May 13, 2018

I read three books recently.  None of them were my books.  Most of the books gotten for me in recent years I have yet to read because, well, I can always do it later, in theory.  Whereas, my mother is working on getting rid of some of her books, which includes a lot of mysteries.

Why not a Mother’s Day themed post?  Family tradition, at least as far back as my grandmother, that we don’t celebrate it.

Sherlock Holmes story I would not consider a pastiche as it didn’t really imitate ACD in style, just used his characters.  It was interesting to read but, much like recent Star Wars movies, you can pick at it more and more after the fact.  I read some reviews afterwards and I could see the problems with it.  It wasn’t much of a SH story.  SH was incapacitated for much of the early book, it involved romantic notions involving not-Watson, it was goryesque (for me, irrelevant), it had Mycroft swinging between appearing to be brotherly and being mucho manipulative.  And, then, I realized it didn’t really try to solve any mystery.  As I’ve said before, SH stories aren’t about good mysteries, they are about fanciful characters and dramatic moments, but they still use a mystery as the basis of a plot.  In this case, sure, you could call the beating up of SH by an unknown assailant a mystery and some boring murders, but it’s not a SH-style mystery.  Once SH is on stage, you are pretty much just left with determining which of two brothers is a bad guy, where forensic type clues are largely meaningless.

Then, I read a Robin Hudson novel – that’s the protagonist’s name.  Author would be Sparkle Hayter.  It was fine.  Expectations are different.  The focus was on presenting an appealing protagonist and I’m all for redheads built like Rita Hayworth who keep poison ivy around in their apartments.  What this book had in common was that it was very, very focused on characters and the mystery was pretty unimportant.  Some guy gets killed and there’s barely any explanation as to precisely how by the end of the book.  I’m not sure the supporting characters hold up as plausible given the relationship drama and the events of the book that cause all sorts of public scandals.  But, I wouldn’t be opposed to reading the other four Robin Hudson books, until I’ve read another.

Recently, I took a couple of sessions to read a Judge Dee book.  I had never read one before.  It was more mystery focused than the first two.  The cultural elements are distracting, with some of the diction sounding a bit too modern, but, hey, written in the ’60’s, so whatever.  It was fine.  I thought maybe it would be somewhat inspiring for L5R or whatever, but, even with fantasy elements, not so much.  I didn’t feel that strongly about any of the characters, which is contrastriffic to the other two books.

There are mysteries that can inspire me, whether it’s gaming or writing fantasy.  In fact, I still retain minimal recollections of being interested in doing a series of stories with a mystery feel involving a witch and her stepdaughter paladin.  But, I’m not feeling much from these books other than being somewhat transported to the realmscapes of the mind.

So, what has been going on gamingwise?

Shadowfist, where I gave up on the second of two games Thursday because I felt like I was wasting too many of my resources trying to keep the game going.  I still don’t get enough deckbuilding done as it’s not easy for me to throw something together before we play and I’m usually interested in vegging for a bit after we play.

Traveller rulebook updates.  Commenting in our playtest forums.  Playing with Jeff yesterday as he was in town.  I wrote about our play session to some degree on the Traveller forums.

I need to do some work on session three of Rokugan 1600, The Northern Front.  I have ideas I like, but ideas don’t make product.

True Dungeon forumites up in arms about Gen Con electronic tickets and no ghosting policies.  I just hope our situation isn’t affected by “improving the experience”.  In general, I still come from things with a casual player’s perspective rather than 1%er’s viewpoint, so a lot of things don’t steal my sheep.

I finally bought V:TES cards from after it kept denying my checkout because my name wasn’t in my address even though I had ordered stuff before with the same address.  Otherwise, haven’t been thinking much about V:TES.  At the rate I’m going, Origins prep would likely happen right before Origins, which is way too late for the number of decks I should build.

To a degree, have I gotten to the point of imitating my old habits?  I don’t build decks that often, yet have three games I have reasons to build decks for.  I don’t try to play RPGs.  I acquire more stuff seemingly because I feel I should rather than for a passionate desire to have the stuff.

Everything seems to be waiting on conventions.  KublaCon for HoR engagement.  Origins for V:TES engagement and TD engagement.  GC for HoR engagement and TD engagement.  Traveller is when I’m needed for something rather than trying to get ahead of the curve on our release plans.

On the other hand, finding solace in something distracting with no greater project impact, like driving through a short novel is exactly the sort of thing I’ve been inclined to do.  Then, there’s getting caught up on Arrowverse shows, which is so not that great.  Still haven’t broken down and watched an Into the Badlands episode for season three, so maybe that will be inspiring when I get around to it.



December 29, 2017

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.


June 18, 2017

Since KublaCon, in terms of actual play, it has been pretty much Shadowfist.

But, let me digress for a while.

