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Book Review: With Fire and Sword, by Henryk Sienkiewicz

With Fire and Sword is an historical fiction novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz. It is, I am given to understand, sort of the Polish national epic.
The novel is set during the Khmelnytsky (don’t ask me how to pronounce that sucker: “Gargling-mel-nik-ki” is my best guess) revolt of 1647; I will go out on a limb and say that unless you grew up in Eastern Europe, your history classes probably didn’t cover this bit. Basically, the set up is that the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was then at the apex of its power and prestige. It was one of the largest and most populous states of the 17th century, and had a long and glorious tradition of kicking the bell out of every neighbor it had ever had- Austrians, Prussians, Muscovites, Tatars, Turks, Swedes, Romanians, they had all learned to fear the Polish lances. Their land stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea, encompasses most of what is currently Poland, the little Baltic states up north minus Finland, Belarus, and Ukraine. But 1647 was the beginning of the end- Khmelnytsky’s Cossack revolt in Ukraine sparked an ethnic and class war that will rip the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to shreds, and leave them as easy pickings for their powerful and land-starved neighbors. The narrative interweaves real historical events and people in with a few original characters to craft a rolling series of subplots as all the characters ride out the tidal wave of rebellion, peasant uprisings, foreign invasions, and so on.
The novel was written in 1884, a mere generation or two after yet another partition of Poland by its neighbors; by the 1850’s Poland did not appear on any European map, even though the Polish people were still around. This novel functioned as something as a nostalgic reminder of the greatness that had once been theirs, but it also served as a common touchstone of patriotism during foreign occupation. It was originally published as a serial in a newspaper where Sienkiewicz was the head editor, and man, it was popular. This was not high-brow literature in the slightest. This was Harry Potter style story for the masses. According to the introduction of my English translation, the whole damn country would stop what they were doing the day each edition was published and devour the current installment, and then buzz with discussion about the cliffhangers and the characters’ choices. Mothers would weep in public at the self-sacrifice of the main character, praying aloud that their sons would reach such heights of nobility. Students away at college would write home about the newest developments of the story, as though it was proper gossip about their friends and colleagues.
It was not merely a hit; it was an institution, even before it was finished. Sienkiewicz knocked out two sequels, riding the current of the first book’s massive success. With Fire and Sword and its sequels were at the heart of Polish pop culture for generations.
Which is funny, because it’s not exactly what you’d call perfectly accurate. I tentatively assert that its inaccuracy is part of why it was such a hit. Henryk Sienkiewicz spent time in America as a journalist and cut his teeth writing essays about America to send back home. He seems to have been, erm, heavily inspired by Westerns. The great steppe to the east of Poland that stretched all the way to Korea is described in terms better suited to East Texas. The descriptions of Cossacks and Tatar raiders are eerily similar to American Indians. Hell, swap out the Winged Hussars for Texas Rangers and you could probably steal this plot and plop it down right next to Lonesome Dove and nobody would question it. I suspect that taking the tropes and stereotypes of dime novels about gunslingers fighting savages, and using them to dramatize his historical fiction about knights and ladies, is a big part of what turned people’s’ heads and put his serial on the map.
In any case, the plot is (perhaps unsurprisingly) uncomplicated, larger than life, melodramatic, and long. We’re talking 1,100 pages of plot. You could use this book to stun cattle before finishing them off with the bolt gun. Again, it was a long form serial before it was a book.
The main story is a paint-by-numbers tragic romance between a valiant, noble, and one dimensional hussar named Pan Yan Skrzetuski (“Pan” is the equivalent of “Sir” or “Lord”, and the last name pronunciation guess- “Skish-uh-tooski”) and his lady love, Helena Kurcewiczówna (“Kurt-zuh-vich-ina”?). They meet and fall in love at first sight just before the war breaks out, and Skrzetuski cleverly outmaneuvers her dastardly evil foster mother to save her from dishonorable poverty and abuse. Then, after the war breaks out, they are separated and between the two of them spend about 850 pages dramatically sighing about it. She cannot wade through the chaos of rebellion to find him, and he cannot set aside his duty to Poland to search for her. This plot takes up easily 3/4ths of the book.
I am being a little sardonic, I admit; I emphasize again that this is not high brow literature. However, I can’t deny that as thoroughly soap opera as the main plot is, it is oddly compelling. There is something to be said for simplicity being a virtue. It also adds in a layer of personal desperation to the various battles and the campaigns- each victory gives Pan Yan feverish hope, and each defeat dashed his spirits. The serial format elongates this ebb and flow to repeat itself six or seven times.
From a format point of view, Pan Yan and his lost lady love Helena also form the base from which almost every single subplot flows, like ribs hanging off a spine. The centralized nature of the primary conflict allows for the action to shift naturally from one colorful side character to the next, all of them connected to either Pan Yan or Helena or both but otherwise off doing their own thing; the main romance means that nobody in this sprawling novel is more than two degrees of separation from each other. It’s a nifty trick if you do it right, and I reckon Sienkiewicz did it right.
With all that out of the way, let’s dig into this book a little more in depth.
Order From Chaos
One of the biggest themes of With Fire and Sword is, as the section title suggests, order being imposed by human will onto chaos.
