Five months of Pathfinding

(This started as a repost of a few bullet points about PF2e mechanics that I wrote on Facebook. Then it turned into a novel. Why am I like this?)

After I wrote my what I’m looking for in my next campaign post, I decided to apply to a Pathfinder 2e game that was advertising on /r/lfg. I was interested in giving PF2e a try, because I was getting mighty sick of Wizards of the Coast’s continual missteps on issues of inclusion and representation in D&D. I had heard that Paizo Games — the makers of Pathfinder, another fantasy RPG — were better in this regard.

I made some errors in judgment while lurking on /r/lfg, but joining this game was not one of them!

Wtf is Pathfinder, anyway?

For context, we need to go back to D&D 3.5e, and its Open Gaming License, which allowed other creators to piggyback on its rules system to build their own games. Many creators did this, and I had some experience with them — I played a lot of Crafty Games’ Spycraft and FantasyCraft, in particular.

Paizo Games, and Pathfinder 1e, came out of this. Originally the creators of Pathfinder were working directly with WotC, until WotC screwed them over in some way, so they went off and formed Paizo. (A fellow player provided this much better article as a detailed explanation).

“I’m going to go build my own games company! With kobold blackjack! And goblin hookers!”

The world of Golarion also came out of this — presumably because they could no longer use any of the brand-identifying D&D settings.

I never played PF1e, so I can’t say much about it. But from what I understand, it was incredibly similar to D&D 3.5 — so much so that people called it “D&D 3.75.”

Then came Pathfinder 2e in 2019 — arguably in response to the incredible popularity of D&D 5e. More importantly, PF2e refined many of the systems from PF1e, doing away with some of the more annoying aspects of D&D 3.5.

Given that, I initially expected a game that was more like D&D 5e. But PF2e is definitely its own unique system, and still feels more like 3.5 than it does 5.

The Campaign

I joined a game with a bunch of pretty woke players, playing Agents of Edgewatch, a pre-written Adventure Path designed to take your character from level 1 to 20.

This was not a neutral choice, it turned out, but it would turn into a good example of Paizo’s relatively strong voice for DEI in the games industry.

In AoE, you play fantasy guards at a fantasy world’s fair. I suspect Paizo was going for a buddy cop movie/Brooklyn 99/Discworld Guards sorta feel, but the book had the misfortune of being released in July 2020.

… you know, the month George Floyd was murdered and protests against police violence erupted across the U.S.

That definitely gave me pause, but this was the first test, for me, of how Paizo would handle such an issue. In this regard, I was generally pleased. Apparently the publisher, Erik Mona, issued a public apology for the insensitivity that implied, and options were added to play as adventurers looking for work, or to make all damage non-lethal without the usual mechanical penalty.

(Btw, I came to all this after the fact — Paizo/Pathfinder wasn’t really on my radar in 2020. But this was on my mind as the group deliberated what to play, and this is what I learned as I investigated).

My group chose this adventure rather than the other AP that was offered, Extinction Curse. I can’t speak to how my fellow players made their decision, but mine was informed by my Pathfinder-playing friends, who judged it as the better written of the two APs. Forging forward with that decision, we opted for the “assume non-lethal damage” option, but we still decided to go with the fantasy cop angle.

So far I don’t feel like anyone’s abused it, although I am still bothered by the fact that — since you’re not exactly dungeon-delving in this game — all your cool stuff comes, basically, from civil asset forfeiture. That’s definitely kinda YIKES in my book. But when you’re taking stuff from a half-elf you find up to his elbows in flayed humanoid skin, it feels a lot less awful.

(We still feel bad about accidentally killing Rusty the Rust Monster, though).

Currently we are level 4, and have just defeated the villain of book 1.

My character

I’d wanting to play a paladin in D&D for a long time. In Out of the Abyss, I watched my fellow player Justin have a helluva good time with his dragonborn Oath of Devotion paladin Gaulir. I found myself saying, “Yeah I want to smite things, too!”

Also, you may recall I’m a big fan of this fic, where the original female main character is a paladin of Kelemvor (a newer god of death who arose out of the Time of Troubles) who once served Torm (god of duty, loyalty, righteousness, and law).

