Saturday, November 30, 2013

Late Kickstarter: December Edition

I'm a little over a day early but tomorrow is Sunday so chances of anything arriving on that day are pretty narrow eh?

Tectonic Craft Studios. Terrible communication. Terrible overall service. To make a product like this with no instructions, few painted samples, and well, to be this late isn't doing the company any favors. We've been assured that things have been mailed but I haven't seen any tracking numbers and the people on the comments section aren't pipping up with their orders being delivered. This is a bitter pill in other ways because of the non-unique nature of the work, many other companies have stepped into the same space and a lot of them are doing business and using the Kickstarter method to fund which means more direct competition. They also appear to be doing a better job of communicating.

Dwimmermount. When James pulled Cartman from South Park and said screw you guys I'm going home, Tavis stepped up. It was a noble effort but really, looking back on it, seeing his own products late, perhaps, just perhaps mind you, he should have said "Guys I'm a small company and its too much to handle. I'm doing a full refund."

Steampunk Musha: Chances of me ever backing anything by this company or any of the individuals in it? Slim to none. It's not just the lateness factor. It's the lack of communication. It's seeing new products and bundles going up for the company and not getting any updates on it. And I wonder about the numerous stretch goals and what will happen with them. And I wonder about the people who really believed in the project and backed at the very high levels...

28mm Demons and Devils: Wow. I like Matt but his communication skills have been terrible. Let's take a personal example. "Matt, where's the Frog Demon that I preordered at Gen Con. Are you shipping it with the other figures?" "No, it's already been shipped by Valiant. That one is coming straight from the manufacturer so I can't combine it or anything of that nature." Weeks pass and I inquire again with no answer from the company so contact the casters directly and that gets a response with some more information and some assurances that for reals dog, I got you and it's on the way.  Again, Matt is a decent enough guy, nice to talk to, works a lot of hours at his 'real' job and all that. But people putting hundreds of dollars down on multiple occasions don't want to be lied to, because if you say X, and well, you know, it's Y, which is sorta like X but isn't? The currency of trust you have to fight tool and nail for is instantly devalued from gold to not even copper, but the lowly bronze piece. (4 bronze = 1 copper!)

Imbrian Arts Miniatures; Jody is active on Facebook. He's active in the comments section. He's got his miniature art and stuff around. These things make the lateness of the project far more acceptable than some of the others. I'm down for the 'year of' supplies but so far that's meant nothing and nothing. It's okay though as I know the stuff exists out there and that it's on the way.

Assimilation Alien Host: Communication hasn't been bad. Ed's been hit with some personal misfortune. My initial desire to use these as some weird type of Cthulhu monsters has fallen to the wayside because I've essentially stopped playing D&D and been doing more table top painting and that's been aimed at Warmachine so this basically becomes a 'useless' purchase that I wouldn't have made today.

Relic Knights. Yeah... I think I'm done with CMON except for possibly Confrontation. The communication here has been again, terrible. The promises of quality control remain to be seen. The whole effort seems to be that they're late to make it better, but you know, since you were late initially to make it better, where was the quality assurance group during that initial late time?

Cthulhu Mythos Foundry: Looking forward to the big C. Hell, by the time it's ready I may actually have a good handle on my air brush for it. It's not the latest, the communication has been m'eh and really, I'm just waiting to see what happens. At least the guy sent off the material that was ready so I'll give him points for that.

Drake the Dragon Wargame. Throw this up there with Alien Hosts. Thought a lot of the miniatures might be useful for RPG purposes. Maybe I'll be blown away by the game itself but I haven't seen a lot of people touting any miniature Kickstarter games as being the next Warmachine or Warhammer or what have you. This isn't to say people aren't playing say Freeblades, Carnivale, 1650, or the Delve System but they aren't movers and shakers.