In this idealized conception of the Commonwealth, the wild lands of the steppe were untamed, crawling with bandits and uncivilized savages and exiled criminals and fierce proto-libertarians who deny all existing authorities. But then Polish nobles came with soldiers and industry and loyal peasants and settled there. They planted their harvests, hammered the land into submission, and turned wild grass into profitable farms. When the wild steppe folk threatened to burn them out, the Lords used State power to crush them and preserve civilization. They imposed law and order to let the new communities thrive, carved out roads to connect the people, hanged the bandits to protect the peasants, and maintained a steel wall between civilization and the Wild. From this their mandate to rule unquestioned springs; without them, the law vanished and the savages and the criminals and the proto-libertarians of steppe come back and wipe out the very concept of Christian civilization disappears forever.
That’s why lords get to live in nice palaces and eat fine foods; that’s why soldiers owe total obedience to the lords; that why soldiers get to boss around peasants; that’s why peasants work hard. Anything less and you get anarchy and destruction.
Broadly speaking, the whole Khmelnytsky rebellion is about this society breaking down and anarchy and destruction being visited upon the Commonwealth; it ain’t called With Fire and Sword for nothing. The novel is almost a kind of explanation for why Poland stopped being a Great Power and started being free real estate for anybody with an army.
The lords got lazy and selfish and refused the call of duty; that’s why we can’t have a nation anymore. The soldiers turned their coats and threw in with foreigners; that’s why we can’t have a nation anymore. The peasants resented the lords’ abuses and rose up; that’s why we can’t have a nation anymore.
In the case of the Khmelnytsky rebellion, ethnic tension between the free spirited Cossacks in Ukraine and the arrogant Polish-Lithuanian lords who had sovereignty over them grew over time. The breaking point came when the Polish King (basically a neutered figurehead, unable to reign in the nobility) wrote the Cossacks letters urging them to stand up for their rights, which gave the aggrieved Cossacks the legitimacy they needed to start a mass uprising. Cossack demands for freedom and sovereignty blended with peasant demands for the same, sparking mass lynchings as the peasant mobs butchered every aristocrat they could lay their filthy hands on, egged on by the Muslim Tatars who saw an opportunity to weaken the hated Poles. Next thing you know, a minor spat between nobles in Ukraine and nobles in Poland turned into a bloody class war, a bloody civil war, and bloody foreign invasion all at once.
See what you get when you depart from the platonic ideal of Lords commanding soldiers to guard peasants from savages? You get chaos and slaughter, that’s what you get.
The Nature of Patriotism
A recurring observation by many different characters is the nature of self-sacrifice as a necessary element of patriotism.
If you love your country, you must suffer on its behalf. The uprising could have been crushed quick if the Polish nobility had gotten their heads out of their asses and mobilized to crack down on the Cossacks fast, before the ball really got rolling.
But too many nobles were lazy, and preferred fine dining and partying to having to live in an army camp. They were greedy, and didn’t want to vote extra taxes on themselves to finance the war effort. They were proud and arrogant, unwilling to elect a leader to organize the defense if it meant one of their personal enemies might end up being honored.
They were, in short, unpatriotic.
The contrast comes from the household of Yarema Wiśniowiecki (“Vish-nyev-etski”?), the Polish Prince whose lands are in the line of advance of Khmelnytsky’s Cossack army. Prince Yarema (no way am I typing out his last name over and over again) is the idea Prince- he sacrifices his money to preserve his lands and his people, he lives on the campaign trail on army rations instead of fine dining, he leads his men in battle. His knights, including Pan Yan and most of the side characters we are to root for, are brave and selfless and obedient. As mentioned, Pan Yan prioritizes following Yarema’s army and providing military service in a time of emergency over finding Helena, though it grieves him terribly. His love for her is greater than anything... but the nation comes first, always. This is the kind of “I must obey all orders in this crisis... but I must find Helena! I can’t... but I must!!! I am being torn apart.... my heart is in agony... BUT POLAND IS IN DANGER!!!!” emotional energy to him that caused all those Polish mothers in 1884 to weep and hope that their sons will have the nobility of spirit that Pan Yan has.
Everybody Is Larger Than Life
Part of the appeal of With Fire and Sword is that just about everyone is larger than life. This is, I suppose, a hand me down from American Westerns.
Pan Yan is the Ultimate Winged Hussar- noble and loving and devoted and perfect in all ways. He is buddies with the best duelist in Poland, and the wiliest rogue in this side of the Volga. His rival for Helena’s hand, the dangerously cool Cossack Colonel Bohun, is the greatest war leader and a living legend among the Cossacks. The Tatar Khan is overwhelming in his dread majesty, humbling even the arrogant and ambitious Khmelnytsky with his power and authority. Prince Yarema is by far the greatest strategist and warlord in the world, able to smash armies that outnumber him ten to one time and time again.
This is what you might call a world of badasses. A lot of the fun of the novel comes from watching the purest examples of testosterone poisoned alpha males deliberately pick fights with each other, with life itself and fate of nations on the line; may the best man win. There was a grand comment about the movie Ford v. Ferrari by u/Shakesneer a wee while back. I shall quote him directly, because this is sort of the core attitude towards all these hardcore warriors bashing away at each other:
The story is essentially a male conflict -- not just because the major characters are almost all male. They dream big, they fight, somebody wins somebody loses, then they almost dust themselves off and get back to being friendly. It's not just reckless "for no actual reason" -- it's the essence of manhood, it's the spirit, the glory, the thrill of what it means to be a man and go out into the world and fight for some unrealized perfection.
