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Sympathy for the Drow - De-Vilifying the Dark Elves
The "Evil" races in DnD have always rubbed me kinda the wrong way. Partly once I learned that a lot of them come from racist stereotypes (Orcs, Drow, and Goblins in particular) and also just because it doesn't make sense to me. Even Nazi Germany had variation and dissenters and it only lasted for 12 years. Why would a clearly evil society never change over hundreds of years? In my opinion, a story is only as good as it's villains. So, I've set out to try and make the traditionally evil races slightly more believable and even sympathetic in places. Now, I've not been a DM very long, only like three years. But the first campaign I ever ran was through Curse of Strahd which paints the Vistani (an itinerant society heavily based on the real world Romani) as a conniving group of thieves, murders, and vampire-worshipers. Thankfully, I found through reddit and other sites how to steer away from the racists depictions of the Vistani and making them seem like, at worst, opportunists. So, I hope to be able to do that with some other of the classic DnD antagonist races. I've read some other phenomenal post on here about evil races that totally inspired me as well. There's a great twopart post about Decolonizing D&D which I adore. The post about alignment is easily my favorite. There's a couple great ones on Orcs and Yuan-Ti too so if some of my ideas are lifted from them, I hope y'all consider it flattery instead of theft. So, here are some primer notes before I get into it. For creating the Dark Elves, I tried to keep as much as I could from the books. Obviously some stuff has to get thrown out the window though. I also tried to standardize calling them Dark Elves instead of Drow partly because I feel like Drow has a much nastier sound to it and calling them Dark Elves follows the naming convention with the High and Wood Elves. I tried to model them after real-life matriarchal societies like the Mosuo people of China and their pantheon after real deities like the Greeks, Romans, and Norse. I also quickly realized that building a society is inseparable from geography. Where a people are from effects their language, values, mythology, history, and family structure. I've tried to outline details I think are necessary to making this society realistic while leaving it open ended enough to be place-able in different worlds with relative ease. All that aside, lets get into the meat of it.
The Dark Elves: Elven Outcasts
The Elves are a varied and magical people that come from many planes and many environments within them. But none are met with more distrust and fear than the Dark Elves. Easily set apart from their cousins by their charcoal or pitch-black skin, pink-red eyes, hair of grays and whites, and shorter stature, these people have earned a reputation as killers, thieves, demon worshipers, and liars. But history is a cruel mistress, something the Dark Elves know better than most.
The Divine Divide
As the legends go, when the world was still young, Corellon Larethian lived on the Plane of Arvandor with his fellow Primal Elves. They were wild and mutable, emotional and free in all things. They changed shapes at will, gave and took freely to and from the world, and never stayed in any location too long. They wandered to and fro, scattering their peoples across almost every plane. However, this unbridled freedom was not without a price. Arguments, feuds, and small scale wars were incredibly common between them. Some elves would find themselves stranded on far off planes after most of their companions impulsively decided to leave. Their self serving impulses drove them to often completely disregard the needs or wants of others if they went against their own desires. And their reckless revelry was wreaking havoc on the natural world with Elven parties decimating whole planes of edible plants, wild game, and drinkable water. One such Primal Elf began to see the destruction of their ways and talked to other elves about their actions. Slowly, this Elf by the name of Lolth amassed a small following of devotees that saw the negative ramifications of their inconsiderate freedom. Lolth and her followers agreed to take on fixed forms to show recognition of the dangers that impulsivity could bring. Lolth led this small group of devotees to Corellon to ask for his support. Now, Corellon did not lead these Primal Elves: he was just as wild as the best of them and did not take kindly to others telling him what to do. But he was the First Elf ever born and was universally respected amongst the Primal Elves and if Lolth could convince him, others would surely follow. Corellon listened to her proposition and agreed that they should change to prevent more destruction and conflict, but refused to order his kinsfolk into any action. He was an Elf, same as all of them, and he wouldn’t dare order around his family. He balked when Lolth asked him to take a concrete form as a show of solidarity and brushed her off as a killjoy. Lolth was unsatisfied with this outcome and her following set out to convince each Elf to change their ways to preserve the beauty of the worlds. However, without the support of Corellon, many elves refused her offer. Her anger grew with each failure and her opinion of Corellon turned sour, something she made no attempt to hide from her Elven siblings. Now, Corellon is a proud god and once he caught wind that Lolth was bad mouthing him in an attempt to win over others, he became enraged. He railed against Lolth calling her a snake-tongued thief and Lolth called him incompetent and cruel. Their tempers flared and all the elves chose sides between Corellon’s freedom and Lolth’s stability. During this great debate, the Primal Elves turned to violence. The Dark Elves maintain that Corellon’s side threw the first blow, while the High Elves claim that it came from Lolth’s side. No matter the source, this violent outburst soured relations between Lolth and Corellon forever after. He cast her and her followers out of Arvandor and barred her from ever returning. He also cast all but his most trusted kin from Arvandor, forcing them all to live lives on other worlds out of fear of another perceived insurrection. Thus, the Seldarine remain in Arvandor to judge the souls of Corellon’s faithful when they die and Lolth takes refuge in Arcadia with her pantheon where she minds the souls of the Drow. Corellon’s faithful call her pantheon the Dark Seldarine, while her faithful call it the Myrkalfar.
Myrkalfar: The Spider Mother’s House
Lolth the Spider Queen is the unquestioned head of the Myrkalfar, with all other deities seen as her divine family. Lolth is considered at times to be fickle or even cruel, but her ire is never gained without good reason. A very involved deity, her followers constantly search for signs of her favor or scorn in everyday life. When a Dark Elf contemplates a risky or controversial decision, they consult priestesses or perform their own rites which often gives them direct and succinct answers. She serves as an example to matriarchs of Drow families as demanding yet understanding, punishing yet guiding. She asks for a lot of her priestesses, demanding they be an unflinching example of everything a strong leader should be. The Myrkalfar is often presented as a divine household, with Lolth as the matron. Keptolo is the consort of Lolth and considered to be the ideal of what a male should be. Beautiful and kind, strong and hard working, he helps Lolth in everything she does. Sometimes he serves as a messenger, other times as an agent of redemption, sometimes as a divine healer. When a Dark Elf is tasked with a divine charge, he is usually the one to deliver the message and guide them through their charge. He serves also as a fertility deity and is often worshiped by women or men seeking a child. Outsiders see him as a weak and subservient husband to Lolth, but his faithfulness to his matron is considered a virtue and his status as a “husband” is relatively alien to the Dark Elves as they have no binding marriage in their society. If Keptolo is the agent of Lolth’s mercy, Kiaransalee is the agent of her vengeance. She is the eldest daughter of Lolth and Keptolo and one that Dark Elves pray to when they feel wronged. Only the most binding and serious contracts are signed under her name. To break an oath made under her name is sure to bring destruction. She is also the governor of the dead, judging the souls of those passed in the afterlife. She opposes the mindless undead created by mortals, but spirits and revenants that return to finish unresolved business amongst the living are considered under her protection. Should a Dark Elf encounter a returned spirit that is seeking vengeance, it’s their duty to leave them on their way and pray that the spirit isn’t there for them. This reverence of certain undead is something many outsiders consider downright evil. Selvetarm is the Dark Elven warrior goddess and youngest daughter of Lolth. Often depicted with eight arms, she represents the pinnacle of hand to hand martial prowess, but often is without restraint. She serves as both an inspiration for warriors, and a warning. Vhaeraun is the eldest son of Lolth and governs ambition and stealth. Both of these traits are not necessarily vilified, but worship of him is highly scrutinized. Haughty and rash, tales of him often include deceiving his fellow gods for good and ill and more often than not are cautionary ones. He’s depicted as wearing a mask, either as some punishment for endangering Lolth and her family or to hide his identity for various schemes, possibly both. Malyk is Lolth’s youngest son and a youthful deity of change and growth. He’s often seen as a bouncing young boy that Lolth and her family have to reign in from wild misadventures. His freedom and curiosity is often seen as a double edged sword, both gaining him great riches but also putting him in tremendous peril. He has strong ties to sorcerers and when a child is born with innate magical talent, he is often the one thanked for it. He serves as an outlet for a Dark Elves youthful chaotic nature, but also warns them of the ramifications of their actions. Ghaunadur is a strange figure in the pantheon. Their place in the family is a bit of a mystery, sometimes called the sibling of Lolth, or her child, or even as Lolth’s parent. What makes them truly unique is that they are a formless deity, something that Lolth once warred with Corellon over. The legends go that when Ghaunadur joined Lolth, they refused to give up their changeable nature. When questioned, Ghaunadur pointed to the slimes, oozes, and formless creatures of the world and said that they wished to protect them from the Elves and the Elves from them. Lolth agreed, cementing their position as the deity of the changing forms of nature. Their favored creature is the ooze, but they govern all natural creatures. Dark Elves often pray to Ghaunadur to protect them from the creatures that lurk in the depths of the forest. Zinzerena is Lolth’s sister and is the goddess of poisons, illusions, and magic. Viewed as an elderly and patient figure, she often serves as council to Lolth in desperate times. She’s said to be the mother of all poisons and venoms and her teachings are all about finding the wisest solution to a problem. Zinzerena teaches that even though the spider is small, it’s bite can still fell a panther. Despite her perceived age, she’s considered the younger sister of Lolth and is thought to be incredibly quick and nimble: a reminder that not everything is as it seems. Eilistraee is Lolth’s niece and daughter of Zinzerena. Considered the black sheep of the pantheon, she serves as a goddess of redemption and moonlight. Dark Elves that turn their back on their family or scorn traditions will sometimes find themselves turned to Driders, half-spider half-Dark Elf creatures shunned by all. Eilistraee is said to watch over these creatures and if they are repentant, offer them challenges that they could complete to redeem themselves. Lolth often views her with contempt or mistrust, but never hates her and maintains her place in the pantheon. Dark Elven faithful rarely worship her as the others. She’s also one of the only deities of the Myrkalfar to claim no animosity toward the Seldarine and their faithful. Spiders are the sacred animal of Lolth and are often used as an example of social order and the importance of family bonds. Each strand of silk serves the web as whole. More literally, the giant spiders of the Underdark are multifaceted and incredibly useful creatures. Serving as beasts of burden, war steeds, meat producers, household guardians, and silk producers, they are present in almost every facet of society. Their silks are used in everything from wound dressings to armor to architecture. To kill or steal another family's spider is considered akin to stealing a member of the family. Smaller and more poisonous spiders are often kept in temples and their webs are used as divining tools for priestesses.
The recorded history of the Dark Elves is full of contradictions from High Elf and Dark Elf sources. What historians can agree on is when the Elves of the Prime Material arrived, the followers of Lolth secluded from their Wood and High cousins and retreated into the Azelarien, also known as the Green Sea in Common. A massive forest, nearly 1 million square miles of dense and vibrant trees, that grows denser and darker the farther in one ventures. For countless eons, the High, Wood, and Dark Elves lived in relative harmony in their own corner of the world. High Elves lived near the forests in towns and villages, the Wood Elves lived in the lightly forested outlands of the Green Sea, and the Dark Elves lived deep in the central forests which was so dense that very little light reached the forest floor. As time passed and their villages turned to cities, the High Elves began expanding into the forest, chopping some down to build homes and heat their furnaces. This began pushing into the territory of the Wood Elves and eventually the Dark Elves as well. These two peoples formed a shaky alliance to push back the expansive tide of the far larger High Elven armies. This alliance proved successful however and the High Elven forces began losing ground. What happened next is a matter of some debate. High Elven historians attest that the Dark Elven armies used Wood Elven soldiers as unwitting bait to lure the High Elven armies into a trap, thus causing a schism between them. Dark Elven historians state that the Wood Elven armies turned on them after the Wood Elves met in secret with High Elven leaders and bargained for their independence. Some Wood Elven historians claim that after a brutal defeat on the field, they were met by High Elven dignitaries that offered them clemency if they turned on their allies. They initially refused, but after the dignitaries threatened to make the same offer to the Dark Elves, they had no choice but to accept. No matter the cause, the histories agree that the Wood Elves turned on their erstwhile allies and helped push the Dark Elves into a rapid loss of ground. Facing the might of the two armies with their own relatively small one, the Dark Elves were beaten into a hasty retreat into their own territory. Losing every open encounter, the Dark Elf matrons developed a new strategy of combat. The armies switched from training as many as quickly as they could, to training only a select few in multiple different forms of combat and magic. As the High and Wood Elves advanced into their territory, they quickly found their supply lines cut out from under them, their soldiers ambushed while sleeping, their scouts captured, and their leaders assassinated. And even if they would make it to a Dark Elf settlement, they would find it abandoned and booby-trapped, warned by their fast and silent scouts. If the Dark Elves couldn’t face their enemies head-on, they would weaken them with quick and decisive strikes. Eventually, the war ground to a stalemate. The High Elves couldn’t push into the Dark Elf territory far enough to capture any cities of note without taking severe casualties and the Dark Elves were only managing to hold the invading armies back and couldn’t muster a force strong enough to push back to the enemy capital. Thus, the war cooled into a tense peace. The leaders came together to draw borders, but neither side fully forgave nor forgot one another’s actions. High and Wood Elves viewed the change in tactics by the Dark Elves as an unethical violation of the standards of war. The Dark Elves felt a particular animosity toward the Wood Elves, considering them backstabbers in their darkest hour.
