Saturday, July 21, 2012

Clash of Faiths by David Dalglish

So after reading the first book for free, I went to Amazon and bought the second book which was under one dollar. It's not really a full length novel but more like a novella. Like the first book, it features Jericho and Darius, paladins of different faiths who find themselves clashing again.

The book continues the focus on high action stakes but raises the background focus a little this time. Instead of just being on a small town, we have a locality, 'The North', where it's a wild and lawless land where a good king has passed on his inheritance and an evil king, his younger brother, is abusing his rank and privilege.

Overall its a satisfying book with enough action to keep fantasy readers happy and its also fairly low magic. The big magic that does occur tends to happen from one 'GMNPC' so to speak and its usually not flashy and not in the heroes favor when its in play.

Below I'll be going into some spoilers so reader beware!

1. Faith is Not Its Own Reward. One of the interesting things here is that David Dalglish plays with the idea of how faith is rewarded and how its interpreted. Imagine your whole life spent believing your faith was pushing you one way but you went another and hey, since the gods are real in this setting, you quickly discovered your error. In D&D, the Dungeon Master has a lot of power over how he lets the players that have divine ties act. The gods can quickly take away their power. A paladin without his spells isn't too but one that loses all his abilities and has a holy sword that he can't use anymore? Yeah, he's going to have problems.

2. Build Slowly But Surely. As mentioned above, the focus of the setting moves up a little. This is again reminiscent of older D&D games where the characters start small and by the end may be travelling the planes and fighting lost gods and dragons of epic renown. Theres no need to add all of those things unless the game requires it at that second.

3. Religious Orders and Royal Knights. While note the focus of this book, the fact that the paladins are accorded a bit of respect and leeway in how they handle things is an interesting bit to note as it showcases how they may be interacting with the laws and lay of the land.

4.And Then An Attack Happens. When things are moving too slow, throw some competition or some enemy fire into the game. Nothing gets players to stop playing with their toys like having to actually roll the dice and pay attention to the game.

After having read the second book, I suspect I'll be looking at the other books by this other very shortly.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Night of Wolves by David Dalgish

A free book in a series called the Paladins available from Amazon at this link? Yes please.

Night of Wolves is the first book I've read by David Dalgish and it was good enough that I went back to Amazon and bought the other two books in the series. The second one is an easy sell as its only .99 cents while the third book soars in price to $2.99. Still, three books for under four bucks? Good deal.

The person who is going to like this book is one who likes a small cast that is always engaged in action. This isn't to say there isn't any character development or that the world isn't larger than what we see in the novel. However the focus is on action and on survival of man versus monster and of course some of that man versus man bits there. Its a relatively short novel and moves at a good clip and is a good way to see if you'd be interested in further books by David Dalgish.

Below I'll start hitting some of the spoilers of the book so if you don't like those, read no further!

1. Starting Small. One of the things that many early D&D adventurers have in common is that its up to the characters to save the small town or to explore the small town. Here that remains true as well. Events move up a little in the chain of importance but for the main characters in this book, saving the town and surviving the uprising of the wolves is the primary goal.

2. Paladins are more than just warriors. Several times during the novel the paladins provide encouragement and prayer to those under their care. They are there for more than just being knights and valiant warriors.

3. Players and their Orders: There are two paladins in the book, a 'light' one and a 'black' one. The former is more like the healing and beneficial style cleric we all know and love while the later is heavily militant based and focused on bringing order to the world. The two in this novel get along well to the point where when ordered to attack the 'white' paladin, the black one does not. This should be a model for player characters. While it can be fun to have betrayal and other backstabbing elements in the game, its often better to keep the player characters together and have the NPCs doing the dirty work. It's okay if the PCs are mad at the GM and not quite so good when they are against each other.