This is the perfect way to describe the idealized romance of the war. The men respect each other’s spirit even while bitterly trying to impose their preferred world by killing their way to victory.
As brutish and vicious as the vengeance of Khmelnytsky is, he is still the most dreaded warlord and commands the loyalty of hundred of thousands. The Poles curse him even as they acknowledge his skill, his charisma, and even the uncomfortable confession that many of his complaints about them have merit. Bohun is a villainous killer, but one that even his worst enemies agree has a sense of honor and courage and daring that rival their own. Even a Tatar colonel who allies with Khmelnytsky, who spends most of the book terrorizing his allies, stuffing his gut with wine and food while others fight and die for him, and enslaving the helpless Polish peasants, gets a shining moment of glory despite his despicable role thus far. The Polish Winged Hussars threaten to smash into the exposed janissaries mid battle; the wicked and venal Tatar sees the threat and leads a small contingent of light cavalry to intercept the Polish heavy cavalry. It’s a hopeless fight, of course- but his cavalrymen will die slower than the helpless infantry will, and be able to escape afterward. With a defiant “Allahu akbar!” the Tatar colonel personally charges into the fray, fully expecting to die. He and his men limp back after a short and painful fight, bloody and beaten, but the janissaries are saved. Even the worst of the villains are still men.
The Harsh Realities of War
The flip side of the gallant, idealized, manly kind of war is the brutal, cruel, horrific realities of war. Both get equal page time.
If the romantic notions of nobles conducting a passage at arms are the domain of the named characters, the immediacy of an enraged lynch mob is the domain of the peasants.
An awful lot of resentments are expressed by the rebellious peasants who are spurred to insurrection by Khmelnytsky’s revolt. Zero percent of the resentments are expressed through nonviolent means. Whole chapters of the novel are devoted to the dangers of the peasant militias hunting down aristocrats and petty nobility to butcher. Jews especially get targeted; their banking operations are seen as exploitation ten times worse than their landlords’. Killing off the upper classes is not sufficient; the blood list demands the most inventive and horrendous tortures imaginable. In fact, in real life, the Khmelnytsky uprising was party to what was the worst pogroms against Jews in history; this title was held until Hitler came to power. An entire subplot explores the sheer, unending terror of lawless peasants seeking vengeance without soldiers around to hold them in check from the perspective of two of their prospective victims; Pan Zagłoba (“Za-gwo-ba”), the roguish Falstaff figure of Pan Yan’s clique, has to use his wits, his charisma, and his talent for con artistry to save Helena from the murderous mobs for a couple of chapters as they try to escape the ethnic cleansing operation around them.
Likewise, Prince Yarema’s pacification campaign against the Cossacks and the rebel peasants is... unpleasant to contemplate. “Kill ‘em all and let God sort them out” is not sufficient. “We had to destroy the village in order to save it” comes a little closer. “I will fucking impale every man, woman and child caught in a rebel-controlled zone on a pike until I literally run out of wood, and then I’ll go out and find more wood to sharpen up” is the core of his strategy. The iron hand of the Prince is, quite simply, terrifying to be on the wrong side of.
There’s a great scene where a peace envoy from the Cossacks comes to talk to Yarema, and Yarema hears the message out and then impales the messenger out of hand (in keeping with the Larger than Life theme, the messenger knew that his mission was a death sentence and stoically did his duty anyway.) The whole Polish army passes by the envoy impaled on a stake, writhing in agony. One young soldier violates discipline and rides over to shoot him in the head, unable to endure the sight, at which point Yarema calls him over and says-
“Oh, you will see so much of their deeds that at a sight like this, pity will fly from you like an angel; but because on account of your pity you risked your life, the treasurer in Lubni will pay you ten golden ducats, and I take you into my personal service."
Damn, that’s a cold ass honky.
Gender Roles in a Time Before Feminism
One nifty bit about a novel written before feminism took a foothold in the culture is that you get to see gender roles wild and free, uninformed by modern conceptions of what is right and natural.
Put broadly, in With Fire and Sword, men are manly men and women are feminine women. There are no “gurl power!” scenes at all, not any subverted expectations about masculinity. That said, there is still stuff to unpack and chew over.
I mentioned before that Pan Yan Skrzetuski’s main rival for Helena’s hand with the dangerously cool Bohun. This may have been misleading; Bohun loves Helena but Helena explicitly rejected him years before even meeting Pan Yan. They grew up together and were childhood sweethearts, but then Bohun went off as an adventurous Cossack soldier and came home ultraviolent. He lost her heart forever once she watched him split open a dude’s skull with his saber right in front of her. So there is no nonsense about a love triangle or some stupid Twilight-esque “should I date the wholesome, decent fella, or cavort with the troubled bad boy?” dilemma. Helena picks Pan Yan, no contest.
So in the chaos of Khmelnytsky’s rebellion, Bohun... just straight up kidnaps her. Presumably hoping that if she’s his captive she basically has to fall in love with him.
