Captain Marvel is Here, and She’s Got Nothing to Prove to You

(No spoilers. I’m going to do my best to avoid spoiling anything, which is tricky, since the movie thrives on secrecy and reveals.)

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There’s a moment in Captain Marvel powerfully reminiscent of a moment in another recent geekdom movie owned by the House of Mouse.

It’s cold, it’s dark, all hope seems lost. The hero seems defeated, the bad guy is on the verge of getting what they want, and a lot of people we’ve come to love are in danger.

Then the music swells, the lightsaber veers away from Kylo Ren’s grasp and propels itself into Rey’s hand, and she stands before us revealed for the hero she is. Not because she is powerful (though she is) but because she is willing and ready to claim that power for herself.

Captain Marvel has a similar moment, which profoundly affected me in the theater. It not only captures who Carol Danvers is and what she stands for, but also the whole point of the movie and the entire narrative thrust and power of this character and her story.

This is a story about female power: about controlling it, restraining it, and fearing it. About what awakens it, unlocks it, and strengthens it.

And make no mistake, Carol Danvers is the mightiest hero we’ve seen in the Marvel Universe. I won’t qualify that with “female” hero–there’s nothing about her power that is distinctly female, other than that it is hers, and that makes ALL the difference.

In a way, it is nothing new: we have seen this narrative over and over again, the hero called to the quest, awakening to the power inside them, and finally learning to harness and unleash it. But in almost every case (95%+ of the time), it’s a male character undergoing this quest, and the female characters are secondary. They’re love interests, companions, or wise elders. They might even be heroes in their own right, but they don’t claim center-stage in the story, and even in the rare instances of those who do, usually their quest isn’t about them as women.

Captain Marvel is about a female hero, from start to finish. She faces patriarchal methods of control at every turn: warnings about allowing emotion to overwhelm her logic, for instance, or being chided to smile and insulted when she doesn’t. There’s a whole segment in the movie about struggling to use her power despite literal shackles. Her overall story is about realizing the bondage placed upon her and breaking free. Demanding and claiming her right to go higher, to go faster, and to go further.

A note also about the setting: This is a very 90s movie, full of 90s music that resonates so well with the action as well as lots of 90s jokes that really appealed to a 90s kid like me. From the trailers, I thought it might just be a gimmick, but upon seeing the movie I finally realized WHY Marvel set this movie in the 90s. The cultural context was pivotal to the story and its themes: the 90s wave of feminism and female empowerment, the pressure on military services to accept female pilots and soldiers, all of that is key to making this story make sense.

I do want to acknowledge that this is not a perfect movie. It isn’t entirely ground-breaking: Wonder Woman broke a lot of this ground a couple years ago, so Marvel missed its chance to be first to the punch. But Captain Marvel offers us a different view of female empowerment and heroism than WW did, and both movies are extremely good at what they do.

There’s your typical supply of what, at this point, we can call “Marvel Cheese.” Some of the jokes, some of the slapstick, etc, reminded me of watching a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and the dynamics among the aliens were very much in that vein. So if you liked GoG (and statistically speaking, you probably did), you’ll probably love the tone of this movie.

There’s the humor you expect, though not always from the people you expect. Clearly, Samuel L. Jackson had a GREAT TIME with this movie. His Nick Fury is surprisingly fun and warm, something he hasn’t been allowed to be in the other MCU movies. Saying more might head into spoiler territory, but some unexpected humor is unexpected but ultimately effective, I think.

(Also, I totally saw Kelly Sue DeConnick in her second-long cameo! Rock.)

Now, because, ugh, let’s talk about this: There’s a whole movement out there by a LOT of dudes who hate women (and especially hate women in their superhero movies) who have a weird fixation on Brie Larson not smiling (I know, ironic, isn’t it?).

At first, her portrayal worried me that she’d come off as relentlessly grumpy or prickly, the way clearly feminist characters sometimes do, but give her a minute, and you start to see the meaning behind her Carol Danvers’s behavior.

She is a woman who has been relentlessly bullied and cowed into being emotionless (as if that’s a strength) and expected to be a perfect little servant who always does what she’s told. Her experiences throughout the movie show her growing, breaking free, and finally harnessing her feelings and the power that comes with them. Her development is emotional, wrought with the aid of friends both male and female, as well as metaphysical.

