m not talking about insurance coverage for birth control — although clearly that’s a deadly danger to the American populace too. I’m talking about just birth control. Republicans are big fans of state level “personhood” amendments which define life as beginning “from the moment of fertilization.” According to Rachel Maddow, “Hormonal contraceptives generally prevent an egg from being fertilized in the first place, but the at-least-theoretical possibility that they might also prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus was enough to raise the specter of birth control pills being viewed as an instrument of homicide” — therefore, “personhood” amendments would necessarily ban The Pill.

Birth control; more dangerous and in need of regulation that an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round magazine.


Science
There are a lot of examples of this, but (in my opinion), there’s no better example than the clearest case of scientific censorship out there. Recently, “North Carolina GOP legislators have circulated a bill to outlaw use of science-based projections in planning for future sea level rise.” That’s right, it’s extremely important that coastal North Carolina not prepare for rising sea levels because that would mean admitting that climate change exists. So any mention of climate change must be made illegal.

Science; more dangerous and in need of regulation that an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round magazine.


So the next time some nut shoots up some public place (and there will be a next time), go ahead and write your legislators to congratulate them. Because God forbid that same nutjob vote, use porn or birth control. Chasing victims down through pools of blood is one thing, but telling them about global warming is another entirely.

And this isn’t even comprehensive. It’ just the first five that occurred to me. There’s marijuana or transparency laws for political donors, for example. You’ll be able to think of a few yourself. But high-capacity assault rifles?

There are, after all, certain priorities.

-Wisco

[image source]

The Fox News Death Panel of Experts

Today I posted an image called “Fox News killed my mother.” Because it did. It was the most widely circulated image I’ve ever posted. But, after about and hour I could no longer read any of the comments. Still can’t. And some of you have messaged me to say you can’t see it. So here it is again. This time, my explanation will be in the first comment instead of here. Basically my mother fell and refused to go to the doctor because she was afraid that “Obamacare” would get information about her and use it in their “death panels.” Since then several of you shared identical experiences. This is how their fear mongering is killing our nation, one person at a time, one lie at a time.
-Tracy Knauss, Facebook


“FOX News is killing America one lie at a time, one life at a time. I know this personally,” Knauss wrote in her comment. “FOX News killed my precious mother, Hallie. She watched FOX religiously. And when she fell ten days before she died, she refused to go to the doctor because, ‘I don’t want Obamacare to get all of my information!’ she declared, recalling the warnings from FOX News ‘anchors.’ She was emphatic. She was not going to consort with the Muslim enemy. As she made out her will she told her lawyer, ‘I don’t want any of my money going to the Muslim Brotherhood!’ And her last protestation dealt with ‘Obama’s death panels.’ Mother died just days later. I hold FOX News responsible for my mother’s death.”

It seems the real death panel here is the panel of “experts” (otherwise known as “PR flacks”) on any given Fox News program. This is the danger that not only Fox News presents, but the entire rightwing “news” industry and the Republican Party: when you lie to people about healthcare, bad things happen. It’s really no different than being a snake-oil salesman — except, for some reason, you aren’t held responsible for the damage you cause.

But I’d go further here. Yes, Fox is the worst of the mainstream media — followed by talk radio on the second tier and the wingnut blogosphere at the lowest — but the supposedly “unbiased” media sources share a lot of the blame as well.

The problem with “unbiased” news is that it’s not exactly unbiased, so much as it’s nonjudgmental. When it comes to reporting on things like the “death panels” lie, most of the media tends to try to take what appears to be an even view of the subject matter. What’s true and what’s not true is irrelevant, since the reporting isn’t on the “death panels” per se, but on the controversy surrounding them. It’s about the “he said, she said” story, not what he and she are arguing about. Headlines that should blare “GOP SPREADING THE PUREST FORM OF BS KNOWN TO MAN” are instead “BIG FIGHT IN WASHINGTON AS REPUBLICANS HONE THEIR MESSAGE.”

