In honor of my first topic, I will keep the wordplay in thrall.
I’ve been rereading Xanth novels. For all of the cringeworthiness of certain things (not talking about the puns) or the repetitiveness of certain themes, I enjoy the stories, even the ones that become more and more juvenile. Even though every male protagonist is cut from the same chivalrous cloth, there are likable male protagonists. I should mention I haven’t come close to reading all of the books. I’ve read at least 15 and possibly not more than 17. The female protagonists are not as common, and the human ones tend to obsess a bit much on their appearance and men and whatnot, so they are generally less appealing as characters.
Now, you may be wondering why I’m bringing this up. Keep wondering.
I really like the concept of magician level talents. Xanth is like a superhero world in certain ways. Jordan has a ridiculously overpowered talent, and, yet, just like it stretches credulity how much impact Wolverine has in cosmic adventures, you get that the magicians are cosmic powered and Jordan’s just one tough hombre.
I’ve mentioned multiple times liking the horrendously named Bink as a character. I certainly would have liked to see him be a bit more … interesting in later books than “he sure is lucky”.
I tried a web search for a countdown of most powerful magicians in the Xanth series. I only found a Reddit thread and it didn’t go very far, though it did argue for someone I would not have considered at the top of the heap.
I don’t know if I can put together a top 10 list (based on the books I’ve read), but it would be weak not to number things.
Given how Piers Anthony has written the series, I don’t know how you don’t consider a character with a power greater than that of …
Murphy (the elder)
He took on three magicians and kind of a neo-sorceress and he made it rough. The collateral damage he caused had impact centuries later. I keep thinking the obvious fan fic is to have Bink and Murphy talk about contending with each other given the nature of their abilities but the mature and wise Murphy concluding “But, after all, you already defeated me through Dor’s victory back in the day.” I may have forgotten a reference, but Murphy could also supply a badass reference for Bink “The Brain Coral was prepping to take him on …”
Murphy (the younger)
Why not Humfrey higher? Well, as much as he dominates the world, it does come across like he can get owned if you actually try to oppose him. I credit younger Murphy for inhibiting Ivy and for having a talent along the lines of Bink’s, though Bink is just in another class due to there essentially being no off switch for the Binkmeister.
Okay, as a teen looking for romance, she only showed hints of how insane her talent is. But, as a three year old, she just said “I want a happy ending.” and the world had no real other option. To varying extents, the magicians don’t exploit their abilities to the fullest. The Reddit poster argued for Iris because she effectively rewrites reality to a degree on a constant basis. But, Iris didn’t come close to maxing out on what was possible. Unconscious use of Ivy’s talent just tells reality how it’s going to be, but older Ivy gets dragged down by how little she works it.
I have considered the team of Ivy, her husband, her father in law, and her grandpa against some menace and it would just be unending “I don’t think it’s wise to fight creation” level beatdown … with virtually no obvious effects of any of their abilities in play.
Humfrey? Dolph? Iris?
Dolph was argued for due to the fact that he can will new things into existence as part of his talent. That’s not a bad argument. Trent or Dolph? Trent is a great character who plateaued below where his ability should be able to take him. As Reddit argues, if Dolph can make stuff up, Trent should be able to do the same. Dolph seemed to keep unlocking a new power level. I guess that’s another limiting factor – when you already win against everything, you don’t need to go Super Saiyan God Transformation anymore.
Again, Humfrey doesn’t seem to “win” a lot. Just be the magician with the biggest impact on history.
Poor Dor. Actually, there are hints (or blunt force trauma callouts) to how powerful Dor’s ability actually can be, but it’s really not used beyond “ho hum, magician-level talent” level.
Is there an argument for Irene being a magician? Other than the pragmatic argument Arnolde makes, I don’t see it. But, consider. Instead of thinking of her as grow girl, think of her as Goddess of Flora. If she has the ability to tap into that and has never shown it (in the first N number of books), then that’s totally magician level. To detail a bit what the difference would be: if she could do things besides grow and control (which I think has been shown a wee bit); if she could affect a larger area (if you can control all vegetation in Xanth when the plants are scarier than the monsters, you just created the strongest army in your milieu).
Is Com-Pewter a magician?
Still wondering? *shrug*
So, Xanth seems like a terrible setting for gaming. Just trying to keep up with enough puns requires so much prep work as to be offputting. The nature of the books is to be highly scripted to produce designated endings, more so than you might feel in various high fantasy (for instance). Now, the Jordan/Threnody flashback was interesting in that it really seemed like a different tone, closer to the early books feeling grittier (to the extent that comedic high fantasy can get gritty).
But, is there something that can be used from the Xanth model for a more gaming friendly setting? Again, the talents are like superpowers, so one could argue the setting already exists. If you just did a mutant setting where you have Magneto, Prof X, Apocalypse, et al, as “magician” level, what’s Xanth going to offer beyond that? I do like its history. Super settings don’t normally have “Then, King blah blah blah was replaced by King bleh bleh bleh.” There’s an interconnectedness at times.
For instance, I really liked how Piers had Dolph keep running across shifters. It didn’t bother me that he pointed it out. Admittedly, this is similar to how Wolverine fights a bunch of other supers with healing factors or … many other examples including Supes fighting enemies that have powers similar to his. Book three is really cool for how relevant the time travel is and sets up so many references, some of which are amusing.
The setting doesn’t do a lot for me in certain ways, yet the setting is strongly established. The Gap is good setting. Gourdworld doesn’t appeal to me.
A setting where every female is more buxom than the last, all with amazing “legs”, is … Gor-ian? You know, I actually have far more Gor books than I thought I did. I should get around to rereading some of them, but I think I go backwards with Gor because it’s rough to go from some seeming of female empowerment (no, really, read the first book) to just another pleasure-slave. Not that I have a particularly coherent group of titles.
Well, I’m sure you, the “wonderer” will continue to be fascinated by my views on Xanth, but it’s time to switch to my “real” topic.
I was going through emails earlier this year to try to manage them after I let them get out of control. I found an email to myself wherein I suggest taking a look at Odyssey, The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Campaign Management. A book. Because I. I can read (when I feel like it).
I mentioned this to my sister prior to Winter Solstice. See, where I never had anyone want me to create present lists when I was young and was interested in receiving presents, for some reason, it’s something the family does to this day, though I rarely see other people’s lists (or see them so late it’s no longer relevant). Of course, Amazon provides an easy way to build a wish list.
So, she got me O, TCGMGtC. I have been reading it. It’s not dense. Actually, I find it kind of light. Also, while I’ve only blogged about some of the topics covered, the topics covered mostly feel like things that aren’t obscure to anyone who has tried GMing with different folks.
But, I’m not done yet. I might get inspired to comment more. I’m not getting inspired to GM more. I do fit the profile of not having the same amount of time I used to, even if other folks have way better excuses for where their time goes.
Yup, a non-review of a book on Game Mastering – that’s the thrust of this post.