4. Paladins are fun. Dragon magazine once had an article along the lines of a plethora of paladins. Paladins often have unique mounts ranging from their horse to nightmares to pegasi to other beasts. Paladins often, regardless of their level, have unique weapons and armor suited for their mission. In older editions of the game, due to their high stat requirements, paladins were often some of the most powerful characters in the game.  When looking at the role of paladins in your own game, do they follow the Deeds of Paksenarrion? Are they well known? Do they have organizations? Do they war with one another along the lines of their gods?

5. Enemy with a Cause. While no one wants the wolf men of the novel to win, David does a good job of providing some rationale as to why they are acting the way they do. Why they are such fierce creatures. When looking at the main foe of your campaign, pepper them up a little so that they are more than just statistics for the players to burn through.

Night of Wolves is well worth a read at its price point and its page turning action should encourage some great werewolf battles in your campaign.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Not Dead Yet!

Normally the start of the month is when things slow down and I get to catch a breather or two. That has not happened this month. Instead, I'm working six to seven days a week still and trying to prep myself for Gen Con where I'll be running games for Crucible 7 with The One Ring and other games. While I am a little rusty, I'm not too worried about the whole running of games bit as much as trying to get some system mastery in while I'm still painting and trying to have a life outside of hobbies and work.

Not easy!

Still, I am reading very rarely in between and wishing that Gen Con wasn't around the corner because Comixology has some fantastic sales going on with both Godzillia and the Walking Dead. Because of Gen Con though, I'm holding back.

But Gen Con isn't enough to stop the continued backing of some Kickstarters! After I lay down some money and see some more results I'll try to add those to next month's ranting and raving about them.

In the meanwhile, I hope the drought isn't effecting your state or home. I'm already dreading the price increases we're going to see on produce as the news has just been hammering how badly Indiana and Illinois have been hit and even though I'm sure a lot of that corn is corn feed for animals, that just means that the price of meat will continue to skyrocket.

Stay cool and stay safe!

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Kickstarters That Weren't

I figure since I discussed the Kickstarters I've supported, I might as well talk about the ones I didn't and give a brief run down of why. Please note these are my own depraved opinions and my own cynical brain working so they are not necessarily the reality of the situation. Proceed with caution!

Appendix N Adventure Toolkit: Two things here. Well, three things. The amount of playing I've been involved is in small. Two, I don't own the Goodman Games RPG this is for. Three, I missed it. No, really, I was going to back it. The funds were relatively small for even some of the better rewards and I was going to. Figure I'd try to do a whole renaissance thing of gaming for myself with the Goodman book and some other bits. It's not that I won't get into it eventually but so much painting to do...

Norsgard: Well, this one didn't receive that much funding at all. The figures they do have look nice but I think they're a little too indie and unknown right now to go for such a huge goal. Another company that's been around for a while had a large goal and almost didn't make it. Might be better to start with smaller goals when your this new.

Avatars of War Dwarf Army: This is the one I was talking about that almost didn't make it. I know, you look at the total know and you're like, "Is Joe crazy?" For a long time that meter didn't move. It seemed to be a surge at the last minute. I didn't back it because Sedition Wars and Mantic kicked me in the face and left my wallet bleeding and unable to fund ANOTHER miniature scale at the size I'd want to. I was also slightly put off by shipping fees. I know things aren't free but most of the ones I've participated in didn't have shipping.

City Of Clocks: I love city campaigns. I love city books. Not too fond of generic books. Still, I was about to support when I saw their updates. They were going to provide some gaming notes but they started off with what I consider some fairly popular systems but left the most popular systems at the very top of the food chain. My cynical brain decided they were doing that to lure people into pledging in order to get up to those higher levels. That's just me. Probably completely wrong but when I see Savage Worlds and Pathfinder after some OSR stuff? M'eh. If it comes to retail and I have funds I'll probably take a look at it then.