I finished the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.  That was disappointing.  It was a slog to get through the books what with the constant verbiage taken up with “I can’t continue.  Someone else is better than I am.”  Just beaten over the head constantly with how awesome haruchai are, giants are, someone else is.  Sure, there was the gratuitous use of pretentious diction replete in the quadripertitus series.  I’m sure a staff could be found with lenitive properties to flush the experience.  Look, I’m sure it’s condign to make yourself hard to understand to the reader, your audience will grow properly chary.  But, when the first page of a new chapter is like 10 words you haven’t (over)used in book four, most of the way towards the end, that stick out like a sore pollex, feels like you are just trolling the reader.

But, here’s the ultimate problem – the ending was boring.  There were moments when things were cool.  There was potential, like the weird alliance that was crucial in book four.  But, it just seemed like after dragging and dragging, the ending was rushed just to get it over with.

Anyway, it’s not the only series where much more cool stuff could have happened.  So, how does this tie into gaming?

Satisfying endings aren’t easy.  I do find that con RPGs can often create the appropriate ending by simply having a very linear structure to the adventure.  This … does … not … bother … me.  You know, dungeon crawling has the feature of (typically) a linear path to the end.  I don’t dislike dungeon crawling.  I just view it different from role-playing.  One thing I don’t formulate in my mind well are endings.  And, I, too, fall into the “trap” of wanting players to have freedom to make terrible results.

Number second:  Don’t be repetitive.  Fights shouldn’t all feel the same.  NPCs shouldn’t feel the same.  Missions shouldn’t feel the same.  Unfortunately, when it comes to game mechanics, very often PC actions are highly repetitive.  Use same attacks or always try Diplomacy +26 roll or whatever.  Now, this is where having a player explain what they say or do can vary from just rolling dice.  Is this an argument for spell memorization with inability to duplicate overmuch spell choice?  Hmmm …

Number three:  Make your gods interesting.  Actually, one of the godlike powers in the series actually became interesting, though it didn’t get a story arc.  I’m a big fan of gods.  But, if they just do things the protagonists can’t or can’t affect, kind of not so exciting.  Then, if they just get owned by chumps, that’s kind of eh, too.  I should be more specific, since the point of Lord of the Rings is that a god gets owned by chumps.  If chumps are clever or cool in their ownage, okay, but it’s when chumps are just chumping and happy ending in the post-carnage world that it’s kind of chumptastic.

As you probably don’t recall, a recent Gen Con saw me playing yet another game where you play a god.  I complained about how the game was like two hours for something not actually billed as two hours.  But, I had relatively lots of pleasure in that brief period.  My god was cool.  My god licked blood off of folks.

Switching offhand weapons.  Back to thinking about True Dungeon.  We really don’t need more tokens at this point, well, except maybe one and only if we somehow play something besides normal level.  Didn’t get into Grind and probably don’t have to worry about it since my schedule is rather tight at Gen Con.

One question is whether to loan tokens to other players.  I actually did that last year when we had like nothing in the way of relevant collections, as class specific uncommons are still better than not.  I can see it to a degree – talking about PUGs where we actually have much more stuff than the others.  I mostly see it with class specific tokens below ultrarare rarity.  Masterwork Thieves’ Tools, Ring of Soothing Touch, instrument if Eric isn’t our Bard, whatever crap Monks use.  I don’t want to be in the position of being pushy in any way.  On the other hand, as unlikely as it seems based on comments on the forums that we would have a more beefed up group, sure, switch out your Redoubt Plate for this largely devalued Blessed Redoubt Plate.

I have even more tokens that make me want to vaguely try a different class just to see the token get used, though the problem is that it would encourage me to play a style that doesn’t interest me, with probable results that don’t interest me.  For example, I have a solid one-handed melee weapon.  In a PUG, playing normal, I might do something boring like play a Paladin that goes sword and board or, just to see how boring it is, a Fighter.  In this scenario, I’d likely be a prime damage dealer at air hockey shuffleboard.  I can’t see how this is a fun result.  I want other folks to be +2 Slayers.  They will enjoy murder.  I will be embarrassed or bored hitting or missing for average double digit damage.

Contrast with Barbarian.  I cannot actually see how you build a Barbarian that doesn’t just annihilate things.  Even when you aren’t using a +3 relic, damage output is so absurd when you make even a token effort [ha, ha ha] to not undermine what the class does.  I have a STR 14, level 5 Barbarian build written up, and it still is just gross.  Then, I decided to see what our best Grind, Barbarian build would be, and it averages 22.5 damage ranged and just under 38 damage melee.  Point of reference?  Last year, most of my spells did 6 damage.  Even now, with my normal build where I don’t worry about damage pumps much, looking at those spells doing 10 damage.  Sure, I could Mad Evoker’s Charm for some base doubling, but that’s not why you … I mean … why I play a Wizard.  I play a Wizard to point out planes of existence on a chart, not because I feel a need to polish off monsters.

It’s going to be really interesting to see how it will play out at GC, when we finally get a chance to use collections that didn’t exist prior and whether I want to regress into playing builds that are more green or red than purple or whether I’ll want to be even more violet end of the color spectrum.  Or, gasp, get orange.

