MTG color analysis: Furry VN protagonists and the color pie

For funsies I decided to run an experiment and see where the protagonists of furry VNs tend to fall on MTG’s colour pie and if there are widespread patterns.

For this I’m sampling 30 VNs and see what happens.

Echo Project

As I’ve noted before Chase is pretty Blue/Black, his motivations focused around individuality issues.

Adastra’s Marco primarily Red (main motivations being to be free and romancing Amicus), tilting towards Black or White depending on some choices.

Sam from TSR is primarily Red (impulsive, mostly driven by his fear), with some Green (passive attitude, likes forests) and White (religious fundamentalism, possibly some altruistic tendencies if other character descriptions about him prior to the events of the game are to be believed).

Dev and Cam from Arches are a Jund pair. Dev is mostly Green/Red and Cam Black/Red; their initial conflict of interests is between belief in higher powers (Green) and individuality (Black). There’s some developments that are leading to a switch in each direction, but for now they’re this.

Scipio from Khemia is primarily Blue, but his eugenicist beliefs and reactions to trauma are leading him into Sultai colours.

Tally: 2 white, 2 blue, 4 black, 3 red, 3 green

Dawn Chorus

Arvo is pretty Blue/Red, his primary motivations being about understanding his mind and following his artistic pursuits.

Tally: 2 white, 3 blue, 4 black, 4 red, 3 green.

Minotaur Hotel

The player character pretty much can be of any alignment depending on the degrees and whereas he picks the normal or ruthless routes.

Tally: 3 white, 4 blue, 5 black, 5 red, 4 green

Lands of Fire

Kubbadang is mono-Black, his motivations being fundamentally selfish.

Tally: 3 white, 4 blue, 6 black, 5 red, 4 green

Fueled by Insanity

“Jeffrey” is mono-Red, being driven by pretty much any and all impulses.

Tally: 3 white, 4 blue, 6 black, 6 red, 4 green

Password

Dave is primarily White, being driven to protect his friends and depending on choices chooses to become a cop.

Tally: 4 white, 4 blue, 6 black, 6 red, 4 green

I.C.O.

Judah is primarily Black, motivated to ascend through the ranks and benefit himself and his family.

Tally: 4 white, 4 blue, 7 black, 6 red, 4 green

Socially Awkward

Jayce is mostly Red/Green, just acting on his impulses and instincts.

Tally: 4 white, 4 blue, 7 black, 7 red, 5 green

Lyre

Ritcher is primarily White, being mostly concerned about ensuring diplomacy among the kingdoms.

Tally: 5 white, 4 blue, 7 black, 7 red, 5 green

Eden’s Reach

Adrian is mono-Red, being an artist dragged into a revolution.

Tally: 5 white, 4 blue, 7 black, 8 red, 5 green

Pervader

Reamus is pretty Green/White, first trying to find his place in the world and then looking after his companions, all the while being fairly passive.

Tally: 6 white, 4 blue, 7 black, 8 red, 6 green

Psychic Connections

Mason is pretty Blue/Red, mostly trying to understand what’s going on while also being fairly passionate and resentful.

Tally: 6 white, 5 blue, 7 black, 9 red, 6 green

In Case of Emergency

Kieran’s personality is primarily Green, being rather passive and fatalistic but also understanding. Depending on options he can become Green/Red (“Alpha Chad”), Green/White (“Male Feminist”) or Green/Blue (“King of Nerds”).

Tally: 7 white, 6 blue, 7 black, 10 red, 7 green

London’s Aesop

Ethan is Red/White, being pretty self-indulgent but more than willing to act for the greater good.

Tally: 8 white, 6 blue, 7 black, 11 red, 7 green

Brave Paradise

Emilio is a horndog that goes with the flow. Ergo, primarily Red/Green.

Tally: 8 white, 6 blue, 7 black, 12 red, 8 green

Violet Memoir

Wallace is a pretty shy dude seeking for agency and a new purpose in life. White/Blue/Black.