I’m gonna stop beating around the bush and lay it out. Bohun is a serial rapist. He goes to war, captures enemy women (usually Tatar slaves), rapes them, and murders them once he’s had his fun. Again, this is pop fiction before feminism; his violent ways are not all justified by anybody in the novel, but he is still regarded as a complex man with good and bad qualities at war with each other, instead of as... a serial rapist/murderer.
And once he captures Helena, his decision to not rape her is treated as unexpectedly noble and praiseworthy- a small but very real streak of nobility running through his wickedness. He doesn’t just wants sex; he wants to love her, and be loved by her. But then he tries to game the system by threatening to bring in a priest to forcibly marry Helena whether she likes it or not, and explicitly points out that it doesn’t count as rape if it’s a husband and wife. Helena acknowledges that that would be an unbeatable tactic to make her stay with him forever- I mean, once the priest says the words and her new husband has sex with her, that’s basically game over in terms of who you end up with for life- so she plays the ultimate trump card. She says if he tries to marry her by force she’ll simply kill herself after their wedding night, risking hellfire solely to spite her captor. Bohun weigh unhappily concludes that she isn’t bluffing, and so dials it back a lot.
Later on, after Helena is rescued, Bohun leads a suicide charge against an army trying to get her back, and pretty much everyone agrees that the attack was balls to the walls awesome and praiseworthy, and they all reckon he would be a fine knight and an upstanding gent if only he wasn’t such a prick sometimes.
So yeah. I’m pretty okay with labeling this subplot as “rape culture.” I feel you don’t need to be a raging third wave feminist to bust out terms like “problematic” and “toxic masculinity”.
Nonetheless, incompatible interpretations of the dangerously cool Cossack/serial rapist aside, this is an interesting moment for feminine power. Helena spends most of the book passive, being loved and being pursued and being protected. Bohun’s attempt to forcibly love her provides an opportunity to actually assert her will and become an active agent in her own right.
Her rejection of Bohun is a powerful moment for her and the reader both. She has no earthly power- no strong sword hand, no minions to lead into battle, no nothing. But she can bring one of the most powerful and deadly men in the world to his knees with a simple and unequivocal “No.”
Men hold all the power, except the one power they crave above all- the power to be freely accepted by women.
Pan Yan, in stark contrast, courts Helena from the opposite direction. He defends her, not attacks her. He serves her, not dictates commands to her. He offers not merely marriage, but equal partnership within that marriage (which is super odd for a novel in 1884). And by surrendering the manly power he holds, he gets the girl.
These days, we might call that “white knighting”. But then again, Pan Yan is literally a knight in shining armor, so it works out for him.
It really is a little chunk of the premodern world jutting up into ours; with alien viciousness being commonplace and familiar cringeyness being holy.
Yeah, I think that about covers it. Long book, stretched out to encyclopedia length because of the original format. Lot of one-dimensional baddasses whupping on each other. Very enjoyable. 9.5/10, could have trimmed some of the fat off of it but extremely readable for a book that’s 140-odd years old.
submitted by mcjunker to TheMotte


Transcript of Q&A from Jared's birthday stream

Since I'm not sure if Jared will convert the Q&A part of his birthday Twitch stream (https://www.twitch.tv/videos/724287532) into a YouTube video, I thought it might be worth transcribing his answers for the sake of posterity. I also included a few random answers he had given outside the Q&A, but I'm not about to go over all 16hrs of footage to write them all down (feel free to add any good ones I missed, though). Also to save time, I'm not going to include the Twitch handles asking the questions, but you can easily go back and look over the Q&A section yourself to find them (time stamp from 7:31:16-8:32:20):
  1. Favorite types of shoes to wear?: I don't know. Not sneakers; I'm not a sneaker guy. And I also don't like Converse.
  2. What would you consider a retirement to streaming in Youtube?: That's actually something I've thought about a lot. I've also mentioned this before, but I've talked about this with all of my friends who do the same thing [...] we can't keep doing this forever. Like, I cant be 40-45 still talking about Zelda or Final Fantasy or whatever. Like at some point this doesn't work anymore.... And what's really really weird about that and what's scary, is that we're just doing this, but none of us knows what the light at the end of the tunnel is. Unless your'e someone who [...] has already made so much money that it doesn't matter... I'm not that... I don't know.
  3. First video game you remember playing?: Lady Bug on ColecoVision
  4. Favorite moment from high school? (asked by one of his childhood best friends): You and me skipping band practice to go in the hallway behind the theater and play Magic was pretty good. I actually talked about our Pirates of the Caribbean sword fight a little earlier... that was kinda cool too.
  5. Is there a game you hated but later came around to eventually like?: Final Fantasy 7. I was very anti-FF7 when it came out because it wasn't Nintendo anymore and it was barely fantasy, it was sci-fi, but now it's actually pretty good.
  6. Do you think you'll ever regain the followers you lost?: No, I won't. It's been a year and I'm still losing. Like, it hasn't gotten better, it's not repairing; I'm still hemorrhaging followers on every platform- EVERY platform. It's kind of it for me. (chat then sends love)
  7. Are you still working on a review for Final Fantasy 8?: Yeah I am. Still working on it. I took like a week off from streaming which I was going to use to make the FF8 video, but I used that to take care of a lot of life stuff.