The PF2e equivalent of a paladin is champion. (“Paladin” is specifically the lawful good subclass of champion). Additionally, in PF2e, what god you are a champion of is actually important — in 5e it feels more like flavor text. So I knew what god I picked to be a champion of was really going to matter.

The (very) rough equivalents of Kelemvor and Torm in the world of Golarion are Pharasma and Iomedae, both goddesses. I decided my character — who I named Kivran — was going to be a redeemer (NG) champion of Iomedae, who was beginning to have doubts about the righteousness of her path. She had looked at how the divine right of kings was used as a bludgeon against the less fortunate, and begun to ask herself, “What is honorable in the face of suffering and death?”

Mechanically speaking, I ended up taking the Godless Graycloak background which… might not have been the best choice? It’s literally the atheist/non-religious faction of the Absalom guard. But I saw it as reactionary to corruption Kivran saw in the temple of Iomedae.

To summarize: she had lost faith in the clergy of Iomedae, but not the goddess herself.

I also gave her a family history where she was an only child, and her mother was an adventurer and a paladin of Iomedae. Thus she had been raised with the expectation that she would become a champion of Iomedae, too, and felt some pressure to join the temple before she was 100% ready.

I saw her trajectory as a character as moving from being a champion of Iomedae to a champion of Pharasma, but it turns out mechanically speaking, that’s kinda hard to do in PF2e!

One of my fellow players pointed out that I could use the Splinter Faith class feat to do this, but a) it doesn’t seem that mechanically useful; it just gives you access to a different set of focus spells, which are super limited, anyway. Point B) there’s actually not that much of a splinter between Pharasma and Iomedae. As my GM put it:

Iomedae: be valorious! do good! smite evil!
pharasma: oh, and to undead, too!
iomedae: yeah, what she said!

That said, the GM has been very accommodating, playing up or modifying aspects of the adventure to show Kivran’s growing interest in Pharasma and sorrow for the fate of those who become undead; he even wrote up a ritual of rest that Kivran has taken to using after destroying any undead. I also took the Shining Oath feat at level 3 to further expand this angle of her character.

L0ng story story, I’m still figuring out how to express this inner tension mechanically. My current leaning is to pick up the cleric archetype for Pharasma, but we’ll see.

Anyway, this is the random piece of fantasy art I picked to represent Kivran. Turns out the options when you search “female paladin fantasy art” are kind of awful.

One of the few that didn’t involve chainmail bikinis, mesh shirts, or high heels.

Kivran is a human of Taldan heritage, so I needed to pick an appropriate last name for her, too. It seems like a lot of the Taldan names are Latinate in nature, so of course the first thing that came to mind for me was the Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla, possibly because I’ve listened to a lot of Hardcore History.

Hence: Kivran Sulla, native of Absalom, only child of two adventurers, troubled champion of Iomedae, former Graycloak, newly a devotee of Pharasma.

… also, thanks to a combination of factors, the party’s mom. (Glimpse of Redemption reaction, an undercover operation where I had to pretend to be the druid’s mom, said druid yelling “Moooooooom!” whenever she took crit damage and wanted me to use said reaction, and dubbing of said ability as Mom Glare).

The rest of the party

We started out as a group of four, but one player stepped away after a couple of months, and two more players joined — including my husband Matt.

The other two original characters were:

  • Nathraak, human wizard from the bad part of town (the Puddles). He has a history where he got arrested for practicing unlicensed medicine, which got him interested in law, which eventually led to him becoming part of the guard corps for the Puddles. (And, eventually, the Edgewatch). One thing I think is super interesting about Nath, mechanically, is that he really doesn’t cast a lot of spells. He seems to be built to do two things: counter spells, and heal with the Medicine skill rather than magic. Occasionally he also yeets his staff.
  • Shep, the leshy druid, and her bear companion Berry. She likes to remind us that the Starstone Isle is not entirely the city of Absalom and does in fact have wilderness. She also pretends to be offended by jokes about leshy, casts Electric Arc a lot, and once disguised herself as a human child and pretended to be Kivran and Nath’s kid.

About a month ago we were joined by:

  • Jabi, kobold alchemist, who we met when undercover in a sketchy club. Very nervous and generally high on some kind of mutagen. He also comes with his pal Rope Snake, who I’m still not sure is a real snake or some kind of construct.
  • Lucio Merenas, another Taldan human and swashbuckler from a family down on its luck. This is Matt’s character.