Fractured Dimensions: Updates fairly regularly. My order in particular is being held up by the exclusive figures. So you offer up exclusive figures and don't have those done first? Yeah, that's not saying "Hey, if I run another KS, buy the exclusive figures!" Matter of fact, I'm pretty sure it's the opposite. "Hey, if you don't buy the exclusive figures, we'll ship you game out up to four, maybe six months early!"

I'm not going to say that I'm 'done' with Kickstarters but... Games Workshop game out with some new 'technical' paints. I went to the store and bought them. The War Store and Miniature Market have their Black Friday sale. I placed some orders and it's being shipped out already.

There are some companies, like Stonehaven, that I'm going to support. Others, well, if you or anyone associated with your project is already on this list and its crops up on something I'm interested in, chances are I'm NOT going to support it. It's not that you're a bad person or a terrible company but well, nothing says success like success and these companies below have not succeeded.

Who knows. Maybe it's the rush of being able to see something and buy it. Maybe it's the fact that so many companies are single man studios and well, it's too easy to get sick, to have a car accident, to have a loved one get sick, to have 'con crud', to have mechanical setbacks with your machines, to have a false understanding of how casting in America works, or what have you but the record speaks for itself and it says "Joe, show some damn restraint!"

Project Name Due Date Date Late Days Late Months
Tectonic Craft Studios 6/1/2012 12/1/2013 -548 -18
Dwimmermount 8/1/2012 12/1/2013 -487 -16
Steampunk Musha 10/1/2012 12/1/2013 -426 -14
28mm Demons & Devils 3/1/2013 12/1/2013 -275 -9
Imbrian Arts Miniatures 3/1/2013 12/1/2013 -275 -9
Assimilation Alien Host 5/1/2013 12/1/2013 -214 -7
Relic Knights 5/1/2013 12/1/2013 -214 -7
Cthulhu Mythos Foundy Style 7/1/2013 12/1/2013 -153 -5
Drake The Dragon Wargame 7/1/2013 12/1/2013 -153 -5
Fractured Dimensions 8/1/2013 12/1/2013 -122 -4

Black Friday Gaming Sales

In America, Black Friday is when retailers pop up massive discounts to get bodies into the stores. It was added by Cyber Monday when online shops decided to get into the action. Now? Now it's pretty much all week, if not all month.

But that's also good new for gamers as there tend to be a lot of sales around this holiday season now anyway.

Miniature Market has a ton of stuff on sale. I placed an order there for some various Warmachine stuff and if funds were no problem, would have ordered a lot more. They have numerous board games for great prices too. The service is usually very good, and if you order more than $99 worth of stuff, the shipping is free.

Fantization does numerous sales throughout the year. In this instance, they're 15% off everything, and 20% off if you spend more than $250. I've used them many times before and they have a wide selection of materials. It's one of the few places for example, you can get Scale75 paint.

Michigan Toy Soldier is a true hobby store with paints from companies I just don't see at other vendors including Life Color. Their doing 20% off if you're a preferred vendor. Shipping is relatively fast and the selection can't be beat, especially if you're trying to get hold of say, Andrea paints or figures.

CoolMinorNot is having a 15% off. Perhaps not the highest discount but they have a wide range of miniatures that you're not going to find in a lot of places.

The War Store, another place I've done business with on several occasions that delivers fairly fast and doesn't have crazy shipping prices, is also doing their sale. Some heavy discounts on a lot of different things.

There are numerous others out there. Goodman Games is doing a sale for example, where you can get the PDF at a discount or even some physical copies of the variant covers. Catalyst games is having some. Litko if you're ooking for dice towers. Military books more your think, Osprey has a ton of stuff in their online shop for 25% off.

I hit my $$$ limit pretty eary between Miniature Market and the War Store picking up a bunch of Convergance stuff for Warmachine that I don't even play, but at those prices figures I could start too.