  8. Least favorite color to play in Magic: Green, usually
  9. Would you stream something like Aerobiz again?: I don't know, maybe.
  10. Are you considering reviewing Vampire: The Masquerade?: I actually don't really know the Vampire universe all that much. I know that new game is coming out and that's supposed to be pretty cool. Maybe that. But I never played much Vampire, tabletop or otherwise.
  11. What's the story behind the ProJ_feet emote?: If you're a tier2 sub, you have access to ProJ_feet, which, everyone does the ProJ_hands emote, like you know, the 'Pepe hands', but I also got feet. Put them together in one row... hilarious.
  12. What's your favorite Dragonball Z game?: The DS RPG one... Attack of the Saiyans.
  13. What's the first game you purchased and do you still own it?: The first game I purchased with my own money was either Goldeneye or Starfox 64. Starfox is weird because I'm pretty sure that was a pooled amount of money between me and my brothers, but Goldeneye *I* bought.
  14. Have you played Stardew Valley?: Yeah I played 1.4 on Switch.
  15. From the Madden-17 review do you actually not like the Packers or were you just trolling friends from back home?: Oh, I don't care. That was kind of a dig at how much people love the Packers, and just playing the fact that I am from Green Bay. I've done comedy shows for the Packers. But I also played as the Vikings in that video, because of my dad; my dad really loves the Vikings. So that was like a little nod to my dad.
16a) Would you do a multiplayer stream at some time?: I would love to do a multiplayer stream; I'm kinda having a hard time getting people to do multiplayer stuff with me. I mean like I got my close friends who I always like to do stuff with. But I've always liked the idea of doing like a weekly stream that's um - where it's like hey, every week at this time, there will always be a group of streamers, all of them streamers, all playing something together, for pretty much a couple of hours. I've always thought that that would be cool, but I kinda get a hard time getting people to do that.
16b) What kind of multiplayer games would you stream?: With my friends, I've been playing Pulsar: Lost Colony, a lot lately. That's been super fun. I think that would be a fun stream. That would be great. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles? The multiplayer [...] is kinda fucked on it. Yeah, even just online stuff, like Marioland 64, or Mario Partys or whatever .... any of that would be cool.
17) Would you play Final Fantasy 14 with chat?: I wouldn't want to do it with chat. Cuz like I play FF14 with my close friends and I really enjoy it that way. But when you play it publically, and that many people are just like, following you around or walking up just trying to hand you 10 million gil or something, it's like, that's not how I want to enjoy my game. that's not how I want to do it.
18) Hydlide randomizer when?: I looked; one doesn't exist. The only Hydlide mods they have are basically patches to make it an easier game to play; like increasing health generation or increasing the amount of experience points you get.
19) Have you ever played System Shock 2?: No, I do own it though.
20) What are your thoughts on the Elder Scrolls series?: My favorite one is Daggerfall. I really liked Daggerfall. And I find myself less and less interested in the ES series as it goes on, because I've felt it kinda keeps going. The ocean keeps getting wider, but its depth keeps getting shallower.
21) Would you do more D&D content or even make a D&D show/podcast with your friends?: I've talked about this a little bit before, but I would only want to do another D&D stream or show or whatever if I could bring something new to the table, or go above and beyond what alot of other people are already doing. Because there are so many D&D stream shows out there, and the whole D&D bubble at some point is going to pop. So if I wanted to like to somehow get in on that, or do something new, or provide my own thing, like it's gotta be fuckin' really worth somethin', you know.
22) Are you excited about Final Fantasy 9 or 10 when you get to them?: Super excited for 9. I'm looking forward to 10 too, because I like playing 10.
23) What are your thoughts on the Matt Mercer effect? (after it's explained to him): Oh yeah, I get that. I mean that sucks. I feel that a lot of people who watch Critical Role then feel like, if they play D&D, they also have to be like this group of actors that can really perform, that just doesn't work. That doesn't happen.
24) With the pandemic have you been able to play D&D at all?: Yeah. Just been playing over Zoom, which is fine.
25) Do you know SomeCallMeJohnny?: I *do* know SomeCallMeJohnyy. I've gotten to meet him I want to say twice, it might have been just once. I know I bumped into him at TooManyGames Con. And I wish we got to chat a bit more.
26) Final Fantasy 12 OG or Zodiac Age?: Zodiac Age for sure. There's no reason to play OG FF12 when Zodiac Age exists.
27) What is your favorite Final Fantasy song?: Final Fantasy 6. Yep.
28) Would you come back to Green Bay for Kitsunekon?: I *would*. I don't foresee that happening though - just knowing the people who run Kitsunekon, and just knowing the individuals they keep in contact with.
29) Are you a cheese head?: No.
30) What color would you dye your hair?: Silver. I thought silver hair would be cool. Not like white or grey, but like a shiny silver. Or if I mixed it with some of my natural hair color, that would be cool. Or thief blue. I could do thief blue too. I dunno, the fad of Let's Players dying their hair has kinda come and passed.
31) Do you need to play Suikoden 1 before 2?: No you don't. Honestly just start with Suikoden 2, and then don't look back.
32) Mexican food or Italian food?: Italian food. I really like Italian food, especially red sauce Italian.
33) Roughly how many games do you have in your collection?: I dunno man... *some*. Yeah, some. I got some.