(Also, all the haters are wrong, and EVS and his Comicsgate minions played themselves yet again by bashing on this movie. What fools.)

Ultimately, Captain Marvel is a great, fun, powerful movie and one that Marvel sorely needed to add to their line-up. That this movie didn’t happen five years ago and the MCU hasn’t put out half a dozen women-led films since is kind of a shame, but at least it’s here now, and it sets a precedent for the universe going forward.

The future is here (well, the future by way of 25 years ago), and while that future may not be entirely female, it is female-led, and that is a hopeful, marvelous thing.

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What is True About Me

Featured

I am a storyteller.

My creative voice and vision are key to my identity, and they are the engine that drives my life.

For sixteen years, I’ve published my own creative work, mostly fantasy and science fiction, mostly novels but also short stories and novellas.

I’ve worked in others’ sandboxes and my own: five of my novels take place within an existing IP (the Forgotten Realms, owned by Wizards of the Coast), five are totally creator-owned (Eye for an Eye, Scourge of the Realm, and my World of Ruin series), and one was written originally in a shared IP but is now creator-owned (Blind Justice). I am adept with both sorts of writing.

I’m a known commodity in the tabletop gaming industry, and have an array of credits to my name on such games as Dungeons & Dragons, Iron Kingdoms, Red Aegis, and others.

I’m also a lifelong gamer, on the console or computer or tabletop. I’ve run games since 5th grade, and my first creative writing exercises drew directly from those experiences. Unsurprisingly, my favorite games tend to be RPGs and action-adventure games.

I’m not a coder or a programmer.

I’m a writer and an editor.

I’m an ideas person. I have built dozens of worlds myself for my own use, and I’ve worked closely with others to build worlds, flesh them out, describe them, and bring their stories to life.

Dialogue, description, characterization, plot—all of these things are the fundamental building blocks with which we convey dreams from one mind to another.

I’m a Human Being.

I care deeply about my fellow human beings and the environment we live in. I advocate strongly for social justice and a progressive direction to our culture and politics. I will stand up and defend those who are under assault as best I can.

I believe in good and justice and kindness.

My work is built on a foundation of respect, representation, and truth. I know the power of my voice, and I will not shirk the responsibility that comes with it.

Join me.

Let’s explore this world together.

Gaming Mastery #1: Fun

In 2019, I’ve decided to try and post a bit of Gaming Mastery every day of the year. That’s 365 tips, all of them organized around a monthly theme.

January’s theme? The basics of running a game.

And we’ll start with the most basic of basics for Game Mastery:

Fun.
 
Fun is the first rule. You’re getting together to play a game to have fun. If the players aren’t having fun, you’re not doing your job. If you make a decision that doesn’t add to the fun of the game, either immediately or over the long term, you’ve made a mistake.
 
This doesn’t mean the players should always be happy. Indeed, setbacks and conflict and frustrations can be important elements in setting up fun gaming–we have can have great fun *overcoming* our obstacles.
 
How do you promote fun in your game? Well, that’s the tricky part, and that’s what the rest of this series will be about.
 
But whenever you’re running a game, ask yourself: is this promoting the fun?

Forgotten Realms Abridged!

Hail and well met!

In 2019, I will be upping my Patreon output, and I hope to share something every day or two.

For example, recently, I’ve started writing quick pieces called Forgotten Realms Abridged, where I do a very brief humorous summary of a Forgotten Realms novel, partly as a bid to get you to read said novel, and mostly to amuse and delight.

I’ll be posting a few of these publicly, but if you want to see them all, back me on my Patreon, where they’ll be collected for easy and convenient access.

Here’s the first one, about the first Realms novel, Darkwalker on Moonshae!

 

Forgotten Realms Abridged: Episode 1: Darkwalker on Moonshae

(With all love and respect to Douglas Niles–seriously, go read his book.)

***

Setting: Moonshae Isles

Kazgoroth, the Beast: I am in your land, eating your people!

The Earthmother: Oh no! I’ll send my fey-born children to stop you, but they will all fail, one by one. Won’t someone rise up to stop the Beast?

