Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Cost of Betrayal: The Half Orcs Book II by David Dalgish

David Dalglish's tale of the twin half-orcs, one muscular swordsman who wields two sabers, Salvation and Condemnation, and his punny, raspy-voiced spell casting brother with a flaming whip, continues in The Cost of Betrayal.

Unlike the first cover, I'm not a fan of this one. It's not the structure, but rather, the winged demon woman's feet. Their too elongated or too wide or just out of step with the rest of the illustration. Outside of that critique, it's a solid piece and another fine example of Peter Ortiz work.
Having lost their master, Velixar, an ancient nearly immortal being who serves a dark god in the last volume, the twins, now with the elf wizard Aurelia in tow, return to their home city. Valderen is a city that they were banished for originally because they had elf blood. Velixar managed to stir the pot between elf and human.

But with Aurelia with them, she's able to illusion them into the city. Where they are promptly attacked by a group of adventurers! This small guild of allies is known as the Eschaton, named so after the brother and sister duo's last name.

Folks, I'm telling you, if David Dalglish isn't a role playing or doesn't play role-playing games, or isn't a huge fan of fantasy, he's writing sure reads like it.  These mercenaries take the trio in and act as a patron, mentors, friends, and allies. During that time, Aurelia and Harruq declare their love for one another and even marry,

Qurrah on the other hand, well, he's not quite as happy. While he's glad to not be eating the lowest of the low foods, and he's pleased to have a roof over his head, and even more, to be with his twin again, he finds himself not quite as pleased as his brother.

This leads him to wander the city of Valderen and find Tessanna. If Aurelia and Velixar were powerful characters than Tessanna is literally on another level. She's a self-harmer with numerous psychotic breaks but thanks to her charm and her power, she easily wraps Qurrah around her finger.

Plots build up and more background of the setting comes forth. The different relationship between Harruq and Aurelia is played against that of Qurrah and Tessanna till eventually the brothers part on less than ideal terms.

I haven't read too many other books by David, but from rumblings, it seems that the thieves war bits in this volume run into another one of David's series, the Shadowdance series, which would make sense as Harruq's teacher is Haern the Watcher, another high-powered individual in a world of high-powered individuals.

If you're looking for a quick high action read, The Cost of Betrayal is better then the first volume and expands the setting considerably while setting up the third volume.






Monday, April 24, 2017

The Weight of Blood: The Half-Orcs Book I

David Dalglish brings two new creations to fantasy with the Weight of Blood, Book One of the Half-Orcs.

Readers are introduced to street raised Harruq and Qurrah Tun. One of them is a warrior, healthy, strong, and blessed with a great endurance. The other is hunched, whispy, and weak with a croaking voice. Oh, and their twins.

Remind you of anyone?


But these twins story is a bit darker. They are individuals who live in poverty and misery set up their initial vile activities including murdering of children. They go to serve a dark priest-wizard who fought at the dawn of a great war between two deities who are also brothers, Velixar. Velixar is an interesting character in that he's old, he's scared, and while his red eyes remain constant, his face ever changes.

David shortcuts the quest for power in some ways. The twins are given items, iconic items, by their master. Harruq, the warrior, is given two red sabers, Salvation and Condemnation. His brother, Qarruh, a whip that can ignite into flame. 

The story is fast paced and moves quickly. The characters initially are roughly hewn and seem to come off as being deliberately stupid at times, especially Harruq's love interest, the elven wizard Aurelia. 

Love interest? Oh no man, is that going to test the ties of the brothers?

Yeah.

Things move quickly but by the end of the book, alliances are tested, trust is broken, and the setup for the next book is in play.

Things that the author nailed?

He got a good cover artist. Peter-Ortiz has his own section of Deviant Art and I suggest you take a look at his work. By giving the characters iconic weapons, he allows them to be easily identifiable. 

Giving the mage a flaming whip instead of a staff? Different enough to be notable.