34) Do you ever watch any other YouTubers?: Yeah, sometimes. I got like my background noise channels I like to do. Obviously I watch all my friends - PBG, Jeff, Jirard. Any time those guys come out with new stuff, I'll watch that. Otherwise, Internet Comment Etiquette is a good time. I also really like RetroAhoy a lot. I think that guy does amazing stuff.
35) Do you think YouTube or Twitch is better for growing as a streamer?: Twitch is, by far.
36) Do you still chat with the Game Grumps?: No.
37) Have you ever watched Criken?: Um, I have before, I've also hung out with Criken a couple of times. Not one of those I typically join up and watch though.
38) Do you still play Pokemon Go?: I do! I just saw they put in the Mega evolution stuff yesterday.
39) Do you prefer physical or digital media?: Oh physical, absolutely. Like if I can own an actual physical thing, regardless of context, I want the thing.
40) Would you rather have two wives or two knives?: Oh, definitely two knives. Cuz let me tell ya, it's pretty great.
41) Would you stream Crystal Chronicles or Baldur's Gate 3?: Ideally both. I'm more excited for Baldur's Gate 3.
42) If you had to speed run one game right now, what would you pick?: I guess Mega Man X. If I had to pick a game to learn to speed run, I'd have to pick NES Metal Gear.
43) Is Pokemon TCG still in the pipeline?: It is, yeah. I didn't want to get to the Pokemon TCG 2, because I wanted to get to the Pokemon TCG first, and I've got other stuff to do.
44) Did you play Commander Keen on DOS?: I never did, actually. I played Duke Nukem 1 and 2, but for whatever reason Commander Keen just went right past me.
45) Is Suikoden 1 worthy of high praise?: It's pretty good, but Suikoden 2 is really the best one.
46) Did you ever play Snakes's Revenge on the NES?: I actually streamed and beat Snake's Revenge in like 2012 on Justin.tv. So I actually have streamed for and beat that game.
47) Do you intend to play Wastelands 3?: I actually watched Lilia play it and it looks pretty cool; I don't know if I'll get around to it. I haven't played Wastelands 1 or 2 at all.
48) Do you like your real name and would you change it if given the chance?: I'm fine with being Jared. I do think my last name is cumbersome, and if I had a better stage name for like, performance-wise, that might be a worthwhile idea.
42) Have you ever played the Rune Factory games?: I haven't. It looked cool though.
43) Did you play Diablo at all?: Yeah, I played Diablo 1, 2 and 3, and I very quickly learned I don't like Diablo, or those kinds of games. Just - they're super heavy loot-fest games. Not into it.
44) What N64 game do you have the most interest in talking about?: Hybrid Heaven. Or I'd also want to do Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage.
45) Did you ever play Runescape?: Never touched Runescape. Classic, current, whatever. I went straight to Ultima Online and Everquest.
46) What boardgames do you like to play?: The XCOM boardgame is my absolute favorite. I think the XCOM boardgame is goddam amazing.
47) What's your favorite game that's not an RPG?: Metal Gear Solid 3.
48) If you had a chance to play one MMO that is now offline, what would it be?: Star Wars Galaxies. Like, pre-combat patch Star Wars Galaxies. I would want to try that again.
49) Did you ever watch G4 TV?: Oh yeah, I watched a lot of G4 TV. Like pretty much anything I could watch. X-Play was like the one that everybody went kinda to, but I also liked Cinematech I thought was really cool, where they just showed game cinematics; I just thought that was fun to watch. I really liked - I can't remember the name of the show - I think it was just called Portal or something like that? - it was the just the MMO-machinima soap opera. That was kinda cool. Icons was cool. I didn't watch Code Monkeys, no. I know there's other shows on there that I didn't watch. Like I definitely watched more G4 before G4 and TechTV merged.
50) Favorite Magic card?: Craw wurm.
51) Descent Tabletop?: I mentioned Descent tabletop in one of my videos. I have not played it.
52) Have you ever played Betrayal at House on the Hill?: Not House on the Hill, but I have played Betrayal at Baldur's Gate, which is fundamentally the same thing; so I played that one.
53) What do you do to be happy?: What's your definition of happy? Because like, just to have a good time, and smile, and whatever, well then there's lots. Play games with my friends, like play Pulsar: Lost Colony ...play Call of Duty: Warzone with my buddies, that I'll have a good time with. Play some tabletop stuff with *them*. Now if you consider 'happy' being something like, feeling fulfilled, or that like, nothing is going wrong in your life, I don't have an answer.
54) Do you enjoy on any level trashy games, like Neptunia and Mary Skelter?: Nooo? Well, would you consider Max Gentleman Sexy Business trashy? I don't think it was that trashy. I actually found that to be incredibly tasteful and well done.
55) Did you ever play the Golden Sun games?: Yeah, I did. They're good.
56) Are you going to review the Metal Gear games?: Um, I'll maybe talk about the NES Metal Gear and Snake's Revenge, and the Game Boy Color one. A long time ago Catty and I were talking about collabing on - cuz he's also a big Metal Gear fan - we wanted to talk about the Metal Gear Game Boy Color game. I don't foresee that happening any more. It's a bummer.
57) What's a cool non-standard superhero power for a superhero RPG?: Falling asleep standing up, wherever you want.