Dark Elf Families: Matrons of Order
The Dark Elf society, to an outsider, looks like an oppressive and cruel society of slave traders and backstabbers. But the truth is more subtle. The Dark Elves value tradition and filial piety above almost all else. To a Dark Elven citizen, their family name is their most valuable possession and they are taught from a very young age that to look after their parents and their younger siblings is the highest virtue. Ancestors that have achieved great things often have shrines in a household alongside the gods themselves. A Dark Elf going against the will of their family is considered one of the highest taboos and often causes them to be outcast from Dark Elven society as a whole. Dark Elf society is matrilineal meaning that the eldest woman in each family is revered as the household leader and receives great respect from her family and society. This also means that the males of the society don’t inherit wealth as frequently as the females. Dark Elven families are quite large, often with multiple generations along with aunts, uncles, and cousins living in the same household. New children almost always reside with their mother. Males of the society are expected to care not for their own biological children, but for the children born to their sisters, aunts, or nieces. This results in a striking amount of sexual freedom for both men and women, but is often viewed from the outside as promiscuity. The Dark Elves do not marry in the traditional sense, instead favoring long term partners with one another that can end at any time with no concerns to material wealth or ownership. However, to become a member of a Dark Elf family is not entirely a matter of heritage. When a family that cannot support another child has one, they are often adopted by more well to do families and raised as one of their own. These adopted children are considered just as legitimate as if they were born into the family. Also, should a family lose all their heirs or become destitute, they often ask to become assimilated into other families for their own safety. The latter is considered a morose ceremony as the members of the smaller family forsake their surnames. To take in such a family is both an extreme honor and grim burden, as it means ending another family's line. The borders of Dark Elven civilization only goes so far as there are trees so many newer up and coming families have expanded underground, a difficult and slow endeavor. This has put multiple houses at odds with one another for territory. However, Dark Elves do not tolerate open hostility between families as they have a very strong sense of collective identity. Dark Elves do not war against fellow Dark Elves, same as a spider does not fight its own web. This leads to many tensions and conflicts needing to be resolved in other ways. Most families will attempt a diplomatic solution, but when that isn’t an option, sabotage and coercion is the favored outlet. Murder is considered a bridge too far by most houses, but subterfuge in almost every other facet is, while not accepted, tolerated. Legends of Lolth’s rebellion and the tension of their enclosed territory have imbued the Dark Elves with a strong sense of symbiosis with nature and conservancy. Sustainable living is the cornerstone of Dark Elf society. In the wild, no creature is killed or plant destroyed unless it’s a matter of self defense or necessary to survival.
Dark Elven Sex and Gender
As with many Elven peoples, sexuality is seen as a fluid and non-binary matter. Same sex relationships are usually seen as just as acceptable as male-female relationships. Since Dark Elves have no marriage structure, same sex life partners are common and widely accepted. Inheritance is passed along by the family as a whole, not linearly, meaning some houses may have matrons with no direct biological descendants while still serving at the elder matron. Power dynamics in relationships are still a factor, with the elder female in a gay relationship considered slightly above their partner socially and is seen as the inheritor in cases of property or genealogy. Male same sex relationships are accepted with little controversy. Since children are passed down their mothers line, the males have no social obligation to sire an heir as with other societies. Transgender and transexual Dark Elves are met with slightly more controversy. Lolth’s rejection of the Primal Elves mutable forms is sometimes cited against transgender and transexual Dark Elves. Ghaunadur, however, is considered the patron god of these people and teaches that just as they are part of nature, they can change their forms. Many of these people join the religious order of Ghaunadur, serving in various roles both in religious ceremonies and as forest guides. Some even consider them to be blessed by Ghaunadur and are highly sought after in forays into the forests for protection. Children born to transgender Dark Elves are still expected to be a part of their eldest mother’s family or eldest father if no woman is part of the union.
Slavery Amongst the Dark Elves
While the Dark Elves do take slaves, their slavery doesn’t look the same as many other societies. When a family becomes indebted to another and they cannot pay off the debt, a member of their family, usually male, will be sent to work for the owed family. They give him room and board and are expected to care for him as if he were one of their own. He’ll work for them for an agreed upon amount of time before returning to his native family. Injury or misuse of this person is often grounds for them to leave and the debt to be nullified. Children born to servant fathers needn’t worry about inheriting their father’s status since they’re considered to be their mother’s child. On the rare occasion that a female servant has a child while in servitude, the child is returned to the mother’s family to be raised by her family while she works off the remaining debt. Some trade of servants does occur between houses, with indentured servants being traded for goods or services or even other servants of special skills, but the family of the servant reserves the right to veto such a trade for any reason. During their frequent clashes with external armies, the Dark Elves do sometimes take prisoners of war, though very rarely are they used for slave labor. They never bring them back to major settlements, often keeping them on the outskirts of their territory to prevent them from learning critical knowledge of their territory. Most prisoners are held as bargaining chips to be traded for passage, supplies, or captured Dark Elves. Captured military leaders are sometimes brought to Dark Elven cities to be tried for their crimes against their people.
Dark Elven Government: Independent Houses
Unlike many other cultures, the Dark Elves lack a centralized government. Societal etiquette govern the standard for how certain crimes and disagreements should be handled, but each family unit acts as its own governing body. Disagreements within families are thus resolved internally. Inter-family disputes are resolved in multiple different ways. Most often, the two matrons of the family will meet and agree on terms to fairly compensate both sides. In cases when these talks deteriorate, the High Priestess of Lolth is often called to serve as the mediator and serves as the ruling body between disputes. Her rulings are final and indisputable, as she is considered the mouthpiece of Lolth’s will. In times of crisis, historically the many houses of the Dark Elves have convened to discuss threats to all of Dark Elven society. This is uncommon as it’s difficult logistically to gather all the matrons in the same place at the same time, so often houses are represented by either the second eldest woman of the family or the eldest daughter of the matron. The High Priestess of Lolth often resides over these meetings as an arbiter in the event of split decisions or in delivering guidance from Lolth herself. There's my take on the Dark Elves. Any comments, suggestions, questions, outrages, and critiques are welcomed. This is my first comprehensive look at a whole race so if I've missed things, I'll try and patch them up. I'd like to do similar things for Orcs, Goblinoids, Kobolds, and others so those might be seen soon. Thanks!
A trans person's measured take on the trans sports issue
So first of all this post was inspired by GGExMachina's brief statement on the issue:
For example, it is objectively the case that biological men have a physical advantage over women. Yet if someone points this out and suggests that transgender people shouldn’t be allowed to fight in women’s UFC, or women’s soccer or weightlifting competitions or whatever, suddenly you’re some kind of evil monster. Rather than saying that of course trans people shouldn’t be bullied and that we could perhaps have a trans olympics (like the Paralympics and Special Olympics), we are expected to lie.
I've found that this position is incredibly popular among liberals/left-leaning people, especially here on reddit. It seems like, once or twice a month, like clockwork, a thread stating more or less the same thing on /unpopularopinion or /offmychest will get thousands of upvotes. And while I completely understand the thought process that leads otherwise left-leaning people to come to such conclusions, I feel like the issue has been, broadly speaking, dishonestly presented to the general public by a mixture of bad-faith actors and people who have succumbed to the moral panic. And, as I've seen, there are plenty of people in this subreddit and elsewhere who are itching to be as supportive as they possibly can to the trans community but find themselves becoming very disillusioned by this particular issue. By making this post I hope to present a more nuanced take on the issue, not only in regards to my personal beliefs on what kinds of policies are best to preserve fairness in women's sports but also in regards to shining a light on how this issue is often times dishonestly presented in an attempt to impede the progression of pro-trans sentiments in the cultural zeitgeist.
Sex & Gender
The word "transgender" is an umbrella term that refers to people whose gender identities differ from those typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, the approximate composition of "the trans community" in the United States is 29% Transgender men (Female-to-Male), 33% Transgender women (Male-to-Female), and 35% non-binary. (The remaining 3% were survey respondents who self-identified as "crossdressers", who were still included in the survey on the grounds of being gender non-conforming) While non-binary people, as a group, are probably deserving of their own separate post. the focus of this post will be on trans men and trans women. I will also be primarily focusing on transgender people who pursue medical transition with Hormone-Replacement-Therapy, as they are most relevant to the issue of sports. (Mind that while the majority of binary trans people fit into this camp, there is a sizable minority of trans people who do not feel the need to medically transition.) What do trans people believe about Gender? The views of transgender people in regards to Gender are actually pretty varied, although the most prominent positions that I've personally seen are best summed up into two different camps:
The "Trans-Medical" camp
Transgender people who fall into this camp usually consider Gender Dysphoria to be the defining factor of what makes somebody trans. The best way I can describe this camp is that they sort of view being transgender akin to being intersex. Only whereas an intersex person would be born with a disorder that affects the body, a trans person is born with a disorder that affects the brain. Trans people in this camp often times put an emphasis on a clinical course for treatment. For example, a person goes to a psychologist, gets diagnosed with gender dysphoria, starts hormone replacement therapy, pursues surgery, then emerges from this process of either cured of the gender dysphoria or, at the very least, treated to the fullest extent of medical intervention. This position is more or less the original position held by trans activists, back in the day when the word "transsexual" was used instead of "transgender". Though many younger trans people, notably YouTuber Blaire White, also hold this position. Under this position, sex and gender are still quite intertwined, but a trans man can still be considered a man, and a trans woman a woman, under the belief that sex/gender doesn't just refer to chromosomal sex and reproductive organs, but also to neurobiology, genitalia, and secondary sex characteristics. So someone who is transgender, according to this view, is born with the physical characteristics of one sex/gender but the neurobiology of another, and will change their physical characteristics, to the fullest extent medically possible, to match the neurobiology and therefore cure the individual of gender dysphoria. Critics of this position argue that this mentality is problematic due to being inherently exclusive to transgender people who do not pursue medical transition, whom are often times deemed as "transtrenders" by people within this camp. Many people find it additionally problematic because it is also inherently exclusive to poorer trans people, particularly those in developing nations, who may not have access to trans-related medical care. Note that there are plenty of trans people who *do* have access to medical transition, but nevertheless feel as if the trans community shouldn't gatekeep people who cannot afford or do not desire medical transition, thus believing in the latter camp.
The "Gender Identity" camp
I feel like this camp is the one most popularly criticized by people on the right, but is also probably the most mainstream. It is the viewpoint held by many more left-wing trans people, (Note that in the aforementioned 2015 survey, only 1% of trans respondents voted Republican, so trans people are largely a pretty left-wing group, therefore it makes sense that this position would be the most mainstream) but also notably held by American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, GLAAD, and other mainstream health organizations and activist groups. While people in this camp still acknowledge that medical transition to treat gender dysphoria can still be a very important aspect of the transgender experience, it's believed that the *defining* experience is simply having a gender identity different from the one they were assigned at birth. "Gender identity" simply being the internal, personal sense of being a man, a woman, or outside the gender binary. Many people in this camp, though, still often maintain that gender identity is (at least partially) neurobiological, but differ from the first camp in regards to acknowledging that the issue is less black & white than an individual simply having a "male brain" or a "female brain", but rather that the neurological characteristics associated with gender exist on more of a spectrum, thus leaving the door open to gender non-conforming people who do not identify as trans, as well as to non-binary people. This is where the "gender is a spectrum" phrase comes from. "52 genders" is a popular right-wing meme that makes fun of this viewpoint, however it is important to note that many trans and non-binary people disagree with the idea of quantifying gender identity to such an absurd amount of individual genders, rather more simply maintaining that there are men, women, and a small portion of people in-between, with a few words such as "agender" or "genderqueer" being used to describe specific identities/presentations within this category. It's also noteworthy that not all people in this camp believe that neurobiology is the be-all-end-all of gender identity, as many believe that the performativity of gender also plays an integral role in one's identity. (That gender identity is a mixture of neurobiology and performativity is a position held by YouTuber Contrapoints) Trans people and biological sex So while the aforementioned "Gender Identity" viewpoint has become quite popularized among liberals and leftists, I have noticed a certain rhetorical mentality/assumption become prevalent alongside it, especially among cisgender people who consider themselves trans-allies: "Sex and Gender are different. A trans woman is a woman who is biologically male. A trans man is a man who is biologically female" When "Sex" is defined by someone's chromosomes, or the sex organs they were born with, this is correct. However, there is a pretty good reason why the trans community tends to prefer terms like "Assigned Male at Birth" rather than "Biologically Male". This is done not only for the inclusion of people who are both intersex and transgender (For example, someone can be born intersex but assigned male based on the existence of a penis or micropenis), but also due to the aforementioned viewpoint on divergent neurobiology being the cause for gender dysphoria. Those reasons are why the word "Assigned" is used. But the reason why it's "Assigned Male/Female At Birth" instead of just "Assigned Male/Female" is because among the trans community there exists an understanding of the mutability of sexually dimorphic biology that the general population is often ignorant to. For example, often times people (especially older folks) don't even know of the existence of Hormone Replacement Therapy, and simply assume that trans people get a single "sex change operation" that, (for a trans woman) would just entail the removal of the penis and getting breast implants. Therefore they imagine the process to be "medically sculpting a male to look female" instead of a more natural biological process of switching the endocrine system form male to female or vice versa and letting the body change over the course of multiple years. It doesn't help that, for a lot of older trans people (namely Caitlyn Jenner, who is probably the most high profile trans person sadly), the body can be a lot more resistant to change even with hormones so they *do* need to rely on plastic surgery a lot more to get obvious results) So what sexually dimorphic bodily characteristics can one expect to change from Hormone Replacement Therapy? (Note that there is a surprising lack of studies done on some of the more intricate changes that HRT can, so I've put a "*" next to the changes that are anecdotal, but still commonly and universally observed enough among trans people [including myself for the MTF stuff] to consider factual. I've also put a "✝" next to the changes that only occur when people transition before or during puberty) Male to Female:
Breast development and nipple/areolar enlargement, including in some people, the development of mammary glands and the ability to breastfeed
Thinning/slowed growth of facial/body hair
Cessation/reversal of male-pattern scalp hair loss
Softening of skin/decreased oiliness and acne
Decreased muscle mass/strength
Widening and rounding of the pelvis
Changes in mood, emotionality, and behavior (anecdotally crying is way easier to do)
Decreased sex drive (anecdotally, taking progesterone helps a lot in regards to regaining sex drive, though attraction is often noted as being experienced a bit differently than how it feels with testosterone)
Decreased sperm production/fertility
Decreased testicle size
Decreased penis size
Decreased prostate gland size
Voice changes (As far as I've heard, most people only experience minor changes from transitioning in adulthood, so it's common to do vocal training on top of everything to actually get a female-passing voice. I'll add a ✝ here since vocal changes seem to be a lot stronger in people who transition before/during puberty)
Changes in body odor (It's been documented that men and women often times have different smelling body odor, and trans people commonly notice a change in this regard) *
Changes in how arousal, sexual pleasure, and orgasms are experienced *
Changes in facial complexion *
Slight changes in hair color, texture, or curl *
Slight changes in eye color *
Changes in alcohol/drug tolerance *
Experiencing pubescent skeletal development and bodily growth along female-typical lines, including both bodily size/shape and facial bone/cartilage features ✝
Female to Male:
Growth of facial/body hair
male pattern scalp hair loss (in some individuals)
Roughening of the skin and prominence of veins
Increased muscle mass/strength
Changes in mood, emotionality, and behavior (I forget the source for this sadly but I remember reading that trans men are significantly more likely to commit crimes and get into fights after starting HRT)
Increased sex drive
Cessation of ovulation and menstruation
Acne (especially in the first few years of therapy)
Alterations in blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides)
Increased red blood cell count
Deepening of the voice
Enlargement of the clitoris
Changes in body odor *
Changes in how arousal, sexual pleasure, and orgasms are experienced *
Changes in facial complexion *
Slight changes in hair color, texture, or curl *
Slight changes in eye color *
Changes in alcohol/drug tolerance *
Experiencing male pubescent skeletal development and bodily growth along male-typical lines, and closure of growth plates ✝
Often times, when the whole "transgender people in sports" discussion arises, a logical error is made when *all* transgender people are assumed to be "biologically" their birth sex. For example, when talking about trans women participating in female sports, these instances will be referred to as cases of "Biological males competing against females". As mentioned before, calling a trans woman "biologically male" strictly in regards to chromosomes or sex organs at birth would be correct. However, not only can it be considered derogatory (the word "male" is colloquially a shorthand for "man", after all), but there are many instances where calling a post-HRT transgender person "biologically [sex assigned at birth]" is downright misleading. For example, hospitals have, given transgender patients improper or erroneous medical care by assuming treatment based on birth sex where treatment based on their current endocrinological sex would have been more adequate. Acute Clinical Care of Transgender Patients: A Review
Conclusions and relevance: Clinicians should learn how to engage with transgender patients, appreciate that unique anatomy or the use of gender-affirming hormones may affect the prevalence of certain disease (eg, cardiovascular disease, venous thromboembolism, and osteoporosis), and be prepared to manage specific issues, including those related to hormone therapy. Health care facilities should work toward providing inclusive systems of care that correctly identify and integrate information about transgender patients into the electronic health record, account for the unique needs of these patients within the facility, and through education and policy create a welcoming environment for their care.