Bad things? Well, look at his website and how he describes it "The first four books have been in the top 100 Kindle list for Epic Fantasy. No Mary-Sue characters. No long-winded descriptions or delusions of being the next Tolkien. Just a powerful, character driven story following two half-orc brothers, their descent into darkness, and their long, bloody road to redemption." 

The twins are Mary-Sue characters. In this world, the elves who sided with a faction in the original war became orcs. Some of the original weapons can only be used by someone who has both orc and elf blood.

These half-orcs? Oh yeah, their father is an elf. It's not enough to be a half-orc you see, you have to be a unique half-orc and half-elf. It's one of the reasons why Quarrah has such potential as a spellcaster despite being raised in poverty. This makes them... yup, Mary-Sue.

Velixar, their mentor? The guy from the original war that almost broke the planet? Mary-Sue.

The friend of Aurelia, an ancient elf protector who rides around on a magical pegasus and can actually fight Velixar? Mary-Sue.

Now there are no long-winded descriptions and I'll agree that their no delusions of being the next Tolkien. The setting is new, humanity is a race that's only been around for something like 500 years. The story is very character driven.

And the good news? It does get better as it goes along.

The Weight of Blood isn't a great start but it is a start and it gets better.






Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Adversary by Erin M. Evans


The Adversary is the first book I've read by Erin M. Evans. I went in with no expectations. I knew the 'Sundering' was one of those mega-events in the Forgotten Realms like the Avatar series and others but wasn't sure how they all tied in together or what the overall themes and arcs were.

The book is packed with numerous characters and factions that lends a bit of depth to the setting that can be confusing for newcomers, but most things are explained succinctly enough that readers shouldn't be too lost, even if this is their first Forgotten Realms novel. Mind you, the 'attachment' that long term Forgotten Realms readers will have will be missing from such as the novel does make use of many familiar organizations ranging from the Harpers and the Red Wizards of Thay, to the Netherese wizards and more.

The Adversary is also volume three in the Brimstone Angel Series.

After reading the Adversary though, I'll probably wind up hunting down the other books.

We have interesting heroes like Havilar and Fariden, twin tieflings. Tielflings are descendants of evil outsiders. Outsiders in this case being devils.

The girls were orphans, raised by Clanless Mehen, a dragonborn. It was great to see a dragonborn as this race gets little play. Dragonborn are reptilian humanoids from far away lands in the Forgotten Realms and having one inhuman raising two more inhumans of a different species was an interesting twist on things.

In the cast and parade of characters, we have Fariden's patron, a cambion, a half devil, who provided her initial set of powers. That character has sisters who are not fond of him. They all serve various patrons of their own and have various alliances that must be followed.

There are things I was not a fan of mind you. Perhaps because it's in 'the Sundering', there was a time skip although only of a few years. Richard Baker's character suffered such to get him to the new Forgotten Realms timeline, Paul S. Kemp's character had a son who was 'pushed' into the future, and other bits have happened that seemed forced in the Forgotten Realms. This bit was one of them.

Because it wasn't a huge push forward in time though and it wasn't a gate popping open or a magical trap, the twins, Fariden and Havilar, wind up in a bit of an off situation. The world has moved on without them in its own way. Mehen, their father, is pleased to see them. Havilar's prince is pleased to see her, but he is also engaged to be married. Such events as this provide nice complications to the characters so that they don't just get to step back into their lives.

The second bit I didn't enjoy was the 'Chosen' factor. Now mind you, the book has Fariden herself as the chosen of Asmodeus. I'm fine with that. She's one of the main characters of the book. The main thrust of the story though is that Fariden is among the Netherese to find the Chosen so that their divine energies can be harvested. On one side, the Netherse do this for Shar, on the other, those allied with the Netherse do this for their patron, Asmodeus, so that the king of devils can secure his place among the divine pantheons.

