Against the Dark Lord (Always)

I’m back. Because I could not be silent. I know that I put the blog to bed a while ago but recent events have upset my ability to let it go…

On this blog, I have been a huge supporter of Adventurer Conqueror King System. It is an amazing game and incredibly well-written, designed, and implemented. Unfortunately, it is also in bed with the notorious internet troll and alt-right hack, Vox Day.

Without belaboring the point, here is the outline.

  • Autarch has a new kickstarter for two books for the ACKS line.
  • Autarch worked out an agreement with Vox Day to provide a “bonus” reward to Day if his followers took up the battle cry to include content, “for the Dark Lord.” This also might or might not include adding money to their pledge specifically for this bonus reward.
  • Vox Day advertised this by mentioning that one of the pieces of art he’d commission for his reward was, a picture of vile minions eating SJWs.
  • A few – and I admit it was only a few – of us who are fans of Autarch spoke up about our concerns about this.
  • We were very politely told that Vox is a big supporter and paid his money so that is it. The company (and owner)’s stance is strictly apolitical.

Before I go on, one thing is important to clear up… Alexander Macris, the man at the heart of Autarch… has always been excellent in my dealings with him. I worked the Autarch booth at GenCon last year because I believe in the product and wanted to be a part of sharing it with the world and gaming community at large. Alex has always been extremely straightforward and professional in our dealings and until this incident, I would not have believed that I would ever be speaking against Autarch. It’s a shame.

But life and business are not, in fact, apolitical. Providing Vox Day with a new soapbox is not a move I can support. He is abhorrent and espouses openly hurtful views under the guise of “rationality” and “standing up against the intolerant left.” His crusade – specifically against John Scalzi – borders on obsession. (Though even I must acknowledge that there is one area where Vox Day and I agree — Scalzi is a terrible writer.) Saying that you are being apolitical is a way to wash your hands of the other guy’s sins while still taking his money.

Alex and I then engaged in private communication. I will not delve too much into what he said as it was between us and not in a public forum, but there are two issues in his response which I feel compelled to take up.

First, Alex listed off to me a history of his business decisions which led him to his current stand on the issue of Vox Day. I understand the list he provided and the decisions he discussed. I appreciate him taking the time to provide such a personal response. That said, there is a fundamental difference and misunderstanding between many of his previous decisions and this current one. In almost every previous case, his decisions involved parties that were doing no harm and were simply, “objectionable” to one group or another. There is a fundamental difference between that and the active anger, disdain, and hatred propagated through Vox Day’s community and his own writing. Day has taken an active stand to be a troll and an extremist. He does harm by his actions. Alex said that the protest is about “who Day is, not what is in the book.” That is a fair point. But unfortunately, you can claim to be apolitical but you cannot claim that working with Day is the same as previously employing someone that others claim to be objectionable when they are harming none. That is a false equivalence.

Second, just briefly, I am going to quote one very small part of Alex’s letter to me. It is in the interest of speaking to it directly.

private economic boycotts over differences of identity and politics are harmful to civil society...  I know that many disagree with me, and believe it is better to cause those who espouse unpopular views to suffer for them because they deserve it.

This is important. I do not believe that it is better to cause those who espouse unpopular views to suffer. No one deserves to suffer. What I do believe is that my private boycott of a product (also, not so private as I voiced my concerns in the Autarch forum before writing to Alex privately) is about not being willing to associate myself with the objectionable person or content specifically because of their actions. I don’t care about someone’s identity or politics in the abstract. I care about how they manifest those actions in the world. Vox Day is an internet troll who actively chooses to take a harmful road with his words and actions. His site and writing are not merely “words” they are calls to action. To say that you are apolitical but still associate with him because he has money and has said nice things about your work is not apolitical – it is willfully choosing to endorse, tacitly or not – the messages that he spreads.

Again – Alex Macris has always, always been excellent to me and I have a great respect for his hard work and the product he has created. Autarch’s ACKS is, really, the best D&D style game I have ever played and I’d rank it one of the best games in the market. And again, to be fair, Alex has repeatedly stated that he is in final control of the content and will be certain that it is appropriate to the tone and mechanics of ACKS. I believe him completely when he says that.

But the fundamental disagreement here is not about politics or identity. It’s not about whether Vox Day is a “good person” or not. I frankly don’t care. I’m not always a good person. The issue is that Vox Day actively creates a hostile atmosphere in our community and acts to sow discord, disdain, and spite while frequently patting himself on the back for same. And that is not something that I can associate myself with. If you have reservations, I hope you will express them as well.