    (I feel kind of bad for Matt, because he joined the campaign right before we fought two big bad humanoid enemies. Thus the story of his game thus far has been failing to Tumble Through the squares of enemies with ridiculously high save DCs. I think he’s still having fun? But that’s at least part the awesomeness of the group itself).

I like the style of play in this group. It scratches my itch for both roleplay and tactical combat, for sure. It’s also a good level of seriousness for me — people clearly care about the adventure and their role in it, and they’re minimally distracted during game (I’m probably the worst about distraction, especially since it’s Thursday night right around when my ADHD meds start to wear off…) But no one is playing an edgelord character, either, and we often fill Discord with memes and gifs OOC.

On the whole, I feel like I got what I was looking for in my original post!

The party, lined up for photos at the end of last session. Things got rough.

And finally, what I came here to say…

Mechanically, I have some Thoughts about how this plays as an RPG system, having played for a few months now:

  • Most important: I’m having a lot of fun.
  • It is WAY crunchier a system than I was expecting. There’s a reason they call it Mathfinder.
  • At the same time, that crunchiness brings a lot of options, allowing you to build the sorts of characters that would be impossible in 5e.
  • Yes, yes, rules-light systems exist, but sometimes what you want is to roll high numbers and feel like a fantasy badass.
  • That said, you don’t roll a lot of high numbers at lower levels, it seems. It’s hard to feel effective when you’re level 4 and you absolutely cannot hit a target to save your life.
  • You do feel pretty badass, though, when Shield Block saves you from eating an owlbear’s crit at level 1.
  • That’s another thing — you really feel like a whole character starting at level 1. One of my least favorite things about 5e is that you don’t really gain class identity until you pick your subclass, which for quite a few isn’t until level 3. In PF, you get it right at level 1. It wasn’t like Kivran had to do a rotation to decide what sort of champion she wanted to be.
  • PF2e has moved on a lot from its origins in D&D3.5, but one thing that remains: you have to min-max to some extent or you will have a bad time.
  • … why yes, I AM still traumatized by memories of the miserable 3.5 campaign I was in, where I spent most of my time stuck in melee range as a half-orc archery ranger constantly failing Will saves.
  • Luckily, I do enjoy min-maxing to some degree, and more importantly I know a fair number of people — both in my game and out — who are happy to provide guidance. Also this PF2e champion class guide helps.
  • I feel like the classes are pretty well balanced, at least across a representative sample of enemies. There are definitely fights where I feel more effective than others — and I’m sure, given their relative strengths and weaknesses, Nath and Matt feel the same way — but I also don’t look at the druid or wizard and be like, “okay, I will never be that effective.” CoDzilla, it is not.
  • Everything is a feat. And you get a LOT of them — even without variant rules, you get something like 11 class feats alone by the time you get to level 20. (Not counting skill feats, general feats, archetype feats, etc). I had to create my own cheatsheet just to keep track at a high level of everything my feats allow me to do. And this is level 4 — I imagine it will only get worse as we get higher level.
  • Each feat alone is generally a pretty small or niche benefit. It feels weird to take a feet that, say makes you better at climbing, but when you get so many of them…
  • Feats build on each other and combine in interesting ways.
  • There seem to be fewer feats that are outright traps in PF2e compared to 3.5. (Although one could argue that the Group feats are, at least in this campaign, where our GM never bothers with the rule that Diplomacy/Intimidate/etc can only be used against one target at a time. Why yes I’m still annoyed I spent points on Group Impression).
  • This is a system where it REALLY helps to plan out your character to level 20 in advance, since there is a lot of “how many class feats will I have by X level, and how does that affect what feats I take now, or what prerequisite feats I take?”
  • Relatedly, my kingdom for the free archetype variant rule to be included in the web version of Pathbuilder!
  • I like the three-action system a lot; it gives a lot of flexibility that you just didn’t have with 3.5’s “move and two actions and also you get a five-foot-step” system. I can move twice and raise my shield! I can attack three times!(admittedly with an increasing penalty after the first attack)
  • While ranged attacks in melee range still provoke attacks of opportunity (*shudder* *flashes back*) I enjoy that attacks of opportunity aren’t something anybody can do. Generally only fighter or champion PCs can get them, and in monsters, you can usually guess by what sort of creature it is.
  • For all that it is a crunchy system, combat doesn’t bog down or interfere with RP the way I remember it doing in 3.5. Maybe it’s the campaign level; maybe it’s that my fellow players seem to actually, yanno, plan out what they’re going to do when it’s not their turn. Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how it works out at higher levels, when we all have more feats.