As a result, even a small percentage of outlets like MSNBC’s audience probably believes that the “death panels” are real. We live in a world without facts, where every difference is a matter of opinion. There are no lies, just different takes. There is no concrete truth, only opinion. Because reporting that Republicans lie would look like bias — and we can’t have that. Somewhere along the line, the idea of “balance” — which is really just false equivalency — became more important in journalism than facts.

Which isn’t to say that all mainstream media lies outright. But they do lie. It’s simply a lie of omission. When Sarah Palin launched this whole “death panels” myth, news sources reported the absolute, undeniable fact that she said it. What they failed to do was report that it wasn’t even remotely true. As a result, they wound up repeating the lie. Not as a statement of fact, mind you, but as an expression of Palin’s opinion. Mother Hallie might well have died the same way, regardless of which news network she watched. The odds were just better with Fox.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In February, National Public Radio introduced their new handbook of journalistic ethics and, with it, a policy of focusing on truth.

In all our stories, especially matters of controversy, we strive to consider the strongest arguments we can find on all sides, seeking to deliver both nuance and clarity. Our goal is not to please those whom we report on or to produce stories that create the appearance of balance, but to seek the truth.

[…]

At all times, we report for our readers and listeners, not our sources. So our primary consideration when presenting the news is that we are fair to the truth. If our sources try to mislead us or put a false spin on the information they give us, we tell our audience. If the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side, we acknowledge it in our reports. We strive to give our audience confidence that all sides have been considered and represented fairly.


“With these words, NPR commits itself as an organization to avoid the worst excesses of 'he said, she said' journalism. It says to itself that a report characterized by false balance is a false report,” wrote media watchdog Jay Rosen at the time. “It introduces a new and potentially powerful concept of fairness: being ‘fair to the truth,’ which as we know is not always evenly distributed among the sides in a public dispute.”

The logical equation of “a report characterized by false balance is a false report” jumps out at me; mostly because it should seem so obvious, but instead seems so profound. And it seems profound because it’s so alien to the media landscape we’ve become way too used to. That phony balance is why people doubt global warming and evolution. It’s why people think the president is secretly a Muslim Kenyan and that Iran’s building a nuclear weapon this very minute — if they don’t have one already. The news tells “both sides of the story,” then neglects to tell you which side is the liar.

No one’s ever going to make a similar “NPR killed my mother” photo-manip. Their hands are clean. The rest of the media doesn’t get off so easily. Fox News may be the worst, but they’re the worst of a bad lot.

-Wisco

Let me tell you about Saga:

  • Surrealist star-crossed romance/family adventure comic IN SPACE. Alana and Marko are fleeing from opposing sides of a very old war, trying to keep themselves and their newborn alive without getting killed by either side.
  • Written by Brian K. Vaughan (author of Y: The Last Man and the Faith arc of the Buffy S8 comics) and art by Fiona Staples. Ongoing with 14 issues so far; it looks like there are scheduled hiatuses every six issues? There are now two volumes collected the first 12 issues.
  • Definitely an adult-content book. There is violence, sex, nudity, and bits.
  • Gorgeous artwork. The use of color, the expression and individuality of the faces, the visual concept work - Staples does wonderful stuff.
  • Gonzo worldbuilding. One of the people after us is Prince Robot IV, who comes from a race of people with TV sets for heads. Another of the people after us travels with a giant blue hairless cat which, whenever anyone lies in its presence, says, “Lying.” There’s a significant character with one huge eye in the middle of his face and a minor character that is a human-sized, air-breathing seahorse in a suit. And I will let you discover The Stalk for yourself, but she is possibly my favorite of all.
  • Easy to read – all the pages are left-to-right, top-to-bottom. No panels overlapping with other panels, no following panels all up and down the page. It’s always extremely clear what panel to look at next. (This bullet point is aimed specifically at my friends who say they’re not sure how to read comics. Saga will start you off very gently!)
  • Lots of awesome women! Specifically Alana and infant daughter Hazel (who narrates), but we also have, uh, various spoilery other people. We frequently have more women than men in a scene, and the women are all complicated and layered and excellent, as they should be.
  • First issue caused a minor hullabaloo for having Alana breastfeeding on the cover.
  • Racial diversity – almost none of these people are actually human, much less of a particular identifiable ethnicity, but Alana is noticeably browner than Marko, and [spoilery other characters] are both much darker still. It’s not by species, either; Marko has horns and is light-skinned, but [spoilery character] also has horns and the darkest skin of any of the humanoids we meet.
  • The storytelling makes me trust it. It keeps returning to the elements and events it’s introduced, so that a character who’s a topic of discussion shows up in person six issues later, and a scene that is referenced in passing is seen in full flashback further down the road. There is no waste here.
  • It’s hopeful. There’s death, and it’s sad, and the war is terrible and the environment in which we are trying to survive is terrible, and yet the story itself seems to be an act of building up, rather than tearing down, if that makes any sense – for the reader and for the characters.
  • The first issue is free! You can pick up the whole 6-issue volume for pretty cheap, either digitally or in hard copy, and the second for not too much more. Or, you know, Amazon. Alternatively, the library! (I’m sure there are also other, less reputable ways of acquiring it, but I can’t help you with those.)