I’m trying to find builds that are different yet still relevant.  Purple tokens have a habit of converging builds, at least for me and for my concerns.  Paladin retribution damage build is an interesting build, though not one we could do.  All Dex, all the time Wizardy builds (more Elf Wizard) may end up more interesting than it seems what with maybe having a decent AC somehow mattering.  Ranged damage builds with Bard or others is maybe a thing to do that’s different.  Unfortunately, there’s only so many ways to pump ranged damage not dependent upon STR, and I doubt there will be a lot more tokens to pump ranged damage given what Rangers can do.  Of course, just put it into a slot Rangers may care about, which is … uh, probably all of the slots I already care about, like wrist slot, feet slot, neck slot.

Haven’t tried to put together a V:TES session, haven’t even been able to make Berkeley sessions on the weekend – just too many things going on.  Do plan on playing next HoR mod tomorrow.  Expect to play Saturday, two weeks after, so may start talking about HoR again before Gen Con.

So, Shadowfist.  We have had short games and long games but less in the middle games.  In our last session, we actually failed to complete a game because the new rule at the store is you have to be out of there by 10PM.

It’s hard to hate in Shadowfist since everybody does obnoxious things.  Oh wait, I hate lots of stuff already, including non-Feng Shui Sites, monkeys, Lotus recursion, most edges people play, site removal (not site damage, though Orbital Laser Strike is essentially site removal).  I’ve tried not to hate the Jammers.  They have some non-monkey, non-nuke cards.  Unfortunately, they don’t have enough joy and only lend the world Pain.  I may have to just abandon any pretense of not being a hater and go full on hating with maximum metahate.

Then, there’s Ascended.  I struggle so hard to find things I want to do with Ascended.  For instance, I have a module of Ascended cards I want to play with another faction, but I can’t find another faction to put the module in.  Something like Syndicate might make sense, but it’s a Modern module.  To be fair, I do find Ascended cards I will play and even not hate long enough to play the decks multiple times.  But, I find that even then I’m discouraged, as the Ascended just can’t hold back.  I was sitting on a bunch of power and had two hitters in play that allowed me to do stuff, so I didn’t want to overcommit, yet by not dumping my hand to have four hitters in play, I lost a dude I didn’t want to lose and expected to not even make a bid for victory.

Of course, I might have tried harder to play the game if the three Nuked that successfully resolved didn’t Nuked my FSSs.  Jammers just make you want to stop doing anything.  Or, maybe, the only answer is to load a deck up with counterspells and go for hand size so that you can always counterspell when you try to do anything.  Yup, that’s how gagworthy Jammers play – I’m thinking of hand size increasing plays.

If you’ve read this far, you finally get an explanation for the post title.  What else have I been doing gamingwise?  Why, I’ve been reading my shogi book, taking the quizzes over and over and still not seeing the moves without memorization.  I have this huge problem with chess where I just don’t see the connections between pieces.  With shogi, I feel like I have a better sense because the ranges are more limited and the emphasis is less on gaining material.  But, I still think my brain that does some things so well does some things so poorly, like get spatial connections.  Of course, there’s a lack of experience element.  People get better by doing.  Since shogi isn’t like a thing that I’m likely to do and chess doesn’t interest me, seems like getting better isn’t going to happen.

Yup, still haven’t gotten to the point of talking about deckbuilding with Anthology Set cards.  Well, I do need to get back to all things Traveller for a while.

Lost Opportunities

April 2, 2017

Been traveling, work conference, then vacation immediately after.  That was poorly planned, as a lot of early mornings, with travel, with time zone changes, with 50 degree (F) temperature changes leads to health suboptimality.  But, that has little to do with gaming.

Work conferences and family vacations do not lend themselves to much in the way of gaming.  However, I have books to read, so I read on flights, something I should do more often as it really does reduce the discomfort of flying.

I read the first Grisha Trilogy book on one of the flights and most of another on another flight.  I have since finished the trilogy.

Wins.  Losses.

These are necessary things for drama.  Literature is replete with such.  Gaming?

As an aside, women’s college basketball is interesting for the first time in a long time.  Friday is why sports is sports.  As wagerable as it is, weird stuff happens, and that drives the future interest.

You have to both lose and win or gaming is boring.  Even competitive gaming.  Why do I value some of my achievements?  Because I lose often enough.  Why do I disdain certain achievements?  Because the challenge wasn’t there, the win didn’t come from doing anything more than showing up.

Losses can sting, but they build (player) characters.  If all you do is “17, hit, 6 damage, any more orcs, open chest”, well, I guess that is a videogame and videogames and videogame RPing have appeal, but it’s not the same level of appealing.

I like reviews.  I prefer movie reviews to movies.  I read reviews of TV shows I watch.  I read reviews of the Grisha books.  Why?

When I finished Wise Man’s Fear and got bored reading Auri’s book, I decided to start in on the Grisha Trilogy.  It seemed goth.  I was expecting dark fantasy.  I was not expecting young adult.  Not even romantic fantasy, though maybe I could have made a bit more effort reading blurbs.