In conclusion

This has been a really long way of saying:

I’m liking Pathfinder. It’s different, but in good ways. I really like my character and I feel invested in her success. I like my fellow players and I like the style of play. I like options that aren’t continuing to give Wizards of the Coast money as they continue to do shitty things.

I still wish Pathbuilder worked for me, though.

That’s all, folks! Tell me about your own Pathfinder experiences, and revel in telling me where I’m wrong.

Words in May, week 4

This was a productive week in terms of writing, but not in terms of tracking my work! I think I missed one or two days, but I worked exclusively on Bright Future, and published a new chapter on… Wednesday?

It’s good to get back to working on this fic, but man, I’ve forgotten SO MUCH. I am fighting a constant battle between “I should include this encounter, for completeness’ sake” and “I actually have no idea how this played out any more; can I just skip to the feels?”

Otherwise? Enjoy a picture of an azalea or rhododendron in my yard.

(Stupid plant fact: “rhododendron” is Greek for “rose tree”).

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future, chapter 13

Read chapter 13 (“Jaluk d’quellar”) here.

Chapter Summary

On the search for the purple worm egg, Mavash and her companions find a troglodyte lair. Jorlan tries to counsel Mavash against trying to save everyone. (Good luck with that).

Chapter End Notes

On my first pass, I honestly didn’t have many end notes for this. I was very tired when I was adding it to AO3, and thus my motivation was low. But then I wrote a little bit about my writing process on Twitter and used this chapter as an example. Lo and behold, I do have stuff to say!

A thread about POV and narrative distance, and how I occasionally remember how to write.

Also worth noting: jaluk d’quellar is a word I cobbled together from the sad excuse for a Drow conlang we have. Jaluk means “male”; qu’ellar means “noble house,” and they’re tied together by the word del, which is “of”, and which is often shortened to de or d’.

I took out the apostrophe in qu’ellar because it seems to be a convention to do so when you stick together multiple words with apostrophes (see: el’lar and qu’ellar. Also just… there is a limit on how many apostrophes I want to stick in a sentence, and jaluk d’qu’ellar hit that limit for me.

(What do apostrophes mean in Drow, anyway? Sometimes they seem to mark a shortening of words, as in English, but other times they’re just… there. Are they a glottal stop? A stress marking? All questions a linguist would have asking in building a consistent conlang, but we don’t have that here. Alas).

Speaking of language conventions, it seems to be a tradition when writing about elves to use “male” and “female” as nouns, instead of “man” or “woman.” Presumably this is because “man” and “woman” have a specifically human connotation. (I think of the Elder Scrolls, with the contrast of “men and mer”).

“Venturing the Uncharted,” a fantastic Baldur’s Gate 2/D&D fanfic I read recently, brought this convention to my attention, and made me think about why I only sometimes follow this convention.

Quite frankly, using “male” and “female” as nouns makes me uncomfortable. It always reminds me of creepy MRA and incel types using “females” as a pejorative; it also equates gender with sex, which I don’t like to do.

Tl;dr, I don’t always do this, and I can’t promise I will start, so please just imagine it’s an infelicity of translation.

By the way, if you haven’t read it yet, I’d like to point you to my essay On making the drow less problematic. I have Opinions on this, as someone who’s been a murder elf fancier since 2e.


In completion of Words in May, day 29.

Words in May, week 3

Not the most productive writing week — but in my defense, this week started with having to put one of my cats to sleep and hit a high point on Wednesday when I came down with a stomach bug. It was, quite literally, a shit week.

What writing I did this week was on fanfic and blog posts.

  1. Began work on my drow headcanon post.
  2. Worked on my drow headcanon post.
  3. Worked on Bright Future.
  4. Nothing
  5. Worked on Bright Future.
  6. Nothing
  7. Nothing

Here’s a sample from my drow headcanon post, for your delectation.

Given this, I believe that drow culture is deeply selfish, and that most individual drow see no harm in shoving another one in front of the metaphorical bus. (Purple worm? Demon prince?) This leads naturally to the belief that anyone you screw over probably brought it on themselves.

