Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Winner is Me!

Just got home from the new 4E game.  It was fun, but not super fun.  We had a few interesting challenges, one short battle and one long one.  As a Wizard, I ended up using Magic Missile more often than any of my other powers.  It's guaranteed damage, and the bad guys we were up against had a 'bad mojo' aura that made you roll two attack rolls and take the lower, so it was safer just to blast with auto hit MM.  Not exactly varied tactics, but it was effective, and I guess that's the name of the game.

The module, one of the Pathfinder modules that Enzo is converting to 4E, is decent.  A bit railroady at the beginning, but it looks to open up some more as we progress.

In more exciting news, I just checked the lotto numbers, and we matched three of them!  I just won 5000 won!  (about $5).  I'm sure we'll spend it on next week's lotto.  :D

Friday, July 29, 2011

Changes of Plan

I didn't get to go see Captain America tonight.  I wanted to.  It opened yesterday in Korea.  I had private lessons last night after work, so that wasn't an option.  Tonight, no privates.  I said to my wife, "Let's go!"

She told me we couldn't.  Her in-laws were making samgyetang, a rice and chicken stew.  There are certain times during the summer when Koreans are supposed to eat it "for health."  So we went, and ate.  It was good.  I'd still rather have gone to see the movie, though.

Anyway, my week of summer vacation from the kindergarten starts this evening.  We've got plenty of time to go see Cap.  Also, my father-in-law wants to go hiking and eat boshintang.  I'm not sure I want to.  I had boshintang once before, the day before my wedding.  My buddy Atley came to Korea with us for the wedding (we all lived in Japan at the time, he was a member of the Yamanashi group) and wanted to try it.  I thought, hey, it's an experience.  So we went.  We ate.  It wasn't bad tasting.  But it's not something I ever felt like eating again.

Boshintang is dog meat stew.  And supposedly it's a magical curative for "men's health."  My in-laws are hoping for another grandchild and they think if I eat it I'll be firing magic bullets of love and paternity.  Or something like that. 

Anyway, Korea's got plenty of food superstitions or general strange beliefs that could be mined for interesting details to use in an RPG or fantasy novel.  A lot of them are simple sympathetic magic.  Like eating eel is good for "men's health" because, you know, eels are long and tubular and so are men's...  Well, you know.

Others, though, are a bit less easy to figure out.  Like tonight's samgyetang.  You're supposed to eat it piping hot on the 'hottest days' (set by some almanac or geomancy or something, it wasn't that hot today or the day we ate it last week either).  Fighting fire with fire is more or less the logic behind this one.  Make yourself hot on the hot day and you'll be fine the rest of the summer.

Anyway, I ought to ply my wife for more of these Korean eating superstitions.  I'm sure I don't know the half of them.  But here's a cool one, especially for anyone using Vampires heavily in their games:

If Korean men can catch a deer alive (as my friend Ahna's uncle did in his company's factory building one day), the men subdue the animal, cut a small incision in the upper neck, and drink the deer's blood.  Again, it's supposed to impart vitality and good health.  And again, not something I think I'd want to try myself.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Promotion: The Cell Within

Dylan Hartwell, of the cool blog Digital Orc, has a new free adventure module out called The Cell Within.  It's a nice, short, but very evocative module.  It'll give you a good night or two of play.  You can check it out here.

Full Disclosure: I'm one of the editors of the module, and Dylan's one of the artists contributing to Flying Swordsmen RPG.  So of course I want you all to go check out his stuff!  Seriously, though, it's a cool module.  Serial killers and pig-men.  What's not to like?

My 4E Character

So here's my 4E character.  Thinking about a simple description and background for him has really made him "come alive" in my mind.  The character should be fun to play.  As lots of people mentioned in my last post, I need to go into the game with the mindset that it's a table top tactical minis game with RP elements.  Sorta like what I suggested could be done with HeroClix a while back.  Do that, and I hope I'll have fun with it.

