Review: The Paranet Papers

The Paranet Papers is the third book of the Dresden Files RPG by Evil Hat Productions. Technically, it isn’t out until a month from now, but I received the PDF as a review freebie.

It’s an impressive piece of work, much like Our World and Your Story were. The book is sort of a general accessory that mostly focuses on delivering different settings that explore alternative ways of building a campaign from the ways given in the core books, but also includes a load of new rules items and updates material from Our World to include material from Turn CoatSide Jobs, and Changes (Dresden Files book #12; the series is now at #15). It’s also a big book, with 378 pages of stuff parceled out in eight chapters. Incidentally, this review will contain SPOILERS for that book.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, the DFRPG books are presented as “in-universe” documents, a role-playing game that one of the characters, Will Borden, is designing to sneak information about supernatural threats to the general public (in the novels, Dracula was a similar work and led directly to the spectacular collapse of the Black Court of vampires). The game books are editing drafts of the final game books, with editorial notes in little post-it notes and a lot of highlighting pen work. This allows the books to include big secrets kept by the characters, usually with an “oops, I’ll remove this in the next draft” from Will, while simultaneously presenting a lot of data as mere speculation, with no obligation for the novel series to follow it. Where in the first two books, the comments were by Will, Harry and Bob the Skull, here they are from Will, Karrin Murphy and Waldo Butters, dealing with Harry’s apparent death and sniping at each other with pop culture references that usually at least one of the three doesn’t get. The illusion is broken only by the absence of “see page XX” notes – the real page references tend to be among the last things you can insert when laying out a book.

The Contents

Let’s see what this fat bastard’s eaten, then.

The first five chapters are descriptions of different areas of the world that act as campaign outlines and also as case studies of different ways to do city generation and campaigns in Dresden Files.

The first of these is Las Vegas, more or less an exercise in standard DFRPG city-building. It’s a city with a long-standing supernatural status quo that was contingent on a very powerful Red Court vampire. Then Changes happened, and now there is a power vacuum and the big players in the city are all getting ready to make a grab for it. The situation is not yet at a boiling point, but it is simmering aggressively. There’s some wyldfae, and some Skavis, and the local cops, and the mafia, and a cult of Ishtar, and a bibliomancer at the University, and some dude who may or may not be the actual Charon hanging out at the Venetian, and loads of other things. It’s a very complex, juicy situation, presented in a lovely, creepy manner. Like all the campaign ideas, it also notes which of the NPCs in the city are suitable for use as PCs.

The next chapter is Bloody October, set in Russia… in 1918, with the Civil War in full swing. The city they picked was Novgorod, a very old but much smaller city near St. Petersburg and Moscow. It’s an example of a historical setting, but also one that is based around the different mortal power groups in the city rather than locations and their themes. It’s also a place where the shit is currently in the process of hitting the fan and spraying everywhere. The Russian Civil War is one of the great clusterfucks of the 20th century. I remember the historian James Palmer once commenting on another game product set in the era to the effect that the goings-on were so gonzo already that a high-level fantasy adventurer party in the middle of Siberia would be just par for the course.

Of course, Rasputin is here, lurking in the background. Baba Yaga also makes an appearance, as does Koschei the Deathless. My personal favourite, Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, isn’t represented, but then again, his theatre of operations was thousands of kilometres to the east. Oh, and the local Cheka supervisor may or may not also be the Winter Knight. The Novgorod chapter is really cool stuff, though one of the NPCs presented is a Karelian Jew named Svetlana, from the lands of an evil Baron, which seems somewhat off to me. My cursory search couldn’t find references to East Karelia’s adminstrative division under Imperial Russia, but a Jewish village outside of the Pale of Settlement, in an area that never had a large population and most of that urban, seems kinda weird. The chapter is sourced from some old letters by a friend of Czar Nikolai II who also happened to be White Council and whose apprentice bumped off Rasputin (It didn’t take. It never takes. You’d think anyone killed that hard would stay down, but nooo…)

Bloody October is also mostly illustrated in a style resembling old Soviet propaganda art, which helps set the atmosphere. I like it.