58) Did you ever play Reboot for PS1?: No I didn't.
59) What's the Big Money sound from?: It's from Smash TV.
60) What's your dream vacation?: I want to go to a castle. Like, a real castle. Scotland, Ireland, Germany.
61) Any DM advice for helping new players feel more comfortable with roleplaying?: Lead by example, I think. If they see you kinda putting that guard down and willing to be silly, [it] will make them less afraid to be silly.
62) Are you still practicing photography?: No. Photography was not a hobby for me; it was an obligation.
63) What was your introduction to Monster Hunter?: Monster Hunter 1, PS2, launch day. I was OG.
64) How'd you get into the Monster Rancher series? Uh, I only ever played like 1 or 2, I think it was the first one.
65) have you played Gloomhaven?: I *have* played Gloomhaven.
66) Have you played Dragon View for the SNES: Dragon View sucks! wait... no, Dragon View was cool, Drakkhen sucked. Dragon View was tight.
67) How do you feel about what happened in Final Fantasy 14 Shadowbringers?: Uh, I haven't touched Shadowbringers so I couldn't tell ya. I still need to finish Stormblood. I suck.
68) Do you have a videogame crush?: Most video game people. Everyone from Final Fantasy 14. All of em. Pick one. Especially the characters that I make. Especially the ones my friends play.
69) Thoughts on Legend of Legaia?: Legaia is another one I'd want to talk about at some point. Legend of Legaia has such a cool concept for a battle system that immediately loses its luster once you kinda discover all the secret techniques. Like once you discover everything, it just becomes cumbersome and requires extra inputs. Up until that point tho, super cool.
70) If you had to start a business, what would it be?: I want to start a business that is an office dedicated to [...] providing sets for high-end tabletop stuff for myself, some close friends I know who'd want to do it with me, and for anyone else who'd want to come up and rent it, in such a way that it allows for stuff that's not just D&D.
71) Have you ever considered making your own card game?: Yes, it's something I've been thinking about since last year.
72) Have you ever heard of Cosmic Encounter?: No, I don't think I have.
73) Favorite Mario Kart?: Double Dash, easy.
74) Have you talked to Chris Perkins in a while?: Yeah, all the time.
75) Have you ever played the Iron Claw System?: Nope, don't know that one, sorry.
76) Have you played D&D Warrior of the Eternal Sun for Sega?: I have. Made my whole party, got them equipped in town, took three steps outside and got killed by snakes. Sounded like AD&D all right.
77) Do you still talk to anyone from Dice, Camera, Action?: Yeah, all of 'em.
78) Do you have a favorite Sim City Game?: I mean, I default to the NES one, just because of its simplicity and nostalgia factor. I still never got around to playing City Skyline. I heard that was really good; I should check it out.
79) What Magic formats do you play?: Limited, Standard and Pioneer.
80) Would you ever want to move to a different country or state?: Those are completely different things. Another country? Depends on if this one keeps going to shit. Another state? I don't know if I'd want to do another state. I actually really like Washington. I would move to like, idk, Jeff's been talking about moving to Idaho. It looks pretty cheap.
81) Breakfast or lunch?: Uh, breakfast. I typically don't have lunch.
82) Favorite D&D spell?: Sticks to snakes.
83) How do you like your eggs?: Scrambled. I don't like them any other way to be honest. Like just the yolk on its own feels gross to me, but mixed with the whites, it's really good.
84) Did you ever play Kingdoms of Amalur or the online TCG Hex?: Uh, both. I was a backer of Hex. And I was immediately upset at it when it was very clear that it was just a ripoff of Magic. And I didn't want to play another Magic. I wanted to play something else.
85) Did you ever play any MOBAs?: I played Smite. I haven't touched Smite in like 6 years.
86) What are some of your TV show recommendations?: What we do in the Shadows. Watch that.
87) Favorite Crystal Chronicles race?: Selkie.
88) Favorite game of 2020?: Uh, idk. Doom, probably?
89) Any special reason for the beard?: Kinda. I thought maybe if I physcially changed myself, it would somehow distance myself from who I was. Because I don't want to be who I was any more. And maybe the people who didn't like who I was would be a little bit more receptive to who I *am*.
90) Favorite MTG set?: Invasion.
91) Will you be streaming Star Wars Squadrons?: Idk. Maybe. I'm sure I'll check it out. Stream it? Idk.
92) Do you like your chat base?: I think so, yeah. I mean, whenever I'm streaming I like to see the familiar faces in chat. Something I always try to do is [...] I don't want to just treat chat like it's a viewer. It's the same goal with the gameplay channel. I'm not performing for you. I'm your buddy sitting next to you on the couch, hanging out with you. That's the goal at least. It doesn't always work, but I try.
93) What makes it all worth it for you?: F*cking cash money dude! Hell yeah, get paid!
94) Smash main?: Just adult Link, cuz I'm boring. I haven't touched Smash in a long time.
95) Favorite house in Fire Emblem 3 Houses?: Blue lion.
96) Would you ever do D&D one-shots with subscribers?: No. I would not be comfortable doing that. Like, playing something like D&D together, there already has to be a certain level of trust there, and quite frankly, I don't have that trust with people I don't know. And sure, I might recognize some of your names, that could help, but I don't know you; you may know *me* really really well. But I don't know if I'd be comfortable with that. I *might* do it in a charity setting, if it was like at a convention, and people can purchase tickets or bid on tickets, I would do it that way. I would just run some pre-made thing for whoever.