Belgan Breg, Half Elf Wizard (Illusionist)
Alignment: Unaligned
Languages: Common, Elven, Primordial

Str 8
Con 15 (pb 13 +2 racial)
Dex 10
Int 18
Wis 15 (pb 13 +2 racial)
Cha 10

Init +0
Speed 6
AC 14
Fort 12
Ref 14
Will 14
Hit Points 25 (bloodied 12)
Healing Surge value 6, 8 per day

Feat: Staff Expertise
Trained Skills: Arcana, History, Dungeoneering, Diplomacy

At Will
Ghost Sound, Light, Mage Hand, Magic Missile, Freezing Burst, Phantom Cage
Knack for Success (racial), Illusory Obstacles, Icy Terrain
Freezing Cloud, Phantom Chasm

Low Light Vision, Dual Heritage (Human/Elf), Group Diplomacy, Apprentice Mage (Illusion, target hit takes -2 to attacks against me next round)

Tall and slender, with shoulder-length gray hair (naturally gray, mother's was silver, father's was black), beard but no mustache, bright blue eyes.

Trained as a Wizard by his Elf mother. Captured by slavers and brought to the city by them. Recovered his spellbook and escaped. Now out to seek his fortune and maybe one day get revenge on the slavers.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bring out your dead!

OK, no dead to bring out, but this is the sort of post that's guaranteed to bring out the trolls.  It's funny, but there are so many people on the internet apparently just waiting for someone to make a negative comment about 4th Ed. D&D so they can sweep in on their pretend moral high horse and castigate someone for having a different opinion and expressing it.  I don't go to 4E players' blogs and complain if they post something negative about Old School games...just don't see the point.  But oh well, bring it on.  I'm gonna get negative again, although there will be some positive as well.

So as I mentioned, there's a guy here in Busan who is putting together a 4E group.  Josh's Gamma World game will be finishing soon one way or the other (only another month before he leaves, and if we don't finish it next month we're never gonna...).  As I mentioned in my comments in my last post, I'm also curious about how the game plays over a longer period than what we, the Board Game Group, tried before.  My old Yamanashi Group got a good long campaign out of it, and had a lot of fun. 

So is it just the fact that a good group of people can have a good time regardless of the rule set used?  Or are my first impressions of 4E somehow skewed?  It's possible that it's the latter.  Pat had us do a few playtest encounters, then ran us through part of Keep on the Shadowfell, a module that has gotten nothing but bad press from what I've read. 

I'm gonna give it another try.  I'm creating a Half-Elf Wizard, specializing in illusions and ice magic (having read the entire Lankhmar series recently, that may be the unconscious inspiration for my guy.  No, he won't be like Khakht (or however it was spelled), but illusions and ice are his theme.

I use the word 'create' above, and bolded it, because I can't say I rolled up a character.  No dice were involved in the creation of the character.  Point buy ability scores, set hit points, pick and choose your class, race and powers.  Not even a roll for starting gold.  Everyone gets 100gp to spend.  Now, I can deal with this, but it's definitely a lot less fun than throwing in some rolls and seeing what you get (and having to work with the consequences, both good and bad).

The next stumbling block for me with character creation is one of tone.  I just can't help but laugh when the rule books give some predetermined arrays of scores that you could create with point buy, and one of the arrays leaves that low 8 as an 8.  Then it says something like, "This character is good in a few areas, but still has a significant weakness in one area."  A -1 to a few checks you likely won't use ever anyway is a  significant weakness

Seriously, they've done just about everything they can in this rule-set to ensure that your character really only needs three good ability scores and the rest are dump stats.  All the defenses: AC, Fortitude, Reflex and Will, are governed by two stats, take your pick of the better one.  Most of the attack powers likewise give you a choice of two or three abilities to use for hit/damage modifiers.  And if you've got a crap stat in that ability, you can pick a different power anyway.  So, as I've done, I've dropped that 8 in Strength.  I doubt I'll be doing much melee as a Wizard, and if I have to take a -1 penalty to any Athletics skill checks, so be it.  It's not crippling my character in the least.  It's a minor nuisance at best to have a slight penalty in an ability score I don't need to use.