It’s been a while…

I’ve all but shuttered the Rhetorical Gamer. The fact that I haven’t posted since March should have probably have been enough but as I’ve been incredibly critical of Wizards of the Coast for their (seemingly), “We’ll just let it quietly disappear” approach to D&D Attack Wing, I suppose I should write something by way of explanation.

I loved writing this blog. For the first three years it was a great outlet. I met a few cool people, got some decent feedback, and wrote what I wanted because I wasn’t concerned with building traffic or generating revenue. It was a good feeling.

The breaks started to happen when I didn’t have any active game going on. And that happened quite a bit for a while. I wasn’t creating anything because I wasn’t playing anything (or running anything). I haven’t really been much of an active gamer at all lately. 2016 has had some gaming high points, including a surprise trip to GenCon.

But I don’t really have anything to say… I’m done with edition wars and controversy. I don’t care about the latest gaming celebrity dust up. The whole “fake geek girl” thing and all its associated baggage is a horrible stain on our culture that I don’t have any insightful way to address. Reviews have never been my style. Breaking News(!) is a suckers game. In other words… other than my personal ruminations on a couple of games… what else is there? Not to mention that there are a 1.2 million places to get, “random guy ruminates about games” on the web and having taken a few of them in myself I worry, “Oh my god… Do I sound like that?”

I play a lot of Fallout 4. I’m getting into Malifaux. A friend has been running a delightful ICONS game. Maybe at some point I will have something more to say or create or add to the conversation. And I’m not taking my page down because all my downloads are still here in one nice, convenient location.

It’s been fun.

–RG

5E Adventures – A few thoughts

I picked up my copy of Curse of Strahd today and while I’m looking forward to it (a friend intends to run it soon) I have to say that I’m hoping it is better than the other 5E adventures released so far.

Not to put to fine a point on it, but the adventures released so far – the two Dragon Queen adventures, Princes of the Apocalypse, and Out of the Abyss – are… Not great. The Dragon Queen adventures had their moments but those moments were bogged down by some interesting editing choices and poor organization.

Princes of the Apocalypse – which our group recently ended our game with – was a mess. The adventure was a decent homage to its inspirational material but playing through it felt disjointed, slow, and awkward in its execution. There is this wide open map to play in but really, only a few areas actually mattered and the ‘side plots’ were worse than distractions. The adventures were designed with the appearance of a sandbox but really aren’t. The DM has to work hard to make sure that the players don’t wander into the wrong area and effectively end the campaign with a TPK. And no matter what else happens, the players are basically left wandering around with no ability to put the pieces together. It was infuriating.

Out of the Abyss is another adventure built on fancy rails that wants to pretend it’s an Underdark sandbox. When I first started reading this one I was stunned. The adventure directs the group to a village of crazy fish people that are worshiping demons and basically set the party up by having Demogorgon rise out of a lake and destroy a town like a tentacled Godzilla and saying, “hey, that’s enough to get the party interested, right?”

Yep, a party of characters that have only recently wandered into this town after being slaves to the drow and then wandering around the Underdark lost and potentially starving for what might be days or weeks. But yep, we’ll get right on that fighting Demogorgon thing… Or, we’ll run like hell and get to the surface as fast as possible and forget we ever saw Demogorgon. That seems like a better plan.

I’m still hopeful that Curse of Strahd will be better. I’m not reading it until after we’ve had a chance to try to play it but so far, D&D 5e adventures haven’t impressed me, which is too bad because I really like the game.

Mysticon 2016

Had a great time at Mysticon this weekend. I will admit a little worry heading off to the con this time. The hotel has had significant parking issues and has seemed very crowded in the last few years. This year, with George R.R. Martin as the guest of honor, I was concerned what might happen with lines and parking and other such logistics.

Give the con staff their due. They staffed very well, had excellent management of their event, and handled lines as cleanly as it is ever possible to. Great work! The obvious amount of work the staff put into preparation for this weekend is appreciated.

Friday, we got in later than we intended so we decided to have a low-key night, just play some card games we brought along and get an early night to have a great Saturday. We learned that our initial forays into Star Wars: Empire vs. Rebellion had soured us on the game but that we clearly must have been doing something wrong, as this time it not only went much smoother but we enjoyed it. Of course, Jenny beat me – like a lot.