Having so many Chosen reduces what it means to be a Chosen. If Elminster and the Seven Sisters are some of the better known Chosen of the Forgotten Realms, what does it mean when dozens or more are similar? It reduces the unique factor, it reduces the whole point of being Chosen.

Given the scope of the book and the setting it takes place in though, these are minor complaints. The Forgotten Realms, much like Marvel Comics or DC comics, goes through upheveals often enough that either you get on for the ride or you stop reading them or you shake a fist in the air going "Damn you publishers!"

While the main plot of the book is wrapped up, the end leaves the reader prepared for the next novel in the series. While there are many questions answered, there are other elements set up for future novels.

Erin M. Evans wasn't a name I was familiar with before, but it's one I'll seek out again.



Sunday, April 2, 2017

Logan Tries To Be Unforgiven Yet Falls Far Short


When I first heard about Logan and it being Hugh Jackman's last performance as Wolverine, I was intrigued. Numerous news bits indicated it might be going the way of the graphic novel, Old Man Logan.



I was dubious. It's not that Old Man Logan isn't worthy of screen adaptation, but if you've read it, it ties directly into the bones of the old Marvel Setting which the film company producing Logan have no access to.

I was hopeful and curious. When I saw the first trailer, I was impressed. The use of Johnny Cash's version of Nine Inch Nails 'Hurt' as well as seeing the world tired and wasted and the characters tired and wasted, well, that looks like something I could get into.



The second trailer added to that hope.

And then I saw the movie.

Sigh.

So many of my movie friends were like, "It's the best super hero movie ever! It's way better than any other super hero movie that's come before!"

I wasn't impressed. It's not that the genre hasn't been done before. Unforgiven is one of my favorite movies and heck, it's not the only movie that Clint Eastwood himself has done featuring this type of tired old soldier whose got one last fight left. With the whole Expendables series, there's even a genre of sorts for it. Those who read fantasy fiction like the old David Gemmell's Legend, know it's an old series.

So there are some great stories of the old soldier, the old hero, with one last battle.

This isn't one of them.

I'll be hitting spoilers real quick and discussing some of the things I enjoyed and didn't enjoy so if you don't want to be spoiled on this movie, read no further.

SPOILERS!

First off, let's talk about the cultivated look.

It looks like it's run down not because it's a dark and broken down future. It's because those scenes that are shown are where Logan is hiding Professor X, which happens to be a rusted out junkyard in Mexico.

So that ambiance shown is a trick, a trap. It's there to create a false "bad times."

It's the year 2029 and Wolverine has not aged well. This is because his skeleton is bonded to the metal and it's poisoning him. The older he gets, the more his healing factor has to deal with the poisoning leaving less time to deal with, oh, say getting shot. 

And it's probably painful.

And this is something perhaps I take with experience as I know people who are in chronic pain and they drink not because they're bitter. They drink not because they hate everyone. They drink because they are self-medicating themselves to cover the pain. 

So that ambiance of Wolverine being all 'drunk' is another false flag.

The movie's R rating is earned. It's violent. There is swearing. There's even a brief bit of nudity. But mainly the rating is for the violence.

The theme of old and faded does have one actual point, and that's mutants aren't born anymore. This isn't a bad idea or a bad seed, but as the movie goes on, even that little bit of information has to be spoiled and spelled out. See, it's not some natural thing that happened, but bio-engineered!

Sigh. Lame.

And then there's the 'big bad.' 

From all the previews we've seen, Logan and friends are being hunted down by trained killers lead by an experienced soldier. Pierce and his Reavers. Pierce comes across as confident and sure-footed, but he is punk'd over and over. The first time being knocked out by a child from behind.

The actual 'nemesis'? The main foe that returns to hunt Wolverine and his prodigy?

It's a younger wild clone of Wolverine.

Go back and watch the videos. That's not really something that comes through right? 

They hide that because it's lame.

If someone is going to tell me how Hugh Jackman playing 'X-24' is the best movie ever when The Dark Knight gave us Health Ledger in an unforgettable performance as the Joker, I'd love to hear it.