So, clearly this is something you want to investigate further, yes? Yes? :D

Screenwriting Tip #1096

Know what your protagonist wants, know why she wants it, and know why the thing she wants isn’t the same as the thing she needs. If you know those three things, the rest of your protag’s characterization will fall into place.

A GOP Economic Myth Bites the Dust

It’s one of the most enduring myths in American politics; that if you increase taxes for the wealthy (or, in the right’s favorite BS term, “job creators”), the rate of employment will take a nosedive. Nothing about this makes any sense at all, but with a media environment that values a false “balance” above truthtelling, it’s much easier to gloss over that fact. What the right is saying when they make this argument is that it would be too expensive to make profit — a ridiculous claim that ignores simple math, not to mention logic.

So, in our current political and media environment, even obviously bogus claims need to be debunked. And two top economists — Nobel Prize winner Peter Diamond and John Bates Clark award winner Emmanuel Saez — probably felt more than up to the task when they took it upon themselves to bust this rightwing myth. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Diamond and Saez set the record straight.

The share of pre-tax income accruing to the top 1% of earners in the U.S. has more than doubled to about 20% in 2010 from less than 10% in the 1970s. At the same time, the average federal income tax rate on top earners has declined significantly. Given the large current and projected deficits, should the top 1% be taxed more? Because U.S. income concentration is now so high, the potential tax revenue at stake is large.

[…]

According to our analysis of current tax rates and their elasticity, the revenue-maximizing top federal marginal income tax rate would be in or near the range of 50%-70% (taking into account that individuals face additional taxes from Medicare and state and local taxes). Thus we conclude that raising the top tax rate is very likely to result in revenue increases at least until we reach the 50% rate that held during the first Reagan administration, and possibly until the 70% rate of the 1970s. To reduce tax avoidance opportunities, tax rates on capital gains and dividends should increase along with the basic rate. Closing loopholes and stepping up enforcement would further limit tax avoidance and evasion.

But will raising top tax rates significantly lower economic growth? But will raising top tax rates significantly lower economic growth? In the postwar U.S., higher top tax rates tend to go with higher economic growth—not lower. Indeed, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, GDP annual growth per capita (to adjust for population growth) averaged 1.68% between 1980 and 2010 when top tax rates were relatively low, while growth averaged 2.23% between 1950 and 1980 when top tax rates were at or above 70%.



So no, raising taxes on the wealthy won’t harm job creation — mostly because the “job creators” aren’t the wealthy, they’re consumers as a whole.

“With the ‘taxes harm growth’ and Laffer curve arguments undercut by research such as this, Republicans have fallen back on the argument that it’s unfair to take income away from those who earn it,” comments economist Mark Thoma (link mine). “But that presumes that the system allocates income fairly, a claim that is hard to swallow given how much financial executives are paid relative to their contribution to the productive process (to name just one example). There’s nothing unfair about using taxes to ‘clawback’ misdirected income, and it won’t harm growth to send income where it should have gone in the first place.”