The third chapter is Neverglades, or Okeeokalee Bay, a town in the swamps of Florida, home to the actual Fountain of Youth, where about a third of all inhabitants have some mystic ability or skill and the existence of the supernatural is more or less public knowledge, taken as just one more thing. Hell, the town sheriff is a changeling and the chapter is narrated by a weregator who also doubles as the town’s tourist guide. Okeeokalee Bay is an example of a tightly-knit community, which is organized around the people instead of locations in a system they call the Neverglades Twist. We get several faces for a theme, and characters who can be the face of both a location and a theme, and so forth.

This is one of my favourite chapters in the book in how it presents a believable small community with an interesting variety of plots and tensions (there’s giant bugs! there’s the crazy blood-addicts of the deceased local Red Court dude! there’s a Conquistador ghost! there’s a love dodecahedron!). It’s very self-contained milieu with a strong, somewhat quirky atmosphere that I feel would be easy to bring to life in actual play (the narrator makes some very casual remarks about disposing of bodies, for instance). There are also infoboxes about local traditions and sayings, the latter of which is probably handy for people who game in English.

Then there’s Las Tierras Rojas. In both the first and third chapters, there’s a key element in the setting resulting from the destruction of the Red Court in Changes. Well, Las Tierras Rojas, the Red Lands, or South America as the rest of us know it, is nothing but that. It’s a treatise on the former lands ruled by the Red Court and how the area is dealing with the power vacuum (not well). It’s narrated by an agent of the Fellowship of St. Giles, the vampirism-infected guys fighting the good fight, who also got decimated as a side effect of the Court’s destruction, when all their vampire mojo left them. There’s also someone who may or may not be Manco Capac.

Whereas Neverglades focuses on a very small area, Las Tierras Rojas is a very large one, and I’m not sure if it really works. I’m not getting a feel for the setting in here, and I feel it would have needed more geographic precision. I’m not an expert on South American geography, but I have a working knowledge of it and I still had to hit Wikipedia every couple of pages, such as when one of the locations is described as “a hill in Veracruz”. While it was very educational to go find out what Veracruz is (a state of Mexico on the southwest coast of the Gulf), I feel that “a hill in the Mexican state of Veracruz” would have been handier. In general, The Paranet Papers really doesn’t seem to do maps.

Then we come to The Ways Between, a discussion of ways to get from point A to point B through the Nevernever, which also includes a ready-to-run road trip campaign, complete with pregenerated characters that it’s more or less tailored for. Personally, I don’t really get DFRPG’s affection for pregenerated characters. I’ve had players categorically refuse to play even a one-shot where they didn’t generate their own character.

This is a chapter with a lot of good ideas in the margins and at the edges, such as a lot of nifty and creepy Americana, urban legends come to life and supernatural hobo signs, but the actual campaign unfortunately does nothing for me. Then, I never made it past six episodes of Supernatural, either. The adventure locales seem too standalone and only a couple of them, like Concretehenge, a circle of stones in an abandoned quarry with a faerie guardian, and Old Man Oak, a tree that’s a magnet for misery, looked interesting to me. Apart from those, there’s a mysterious abandoned asylum, a demon-possessed mine, a safehouse in the middle of a forest inhabited by a gargantuan dream spider thing, and so forth. They feel like they should have been fleshed out more and most of them lack oomph. This isn’t helped by most of the art in this chapter being fairly uninspired (one of the artists that worked on the book has an unusual view of human anatomy).

The rest of the chapters cover a variety of crunchy bits. The first of these is the Spellcasting addendum. Here we get new rules for soulfire, more in line with what was seen in later novels, and lots of other little additions to better model new material. There’s a couple of pages on spellcasting in the Nevernever, several pages of expanded and clarified thaumaturgy rules and if that’s not your thing, the simplified and streamlined “Cheer-Saving Thaumaturgy”. The name comes from Will’s Arcanos group’s tradition of “He who kills the cheer springs for beer”. Then there’s a couple of pages on the philosophy of magic and the elements in the world of Dresden Files, which was interesting and felt like a welcome oasis between all the numbers.

I’m really, really bad at reading rules, if you haven’t figured that out by now.

The final two chapters are addendums to Goes Bump and Who’s Who, detailing new information about known creatures and characters as well as new acquaintances. This is pretty basic stuff. Having rules for the fomor is nice. The Who’s Who addendum also covers “plot device” characters, who are characters so powerful there is no real sense in trying to model them in the ruleset. They’ve been popping up a lot more in the novels. These are types like the Leanansidhe, Donar Vadderung, and so on. We also get Harry and Karrin statted out to the end of Changes, as opposed to the Storm Front stats provided in Our World.