Tally: 9 white, 7 blue, 8 black, 12 red, 8 green

Far Beyond the World

“Caelan” is mostly trying to find his sense of self and agency, which is pretty Black. He is also very impulsive and emotional, which is Red.

Tally: 9 white, 7 blue, 9 black, 13 red, 8 green

Shelter

The is essentially a dog fetish, which includes being both a horn dog for dogs as well as apreciating their sense of community. Ergo, Red/White.

Tally: 10 white, 7 blue, 9 black, 14 red, 8 green

Results

Red by far is the dominant color, followed by white, black, green and blue.

The dominance of Red was expected because most not only are most writers passionate and artistic but the games themselves are mostly romance games, so the charaters, self-insert or otherwise, tend to be driven by their emotions.

I expected Black to similarly be very prevalent since many of these protagonists tend to either be flat out self-centered or are dealing with agency and personal identity. I was also expecting blue to be common since many of us VN writers are nerds, and Green and White to be less common due to being “normie” colors.

While I was right about Green and to some extent Black, I was completely wrong about White and Blue. Turns out a lot of nerds are more into selfless and heroic protagonists (though note that some examples like Sam and the humanities ruthless route on Minotaur Hotel embody White’s more negative traits like fanaticism) than they are partial to knowledge.

Boros VN protagonist deck, anyone?

Speculative Evolution: a different take on fire-breathing

When designing “realistic” dragons many people seem to default to chemical explosions in the mouth to produce streams of flame. While there is a precedent among animals, the bombardier beetle, vertebrates have more complex tissues, and a common issue that’s rarely addressed is how these animals don’t burn their mouths.

Here, I propose a solution that I’m surprised is not used more often, and with basis on medieval bestiary depictions of dragons. There, a common emphasis is how dragons shine or glow, sometimes even as a symbolism for the fall of Lucifer. Fire-breathing as a main dragon weapon is comparatively recent, but bioluminescence apparently is now.

Few land animals developed bioluminescence (most notably fireflies), but this seems to be more of a consequence of their habitats not really favouring it as well as complex tissues making light harder to pass rather than a deathly constraint, as evidence by lab mice with jellyfish-derived bioluminescence genes. Perhaps to make it slightly more plausible this hypothetical dragon (which is an enantiornithean bird for funzies) could have sacks full of light-emiting bacteria as anglerfish, but for my personal indulgence these dragons have produced their own luciferase and luciferin autogenically, perhaps as a consequence of powered flight.

The luminous patches are located throught the mouth and throat. Initially they likely developed for display or attracting insect prey in low light conditions, essentially a glowier version of the colourful mouths of many birds. But at some point a series of cornea-like lenses began to form adjacently in the back of the tongue; much like antlers, these are possibly “domesticated” tumours, specifically eye teratomas. Mobile, these structures can overlap one another, increasingly focusing the beams of light as they move and adjust until the beam strong enough to set things on fire, or potentially even energized enough to directly cause radiation burns.

Due to this light being focused on a single laser, there is potential for the animal to burn its mouth. Likewise, the series of steps (acquiring bioluminescence, then lenses, then muscles to control the lenses to focus beams, then enough fine control to make cleansing rays) is clear enough instead of the surely more complicated series of steps to acquire chemical firebreathing.