I appreciate that memory is short. I understand that the 'now' is 'hawt.' But no, Logan, for all it's well-filmed action sequences, and it's earning of the 'R' rating, it is not better than Captain America Civil War or even Dr. Strange. 

But serious themes!

Okay folks, here's the serious theme.

From the background we get in the movie, Professor X as an older person, had some type of seizure and with vast power blew up the X-Men and killed I think they said six or seven of them. So Wolverine's big plan isn't to be a drunk and be edgy and be hateful and all alone as so many people latch onto.

It's to get Professor X to an uninhabited body of water and kill him and then blow his own brains out with an adamantium bullet.

Yea, that whole "don't show a gun in act one unless you're going to use it in the final act" are in full evidence here.

Because see for whatever reason, a bullet of adamantium can blow Wolverine's head off. Now aren't his claws made of the same metal? Wouldn't he be able to slice through the limbs of say, another Wolverine? Well, let's not go thinking that way...

There's also the problem of Wolverine being flat out stupid. To humor Charles Xavier, Logan allows Laura and Chuck to rest for the night at the home of a family who they help on the side of the road.

Which of course gives the bad guys time to catch up to Logan and wipe out the innocent family.. because, in all his years of being an X-Men, Wolverine would've never thought of that I guess?

There's also the unreliability of Professor X's own power in all situations. It's the same problem you have anytime you watch a movie where the character could easily escape if they did the most basic of things but hey, for whatever reason, they don't do it.

Using his power to communicate with the apparently 'mute' Laura? No problem. Using his power to actually do anything useful? Can't have that happen.

And then there's this weird part towards the end where it's like the film company is setting up the sequel. See, in my ramblings, while I've mentioned Laura's name a few times, I haven't actually talked about how she fits into things.

It seems instead of going with anything resembling Old Man Logan, the writers decided to make Logan old and use that to introduce X-23.


Now I like X-23. I liked the origin, I like the growth of the character, the mentorship with Logan in the comics, and the eventual replacement of Logan as the Wolverine.

This isn't a bad way to introduce a character to a series. 

But there are about another half dozen children who are clones of various characters I'll let interested readers Google.

It is these kids who help Wolverine, who in fact, wind up killing Pierce.

But apparently, all of their unique abilities are no match against X-24! Who by the way while being younger than Logan, is much older than Laura so forced growth or some other unexplained bits?

So, of course, Wolverine has to go all out against his evil younger self, and this gives Laura the opportunity to use the magical adamantium bullet because Wolverine's own claws or her own claws aren't made of the same material...

My ramblings don't even cover the theme of Cracked, and it's a bit about this being a poorly veiled rip off of Children of Men...


If Children of Men doesn't get some rentals out of Logan just to see the comparisons, I'd be surprised. It's a good movie on it's own rights and in my opinion, superior in many ways to Logan.

So do Logan have no redeeming qualities?

I know I'm hacking a lot at it here, but it's mainly in disbelieve over all the praise it's been getting. Wolverine being a loner and helping a young girl is almost literally the playbook of Logan's character growth in the very first X-Men movie with Rogue.... okay,  rambling again.

Positive bits.

Action sequences are all out and pull no punches. If you're the type who always wanted to see the Hulk punch through a man but were left hanging by the PG-13 ratings, well, limbs are severed, heads are decapitated, and action aplenty fills the film. If you're an action buff, there are several scenes to enjoy. Even the car chase scene is robust.

Professor X is played to great effect by Patrick Steward. I've loved Patrick Steward ever since seeing him in Excalibur and man, I'm not saying he's done no bad roles, but he nails it as a semi-lucid Professor X here. 
Mind you, half the time I think he's missing the point of not getting that Wolverine is literally dying with such brilliant phrases as "Logan, you still have time." but there are interactions between Professor X and X-23, as well as between Professor X and Logan that click and add much-needed humor to the film. The history between Logan and Professor X is so thick you could cut it with an adamantium knife. 