Tonal whipflash.  What is romantic fantasy, btw?  I was thinking about it.  I differentiate a romance story with fantasy elements from a fantasy story with romance elements (aka all fantasy I am aware of).  To me, Grisha is in the former, but, then, I’ve read very little young adult.

I was not fond of the first book.  The rest of the series felt more pleasant, but that could be because I reset expectations.  Low expectations – enjoy life.

Wait, what’s the point of all of this again?  Well, I’m going to continue reviewing the series and maybe include something spoileriffic, but let’s take a moment to get back to wins and losses.

Kingkiller has wins and losses, as one might expect.  Grisha just feels like endless losses.  It’s morose.  That’s a turn off to me.  I don’t just want happy endings, I want “this is pleasant” at other times.

Which brings me to Arrow.  Arrow is better.  Prometheus is better.  It’s still way too dark.  Just stop.  Superheroes should have fun.  I know.  That seems weird when everyone thinks the only way to have drama is to be dark and when comics do get into bad stuff.  But, you don’t dwell on the bad stuff in my comics like TV shows love to dwell on bad stuff.  For all that soap operas are a model for superhero shows, I often found soap operas to be less dark.

I’ve played in campaigns that were just misery after misery.  That wasn’t fun.

Challenges, setbacks, losses – they don’t have to be a murderfest of murderyness.  They don’t need to involve torture and imprisonment and disfigurement.  Actually, if you think about quite a bit of fiction, the loss is just not getting a lot of money.  Having the potential love interest hook up with someone else, not scoring a big haul, getting assigned escort missions, having the regional map borders redrawn – these can be losses.

So, interesting reviews for Grisha3.  Some people absolutely hated it for how it resolved.  For many (I presume), the Darkling is the favorite character.  The complex bad boy who is oh so sexy.  Except, he’s neither complex nor bad boy.

Deeds Not Words.

More than anything else, L5R’s value to society is that.  Not a new concept, but it needs to be a mantra.  This is why I get so frustrated with sports talk shows.  I like sports talk shows.  Some of them are the most relaxing thing I usually do.  But, they obsess over comments athletes, coaches, and owners make.

Why?  I mean, why bother?

People say untactful things.  Politicians get crucified for it in many cases, though I don’t know why we are so concerned about what people say.  Is it insight into their souls?  Perhaps.  But, people aren’t paragons of virtue, nevermind that people don’t agree on what is virtuous.  I, for example, am not enthralled by sales tax increases, but I have no problem with gas tax increases (with credits or whatever for the trucking industry because, you know, the country is dependent upon trucking).

What’s important in sports is numbers.  Focus on numbers.  111-1 is a number that should have been a bigger story.  There should have been all sorts of sociology analysis on how losing saved the sport.

Darkling’s deeds – murder, torture, mind control.  That’s it.  Can say stuff, but that’s it.  There’s nothing complex there.  There’s no bad boy, just an awful man.

Sure, the series wasn’t suited to me.  I’m not opposed to romance being the primary driver … or am I?

I tried to think of what I read that was more romantic fantasy than not.  Spell for Chameleon?  Nope.  That’s somewhat comedic fantasy.  Anita Blake?  Now, here’s romantic horror … in classification.  But, I think the better description of the series when I enjoyed it was hard boiled detective novel meets supernatural romance.  There was a balance.  And, btw, if you want a real dark, sexy bad boy, Jean-Claude is that archetype.

I got to thinking about how you can identify romatic fantasy from fantasy with romance.  The romantic object in the latter is often underdeveloped.  John Carter/Barsoom books are romantic.  They are driven by the need to rescue love interests.  Hardly unusual when they were written.  But, still, the love interests are objects, something that reflects character rather than being interesting characters in their own right.

Spellsinger.  Love interests are bit players.  What of second Covenant series?  Better balance, for sure, but I don’t put the romance at the heart of the story, though there’s a relationship at the heart of the story.  The two lovers who struggle to just be happy together is so common that even when it’s huge, it doesn’t necessarily strike me as the point.  Well, maybe that’s more Covenant, which can be a burdensome psychological examination of victimhood rather than “I’m so jealous slutty empress batted her eyelashes at you, boyfriend material”.

Anime I often watch has similar balance, of it being more about fights or humor or whatever than true love.  Magic girlfriend shows so often are episodic humor.

Anyway, I enjoyed aspects of Grisha.  I would agree that it was a pageturner.  That doesn’t speak well of the term pageturner, though, as I was mostly waiting for some sort of resolution rather than looking forward to the next chapter.

I wasn’t bothered by the faux Russia culture.  I would agree that the worldbuilding was off.  It was neither overly missing nor done well.  I would say the problem is that the worldbuilding had the wrong focus.  I have no sense of one place versus another.  I don’t know why the various cultural elements are the way they are.  I didn’t care about NPCs (nor most of the PCs).  The politics wasn’t given room to develop.  And, everything was miserable, which might be a stereotype for Russia, but fantasy is about living in a world you prefer to live in to this one.

There was an opportunity to do something far more appealing to me, even given tropes that may get overplayed.  But, was I supposed to be the audience?