Tristan Kendrick, heir to the kingdom: I like horses!

The Beast and the Earthmother: …… um?

***

Setting: Caer Corwell

The Earthmother, in a dream or something: Robyn, my child, you must go forth and unite the peoples of the Moonshaes to oppose the Northmen, who’ve been suborned by the Beast!

Robyn: But I am a lowly ward to the king. What can I do?

The Earthmother: You have great potential as a druid! You will be my emissary in this matter.

Robyn: Yeah, but, how do I get anyone to listen to me?

Tristan: Hey, I never really thought about how pretty you were, Robyn!

Robyn: …. that works?

Tristan: I’m the prince!

Robyn: …. um…

***

Kazgoroth the Beast: Mwahahaha, I have disguised myself as King Thelgaar Ironhand, ruler of the Northmen! Now they will serve my will!

The Earthmother: Hey, no fair, disguising yourself. The reader will get confused.

Thelgaar/Kazgoroth: Hey, aren’t you Chauntea, goddess of the harvest?

The Earthmother/Chauntea: Hey, aren’t you Bhaal, god of murder?”

Thelgaar/Kazgoroth/Bhaal: Shut up!

***

Robyn, the would-be druid: Ok, we’ve assembled a motley crew from all walks of life to oppose the Beast, which is working to corrupt one of the Moonwells…

Pawldo the halfling: Aye!

Daryth, a very sexy Calishite: Yes.

Canthus the moorhound: Woof!

Tristan, the crown prince: I have a sword!

Robyn: Tristan. Not helping.

Tristan: Seriously, though, it’s a great sword.

Robyn: Could it be anyone else. Anyone?

***

Robyn: Well, we have now vanquished the Beast and saved the Moonshaes.

Tristan: Yes! I’m sure nothing bad will ever happen here ever again.

Robyn: I dunno, evil is rarely ever purged on the first try. We should really stay constantly vigilant…

Tristan: Let’s get married!

Robyn: Wait, what?

***

Seeds of Wars!

Crumbling stone shifted under Avashta’s foot, and she winced at the faint but undeniable sound it made. She wasn’t supposed to be here, in this place where the elders forbade entry to all but the most devout of priests. She should be out with the other hunters, gathering food for the clan, and she would. She was a princess of the Shadowed Moon, after all, and she knew her responsibilities. One day, when she reached the age of majority, she would become queen, assuming she came into her power as her mother had promised she would.

They had passed the ancient ruin thrice in as many weeks, and each time, her need to explore it had grown. It was as though she heard the ruin speaking to her, its voice inaudible but growing stronger, and each time the calling grew stronger.

Something groaned in the darkness below her, down the ivy-wrapped steps of the stone staircase. A chill suffused her, but somehow she knew she would not need her bow and quiver. Creatures lurked in the caves, but she felt as safe as she would in her own home.

At the base of the steps, Avashta’s elf eyes made out a round chamber filled with darkness and fungus. It looked as though no one had entered the chamber for years. At its center stood some sort of altar of green stone that glimmered faintly in the faint rays of moonlight that filtered through the cracked ceiling. The coldness radiated from the altar, or perhaps it drank in the ambient heart of the room. She could feel it flowing out of her body.

She shouldn’t have come here. This was wrong. Whatever had lured her down to this place was not what she expected. She had been a fool.

Even as she thought these things and started to turn, glowing green cracks appeared along the altar, radiating power such as she had never before witnessed. Avashta stared in awe as the altar rose from the dusty stone and drew itself apart, like a puzzle box unraveling, to reveal a swirling morass of emerald mist at its heart.

She heard again the same call that had drawn her to this place, only now she could make out the words.

“Welcome, Daughter of Destiny,” the voice said. “Your journey has only just begun.”

* * * * *

SoW-Cover-KSHey everyone!

You know how I’ve been talking about being a full-time writer and game designer these days, stringing projects together, living the dream? Well, this is one of those projects, and it is well worth a look!

Seeds of Wars: RPG Realm Management

Seeds of Wars was inspired by classic realms management games like the Civilization series or the classic Birthright setting (the creator, Nicolas Nayaert, is a BIG fan).