Some future bits that are coming up, seem well timed. There are trucks with no human drivers. There are drones in use. There are robotic limbs on active soldiers. I know some may feel that the last one is pushing it, but man, 3-D printing and the whole field of what can be done to replacing missing limbs has come a tremendous way since even the first X-Men movie came out.

Hugh Jackman's 'presence'. He plays an old dying Logan well. He's got a lot of gravitas in his interactions with others and comes across as someone waiting to die and does it well. In many instances, unlike some fiction works I've read, Logan is older. He's probably not a fit a fighter as Laura even. And he's sick. And he's bitter. And he's got a duty to kill one of his oldest friends before that brilliant brain goes off in a populated area and then to kill himself with his magic bullet. And he's ready for that.

But in his interactions with the world itself? Some are like, "He's a father figure! They are a family!" and I'm bliking wondering if they saw the same movie I did. Like the touching scene from the trailer where Logan violently shakes her hand off? Or where he continually tells her to get away from him? Or that he only originally helped because of money? That he knows he's dying and like a sick animal, wants to be away from others so muh that he's practially unbearable to be around and in that same vein, to be the main character of the movie?

Logan is a fun action flick that earns it's rating but all this talk of "best super hero movie" ever tells me that either the branch of best is a low held title or that Christian Bale's Dark Knight trilogy is already so out of modern memory that real villains with real actors need to make a come back.






Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Classic Reprints and Modern Sensibilities


Gary Con is an Old School Renaissance (OSR) convention.

It's not my thing but I've never been much of a convention goer anyway. I mainly hit the convention scene to either run games or to find out the latest news and of course, buy the latest and sometimes exclusive products.

At this Gary Con, Goodman Games made a few announcements.

One of them was Kickstarter for DCC Lankhmar. This news didn't strike me as particularly impressive because it's the worst kept secret ever. Goodman Games already has a few adventurers out for it and it's a known factor that it was going to be coming out anyway.

On the other hand, the announcement of Classic D&D Modules being reprinted and having original stats and 5th edition stats? That was interesting.

And for most, it was met with a cheer.

Some insisted it was needless and a cash grab.

Cash grab? The old joke that applies to so many hobbies also applies here. "How do you get a small fortune in role-playing games?"

"Start with a large fortune."

But are all of the complaints about the nature of reprinting the classics invalid?

1. It's a cash grab: Well, it's true that Goodman Games may find it more profitable than Wizards of the Coast to publish a book. Looking at Wizards of the Coast, they've only done the work on a handful of the 5th edition books. A small handful in a small handful of products. If it's a cash grab, it's a weirdly designed one.

2. Goodman Games boasted that 4th edition was the game that Gary would have developed! As a gamer, that sounds like nonsense. As a person who knows what marketing is? Why wouldn't he say it? And in actual Dungeon Crawl Classics? Here's where I challenge you. If you never played Sellswords of Punjar, you missed out on a great heavily Appendix N influenced adventure. Slums, beggar kings, hidden dangers, hidden treasures and more! Hell, I wish that we were getting a Kickstarter of Punjar as opposed to Lankhmar.

It's not that I don't love Lankhmar, but man, I'm a mature gamer. That means I've seen TSR's version, I've seen Mongoose Games version. I've read the books the material is based on a few times. I'm not sure how much "new" material that Goodman will be able to bring to the table.

3. How can they afford to do it? They can't do anything without a Kickstarter. Again, as a gamer and regular dude, I can see the 'questioning' here. But let's come to reality. Many companies aren't using Kickstarter JUST for the funding, they're using it as a marketing tool. As the fees and issues of Kickstarter rise and ebb, the utility of the device may change. But for now? It's 'hip, Kickstarter' and it's 'cool' and it acts, regardless of what Kickstarter or any publisher tells you, as a great preorder system so publishers can figure out how much to print and make. Does every game publisher NEED to acKickstarter? Probably not. Is using it right now still a good deal and a great way of advertising and building a community? Apparently so.

