2019-01-13, 06:47 PM (ISO 8601)
Halfling in the Playground
Re: MitD XII: This Space Intentionally Left Dark
That nails a lot of my own thoughts. While you've already convinced Darth Paul on the eye issue, I'd like to add another few ideas to your roster of "Eyes/mouth being constant isn't a problem quotes," for future reference (I mentioned it in an edit of an older post after people had already added many more posts to the thread, so I'm not sure anybody noticed it. Wondering if I should repost the whole thing):
Originally Posted by Ruck
1) Rich probably cares quite a bit about conveying the monster’s expression well and consistently for character purposes, which the shifting would mess with.
2) In the first two panels of MitD's first appearance in #23, he literally DOES have the one and only other (large) eye type Rich drew back then. And then it changes to what we're familiar with. Doing it too often would be way too big a hint, but just once at the very start feels like a kind of appropriate foreshadowing (and also a great joke), even if it was only such in hindsight.
3) Even if the previous was truly just a joke, having the voice and/or eyes being the only constants for a shapeshifter is a pretty common storytelling convention nowadays. I can't link, but you can look up the TvTropes pages "Voices are Mental" and "Eyes are Mental" (which reference each other specifically) to get lots of examples.
EDIT: I've decided to recopy my explanation for my Protean > ANB guess, as I edited it in after people had already posted a bunch of stuff (dumb, I know), and I consequently don't think many people saw it. Here it is:
My reasoning: Like many people, I think that Protean is the best fit to MitD's abilities. The main knocks against it that I’ve seen are that 1) the constant shapeshifting should change the mouth and eye position/type and 2) The Escape requires a lot of things to go just right: MitD has to have been hit by the stray Dimensional Anchor, the comic not requiring teleport casters to touch their passengers has to be a canon difference and not just artistic license for panel composition, a really lucky roll has to deliver O-Chul and V to the right location, and MitD must have shifted into the exact right creature (and one that needed to be converted via a means that we’re not sure has been used). Then he must not be able to figure out how to do it again with the roaches or hobgoblin later.
I don’t think 1) is a serious objection. Having the eyes and/or voice being the only constants for a shapeshifter is a pretty common storytelling convention, AND we can’t see them in detail because of the shadow, AND most eyes/mouths look pretty similar in Rich’s original art style, AND Rich probably cares more about conveying the monster’s expression well and consistently than about giving a clue that would likely be too big of a hint before the time comes that could be explained away in other means (and also a bunch of stuff that is listed on this page of this thread a bit below). 2) Is a more serious concern, but I think that the fact that the Ootsverse literally ignores probability if the results would be significantly dramatic (and what happens was vastly more dramatic than Xykon simply succeeding) explains the teleport roll functioning, the MitD only pulling it off at the absolute last possible second, and possibly the not being able to repeat it at all later (which is also explained by the somewhat but not completely uncontrollable shapeshifting); also, as noted a bit later in this thread, the Protean's Detect Thoughts power could have let it get the knowledge of the beachfront ally location from V's mind. Everything else there we do have an explanation for, and now that we’ve had a psionic character (Lauren) as a nontrivial plot point and not just 1-shot jokes, the psionic conversion seems much more plausible.
And the Protean explains the circus scene SO much better than anything else. It explains how MitD could just stand there doing nothing and still utterly amaze everyone, how sight of him could be both disgusting to the point of nausea (after they’ve seen it, not before, in my mind making scent or auras a less likely explanation) yet eerily beautiful to some, and how MitD is incredibly and uniquely unrecognizable (note that the wizard doesn't just say "I don't know what it is", he says the much stronger "I've never seen anything like it." A "not that weird for monsters" body like the Glabrezu's 4 armed spiky humanoid form or the Uvuudaum's "6 legs on a torso plus a head" doesn't explain that comment as well as the Protean's constant shapechanging does, which presumably gives a much more unique look).
The last thing that bothers me just a little is Rich replying to that question of “Could any species be worth the wait for the MitD reveal?” with such a confident “Yes.” Recall how Redcloak is so quick to take him on to Team Evil (in spite of Redcloak’s preference for Evil teammates and less important preference for Lawfulness), the whole talk with O-Chul about how MitD is a “good man,” and in particular that O-Chul thinks MitD wouldn’t believe him if he told MitD what he was. All that plus the constant jokes about how his personality makes him a lot less scary than he "should" be, and having to stay in the darkness which smells suspiciously of double meanings about fear of the unknown and lack of understanding of other cultures and stereotypes about dangerous monsters blah blah blah in addition to being a joke. I can’t help but feel like MitD is intended (among other things) to be a big part of Rich’s critique of the alignment system and what it means to be a monster, with MitD’s species and looks in his big reveal coming in sharp and shocking contrast to what we, with our additional information, know about his personality and choices. Him having a species alignment listed as “always chaotic neutral” that he is actually fairly close to (though maybe good) just doesn’t seem to say much. MitD’s identity has been hidden to serve an eventual surprise for over a decade now. What about MitD being revealed to be a Protean is emotionally charged? Why is that a secret worth keeping for so very long, for a reveal which is most certainly not just going to be a joke (as I recall Rich mentioned it as a dramatic moment he was very much looking forward to)? The best I can come up with is that the shapeshifting is a literal symbol for how people-any kind, no matter how seemingly monstrous-can change, that appearance doesn’t always reflect reality, and that thus we shouldn’t have games that encourage the assumption that everything that looks sufficiently different or “monstrous” needs to be killed. But you know what fits that better, which makes it that much more of a genuine shock for the readerbase? A species whose alignment is listed as “Always Evil”—with a fiendish race in particular stunning us by breaking the last assumption about “always evil” creatures that Rich has allowed to hold in his comic (though it’s possible he genuinely wants to allow that one.), a fittingly climactic moment worthy of a decade of buildup that will spark a lot of discussion.
Note that overall I still think the shapeshifting symbolism thing is likely enough, and that MitD is a Protean. But this does give me some pause and doubt.
I would say the ANB is also a good fit to MitD’s abilities (though not as good at explaining the circus scene), and it’s always-chaotic-evil species alignment fits with my doubts. But having to have had an advanced copy sent to Rich is a pretty big ding.
The doubts and the escape scene almost make me want to pick the Glabrezu or Uvuudaum in 3rd. But for the Glabrezu, CR 13 just seems too low to be worth Xykon’s or Redcloak’s time, or to be a credible threat to the Oots; and for the Uvuudaum, literally not having eyes or a mouth at all is just a bit too much for me to buy Rich saying "nothing before then contradicts it."
Last edited by NobleCuriosity; 2019-01-13 at 07:01 PM.