Anyone have any particular deals they found too good to pass up?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss

I would not say with absolute certainty that The Whiskey Rebels is the best book I've read in 2013. After all, there is still another month to go and there is a lot of potential in that last month. Having said that, The Whiskey Rebels is the best book I've read in 2013. David Liss is always worth a read and this book, a done in one historical look at America right after the Revolutionary War, is a fascinating take on how to use historical fiction and fact to weave a fantastic story together.

There are so many things that make it useful to a person running a role playing game that it's an important reminder why people should regularly read outside of their genre, why they should stretch their mental muscle past its comfort zone.

I'll be discussing some specific things below from the book and how they might be useful in role
playing games.

Money. One of the biggest focuses of the book is in the accumulation of money. Anyone whose lived in America in the last, oh, say ten years, has seen the financial institutions take the economy to the brink and had to be saved from themselves only to eagerly go back to the very same behaviors that lead to the issues to begin with because they know that the government will back them up again should the need arise. This is something that doesn't necessarily get touched on often in role playing games because it can not only be boring, but can be more complex and less violent than a good old dungeon crawl.

In terms of money, no matter what the era, no matter when the time, there will be conflicts. there will be opportunities. There will be potential. As the book picks up right after the Revolutionary War, there are people attempting to control the new banks that are coming along. To fund them, or at least fund a specific one, there is a Whiskey Tax. This tax, on one side, seems harmless but to the people making the Whiskey?

Well, the whiskey in and of itself doesn't bring in funds. Instead, it's used as a bartering tool. An object of trade. There may be those who do make money off it, but those are not the people hurt by the tax.

Imagine Star Wars. The Emperor probably has those who are friends and allies and he could easily let slip that the Empire is going to build not one, but two death stars. Think of the manpower, the funding, the technology in terms of engineers and machines, needed to build that. Now we could go all, "Well, it's the Empire. No one is getting paid." Corruption pays off much better than tyranny. Look no further than China where it's not necessarily illegal to be bribed, merely illegal to be caught doing so eh?

Information is power. In a fantasy setting, if the players learn that a group of merchants is going to buy all of the land on the waterfront and sell it to the lords of the city in exchange for vast sums of wealth because they know that the lords of the city need that land for building defenses or something of that nature, what happens if the players decide to be the ones who buy the property? What happens if they already own it and are then put under 'scare' tactics? Hunting down such things would be an excellent use of the Gumshoe engine for example.

Character Change. Ethan Saunders starts the book as a near useless alcoholic. His talents in spying, in gathering information, are secondary to the notoriety he faces for rumors of him and his best friend Fleet, being British Spies who merely weren't brought up on charges because the war was ending and people had better things to do. Through the course of the novel, David builds the things that tore Ethan down into things that slowly build him up. Ethan missed out on so much of his life due to failed perceptions and not wanting to do anything to disgrace the memory of Fleet, because he secretly feared that Fleet was indeed a spy, that when the novel keeps bringing the 'truth' to the surface, Ethan has no choice but to change into something still flawed, but better than he was at the start of it.

The same is also true of Joan, who starts off wanting to be a writer, but whose apparent uncontested understanding of how the financial system works, makes her into a near unbeatable foe whose goal, the destruction of the government, seems almost within her power to be stopped by sleight of hand as opposed to straight out skill. The changes characters go through should influence the direction the game takes.

The Frontier. Joan starts off living in 'civilization' but poor. An opportunity comes up to seek out a new live on the Frontier in exchange for the script that shows the government owes her husband money. But after the Revolution the funds don't appear right away so are traded away for a 'better' life. This life is one of hardship. One where the simple comforts of the city, even the city of that era, are not present. Where one must be self sufficient to survive. Well, perhaps not entirely self sufficient for Joan's husband, despite his carpentry skills, and the skills he mastered in the war, isn't a full wilderness master like those already tricked, and already living there are. This brands them together being out in the wilderness against those who would further harm them. It makes them united against 'outsiders' even though Joan and her husband are still the 'new' people who must earn their way into the trust of the group.