Finally, there's the choice overload.  I'm playing a Wizard.  I still haven't looked over enough of the other classes to know if there's something I'd rather be playing.  Seriously, there's a lot of reading to be done there to make an informed decision.  Now, if I were a high school kid out on summer vacation, with plenty of time to dive into the books, sure, no problem.  As a working adult, with a wife and kid, side writing projects of my own, and just general other stuff to do, I don't have time to read through the literally hundreds of pages worth of information on all the various character classes.

Now, the good side.  I downloaded the two Essentials character books, Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Forgotten Kingdoms, and used them to build my character.  From what I did see, especially with regards to the Fighter class, Essentials cleared up some of the suck from the original set of rules.  The Fighter looks much more playable, especially since they're not trying to make it work exactly as the Wizard or Cleric (never looked at the Rogue or the other classes enough to really judge).  No Daily powers, and several general purpose At Will Utility powers at first level so the Fighter can enter each fight with some tactical options besides when to use the Encounter Powers (and hope they hit).

That leads me to the final problem I'm having.  There are tons of errata out there, and I'm not reading any of it (don't really care), but it seems like the DM might.  He's asked me several times now to subscribe to D&D Insider so I can get whatever updates and the character builder program and what not.  Sorry, Enzo, not gonna happen.  I've got better ways to spend my money, and I'm fairly happy with the character I created who mixes IMO the best stuff I could find from the two Essentials character books and the PHB1.  There may be stuff I'd enjoy using from PHB2 and 3...there is a 3, right?...but again I just don't have the time or motivation to scour through another 50 or so pages of Wizard powers just because there might be one power that is slightly more advantageous than one of the ones I already picked (and seriously, there's often not much difference between two powers of the same level, other than what minor secondary effect it might have, or energy type).

So, 4E has not won me over from its character creation stage.  Maybe playing it will grow on me.  If it doesn't, I may be out of gaming for a while.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Caught part of Serenity on TV this morning.  We'd just gotten to the part where the Reavers have attacked Sheppard Book's settlement when my son changed the channel and didn't want to give back the remote control.  (He's 3, he wins at that sort of thing, because he just can't be reasoned with.)

Anyway, it's now got me wanting to rewatch the entire damn thing.  And that will likely get me wanting to play some Star Frontiers or something. 

And there may be some gaming tonight, but it's another new guy wanting to run 4E.  Will my troubles never end?  [If this new guy gets his shit together, though, I'll play.  Not my preferred game, but I'll take it over nothing.]

Hang in there, True Believers!  We'll get Josh's Gamma World game going again, and I'll get some play-tests done on Flying Swordsmen RPG, and maybe even get some Star Frontiers or something worked in there, too!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Art Direction

I just got the first three rough sketches from Dylan for Flying Swordsmen RPG.  He's going to draw my "sample characters" for me.  Two of the three are rough pencil sketches, the other is a bit more complete, but I'm not going to post them now.  I'll just tease you all by posting this here.

Once Dylan's got them finished, I'll definitely be asking his permission to post them here.  I've found I'm not that demanding as an art director.  Maybe, if like Raggi, I was trying to make a few bucks off of this project I'd be more demanding.  Or if I was imagining this RPG to look all slick and professional like one of Greg's games.

Anyway, since I've teased you with some art talk, here are a couple of public domain images I may also use.

Add caption

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When life gives you lemons

...or at least the local supermarket has them on sale,

ya gotta make some lemonade!

The lemonade is now chilling in the fridge.

Man, I've had a whole lot of nothing inspiring this past week or so.  Maybe the fresh squeezed lemonade will help.  Otherwise, I'm afraid this blog may turn into a Seinfeld blog...about nothing.

It'll help if we finally get our Gamma World game going again this weekend.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Project Updates

I had a bit of a breakthrough with the edits I need to make to the GM guide section of Flying Swordsmen.  I can cut a lot more of the D&D-isms that don't need to be in the game (it's the D&D chassis, but should play fairly differently than your typical dungeon crawl or wilderness exploration sandbox game).  I'm going to focus on building conflict and tropes of Wuxia movies and how to exploit them in game (hopefully without railroading players into a set plot).