That is evil. But it’s not mustache-twirling, “let’s arrange overly complex tortures for our enemies” evil. As I said at one point re: my boy Jorlan: while he’s definitely suffered in drow society, it’s mostly through neglect. No one’s ever gone out of their way to be cacklingly evil to him, because that is simply more fucks than anyone has ever given for him.

And, honestly? I find that utter disregard more evil, more terrifying, than any overly creative torture some teenaged fanboy would come up with.

Words in May, week two

Slightly less productive this week, but it’s not nothing!

  1. Nothing
  2. Worked on Bright Future
  3. Lioness query to Seth Fishman
  4. Nothing
  5. Lioness query to Amanda Rutter
  6. Worked on Bright Future
  7. Worked on Bright Future

Here’s a snippet of Bright Future, for your enjoyment (?)

Gaulir lifted his sword. “Dawnbringer?” he queried.

“Keep it dim,” Jorlan said, “and stand back from the ledge.”

There was a shimmer in the air, and the darkness was rent by an ethereal form — a woman’s shape, glowing blue. She, not it, Dawnbringer informed them, a tartness to her tone even through the psychic link. The figure disappeared just the sword flared with a dim orange light.

It was rare for Dawn to show herself like that; Mavash gathered it took a tremendous amount of energy. Jorlan hadn’t yet seen her manifest, but if he was surprised, it didn’t show on his face.

Lux gave Jorlan a stern look, softened with a half-smile. “Don’t you dare misgender a sword.”

He raised his hands in a placating gesture. “Far be it from me.”

And also please enjoy this picture of a showy dogwood blossom! I just discovered this tree in my yard this week, and I’ve lived here… 15 years? I believe it’s Cornus florida, the flowering dogwood. While native in some parts of New England, this one was probably planted. Until earlier this year, there was an invasive Norway maple overshadowing it, so it’s very possible this is the first year it’s bloomed!

Words in May, day 10

Slow start to the week!

  • I got nothing done on day 8
  • Day 10 I got a Lioness query out to Seth Fishman.

Day 9, I worked more on Bright Future. A snippet from that:

But seriously. She was so… level. Cold. I don’t expect that from teenagers. In my experience they’re nothing but a roiling mass of feelings. And that’s basically what she is, in drow years, right?

If she were in Menzoberranzan, she’d not even be old enough to go to Tier Breche. Beside her, she heard Jorlan make a heavy sigh before continuing, Look, Mavash. You need to stop paying so much attention to her emotions. It’s… rude.

She looked askance at him, frowning her confusion. Rude? I’m only concerned.

Doubtless she thinks she’s already revealed too much of herself, breaking into tears when we met her. Understandable, as she was under a lot of stress–

Stress? She had a broken foot, she’s being hunted by drow scouts, and her mother is missing and presumed dead. What do you expect from a young girl?

He stopped abruptly, his boot scraping rough against the tunnel. A light burned in his red eyes, a fire seen through smoked glass. She’s a woman-child, and drow at that, and I promise you she would not survive her first year– He cut off, sighing under his breath. Why do I even care? And why do I try to explain these things to you? He continued walking, his steps speeding to pass Mavash, his mind suddenly as impenetrable as a steel wall.

That stabbed her, a shard of ice in her throat. I want to understand, she mindspoke, her word-thoughts whispery faint. Unbidden, came the thought, I want to understand you.

And then, of a sudden, she understood: this conversation wasn’t really about Hanne, was it?

(This is a telepathic conversation, where I use italics for word-thoughts. Since block quotes reverse the italicization… you get the weird formatting above).

Words in May, week one

Week one of Words in May has largely been a success, despite it being a shit week in so many ways (sick cat; feeling groggy from COVID vaccine dose 2). Here’s what I got up to on each day:

  1. Finished and posted On making the drow less problematic.
  2. Finished and posted a new chapter of Bright Future.
  3. Started a new chapter of Bright Future.
  4. Nada.
  5. Got back to querying agents for Lioness; queried Paige Terlip.
  6. Queried Nephele Tempest.
  7. Wrote and posted Dumb Plant Facts with Lise: the shit rose Multiflora.

Six out of seven is an acceptable grade, so I will take it!