In other words, the dreaded “redistribution of wealth” — although it would be more accurately described as the “re-redistribution of wealth.” Insanely low tax rates and a corporate culture that rewards even failure with tremendous bonuses represent “Robin Hood in reverse” economics, where those least able to afford it take the hit, in order to take the burden off the wealthy.

Does this create jobs? We’ve already established that the answer is no. And the reason is simple — producers will only offer the goods and service that people will pay for. The less money consumers have to spend, the fewer employees will be needed at any given workplace. By taking money from consumers to cover tax breaks for the wealthy, you do the opposite of creating jobs. Take a look at that chart at the top of the page — tax rates for the top earners are the lowest since 1950 and jobs follow that downward arc. Money in the hands of consumers, not employers, creates jobs. This is not a hypothesis, this is as solid a fact as gravity.

It’s really very easy to explain all of this: employers don’t hire people any time they can afford to — they only hire people when they can’t afford not to. Anyone who argues otherwise is either a liar or someone who doesn’t understand economics, business, or math at all.

-Wisco

If a trans woman expresses less than perfect forgiveness and sorrow at Robin Williams’ death—no matter how “hateful” you might think her words may be—for goddess’ sake, LEAVE HER BE.

Do not fucking attack her for expressing the pain transmisogyny caused her. Ever.

Now if you’ll excuse me I gotta take screenshots of threats of violence against trans women, happening right now.

Kanaya/Rose :: Spoonful of Descent

Title: Spoonful of Descent

Pairing: Kanaya/Rose

Rating: M

Prompt: 

http://homesmut.livejournal.com/9406.html?thread=14275006#t14275006 

Troll boys aren’t the only ones with bulges. Kanaya puts off having sex with Rose because she knows that human females are built differently and she’s worried that Rose will react poorly. But in the end, Rose is 0kay with having even more tentacles in her life.

Warnings: Ad-libbed alien biology, tentadick, awkward teenage lesbian interspecies exploratory sex.

I thought long and hard about putting this on tumblr, but after Jabberwock manned up about her most recent Dave/Tavros fill, I said what the hell and just did it. Who needs dignity and anonymity when you have potentially incriminating porn to post?

So glad I finally finished this, though. Hopefully I can start on the next parts within the week!

==>Kanaya: Be overwhelmed by self-consciousness.
At any other moment, you would scoff at the mere thought. Insecurities are not something you are well acquainted with, even concerning the Rose human (who you have taken to calling Rose in recent days, for reasons of convenience and affection alike, and Karkat will just have to accept that, thank you very much). This does not count your tendency to become excessively verbose in her presence — that, of course, is merely a result of having the opportunity to converse with someone who posseses a vocabulary as extensive of yours. Yes, this is surely the answer. 

But, as appealing as dissecting the reasons behind your uncontrollable rambling around this particular human is, there are more pressing matters at hand, i.e. the fact that Rose has stopped kissing you and is staring down between your bare chests to where your bone bulge is making a rather embarassing first impression on her hip. 

"What," she asks, slowly, the way she talks when she’s explaining Complex Time Shenanigans to John, "is that?"

In her face you read shock and a rare tinge of hesitance, but - you think… you hope - not disgust. And, since you are almost painfully close to unsheathing at this point, you swallow all your apprehension and move your hands to her hips, wishing you felt as steady as your grip.

"That would be my bone bulge," you tell her, your protein chute dry with anxiety as you wait for a response. Her eyes flick up to yours for a moment, long enough for you to catch that same hesitance, now overwhelmed by curiousity and, unless you are deluding yourself -which you fully admit is quite likely, especially in circumstances such as these- a most subtle hint of desire. 

One of her hands slips from your shoulder, trailing down your shirt until her fingertips are hovering over the rise in the fabric of your skirt. 

"May I?" she murmurs, and your blood pumper makes a dramatic leap up into your windhole. You can only nod, watching in a daze as she undoes the fastenings of your skirt. To Rose’s credit, she only pauses for a heartbeat before pulling the fabric apart. She stares, and you’re lost in the way she bites her lip; automatically you reach to touch her mouth, nudging gently until she opens it. With a little gasp, she comes back to herself, gaze lifting to yours. 