Saturday was great fun. I got in a game of X-Wing. I don’t normally play X-Wing, preferring D&D Attack Wing but I got to talking with the guy running the demos and jumped in for a game. Ran into some people we met last year, talked for a while about another new con in Virginia that seems like it will be fun, and joined a group playing Fantasy Age (a great game) for some roleplaying. The GM was fun and did a great job managing his time-slot. We also got in several games of Splendor. A very fun, very simple game to learn with shades of some other games I love. Will be playing that one a lot more. Capped Saturday night off with three musical guests (Ships in the Night, Valentine Wolfe, and Bella Morte).

I want to point out something of a personal pet peeve and give solid credit. I have a love/hate relationship with auctions at Cons. I love the whole white elephant/charity/art auction vibe and the often amazing stuff that shows up in these events. At the same time, the auctions are often slow-paced, have too many asides, and drag. I’ll say this. The person running Mysticon’s auction this year was great. She kept the pace up, kept moving through items, had the runners and the recorders well organized and gave the auctioneers/MCs enough room to have some fun but still keeping the event moving. Great work and very appreciated by this con-goer.

Sunday was another slow day for us as we wanted to get back home at a reasonable time. We didn’t win any of the art we bid on (probably for the best…) and we managed to control ourselves in the Dealers’ Room so… that’s a win.

Overall, another enjoyable event and a good weekend. If I wasn’t so tired at work yesterday, I’d worry that I didn’t have enough fun.

Octavia Butler, In Tribute

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Octavia Butler. She had this to say about writing,

Writing is one of the few professions in which you can psychoanalyse yourself, get rid of hostilities and frustrations in public, and get paid for it.

If only we were all so capable of simple wisdom. I did not read Octavia Butler when I was growing up and discovering science fiction and fantasy. I came to reading her a little later, when I had some experience with the genre, when I thought I understood it.

She taught me new things. Butler’s writing is powerful, straightforward, and seemingly unsubtle. She does not play games with her readers, she doesn’t obfuscate what she wants to convey. Her writing trusts the reader to apply their own cognitive powers. At the same time, she is careful that her reader remains oriented in the time and space of her words and won’t get lost because of careless details or forgotten words.

I have a huge and savage conscience that won’t let me get away with things.

When you read Butler’s writing, it feels like this quote is painfully true. She doesn’t shy away from the dark parts. She doesn’t pretend that humans are utopian creatures destined to succeed. Quite the opposite, in fact. But she never lets herself, or the reader, give in to that darkness completely. There is always a reason to strive, and always a good even in the bad things. It is this combination of plain-spoken awareness of the human condition, and a hopefulness that we would always try even in the face of the worst of ourselves, that fascinates and pulls. Reading the Xenogenesis trilogy recently, I was drawn again into her ability to fully realize powerfully drawn characters with sparse description and no waste in words. Butler says what she needs to say and moves on to the next thing. But she takes you with her, never leaves you behind.

There are few writers, in my own experience, who do as much with as little as Butler can. She jumps through time, introduces alien species, starts in the middle of the story, and creates incredibly complex relationships. And she does it all effortlessly, so that you follow and return and never feel alone in the story. She often wrote that persistence and habit were greater than inspiration as a writer. She worked mindless jobs that gave her the mental space to write and create while sustaining her person. This comes through in her writing, this drive and persistence, this will to create.

“Who am I? I am a forty-seven-year-old writer who can remember being a ten-year-old writer and who expects someday to be an eighty-year-old writer. I am also comfortably asocial—a hermit…. A pessimist if I’m not careful, a feminist, a Black, a former Baptist, an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive.”

She writes of being a feminist, a Black, a former Baptist… and her novels certainly touch on those topics. Identity is inescapable in her work. As a white male who grew up in the United States, I see the struggles she identifies, but I don’t know them. But she brings her reader into those struggles in an intimate way, always teaching in the best way possible, by letting the reader draw their own conclusions in a sea of possibility. As a writer, she still embodies “show, don’t tell.” It’s certainly sad that she did not live to be an eighty-year-old writer. I would have delighted to read her words now, to hear what she might say to us in the political climate we live in today.