MTG Echo Crossover Thingie

Basically the cast of Echo can use the colours of mana. Mostly to show why my conclusions on their alignments make sense. Take it as you will.
****
Chase found himself.
All the insecurity, all the self-hatred, of not being good enough, of not being as unique as his friends.
Fuck that.
He knew who he was, and he was ready to show exactly what that entailed.
At the shores of the evil Lake Emma, he extended his hand. He called fourth parts of himself that existed on the land: his curiosity, his need for perfection, and his ambition to do better in life. He felt currents flow through him, raw magic of the islands and swamps, making him more confident and more determined.
He was ready to take his fate by the balls.
Sam laughed, but the ghost was now Chase’s tool. He summoned it out of his body, stealing the entity’s control and taking him as his own weapon.
“Interesting” Chase said, “You said you were a simulation, yes?”
“Yes” Sam said bluntly.
“An enchantment” Chase nodded, “I wonder if what’s behind all this is an enchantment as well.”
“Go the mines” Sam said, “If you win or if you die, I simply do not care.”
****
At the entrance of the cave, TJ prayed. It wasn’t a prayer like any other, however, it was more like a spell that the Psalms were meant to be. Powered by the abundant plains and deserts of Echo, he shone with a pure light, and he tried to heal.
Heal his friends, heal the land.
To do so, he ventured into the mines, surrounded by a purifying light. Shadows moved, and TJ relctantly sent bolts of light after them, burning them to a crisp. But the deeper he got, the darkness was replaced by a more fiery radiance.
“L-leo?” TJ asked, stunned, “What are you doing here?”
Leo was glowing with a light much like his own, but far more fitting for the mountains he was drawing mana from, though he too glimmer with plains mana.
“TJ, go to the motel” Leo barked, “We need to stick together!”
“Leo, what are you even talking about?” TJ asked, “We’re all preparing to take down this evil! Together!”
“Including Chase?” Leo asked, calmly?
“Yes-“
“STAY AWAY FROM MY CHULA!” Leo said, firing a white flare at TJ.
TJ raised a shield, both of light and bark for god measures, and retreated, Leo too far gone to be reasoned with.
****
Flynn worked hard for what he wanted. Was level headed, responsible and capable of biting his lips, holding grudges that could last a life time. Not so much Sydney, who just wanted to have fun, be a wrestler, eat spicy food, solve puzzles, listen to “butt rock” music. Both were ultimately hedonists, but they did love their friends deeply, each other especially as they were best friends.
But Sydney also fell in love with TJ, and right now he implored Flynn to help find him. Flynn, ever annoyed that Syd was almost slavishly devoted to another person, mused on his own hypocrisy, as he’d do the same for Carl.
Speaking of Carl, all where in his mansion, on the couch, drinking beards and watching shitty porn. Carl was chill, just going with the flow, with harmony, and that sad harmony told him something was fucked up.
“We need to help them” he said, smoking some weed, “Dunno why but I just feel it in my gut.”
“Alright, Jesus Fuckin’ Christ” Flynn mumbled.
Then went down to the crawlspace. Enough mana normally found on the swamps and mountains suffused it due to all the pain and suffering that took place in the mansion. All of them channelled it for more benevolent purposes: Flynn thought of a few killing spells, and necromancy in case any of his friends died, Sydney empowered himself, making his blood boil and his body covered in shadows. and Carl used the mountain mana for inspiration, artistic or otherwise. Oh, and also to summon some of his favourite artifacts.
The ghosts of James Hendricks and John Begay roared at them, but they were easy pickings, the former’s power craving making it easy for Flynn to control him while the latter’s fury made it easy for Carl to hold on to. Sydney would make use of both of them handsomely.
They left the mansion in stride, aiming for the mines. Flynn raised an army of the dead by sacrificing James’ ghost simulation thing and drawing its power in addition to the mana of the crawlspace. Carl, now outside and able to use forest mana from his garden, empowered his muscles, combining them nicely with the equipment his mountain mana summoned. Sydney summoned an army of pirates and ninjas of course.
****
TJ kept protecting himself with his enchantments, and even summoned the land to stall Leo, but he was having none of it. He now had his favourite equipment – a holy gun – and was shooting fireballs and lasers at TJ! Behind him, a shadowy figured cockled.
“The light is so easy to manipulate” it said, “But the shadow will remain cast. Die, as you should have died in the lake!”
Leo broke through TJ’s defenses, but just as he was going to fire a beam of light Chase counterspelled that.
“CHULA!” said Leo happily, “Come join me, I can keep you safe!”
Just then Flynn’s undead army, Sydney’s pirate and ninja army and a fully empowered Carl broke the entrance of the mine.
“Baby, are you okay!?” Sydney said, rushing to TJ’s side.
“Yeah, I’m fine” TJ smiled, kissing his boyfriend.
“What is the meaning of this!?” said Jenna, now walking into the cave and using mind magic to freeze them all in place.
Chase, however, threw his own, making her discard some of her thoughts.
“I don’t have time for this!” he said, walking past all of them into the center of the mines.
“Are you fucking crazy!” Carl yelled.
“Language” TJ said.
“Chula, you know I can’t let you do that-“
One moment latter Leo was on the ground, his thoughts milling and his legs trapped by ice.
“Chase wait!” TJ pleaded, but Chase disappeared into the shadows.
****
Chase reached the heart of the minds. Here, the entity tried to make him crazy, but he was the master of his own mind. He assaulted its mind, destroying parts of it and consuming the entity’s power into himself.
“This is for all the times you hurt my friends, and for all the times you made me hate MYSELF!” Chase said, taking more of the dark being’s power for himself.
But then the socketman showed up. Chase tried to counter it, but it couldn’t be countered! It slashed at his chest, fiery hot, and Chase fell down.
Luckily, TJ, Jenna and Leo fired holy light at it, burning it instantly and releasing it from its suffering. The three of them then walked up the Chase, and with three people drawing in mana from the plains he was instantly healed.
“Lets just kill this douchebag, alright?” Flynn said, seemingly half-bored but sick to death of this monster and all the problems it caused them.
The others nodded and began their final assault. TJ summoned the lands from all over Echo to kick the mines’ ass, Jenna exiled parts of it into the aether, Chase cast a drowning spell, Sydney sent pirates and ninjas on fire, Carl grew twice larger and sent golems and vines to break the quartz crystals, Flynn sacrified fish to gain more life and Leo dealt the killing blow, purging the whole cave with cleansing light. Shadows and quartz alike no longer existed.
“It’s over, it’s finally over” Chase said.
The gang all hugged each other, free from Echo’s evil at last.