In other news, Michelle is leaving Japan to join Jacob in California, so Paul made some more edits to Presidents of the Apocalypse and ran another game with some really trimmed down rules.  He said they worked really well.  I'm waiting now for an actual game report, and to take a look at what he's done.  I've been ankle deep in Flying Swordsmen so I haven't bothered to look at PotA for quite a while.  But if these edits by Paul are working well, we may be close to a distributable form of the game.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Led Zeppelin, a Parable, plus Fenris Wolves!

I remember reading an interview of either Robert Plant or Jimmy Page (maybe it was both of them) about why they thought Led Zeppelin was so popular but their imitators never reached the same levels of coolness.  The answer was that the Zep guys listened to all kinds of music and used that to influence what they created.  Their imitators only listed to Zep.

Not a new insight into the state of a certain popular fantasy RPG, but definitely something to keep in mind when designing new editions of THE GAME or retro-clones of past versions.  If you only look to the single source you love, you miss out.

Now for some JOESKY, the second of my 'unique no more' mythical monster writeups:

Fenris Wolf
Armor Class: 2 (18)
Hit Dice: 10
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 6d8
No. Appearing: 1d3 (1d6)
Save As: Fighter 10
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: G
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 900

Fenris wolves are giant evil wolves.  They stand 15' high at the shoulder and are 20' long, with vicious fangs which they use to tear their prey apart.  A Fenris wolf can swallow a human sized opponent whole on a natural 20, or a dwarf/halfling sized opponent on a natural 19-20.  Those swallowed take 2d6 points of damage each round until rescued.    

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I say we take off and nuke the place from orbit

Well, I just made my Google profile "public."  I doubt I'll bother with Google+.  I'm on Facebook, it's enough annoyance for me.  It seems like every time they try to improve it, it's actually just adding stuff I don't need.

People are saying Google+ will be different, and at first, sure it will be.  But over time, if it catches on, it'll become more and more the same.

Anyway, I should be set for the Great Blogger Purge of 2011 now. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mythical Monsters - Unique or not?

Of course, D&D is not the first place to do so, but one thing I've always liked about D&D was that it took monsters that were unique in Classical Mythology and made them into non-unique monster types.  There was only one Hydra, one Medusa (although three Gorgons), one Chimera, one Minotaur.  In D&D, we get hydras, medusae, chimerae, minotaurs, etc.

Of course, Greco-Roman mythology has some 'monster races' such as centaurs and satyrs and mermaids, too.  

But other mythologies didn't always get the same treatment.  There are plenty of monsters in D&D taken from Norse Myth, but mostly they're the ones that are 'monster races' in the myths.  Elves, dwarves, trolls, frost giants, fire giants, and the like.  But there are plenty of unique monsters from the myths that could easily become monster races in D&D.  As far as I know, though, they've never been written up (unless they were in some old issues of Dragon or something).

So I'm gonna try my hand at stats for some of them over the next few days.  We'll see how it goes.  Let's start with Sleipnir.  Odin's mount in the myths, it can become the sort of creature adventurers seek out as a mount when they need to travel somewhere fast (like the Firesteeds of Krull, which could also use stats), or between worlds.

Armor Class: 4 (16)
Hit Dice: 6*
Move: 360 (120)
Attacks: 4 hooves
Damage: 1d6 each
No. Appearing: 1d3 (3d6)
Save As: Fighter 6
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: I
Alignment: Lawful
XP: 500

Sleipnirs are large horse-like creatures, slightly larger than normal war horses.  Their most unusual feature, sometimes not even noticed at first, is that they have eight legs.  They are semi-intelligent and once they bond with a rider, by choice or by training, they are fiercely loyal to that rider for life.  In combat, sleipnirs rear up and strike with all four of their front legs.  Sleipnirs are prized for their great speed, but also, once per day, a sleipnir and its rider may planeshift to an adjacent plane of existence.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I was gonna do an actual gaming content post but...

Apparently, the Korean internet police don't like my followers and have blocked them.  Hope none of you were planning to come visit soon.  You might want to look into fake passports or something.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Death Star plans are NOT in the main computer

However, I did just back up the blog, so everything is saved on my netbook (except for this post). 