The book wraps up with a comprehensive index. This is a good thing.

The Conclusion

It’s a pretty great book. I’m not all that hot on all the material and the novel guide aspect of some of the latter chapters is probably an acquired taste, but it’s written well and was an entertaining read. I especially like how the different settings are not just the setting, but also examples of new ways to create a setting under the DFRPG ruleset. That’s handy, and even a chapter like The Ways Between that was distinctly my least favourite in the book, has stuff that I can put to use.

The Paranet Papers gets my recommendation. It exhibits the same skill that was used to put together the two previous volumes of the game, and the presentation as an in-setting roleplaying game is great. The release schedule for the game may be glacial, but the wait has been well worth it.

Helsinki Tampere All Night Long – A Dresden Files Campaign

I’ve briefly hinted at this madness before. However, I never fully explained the insanity of this campaign concept. The project has languished for long, with my gaming  time taken up by the Serpent’s Skull campaign (now nine sessions long, and we’re hoping to squeeze in a tenth and wrap up the second adventure before everyone heads back home for the summer). However, there have been slight nudges towards it becoming reality.

The core idea is that there are two groups of players in a single campaign of The Dresden Files RPG. One of these groups is based in Tampere, where I live most of the time. I am the GM for this group. Their characters adventure in Tampere and the surrounding areas. The other group, then, is based in Helsinki and is composed of Alter Ego members. Their characters adventure in Helsinki. With the other GM, Joonas, we’re developing some plot threads that extend from one city to the other.

Of course, since the two groups occupy the same world, it is possible for members of one party to visit the other, if the player is around. The train ride is a reasonably short trip and some of us (mostly me) make it frequently anyway. This, of course, makes it possible for the GMs to also have player characters, to be played in the other town. Also, characters can be tied together through their story aspects across the divide, though it seems that only my PC from the Tampere group will have one of those.

Yes, this campaign plan is ridiculously ambitious. However, I am convinced it can work. We have a campaign website at Mekanismi, which is yet another point of awesomeness for it. It’s in Finnish, so you foreign devils won’t get much out of it but you can admire the header image I whipped up in five minutes with Paintshop Pro. I envision there being an in-character part in it once the campaign really gets going, where the characters of different parties can communicate with one another.

I think that the primary stumbling stone here will be GM communication. We two have to keep a lot of balls in the air and know what the other is doing. Apart from that, once the game gets going, it should roll under its own power, pretty much. There are also some questions about game frequency and synchronization. Both groups have to occupy roughly the same position in their diegetic timeframe so that a visiting player won’t end up doing the time warp again, but I don’t see that becoming a big issue. If this were D&D, I might also have concerns about experience gain and power levels, but Dresden Files RPG isn’t a game that lives or dies on party balance.

As things stand, the Tampere group has finished character generation and city generation except for a few last touches. At the time of writing, only my character (that cop from the local precinct) is up online, but the rest will probably follow soonish. The Helsinki group has done their city but don’t yet have characters. Our group includes an electromancer and a werewolverine, among other things.

This is a very slowly brewing project and has been in the works since last October or something. These things require some patience. I hope we can squeeze in at least one session of play before my players scatter in the four winds for the summer.

There Are Now Two Gorillas in the Room – D&D and PFRPG Tied in Sales

Yesterday, ICv2 released their list of Top 5 best-selling roleplaying games in the third quarter of 2010. There was something surprising in there.

While Pathfinder RPG had held the second place ever since its release, it is now tied with the sovereign market leader of over three decades, Dungeons & Dragons (with the possibly apocryphal single month in the early 90’s when allegedly Vampire: The Masquerade held the top spot).

Of course, there are no actual numbers shown and the methodology is a bit fuzzy, neither WotC nor Paizo release their internal sales data, and it lacks stuff like DDI and Paizo product subscriptions and RPGNow. However, I can easily believe there’s an element of truth to those rankings. WotC will probably reclaim the top spot in the fourth quarter since the Essentials release falls there, but Dungeons & Dragons is no longer the only 800-pound gorilla in the room, whose dominance has been seen as unshakable, unyielding and eternal.

