So therefore, without further ado...
Everything sucks, everyone's awful, I hate everything, and now you all get to hear about it.
I've got some problems with things here. No, that's an understatement. I have a vast and expansive array of problems with things here, but I'm only going to cover a few of them here because to try and tackle all of them is probably not feasible, and likely not even possible.
Let me start with the setting. To say that it's a bit of an ill-meshing hodgepodge is probably being too kind. The phrase "atrocious fucking mess" comes to mind. It should be apparent to just about anyone who bothers to look into the matter to any real degree that EoP's setting seems to be a pile of mostly unrelated ideas held together by spackle and duct-tape. And as this community comes up on its third year of existence, I feel that it's long past due that some serious effort was made to address this problem.
Now, I would like nothing more than to tear up the whole thing and begin again, drawing from the old-ideas bin as needed and applying what does fit into a logical whole. To put it simply, I want to get rid of the horrific back-end plumbing of setting information that underlies things and replace it with some kind of cohesive, easily understood, easily expandable basis that can form the foundation for RP and plot development from here on out.
Before I go into any further detail, a few things I should point out:
- Everything that's a part of the setting is a part of it for a reason. So there's no sense simply whining for the removal of some aspect of the setting that you don't like.
- I want to avoid, whenever possible, retconning events that have already happened in the RP. Changing the context of those events is fine, but to avoid pitching the baby out with the very rancid bathwater, I'd like to keep what useful work has been done if at all possible.
- I accept that it's probably impossible to simply suspend everything, rebuild the setting from scratch, and to then have things resume from there, unless by some miracle the entire community agrees with me and plays ball.
So with that out of the way, let me continue onto the dry, salty strip of pork that makes up the meat of this post, and my argument.
EoP's setting has never actually been subject to any meaningful review. The original basis for what has become the EoP of today was laid by what was honestly a complete clusterfuck of a youtube roleplay, before being distorted by the whims of a pair of dictatorial nitwits, and finally very roughly hammered into a somewhat working state by the rest of the staff. Then we dropped kancolle on it, and the outside world stuff expanded the way a fat guy expands when given an expense account at a McDonalds. This has resulted in a less-than-ideal (UNDERSTATEMENT, HO!) situation where everything works only because nobody looks too closely at the cracks, and seems ever more likely of collapsing entirely as the setting moves towards more complete integration of its disparate components. (Suffice to say, any RP plot of sufficient scale or impact will fuck this setting over so quickly and so completely that it could all be mistaken for some very esoteric fetish porn)
There are three components to EoP's setting (more or less), each bringing their own issues to the table. For clarity's sake, I will list them:
* Touhou: Originally the sole setting of EoP, which has since been downgraded in importance to its current one-of-three state. The biggest issue facing it, at least in isolation, is a general lack of activity. I blame this at least to some, if not a large, degree, on the self-contained nature of Gensoukyou as a setting, which, to be fair, is only made a problem with the rest of the setting has hyperbolically expanded in scope. More succinctly: The RP has gotten too big, and Gensoukyou remains too small, that anything happening here can only feel like a sideshow (I will talk more about this later).
* Kancolle: The newest addition to the setting which, due to the quirks of the setting itself, has also largely become a self-contained component. At present, this is less of a problem as some of the more active roleplayers seem to have a large degree of present interest in it, but in the long run it could suffer from the same problems of self-contained-ness as Touhou currently does.
* The Outside World: This is mostly original content, although it pulls heavily from various world mythologies. Initially, it was a hook for potential setting expansion, as it was easy enough to justify new content as being unknown to the isolated Gensoukyou by virtue of it having existed out here all along. It has since become the (lumpy, hard to work with, potentially carcinogenic) glue by which all the parts of the setting are gummed together.