Science fiction and fantasy are struggling with issues of inclusion and diversity. Octavia Butler won all the accolades. She was a paragon of great writing who was respected by her peers and lauded in public with the many awards that speculative fiction has to offer. This is not to downplay the struggles of any other writer but rather to celebrate that great writing which is rewarded from whomever it originates. I like to think – without pretending to know her mind – that Butler would not appreciate the culture we have created in our “geek” communities at present. She was never fond of hierarchies or “peck-order bullying.”

Her focus on the ways that humans change – and can be changed by outsiders – coupled with a respect for the survivor, are windows opened often in speculative fiction but rarely with the honesty that she brings to these stories. I’ve been struggling throughout writing this to find the word that would sum up her writing for me. Honest is the best tribute I can give. Her work is painfully, poignantly honest.

I just knew there were stories I wanted to tell.

We should all aspire to what Octavia Butler has to teach us. Perseverance, the power of habit, honesty about who we are and how we got there. Her voice is sadly missed for what she might have still had to say to us. This piece certainly does not do justice to all that I could say about the gift her writing gives to me. But on this, the tenth anniversary of her death, it was the very least I could do to remember.

The Not-So-Scary Carnival

Carnivals are terrifying, right? Something Wicked This Way Comes, is all about the dark things that carnivals bring to our towns… There are many adventures and sourcebooks for RPGs centered around the dark traveling carnival. Heck, the mighty Inquisitor Eisenhorn even faces one in a story set in the Warhammer 40K universe.

But what if the Carnival wasn’t so scary? Well, that is to say, what if, when you pull back the curtain, instead of being an even more twisted representation – it was something else? What if, when the layers of illusion are stripped away, you find a bunch of seemingly normal folk dealing with all the troubles of being itinerant entertainers in a dangerous world?

Continue reading →

On Being a Dick…

I saw a post today which I am pretty sure is the result of someone being “mad as hell” and unwilling to take it anymore. Basically, his problem was that players were not bothering to take responsibility for making or understanding their characters as well as the issues of players not even knowing the rules of the game they were playing.

The unclear part is whether those players were unwilling to do so or just had chosen not to. It’s a small distinction but one that merits some thought when you are confronted with it. If a player is unwilling to take ownership of their stake in the game table, then yeah, they are probably a dick. But if they just haven’t committed to it yet, then maybe that’s something else. Maybe that player just needs some encouragement to get with it. Maybe they don’t understand something and aren’t willing to ask because they are afraid it will make them look stupid. Maybe lots of things. It is also possible they are just a dick.

I’m of two minds about this though. I have a problem that when I go into a game, I’m usually pretty gung-ho. Gaming is my favorite thing to do in the world so I don’t always remember that other gamers might be in it more for the social aspect. I’m likely to jump to the conclusion that someone doesn’t care or isn’t engaged if they aren’t as engaged as I am. It’s something I try to fight against but I frequently fail.

It’s also the case that I usually try to reserve judgment for a few sessions. I mean, it’s possible – especially if playing a new system – that a player may just be dabbling and not willing to commit until they’ve seen the system and the group in action for a few sessions. This makes sense. Again, I try to respect this without always succeeding. But I try.

Here’s where I gotta agree with the thought of the original poster though… If you are joining a game, take ownership of your part. You don’t have to memorize all the rules chapter and verse, but take the time to be familiar with the ones that involve your character. If you don’t understand something, please ask. I’d rather you get it and have fun than not get it, suffer in silence, and then quit the game three sessions in.

And even though you may not understand everything in a game, once you are more than 10-12 sessions into a game, it’s time to start thinking about investing a little into the game. Consider getting your own copy of the core rules, make sure you understand the action/interaction systems (like combat, social skills, action structure). This is a minimum commitment that should not be too much to ask once you know that you are playing a game fairly long term.

Most of all though, don’t put your GM or fellow players in a situation where they have to be the jerks because they have to call you out. Don’t be lazy. Yes, it’s a game. But it’s also a time commitment, a social engagement, and something that everyone is agreeing to do in lieu of literally everything else they could be doing with that time. So be in the moment, take some ownership of your engagement, and contribute to the fun.

In other words, don’t be a dick.

SPOILERS (Star Wars Post)

SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS!!!!

———————————————

NO SERIOUSLY, STAY OUT IF YOU AIN’T SEEN THE MOVIE YET.