Big Concepts: Joan and Ethan are both patriots. Ethan fought in the war to be free from English rule. Joan's husband did the same. Joan harbors thoughts on what a true free society is worth and what shape it must take while Ethan wouldn't see chaos and government failure run through the streets if he can help it. Some ideas can have multiple views that are both right but both must come across one another. When designing a setting, are there certain aspects of it that people might find distasteful but would rather have than absolute chaos? Are there some things that would make people change their minds about the country if only they knew?

The Unseen: Ethan has a slave, Leonidas. Ethan is able to use Leonidas status and his race as a useful tool for gathering information several times throughout the novel. In many settings, there are those who are looked down on. In modern societies, this could be as simple as the ignoring the cleaning people or the delivery people. In ancient societies, slaves were not often well thought of and things may have been spoken of freely in front of them. Another group in almost any setting could be children. Most settings have that 'underclass' that is always around and no one pays attention to. Using those resources can give characters and edge up against those who don't.

The Whoseitcalled. I was surprised to see reference to Jeffersonits. Those who followed Thomas Jefferson. And Hamiltonist. People who have followers will find those followers called by their specific name. While perhaps not in as much use today for personal names, Communist is a label still thrown about for example, but Putinists? Perhaps not so much. But in a setting where characters can be larger than life? Where you may have served, fought for, or directly assisted the person who liberated the whole of the country? Where those who take up stances against new methods and manners are on one side and those who take the opposing ideas on the other? Then indeed, it would seem nature that naming conventions might be s thing that use the giants of the era.

A Large Cast: When I was a younger and perhaps more apt game master, I had a huge three hold punch of characters. Whenever I added a character to the game, a throw away merchant, a named dragon, a hidden dungeon, or anything that had a name, I jotted it down into the book. I organized the book by region and was able to expand upon it and call upon it when characters where in a certain location. David Liss maintains a huge cast of characters here and it makes the world feel more alive. He mixes fictional and historical characters with the ease of a master juggler and the reader is never certain if who they are reading at the time is one or the other. Keep a list of potential names and descriptions for use at any time with the understanding that those names and characters may never be used, but that you have them if they are needed.

The Whiskey Rebels is a powerful historical novel that has a personal touch and focus and by having two viewpoints, brings the reader even deeper into the action.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Berserk 37 by Kentaro Miura

While Berserk by Kentaro Miura has not come to an end in the manga version, it has slowed considerably. This volume, afaik, is the last one we'll see in a while. Ironically enough, the movies have been moving forward. Hopefully we'll see more Berserk and of Guts in that field while the manga lays fallow.

This volume concludes the 'Sea God' story and brings in more magic and more visibility to the changes that have rocked the world since "the Wind" event where a strange wind blew through the land and heralded the age of magic and monsters returning to the world.

The art is up to Kentaro Miura's usual high standards. He, George Pereze and John Buscema all have a great timeless talent and I hope that if Berserk is on hold for a while that we'll be seeing his work in some other forms. Perhaps even an art book or something.

In terms of gaming?

1. Judge not by size. When Guts is 'fighting' the Sea God, he's fighting an island. Like several other similar situations where the character's size is of such insignificance, Guts is able to deal damage based on a weak point of the creature, in this case, it's heart. Designing such an opponent is like designing a dungeon. There are 'anti-bodies', various monsters that make their home there, there are parasites, there are creatures too small for the entity to notice. There are also natural hazards like stomach acid, drowning in blood and other unpleasant bits.

2. Red herrings: Guts is aided in this volume by Merrow and by a magical child. It's strongly been hinted, or at least argued online, that the child is Guts and Caska's child that is only able to reach the mortal world during the period of the full moon. This volume throws a wrench into that theory though as we're given two other options. The first is that the character seeking the elves to restore Caska, have been given a guide. The other is that the boy is a manifestation of King Hanafubuku. I'm sticking with it being Gut's and Caska's child.