In other news, our game plans completely fell through this weekend.  We were gonna play Gamma World, but then Jeremy and Adam had to work late Saturday.  Everyone else was willing to play from a late start date, but my wife wasn't happy about that, so I had to back out.  We tried rescheduling for Sunday, but then at the last minute Josh's wife reminded him that it was one of her parents' birthdays, so they had to have a family dinner.  So no gaming.

There was finally Sumo on NHK, though, so my son and I watched that and "rasseled" a bit ourselves.  How long has it been since I've gotten to watch any sumo?  There was a big match-fixing scandal a while back, so they canceled several tournaments, then NHK didn't broadcast the tournaments live for a while.  Anyway, it was good to watch the matches yesterday.  Too bad with my current schedule, I can't watch any days except Sundays.  And I need to check online to see how my two former Jr. High students, who are in the lower ranks that don't get broadcast internationally, are doing.

I didn't do a damn thing related to Flying Swordsmen over the weekend.  Too much Hobbit on the mind, not enough Jet Li. 

I finished watching Season 1 of the Sarah Connor Chronicles.  For some reason, the DVD player didn't read the files on the USB stick right, so it showed Episode 9 before Episode 8.  And I didn't notice until the end of Ep. 9 that that was the end of the season.  My wife was asleep on the couch through most of it, so I may end up watching them again, so I'll be sure and manually enter each episode rather than just letting it play so she gets to see them in the right order.

And with Terminators on the mind comes yet again Gamer ADD.  I really need to get the guys to do a few playtests of Flying Swordsmen for me, but now I'm wanting to either pull out Star Frontiers to run my War Against the Machines idea, or else recycle my old d20 Modern Aliens/Predator game, but throw Terminators into the mix.  Who am I kidding, though?  I'm too busy to put something like that together, and we've got enough people itching to get a game going at the moment.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dr. Half-love, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the halfling

Back when I first got the Mentzer Basic Set for my 11th birthday, I still hadn't read The Hobbit or LotR.  None of my friends had, either.  And Elmore's art really played a big part in how we viewed the Halfling.

OK, not so bad here.  The chubby Halfling is complaining to the cute Elf chick about something the Dwarf obviously did but is pretending he didn't.  But the other images of Halflings in the set are of one running from a big, shadowy monster, and of one getting put to sleep by a Magic-User (probably Bargle).

We also had all read Dungeon of Dread, the first Endless Quest book, where wimpy and cowardly Laurus the Halfling is the hero Caric's sidekick.

So we didn't have the most heroic image of Halflings in our early games.  And they tended to be used as the butt of jokes.

One summer vacation day, our library was playing the Rankin-Bass animated Hobbit in the background while they had some other activities going on.  So I saw parts of it, between checking out the books on Bigfoot or reading compilations of Garfield comics.  I don't remember much, other than it was on, and the blue elves were freaky.

After a few years, one guy I knew but didn't hang out with so much (Killingmachine spent more time with him) named Bryce had read The Hobbit and LotR, while I had gotten into the Dragonlance books (the original Chronicles trilogy was a step above quite a bit of the fantasy drivel available at the public library that I was scarfing up).  We had a debate once about the merits of the two, even though I had no idea what Tolkien was really about.  It starred Hobbits, who are Halflings, and we all knew how lame they were from D&D.

Then George Lucas came out with Willow.  It looked like a kick-ass fantasy movie, but it was called such a girly name and the main character was a Halfling.  Of course, eventually I saw it, and it was a fairly kickass movie, even though it was about a Halfling.  Madmartigan made up for that.

In high school, Killingmachine read The Hobbit in his English class.  He told me there was actually some good stuff in it, such as the Mirkwood spiders, Gollum, and Smaug.  That got me to read The Fellowship of the Ring, and it also had some good stuff in it.  Ringwraiths, barrow wights, killer trees, goblins/orcs, a Balrog, more Gollum!  Great stuff!  Maybe I'd been wrong about Bryce.  (insert Afterschool Special style lesson learned moment here).