Reviewers hated Mal.  I didn’t.  I thought he was okay.  Third love interest?  Okay.  Neither OMG, so sexy.  Nor, seems a little marysue.  But, I’m not into guys, so maybe those characters were more appealing to those who are.

Pacing.  Having stuff happen is good.  Dwelling on certain narrative building things, like Covenant’s wife, is not enjoyable.  Grisha had maybe even a good pace.  I’m trying to tie back learning something from this series to gaming – give me more rope.

Anyway, I’ve talked about wins and losses before, but it’s my main takeaway from the series – it could have been so much more appealing if the PCs won more often.

Meanwhile, challenges in any sort of gaming don’t need to be torturefests.  They can be “I just realized if I dropped my lance on C-5 instead, I could have promoted it next turn and feasted upon your soul”.

Also, keeping love interests constantly fighting is not necessarily.  You know what’s great about soap operas?  Everyone hooks up with a ludicrous number of partners over time.  Who doesn’t want to see Kara and Oliver date?  Thea and HR?  The appeal?  Humor.  Soap operas are at their best when they are funny.  True love can survive until the show’s finale.

Well, the next series to work on is last Covenant series.  It’s a drag just trying to reread Runes of the Earth, which I hadn’t read in years.  I’m sure that will manage to prevent me from writing more about L5R character builds and combat strategies.


February 26, 2017

There’s something I’ve tried explaining in recent years a bit more to people I know.

I picked up some fantasy novels in an effort to use up an Amazon gift card.  Because of True Dungeon, I became aware of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle.  It occurs to me those two sentences would logically be switched in order, but, if you read my blog, you may grasp that I don’t always follow logical order.

I finished the first book last week and am a bit more than 750 pages into the second book.

I got into something of a discussion Thursday with the Shadowfist group, mostly around my view that the series purposefully endeavors to merge low fantasy and high fantasy.

And, so, the usual trying to explain what low fantasy is and what high fantasy is.  I was a bit surprised anyone would think Lord of the Rings wasn’t high fantasy.  To me, it’s a classic and illustrative example.

While it’s hard for me to argue against high magic being prevalent in high fantasy, there’s more to it than that.  D&D is not philosophically high fantasy.  It’s videogame fantasy.  You obsess over power, whether through stuff or levels.  You hope some random wheel of fate gives you +5 Strength.

But, I’ve said as much before.

I’m quite enjoying the series.  In fact, it’s addictive.

Movies aren’t.  TV can be.  I’ve said as much before, but let me try it a different way.

Movies are complete.  They are straightforward.  They are bombastic.  TV has more opportunities to twist and turn as there’s so much more content, and they are often incomplete.  At least, for me, they are incomplete, as I often don’t pay much attention to series when they end.  The threat of ending is why I am so reluctant to invest in series that sound interesting.

Books are different.

When I was in sixth grade, the teacher brought a box of books, put them in the side room (storage?, was there a sink?).  The box was full of fantasy and science fiction novels.  She was giving them away.  The other students may have taken more than I thought, but I remember only a casual interest.

I took an armful, a stack.

I may have read some of those books – I believe a few.  I’m fairly sure I didn’t read some.  I’m fairly sure I still own them and could read them at my leisure.

What have I been trying to explain?

Not yet.

I have an affinity to the Kingkiller Chronicle.  Oh, I don’t think highly of my abilities.  I found myself increasingly weary of the obsession over low fantasy concerns, like paying tuition or going hungry.  I don’t embrace entertainment for real world concerns.  I embrace entertainment for adventure, for drama, for melodrama, for another world.

I have fantasy novels that I have no affinity for.  Perhaps I didn’t read long enough.  But, my way of explanation for giving up on them is that they throw too many fantasy names of people and places at me too soon without my caring a jot about the characters or the plot.

I have some … criticisms isn’t the right word because writing is hard and different people have different tastes … hindrances to elevating the series to some lofty perch.

I said an addiction.  Books do that to me, even ones that aren’t so great.  I’ve read a good number of Xanth books, and they become much more childish over time.  One of those books I read when on vacation with family in Honolulu.  A day or maybe one and a half.

An addiction because stories do more then tell stories.  They inspire other stories.

RPG play is more like TV to me.  I don’t mean RPG campaign ideas or whatever, I mean the actual play.  The actual play lives beyond itself to a degree but not the same degree.  It’s too much one thing.  The value in the long running campaigns, with the PC development, is that they expand beyond one thing.  I still think of Usagi Kidai beyond the Princess Police.  Ty maybe not as much, anymore, but Ty and Rald and Hak and Smed and so on.

But, books, they inspire me to riff.

Being incompetent with music besides knowing what’s good, bad, and interesting better than anyone else who has ever lived, I imagine that musicians feel that way with music.  They want to riff.

I will stop reading.  I will peer into that other world and I will construct my own story.  The characters may be much the same or the scene may be much the same or the concept may be much the same.  Sometimes, it’s an idea for a novel but usually it’s dialogue.  I so love dialogue.

Eventually, I will return to reading.