"Kanaya," she says. You gape in response, hoping that you don’t look as dumbstruck as you feel. It doesn’t seem to matter; Rose has already gone back to staring at your bulge - except now she seems determined, something you think shouldn’t make you as hot as it does. She leans forward, shifts until she’s sitting between your legs, and rests her head on your shoulder, still poised to watch but more comfortable. You wonder if she’s steeling herself the way you are. Suddenly she reaches out with the hand not resting on your shoulder, and you inhale sharply, preparing for a rush of sensation that never comes.

Rose has faltered again, and though you almost want to scream with pent-up sexual frustration, you simply turn to kiss her forehead, letting a desperate breath slip out against her. She answers with a soft touch to the tip of your bulge; it’s sudden and electric and you shiver, hard, feeling the very tip of it unsheathe. 

"Oh," Rose sighs, the sound hot on the skin of your chest, and that alone makes you extend further, a soft noise churring in the back of your throat as her hand becomes bolder, tracing up and down the length of the sheathe until you’re out fully. By then you’re a shuddering, clicking mess, grasping tight at her hips as she lets your bulge wind itself around her wrist, tip wriggling into the gaps between her fingers in a relentless bid for friction. 

You open your eyes to find her flushed and staring, and only now does it occur to you that her skirt is still quite resolutely on, and her not-quite-bulge very much unattended to. 

Saying her name in this state is a concerted effort; your tongue spends nearly half a minute on the r alone, rolling it in your mouth like one of John’s fruit-flavored hard candies, and by the time you get it out she’s already staring at you, eyes half-lidded but intense. The way her hand is still absently working your bulge makes it hard to concentrate, but you’re incapable of - and intensely opposed to - telling her to stop. Instead you put your own hands to good use, fumbling a few times with the zipper of her skirt before you’re able to pull it down. 

You massacre her name again, as insistently as you can, and she smirks (though you must say that the effect is positively ruined by the slight panting cant to her breath) and shifts up onto her knees once again, slipping the skirt down her legs and off. The silky fabric slithers off the bed, hitting the floor in a whisper, and you’re left to stare at the absurd, completely flat front of her underwear. For the first time you get a taste of what Rose must’ve felt earlier: Confusion, curiosity, and the deep, delicious thrill of having no idea what you’re in for. 

Hands trembling, you take her hips once more, distraced a moment by the smooth warmth of her thighs under your palms; she leans forward at your pull and you press your face into her stomach, breathing deep and letting the soft clean smell of her steady your mind even as it excites your bulge (which is writhing agitatedly against your leg quite like a petulant wriggler - you consider scolding it, then decide that that would be thoroughly silly and would definitely, as you’ve heard the humans say before, kill the mood).

You can feel the blood pulse under Rose’s skin, swift and soft and urging you on the way she would never. Her underwear slides easily down her thights when you pull at them, and she shifts again when they reach her knees, hooking a thumb into the band and tugging them down her calves and off.

With a final inhalation, you pull back, as prepared as you’ll ever be to find out what you’re dealing with. 

Your first impression is that you’re looking at a nook.

Your second is that you are definitely not looking at a nook. With a cautious finger, you touch the front of … whatever it is, feeling along the strange blonde hairs there and down between Rose’s legs. Suddenly you feel slickness and heat, and above you she lets out a soft sigh, her hands tightening on your shoulders. A glance upwards lets you know to keep going, that you are most likely doing something right, for Rose is hunched over you, glassy-eyed and panting once more. 

Most inelegant.

Most impossibly attractive. 

The only problem is that you’re not quite sure where to go from here - there is slickness, yes, but it’s nothing like your own nook, and the last thing you want to do is hurt her in your ignorance. It doesn’t help that in the pit of your abdomen is a mess of pure want that makes it hard to be rational and deductive.

"Rose," you plead, staring up at her, your hands hovering awkwardly near her not-quite-nook. A little lucidity comes back into her eyes, and she reaches down to take one of your wrists, guiding it upwards.

"See," she breathes, voice tinged with a light hoarseness that makes you want to pail right then and there. "In." At her nudge, you slip a finger into her, watching as she chokes back a (hopefully) appreciative noise.