The Premise

Thousands of years ago, the people known as the Vareene waged a brutal war against a galactic infestation known only as the Congregation. These humanoid aliens buried their last hope–a powerful artifact called the Catalyst–on the distant, primitive planet of Ceres, where the Congregation would never think to look for it, and hid their final outpost behind a shield that blocked detection and sensors. Cut off from their homeworld as the last teleportation gates were closed, the small enclave waited for the war to run its course, when they would return to a wounded but surviving Vareene Empire.

Alas, such was not fated to pass. The Vareene died out, leaving the small outpost on Ceres as their last legacy. The survivors integrated with the native peoples of the planet, giving rise to powerful bloodlines linked to the ancient technology of the Vareene, which eventually became known as magic. Over centuries and then millennia, the Vareene ceased to be as a distinct culture, and in time their origins and purpose became the stuff of myth and legend. The truth was forgotten, but the power of the Vareene lingered in those descended from those original extraterrestrial visitors, including the key to unlocking the mythical Catalyst–which the folk of Ceres will need if their civilization is to survive.

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The World

The world of Ceres has many of the same tropes, stories, and other bits that you will find in other SFF stories and settings. There are elves and dwarves and humans, orcs and halflings and gnomes, and other fantastic species and peoples. (We prefer the term “ancestry” to “race.”) None of these peoples are the direct descendants of the Vareene–it’s not like elves are THE oldest and best culture on Ceres (though it depends on what elf you ask, some consider themselves almost entirely Vareene). Their heritage exists in all sorts of people, from the toughest human to the cleverest elf to the cruelest orc to the stoutest hearted halfling. No ability score is a requirement or mark of this legacy, nor is a class or background. Heirs of the Vareene come from all walks of life–from various ethnicities, ages, sexualities, and gender identities.

Whatever you want to play, you can be a Child of Destiny.

The heroes are assumed to descend from a Vareene bloodline, granting them both uncommon powers and a certain degree of deference in society. They are the children of history–the movers and shakers of Ceres and the destined protectors of the world.

(And if you want to play a ruler who doesn’t share this genetic heritage, that’s feasible too.)

The Story

The setting’s mythic story is a cyclical one: in every age, Ceres faces a rising doom that the heirs of the world must face and defeat. In the fantasy era, those with the genetic power of the Vareene discover buried secrets of their interstellar past and must overcome scouts from an unknown, alien threat–a small band of Congregation that has the power to destroy all of Ceres by itself. Centuries later in the “modern” age, our heroes face an impending invasion by unlocking the power that lies dormant within the planet and also reverse engineering the technology of the scouting unit. And finally, after Ceres has won its first battle against the Congregation, the heirs of the world must take to the stars to confront their destined foes.

Or, at least, that’s the overall plan.

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The Kickstarter

The initial Kickstarter aims to produce the first of three campaign arcs for the Seeds of Wars overarching setting. The setting goes from fantasy to modern to high science fiction, as the descendants of the Vareene finally rise to confront the Congregation. The players take the roles of powerful leaders of various backgrounds, be they martial or magical, religious or criminal or creative, who hold special prominence in the world and occupy a unique position allowing them to gather the power and resources necessary to face the coming threat.

Stretch goals unlock additional eras and what a truly unique aspect of Seeds of Wars: a realm management AP to be used on your devices. You can read more about that on the Kickstarter page itself, but essentially it gives you powerful electronic processing and record keeping for running an entire kingdom. You can play the game like a standard RPG or like the ruler of a kingdom, and make any balance between the two playstyles that you like.

Mechanics

You may have noticed that, aside from talking up the App (and seriously, go check it out!), I haven’t said much mechanically about this game. And that’s because the game is designed to be adaptable to any game system, be it D&D, Pathfinder, Shadow of the Demon Lord (my personal favorite), Red Aegis, Cypher, Hackmaster, Shadowrun, you name it, you can do it. Our goal here is to provide a compelling setting and story that pulls you in and gives you all the tools for a memorable, epic campaign.

You can alternate hack-and-slash dungeon crawling with courtly intrigue, then zoom out and control your kingdoms on the macro scale. Built your power, forge alliances, and work together to save your world.

There’s more to see and learn about the Seeds of Wars setting. Go check out the Kickstarter, and kick in some money to help make this happen!