The more I riff, the more entertainment I will get from a book.  Even bad books, which is why I continued with bad series long after they stopped being decent series.  I’ll forego naming names, as I can respect those who have abilities beyond my own.

I’ve been riffing a lot more with this series than I have in a long, long time.

I’m starting to remember something, something important, but that’s either going to sound ridiculous, pretentious, or will not elicit enough reaction to bother.  People don’t listen to me, but it’s not my job to force them.

I suppose one piece of that, though, may sound not so ridiculous.  I perceive the world differently at the moment.  Sure, Star Wars movies can do that, too, and music does that, and so can other things.  The mind is rather malleable when you let it be.

I have his children’s(?) book to read after day two.  I have a series my sister had on her Christmas list that I decided to try out for myself afterwards.

So many distractions.  So much time.

Sing Or Singe

December 26, 2016

I haven’t been doing a lot of normal gaming recently.  Did play Shadowfist not last Thursday but the Thursday before, played one long four-player game followed by a short, unsatisfying four-player game.

Besides whatever comes up for the Traveller Card Game, I’ve been rereading Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger series.

One thing I notice is that when I go back to read books I haven’t read in a long time or more than once I often come away with differing views, often less enthused.

The Spellsinger series doesn’t fall into that category.  I’ve read most of the books many times in the last 30 years.  There are parts I don’t feel quite the same about, and one of the things that’s more frustrating than it would have been in the ’80s is how certain supporting characters will never reappear.  I don’t think I’m going to go read fan fiction about Roseroar and Folly.  The series still comes across as quality.

Interestingly, perhaps, I started rereading the series after reading Into the Out Of again.  My focus certainly shifted from the adventure and the supernatural to the descriptions of Africa.  I was thinking of this book, specifically, because one of my brothers was born in Nigeria and later worked for several years in Somaliland and I think of getting him Christmas presents that relate to the continent as the rest of us don’t have as strong a connection, even if the other siblings went to school in Cairo for a while.

Oh, by the way, it just occurred to me to market for the school.


My brother Harry has been working on a documentary about it.

So, everything I recall reading by Alan Dean Foster, who has done a bunch of movie adaptions, is something I still appreciate.  Moving on.

I was thinking of writing about V:TES.  I haven’t been playing, but it has become more relevant to me for a few reasons.  For one thing, we have two tournaments on January 7th I need to build decks for.  For another, I really want to hit a European Championships in my life and think I could swing going to Berlin in 2017.  I’d be more inclined if someone else was interested in traveling with me.  On the other hand, could make it a family trip and hit some other Eurolocales only taking up a few days to travel the world to play cards.

Two themes presented themselves.  I must admit neither feels compelling to me.  One was to talk about power in the game.  That just seems kind of similar to previous posts where I try to get away from my habit of eschewing power and talk about good stuff.  The other theme is on the other extreme of this axis where I thought about talking about my experiences trying to come up with decks that use my latest banned list.

I looked back at my post about what I’ve won with and haven’t won with from a crypt standpoint and started mentally putting together my crypt banned list.  I really need to write this stuff down.  Currently, all Gangrel, all Malks, all Nos, all Lasombra, all !Ventrue, all Giovanni are banned, though some aren’t “officially” banned so much as it amuses me endlessly that the only Gangrel I’ve ever had in a winning deck is Stanislava in a deck whose only discipline was Presence.

My “No Decisions” deck will just have to run !Gangrel and whoever to get the necessary all Protean crypt.  The big problem with playing the deck is that it forces me to unban Earth Meld, plus it could be intensely uninteresting to play.

Because I’ve yet again had someone’s collection dumped on me, I’ve been looking through cards and come up with amusing ideas, especially with clan hosers, however clan hosers is such a sketchy thing to go with even with steal/Clan Impersonation awesomeness.

Then, there’s Heroes of Rokugan 4, which we have plans to actually play.  I know, weird, eh?  Will all my plans work out or come to naught?  I’m now trying to put together a couple of tables at the last minute to avoid a problem.

Can talk about HoR4 later, when I actually play.  I just don’t have enough give a damn to get into analyzing the favor system when it has yet to matter to me, for instance.

V:TES.  Trying to see it get a kick back into production.  There are a few things I miss.  Some people – my holiday email list reminds me of how long it has been since I’ve seen some folks I’m fond of.  Badminton, on rare occasions shooting hoops on a cold day – I actually didn’t go out on Christmas and do just that like I have on a number of other occasions.  B5 and WoT and UC! are all CCGs that I only really miss when I see the cards.  At some point, V:TES is going to be like that, but it’s still something I miss when I don’t play.  Goes to show how much it has been a feature of the last 20 years.

There are so many decks I haven’t gotten to even with my massive personal restrictions.  Blood Brothers with no Sanguinus cards.  Gargoyles with Serpentis.  Winnie Daimoinon.  And, that’s just the tournament decks.  In casual play, with my banned list no longer in effect, can break out weird stuff.

The Traveller Card Game is not intended to be a substitute for a CCG like V:TES.  Yet, it still has the deckbuilding aspect.  Deckbuilding is just so fascinating.

