After the first couple months (eight entries), Flo did most of these with no input from me until the last minute and sometimes not even that. That generally worked out fine: her meta-sensibility meant her brain was better at switching back and forth between the world of Guilded Age and the not-quite-real “reality” of Ask an Adventurer. But I wish we’d talked about this one, so that I could’ve at least tried to talk her out of it.

It’s not that I don’t see the realism in this scenario. Privileged crapstains escaping their just punishments has been a recurring theme in our history, and some of that history is very recent, and in some cases, the jury’s still out. A few loyalist cronies could certainly have engineered this.

But just because something is realistic doesn’t mean it’s the best option for our story. The sendoff we gave Annunziata in his last appearance was the more cathartic for being exceptional in Gastonian government. And yet there was already a major downside to it: it was the beginning of a progressive consolidation of power that would ultimately complete Gastonia’s transition to dictatorship. With that many shades of black in the picture already, you don’t need to also reverse what little justice actually got done. It’s just too much.

There was an endgame here. At this stage, Flo was thinking that our heroes would spend some time asea themselves, after Gastonia turned on them but before they found the winter elves. (In this version, the sky elves did not know where the winter elves were, so our heroes would have to go on a longer quest with fewer clues.) So she was setting Annunziata up as a future sparring partner for the ex-Peacemakers. That’s a little better than just rewriting an ending to go “ha ha fooled you,” but I’m still not into it. His spectacular flameout would be difficult to follow up, either by somehow making him even more wildly delusional or by turning him into a competent antagonist. You could maybe justify the latter by saying he’s back in the element where he was once productive, but… eh.

All that said, I do enjoy the cackling crescendo he builds to in the last panel. No matter what other choices you make, you gotta commit to the bit.