(And suddenly, her insistence that you clip your nails this afternoon makes perfect sense.)

It’s more nooklike than you first thought, slick and hot and contracting around your finger as you move it further inside her. It feels different though, somehow, in a way you can’t describe; until she presses close to you, burying her face in your hair and whispertelling you to add another finger, you don’t realize that the word you’re looking for is big

Or, at least, bigger. You ease your fingers back into her, experimentally flexing them to find that yes, in fact, Rose’s nook is larger than the average troll’s. It occurs to you then that you could probably fit your entire bulge inside her, and a shiver races down your spine at the thought of being buried sheathe-deep in something that tight and warm. 

You just hope she’ll let you.

You bend your knuckles and Rose gasps, grasping suddenly at your horns, her palms sweat-damp and desperate. You’re pretty sure you’re staining your favorite skirt green at this point but you can not even bring yourself to curse leaving it under you, not with Rose so undone around your fingers, not with the coiling heat in your gut. You want so badly now to give into the natural urge to pail, to make her pail, one hand digging too-tight into the swell of her hip as you shift your arm, moving faster into her. 

God you think, her quiet gasps scorching through your think pan and leaving it incapable of stringing sentences together. One of Rose’s hands leaves your horns, straining instead down to your bone bulge. The pads of her fingers only barely brush the tip, coming away sticky and green, and with a half-swallowed groan of frustration Rose sits back on her heels; your hand is trapped beneath and inside her, twitching helplessly as she strokes your bone bulge, working the length. 

She rolls her wrist, spreading her fingers to loop every last inch of your bulge around her digits; you jerk and dig deeper into her as she begins to squeeze, grip pulsing gently. Clumsily you kiss her, mouths open and mid-breath, tongues slipping sloppily together. A lip catches on your tooth, slicing it open just enough for a trickle of blood to slide down her chin, lurid red and beckoning. You lean in to lick it off, dragging the tip of your tongue over the small gash and relishing Rose’s sharp shudder.

Suddenly a pang hits you deep in your core, and you realize that this is it, you absolutely need to pail now, your entire body aching for it. Still unable to say her name properly, you let go of her hip and reach blindly behind you for the bucket tucked between the pillows at the head of the bed. The look she gives you is searing, sending a jolt of arousal straight to your bulge, now clenching almost frantically around Rose’s wrist.

With some effort, you get the pail into position, cold metal pressed against your thighs. There’s still one more thing, though, one more maddening, entirely inconvenient thing: Rose still hasn’t triggered your pailing reflex. You’d be a little put out at the lack of attention given to your nook, were it not for the fact that your anatomy is, after all, completely novel to her, and that your bone bulge is very well taken care of. 

You reach for one of the hands on your horns (for a moment it clenches tight and you gasp, back arching), pulling it down to your waist as gently as you can in this state; Rose still winces, grimace of pain disappearing as you murmur slurred apologies and slide your fingers deeper inside her. Only a part of you really feels bad - the other part is too busy pushing her hand between your legs. Her fingertips slide against the entrance to your nook and you jerk, biting down hard on your lip as the churring in the back of your throat deepens in your chest. 

God, Kanaya,” Rose moans, and the fact that she has joined you in stooping to such lowbrow dialogue spurs you on. You press harder at her wrist and she obeys, sliding a finger up into your nook and holding it there, her mouth slightly slack with surprise. It feels thick, incredible, the same slim digit that can wiggle through the gaps in your button-down shirts all but filling you up. 

Your palms are slippery on her skin, slick with panic and want and you fight hard to form words, grasping at her sharp shoulderblades. 

"Bend it," you manage, all your pride drained by the need to pail. You would beg if Rose asked you to, bent low to kiss the tops of her feet and writing whole epics on her grace and poise and ultimate superiority. 

Thankfully, she doesn’t make you beg. 

Instead, she crooks her finger, pressing (probably) by luck against the exact right spot, and it is no sort of exaggeration to say that you see the gaseous balls of fire and chemical reaction that Rose calls stars.