The third and the fourth spots have been occupied by Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play and the 40K roleplaying games for some time now. I expect they will continue to hang in there, especially with the recent release of Deathwatch, which has… strong appeal. I haven’t yet got a copy, but expect a post once I do. There are issues I desire to address.

The fifth spot is taken by Dresden Files RPG, which isn’t surprising since it sold like hotcakes on its release. This is interesting also because Evil Hat has released numbers on their developer blog. The initial print run of a total of 12,000 copies sold out, and they printed up 7,500 books more. So, the cutoff point for the list is somewhere thereabout. I don’t know enough to start speculating anything from those figures, though.

I don’t think DFRPG is going to hang around on the list much longer, though, since there’s no new product in the pipeline the release schedule is very sparse and sustaining core book sales like that is probably not possible. However, I must congratulate Evil Hat for a job well done!

It is an interesting time to be a gamer.

One Module, Every Game: The Dresden Files RPG

With the coming of autumn, the weather has grown colder, I’ve been swamped with clueless first-year students, and the game nights of TYR, and by extension the One Module, Every Game project, has returned from its summer break. Also, my Rise of the Runelords campaign, which had two sessions back to back last weekend and another one tomor- well, it’s today now. The pace has been rather gruelling, and I’m afraid this is reflected in the quality, though I’ve strangely not had any complaints yet.

The game we tested out this time was The Dresden Files RPG, a magnificent piece of work from Evil Hat, based on the equally awesome series of novels from Jim Butcher. The novel series is now up to its twelfth instalment. For the record, the second book of the game, Our World, spoils up to the end of the tenth book, Small Favor.

What’s In the Game

The game, and currently the entirety of the game line, is comprised of two books, the main rulebook Your Story, and the world book Our World. The first one is the only one you’ll actually need, containing within its 416 pages all the rules of the game, from character generation to spellcasting, with an example setting of Baltimore thrown in the back of the book. Our World, then, is more of a reference guide to who, what and where in the books, an NPC guide and a monster manual all rolled into one, with a chapter on occult Chicago at the end, described by Billy, one of the in-character commenters of the book, as “this crazy love letter to Weird Chicago.”

That the entire game line consists of just two books, with nothing else announced, doesn’t actually bother me, because after reading these two books, I can’t really think of anything that’s actually missing. It’s a complete package that provides you with enough material to run a hundred games and the tools to come up with more. The only product I can think of adding anything to this is perhaps a GM screen, maybe packaged with an adventure module – and even those are a bit questionable since the game is written to be rather open about secrets and the basic campaign format does not lend itself well to the production of premade adventures. There probably is a format for scenarios that could work with Dresden Files, but it’s not the traditional one.

The reason I don’t think the traditional format for an adventure module is not a good fit for Dresden Files is that the game places a great emphasis on making your own city setting. It’s a game of urban fantasy, with an emphasis on “urban”, and the second chapter – indeed, before the actual character generation rules – is about city creation. It presents guidelines, rules and instructions to create a city and its NPCs, locations and aspects as a collaboration between all members of the gaming group, so that each player may influence the end result and bring in the kind of stuff he’s interested in playing.

This, incidentally, makes the game far from ideal for a one-shot like the one I ran. Ideally, the group should have a separate character creation session, where they generate their characters and the city the game will take place in. (Rogue Trader, I feel, is similar in this, which is why I’ll be running a mini-campaign of three to five sessions plus the character creation session at some point in the near future, instead of a one-shot.)

The ruleset chugging under the bonnet is FATE, adapted from the old Fudge system. It’s one of’s darlings, and used by such games as Diaspora, Starblazer Adventures and Spirit of the Century. The ruleset has been licenced under the Open Gaming Licence, and Spirit of the Century has a free online system reference document.

FATE is an odd bird. It’s not quite like any other game system I’m familiar with. For one thing, it uses even funkier dice than roleplaying games usually do. The Fudge dice are six-siders with two blanks, two pluses and two minuses. They’re also very difficult to get. Nobody in Finland sells them and my regular RPG webstore at Paizo is all out. Fortunately, you can use regular six-siders, which most gamers probably have in ample supply, and those of us with a long history of Games Workshop hobbies have even more. (Though the GW dice are cheap little shits that someone recently proved are biased to roll ones well over the 16,6% of the time that they should. Sorry, can’t seem to find the article. If someone can dig it up for me, I’d be much obliged.) Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Gamescience manufactures Fudge dice, either.