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The Chariot: Wayne Iori

You know the drill: this post contains minor spoilers for my Persona tabletop RPG, particularly about Wayne, The Chariot character, who is one of the actual PCs in the game. Thus, what I say about him is subject to change, as he’s still developing and being revealed as a character.

If players want to preserve the mystery and only learn about Wayne at the table, skim or skip this post!

The Chariot

Driven, skilled, aloof, and with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, Wayne is a quiet but very apt manifestation of the Chariot Arcana. He isn’t loud and brash like Ryuji from P5 or tsundere and over-protective like Chie from P4, but exudes the kind of quiet, reserved competence and drive that marked Kuromoru from P3. He’s Japanese, dyes his hair blowfish orange (his parents hate it), and spends a lot of his time plugged in to his classy high-market iPod.

The Chariot represents triumph through grit and determination, success achieved through remaining confident in your abilities and executing your talents to their best. Persona Chariot characters are typically strong with physical attacks, brash, and a little bit arrogant. (That’s the shadow slipping through.)

Wayne Iori

Wayne cuts a flashy figure with that hair (artist unknown)

Wayne is still coming into his own as a hero. He has a firm belief in himself and his abilities, but he keeps running into hurdles that he can’t conquer. In Japan, all he wanted to do was hockey, but his parents moved to America–to him, inexplicably–just when he was on the verge of breaking in. Now here in Seattle, he’s trying to go out for the Thunderbirds, and he achieved some success–see his pseudo-date with Janna, below–not to have it ultimately blow up in his face. He hasn’t yet learned how to reconcile his aspirations with his life.

A Maze of Relationships

Wayne tells people he’s named after Wayne Gretzsky, but in reality, his dad named him after the character in the movie Wayne’s World. That in itself is an encapsulation if Wayne’s standoffish relationship with his parents, Yoshi and Ulala. His mom’s pretty ok, if temperamental, but not only does his dad’s love for western media embarrass him, but Yoshi’s long-planned move to America essentially crushed his son’s young dreams. He spends most of his time at home plugged in so he doesn’t have to interact with them.

Wayne is a key, if somewhat distant part of the core group, and was one of the first of the heroes to awaken to his persona (see below). He kind of goes with the flow alongside Zach (Strength), Uki (Devil), and Jimmy (Magician), and he’s usually to be found quietly observing until the moment his talents are called upon. Some people who meet him think he’s judgmental, but in truth it’s usually more that he’s hanging back, leery of putting himself out there and making a mistake.

Wayne initially met Janna (Priestess) in math class, as she is a year younger than them but at a comparable academic level. She’s actually better than most of them st math and other subjects, growing frustrated with Wayne getting a question wrong, such that she blushingly informed him of how to do the equation and suggested she could tutor him. This interaction meant little to Wayne, until they were all at a party where Janna was being harassed by some dudebros, and in a panic, she clung to Wayne’s hand and informed everyone there that he was her boyfriend. Wayne had no idea how to react and both of them were very awkward. (Wayne is key to Janna’s own personal awakening in Seattle Underground.)

Thereafter, her brother Brent (Emperor) called Janna’s bluff by inviting Wayne and Janna to a hockey game down in Kent, during which the two were super awkward. In a surprising turn of events, it came to a shoot out but one of the Thunderbirds was injured and the coach called on Wayne to suit up. He managed to score the game winning point, ending the sorta-date on a high note, but shortly thereafter he learned that his actions at the game have had dire consequences! Essentially, his hockey career is over before it began.

Wayne has formed a connection with Kazushi Miyamoto, a 20-something personal trainer who is teaching him some speed skating techniques. Miyamoto is having marital problems, and through him, Wayne sees a different side of life he’d never considered.

Wayne metaverse

Wayne in the metaverse (artist unknown)

Awakening and Persona

Wayne always has his nose buried in a comic book and/or his ears plugged up with his headphones, so when the team first entered Darkest Seattle, he didn’t notice at first. Wayne wandered off and was captured by some shadows, who proceeded to beat him until Zach and Uki showed up to rescue him. When the tables turned on his then-acquaintances, Wayne tried to fight the shadows with his hockey stick, but to no effect. They knocked him down and we’re about to land a killing blow, when he found himself abruptly reliving the darkest moment of his life: when he came home to tell his parents about his first hockey game coming up, and found a ticket for their flight to Seattle on his bed: the morning of his game. Hopelessness and despair seized him.