3. Blow up the Outside World: Because Guts is at sea on a voyage, he doesn't know what's happened to the mainland. With all of the magic and monsters roaming freely through the land, man has retreated to shelter under Griffith's new country. Growing from outside the country are huge arcs of crystal called "Wing Stones" due to their appearance like wings. These keep out the 'wild' monsters and keep the humans and the Apostles, demonic creatures that serve Griffith, 'safe'. The real question is are the humans safe from the Apostles long term?

In addition to these Wing Stones, there is also the World Spiral Tree, an object so huge that it casts its branches over mountains and its visible against the moon when it first rises.

Lastly, we have the newly raised, in whole through magic and ritual, city of Falconia, a city where harvest season never ends, allowing people to continue to survive as well, people. Food and shelter are now not issues and they can continue to bring in outsiders.

These elements are a far cry from where the series has been prior to the Wind incident. In the past there were elements of ancient India and the Dark Ages of Europe. All that is potentially washed away but what it's replaced with is not certain. Only by effecting HUGE change can this be done.

Now I can hear some people saying, "I could swear that you didn't like it when WoTC blew up the Forgotten Realms." and yes, that is true but that's because of the manner in which it happened. There was no opportunity for the players to experience the events as they happened but rather, they get to play in the aftermath of that, and in many cases, the setting, at least in the novels I read, read much the same with a few nods to the vast changes. And when I say nods, that's what I mean. For example, Dragonborn? Not in the novels I read. Real effects to magic and the Spellplague? Again, nods to it, but effectively no. The whole point of putting the setting in that far reach having little impact on the characters.

Putting the characters IN the middle of that action however? Completely different beast.

Berserk 37 may be a temporary close to the story of Guts, but it's visual impact remains long after the last page is turned.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Percival and the Presence of God by Jim Hunter

I can't remember when, where, or for how much I bought Percival and the presence of God, but I know I bought several of the Arthurian novels at that time. I had never read anything written by Jim Hunter prior to this. It was a well written short first-person novel that took me an afternoon to finish off.

In many ways the novel  is timeless.  Well that's not quite true.  But it doesn't seem to be set in a specific  time frame outside of  being in a dark age or a middle-age  or a  medieval style setting .The author is free with a lot of description in terms of what the character is feeling  but not necessarily and say  what the characters wearing, what style armor the character has,  what manner of sword the characters using or other  bits and pieces that some modern authors  drown the reader with.

In short if you're looking for a quick  read  about  Percival  you could do worse  then this book  by  Jim  Hunter.

 In terms of gaming because the novel is short  and combat  is secondary, not even secondary  maybe fourth  or fifth  six place  in the scheme of things  there are still some bits  that can be yanked  for your home  campaigns .

For example  that many people  take  Percival's  quest  to be a worthy and in and of itself.. There is the question  of leaving  not just one home  but many homes  in the pursuit  of something that may not come  to fruition  but it is that characters  drive .  in looking at characters drive  it's important  that the player and GM understand it  but not necessarily important that the other characters  or the NPCs  agree with it.

Another thing to consider  is  the lack of light.  in the wintertime for example  there is not much time to be on the road.  indoors  there is not much light  to do anything  without candles  or torches or lanterns  and many of these things  produce smoke  and heat and fire.

Lastly there is the presence of ruin. Percival thinks he sees King Arthur's castle from afar. As he draws closer to it though, it is merely a ruin that he almost gets himself killed in. IN so doing, he learns deep despair. Ruins are full of potential 'traps' from rotting ceilings and stairwells to support beams and floors that can all fail when a character puts weight on them.

Percival and the Presence of God is not filled with combat and clashes but is an interesting character look at a knight's wanderings as they take him further and further form home.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Barnes & Noble Criterion Collection Sale

Barnes & Noble is having a 50% off their Criterion Collection of movies. Sadly, this often doesn't amount to 'huge' savings, but there are a few exceptions to that.