With a low purr throbbing deep in your chest, you feel the knot in your stomach come loose. You rock forwards, burying your face in Rose’s neck as the first trickle of genetic material hits the bottom of the bucket. Your bulge tenses around her hand in uneven pulses as a second wave hits you hard. Rose gasps quietly as the pail’s bottom is coated with slick green fluid; the hand in your nook falls still.

For a moment the loss of sensation is dizzying, dismaying. You jump, keening loudly, as she presses her hips forward into the bucket, steadying it between your bodies. Rose breathes out against your hair, and you can’t bite back your chirp of surprise as she works another finger into your nook.

The stretch is edging on painful, but apparently a little pain is a thing you quite possibly enjoy, in immediate and gratifying manners. You let go of her wrist, clenching your fingers instead in the green-damp fabric of your skirt as fire licks through your lower half, pouring out the tip of your bulge in slick spurts until the bucket is nearly half-full and you are drained, dizzy.

The last few drips trail down Rose’s wrist as she spreads her fingers, your bulge unwinding its tight hold on her and sliding back into its sheathe. Almost immediately, almost hurriedly, Rose reaches down between your legs and moves the bucket, the material inside sloshing dangerously high as she plunks it down on the small table beside the bed.

You watch her, your mind in a thick, post-pailing haze, and in a second she’s back in your lap, pressing hard against you. As your think pan is positively (and possibly irreversibly) empty, all you can do is yield to her force, opening your mouth to let her devour your lips. Her hand scrambles for yours, pressing it back between her legs, and some semblance of thought begins to form: She wants to pail. She needs to pail, more likely. 



Does she pail?

Curiosity building, you slide your fingers inside her once more, hesitating only a moment before adding a third, for good measure. 

She shudders and groans, long and low, against your lips, her body moving in rhythmic grinds on your hand.

"Right there," Rose murmurs, breathless after an experimental crook of your fingers finds what is probably her internal release gauge - what is hopefully her internal release gauge, because if not you are utterly and completely lost and will probably fail to make her pail properly. 

Since you do not believe you could bear the embarrassment of failing in your duties as a matesprit, you press up against the front wall of her nook once again, sighing in relief and awe as her back arches, her fingernails raking through your hair as she tries to smother another soft noise. She touches the bases of your horns, and even in your drained state, the sensation still sends a reflexive shiver through you. 

Rose’s face is hot and flushed and you drag your lips over her cheek, kissing soft at her jaw as she tenses around your fingers, clutches at the length of your horns. 

Harder,” she begs you in between heavy, shaking breaths, pulse jumping in her throat and under her skin as you kiss her, complying - and draw back in alarm as her entire body goes rigid against you. Then, with a low groan, Rose relaxes, falling limp against your chest with her arms draped over your shoulder. 



Wait, what? Did you miss something?

Rose, for all intents and purposes, looks utterly drained and satisfied, despite the lack of fluid expelled. A quick glance downwards confirms your suspicions - where there ought to be a slick, sticky mess of her genetic material, there is only the drying remains ofyours. Your hand as well is only barely wet, a puzzling, disconcerting observation. 

Oblivious, your matesprit hums quietly against your clavicle, pounding heartbeat slowly winding down to its odd (but apparently normal, for her at least) two-step rhythm. 

This is surreal.

You didn’t even have time to ask if she needed the pail. 

She’s quiet against you now, breathing slowly with a small, rare smile on her face. You’re loathe to disturb her, but your curiosity simply will not allow you to leave it at that.

"Rose," you ask quietly, giving her a gentle nudge between the shoulderblades. 

"Yes?" 

"…Is that all?"

She cracks an eye open, giving you that look she does when she’s not sure if you’re attempting human sarcasm or not. Whichever she decides it is, she apparently doesn’t care. 

"Hush, Kanaya," she orders, stroking an affectionate thumb down the side of your chest. "We can’t all be veritable reservoirs."

You hush, and place your hand over hers, feeling both a faint stickiness on her skin and an overwhelming feeling of self-satisfaction.

Maybe next time, you think, you can actually use your bulge properly.

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