Then he heard a cool voice from across a great distance that asked what gave him the strength to stand against that feeling of loss–when the world he imagined was suddenly gone–and Wayne said that he still had that hope. The roar of a motorcycle engine filled his mind and the voice challenged him to prove it.

Thus did Wayne awaken to his persona, Cloud Strife of Final Fantasy VII fame, whose electrical powers turned the tide of their battle with the shadows. Wayne’s hockey stick turned into a RWBY-style gunscythe, which he wields with strength and precision. His persona is mostly about physical attacks and lightning, with a few buffs as well.

Cloud K-Koji.jpg

Cloud Strife (art by K-Koji on Deviantart)

Shadow and Challenge

Wayne never had to face his shadow in Darkest Seattle–when the others were in danger, his Persona came roaring out of him to save the day. If and when he does, the Reversed Chariot will represent uncertainty and a lack of control over his own life, as though Wayne is dragged along by his own chariot. It represents a challenge to Wayne’s self control and demands that he bow under the pressure.

Wayne’s challenge, as appropriate for his Arcana, is to find his way in life, assert himself, and control his own destiny. His youth has been spent rudderless on the seas of circumstance, but now he has a chance to rise up and take ownership of his own life. If he can do it.

Easter Eggs

Wayne best emulates the awkward, shy schoolboy aspect of Persona heroes. He reminds me the most of the main character from Persona 3, with the classy headphones and everything. They’re even an actual stat-boosting item in the game (I believe they null sleep).

Iori is a name from Persona 3, and one of Wayne’s cousins is actually Junpei Iori, the Magician character from that game. I picked the name in part to highlight that fun, pop element that his America-loving father embraces. Junpei himself isn’t old enough to be Wayne’s father, but there’s that thematic connection.

Kazushi “Kaz” Miyamoto, the personal trainer Wayne is working with, is the Chariot Arcana social link character from Persona 3. He was a teenager at the time and is now in his twenties and married to Yuko (the Strength character from P3), who is Zach’s coach.

Wayne’s mother is Ulala Serizawa (The Star) from Persona 2, who was a playable character from Eternal Punishment. I’m not saying the potential to wield a persona is hereditary, but Ulala will be way more understanding of Wayne’s powers if she ever learns about them.

He is also connected to the Nijima family of Tokyo, though their exact relation is unclear. His mother introduced Sae Nijima to him as his “cousin,” but she seems to be quite adamant that she’s a potential romantic partner for him.

The Strength: Zachary Beathan

This post contains minor spoilers for my Persona tabletop RPG campaign, though none of this should be all that surprising for my players. If you want to learn everything at the table, give this one a miss.

Zach is played by one of the players in my campaign, and he’s still developing. This is just what we know about him thus far and all this info is subject to change.

The Strength

Gawky, awkward, and well-meaning, Zachary Beathan doesn’t seem at first glance to be a likely Strength Arcana character. He spent his youth in and out of hospitals, the victim of an early dread disease that has held back his social development as well as his physical prowess. He isn’t sickly, exactly, but he isn’t nearly as strong as average kids his age, and his stamina is very low, because he’s never participated in sports of any kind, even as a child.

But in truth, as in the rest of the Persona series, the Strength Arcana represents the power of self-control, gentleness, courage, and virtue over brute force. A common trope among Persona Strength characters is their strength of heart, and Zach is the strong, good heart of the Persona Heroic team.

Zach has brown-black hair, brown eyes, and a pleasant smile. He always seems a little tired, but he’s unfailingly polite to most people.

Zach Beathan in the real world (artist unknown)

In the Persona series, Strength personas typically excel in physical attacks and attributes, and the Black Knight is no exception. He also uses the element of Ice, but he’s about as good with it as, say, Yusuke in Persona 5 was: sure, he can use the magic, but his primary strength is dishing out boatloads of physical damage.