97) Do you prefer cooperative or competitive gaming?: Oh, cooperative by far. I'm a sucker for anything co-op.
98) Favorite 'What we do in the Shadows' character?: Probably just Nandor. But what they've been doing with Guillermo is kinda amazing. I thought they were under-utilizing Laszlo for a long time, but then they did some of the best Laszlo episodes with Jackie Daytona.
99) Did you ever play the Monkey Island series?: I never did, surprisingly.
100) Do you prefer custom or preset characters in games?: Custom. Always custom.
101) Did you ever play any of the Mario and Luigi games?: Yeah, I've played all of 'em. Bowser's Inside Story is the best one. I didn't get as into the last ones though; the Dream Team or the Paper Jam I didn't get into either.
102) Any food that you hate?: Spicy things.
103) Have you kept in touch with anyone from Screw Attack?: Um, just Sam pretty much. Sometimes I'll see Nick in other peoples' streams but no one I really keep in touch with. Favorite moments? Idk. I liked doing Newsroom.
104) Least 3 favorite Pokemon?: Dunsparce, Nosepass, and Bidoof. I will not be taking questions at this time!
105) Would you do a Let's Play of Tactics Ogre?: Probably not. I played it and liked it though; PSP one. It was cool.
106) I just spilled water on myself, what should I do?: Give up, it's over. Sorry man. Accept your fate.
107) Are you interested in the Warhammer universe?: Not at all, doesn't do it for me. I did play Vermintide; Vermintide was a fun game. But I'm not really into the Warhammer universe.
108) Who designed your Twitch emotes?: The majority were done by Katrinaface; couple of them were done by Palletomancer.
109) Any plans for you and Jadale doing another co-op game in the future?: At some point, probably. I've been playing Pulsar with them; Baldur's Gate 3 seems like an inevitability. He also just had a baby, so he's busy - and basically dead to me. *straight face*
110) What webcam do you use?: I don't use a webcam. This is actually a multi-thousand dollar camcorder hooked up into my computer.
111) Are you planning on returning to Final Fantasy 14?: Yes.
112) Do you use beard oil?: No, should I? Do I need it? Has to get longer first? Yeah, I'm trying to keep it short intentionally.
113) Have you played all the Ace Attorney games?: I have. I love the Ace Attorney series a lot.
114) What are your thoughts on Shin Magami Tensei?: I don't know, there's like series within that series - you need to be more specific. As a whole, in terms of its monsters and spells and all that, it's ok, it's not my favorite. I definitely prefer Final Fantasy or Dragonquest over it.
115) How's your relationship with Normal Boots?: Great. I still talk to all of them regularly.
116) Favorite Suikoden 2 character?: Flik.
117) Would you ever do any co-op videos again? Yeah, absolutely. I would love to. Again, it's just being able to arrange that to record on not just my time but on their time to make it worthwhile for the other person, that's all stuff I try to stay cognizant of.
118) Would you pick up Max Gentleman or FTL for a second run?: Not Max Gentleman, but I did get that Captain's mod for FTL in case I wanted to play that on stream - I wasn't anticipating us going straight into a billion subscribers and having to play Zelda randomized, but here we are.
119) Played Outer Wilds?: I did play Outer Wilds. It was ok.
120) Are you having issues with your Final fantasy 8 video?: Sort of. I find myself dragging my feet on working on it because I am not enthusiastic on talking about it; especially because people are anticipating an eloquent evisceration. And there's kind of an expectation there. Like I've had so many other ideas that I thought would be way more fun that I actually got enthusiastic about. But right now FF8 is the obligation.
121) What's the first new console you're going to buy?: Idk, maybe PS5. I'm not really looking forward to either one at launch.
122) Is there any video you've put up that you feel is below your standard of quality?: Yes. The FF7 video should have been better. FF6 video - *good*, could have been better. Marble Madness I kinda shat out; I was on a time crunch for that one. Um, pretty much any of the ones when I was really sad - so whenever that 3 to 4 year gap is - all of those.
123) Favorite video you've done?: Toss up between FF6 and Sonic Adventure 2.
124) Do you find streaming difficult?: Um, it can be, because it's basically not just performing but performing for hours on end. And that can get very tiring. Honestly, what I find to be more difficult is how it makes me feel afterwards, because I'll typically like want to stream something, and then I'll usually tell myself, after I'm done with the stream, then I can go and work on other stuff. But usually after I'm done with the stream I'm so exhausted that I'm like, I'm done. I can't do anything else.
125) Was there a game that at first glance seemed interesting but the plot or mechanics infuriated you?: Yeah, Final Fantasy 13.
126) Who was an inspiration to start YouTube?: Uh, let me think of specific names. It's like... NostagliaCritic, uh... I can't remember their names; it's like, a couple dozen other people [...] not in being an inspiration, but more in that if they can do it, I could do it better. This is poopy-ass garbage; they don't know how to write, and I thought I could do it better. I'll let you know when I succeed.
127) Any good recent D&D stories? [13:17:45]: I'm a mindflayer. I'm sucking brains.
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