I've spent quite some time pondering over the issues facing EoP's setting, and my thoughts have led me back time and again to the idea that EoP at some point stopped being a <insert thing here> RP, and started being an EoP RP. The problem that keeps rearing its head, though, is that <EoP> as a thing is frankly too much of a mess to base anything on without it becoming a total clusterfuck. There is also the issues of scale and the fact that kicking about in a sandbox where the only meaningful actions can be undertaken by vast organisations feels like a massive waste of time unless you're willing to play Political Simulator 2k15. I'm not, and I don't think very many people are.
It also occurs to me that, while changes were made to kancolle, respective to its canon, to integrate it into EoP, Touhou was never subject to the same treatment, which has the result of turning Touhou into the setting's ball-and-chain, with its conventions becoming standard for everything else, and everything being put into its terms.
And finally, the outside world (which I'm simply using as a shorthand for the various bits of original content that float around independent of and around the included canons) is subject to such a severe scaling issue that the only way any character can have any value at all out there is to throw in their lot with one of a handful of very large organisations, and while this may be realistic, it can also be incredibly limiting. (Not to mention grief-causing for both the people who now end up having an in-character boss to answer to, but also to the people who now end up with in-character employees - this can work, but forcing everything to conform to this model just smells like a recipe for disaster)
So the question then becomes "wat do?" or, how the hell can we go about fixing this without having to wipe everything clean and start over? And to be perfectly frank I don't really have an answer. I will, however, elaborate on some ideas and observations, in addition to taking feedback if it is offered, and hopefully something can be devised that will allow EoP to unfuck itself in time for our third anniversary.
Issues of scale
Frankly, the organisations in the outside world have become so massive, and so complex, that simply managing their little details feels to me like more effort than any amount of RP. Even making the attempt seems masochistic. Personally, I feel that these organisations, due to their size and the effect they have on the setting merely by existing, are in dire need of drastic, pervasive overhaul. They need to be scaled down, de-emphasised, simplified, streamlined, and debugged.
As an example, I will use the one that I was responsible for creating, the Qingcheng Empire. The original reason for this was to put an umbrella organisation over the existence of Youkai in the outside world, in order to act as a filter and prevent people from trying to say that their 10000 year old ruler of darkness with a fondness for swords and obtuse-angled haircuts had been living in the outside world all along. If the outside world is to be used as a setting in and of itself, then this purpose is invalidated by the already existing applications process and what's left is a vast block of content that serves no purpose.
To be honest, even the name bothers me. This "empire" in reality controls maybe 20 buildings, a few boats, and employs maybe a few dozen people.
My solution would be to reduce the whole thing to what it is actually supposed to be - something akin to a freemason-like order of Youkai, wizards, shamans, and the like. Yes, it has holdings in many various locations, and maybe if pushed it can muster up a few hundred people, but it's not a nation by any means.
And I think that all the so-called factions in the outside world should be subject to a similar process of simplification. They shouldn't be able to casually influence events on a global scale, just because it pleases them. They should have to work for what effects they desire, and they should have to be smart about it. Stripping them of most of their organisational power makes room for actual meaningful effort on the part of lone characters, instead of everything boiling down to "pester your boss until the problem gets kicked up the chain"
Which brings me to my second issue...
Magic and Mystery
The upper end of EoP's power scale is fucking ridiculous. And by "fucking ridiculous", I mean TOTES FUCKING REDONKULOUS. At the top of the power scale, we have dozens of people who could casually obliterate continents, and even those below them could bulldoze entire cities without much effort. The upper few categories of EoP's power gradient make DBZ look like a daycare center, and this also has a detrimental effect on a lot of RP - everything is boxed in by the actions of these movers and shakers. There is no need for any effort on behalf of anyone else, not when they can sign up with a faction and know that the local godlike entity will see to everything that really matters.
Now, while in some cases this could be handled by simply scaling down the powers of these characters, in other cases this becomes more difficult, as we have some characters that are supposed to be major deities, or ancient Youkai, or in some other way should logically wield great power.
The best solution I can see for this is to change the way that great power manifests and is used in this setting. Again, the theme of working for what you want arises here. There needs to be a reason for these kinds of characters to take action in such a way that RP can result from it, instead of simply waving a hand and restructuring the universe as they see fit.