About the same time, I rolled up a character with a 3 Int, and an 18 Dex.  He had a high enough Con, so I made him a Halfling.  Farley the Halfling.  He had amazing AC 0 - platemail plus Dex bonus, a short bow - with Dex and Halfling bonus to hit made him very accurate, and the ability to hide if need be.  Of course I played him as this happy retard who would always talk about how he once "shot deer like this" while picking off whatever targets he was against.  No matter how many orcs, trolls, dragons or vampires he helped slay, it was always that deer he was proudest of.  Dumb as a brick, but friendly and helpful (in his oft mistaken way).  I realized that the Halfling didn't suck, and could be quite fun to play.

Since then, I've played a few here and there.  They're still not my favorite Classic D&D class, or my favorite AD&D race, but I do still get an idea for a fun Halfling every now and then and have at it.  I'm currently playing one in an online RPOL game, and so far he's been pretty fun to play as well. 

Long story short, I'm really looking forward to the Peter Jackson Hobbit movies.  My son, however, wanted to watch the Rankin-Bass Hobbit with me yesterday, but about the time they got to Rivendell he got bored, ran into the bedroom, and called me to come play with the dragon toys with him.  Well, he's only 3.  He'll learn!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hobbit movie production video blog 2

I just checked out the Hobbit movie's web site, and saw that Peter Jackson has put up his second production video blog.  No groundbreaking reveals or anything in it, but it was still interesting to watch.

I was actually planning to post about hobbits/halflings tonight.  I may still write that post after my son goes to bed.  We'll see.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Shuttle Final Four...

Space Shuttle Atlantis will launch on the final space shuttle mission ever this weekend.  The crew are three men and one woman.

As my brother, who's embarked on a part time career as a stand-up comic, likes to say, "I'm not saying...I'm just saying."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Internet Trolls Win. News at 11.

You know, I've got no idea who is behind the waste of electrons that is Your Dungeon Is Suck, but this is more or less how I imagine whoever is behind a stereotypical Japanese Otaku.

Now, you've probably heard the word, and know it as "Japanese for geek" but in its original form, it's really much more pathetic than that.  It literally means 'house' as in someone who's so socially unskilled that they never leave their home to interact with others.  It's lost some of that bite over the years, but 17-18 years ago when I first learned the term, I was warned by all of my Japanese friends NOT to call myself that simply because I'm a nerd who's into RPGs, video games, and comics (oh, and Japan/Japanese).  Back then, it was truly an insult to be called 'otaku.'

In Japan, the depiction of these guys as a stock character in the media are the ones who are in their thirties or forties, spend all day in a small cramped room in their parents house, watching anime porn, sniffing high school girl panties (which they likely bought online because they can't get up the nerve to actually approach the high school girls who park themselves in front of convenience stores with their skirts rolled up and their knees wide apart advertising that they're willing to sell so they can buy a new Prada handbag or whatever), and when they finally take a break from the porn, it's to switch to the feed of the camera they've secretly installed in the local high school girls' changing room so they can wank off to grainy images of half naked girls.  Because that's about as close as they're ever gonna get to a real one, and that makes them bitter and angry.  Obviously, this is a stereotype created from an amalgam of traits common among otaku, not the image of the group as a whole, similar to the Simpson's Comic Book Guy.  Japan is a country that's very friendly toward people with 'nerdy' hobbies, and if, as faustusnotes claims, his friends are self-identifying as otaku, the image has definitely changed over the years.

Now, whoever is behind YDIS is likely not this pathetic, but the pure nerd rage that pours out of it every time read it (which is very rarely) over the most trivial of topics always makes me think of that stereotypical stock character in Japan.

Anyway, Christian, if you happen to be reading this, hope you come back soon, dude.  YDIS, if you're reading this, fire away.  I'll be oblivious to your infantile ranting.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cartography III

So I'm making more progress on the Flying Swordsmen RPG map.  I've got 41 cities on the map now, all named.  All that's left is to decide on geographical names and then get a good scan of the base image.

I've redone the colors, which scanned better this time, but some of the forests still appear too yellow on screen.  Oh well, I'll likely have to touch it up digitally after all.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Book Review: The Alchemyst

My mother is a librarian.  She just retired at the end of the school year, but for the past 20 years or so, she's been a Jr. High/Elementary school librarian.  She knows I prefer to read fantasy and sci-fi, but the only works within those genres she really knows are those that her students read.  So last Christmas, she sent me a young adult fantasy novel as a present. 