Relationships

Zach’s parents, Thomas and Lisa, are extremely protective of their delicate flower of a son, to the point of locking him up rather than risk him getting sick or hurt. They had to argue quite a while before they finally decided to let him go to a school with other kids, let alone a public school. This causes him some problems when it comes to a social life, and he often finds himself grounded or given strict curfews. To this day, he typically cannot participate in nighttime activities because he has to be home. If his parents learned about his metaverse activities… well, odds are they wouldn’t believe it, but they’d forbid him from associating with the obviously delusional friends he’s made.

Zach is good friends with the core crew of Persona wielders, including Wayne (Chariot), Uki (Devil), and Jimmy (Magician), as well as newcomer Brent (Emperor). He sort of knows Janna (Priestess), but they haven’t actually talked to each other. He also has an odd, young relationship with Timothy Brothers (Death), a former bully and Jimmy’s nemesis, whom he stumbled upon in a vulnerable moment wherein he discovered that Tim has an adversarial relationship with his abusive father, as well as a sickly younger sister (Alice) that he tries at all times to protect (mostly from his father, but also from the world in general).

The first classmate Zach met on his first day was Sayeed Ahriman, a handsome football player and upperclassman, who helped him pick up his schoolbag after some jocks knocked him over. He fell deeply in love with Sayeed from the moment he saw him, and shortly thereafter he forged a bond with Sayeed, who turned out to be the Lovers Arcana.

Awakening and Arcana

Zach bears the distinction of being one of the first two Persona wielders to awaken to his power, when he and Uki and a distracted Wayne found themselves drawn into Darkest Seattle. When dark creatures attacked them, he plucked up the nearest weapon—a gunblade—and did his best to fight, to protect Uki and himself, despite his body’s weakness. He saw a vision of the worst moment of his life, lying in a hospital bed while a medical team worked to resuscitate him.

Now as then, he felt the darkness drawing him down into despair, but he heard a powerful voice from across a great distance asking why, in that moment, he did not give up and die, and whether that strength remained to him. Zach choked out an affirmative, and the entity demanded he speak louder, and he screamed with more strength than he had ever known. And thus did he forge a pact with Moriaen, the Black Knight, who brought new strength and power to his limbs. Together, they made short work of the creatures.

The Black Knight (artist unknown)

Moriaen the Black Knight is a physically-inclined persona, with power over ice magic and, appropriately, strength. His strength gives Zach great power with his gunblade (Final Fantasy VIII is Zach’s favorite video game), and Zach’s metaverse outfit is a suit of hooked black armor inspired by that of his persona.

Moriaen’s pursuit—looking for his father at Camelot to recover his birthright—mirrors Zach’s own quest to discover himself and find his true inner strength.

Shadow and Challenge

Zach’s challenge is to build up his confidence in himself, his abilities, and his own inner strength. His path does not necessarily represent physical strength, but rather self-control and moral strength of character—restraint over the beasts of his nature.

Zach hasn’t had to face his shadow—yet—but it represents The Strength Reversed: cowardice, vanity, doubt, and a lack of self-control. When Zach encounters his Shadow, he will be horrified and disgusted but also recognize that darkness inside him.

Zach in the multiverse (artist unknown)

Easter Eggs

Zach might be the most classic Persona hero on the team, as he is a nerdy transfer student who starts from essentially nothing and wields a dark sort of Persona. He also follows a similar progression to, say, the hero of P4 or P5 in that he can’t go out at night at first and all his social contact is done at school.

At the same time, he provides this excellent inversion, because he’s gay, and a major part of this game is to include explicitly queer content that gladly, gleefully embraces what Persona should have been doing for years. Sayeed (Lovers Arcana) is kind of his designated love interest, and Zach gets all flustered around the older, suave upperclassman, who takes their blossoming romance in stride. (For a very deep cut, this continues the trend in Persona games of the first companion the PC sees in the game being the Lovers character, which was the case in Personas 3 through 5.)

Also, a fun Easter egg is that Lisa, Zach’s mother, is Lisa “Ginko” Silverman, one of the core characters of Persona 2: Innocent Sin (and she has a supporting role in Eternal Punishment). Considering how deeply in love Lisa was with Tatsuya Suou (Jimmy’s adoptive father), I’m not saying the two of them have a thing in my game… but I’m not saying they don’t. 🙂