 

Rey and Finn were excellent. They had good chemistry on screen and they were good Star Wars characters without feeling like exactly the same Star Wars characters. There is no attempt to make Finn ‘cool.’ And it’s fine, he’s awesome just as he is. Rey is great.  She’s capable, likeable, and heroic but human. She doesn’t have the instant – I’ll throw myself into danger for a pretty girl moment that Luke has. Even with the death of his family, Luke is still very much an innocent when he goes off to adventure in A New Hope… Rey isn’t. And Rey is a little scared of the Force, despite her powerful gifts. And she gives in to the Dark Side just a little there at the end. Which was perfect.

 

I really like Kylo Ren. He was the character I was most worried about going into the new movies. How can we have another big-ass scary dude in a black outfit and mask and not have it seem stupid? But I like what they’ve done here. Unlike some, I enjoyed his temper tantrums. Yes, they were childish but that seems to be the point. He’s not in control. He’s chosen the Dark Side (and I do hope we get a little more explanation of how he reached that decision) but he’s not in control, he’s not an old man secure in his power and resigned to his fate… he’s young and foolish. He’s living up to a legacy that he clearly doesn’t understand and clearly doesn’t know how to handle. He’s powerful but raw. He is the Dark Side acolyte we all wanted Anakin to be.

 

Poe Damaron is also a great addition to the SW Universe. He and Finn had solid on-screen chemistry and he’s charismatic and unafraid. Cool. We’ll see more of him in the next two movies, I’m sure, so we’ll see how well they keep him going.

 

All I’m going to say about Han and Leia is this… I liked their weary separation. I liked when Han says that they both went back to the only things they’d ever been good at. I like who Leia is now. I was prepared for this by the Expanded Universe because they did the “tragedy drives them apart for a while” storyline and it worked there too. It’s okay.

 

Things that disappoint? There are a couple. Was I disappointed with Captain Pharasma being a bit part? Not really. We only cared that she was a bit part because of who the actor is under the mask and because we thought we’d get more based on advertising showing us her fancy armor.

 

I was disappointed that the (New) Republic was basically just standing around with a thumb up its *** while the Resistance stood up against what seems like a pretty terrifying gang of terrorists. The First Order is a clear and present danger dressing itself in the trappings of an Empire defeated within the lifetime of the characters. The wreckage of the war still litters the planets we see this movie take place over. But Leia’s not leading the Republic – or even involved – she’s out working as a “rebel leader.” This may be explained more in the future but really, so far, it was a struggle for me to square this with the few details we have.

 

And on the subject of inaction… my biggest disappointment is Luke. While I was expecting that he’d be the object of this first movie’s action (the search for Luke Skywalker), I needed a better reason for him to be moping off on the edge of the galaxy in isolation than… “my student went all evil so I runned and hided.” Does he believe that the Jedi are actually a mistake and that maybe the galaxy is better off without them? I could believe that, but then he should send Rey packing and tell her he’s not coming back. Luke is one of the few, genuine, not at all “Iron Age” heroes out there. He’s a lot like Superman, earnest, hardworking, knowing that his power doesn’t make him better – it requires him to be better. I’m too much in love with the vision of Luke that is presented by the EU but I feel that way because it was presented so well. Luke is a character that grew from being a “I can’t do it, you ask the impossible” to, “I have to do it, because I can.” We saw it in Return of the Jedi… and now, it’s gone. I guess I’m just saying that I’ll need a lot of explanation for why Luke just bailed on everyone and everything for like, the last 5 years or so (because in the vision, Ren is grown up when he turns on Luke’s new Jedi).

 

Overall, I had a lot of fun and it felt like Star Wars again. The new cast gives me hope that as the universe becomes theirs, they will make it a great place. But it had some disappointments for me too, and I hope that Episodes 8 and 9 overcome those. The good news is, I feel like – in many ways – they will.

All I Want for Xmas…

…is a little Thunder Rift.

First, let me say that I have truly enjoyed Wizards of the Coast putting the back catalog of D&D products on sale as PDFs. Being able to browse through and own all of those old modules in a nice digital format has been a lovely stroll down memory lane. It even inspired me to try my hand at running Keep on the Borderlands again after all these years (decades).

But after an initial surge where we saw a huge amount of D&D stuff posted, suddenly, the shift has been almost entirely to the 4E era. The 4E Dragon and Dungeon were disasters – and I am of that opinion despite initially playing the heck out of 4E – which are probably easy to republish since they were digital-only to begin with.

Where’s the 90s D&D? The Black Box re-release of OD&D that came out around the time of the Rules Cyclopedia and the awesome boxed campaigns that came out of that time with goblins, and undead fighters, and dragon lairs were tons of fun.