Every player needs a set of four dice. This means I’d need 22 more Fudge dice for a proper set, for one GM and four players. Though I’m usually willing to play with up to six, there’s a certain… aspect of the FATE system that makes me want to cap the group at four players. That aspect is the aspect rules.

Aspects are one of the core rules concepts of the game. The core rules concept, you could say. They’re descriptive elements that all characters, cities, scenes and environments have, in varying quantities. A player character will have seven of them. While skills define what a character can do, these define who the character is. Every PC has a high concept aspect that sums up the character in a single phrase. For example, Indiana Jones’ high concept might be Two-Fisted Archaeologist. In addition, he’d probably have aspects like “Nazis. I hate these guys” and “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?”

The aspects enter play in that they can be invoked or compelled in situations where they are relevant. For instance, in a fist fight with a burly Nazi (probably portrayed by Pat Roach), Indy could invoke his Two-Fisted Archaeologist aspect, burning a fate point and gaining a +2 bonus on his roll to kick the guy’s ass, or reroll all the dice if they came up crap. If that was insufficient, he could then burn another fate point and invoke “Nazis. I hate these guys” and get another +2. A compel, then, is a negative consequence of the aspect – while infiltrating the Nuremberg Rally, the GM could compel Indy’s “Nazis. I hate these guys” to bring a complication in the scene, in that Indy just can’t bring himself to buddy up with some Obersturmbannführer to get the information he needs. Indy can then burn a fate point to buy off the complication, or accept the complication and earn a fate point. This is the primary mechanic for getting new fate points. You can also invoke aspects other than your own – for instance, when he inevitably gets found out, Indy must flee his pursuers in a stolen uniform, and can invoke the Crowded aspect of the Nuremburg Rally to lose them. That uniform, by the way, was nicked off a captain with the Drunk temporary aspect, which Indy invoked to get the drop on him.

The conflict and damage system also uses aspects. When an attack succeeds, it inflicts stress on the character, on either the Physical, Mental or Social track, depending on the type of conflict. If the result dictates that the character would be taken out, he can buy off stress by taking a consequence aspect. These come in three flavours: mild, moderate and severe. A mild consequence can be Bruised, a moderate one could be a Bad First Degree Burn, while a severe consequence could be a Sucking Chest Wound. While the character retains these aspects – and the worse they are, the longer they stick with you – they can be invoked and compelled like any other aspect. And characters usually don’t have very long stress tracks. There’s also a fourth, special kind of consequence, the extreme consequence, which buys off eight stress, but will also replace one of your other aspects. Permanently.

If, on the other hand, you don’t want a consequence and decide to be taken out, the adversary decides what happens to you, within the realm of reason. However, you still get to describe how this happens. Even if the opponent, after stabbing you, decides that you die, you still get to speak your last words, dying curse or whatever.

The Game in Action

Mostly because I could, I set the adventure in Tampere. Because I had to do game prep in a real hurry, I only had an outline of the adventure’s plotline, which I kept filling in as we went along. I managed to do this without any logical inconsistencies or gaping plot holes.

Frozen Fingers of Midnight, adapted to Dresden Files, was about Helge, the last survivor of the shipwreck of SS Kuru, a steamboat that went down in a storm on Näsijärvi back in 1929. A cabal of evil sorcerers had cast a curse on him that was going to slowly kill him and channel his soul as a sacrifice to the undead spirit of Kuru’s captain. In exchange, the captain would deliver to them the skull of Hugo Salmela, a commander of the Red forces in Tampere during the Finnish Civil War, who is still said to haunt the building where he died in Pyynikki.

Hugo Salmela and the shipwreck of SS Kuru are real. The rest isn’t. Salmela died during the battle of Tampere when some drunkard chucked a primed hand grenade into a grenade crate and took out pretty much the entire Red high command. The ghost of Salmela really is said to haunt the place, which in the 1970’s became the first home of the language department of the Tampere University, and is something of a mascot for the language students’ club. The department moved to the new campus closer to the city centre around 2002, but they took the mascot with them. Personally, I think there’s something in vaguely poor taste about all this, but I’m the one who keeps dropping Nazis everywhere, so I’d probably just keep quiet (fat chance).