Now feeling that the whole system of Kickstarter is being abused as only a preorder system? Again, I can see where that line of thinking is coming from. But hey, actually DOING things is hard. You know, like coming out with a rival system to Kickstarter? Like putting your own skin in the game? Like having some system where you can't be an established player? And who's going to vet all that? Counter culture is weird to me sometimes. "OMG! I can't like the thing anymore! But I used to love the thing!"

4. These adventures don't need any conversion! What next? Conversion for the old coloring books and the hex maps? Some of these points were pretty funny when posted with the covers. There seems to be this weird bit where the fact that the product is covering multiple functions, a reprint with more than just a single thing in it, is getting mixed up with the 'need' for there to be any conversion. It's a matter of convenience and WoTC would be foolish not to take advantage of print medium having conversions for the game that's actually on the shelves right now.

5. Gary Con was ruined by these announcements! It stole all the air out of the room! Blinks. Man, I didn't go to the convention but if a product announcement messed up your convention you got problems. Having said that, several other people whose opinions I put pretty good stock on and would give them high ranks in terms of 'honesty' in keeping the spirit of OSR alive, had great times. Maybe it's a problem where commercial issues start meeting reality but man, that complaint is highly personal so more power to someone who earnestly believes it.

6. Goodman Games blah blah blah: Sometimes I see some complaints about character or validity or 'old school creed' and all I can think is shut up. It's not that you shouldn't have an opinion of what is old school and what isn't, but damn, role playing games are going to be split so fine down these self-made definitions that it's going to look like a record store right before they went out of business with ten thousand different music sections that just made things harder to find.

For me, Goodman Games has 'earned' it's old school creed not necessarily in game mechanics but in the spirit.

I've played numerous adventurers in the line. Some are old school death traps. Some are exploration. Some have a mix of both.

The design and art and other bits are often, I don't want to say slavish imitations of the older games, but pay a lot of homage to them.

Their own game, if you feel does not draw heavily on Appendix N, or worse, you feel that Appendix N in its original guide, isn't what the game should be based on, you are not playing with the same reference as every other player who is playing with that reference, which, may not even be old-school in its mechanics but is certainly old school in its feel and origins.

Good for Goodman Games and hopefully it brings MORE of the older stuff back.







Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Flame Bearer (Saxon Tales Book 10) by Bernard Cornwell


The Flame Bearer
Saxon Tales Book 10
Written by Bernard Cornwell
$13.99 at Amazon (Hardcover)
304 pages

The Saxon Tales, also known as The Last Kingdom Series,  reaches its conclusion in a fast paced tale that I finished in a few hours of morning reading.

As with many books by Bernard Cornwell, he captures the period regarding plausible events, characters, and overall mood through the description of the people and places that our main viewpoint character, Uthred.

In this novel, seeds were sown so long ago, bear fruit as the main thrust of the tale is Uthred and his final battle against his cousin, also named Uthred.

If you enjoy books in this era of Viking savagery upon English shores, this will be a quick read.

But what can you pull from it for your games?

Religion Matters: Uthred is a pagan. He worships the gods of the Vikings. Most of those in England? The Saxons who themselves were once pagans? They worship the 'Nailed God'. The clashes between forces are not merely over land and titles but over religious strength and culture.

Stories Matter: The title of the book, The Flame Bearer, originates with one of Uthred's ancestors who came from across the sea and took over the castle that Uthred would, hundreds of years later, grows up in. The parallels between what has happened and what will happen, are clear and meant to inspire Uthred's men even as it demoralizes his enemies.