Most of all though, I want Thunder Rift back. I owned all the Thunder Rift products (save one adventure) and have run two campaigns set in a (scaled up) version of the Rift that remain some of my fondest memories of that time in gaming. There were other adventures from that era as well, Eye of Traldar, Arena of Thyatis. Now, I was running a lot more AD&D 2nd edition those days, but I used these D&D products all the time and often preferred them to the adventures being released for 2e.

So, Wizards, all I want is a little 90s OD&D love. As much as I enjoyed your 4th Edition era release of Gamma World… if you want to make me a happy little guy this holiday season, bring back the Rift.

Rebel Violence

I’m having a problem with the Star Wars Rebels show. It’s an odd problem, but it has to do with the way violence is portrayed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against violence in “kid’s” shows. Far from it. I don’t see the point in isolating children from violence when they have the luxury of exploring it in a safe space so they are better able to deal with it when they encounter it in real life.

I also know that there is a whole “Wonder how Luke feels about murdering all the janitors on the Death Star” thing that some people like to preach about. That’s bullshit, and all I’m going say about it for now. There is also the fact that the series to precede Rebels – The Clone Wars – was a very dark and violent show portraying an awful war and its effects on so many lives. The Clone Wars was exceptional and done with a keen eye toward the massive scale of the violent conflict engulfing the galaxy.

What I’ve noticed about the violence in Rebels is that it is often thoughtless. Rebels is a simpler show than The Clone Wars, and that often shows in the writing. Rebels more often neatly ties up loose ends throughout the 22 minute episode and tries to steer clear of some of the truly dark moments of The Clone Wars. This is fine – but also what makes what I’m noticing so jarring.

In episode six – Blood Sisters – this often unsettled feeling was brought home for me in a scene which I am certain (though perhaps wrong) was meant for comedy. During the episode, Sabine and Chopper are on their own, trying to get a droid carrying important intel back to the Rebels. All well and good. They have to leave Ezra behind in a dangerous situation (problematic for me but actually understandable considering Ezra’s constant attempts to impress Sabine – she obviously trusts him to save himself). Sabine and Chopper are facing an opponent in the form of one of Sabine’s old friends – who is now a Black Sun bounty hunter.

This is where the episode upset me. Sabine and Chopper commandeer a vessel – a hyperspace shuttle of sorts, with a built in droid captain. Over its protests Sabine has Chopper “shut down” the Captain and take over the ship. They run. A fight ensues. Imperial entanglements happen.

Now Sabine, who has left Ezra behind, realizes that Chopper has been captured by her nemesis. She goes back for him, because Chopper is a friend and a valued member of the crew. But a short while later, in order save herself, she has Chopper turn the droid Captain of the shuttle back on, and overwhelms it with information about what has happened since it was shut down, and convinces it to initiate “emergency protocols” in an attempt to mask her own escape. Essentially, she sacrifices this droid knowingly and willingly by setting up a situation where the Imperials will destroy it with (seemingly) no remorse whatsoever. The plaintive “Where am I?” of the Captain resonated with me long after the episode was over.

Sabine clearly respects droids as more than just “servants.” She considers Chopper an independent personality capable of emotions. He’s worth rescuing, worth jeopardizing her mission to go back for. But a stranger, she kidnaps, traumatizes, and sacrifices with no second thought. Consider if this shuttle had a pilot of one of the recognizable species of Star Wars – a human or Sullustan – would Sabine, or the show-writers, have been willing to commit the same sacrifice?

This seems like a small thing. I’m sure it does. But again, it is not the act of violence itself that upsets me. It’s the un-examined, throw-away nature of the action in context. It is the clear horror and sadness on the part of the droid Captain and his death that, to me, make me not like Sabine very much. Even though this was clearly an episode meant to highlight her growth.

I have noticed other instances of this casual disregard for violence and deception in the series which disturbed me but this episode crystallized that feeling. The Clone Wars was a dark show with difficult themes about war and sacrifice. But those decisions often came with consequences and were placed into a context where you felt the emotional impact of those decisions along with the characters. Rebels may have less violence but it is much more casual and unconcerned about that violence.

And to my point about loose ends getting tied up… end of episode, there is Ezra, right as rain and still vaguely fascinated by Sabine in his adolescent way. Not even a question about leaving him behind – because of course he’s fine.