I'll draw an example from Touhou canon to explain what I mean here: When Yukari wanted to go to the moon, she didn't just open a gap and teleport there. She used the moon's reflection as an intermediate step. This suggests that either she couldn't simply warp there directly, or that she was unwilling to expend such an effort, or that a direct approach was to be avoided for some reason, but regardless of the WHY, the WHAT ended up being more interesting that simply gap A -> gap B.
I'd also add that such roundabout methods, if coupled with a judicious conservation of detail in terms of what our wiki gives on characters, can create a more interesting setting by maintaining a feeling of mystery about the characters. When one has to wonder what someone is really capable of, yet at the same time being wary of pushing them in an attempt to find out, the result is a setting that invites investigation, instead of simply seeking out the local uberpower and asking them nicely to resolve the plot.
This could extend to all characters with supernatural powers in general. By maintaining some degree of doubt as to the true limits of their capabilities, it lends the entire setting a more magical feeling to it, as well as making it all the more impressive when someone truly does flex some supernatural muscle.
Settings and Integration
This is the doozy. This is the big problem. EoP, at its core, feels disjointed, and people are all too easily separated into camps - we have "Touhou roleplayers" and "kancolle roleplayers" and "mythological roleplayers" and everyone is left waiting until enough of their team shows up so they can actually do something.
This all needs fixing, and in the most urgent and violent way possible. The setting needs to be a unified whole, instead of there being a clear line with a signpost that reads, for instance "now entering the Touhou district. Population: <some digits go here, I guess>".
I mentioned earlier that Touhou RP has started feeling like a sideshow, and here is where I will revisit this notion. When any one part of the RP exists in isolation from the others, it can easily fall prey to this. Doing Touhou RP, the reasons and the fallout stop at the barrier. Nothing outside matters, and nothing inside matters to everything else. The barrier in this case is real, at least within the context of the RP, but an equally troublesome, if more metaphorical one, can be said to exist between any components of what is EoP's setting.
The question that arises from this, of course, is one of "who needs to play nicely with whom". For a long time, Touhou was used as the foundational setting, and its idioms and rules were generally abstracted into other settings and things were changed there to make them compliant. With where we've gotten, I can only feel that this decision was ill-informed, and the result of trying to strap on various ideas to what was originally solely a Touhou RP.
Looking at it now, I feel it would be much better to adapt all the settings to a common ground, and to modify all of them to such a degree as to make interactions between them more feasible. The potential list of changes is massive, so I can only hope to cover some of them here (also because I cannot possibly think of everything myself, at least not in a single day - but Rome was built at night, and so too in the shadows shall we labour).
As there are only three components to the setting, it is easy enough to list all the possible interactions, and to see what changes need to be made where in order to make them interoperable. (This further stresses the importance of doing this now, before we end up with a combinatorial hellscape of interacting setting components).
The list is as follows:
Touhou / Outside World
The big problem here is that, by EoP's history, the Great Hakurei Barrier has been established to be a completely impassable wall, which very harshly and totally enforces a separation between these parts of the setting. I think rubbishing this notion would be the most effective and powerful way of integrating these settings, at least as a first step.
Now, I'm not proposing getting rid of the barrier entirely - since that would fuck too heavily with Touhou canon. It's obvious that a barrier exists, but we can easily futz with its nature to make it less of an impassable wall. My proposal would be to have it be mostly illusory in nature: It hides each side from the other, and probably makes you more likely to get turned around if you try to cross it, but with some determination (or the help of certain knowledgeable people) you can push through.
To prevent accidental (or annoyingly frequent) border crossings, we could just have the Qingcheng Order maintain a temple or something just outside the barrier, and watch it from that end (this was one of the original functions, effectively, of the Qingcheng Empire, and would go hand in hand with current RP efforts to open up Gensoukyou). This way, people could travel back and forth freely, as long as they check in with the major waypoint on either end in the process.