Languages Matter: Uthred is a man with friends all over the world and knowing a few languages helps him avoid situations he might not be able to otherwise. While some fantasy settings overcome this with 'Common Tongue', there are often options that are inherent in the game that players don't necessarily take advantage of. In the Forgotten Realms, for example, the Common in Kara-Tur is different than the common in Al-Qadim is different than the Common in the more common part of the realms. Old editions used to give special languages like alignment tongue as well as thieves cant among others. Players should never underestimate the power of having a unique or near unique style of communication including sign language.

On the other hand, the GM shouldn't hesitate to have NPC's have their own methods of communication. Drow have their own 'common' tongue and others from different planes may have their own manner of communication. Star Trek the Next Generation did a fantastic episode where the geist of merely trying to communicate lasted the whole episode.



Factions Matter: Uthred has made more than his fair share of enemies and allies through the ten books in the series. This sometimes involves his enemies coming together against him. The good news? Sometimes there are foes outside of that original circle who attack each other. Having factions that don't necessarily make their presence known every game session and every encounter make the world larger and more dangerous, more random than it normally is. Sometimes these elements should work in the players' favor and sometimes against them. The enemy of the enemy is not always your friend after all.

Time Moves On: Uthred has been fortunate to live through numerous enemies and unfortunate enough to watch allies and even dearly loved ones pass on. His religious upbringing gives him pause when a foe is about to die, to ensure that if a warrior, he dies with a weapon in his hand.

As time moves on, though, the world changes. If your campaigns consist of more than dungeon crawls, how is time moving on effecting the world? Uthred has children, one deceased, one married to a former enemy now an ally, and one about to be married to the daughter of an enemy.

England itself, once almost entirely overcome by the Danes, has struggled back from the brink of being overcome to being almost entirely run by the Saxons and uniting under one 'England' banner.

The players can be the center point of the campaign, but the world itself will continue to move on in ways outside their direct control, outside their direct influence. And they should want to be a part of that.

The Flame Bearer has a lot going for it and it is a fitting end to Uthred's sage. Now if only Benard will continue that with Uthred's son also named Uthred...




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
Written by Walter Isaacson
Published by Simon and Schuster Paperbacks
$19.99/$8.93 At Amazon

I don't delve too often into semi-modern historical bits on the blog as I mainly play Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder, both settings firmly 'rooted' if you will, in the 'dark ages' although they often rise up to technology and living standards that surpass many modern parts of the world.

If anything, reading Benjamin Franklin increases that dissonance I have with most fantasy settings where full plate is a common thing but guns aren't. Where swashbucklers and pirates are a common theme but again, guns are verboten.

For example, as many 'lone wolf' characters as we often see in fiction and at the tabletop, they would stand out in direct contrast to many of their friends and families. Benjamin Franklin himself is one of twenty children his father had with two wives.

Twenty children. It's a large number for sure, and the kids range in age all over the place, but there are others who had numerous children at the time as well. Maybe it's not so unusual when a player says his name is whatever the 2nd!

Another terrible thing, even in Benjamin Franklin's time, was that for women, it still was not a safe time to be giving birth.  "It was not unusual for men in colonial New England to outlive two or three wives. Of the first eighteen women who came to Massachusetts in 1628 for example, fourteen died within a year." (pg. 13)

The other thing in having a family is it adds drama. Franklin fathered a few children himself. One died of Smallpox before he could be inoculated against the disease. At the time, even then, there were "anti-Vaxxers" who believed it was bad to be inoculated. Franklin was not one of them and made his positions clear on the subject often.

Among Franklin's brood was William, an illegitimate son, who in turn sired Template, another illegitimate child. William was a Loyalist to England who wound up on the wrong side of history and estranged from his father.

What was worse was that Template was with Benjamin Franklin instead of being with his own father. This gave Benjamin huge swathes of influence over the young man. The generational gaps would never be healed in their instances.

In games with long-lived races such as elves, who can bear half-elves, generational stories might not be that unusual. For his time, Franklin lived an enormously long time, dying at 84. In a game where characters can live hundreds of years?

Franklin was also a bit of a scientist. One of the things he invented, or at least is credited with, are bi-focal glasses. My mom long having used these, it's one thing I'd have to tip my at to him for.