Some hosptials have taken to labeling the biological sex of transgender patients as "MTF" (for post-HRT trans women) and "FTM" (for post-HRT trans men), which is a much more medically useful identifier compared to their sex assigned at birth. In regards to the sports discussion, I've seen *multiple threads* where redditors have backed up their opinions on the subject of trans people in sports with studies demonstrating that cis men are, on average, more athletically capable than cis women. Which I personally find to be a pathetic misunderstanding of the entire issue. Because we're not supposed to be comparing the athletic capabilities of natal males to natal females, here. We're supposed to comparing the athletic capabilities of *post-HRT male-to-females* to natal females. And, if we're going to really have a fact-based discussion on the matter, we need to have separate categories for pre-pubescent and post-pubescent transitioners. Since, as mentioned earlier, the former will likely have different skeletal characteristics compared to the latter. The currentInternational Olympic Committee(IOC) model for trans participation, and criticisms of said model (I quoted the specific guidelines from the International Cycling Union, but similar guidelines exist for all Olympic sports)
Elite Competition At elite competition levels, members may have the opportunity to represent the United States and participate in international competition. They may therefore be subject to the policies and regulations of the International Cycling Union (UCI) and International Olympic Committee (IOC). USA Cycling therefore follows the IOC guidelines on transgender athletes at these elite competition levels. For purposes of this policy, international competition means competition sanctioned by the UCI or competition taking place outside the United States in which USA Cycling’s competition rules do not apply. The IOC revised its guidelines on transgender athlete participation in 2015, to focus on hormone levels and medical monitoring. The main points of the guidelines are: Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction. It is the responsibility of athletes to be aware of current WADA/USADA policies and file for appropriate therapeutic use exemptions. Those who transition from male to female are eligible to compete in the female category under the following conditions: The athlete has declared that her gender identity is female. The declaration cannot be changed, for sporting purposes, for a minimum of four years. The athlete must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to her first competition (with the requirement for any longer period to be based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12 months is a sufficient length of time to minimize any advantage in women’s competition). The athlete's total testosterone level in serum must remain below 10 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category. Compliance with these conditions may be monitored by random or for-cause testing. In the event of non-compliance, the athlete’s eligibility for female competition will be suspended for 12 months.
Valid criticisms of the IOC model are usually based on the fact that, even though hormone replacement therapy provokes changes to muscle mass, it does *not* shrink the size of someone's skeleton or cardiovascular system. Therefore an adult-transitioned trans woman could, even after losing all levels of male-typical muscle mass, still have an advantage in certain sports if she had an excessively large skeletal frame, and was participating in a sport where such a thing would be advantageous. Additionally, the guidelines only require that athletes be able to demonstrate having had female hormone levels for 12-24 months, which isn't necessarily long enough to completely lose musculature gained from training on testosterone (anecdotally it can take 2-4 years to completely lose male-typical muscle mass) So the IOC guidelines don't have any safeguard against, for example, a trans woman training with testosterone as the dominant hormone in her body, and then taking hormones for the bare minimum time period and still having some of the advantage left. Note that, while lower level sports have had (to the glee of right-wing publications sensationalizing the issue) instances of this exact thing happening, in the 16 years since these IOC guidelines were established, not a single transgender individual has won an Olympic medal Also note that none of the above criticisms of the IOC policy would apply in regards to the participation of pre-pubescent-transitioned trans women. After all, male-pubescent bone structure and cardiovascular size, and male-typical muscle levels, can't possibly exist if you never went through male puberty to begin with. What could better guidelines entail, to best preserve fairness in female sports while avoiding succumbing to anti-trans moral panic?
The most extreme way for female sports to reasonably go about addressing this issue would be to only allow for the participation of transgender women who are documented to have, with puberty blockers, carried out their transitions without having gone past Tanner Stage II or III of male puberty.
Sports leagues willing to be a bit looser could accept adult transitioners under the stipulation that their bodily measurements in regards to certain skeletal features fit within a standard deviation of the cis-female average
Sports leagues willing to be even looser could copy the IOC guidelines, but require documentation of having gone through HRT for a greater period of time rather than just the 12 months, (3 years would probably be better) to guarantee full loss of male muscle mass
In my personal opinion, sports leagues should pick one of the three above options depending on what best fits the nature of the sport and the eliteness of the competition. For example, extremely competitive contact sports might be better off going with the first option, but an aerobic sport such as marathon running would probably be fine with the third option.
How this issue has been misrepresented by The Right
Right-wing rhetoric surrounding this issue assumes that the issue exists as an innate consequence of trans activism (Ie. "This is what the left is pushing!") rather than as a result of individual sports leagues failing to have solid rules for participation. Often times, certain low-level sports leagues have failed to even measure trans athlete's hormone levels, and have, in some cases, let completely male-bodied athletes participate as women. This is obviously the fault of these specific sports leagues failing to implement or enforce reasonable rules for participation, but right-wing articles surrounding such instances will act as if these occurrences are an ideological goal of the pro-trans left. This runs off of the assumption that a majority of trans people and "the left" are specifically pushing for muscular males (who merely "identify" as women, and nothing more) to dominate female sports. When, in reality, we really had nothing to do with these occurrences, and the majority of trans people would even likely agree with the sentiments expressed in this post. Additionally, accepting the gender identities of trans people is something you can do irregardless of your opinion on the sports issue.
Over-exaggeration of the problem. The issue is often sensationalized to the extent of coming off as a call to action, to stop the trans activists and their SJW bullies from ruining female sports! They're coming after your daughter's lacrosse team! In reality, out of the hundreds of thousands (perhaps even more) of sports competitions that exist in the United States and throughout the world, an incredibly small percentage of them are actually ruined by trans participants. You hear the stories of the 6'5'' trans woman with the broad frame winning a weightlifting competition, but not of the hundreds of more average-sized trans-female athletes turning out more mediocre performances. This isn't to say that the niche cases don't present a problem that indeed needs to be fixed, but presenting the problem as more prevalent than it actually is acts as a rhetorical strategy meant to provoke anger as well as a more dramatic response. Buying into this rhetorical strategy, especially if you're is already somewhat ignorant to the issue to begin with, will make it much easier to convince you of accepting drastic solutions to the problems. Ie. "ONLY XX CHROMOSOMES ALLOWED IN FEMALE SPORTS", instead of any of the three more measured approaches suggested above. The provoked response of anger is also meant to turn people off of accepting trans rights in general.
Infuriatingly, I've noticed that right-wing rhetoric usually doesn't even mention pre-pubescent transitioners at all. Like, these people are fine with acknowledging the existence of puberty blockers when they're trying to make them illegal, but they refuse to talk about them in regards to the sports issue. There have been cases where conservative jurisdictions have banned the participation of all transgender students in girl's sports, period. Meaning a transgender girl who never went through male puberty at all, and has pre-pubescent hormone levels as a result of puberty blockers, could be banned from participating in girl's sports, while in reality said trans girl could possibly even be at a disadvantage compared to the cis girls, as a result of not even having started puberty yet. Nonsensical. And liberal allies are at fault of this too, I've noticed. I've seen countless reddit threads where left-leaning people voice their take on the trans sports issue without mentioning the existence of pre-pubescent transitioners. It's honestly ridiculous.
The sports issue is also used as an excuse to say derogatory things about trans women that would be less justifiable in other instances.
I'll use Joe Rogan as an example of this last thing:
She calls herself a woman but... I tend to disagree. And, uh, she, um... she used to be a man but now she has had, she's a transgender which is (the) official term that means you've gone through it, right? And she wants to be able to fight women in MMA. I say no f***ing way. I say if you had a dick at one point in time, you also have all the bone structure that comes with having a dick. You have bigger hands, you have bigger shoulder joints. You're a f***ing man. That's a man, OK? You can't have... that's... I don't care if you don't have a dick any more... If you want to be a woman in the bedroom and you know you want to play house and all of that other s*** and you feel like you have, your body is really a woman's body trapped inside a man's frame and so you got a operation, that's all good in the hood. But you can't fight chicks. Get the f*** out of here. You're out of your mind. You need to fight men, you know? Period. You need to fight men your size because you're a man. You're a man without a dick. I'm not trying to discriminate against women in any way, shape, or form and I'm a big supporter of women's fighting. I loved watching that Ronda Rousey/Liz Carmouche fight. But those are actual women. Those are actual women. And as strong as Ronda Rousey looks, she's still looks to me like a pretty girl. She's a beautiful girl who happens to be strong. She's a girl! [Fallon Fox] is not a girl, OK? This is a [transgender] woman. It's a totally different specification.
Calling a trans woman a "man", and equating transitioning to merely removal of the dick, and equating trans women's experiences as women as "playing house" and "being a woman in the bedroom". These things are obviously pretty transphobic, and if Rogan had said these things about just any random trans woman his statements would have likely been more widely seen in that light. But when it's someone having an unfair advantage in sports, and the audience is supposed to be angry with you, it's much more socially acceptable thing to say such things. But the problem is, when you say these kinds of things about one trans woman, you're essentially saying those derogatory things about all trans women by extension. It's the equivalent of using an article about a black home invader who murdered a family as an excuse to use a racial slur. Now, I'm not saying that Rogan necessarily did this on purpose, in fact I'm more inclined to believe that it was done moreso due to ignorance rather than having an actual ideological agenda. But since then, many right wing ideologues who do have an ideological agenda have used this issue as an excuse to voice their opinions on trans people while appearing to be less bigoted. Ie. "I'm not trying to be a bigot or anything and I accept people's rights to live their lives as they see fit, but we NEED to keep men out of women's sports", as a sly way to call trans women "men". Additionally, doing this allows them to slip in untrue statements about the biology of trans women. I mean, first of all in regards to the statement "You have bigger hands, you have bigger shoulder joints", obviously even in regards to post-pubescent transitioners, not every trans woman is going to have bigger hands and shoulder joints than every cis woman (My hands are actually smaller than my aunt's!). It's just that people who go through male puberty on average tend to have bigger hands and shoulder joints compared to people who go through female puberty. But over-exaggerating the breadth of sexual dimorphism, as if males and females are entirely different species to each-other, helps to paint the idea of transitioning in a more nonsensical light. I hope this thread has presented this issue in a better light for anyone reading it. Let me know if you have any thoughts/criticisms of my stances or the ways I went about this issue.
Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Swaps* (*But Were Afraid To Ask)
Hello, dummies It's your old pal, Fuzzy. As I'm sure you've all noticed, a lot of the stuff that gets posted here is - to put it delicately - fucking ridiculous. More backwards-ass shit gets posted to wallstreetbets than you'd see on a Westboro Baptist community message board. I mean, I had a look at the daily thread yesterday and..... yeesh. I know, I know. We all make like the divine Laura Dern circa 1992 on the daily and stick our hands deep into this steaming heap of shit to find the nuggets of valuable and/or hilarious information within (thanks for reading, BTW). I agree. I love it just the way it is too. That's what makes WSB great. What I'm getting at is that a lot of the stuff that gets posted here - notwithstanding it being funny or interesting - is just... wrong. Like, fucking your cousin wrong. And to be clear, I mean the fucking your *first* cousin kinda wrong, before my Southerners in the back get all het up (simmer down, Billy Ray - I know Mabel's twice removed on your grand-sister's side). Truly, I try to let it slide. Idomybit to try and put you on the right path. Most of the time, I sleep easy no matter how badly I've seen someone explain what a bank liquidity crisis is. But out of all of those tens of thousands of misguided, autistic attempts at understanding the world of high finance, one thing gets so consistently - so *emphatically* - fucked up and misunderstood by you retards that last night I felt obligated at the end of a long work day to pull together this edition of Finance with Fuzzy just for you. It's so serious I'm not even going to make a u/pokimane gag. Have you guessed what it is yet? Here's a clue. It's in the title of the post. That's right, friends. Today in the neighborhood we're going to talk all about hedging in financial markets - spots, swaps, collars, forwards, CDS, synthetic CDOs, all that fun shit. Don't worry; I'm going to explain what all the scary words mean and how they impact your OTM RH positions along the way. We're going to break it down like this. (1) "What's a hedge, Fuzzy?" (2) Common Hedging Strategies and (3) All About ISDAs and Credit Default Swaps. Before we begin. For the nerds and JV traders in the back (and anyone else who needs to hear this up front) - I am simplifying these descriptions for the purposes of this post. I am also obviously not going to try and cover every exotic form of hedge under the sun or give a detailed summation of what caused the financial crisis. If you are interested in something specific ask a question, but don't try and impress me with your Investopedia skills or technical points I didn't cover; I will just be forced to flex my years of IRL experience on you in the comments and you'll look like a big dummy. TL;DR? Fuck you. There is no TL;DR. You've come this far already. What's a few more paragraphs? Put down the Cheetos and try to concentrate for the next 5-7 minutes. You'll learn something, and I promise I'll be gentle. Ready? Let's get started. 1.The Tao of Risk: Hedging as a Way of Life The simplest way to characterize what a hedge 'is' is to imagine every action having a binary outcome. One is bad, one is good. Red lines, green lines; uppie, downie. With me so far? Good. A 'hedge' is simply the employment of a strategy to mitigate the effect of your action having the wrong binary outcome. You wanted X, but you got Z! Frowny face. A hedge strategy introduces a third outcome. If you hedged against the possibility of Z happening, then you can wind up with Y instead. Not as good as X, but not as bad as Z. The technical definition I like to give my idiot juniors is as follows: Utilization of a defensive strategy to mitigate risk, at a fraction of the cost to capital of the risk itself. Congratulations. You just finished Hedging 101. "But Fuzzy, that's easy! I just sold a naked call against my 95% OTM put! I'm adequately hedged!". Spoiler alert: you're not (although good work on executing a collar, which I describe below). What I'm talking about here is what would be referred to as a 'perfect hedge'; a binary outcome where downside is totally mitigated by a risk management strategy. That's not how it works IRL. Pay attention; this is the tricky part. You can't take a single position and conclude that you're adequately hedged because risks are fluid, not static. So you need to constantly adjust your position in order to maximize the value of the hedge and insure your position. You also need to consider exposure to more than one category of risk. There are micro (specific exposure) risks, and macro (trend exposure) risks, and both need to factor into the hedge calculus. That's why, in the real world, the value of hedging depends entirely on the design of the hedging strategy itself. Here, when we say "value" of the hedge, we're not talking about cash money - we're talking about the intrinsic value of the hedge relative to the the risk profile of your underlying exposure. To achieve this, people hedge dynamically. In wallstreetbets terms, this means that as the value of your position changes, you need to change your hedges too. The idea is to efficiently and continuously distribute and rebalance risk across different states and periods, taking value from states in which the marginal cost of the hedge is low and putting it back into states where marginal cost of the hedge is high, until the shadow value of your underlying exposure is equalized across your positions. The punchline, I guess, is that one static position is a hedge in the same way that the finger paintings you make for your wife's boyfriend are art - it's technically correct, but you're only playing yourself by believing it. Anyway. Obviously doing this as a small potatoes trader is hard but it's worth taking into account. Enough basic shit. So how does this work in markets? 2. A Hedging Taxonomy The best place to start here is a practical question. What does a business need to hedge against? Think about the specific risk that an individual business faces. These are legion, so I'm just going to list a few of the key ones that apply to most corporates. (1) You have commodity risk for the shit you buy or the shit you use. (2) You have currency risk for the money you borrow. (3) You have rate risk on the debt you carry. (4) You have offtake risk for the shit you sell. Complicated, right? To help address the many and varied ways that shit can go wrong in a sophisticated market, smart operators like yours truly have devised a whole bundle of different instruments which can help you manage the risk. I might write about some of the more complicated ones in a later post if people are interested (CDO/CLOs, strip/stack hedges and bond swaps with option toggles come to mind) but let's stick to the basics for now. (i) Swaps A swap is one of the most common forms of hedge instrument, and they're used by pretty much everyone that can afford them. The language is complicated but the concept isn't, so pay attention and you'll be fine. This is the most important part of this section so it'll be the longest one. Swaps are derivative contracts with two counterparties (before you ask, you can't trade 'em on an exchange - they're OTC instruments only). They're used to exchange one cash flow for another cash flow of equal expected value; doing this allows you to take speculative positions on certain financial prices or to alter the cash flows of existing assets or liabilities within a business. "Wait, Fuzz; slow down! What do you mean sets of cash flows?". Fear not, little autist. Ol' Fuzz has you covered. The cash flows I'm talking about are referred to in swap-land as 'legs'. One leg is fixed - a set payment that's the same every time it gets paid - and the other is variable - it fluctuates (typically indexed off the price of the underlying risk that you are speculating on / protecting against). You set it up at the start so that they're notionally equal and the two legs net off; so at open, the swap is a zero NPV instrument. Here's where the fun starts. If the price that you based the variable leg of the swap on changes, the value of the swap will shift; the party on the wrong side of the move ponies up via the variable payment. It's a zero sum game. I'll give you an example using the most vanilla swap around; an interest rate trade. Here's how it works. You borrow money from a bank, and they charge you a rate of interest. You lock the rate up front, because you're smart like that. But then - quelle surprise! - the rate gets better after you borrow. Now you're bagholding to the tune of, I don't know, 5 bps. Doesn't sound like much but on a billion dollar loan that's a lot of money (a classic example of the kind of 'small, deep hole' that's terrible for profits). Now, if you had a swap contract on the rate before you entered the trade, you're set; if the rate goes down, you get a payment under the swap. If it goes up, whatever payment you're making to the bank is netted off by the fact that you're borrowing at a sub-market rate. Win-win! Or, at least, Lose Less / Lose Less. That's the name of the game in hedging. There are many different kinds of swaps, some of which are pretty exotic; but they're all different variations on the same theme. If your business has exposure to something which fluctuates in price, you trade swaps to hedge against the fluctuation. The valuation of swaps is also super interesting but I guarantee you that 99% of you won't understand it so I'm not going to try and explain it here although I encourage you to google it if you're interested. Because they're OTC, none of them are filed publicly. Someeeeeetimes you see an ISDA (dsicussed below) but the confirms themselves (the individual swaps) are not filed. You can usually read about the hedging strategy in a 10-K, though. For what it's worth, most modern credit agreements ban speculative hedging. Top tip: This is occasionally something worth checking in credit agreements when you invest in businesses that are debt issuers - being able to do this increases the risk profile significantly and is particularly important in times of economic volatility (ctrl+f "non-speculative" in the credit agreement to be sure). (ii) Forwards A forward is a contract made today for the future delivery of an asset at a pre-agreed price. That's it. "But Fuzzy! That sounds just like a futures contract!". I know. Confusing, right? Just like a futures trade, forwards are generally used in commodity or forex land to protect against price fluctuations. The differences between forwards and futures are small but significant. I'm not going to go into super boring detail because I don't think many of you are commodities traders but it is still an important thing to understand even if you're just an RH jockey, so stick with me. Just like swaps, forwards are OTC contracts - they're not publicly traded. This is distinct from futures, which are traded on exchanges (see The Ballad Of Big Dick Vick for some more color on this). In a forward, no money changes hands until the maturity date of the contract when delivery and receipt are carried out; price and quantity are locked in from day 1. As you now know having read about BDV, futures are marked to market daily, and normally people close them out with synthetic settlement using an inverse position. They're also liquid, and that makes them easier to unwind or close out in case shit goes sideways. People use forwards when they absolutely have to get rid of the thing they made (or take delivery of the thing they need). If you're a miner, or a farmer, you use this shit to make sure that at the end of the production cycle, you can get rid of the shit you made (and you won't get fucked by someone taking cash settlement over delivery). If you're a buyer, you use them to guarantee that you'll get whatever the shit is that you'll need at a price agreed in advance. Because they're OTC, you can also exactly tailor them to the requirements of your particular circumstances. These contracts are incredibly byzantine (and there are even crazier synthetic forwards you can see in money markets for the true degenerate fund managers). In my experience, only Texan oilfield magnates, commodities traders, and the weirdo forex crowd fuck with them. I (i) do not own a 10 gallon hat or a novelty size belt buckle (ii) do not wake up in the middle of the night freaking out about the price of pork fat and (iii) love greenbacks too much to care about other countries' monopoly money, so I don't fuck with them. (iii) Collars No, not the kind your wife is encouraging you to wear try out to 'spice things up' in the bedroom during quarantine. Collars are actually the hedging strategy most applicable to WSB. Collars deal with options! Hooray! To execute a basic collar (also called a wrapper by tea-drinking Brits and people from the Antipodes), you buy an out of the money put while simultaneously writing a covered call on the same equity. The put protects your position against price drops and writing the call produces income that offsets the put premium. Doing this limits your tendies (you can only profit up to the strike price of the call) but also writes down your risk. If you screen large volume trades with a VOL/OI of more than 3 or 4x (and they're not bullshit biotech stocks), you can sometimes see these being constructed in real time as hedge funds protect themselves on their shorts. (3) All About ISDAs, CDS and Synthetic CDOs You may have heard about the mythical ISDA. Much like an indenture (discussed in my post on $F), it's a magic legal machine that lets you build swaps via trade confirms with a willing counterparty. They are very complicated legal documents and you need to be a true expert to fuck with them. Fortunately, I am, so I do. They're made of two parts; a Master (which is a form agreement that's always the same) and a Schedule (which amends the Master to include your specific terms). They are also the engine behind just about every major credit crunch of the last 10+ years. First - a brief explainer. An ISDA is a not in and of itself a hedge - it's an umbrella contract that governs the terms of your swaps, which you use to construct your hedge position. You can trade commodities, forex, rates, whatever, all under the same ISDA. Let me explain. Remember when we talked about swaps? Right. So. You can trade swaps on just about anything. In the late 90s and early 2000s, people had the smart idea of using other people's debt and or credit ratings as the variable leg of swap documentation. These are called credit default swaps. I was actually starting out at a bank during this time and, I gotta tell you, the only thing I can compare people's enthusiasm for this shit to was that moment in your early teens when you discover jerking off. Except, unlike your bathroom bound shame sessions to Mom's Sears catalogue, every single person you know felt that way too; and they're all doing it at once. It was a fiscal circlejerk of epic proportions, and the financial crisis was the inevitable bukkake finish. WSB autism is absolutely no comparison for the enthusiasm people had during this time for lighting each other's money on fire. Here's how it works. You pick a company. Any company. Maybe even your own! And then you write a swap. In the swap, you define "Credit Event" with respect to that company's debt as the variable leg . And you write in... whatever you want. A ratings downgrade, default under the docs, failure to meet a leverage ratio or FCCR for a certain testing period... whatever. Now, this started out as a hedge position, just like we discussed above. The purest of intentions, of course. But then people realized - if bad shit happens, you make money. And banks... don't like calling in loans or forcing bankruptcies. Can you smell what the moral hazard is cooking? Enter synthetic CDOs. CDOs are basically pools of asset backed securities that invest in debt (loans or bonds). They've been around for a minute but they got famous in the 2000s because a shitload of them containing subprime mortgage debt went belly up in 2008. This got a lot of publicity because a lot of sad looking rednecks got foreclosed on and were interviewed on CNBC. "OH!", the people cried. "Look at those big bad bankers buying up subprime loans! They caused this!". Wrong answer, America. The debt wasn't the problem. What a lot of people don't realize is that the real meat of the problem was not in regular way CDOs investing in bundles of shit mortgage debts in synthetic CDOs investing in CDS predicated on that debt. They're synthetic because they don't have a stake in the actual underlying debt; just the instruments riding on the coattails. The reason these are so popular (and remain so) is that smart structured attorneys and bankers like your faithful correspondent realized that an even more profitable and efficient way of building high yield products with limited downside was investing in instruments that profit from failure of debt and in instruments that rely on that debt and then hedging that exposure with other CDS instruments in paired trades, and on and on up the chain. The problem with doing this was that everyone wound up exposed to everybody else's books as a result, and when one went tits up, everybody did. Hence, recession, Basel III, etc. Thanks, Obama. Heavy investment in CDS can also have a warping effect on the price of debt (something else that happened during the pre-financial crisis years and is starting to happen again now). This happens in three different ways. (1) Investors who previously were long on the debt hedge their position by selling CDS protection on the underlying, putting downward pressure on the debt price. (2) Investors who previously shorted the debt switch to buying CDS protection because the relatively illiquid debt (partic. when its a bond) trades at a discount below par compared to the CDS. The resulting reduction in short selling puts upward pressure on the bond price. (3) The delta in price and actual value of the debt tempts some investors to become NBTs (neg basis traders) who long the debt and purchase CDS protection. If traders can't take leverage, nothing happens to the price of the debt. If basis traders can take leverage (which is nearly always the case because they're holding a hedged position), they can push up or depress the debt price, goosing swap premiums etc. Anyway. Enough technical details. I could keep going. This is a fascinating topic that is very poorly understood and explained, mainly because the people that caused it all still work on the street and use the same tactics today (it's also terribly taught at business schools because none of the teachers were actually around to see how this played out live). But it relates to the topic of today's lesson, so I thought I'd include it here. Work depending, I'll be back next week with a covenant breakdown. Most upvoted ticker gets the post. *EDIT 1\* In a total blowout, $PLAY won. So it's D&B time next week. Post will drop Monday at market open.