Today? I dunno, maybe more work on Bright Future?

Dumb Plant Facts with Lise: the shit rose Multiflora

(In fulfillment of day 7 of Words in May)

Multiflora rose — whose Latin name is Rosa multiflora, logically enough — is kind of a shit rose.

A lovely portrait of a shit rose.

It is native to east Asia, but definitely not North America, where it has become wildly invasive.

… if you know me at all, you know I have a bee in my bonnet about the term “invasive,” but my definition of a shitty invasive is “can I find it naturalized in woodlands behind my house?”

And indeed I can. Especially in reclaimed areas, you can find thickets of it and Asiatic bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) intertwined, choking out native plants and doing its shitty best to give me the 3.476 thorn scratches I am required to display after every walk through woods.

Why the heck is it even in this country? It is yet another example of “let’s bring in a non-native plant to help with an ecological problem…. WELL I GUESS THAT BACKFIRED.” The problem was soil erosion; now you have the problem that is UP TO MY EYEBALLS IN SHIT ROSES.

You see it a lot in reclaimed farmlands, where it was used extensively as a cattle brake. Why? This might surprise you, but it turns out that cows don’t like running face first into a wall of thorns.

This is the Wei. My mom had a Chinese exchange student named Wei (first tone, straight line over the “i” in Pinyin). We were trying to figure out what her name translated to; she knew it was a type of flower but she didn’t know the translation in English. So she asked Chinese-language Google, and lo and behold, it means “multiflora rose.”

… it’s an awkward conversation to tell someone they share a name with an invasive species. Usually I only have those conversations with leshy in my Pathfinder games.

The way to tell multiflora rose apart from other, less shit roses? Well, for one thing it has large inflorescences. That’s a botany way of saying “big-ass flowers.” They are usually white, too, and there are lots of them on a single branch.

But my favorite ONE WEIRD TRICK to identifying multiflora rose? The petiole (leaf stalk) looks like a feather:

Behold: a shit rose feather.

In conclusion: multiflora rose: unless you have cattle, absolutely no good will come of having this in your yard.

Words in May, days 4 and 5

I got my second COVID vaccine yesterday, which left me feeling generally groggy and like the field where I sow my fucks was barren. Hence, nothing for day 4.

For day 5, I’m getting back to querying Lioness. (Somewhat spurred onby getting a promising rejection on a full MS on Monday). Today I queried Paige Terlip of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, who seemed the most appropriate choice at that agency.

Since this is a short post, please enjoy some photos from my recent walk in the woods!

Words in May, Day 3

Today’s work: I started a new chapter of Bright Future. This one will cover the troglodyte lair in the Wormwrithings, and how mah boi acquired the sword Oloth tlu malla — an event I allude to in the chapter “Siltrin.”

It’s been a while since I played through this part of the campaign, so I am definitely backfilling and embellishing where it seems fun.

Apparently toilet humor seems fun today.

Here’s a snippet:

Hanne had grown more enthusiastic during their travel through the worm tunnels, taking it upon herself to serve as a sort of tour guide. There were the marks left by others of the Dark Hunters on their way towards this tunnel; here the way was lit by nightlight fungus, and did they know that? (They did). She even stopped to point out a pile of worm scat that might be searched through for diamonds. (Mavash declined).

Lux turned with a goofy smile to Jorlan. “I wonder if you were revivified with a poop diamond.”

“Don’t worry, Jorlan, Gaulir’s diamonds are certified poop-free.” Mavash elbowed him in the ribs as she passed him in the tunnel; he had stopped, looking thoughtfully back at the pile of scat Hanne had pointed out. “That juice is definitely not worth the squeeze, as we say on the surface.”

Jorlan returned his attention to the group with a scowl. “Thank you for that delightful mental image. No, I was just wondering…” He glanced over his shoulder again, looking like someone was about to put a knife in his back. “Hanne, how long ago would you say that worm passed through here?”

The young hunter was busy scoring the wall of the tunnel with a blade — her own trail of breadcrumbs, Mavash figured. “Ten days, maybe? But this is an old tunnel.”

Jorlan adjusted his pack on his back and fell into line behind Mavash. “Suppose one of these worms came barreling down the tunnels while we were in it…”

Hanne turned back, her lips twisting in a mischievous look. “Suppose it didn’t.”