Does this post have a point?

Maybe so.

Maybe it’s about the wonders of imagination.

While it’s on my bucket list to write a fantasy novel, though, really, I should try my hand at short stories first as I think they would suit me better, reading ADF’s books both inspires ideas and reminds me that executing on ideas is work.

It’s so much easier for me to build decks.  Pick a card.  Any Eyes of the Dead card you want.  You know my mummy is going to block you from eating my Faithful Servanted torporized dudes.  Okay, even I can’t get that excited by that idea.

Form of the Serpent.  Once upon a time, this was a key card to me, as Serpentis had limited options but also because Immortal Grapple was the bane of my Majesty filled world.  It’s hard for me to get that excited by it, now, but that just means you have to spend more thought.  Sure, I maybe am wrecking an opportunity to get back to the long abandoned “Card of the Weak” series, but here goes.

I have Thaumaturgy and Serpentis.  I know it’s probably some dumb Treaty of Laibach deck but hopefully not.  I need to stealth my Conditionings through because this is not a tournament deck.  I also need to maneuver to Flames of the Netherworld someone.  Or, hey, maybe run Burst of Sunlight with Skin of the Adder and can beat at close or long.  Potence/Serpentis for Thrown Sewer Lids or whatever – I’ve never bothered with a Typhonic Beast deck, to my recollection, just not my style, so close beats with stealth for … profit.

Nightstick taunts me.  Has to be a Black Cat or the like deck so that you don’t just murder yourself with pool loss, of course.

I haven’t made good use of the post’s title.  Where’s the Singe?  Flames of the Netherworld is too easy, Burst of Sunlight and Ignore the Searing Flames at DAI are more relevant.

While I’ve built Body of Sun decks (… deck?), I have a lot more than I once did.  There has to be more to do with it than, uh, practically nothing as someone just dodges or combat ends or whatever.  Sure, there’s the Temptation/Body of Sun/graft Protean skill cards deck I haven’t gotten around to, but that’s so much like the Temptation/Mummify deck or whatever that seems more appealing because Mummify has multiple “uses”.

AUS/Ser is such a common build.  Dom/Ser is actually not something I do a ton of.  Group 3/4, but how do I leverage going to torpor myself?  The Faithful Servant thing is such a hassle and easily defeated by someone rescuing you.  Grafting Animalism when already adding Dominate skill cards is just too too much.  As is grafting Fortitude.

Waters of Duat plus Carver’s to have my dorks abuse Mummify?

Imagination.  There’s a reason I play the games I do.

Probably not a good aside to throw in 1400 words into a meandering post, but has it ever occurred to people that the reason CCGs and RPGs interest me so much more than boardgames is because there’s so much more capacity for using one’s imagination, including when you aren’t playing the game?

Too late to be a Christmas present for those who celebrate on the 25th (and use the most common calendar), but, hey, want to make the world a better place?  Go play more customizable card games and RPGs, maybe even a game based on … Traveller … and add enormically* to the use of imagination.

*  Enormical was spewed upon thee in my Multiplay post.  I now introduce this word to something of the world as a reward that doesn’t even require funding.

Reign Needed

October 8, 2016

I haven’t checked in to Kickstarter for a while.  After backing Age of Legends, Conan, Aquelarre, I could use the break.

I did back Ninja Crusade 2e’s expansion Kickstarter, but it didn’t fund.  It did relaunch.  It’s already funded.  The game sounds like my sort of thing, in that I’ve played 1e and wasn’t that thrilled with the mechanics but like the sound of 2e’s changes.  Where Feng Shui ended up being a huge disappointment because it focused on things I didn’t care about and ignored addressing things I did, to the point where I consider 1e a better game for campaign play, I have hopes based on the description of the ethos the game is going for.  Since I missed the initial 2e launch, I’m mostly backing for getting the 2e corebook.  I doubt the stretch goal will hit, but that would be more useful to me than worrying about expansion materials.

Empire’s Reign

When is the Shadowfist Kickstarter going to happen?

In other realms, there’s a bit lacking in reins.  Nothing is really holding my attention outside of my latest fixation.

I’m well aware that I’ve always been this way – enthused by the latest thing I turn my weary gaze to.  When I play a campaign, it’s typically the campaign.  When I play a CCG weekly (or playtest or design), it’s typically the CCG.  But, the interest in V:TES is weak, Shadowfist is very undemanding (which is a good thing), Nightmare War isn’t moving very quickly and HoR4 will likely have the same experience of waiting around for the next session.

Wandering mentally has had the effect of getting me to reread some books (well, parts of them I find more appealing).  It’s interesting how I’ll come back to a novel after N+ years and find a different take on things.  There is a series that I read the first book for and found it in my wheelhouse, in that I would read modern supernatural stuff.  I never got the second book.  Skimming through it, I now think it’s rather … not so great.  I guess I realized that at the time.

See, it uses astrology, which you may realize I find a rich vein for fiction.  But, it just isn’t cool enough.  The writing now seems extremely repetitive.  The world just isn’t all that.