This is a guide to a battlecast brawler hyper roll build I've been working on in patch 10.13. (Or HyperBeam HyperRoll as i like to call it)
Down below I've shown what the comp should look like at various stages of the game, as well as the general strategy and itemization. Hyper roll builds have disappeared from the meta with the introduction of set 3.5, mostly to to the nerfing of key 1 cost units like Poppy and Xylah, the removal of the Void alliance, and level 4 rolling odds changing from 60% to 55% for 1 cost units. However, I think with the massive buffs to Illaoi and the battlecast synergy and it's units, as well as the massive increase in odds for 3 cost units from 10% to 15% at level 4 make this build viable if you abuse those odds to find an early Cassiopeia, and get 4 battlecast online early after hyper rolling at stage 3-1. You're almost guaranteed to have her on round 3-2, often you will even find 2 copies or a 2 star Cassiopeia on your first hyper roll. I think by shifting the focus of hyper roll builds away from 3 starring a board of 1 and 2 cost units, and focusing more on abusing the 15% odds for 3 cost units, and focusing on 3 starring a few one cost units, and getting super early 2 star 3 costs who unlock important synergies, hyper rolling can be quite good again. Anyways, here's the rundown of the comp: The build focuses on building Illaoi and Cassiopeia as your carries. The compound effect of all the buffs to Illaoi and battlecast have made her tankiness and power increase exponentially, especially at 3 star. Combining the buffed heal from battlecast with the bonus HP she got this patch, 10% more armor and magic resist steal and the massive 50% increase from 4 second to 6 second steal duration, allowing her to stack up much more at a single time makes her a way stronger unit at 3 star than she was in 10.12. Combining this with the right set of items easily rivals Poppy in the golden days of the Candyland build. As for Cassiopeia, despite getting a nerf to DPS, the amount of damage instances she does is very powerful with the battlecast synergy. With Blue Buff and Morellonomicon, you'll be dealing 2 instances of tick damage on your opponents entire team very early into the fight, triggering tons of blasts/heals. When played in this comp, she is a way stronger carry than she is in the Vanguard Mystic build, despite being nerfed. The 4 battlecast synergy has been buffed enough that it can crush early game and carry you through mid, until you find Urgot later, and the 6 battlecast alliance has been buffed enough to make this build viable in the late/top 4 portion of the game. Buffs to Nocturne and Kog'Maw aren't huge, but still relevant. This comp also makes great use of spatula. If you can get battlecast spat, you can run 6 battlecasts at level 6, without needing to to wait all the way to level 8 to find Urgot. The 480 damage blasts/heals at earlier stages of the game will pretty much ensure you steamroll. In summary, the comp wants to have long fights with an unkillable Illaoi and Malphite 3 star in the front, buying time for Cassiopeia's damage over time, and your battlecast procs to do work, while the combination of Ionic Spark and Illaoi's resistance reductions massively increase your damage output as your tanks run endlessly into the opponents units and debuff them to oblivion. Super Early Game (Stage 1-2) In the super early game, you should econ as much as possible. Focus on making interest at all times, and only deviate from this if it means picking up an Illaoi, Cassiopeia, Malphite, or Nocturne. You want to hang onto as few units as possible that don't go into the level 5 comp shown below. Holding onto one Kog'maw is a good idea, but 2 starring him before you roll down your gold at 3-1 isn't worth it. It costs way too much in interest gold and you will always be able to 2 star him very early with your hyper rolls, and having him 2 star isn't the most important thing. What really matters is having him for an early 4 battlecast synergy. If you can sell Cog'Maw to make interest it's generally worth it, as you can always find another copy during your hyper roll. You want to streak for maximum econ without ever breaking your streak, which usually means loss streaking until the crug round. This also ensures you get first/early pick at the carousel. Getting the right items, specifically an early bramble for your Illaoi, is important for this comp, so it's normally the best approach. I wouldn't recommend committing to win streaking unless you're entering the first PVP rounds with 2 star units and some solid completed items, or if you lucked out and got Cassiopeia on stage 1. Ideally you want between 40-50 gold for stage 3-1, at which point you hyper roll to 0 and try to 3 star Illaoi Malphite and Nocturne, while 2 starring Kog'Maw, and finding Cassiopeia 1 or 2 star. Consider holding onto Blitz crank and Vi during your roll, until you find the 4 battlecasts so you can play a 4 brawler start as a backup plan if need be. Sidenote: picking up as many 1 cost and 3 cost units as possible while you're rolling down your gold will slightly increase your chances of 3 starring units and hitting Cassiopeias by removing some units from the pool. This isn't huge but it can be the difference between hitting a 3 star unit a round or two earlier, which does matter. Early Game (Level 4-5) Level 5 You want to get Illaoi to 3 star as your top priority, while looking for Malphite and Nocturne 3 star along the way. Kog'Maw 3 star is nice but it isn't worth the bench space and gold and will ultimately slow you down too much. Getting him to 2 star early is all you need. The other goal is to find Cassiopeia 2 star early during the hyper rolls, but never roll specifically for her, as a 1 star Cassiopeia is all you need early on, and you should get her to 2 star extremely early naturally with your hyper rolls now giving you 15% chance for 3 cost units in the early game anyways. The only 3 star unit that is absolutely crucial to the comp is Illaoi. Malphite makes the comp much stronger if you can 3 star him, but the comp can function without him. 3 star Nocturne is much like Zoe in Candyland; a nice bonus if you find him, and quite useful with his 4 second stun, but you don't need him 3 star. It's always worth the econ and bench to hang onto him though. Since this is a hyper roll build, you never spend money on exp until you are fully ready to go to level 6, where your odds for finding 1 cost units decrease drastically. Once you find Illaoi 3 star, you should go to level 6 if you aren't anywhere near finding Malphite and nocturne 3, but if you have 5 or more copies of either of them, and if the units aren't being heavily contested, it's worth staying at level 5 longer and rolling down again for 3 star on all your 1 costs first. Be patient with your gold, and try to econ up to 30-50 gold before rolling down each time, instead of rolling all your gold as you get it, unless you are dying and have no other option. You usually want to run the 5 units shown above, however if you failed to find 4 battlecast, you can run 4 Brawler instead, although this isn't as good. The other main thing to consider is running Zed instead of Malphite. Zed can be worth it if you ended up with a 3 star Nocturne, or if you somehow didn't find 2 star Malphite on your first hyper roll, which is incredibly unlikely. Otherwise the 2 Brawler front line with 4 battlecast is your best option. Mid Game (Level 6-7) Level 6 level 7 At this point, hopefully Illaoi and as many other 1 costs as possible are 3 starred, or 1-2 copies away from being 3 starred, and you have 2 star Cassiopeia. The best option at level 6 is to add a Mystic to further increase your units durability. Soraka is great, and her healing has great synergy with the innate tankiness of your units. Karma is also great to link to your Cassiopeia. If you can't find a mystic the option of throwing in a 2 star Zed or a Fizz is also okay. Running Infiltrator in the place of Mystic can actually be better up until late game if Nocturne is 3 starred. At this point in the game, you don't want to be rolling any more. Just econ up and pick up more brawlers, and finish 2 starring everything you can, and finishing 3 star units unless it becomes unrealistic to keep looking for them. At level 7, you want to add in two brawlers and take out the mystic, for 4 brawler 4 battlecast. Adding Vi and Gnar provides much more valuable front line to buy time and drag out the fight for your Cassiopeia and battlecast procs to do work, as well as providing you with lots of CC. If the game is going well, i prefer to econ up to 50 on level 6 and slowly pump gold into exp, while remaining at 50 gold, then pump all my gold into levels to jump strait to level 8 right after, but if you are being pressured it's fine to go to 7 sooner if you're taking too much damage. Late Game (Level 8-9) Level 8 Level 8 alt Level 9 At level 8, add your Mystic back in (Soraka being the best). You don't have much to do here as far as your build, aside from trying to find Urgot and Viktor, if you don't already have him, to go to 6 battlecast. Once you find Urgot, either replace Cog'Maw with him (or Nocturne if you never 3 starred him) or take out 2 of your brawlers and go for 6 battlecast, 2 brawler, 2 mystic. If the game goes to Level 9, you can simply play 4 brawler 6 battlecast. If you're facing heavy magic damage lineups that don't require you to strengthen your front line as much (such as Gangplank/Riven and 6 sorcerers) you can consider 4 mystics instead of 4 brawlers. This is especially effective if you have dragon scale on Illaoi, and practically allows her to 1v9 against those kind of comps. Spatula Variation Level 6 Level 9 If you get a spatula, you can make battlecast spat and put it onto your Malphite. Malphite carries Ionic spark in this comp, so giving him the ability to output some magic damage is nice while hes tanking for you, but more importantly he has tons of hp to work with so he will survive on the front line for much longer with battlecast heals and keep that ionic spark aura up for longer. With battlecast spat, you can add Viktor in at level 6 for the 6 battlecast synergy. The DPS increase to 480 for each battlecast proc at this early in the game is brutal, and also makes Illaoi unkillable with the increase heal. You can play 4 brawler 6 battlecast at level 8 now as well, and at level 9 you can play a mystic on top of the normal comp, while dropping one of your less useful battlecasts. Items Carousel Priority is Spatula > Chain Vest > Cloak > TeaRod > Belt/Gloves It's essential that you prioritize getting Bramble first, Blue Buff second, then two additional tank items for Illaoi and Morellonomicon as a third priority, and lastly Ionic Spark or Rapid Firecannon are luxury items (they help you win more if you're ahead, but don't stabilize you if you're behind). Basically, Bramble vest is the most important item in the comp, with Blue Buff being a close second. They are the only irreplaceable items. Bramble plays a crucial role in carrying you through all stages of the game. It's value on tanky units, especially at 3 star, is too great to ever pass up. It will do a ton of AOE damage, and it creates quite a lot of damage instances throughout the fight to fuel battlecast. Ideally, Illaoi wants Bramble, Dragon Scale and Quicksilver. I believe these items best leverage her stolen resistances from her spell and increase her survivability. The armor from vest, plus the negating of crits, coupled with 20% evasion from quicksilver, makes her very durable against physical damage. The magic resist provided by Dragon scale and Quicksilver bring her magic resistance extremely high, and she ends up taking almost no damage when incoming magic damage is reduced by 50% by scale before even considering her resistances. The immunity to crowd control from Quicksilver is very important on her as well, as it allows her to cast without interruption, and she can't be stunned before she has a chance to steal resistances. Stacking up a few casts in the first 10 seconds of the fight is enough to make sure she is always working with added armor and magic resist. Getting these 3 items isn't imperative though, as long as you have bramble you can replace one of the other slots. Warmog's works fine in giving her more raw HP to leverage her mass stolen armor and magic res, and gives her more HP to stay alive and heal back up with battlecast procs. Titan's resolve is also an acceptable replacement as she is one of the units who can actually get it to 50 stacks and then stay alive and heal back up for a long time thereafter to make good use of the item to its full potential. Cassiopeia wants Blue Buff and Morellonomicon. With this combination of items, she can dish out tons of damage over time as long as she has a tanky front line to buy time for the damage to do its work, as we've seen in builds like Vanguard Mystic and Mystic Protectors. Given two sources of tick damage on every unit that she casts on, not only does she melt entire teams, she goes rapid-fire with the battlecast procs, even managing to stay alive through rapid healing if she gets jumped on the back line. The last item is Ionic Spark. This is best on Malphite 3 star, but can be on any Brawler. I don't recommend putting it on Illaoi because it offers less defensively and we just want to make her as tanky as possible with her 3 slots. Combining the magic resistance debuff aura and Illaoi stealing 60% resistances every cast from whoever she hits, your team will be able to easily melt enemies. Almost all item components have good use in this comp, but BF Sword is quite a dead item. The best you can do is make a Zeke's Herald or GA with it. Other notable items if you happen to get them: Rapid Firecannon - Great on Cassiopeia, and allows you to position her as safe and far away as possible. Any Bows you pick up should go towards building this item. It didn't make the cut for the item build, but it would be the next best thing that isn't on the core 6 item list. Don't prioritize bows on the carousel over anything else for this item, but it's nice if you end up with one. Protector Spat - Spatula should be built into battlecast spat, but if that ends up being impossible, or you pick up the full item on a later carousel, it can be great for Cassiopeia to perma-shield once you activate protector synergy with Urgot. Jarvin and Karma can be played until you find Urgot, to get protector and dark star. Thief's Gloves - If you end up with extra Sparring Gloves you can just combine them onto Nocturne or victor to get some value out of them. Frozen Heart - If you have spare chain vest and tear drops, this is a nice item to have on either a brawler, or on Nocturne. ZZ'Rot Portal/Redemption - If you end up with these, they're nice on Nocturne, as he will jump to the back line, cause havoc, then give you benefits for dying. Positioning Depending on what brawlers you're using, there are two general approaches to positioning Cassiopeia. If you have all your brawlers up front, it's best to have her to the second row against one of the edges, with a brawler directly in front of her. If you're running Blitzcrank, you can put him in the corner with Cassiopeia next to him. This will give her a target to attack in between casting her spell. Since she only needs to hit once to gain full mana with blue buff, she should be able to distribute her poison to most of the enemy team from the safety of the back row before the pulled unit dies, forcing her to move up closer. Malphite (or whoever ends up with Ionic Spark) should be towards the center to maximize the aura's effect. Illaoi should also be centered. Her and Malphite are the tankiest units assuming they're three starred, and it's also best to have her near the Ionic spark to ensure she stacks magic resistance reduction from Tentacle Smash and ionic spark onto the same units, helping your team burst down targets better. Nocturne can typically kill off a target during his 4 second stun duration, so having him jump onto a key spell caster such as Lulu/Xeraph or a carry is important. In the top 4 and above, his positioning becomes increasingly more important as you can target specific players more easily. Cow'Maw isn't the most impactful unit, so he should be positioned in such a way that he will tankenemy Blitzcranks. In general, I prefer to play towards one side in the early game, to better help your units focus fire, and cause battlecast to target the same unit. later on, I typically prefer to spread out more. Pros and Cons Pros: - Counters Vanguards and Mystics. Cassiopeia with Morellonomicon melts them, and Illaoi's spell turns their own strength against them, making her ridiculously tanky and stripping them of their alliance bonuses. - Counters Protectors due to Cassiopeia 50% shield reduction. - Not Super contested in general. Not many players are 3 starring these units, and with hyper rolls you can get your hands on the highly contested Cassiopeia before anyone has a chance to empty them out of the pool. - Good in Trade Sector, Neekoverse, Star Cluster, Superdense Galaxies. - Easy Top 4 if you get some 3 stars at a reasonable time, or hit your items on Cassiopeia and Illaoi Cons: - Easy Bottom 4 if you get unlucky with your hyper rolls - Can struggle against Blasters with the 80% true damage from Giant Slayers against your High HP units, and heal reduction from Red Buff. If more than two players are going blaster brawler, you shouldn't go for this comp, as your units will be contested as well and 3 starring the important ones could become impossible. - Can be weak against sorcerers. Burst damage comes in less, more intense damage instances, and doesn't let you proc enough battlecast heals. Their units often don't have much resistance to steal making Illaoi less effective and more vulnerable, as well as losing value on HP% burn from Cassiopeia since their units are fairly low hp. - Bad in Binary Star and Galactic Armory. Risky in Littler Little Legends Galaxy. If you snowball early you can crush the game easily, but if you take a bit too long hitting your power spikes, you'll be in a rough spot. That's it for the guide, thanks for reading! I hope you give this comp a try and have fun! If you have any feedback or questions, feel free to DM me!