Jeff Easley/Scott Taylor: Another retro project. I love the art involved here. However, if you're going to sell the completed product at the exact same price at the finished product, why I am getting in ahead of the game? Sure, if I was a die hard fan the answer would be to insure that it's created. For me, I have hundreds of books I haven't read yet. I've got a bit of a collector's problem but it's also a cynical bit so while the various Half Price books have numerous dollar racks, I have no problem buying the occasional e-book or kickstarter project. But when you're charging the same thing for people to buy it from you direct as the kickstarters? And again, that's just my opinion. And here's the other thing. While some may hate Amazon, I love that I can sync my Kindle books from any purchases from the store automatically. Have to do it manually when you buy the files individually.

It's something another Kickstarter did where they were selling it on Amazon before you got your Kickstarter copy. So.... I could buy it from Kickstarter, wait around for it to be sent or pay the same price and download it to all my devices with no problem? I know which route I'm taking in the future.

Again, I'm sure I'm missing some and there are some things I want to kickstart but have to wait on the old funds to see where what lands when but those are the ones I could think of off the top of my head.

Have there been any kickstarters you've looked at and said.... "You know... outside of... but really..."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Kickstarter For July 2012 Review

I've been a backer of quite a for quite a few projects on Indiegogo and Kickstarter. Figure I'd talk about where I'm feeling they are now.

Barrowmaze II I like some of the old school vibe, especially in the art field so I went in with it and even paid for a hardcover of the first Barrowmaze. It's essentially too soon to know how its going to fly but there have been some good notes thus far.

Blackwater Gulch: Cowboy miniatures. The updates have been coming with a fair degree of frequency but I'm not too thrilled by one of the latest updates where we have to order the material from the store using a special section. Maybe if I didn't go "all in" so to speak on the starter set and feel I'm doing a bit of "WTF" work. Still, everything has been good so far in terms of updates.

Bushido: The Ito Received all the current information we can but I'd like to see some more stuff on what's coming down the pipe in terms of greens and other goods. However, this doesn't appear to be a fly by night company or anything so I'm okay with it.

Deepwars:  Very pleased with the results so far in terms of how they're approaching it and the updates.

Dwimmermount: James is going to have to blow my socks off before I pledge anything for his projects again. Plenty of time for his blog, his WoTC work, and G+ hangouts but actual updates to the Kickstarter proper? And maybe it's just me being my own anti-social self but the project is already announced to be late and well, we'll see at this point.

It Came From The Stars: another case where there may be more going on in their own forums and what not but the posting updates have been slow, the project is already admittedly delayed, the bonuses for doing the higher level subscriptions don't look like they're going to amount to much outside of future promises. This will be another company that is going to have to pull a rabbit out of its hat if it wants my Kickstarter money in the future.

King For A Day: Jim has been providing a fair amount of updates including samples of the interior, maps and other bits. Looking forward to it.

Kings of War:    I've bought stuff from Mantic before. This was their kickstarter to do some more stuff. I'm into it for way too much but they've been pretty current with updates including previews of the shirts, model designs and other bits. As this is a company I've done business with as a physical entity I'm pretty comfortable with my pledge although the wounding to the wallet did require hella overtime.

Midgard Tales: I'm getting that sense of being a bit of a douche again. Another bit where the majority of the updates seem to take place on the forums. Yawn. Open Design has been using a patron system since before the whole Kickstarter though so I've got no worries about the final product. I know that may seem unfair to say company X is going to have to work hard for $$$ but company Y in a similar position doesn't but... here's the thing, company Y has already done it's share of these things in the past and company X talks a good game but talk is cheap.

Sedition Wars:  Thank god I don't have children because they would starve. A little too early to tell where the updates and such will be here, but again, an established company, using an established formula, with great perks.

Steampunk Musha:  I'm a fan of the genre and the game system but updates have been lax. Like some other kickstarters, the updates have often fell into the comments area.

Tectonic Craft Studio: They've stayed on top of their updates including photos, samples, demos, and keeping the people in the loop. I can't stress this enough. If you're going to be late with the project, DO NOT MAKE THE BACKERS ASK YOU. You need to be in front of that. You need to take ownership of it.

I'm sure I'm missing something somewhere.