Are pseudo-toothed seabirds actually toothed seabirds?

Three birds by Jaime Headden (qilong on wordpress): Pelagornis, Hesperornis and a merganser. The first and last are usually thought to be more closely related to each other than to the middle one, but what if it was the two extinct taxa instead?

“An in-depth analysis of the affinities of pelagornithids is beyond the scope of this study,but we consider it likely that some of the putatively galloanserine features of these birds are plesiomorphic for neornithine birds. This is especially true for the morphology of the articular end of the mandible, which is strikingly similar to that of the Ichthyornithidae (compare Mayr & Rubilar-Rogers 2010: fig. 2B with Fieldet al.2018: extended datafig. 5). A better understanding of the affinities of pelagornithids would certainly be fostered by an improved knowledge of their cranial morphology, and in particular it remains to be hoped that future studies will reveal more details of the poorly known palate of these birds.”

  • Mayr et al 2019

Ultimately, this study recovers pelagornithids in a polytomy with the neognath groups Galloanserae and Neognathae, but as noted above this result was provisory.

Since then, studies on Ichthyornis‘ palate show that it and other Cretaceous ornithurines actually had a neognath-like condition (Torres 2021), so even a complete pelagornithid palate showing neognath-like features over palaeognath ones wouldn’t dim this interesting alternative for their placement in the bird phylogenetic tree.

While this is the first study to imply a radical revision of Pelagornithidae’s supposed crown bird status, it’s been considered for a while that their tooth-like projections actually are genetically homologous to true teeth (Mayr 2012); for this to work, either tooth loss happened independently among crown birds, the split between all three neognath groups and paleognaths was nigh instantaneous after tooth loss, or pelagornithids simply aren’t within Aves. I find the latter scenario more plausible than the first two, especially the second since it would require a rather fast adaptive radiation.