Hoarding is a Prisoner's Dilemma - Brief Game Theoretic Observations on the Response to Coronavirus
I'm sure many of you are already familiar with the prisoner's dilemma (PD). For those that aren't, here's an outline of the dilemma, as quoted from Wikipedia:
Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with the other. The prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge, but they have enough to convict both on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the prosecutors offer each prisoner a bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to betray the other by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent. The possible outcomes are: If A and B each betray the other, each of them serves two years in prison If A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve three years in prison (and vice versa) If A and B both remain silent, both of them will serve only one year in prison (on the lesser charge)
This interaction is a fundamental "game" in game theory, in which interactions between two people can be formalized and analyzed through that form. An important tool for analyzing such games are matrices, which display the value of each possible outcome in the game. Here is an example of such a matrix. This is the preference matrix for PD. The numbers are ordinal, and describe the preference of each player. 1 represents the player's most preferred outcome, and 4 the player's least preferred outcome. You can also do this matrix as an "outcome matrix," where instead of showing the preferences of each player, you quantify what they will actually get out of the interaction. Hereafter, a PD game will refer to any game whose preference matrix matches that of the classic prisoner's dilemma. Currently, in response to the coronavirus, we're seeing many people respond by going to their grocery stores and hoarding all the meat, toilet paper, bread, and eggs that they can. The official response from the governments (well, mine anyway, I don't know about yours) is that each person needs to remain calm and to not hoard. To hoard or not to hoard, that is the question. Hoarding here correlates with the "Defect" options in the matrix above, while not hoarding correlates with the "Cooperate" option. If both players choose to defect, then both players receive their third most preferred outcome. However, if each player decides to cooperate, then each receives her second most preferred outcome. So, if we all cooperate, we end up in a better position than if we all defect. This is why we are being told to avoid hoarding - the powers that be are trying to drive us from the bottom right position on the matrix (the position of "mutual defection") to the top left position ("mutual cooperation"). So why aren't people responding? If bilateral cooperation is better for all of us than mutual defection, why don't we do it? Well, there's two other positions, which represent "unilateral defection" - when one player defects on a player who is cooperating. As you'll notice, each player's most preferred outcome is to defect on their cooperating opponent. If you choose to cooperate, and resist the urge to hoard, then I can come along and hoard ALL the things - leaving you, philosophically speaking, screwed. Now I can start selling my TP at unreasonable prices, or just keep it to myself - either way, I have options with all my toilet paper, and you do not. John Nash Jr. (of "A Beautiful Mind" fame) proved that for every game ("game" here in game theoretic terms, so any such formal interaction) has at least one joint strategy that is in equilibrium. A "joint strategy" is any of the squares within a game theoretic matrix - it represents both my choice and your choice. "Equilibrium" means that for any joint strategy, if player A chooses to change strategies, player B has no reason to do the same. In PD, the joint strategy in equilibrium is mutual defection. Let's assume you and I are planning on defecting on each other. If you change your mind and choose to cooperate, I have no reason to also start cooperating - your strategy shift has only made my situation better. Likewise, mutual cooperation is NOT in equilibrium. If you and I are planning on cooperating, and then you change your mind and decide to defect, then it behooves me to defect also. If I do not, I am left with my 4th most preferred outcome. But I also defect, then I get my 3rd best outcome. This is why the hoarding problem is so difficult to overcome. It is in the interest of the group as a whole to cooperate. But each individual player gets her best outcome by defecting. The interests of the group don't align with the interests of the individuals that make it up. MORALITY AND RATIONALITY Decision theory is a branch of philosophy within which game theory lies. It deals with determining what action a person should take based on her desires and her beliefs. An action is rational if by doing that action, she obtains her desires. It is irrational otherwise. In the case of PD, defecting is more often the rational option. This is because it is the only choice in which your most-preferred outcome can be obtained, and by defecting you will never receive your least-preferred outcome. As a corollary, cooperating is less rational. By cooperating, the only way you can get a good outcome is if your opponent also cooperates - and you cannot count on that happening. But while cooperating is not the rational choice, it is the choice that I think most would consider the morally correct option (ethical egoists, like Ayn Rand and her supporters, would disagree here). This perhaps requires an argument to support - but I will leave that as an exercise for the reader. At the very least, whether mutual cooperation ought to be considered the morally correct option or not, I think it is evident that a large bulk of us do, which is demonstrated by the moral outrage towards those who defect rather than cooperate. But this disparity is exactly the problem. The (probably) "morally correct" option is not the "rational" option. And thus people are being left with the choice between doing the thing which most benefits them and their families, or doing the right thing for the rest of us. Yet I don't think it's so easy in every case to say that hoarding is a morally wrong action. Certain feminist philosophers will point out that a person's first duty should be to her family - after all, we are social creatures, the family is an essential social unit in our society, and besides it is our moral duty to provide care to those around us. Despite the harm it causes outside of that family unit, hoarding undoubtedly can secure care to the hoarder's family. If it is morally correct to care for my family before those outside of it, and if hording can secure that, then hoarding is not, by itself, morally objectionable. OBJECTIONS Some philosophers make the very strong claim that all of our moral and political interactions are reducible to individual games. I don't think I'm in that boat currently; I'm not totally convinced that a game theoretic model can exhaust or explain all such interactions. Nevertheless, just as we find logic useful despite the fact that it does not apply to everything we would perhaps like it to, game theoretic models can be a useful tool, if not a universal one. One objection you may have is that "There are more than two players in this hoarding game." True. The web of interaction is much more complicated than one PD matrix would imply. Nevertheless, the matrix describes (in binary terms) the choice each of us has when we go to the grocery store these days - or else it shows the consequences of other players choices. If you arrive at the store, butthole poopied, desperate for toilet paper, and you find that not only is the TP gone, but also the tissues, paper towels, and seashells, you've received your least preferred outcome. Sorry, thanks for playing. Another objection might be to the binary nature of the game. To hoard or not to hoard, that was the question I posed earlier - but what counts as "hoarding?" Buying 10 cases of toilet paper probably counts, but if I only need one, then does buying 2 count as hoarding? To be honest, I just woke up, and I haven't given a lot of thought to the gray areas yet. If the game theoretic reductionists are correct, then the gray areas must also be explainable in game theoretic terms. One possible option the reductionist might have is to show that in some of the gray areas, the game is no longer a prisoner's dilemma - that is, the preference matrix looks different from the one I linked above. But nevertheless, I think that when we use the word "hoarding," we aren't thinking of the fringe cases - we're thinking of the extreme cases, the ones you see on the front page with a photo of some lady with two carts of TP and a title reading only "Fuck this person." And at least in those cases, I can confidently say that they constitute a prisoner's dilemma. Edit: Just wanted to say thank you all for the great discussion! This was my first post here and it was very off-the-cuff, but I had a lot of fun reading and responding to you all. Stay safe out there!
Sometimes, pulling is as simple as saying, "Let's get out of here." If a girl already knows she wants to have sex with you, you don't need any special tactics to bring her home. However, women rarely decide they want to have sex with a man before they're in a bed with him. One girl told me, "We're not having sex tonight," three times before she went back to my place. Then, on my couch, she sighed and said, "Are you going to fuck me already?" For men, sexual interest is binary. If we find a woman attractive, we'd probably agree to have sex with her. For girls, sex is more complicated. In terms of being interested in sleeping with you, women will sometimes categorize you as a "yes" or "no," but most often, you'll be classified as a "maybe." Even if a girl is so attracted to you that she's turned on in your presence, she still may decide against having sex with you. As a woman, sex comes with a lot of risks—physically and socially. A woman needs to know she can trust a man before she goes home with him. The average man is more than twice as strong as the average woman. There's a real risk of being harmed. Furthermore, many women encounter men who are too pushy and aggressive. Even if a girl likes you, she may be subconsciously concerned that you're going to be one of those overly aggressive guys. Then, there's the risk of being slut-shamed. Although some women encourage their friends to hook up with random guys, other women mercilessly judge their friends when they do something 'slutty.' Even if a girl thinks you're extremely attractive, she would probably reject you if you were to try to pull her five minutes after meeting her. She needs to go through a process to be ready to go home with you and have sex. Generally, women need to see that you are assertive, but not pushy. You must take the lead, but at a pace she can relate to. There are no universal rules to this; every girl is different. As an experiment, I once approached 20 women with the line, "Hey, you're cute, would you like to come back to my place?" Nineteen of them said no, but one girl said yes. Of course, that's not the best strategy. But don't limit yourself by thinking thoughts like, "I think she's into me, but I can't pull a girl on the first date." Or, "It's the beginning of the night; there's no way she's going to leave with me now." As a rule-of-thumb, pulling a girl usually takes 45 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, but there are plenty of exceptions.
The Process of Pulling
Pulling has momentum to it. You're leading the girl—both physically and emotionally—towards having sex with you. This starts small with intense eye contact or a spark of sexual energy; then, you gradually escalate as the tension increases. If you rush this, the girl will feel that you're pushing her towards something you want, without regard to what she wants. The pacing is what matters most; you're not fixated on the 'finish line.' Instead, you are slowly escalating. Think of an entire interaction with a woman like foreplay. If you were to fuck a girl the second she got on your bed without any foreplay, it would be a dull experience for her—there was no time for her to arousal to grow. Similarly, if you try to pull a girl as quickly as possible, there's no time for her to build a desire to go home with you. She wants to know who you are, she wants to know she can trust you, and she wants to experience a growing excitement for hooking up with you. In the following sections, I lay out a comprehensive guide to pulling based on how women want to be pulled. It's a process that takes place over an extended period and gradually builds in intensity.
Deciding To Pull
Whenever you're talking to a girl you're attracted to, it's crucial to determine the ideal outcome for the interaction. For instance, if a girl has an interview in 30 minutes, you probably don't have time to pull her. In this case, your ideal outcome for the interaction would be to set up a date with her. You must find out if pulling a girl home is a realistic possibility. Otherwise, you could easily spend over an hour with a woman only to get a pat on the back and a hearty, "It was nice meeting you!" In the men's dating advice community, this is referred to as screening for logistics. You're determining how likely it is that you will be able to pull a particular girl later that night. Whenever you have an interaction with a woman that lasts more than 30 seconds, you should ask a few logistical questions. For example, you might ask:
What are you doing later?
Who are you here with?
How did you get here (Driving/Ubeetc.)?
What area of town do you live in?
What are you doing tomorrow?
Asking the above questions will give you useful information. If, for instance, you learn that a girl drove her five friends to the club, she lives an hour away, and she's flying across the country tomorrow morning, chances are, you're not going to pull her. Conversely, if a girl lives across the street, she came to the club alone, and she's not doing anything later, the likelihood that she'll go home with you is much higher. Of course, asking too many logistical questions can quickly become obnoxious. To avoid coming across as inquisitional, sprinkle these questions throughout the interaction rather than asking them back-to-back. Below, you'll find a general guideline for the best and worst answers to logistical questions:
What are you doing later?
Good logistics: Nothing, what are you doing later? Bad logistics: I'm going back to my parent's house.
Who are you here with?
Good logistics: I'm here with my roommate, Sarah. Bad logistics: I'm here with my dad.
How did you get here?
Good logistics: I drove here. Bad logistics: My friend Dave drove me.
What area of town do you live in?
Good logistics: 5 minutes away from here. Bad logistics: About an hour away.
What are you doing tomorrow?
Good logistics: Not sure yet. Bad logistics: I have to wake up at 4 a.m. to go to work. To be clear, if a girl really wants to hook up with you, you may be able to find a way to overcome a bad logistical situation. Once in Vegas, my wingman and I pulled two girls from the club. My girl was excited to hang out more and get a drink back at our hotel. However, the other girl wasn't so enthusiastic: during the car ride, she repeatedly complained that she just wanted to go home and sleep. But it didn't matter because the girl I was with was determined to spend more time with me. My girl told her friend that she could sleep in the car while we had shots in the hotel room. And that's exactly what happened. Ultimately, it's useful to know a girl's logistics, but you can often make something happen regardless of the situation. Memorizing all these logistical questions can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, there's a simple way you can get an idea of whether a girl might be interested in going home with you later that night. Say either, "What are you doing later?" Or, "There's an after-party later tonight; you should come." More often than not, women will respond to this question based on how they feel about you. If they want to keep hanging out with you, they will make themselves available:
"I'm not doing much, how about you?"