Again, it seems the miniature companies take their projects very seriously and the RPG crowd is doing it as a one off or something. That's just my opinion. Too many delays, too many people having to ask what's going on, etc... I suspect that Kickstarter will be the place where reputations are made are broken and that companies are going to quickly learn the utility of conversation and communication on the internets.

But hey, I've been wrong before.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Harry Brown (2009)

Harry Brown, staring Michael Caine, came out in 2009. Thanks to Nexflix, I've just gotten around to watching it. I'll be pinging some spoilers after this so if you're not interested in that sort of thing, read no further.

The movie takes a few popular themes, that of the semi-common person who is pushed too far, and the retired warrior who has to come out for one last mission, and mashes them together. While the vigilante theme is more popular in modern settings, especially super hero ones, it's possible to have 'masked' crusaders in older campaigns but those would generally have to take place in highly civilized areas where a break down of the local order is seen as a bad thing as opposed to just a thing happening.

The retired warrior bit is there to remind viewers that being a bad ass apparently isn't a matter of age. This movie doe it a letter better than the recent legend of Krell that I read. For example, when Harry is chasing down someone, he collapses into a near death-coma experience thanks to emphysema. No such thing tends to happen to the fantasy heroes who might complain about stiff joints and old wounds but cut through legions of their enemies like butter with a hot knife. Harry? Harry has to cheat a bit.

Michael Caine plays Harry Brown, an elderly individual who lives in what must be the slums of England. Everything is in a state of decay, graffiti is everywhere and there are gangsters and drug deals on every corner. Not good times for those who live there.

Harry Brown though does okay until his pushed moment when one of his elderly friends, who happens to mention what a bad ass Harry was in his youth, decides that he's had enough and seeks out revenge against those who've tormented him only to die at their hands.

The interesting bits that can be taken are the sense of urban decay. The sense of uselessness on the part of the law. When Harry's friend is out to take the law into his own hand, Harry urges him not to but to contact the police and his friend replies that he did.  To me, the writers here did something a little different. They didn't necessarily make the police corrupt, not did they make them grossly incompetent in most matters. They did make them a bureaucracy though and one that takes time to lift its mighty fist to smash against those who disturb the public.

In terms of acquiring the supplies he needs though, Harry does something any respectful adventurer would do. He becomes a 'murder hobo' or adventurer who finds a villain and kills him and takes his stuff. Along the way he also burns down a massive amount of drugs and saves a drugged woman's live and kills the henchman of the bad guy. But here's the thing. He has to have this equipment.

The movie doesn't play it off like the last Rocky movie where, "I've still got something inside" or whatever it was the old Rocky said. No, this is an old man who needs every advantage he can find. In a fantasy game, this might include poisons, various ranged weapons, weapons that can kill instantly like Vorpal blades and death spells pre 4th edition and other such toys.

In terms of characters I enjoyed about the movie, was the twist at the end. During the entire movie, Harry is going to a pub and while he sees the various drug deals and other illicit activities going on, he never suspects that it's anything other then, "Yeah, that sucks, but what's the owner going to do." Turns out the owner is a major power player in the events going on and is directly responsible for much of the crime in the area. By keeping that bit tucked in, it reminds the Game Master that NPCs shouldnt' be running around laughing manically ever few seconds and boasting of their evil plans. The best ones shouldn't even be known to be evil.

Lastly, at the end of the movie, while that twist is going on, it's brought on by a crack down of the authorities on the local scum. This is essentially a full scale invasion of the slums by the police that involves home made fire bombs, riot gear, tear gas, cars ramming into each other, and other property damaging events. The thing about this though, is it acts as a background to allow other events to happen. When planning out your own games, don't forget the things that the players don't directly control but can use as a distraction, or the things that the other characters in the setting, can use as a distraction against the players.

Harry Brown might be slow in a few spots for some viewers but I prefer to think of it as character development and set up. See if this old warhorse can stir some ideas for your game.