I created four half-finished characters for the game. There was Rami Karpainen, a bear lycanthrope with a thing for burning churches and senseless violence; Armo Pohjavirta, an ex-university professor and mathematomancer, actually based on a real math professor from the university, whose lectures were so legendary that people took notes of his quips and posted long quotations on the internet (here and here). They’re in Finnish and mostly untranslateable, but here are a few that I could work with:

“The Lebesgue integral is kind of like those Brezhnev speeches about the friendship of nations; really important and often spoken of, but never actually seen anywhere.”

“This Euler formula is handy to have in your pocket, you see. A gentleman does not sweat these things.”

“There’s nothing so wonderful about these vector value functions that you should think they glow in the dark or something.”

“If you think about that Banach-Tarski paradox, where you partition a sphere into subsets and when you reassemble the pieces it you can come up with any kind of object,  well of course those subsets can’t be like some Sunday school group, they’ve got to be bloody pathologically defined.”

“You should think about this for a while, it’s pretty difficult. I’ve sometimes asked about it in an exam, but then I’ve always had to hit the bottle with a gigantic melancholy.”

He loses a lot in translation. Naturally, the character ended up with the quietest player.

Also, there was a changeling whose human parents were Finnish-Swedish nobility from Kauniainen, and finally That Cop Who Gets All Stuck with Those Cases.

Like I said, I’d only finished the characters halfway. I’d left the last three phase aspects unfilled and let the group work those out among themselves. The way those last three aspects are determined in character creation is that the first of them is your character’s first adventure, a story he starred in. The players each write a sentence or two from that story’s beginning on a piece of paper and assign themselves an aspect from it. Then the papers are then passed around, and the next player is the guest star in that story and writes in the middle part. Then, a third player gets to come in and wrap it up. That way, each PC has participated in three different adventures and has three new aspects.

What we ended up in this case was four “adventures” where the characters mostly ran around each other without anybody accomplishing anything or there even being anything to accomplish. I didn’t contest it at the time since this was a one-shot, but I think that if I saw something that parochial in a campaign, I’d exercise the GM’s prerogative and veto them all. I probably still should’ve done it, since they kinda set the tone for the game, which wasn’t really adventurous.

Since we started late and the character generation took an unexpected amount of time, we didn’t actually get all that much gaming done and the characters ended up barrelling down the main plotline of the adventure and ignoring some clues of other things to be done. They went to find this Helge guy, got into his apartment, found him ill in his bed, got clues about a bunch of Lapp sorcerers, and tracked them down to a boathouse somewhere in the woods of Teisko. Minor violence and a lot of intimidation followed, and the bad guys agreed to break the enchantment if they’d just be let go and the bear guy didn’t kill them. This was done, and their headless bodies were found a few municipalities northwards a couple of days later, after the Wardens got to them. The PCs never went out to encounter this evil undead captain on the lake, or the ghost of Hugo Salmela in Pyynikki.

Now What

Well, when I’m next running the game, I’ll prepare a solid primer of information on the tone, style and rules of the game for the players. None of us really internalized the aspects as a part of the game and invoking and compelling them was rather lazy, possibly because the characters were low-level to begin with and had few fate points.

Yeah, that is a when. The game is awesome, and it inspires me. There will be future games, many of them. In fact, there will be a campaign!

It’s probably the most megalomaniacal campaign concept I’ve come up with, and the wheels are already in motion to make it happen. Now, the game is very city-focused, and it recommends that you base the created city on your own town, or a city you’re at least familiar with, because the familiarity creates more resonance in thep layers for the supernatural elements. Me, I travel a lot between Helsinki and Tampere, and am active in RPG clubs in both cities. In addition, there are fans of the books and the game in Alter Ego, over in Helsinki.

So, the campaign will be named “Helsinki-Tampere All Night Long”, and will have two groups, one in Helsinki and one in Tampere, playing their own games set in their own cities, but unravelling the same plotline from different ends, and affecting one another’s games. There can even be guest stars, and the Game Masters can have PCs of their own.

It’s still in the planning stages, but should kick off sometime next month with character creation sessions in both cities. It will either crash and burn spectacularly, or it will be the awesomest thing ever.