Or, "I'd be down to go to a party later."
Conversely, if a girl knows she isn't going home with you later, she might say something like,
"I'm going back home with my roommates to sleep."
Or, "I can't go to a party tonight; I have other plans."
To be clear, a girl might make herself unavailable when you ask this question only to change her mind later. But generally, her response to, "What are you doing later?" will give you a good idea as to whether she would like to go home with you.
When She Makes Herself Unavailable
What should you do when a girl says she's busy later or can't go to an after-party? If you don't have much experience approaching women, your best option in this situation is to exchange numbers with the girl and start meeting other women. Maybe she likes you; maybe she doesn't, but you know she's probably not going home with you that night. Remember, your most valuable resource when you go out is time. Besides, you have her number, so if she is interested in you, she will likely agree to go on a date with you. As you gain experience meeting women, you will develop an intuitive ability to sense whether you'll be able to pull a girl later. And in many cases, even if a girl initially seems uninterested in going home with you, you'll be able to change her mind. But when you're new to cold approach, taking this kind of risk isn't likely to pay off. I strongly recommend you ask this question to every girl you approach. It's the first step to pulling a girl. When a girl says she's busy later, ask for her number. When a girl makes herself available, move on to the next step.
When She Has Good Logistics
If you get the sense that you might be able to pull a girl (I.E.she says she's not busy later), you should find out if she will leave her friends to hang out with you in a different area. Make a suggestion like:
"Hey, let's go to the outside area where we can actually hear each other."
"Let's go to the dance floor for a minute."
During the day, you might say, "There's a Starbucks right down the street; let's get a quick coffee."
When She Won't Go With You
If a girl is unwilling to move to a different area with you, it's unlikely she'll go home with you later. You will have to decide whether you think the girl won't move to another area because she isn't interested in you or because she has a tight-knit group of friends that she doesn't want to leave. If you think she is attracted to you, you may still be able to go home with her at the end of the night. Instead of pulling her, you can let her pull you (see the section, "Go With Her.") Conversely, if you think she might not be interested in you, it's best to exchange numbers with her before leaving her to approach other women. When a girl refuses to leave her friends, you'll have to weigh your options. It isn't likely you'll be able to make something happen with this girl on that same night, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. Again, as a rule-of-thumb, it's better to play it safe (get the number and move on to another girl) when you're new to approaching women, and it's better to take risks when you're more experienced. Trying to push an interaction when the girl is giving signs she isn't interested is like doubling down on a bad hand of poker - it's better just to play another hand. So, if you're new to cold approach, you will get the best results by: Setting up as many dates as possible (on a date, the logistics are very much in your favor). By finding girls who have a good logistical situation in clubs. Basically, find the "yes" girls who are actively interested in going home with you that night and exchange numbers with the "maybe" girls who are less enthusiastic and less available. As you accumulate experience, you will develop a fine-tuned sense of how interested a particular girl is. You'll know whether you can overcome a bad logistical situation or if it's best to move on to someone else.
If She Agrees To Go With You
If a girl says yes to your request to go to another area, this is a strong sign that you may be able to pull her. Women will rarely say they want to go home with you: instead, they show interest through their actions. A girl's willingness to follow you from one area to another is a significant green light that she might be open to going home with you later.
Taking Her Home
At this point, the girl is following your lead from one area to another. After you've been talking for roughly 45 minutes to an hour and a half, the next step of leading is to bring her home with you. Fortunately, pulling isn't rocket science. So long as the emotions are right, many women will want to go home with you. Often, all you have to do is ask. More than a few times, I've pulled girls simply by saying something to the effect of, "Want to get out of here?" That said, there are ways to pull a girl more smoothly. If you mentioned the idea of going to an after-party earlier in the interaction, you can pull by saying, "Hey, let's go to that after-party I mentioned." Now, inviting a girl to an 'after-party' when it's really just you and her might sound creepy. Here's the truth, if you use lines like the above when there's no mutual sexual attraction, then yeah, it will be a little awkward. I once brought two girls back to my place to go to an "after-party," but when we arrived, they realized there was no real after-party, and they said they had to get an Uber. But this has only happened once in my entire life, and it was my own fault—I was focusing on the pull without considering whether there was enough sexual desire and trust. Ultimately, if a girl is interested in you and she agrees to go home with you, it's unlikely she'll be surprised if it turns out the after-party is just you and her. If you're unsure whether a girl is attracted to you, you can make a point to physically escalate before bringing her home. When you've been making out with a girl or grinding with her on the dance floor, you can be fairly confident she's interested. Afterward, you can pull her without worrying about whether she's attracted to you or not. You don't need a great reason to bring a girl to your place, you just need an excuse that isn't "let's fuck," or, "Would you like to have sex?" (saying that puts way too much pressure on the girl). If a woman is interested in hooking up with you, she will agree to go to your place for whatever silly reason you come up with. A friend of mine once pulled by saying, "I have an amazing book collection at my place; you have to see it." Here are a few more examples of simple excuses you can use to bring a girl home with you:
"It's way too loud here, let's go somewhere quiet where we can have a real conversation."
"Let's get a drink back at my place."
"I'm hungry; we should get some food." (If she agrees, you can suggest cooking something back at your place—if nothing else, you can make a frozen pizza.)
Or you can pull by inviting a girl to watch a show or movie with you:
You: "Have you seen the show, Californication?"
You: "You'll love it; we should watch an episode later."
Then, later in the conversation, you can bring the show back up again when you're ready to pull, "Hey, let's go watch that episode of Californication."
What if you don't have a place to pull girls to? Let's say you still live with your parents, and you can't bring girls back to your place. Is it still possible to pull? Yes, of course, the only difference is that you must pull to the girl's house. Here's how: when you bring up an excuse to hang out in private with a girl (watching a T.V. show, getting a. drink, etc.), and she agrees, follow up by saying something to the effect of, "Okay, how far is your place from here?" Whether she replies with, "I'm 5 minutes away." Or, "I'm 20 minutes away," you can say, Okay, cool, that's much closer than my place; let's go." Sometimes, a girl will not be able to bring you back to her place (I.E., she lives with her parents); in this case, you can either get a hotel or move on to the next girl. However, many of the women you meet will have a place you can go back to. I've pulled girls back to their place many times, and despite what many guys think, it doesn't need to be much more complicated or difficult than pulling to your place.
Go With Her
Even if a girl is unwilling to leave her group of friends and move to another area with you, you still may be able to go home with her. To do this, you should find out what the girl is doing after the bar closes. If she says something that makes her seem uninterested (I.E., she's going to her brother's place to get some sleep), it's unlikely you'll be able to leave with her at the end of the night. Conversely, if she makes herself available, you may be able to make something happen (I.E., "My friends and I are just going to hang out." Or, "I'm not sure yet, just going home.") Before deciding to go back to a girl's place, ask yourself, "What would happen if she and I were alone in a room together?" If the answer is, "We'd tear each other's clothes off," then going with her has a good chance of leading to sex. If you're not sure, the safer option is to mention that there's an after-party later and invite her (before moving on to meet other people). You don't want to spend your entire night with a girl who is only interested in you as a friend. However, if you think she is attracted to you, but she doesn't want her friends to see her leaving with some random guy, you may be able to go home with her at the end of the night. Once you've decided that you're going to stick with a girl and go with her at the end of the night, just stay with her while making a point of winning over her friends. If the friend-group doesn't like you, it will be exceedingly difficult to go back with them at the end of the night. I've seen so many men ignore a girl's friends until they got upset and dragged the girl away from him. Offer value to the friend group the same way you offer value to the girl you're interested in (just without the sexual elements). Once the bar or club closes (or the girl says she's about to head home), you can go with her. To do this, ask, "What area of town are you headed to?" Reply to whatever her answer is with, "Oh, I'm near there; we should split an Uber." If she's unenthusiastic about the idea, she's probably not interested in going with you, but if she says something along the lines of, "Yeah, that sounds good." Then you can leave with her at the end of the night. When you're in the Uber with the girl, you need to create an excuse to enter her house. The easiest way to do this is to simply ask if you can use her restroom while you wait for another Uber to your place. When you're in the girl's house, one thing should lead to another. You'll both forget that you were "waiting for your Uber". Now, if you're thinking, "This sounds creepy," it is creepy if she's not into you. However, if she wants to have sex with you, you're simply creating a logical excuse to do what you both want to do. You can't tell a girl, "Oh, you have to go home with your friends? Can I come along so we can fuck when you get home?" That wouldn't be relatable. If you want to go home with a girl, it helps to create a situation where it makes sense for you to end up in her house. Again, you should only do this if you believe that it's on between the two of you. However, even if it turns out she isn't interested in hooking up with you, it's not the end of the world. Just politely excuse yourself--so long as you don't get bitter or aggressive, she's unlikely to be upset. With that said, you can often go home with a girl by being direct. When you ask, "What area of town are you headed to?" you can reply to her answer by saying, "I'm going with you." So long as you come across as confident and your interaction up to that point was strong, she will likely agree to your proposition. It can be useful to create a logical excuse to go home with a girl because she will be less likely to feel judged for acting 'slutty.' But you can be upfront with your intentions successfully so long as you've built enough trust and sexual tension in the interaction.
When She Refuses To Go Home With You
If a girl declines your invitation to go home with you, it might mean she's just not interested. However, sometimes a girl will refuse to go home with you even when she likes you. Maybe the girl has a boyfriend she didn't mention. Maybe she just doesn't do one-night stands. Sometimes, a girl won't go home with you because she doesn't want to get judged by her friends. Once again, if a girl won't go home with you, your best option is to make plans to go on a date with her later before going to meet other people. Say something like, "It's been cool talking to you; we should get coffee sometime." When a girl rejects your invitation to go home with you, it's often not that she's rejecting you, she just can't go home with you at that particular moment. That's why you should make plans to hang out with the girl later. If you want to see more of my content, check out my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4kTcVi-b_9qQnMCRG9WggA
[first] [prev] [next] Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.299 Arrived at Starbase-4973 with the Dakota and our crew. Turned over information to the local Starfleet representative as well as SUDS data for the other ship's crews. Spoke to Commodore Dunsten of Starfleet who requested a template for what changes the Dakota has undergone. Was counseled that my point totals will not count toward any ladder rankings due to 'extreme non-canon changes' to the Dakota as well as my crew personal armaments and shuttle modifications. In shocking news, the Battlestar Fleet and the Cylon Collection have arrived. Talk about the big guns. Those guys carry the big Creation Engines that can pump out a Viper or Cylon fighters in roughly 10 seconds with only a 30 second cooldown/slushdown feature. Met with the Space Force representative and turned over my battle logs. He, in particular, wanted the in-depth scans we performed on the various Precursor ships. Our practice of boarding the ships is, at this time, the most common strategy. We discussed the fact that Space Force considers forcing the Precursor vessels out of the system to by a phyrric victory and that the system will require a heavy metal posting. Was also informed that the fact that the Precursor fleet retreated from the planets and then from the system was a 'statistical oddity' and he wanted more scans. He also inquired as to whether or not I ran an in-depth scan on the gas giants, which is where the Goliaths were spawning from. I regret I had not, merely a scan for a Goliath. He appears quite concerned with the actions undertaken but did congratulate me on defending the system. Transphasic Photon Torpedoes are considered standard armaments for all Starfleet vessels from here on out. There is talk of smaller planet-crackers being put in use among the crew, but planet crackers rely on the mantle to core interaction. Quantum torpedoes are nothing option that I am seriously considering. Phased plasma torpedoes are largely considered in the OP-Class of weaponry but I am seriously considering just loading everything up and going for broke. Tricobalt missiles might be another option but the last time anyone used that was during the Fifth Dominion War. The Dakota is so far out of specifications that mounting such weapons is not as far fetched as it may have sounded a month ago. It isn't like anything we're going to do is going to count for the leaderboads. On a personal note, some of the crew members have reported headaches from their SUDS interfaces. McCoy is working on it, but he also warned that the transporter may have to be reconfigured after the discovery that the Precursors can hijack the signal and capture crew members that way. Starfleet transporters are much more carefully aligned than the earlier 'mat-trans' and 'teleporter' systems used by the 40K LARPers. Safety interlocks prevent our transporters from being used in many cases that a teleporter could be used, require more power, and have a triple-feedback redunancy check. An amusing point: Teleporter systems seem to go straight through the shields. McCoy and Spock both believe that lengthened amount of time for buffer checking allows the Precursor shielding to be adjusted for the algorythm used by Starfleet vessels. Another amusing point: During my LFG call, the Wesleys were lined up around the station core. Nobody is taking them on these, despite the class advantages because, outside of structured missions for Starfleet Games, nobody is going to suddenly have Wesley Weaknesses just because. On a personal note: My Riker has grown out his beard and has been socializing with his Space Force peers in order to get us more information on this threat.' --Picard 8873 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.304 One thing they don't mention in the sheer amount of time you spend moving from place to place. Warp drive is highly efficient and safe compared to stringdrive, slipstream, gates, and jumpspace. Unlike hyperspace, AI's are able to remain conscious in warp. Still, I feel the urge to yell "GO FASTER" at the warp nacelles. My Spock took me to the side and warned me that Starfleet vessels may be making a serious mistake. Often, the Precursors take damage and flee the system, using Hellspace to jump out. He has noticed that after roughly 8% of their structure is damaged they then flee. He also had checked Starfleet records. I'm the only vessel, at this time, running transphasic photon torpedoes. He has suggested an experiment. Utilize transphasic torpedoes, phased plasma torpedoes, but leave one out of every barrage of 10, with the phased plasma torpedoes, with a subspace beacon. In that manner, we can discover where they are running off to. My Spock has put forward the theory, and my Scotty and LaForge, as well as my Riker, all agree. They have refitting, repair, and construction bases somewhere. Perhaps our plan to put a phased subspace beacon aboard one of the larger vessels will pan out. I do feel concern about what my crew and I might find in a Precursor shipyward. --Picard 8873 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.306 We have returned to the system that myself and the others had cleared. In particular, we are running long range sensor scans of the gas giants. My Chekov has suggested, and I concur, that getting in close and running more detailed but shorter range scans might put us too close. I would really like to avoid a barrage of nCv shells. Our Uhura (She's extremely qualified and did not object to me doublechecking her bonafides) is keeping a careful ear out for any Precursor transmissions. I have left orders that at the faintest whisper of Precursor code the Dakota is to move to red alert. The system looks empty, but there is something that makes me think that there are only four lights. --Picard 8873 ADDENDUM: There is apparently no structures or other masses in the gas giant at the depths our long range passive scanners can reach. Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.307 Our Uhura spotted it first. Subspace whispers. Complex and shifting binary, barely audible. While others suggested we move in, trying to get a lock in on what was whispering across subspace in such a manner I ordered the ship to immediately go to silent running, no emissions. We observed a Goliath exit Hellspace near the larger gas giant, streaming vapor and metal, its attendant vessels exiting with it. As we watched it allowed the attendant vessels to board through the massive docking ports. Sidenote: Some of those docking bays are the size of the real San Francisco Ultraplex. The 'whispers' picked up and the massive Goliath sank into the gas giant. My crew's estimation that the three initially engaged Goliaths of our last action had repaired themselves was confirmation bias. For a bare moment the whisper got louder and the Goliath that had sunk into the gas giant was in plain view on our passive long range scanners then it simply vanished. The belief of my Spock and Scotty is that the Precursors have some kind of shielded refit structure inside the gas giant beyond the scanner horizon. LaForge has stated that the pressures at such depth would make any construction or repairs inordinately difficult. My Riker reminded LaForge that the Precursors were engaged in a war when they vanished and these bases are not only war-time bases, but that there are no living crews to worry about. I ordered my crew to remain on silent running. There is enough debris on that planet to cover a probe approach. My LaForge has suggested putting a probe data relay in the Oort Cloud to give the signals a few 'bounces' and to use only phased tachyon streams with reversed polarity. Sometimes I wish we didn't have all our own names for technology. Why could he have just said paired quark communications? --Picard 8873 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.309 The probe was moved into place carefully, following a piece of debris from the previous battle. During this time our Uhura caught another scrap of what she has come to call "Precursor Whispers" from the other gas giant. My Spock reminded me that the intense pressures inside a massive gas giant could make foundry work easier, allowing the creation of hyperalloys that we need massive foundries for to utilize the inherent pressures of a massive gas giant to create 'alloy farms' inside the gas giant. A disturbing thought indeed. Another ship type has arrived, which I have labeled the Enki class Precursor, has arrived and taken to carefully going over the debris fields of the Starfleet battle. Thankfully the Klingon and Romulan officers routinely utilize anti-matter charges to clear any debris from the destruction of our ships. It moved to the wreckage of the mining ship and has been spending time there. It is at extreme range and I am becoming nervous about what it is doing. The Precursor attitudes within this star system are concerning. Have you ever looked at an inanimate machine, with no living characterization like a Data possesses, and thought to yourself "What are you up to?" as you watched it? I have that unique experience. They are up to something. --Picard 8873 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.310 The probe provided us with valuable information that is critical to disseminate. We are now, to use my Riker's phrase: running like a bat out of hell. Passive scans can only penetrate to a certain depth within a gas giant. Starfleet has been largely worried about planetary scans as well as deep space and intrasystem scans. Combine it with the fact we use a lot of gamification in our systems, gas giants were largely used as "spawn points" for crafts. This meant that, naturally, our scanners largely could not penetrate deeply into gas giants. My Scotty and LaForge re-calibrated the sensor arrays to get a good look inside the gas giant. My Spock was right. The Precursor was 'growing' large alloy fields down there. There was a repair and manufacturing base the size a continent down inside the gas giant with massive 'alloy farms' around it. Before the scale would have shocked me until my Spock pointed out that the Great Eye of Jupiter is twice the size of Terra itself. Nearly two dozen Precursor vessels were 'docked' at the facility. Discussions on how to 'deal with' this massive repair and refit base were discussed at a closed meeting of my command crew. It ranged from using a Genesis Device on the gas giant (Not recommended. My LaForge stated that the Precursor ships we are facing here are more adept at 'learning' than previously encountered Precursor types and the last thing we should do is provide them with planet killers that create more resources) to attempting to use a modified planet cracker on the gas giant (Again, tabled due to concerns the Precursors would imitate it). We settled on phasic trans-phasic photon torpedoes mixed with tricobat missiles. Out attack was dual: Destroy the debris field of the Romulus class mining vessel, which was being thoroughly combed over by Enki class Precursor vessels, damage or perhaps even destroy the facility and the 'alloy farms' inside the gas giants. We came in from above the stellar plane, at a high velocity angle. When facing Precursor vessels your speed and maneuverability are key to staying alive. We fired probes while still 25 million miles above the stellar plane. We came in with only debris shields at full power. The probes reported back that while there were life signs on the planets in the Green and Amber zones the Precursor vessels around those planets and upon the surface were not engaged in wholesale slaughter or destruction. We practically turned the sensors inside out getting deep scans of everything. Once in range (Starfleet weaponry is somewhat, to use my Riker's term: short legged compared to Space Force line weaponry) I ordered a full scan at maximum power and resolution. Normally this is avoided to prevent damage to sentient beings and xeno-species but the Precursors aren't a foe that one should concern themselves with scanner-burn. Percursor vessels were not rising from the gas giants. While some immediately launched or moved to engage us from various points in the system, sheer distance and geometry prevented any attacks. At 30 million miles even nCv weapons or phaser beams move too slowly to engage a ship the size of the Dakota. We launched weapons and immediately began accelerating to be able to put enough distance between any Precursor vehicles and our own vessel. We got our scan data back and immediately realized that engaging the Precursor vessels was now a secondary, if not tertiary, mission. All four of the gas giants contained refit facilities of a size that is best described as 'geological'. That was not the key data. Our Uhura was able to isolate the 'Precursor Whisper' and while unable to decode it, was able to confirm what it is. FTL data-streams. Their battle, strategic, and tactical network. The planets, while full of life and possessing several species known to be "Unified Civilized Races", were all at Stone Age technology. Precursor vessels were moving to protect the planets and their inhabitants for an unknown reason. This information is vital to Starfleet, Space Force, and all other Confederacy organizations. --Picard 8873 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.311 The Dakota has now had its very own AbramsKhan moment. We were fired on in warp drive. The Precursor vessel mounted one of the Galaxy class Starfleet vessel's engines and pursued us. With a lighter frame, higher energy output, and not having to concern itself with warp drive effects upon living beings, it was not only able to catch up to us, but fire upon us. My Riker has stated that anyone who mocks up for having such thick armor after this will be starting a brawl. We are alive only because of my insistence on heavy armor, structural integrity fields running the same type of shield frequency algorithms as our main deflector shields, with dual structural fields layered between armor and structural layers. Immediately upon being fired upon we dropped out of warp drive to engage the small Precursor vessel. Chekov stated it would be between stellar bodies and it should have been a bare battlefield with not even gas wisps. Instead, we dropped into a half dozen Jotun class vessels waiting for us. We are currently undergoing evasive warp maneuvering as estimated by my Spock and my LaForge. --Picard 8873 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.313 They're attempting to "drive" us deeper into the Dead Zone. This gives us a fairly unusual opportunity. We can see what they are attempting to push us into or we can attempt to escape. Spock and Scotty believe that it is imperative we discover what it is that the Precursors believe can take us out compared to the Jotuns following us. Riker and LaForge maintain our goal should be reaching Federation/Confederate Space. I believe I have a better idea. --Picard 8873 Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.315 Rather than allow us to be pushed further into the Dead Zone I ordered the ship to move at a right angle to the galactic plane at full warp 9.3. While this can interfere with SUDS uploads and storage I have decided that the risk is necessary. Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.317 The Precursor machines are still in close pursuit. They are arranging for attempted ambushes. LaForge has theorized that the one following us, which is a warp capable photon-torpedo launcher welded to the the Galaxy class engine and wrapped in neutronium armor, sends out a "whisper" as soon as it sees the 'warp flare' from our engines. That enables the Precursor vessels to Helljump to where we will be exiting. Scotty has a plan. Luckily, I did not dump my old class data, so I have a Kirk knowledge database. Spock is overriding the interlocks to allow me to access that knowledge. It is risky, but acceptable. Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.317 - Supplmental By utilizing the holodeck, a blank SUDS, and carefully aligned emitters, Spock believes I will be able to load the data from the Kirk character class into my memories despite being a Picard. He will attempt to use his Mind Meld ability to keep me from collapsing under a dual class. The Precursor Pursuer will be in range inside of 30 minutes. I have no choice. Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.317.7 The melding was somewhat successful. I have conflicting emotions and desires regarding many subjects but thankfully both my knowledge and personality templates are Starfleet officers. By use of the Mind Meld my Spock was able to use an older exploit involving class rank and player knowledge. Contrary to popular opinion, Kirk classes are not womanizing hot-heads (Despite AbramsEra semi-canon) but rather highly innovative early Starfleet officers. It is just that the mission files force Kirk to use half-experimental technology in innovative ways in order to overcome unknown experiences and foes. One of the things often overlooked is Kirk made the rank of Admiral and was quite cautious in many ways. Still, the dissonance between a Picard and a Kirk class is quite intense. I am suffering nosebleeds. McCoy says it is from intercranial pressure as my brain attempts to sort through the information. I have not informed him of the fact I have a severe SUDS hangover. --Picark 8873 Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.318 After examining old scans of the Galaxy class ship that was defeated I was able to ascertain its hull number. Using that number, and knowledge possessed by an Admiral Level Kirk Class, when the Precursor Pursuer came close enough to fire I was able to drop its warp-shields. The Precursor Pursuer was exposed to raw warp energy at that time, inhibiting its ability to see the Dakota, specifically causing us to appear much further ahead in the warp conduit. The Precursor Pursuer fell back and I ordered the Dakota to move to Emergency Warp Speed. 9.998 Okuda Scale The Precursor Pursuer immediately went to maximum speed of the Galaxy class engine attached to little more than armor, bare shields, and a torpedo launcher. Warp 10. Without Transwarp shielding or any other technology, the Precursor Pursuer achieved infinite velocity and infinite mass. The explosion damaged the Dakota and left us drifting in normal space. Scotty and LaForce estimate repair times of 3 weeks. --Picark 8873 Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.325 We are again underway after our successful destruction of the Precursor Pursuit vessel. Maximum warp is limited to Warp 5.4. Estimated time of arrival at Starbase 4973 is 11 days. --Picark 8873 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.332 My SUDS has been scrambled and bad. I'm no longer Jeffery van Leedle, born on Rigel, but instead and curious combination of the character neural templates and my old personality. Scotty, McCoy, and LaForge are examining me. Not in any hopes of untwining the personalities, but rather to forward the information to SoulNet in hopes that it can be prevented for occurring to others, no matter how unusual the circumstances. The 'Gamed' memories no longer have the distinguishable overlay that Starfleet uses for safety measures. Instead, all of my memories feel the same. Which is... confusing. I remember racing a motorcycle in the wheat fields of Oklahoma, outside of Paris, under a Rigellian red sky. My gestalt personality agrees that it is worth it for the information we have and to save my ship and my crew. --Jeff Picark 8873 Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.334 Pro-term Acting Captain Riker-2173 commanding. Previous Captain suffering the effects of the SUDS/Template merger needed to access information to allow the destruction of the Precursor Pursuer. Captain Jeff Picark was relieved of command, with acceptance and willingly, two hours ago. Bridge and Command Officers are in agreement with this action. We are two days out of Starbase 4973. --Riker 2173 Captain's Personal Log - Stardate 8532.335 Would I have done it, knowing what I do now? Yes. My SUDS cannot update. The neural template recordings fragment and unravel. I am no longer immortal. But there is no such thing as only human. Humans, without the SUDS, accomplished incredible feats with just grit and determination. However, I can no longer participate in active combat Starfleet games. Two hundred years of LARP down the tubes. I made a good choice with my Riker. The hardest thing to do is relieve your Captain for cause. He had good cause. --Jeff Picark 8873 Captain's Log - Stardate 8532.336 I have docked the Dakota and am granting shore leave to crew. Captain Picark was taken to the Space Force infirmary via stretcher with McCoy in attendance. Our mission is complete. Space Force has our data in their possession. For some reason, the Precursors keep entire worlds of roughly half the xeno-sapients of the Unified Civilized Races. Gas Giants must now be treated as Precursor base risks. I am hoping "Jeff" recovers. The fact that he remembered an ancient piece of lore from OldTrekKhan is, honestly, impressive. Undergoing an in-mission partial respec was risky. Will report to Starfleet and see what happens. --Riker 2173 --------------------------- STARFLEET GAMING CENTRAL NOTICE Jeffery van Leedle, player number 7c345a7e1-8873, is hereby promoted to Starfleet Admiral and is hereby recalled to Earth-42 to Starfleet Headquarters in New-SanFran. In accordance to his wishes the Dakota a non-canon America class ship, is hereby given to Riker 56a817c38f2-2173, including all templates and player rewards. -----NOTHING FOLLOWS------- SPACE FORCE MEMO ALL CAPTAINS Initial estimations of 30-50 Goliath class total forces in is error. New ship types encountered, new facilities discovered (See Attached File). -----NOTHING FOLLOWS--------- CONFED MEMO Mantid, any idea what this is about? ----NOTHING FOLLOWS------- MANTID FREE WORLDS Beyond "cattle worlds" we cannot estimate why Precursors, of all things, would have the older races, reduced to primitive, on worlds just being observed. -----NOTHING FOLLOWS-------- BLACK CRUSADE Experimentation, idiots. That Balor Hellship should have made you think of that. They're trying to figure out a way to counter us. ------NOTHING FOLLOWS------
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