But another thing is the lightning rod.

Reading this book, it quickly became apparently that lightning strikes inflicted much damage to property, setting fires and killing scores or people at a time. "For centuries, the devastating scourge of lightning had generally been considered a supernatural phenomenon or expression of God's will. At the approach of a storm, church bells were run to ward off the bolts. "The tones of the consecrated metal repel the demon and avert storm and lightning," declared St. Thomas Aquinas. But even the most religiously faithful were likely to have noticed this was not very effective. During one thirty-five-year period in Germany alone during the mid-1700s, 386 churches were struck and more than one hundred bell ringers killed. In Venice, some three thousand people were killed when tons of gunpowder stored in a church was hit." (pg 137)

And Benjamin Franklin solved that problem.

Which is probably just one of those things taken for granted in pretty much every fantasy setting. While still ignoring guns. Because you know, guns are bad?

I know I'm harping on it but it strikes me as strange, and I get that for other people who've grown up on just traditional fantasy that it's just the way things are.

Like most fantasy settings being one giant continent and travel being a matter of going from one place to another via horse. Whereas Franklin himself made some odd eight trips across the ocean. He traveled from his home in America to London. He traveled to Paris. He traveled all about in those places including Ireland and Scotland. Most fantasy settings have a hard time getting one period of England, so they tend to include all of them. And Vikings. And pirates. And various merchants boats that really have nowhere to go as even in the Forgotten Realms, their 'Jungels of Chult' is still on the mainland itself.

So the fantasy books fill their pages with these massive and impressive ships trying to capture the era and age of piracy and capture the look often, and some of the technical specs, but then, of course, leave out all of the cannons.

Mind you, I suspect part of this is that most game mechanics fail to get weapons right in the first place. The stats most weapons have isn't based on historical accuracy or leathalness, they are based on balancing game mechanics.

I've  read in some of the Cornwell research and elsewhere, including this book, that Franklin bemoaned the lack of trained archers in the colonies because archers could be so much more dangerous than the standard musket fire of the time. The speed, accuracy, and intimation factors were huge bonuses.

The amount of time Franklin lived, and his practical application of science to the working world, also allowed him to change it. This is something that most games seem reluctant to do. Oh sure, they'll make changes in a huge edition switch, move the timeline up, ignore players and their characters for a hundred years, and render numerous sourcebooks obsolete, but allow the players themselves to change the setting?

In a way, it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. If you allow the players to make huge changes to the setting, future sourcebooks in the setting become less and less useful. Oh, these nations invented X finally? The players in your campaign invested and distributed X months ago in the real world and over a year ago in game time.

In addition to the inventions, Franklin lived in a world of shifting alliances. The French would use natives to attack the then British colonies. The colonies would have to form their own militias and also seek out help from Britan. Britan would send help, but there was always cost associated with that.

Later, when fighting against Britan, the Colonies would seek out help from the French, who themselves had to work with their allies, the Spanish, as both countries were against the British but had lost much face and strength against the British in previous wars.

There are also the numerous places Franklin goes and visits and the happenings around him. This is a man who formed the Junto, an organization of like minded thinkers to advance each other's social standing and financial standing. He's also a man so well loved that when he last left France, the party thrown for him aboard his departing boat lasted until four in the morning.

His home in America was changed to accommodate his larger family including a connection between the two houses. This could lead to some interesting designs if there were upper walkways as opposed to just two houses connected through a basement.

Benjamin Franklin, An American Life, is a well written and well researched tale. It gives you a taste of those in power, those rising in power, and the era that Franklin would help herald in. He was far from a perfect man, and his deism ways would cause friction with numerous parties including such famous individuals as Samuel Adams among others.

Walter Isaacson brings the time, the struggle, and the flaws of the great man, the so  called First American, to light in a way that few before or after have mached. Well worth  the reading if you want to get the old brain juices flowing.