I kept up with Anita Blake stuff for ages because the world was just so interesting from book one.  Of course, it got sillier, though the world was not as much of an issue as the way the main character was handled.

I skimmed through one of the Deryni books I had only read a couple of times or so.  Far more engaging.  What I took away, though, since it was familiar ground, was just how different from a FRPG campaign it would be.  It’s political, whether religion politics, politics politics, or relationship politics.  One could analyze early books from later books and maybe say that the series has moved away from action and toward soap opera.  But, I don’t recall a tremendous amount of action in earlier books and I don’t recall caring about much of it, anyway.

Whether hinting at l33t swording by Morgan or energy battles, just not the draw.  If anything, the incredible stupidity on the parts of the protagonists in how they use their powers is a frustrating distraction from what’s often pleasant drama.  (I especially have a hard time with any of the books involving Camber because of how dark they get and how easily wizards can own non-wizards if they bother to.)

I did come away, though, with a bit of a new view.  Maybe I’m just really crotchety, but there’s too much “[blank] is the greatest of them all” to characters.  I’m not looking for flawed types who agonize through life.  I just don’t need people to constantly express how great someone else is.  Should be more subtle.  Can convey that someone is respected in all of the 11 Kingdoms without actually having one character state to another character how the person is respected by all.

Of course, this is from someone who can’t even write a short story to submit for publishing.  But, opinions are why blogs are written.

Speaking of opinions, Flash and Arrow premiered.

As I read reviews’ comments, my opinions feel like a rehash, but here we go, anyway.

Both series suffer from repeating annoying things.  That doesn’t make them bad, though I wouldn’t call Arrow good – Flash still has enough humor to be good.

Some folks commenting on Arrow are all thrilled by going back to a season one feel.  Um, look, I found it interesting when the series opened with Oliver murdering people left and right, but to go back to that undermines the supposed character development in later seasons.  I like better action, but I’m still not feeling it.  What was better in season one was the sense that characters were actually doing something interesting.  Even if the filming of action is less bad recently, it still feels like people going through the motions.  What was appealing was how Oliver and The Hood felt like the same justice warrior, not Oliver’s relationship problems and Green Arrow’s bow parries.

Then, Flash’s repetitive superspeed fights is repetitive.

But, back to Arrow.  So, so tired of Oliver having to navigate relationships.  What made for the best scenes in season one were the surprising interactions with folks.  Let me pull my shirt down to show you I’m Bratva.  Let me speak foreign languages to maids, et al.  Let me try to keep my secret in the most flimsy way possible from techbabe.  Oliver the outsider who plays by special rules so much better than Oliver the “oh look, I’m angst-ridden”.  Thea has her moments but is too slight to be credible as a super and too slight to be eye candy, Diggle is nowhere near as interesting to me as he is to a bunch of others, same with Lance.  If anyone, have Katrina Law be in more episodes, but don’t turn her into something else, even though that already started – she was so good early on.

What wasn’t all that was the family drama, the friend drama, the girlfriend drama.  Those things are old.  Be novel, or, at least, be short story.

Flash, meanwhile, has gone the same route of dipping into the well of time babble.  Just stop.  Find something creative to do.  I’m not saying avoid using superpowers, since I actually find superpowers more interesting in superheroes than lack of superpowers.  For instance, what’s a fight between two speedsters?  It’s a bunch of punching and kicking and pushing and throws and tossing stuff.  Gee, that sounds like a fight between two bricks or two martial artists (without cool martial arts moves, which Arrow did better in season one).  Now, there’s a problem.  Psionics is not interesting, probably even less so in TV.  Brick versus speedster can often be problematic interaction.  Teleporter versus speedster is awfully like speedster versus speedster.

Flash is more appealing because the characters are more appealing.  Harrison was amazing early on, still good.  Cisco may be a tad too forced sometimes but mostly good.  Some of the combinations work out well.  Course, swapping Felicity and Iris on the two shows could be so much better than the relationship slogs we’ve had to endure, as one of Oliver’s best moments involved Iris’s take on him, where Felicity and Barry always was at least decent.

I’m curious as to how Supergirl will go now that it can be better integrated.  I don’t really look that forward to it because it focuses too much on romance.  You know, as someone who actually likes romance in things, it’s not necessary to be beaten over the head with how it has to be a source of conflict.  There are other paths to go.  I’m also less clear what the show should be about.

Legends of Tomorrow actually ended on a higher note, though LoT is really all about certain characters doing fun things.

That’s the thing.  Superhero shows should be about doing fun things.  Make amusing use of powers.  Have conversations full of double meanings due to secret identities.  Fire boxing glove arrows.  Salmon that ladder (aka focus on training).  But, more than anything else, do crossovers because you get out of the quagmires of your own angst and just do fun stuff.  Nyssa showing up is like a crossover.  I do look forward to the Supergirl/other crossover, hopefully with Mayor Handsome being on her list of guys she can make an exception for.

Oh, did I get away from gaming?  Well, probably next time.