Should pelagornithids be non-avian birds, this would be rather significant, as showing an additional lineage surviving after the KT event until recently. It would also explain why square pegging them as either waterfowl or “higher waterbirds” hasn’t worked since well they’re not related to either.

Ultimately, a revision of their phylogenetic placement with the new anatomical information on Ichthyornis and other Cretaceous ornithurines should confirm or deny this.

References

G. Mayr, V. L. De Pietri, L. Love, A. Mannering, and R. P. Scofield. 2019. Oldest, smallest, and phylogenetically most basal pelagornithid, from the early Paleocene of New Zealand, sheds light on the evolutionary history of the largest flying birds. Papers in Palaeontology

Torres, C.R. et al. (2021) Bird neurocranial and body mass evolution across the end-Cretaceous mass extinction: The avian brain shape left other dinosaurs behind. Science Advances, Vol. 7, no. 31, eabg7099. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abg7099

Mayr G., Zvonok E. (2012). “A new genus and species of Pelagornithidae with well-preserved pseudodentition and further avian remains from the middle Eocene of the Ukraine”. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 32 (4): 914–925. doi:10.1080/02724634.2012.676114. S2CID 86572964.

Spectember: Ichthyornithid Parrots

In one timeline crown birds didn’t make it past the KT event, but ichthyornithids did. Like our birds they quickly radiated into a massive array of species; most of the initial niches were raptorial and insectivorous, but gradually aquatic plant eaters and arboreal frugivores kickstarted an herbivorous revolution, and these would eventually pale with the arrival of blunt-beaked herbivores, the toothed parrots.

The ancestor of the toothed parrots was a semi-aquatic, swamphen like ichthyornithid. It waded in the warm swamps of the Eocene, shifting from a duck or crane-like diet of soft aquatic plants into hardier reeds. To these ends it developed two key adaptations:

  • The upper jaw completely lost its teeth, becoming a powerful, deep beak. By contrast, the lower jaw essentially lost its rhamphoteca, and became lined with blunt teeth, similar to those of long gone sauropod dinosaurs.
  • The feet lost their webbing, and became prehensile, allowing the birds to manipulate food items.

The swamphen like forms quickly expanded into larger land herbivores similar to our gastornithids and dromornithids, and their reign wasn’t short either, having remained large browsers until their demise in the Pliocene when grass dominance was too much.

But their bigger success story was when these birds took to the trees, and quickly exploded into a variety of seed eaters and tough vegetation processors, dominating the volant herbivorous flying guilds in the arboreal realm.

Most remained anisodactyl, but some developed zygodactylous and some even heterodactylous feet multiple times. Their teeth remained peg-like in more folivorous and frugivorous niches, but for the more derived granivorous taxa they became increasingly bulkier and encased in bone much like those of the long gone dsungaripterids, making conventional reptilian tooth replacement impossible. In some taxa, some of the teeth moved sideways and lost their role in food processing, instead becoming powerful tusks.

One example of a derived toothed parrot are the elephant-parrots (genus Loxodontornis), birds endemic to African rainforests and dry forests. These gray birds have a hooked upper beak and large lower jaw tusks jutting to the sides, making them look like elephants from the front, helped further by their broad wings. More typical (for the group anyways) dsungaripteroid-like teeth process hard seeds and fruit as well as the occasional bone, while their heterodactylous feet both help manipulate food items as well as provide a stronger grip while climbing. Like all ichthyornithids they lack derived brain anatomy seen in our birds, so they are somewhat less agile flyers and in this particular species rather reluctant at flying.

A clade, the “p-parakeets”, have seen increased miniaturization, specializing on parakeet and finch-like niches. These birds are zygodactylous and have lost the lower jaw teeth, replacing them with a proper hard rhamphotecae; further, they have developed more complex birds, allowing for both increased aerial agility as well as higher intelligence. For now they are small, but these splitting images of our true parrots may yet rule the world.