The most major change that needs to be made to Touhou as a setting, at least as we have it currently, would be to bring it into line with what I mentioned above (under "Magic and Mystery"). Now, it probably does sound strange to de-emphasise supernatural power in a setting as high-magic as Touhou, but I feel that such a change would not only aid interoperability of the settings (by preventing a total mood whiplash when going from one to the other), but also serve to emphasise some of the positive qualities of Touhou as a setting: The fact that the supernatural is somewhat more commonplace there should give it an otherworldly feeling (Gensoukyou is the "land of illusions" after all). But at the same time, it shouldn't feel like you just stepped into a videogame.
Kancolle / Outside World
The main burden carried here is that kancolle was added to the setting by strapping it onto one of the large factions that exist in the outside world. This would obviously be undermined if those things are scaled down, but as such adjustments would be of great utility, I think that it would be best to deal with them, and make further tweaks here in order to make things work.
Kantai Collection brings with it a lot less setting baggage than Touhou, due to its simplicity. The only salient points are that ship-people exist, abyssals exist, and they are at war with each other. The first two of these points already gels quite neatly with animistic concepts found in much mythology, so the notion of personified spirits of warships being summoned to deal with some problem is easy enough to handle. Constructing the motivation for a war is likewise simple enough.
All that would be left to do is to determine who is summoning these ships. The fact that they need people to command them and handle administration follows naturally, and everything would slot into place. My proposal (which goes hand in hand with the scaling down of the outside world's supernatural power structures) would be to have such an organisation be the result of some cooperation agreement between the now-scaled-down factions, since they would still have the supernatural knowledge to conduct some kind of summoning ritual, and as the extremely powerful characters would now be either incapable or unwilling to solve every problem by direct intervention, having an organisation dedicated to dealing with the abyssals seems like a logical outcome.
By tying the kancolle fleets to all of the factions instead of just one, not only better explains the presence of numerous foreign ships, but also gives reasonable justification for interaction with any of the different cast-herds that represent the different factions (said interactions wouldn't be too much of a stretch, anyway, given that we already have one admiral who is a Youkai, and another who is at least part-Youkai)
Touhou / Kancolle
If the changes that I've proposed above are indeed implemented, then both of these setting components should have been made compatible with a baseline, and as such would already largely be compatible with each other.
The only issue that would require some definite nailing down would be the respective power scales between these two settings, since the vast majority of offensive ability we've seen from Touhou has been designed to not only function purely in an antipersonnel role, but also to be less-than-lethal, and given that kancolle characters are assumed to have the same durability as the ships they represent, this makes them seem overpowered by comparison.
My own personal take on this, at least, would be that the ship-people are practically immune to "basic" danmaku, but may still be injured to some degree by some of the larger, more powerful spells. And on the other side, that Touhou characters are mostly only vulnerable to anti-aircraft weapons, unless they're stupid and stand still while a battleship or something aims its main guns at them. In which case they're obviously too stupid to live, anyway.
Complete interoperability of all the settings can only be achieved if all of the individual components have already been adjusted. Fortunately, if this is done, it should allow for easily implemented crossovers of any range of characters for any number of reasons.
While it is unlikely that any complete mixing would occur (there are no abyssals to fight in Gensoukyou, for example), such interoperability does allow for individual characters to roam more widely in the overall setting, and potentially interact with different groups, which does allow for potentially interesting RPs, should the players of said characters be willing to take things in such a direction.
Having everything working well together will also provide a solid foundational aspect to the RP, to which any future additions or ideas can be adapted with a minimum of effort, fuss, or drama. It is for this reason, above all others, that I have proposed the changes above.
However, all of what I have said here is merely a proposal. That being said, I believe very strongly in the need for some effort to be made to clean up the incredibly messy and incoherent setting that this roleplay has developed. What I would like, however, is some feedback from the community at large before any of this goes ahead - if anyone thinks they have a better solution to any of these problems, then I hope that you will give me the what, the why, and the how of it. Apologies for the rambling nature of this post - I tend to ramble when I rant, and I often rant when I'm rambling.