That book is The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicolas Flamel, by Michael Scott.  It's a YA fantasy, so comparisons to the current 800 lb. gorilla of YA fantasy, Harry Potter, are bound to happen.  And there are some similarities. 

You've got a secret world of magic and monsters hidden within the real world, and most folks don't know it.  You've got teenage protagonists, twins in this instance, on a Bildungsroman/Hero Journey. 

There are some fairly major differences, however.  First of all, the book is not long, and is really a quick read.  I read it over the course of three days during my break times at work, so maybe a total of 5-6 hours to complete the 360-ish page book.  And the plot moves along quite quickly, similar to a Dan Brown adventure.  It's mostly action, not so much focused on the magical education of the twins (which is incomplete and rather slipshod in this first book of the series--that's not a fault, it's actually one of the plot points to be that way). 

The biggest difference, however, is that Scott pulls all of his characters besides the twins from history or myth.  Both Nicolas Flamel and the antagonist Dr. John Dee were historical, given long life through alchemy.  Flamel takes on the mentor role of the twins when Dee steals the Book of Abraham the Mage and kidnaps Flamel's wife Perenelle.  Dee doesn't get all of the book however, so his plans to usher in the return of the Elders, the gods and heroes of myth who are actually just an older human-like race (similar to Tolkien's elves, only more magical).  The Elders are not united, and some help Flamel and the twins, some help Dee.

The cast of Elders run the gamut from Celtic (Scott is Irish, so it's not surprising the Morrigan and Scathach, two Celtic figures of myth, are introduced early), to Greco-Persian (Hekate) to Jewish (golems and the Witch of Endor).  Any god, monster or hero of mythology in our world is actually an Elder, an Immortal (such as Flamel and Dee), or is somehow related to them, and to the lost epoch 10,000 years ago, that the Elders ruled.

It's taken me six months to get around to finally reading it, but I'm glad I did finally read it.  It was a fun adventure story, and had some interesting new ideas about magic and mythology and how they relate to our modern world.  However, they are YA books, and the reading level is not very challenging, and the plot is fairly direct. 

Most of my blog readers will likely be 'too old' for the book (and the four or five sequels -- not sure I'll get around to reading them myself, but maybe someday...).  But you may enjoy it, and if you've got kids who enjoy fantasy, I'd bet they may really dig this book.

Orphaned Books

Went over to Steve's last night.  He's leaving for Singapore to get an MBA soon.  He was giving away books and spices.  So in addition to having a fun chat with him, Alex, and Derek (a friend of theirs who did try out board games once but has other interests) I got some bouillons and masala and cumin.  And rescued some books.

A Concise History of China by J.A.G. Roberts, should be good reading as I prep my Flying Swordsmen world info.

The Scar by China Mieville, the only things I've read by Mieville are essays, where he sounds like a complete pompous arrogant asshole, but I've heard his fiction's good so I'm curious to see if it lives up to the hype.

Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists, by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy and Sister Nivedita, just because I can never pass up a book about mythology.

The Gathering Storm (WoT book 12), by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, even though I had decided I didn't care any more how it ended when Jordan died, Steve had it, no one else wanted it, and what can I say?  Sometimes I'm a glutton for punishment.  But seriously, RJ planned to write ONE more volume, Sanderson wrote three, and this first of them is 1000 pages?  I maybe should have just left the book at Steve's...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bum ending to a bum week

So there's no games going on this weekend.

We were scheduled to play Gamma World, but Pat and Alex were out, so Josh didn't want to run it without Pat, since we're nearing the end of the module.

I suggested we do some playtests of Flying Swordsmen, and Jeremy is now wanting to put together a RIFTS game so he wanted to just discuss options.  I'm not so sure I wanna play RIFTS, but I'll hear him out.

Anyway, then Josh's hard drive crashed so he's got to get all the data retrieved.  And my son is now running a fever.

Jeremy is hoping to put together some board games or something now, it looks like, but there's not many left to play with.

Oh well, assuming my son goes to sleep early and sleeps soundly, at least I can get some writing done tonight, and maybe watch some more of the Sarah Connor Chronicles (two episodes into the first season now).