For example, there's a certain Blind Swordsman for $112.49 on the B&N site which compared to the $199 .99 they want for it say at Amazon, is a FANTASTIC deal.

There are a few other bits here and there you can hunt down, like the Samurai trilogy but the savings aren't as great. When you start getting to the single disk, the savings are still there when comparing B&N with Amazon, but not in the same level.

I know what I'm preordering myself for X-mas.

Good shopping!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Wolf's Hour by Robert R. McCammon

After reading Swan Song and asking about opinions for further reading by   Robert R. McCammon, one novel that came up in a few posts was The Wolf's Hour.

The short review? Thumbs up.

Take one part James Bond, in high action mode, and add a dash of werewolf and you've got the basis of the story. Oh, it's also set during World War 2 and involves a vital plan to save the allies during D-Day.

The writing engaged me. Robert's use of flashbacks to break up the sections of the book worked well ranging from how young Russian Michael Gallatin first suffers the 'curse' and how he grows with it and eventually joins the 'civilized' world.

Some of the things that stood out to me, is that despite Michael's potent abilities, heightened sense of smell for example, great physical abilities, and apparently like catnip to the ladies, is that he rarely 'walks' through any conflict and suffers several set backs.  Some of these set backs take time to overcome and recover from. Some of them have deeper costs.

There is also a lot of internal turmoil the character endures as he seeks to divine what exactly he is and what his role in society is.

In terms of gaming? Yeah, there were several bits that would be useful. Spoilers for the novel will follow. If you'd rather not be spoiled on some odd twenty + year old book, read no further.

1. Not everyone is a bad guy. One of the strengths of characters like Elric and Drizzt is that they play against the archetype of a member typical of their race.  Here, just as in the Captain America movie recently, the author reminds the reader that not every German is a Nazi with the introduction of a character named Mouse.

2. The surreal. There are a few points in the novel where due to the excess of the Reich, that things that would be vastly out of place in the 'real' world are seen as normal. One example of this is a train that a big game hunter has set up as a death trap that keeps circling the city of Berlin while he hunts the people within it. Another is a exclusive Nazi club where atrocities are on display and excess is the standard.

3. Delayed combat. Robert has at least three villainous characters who get their comeuppance at a later date than their initial vile acts would lead the reader to hope for.

4. Mystery. A part of the story that takes a good chunk of time is the unraveling of the "Iron Fist" bit where Michael has to discover what a local German artist and an undercover spy have in common with stopping D-Day from happening. Pathfinder has a few supplements that can handle such additions to them like Lorefinder a bolt of the Gumshoe system straight onto the Pathfinder engine.

5. The exotic with the mundane. World War II has a TON of supernatural crossoever elements to it. Usually those elements though, are in putting the players against some type of horror from beyond. Cubicle 7 for example, recently did World War Cthulhu and one of the settings is World War II. But what if the players are the monsters? Imagine the monster of Frankenstein. "What did you say your name was again? Adam? What happened to you? You look horrible. What were you in some type of accident?" The monster's rictus grin was unnerving. "An accident? Yes. An accident of birth you might say..." There are many opportunities to take the standard super hero types from say the Invaders and put a little Mythos twist on it. Sub Mariner an American patriot first and foremost and a spawn of the deep ones secondary? Lots of potential there.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon

Amazon did one of their various author spotlight sales for the kindle e-books on Robert R. McCammon, a horror author. I'd heard of the author from friends over twenty years ago in high school when people who had read Swan Song complained to me of how terrible it was that Stephen King's novel, The Stand, seemed to be the only thing fans of the genre were talking about. My mother, a voracious reader of many genres, was also a big fan of Robert and of Swan Song in particular.

When I saw the sale, I figured at worse, mom would be able to refresh her recollection of the books. It had been quite a while since she had read them and well, the old gray mare ain't what she used to be.

Strangely enough then, months, if not years later, I wound up reading Swan Song. I think it was because after reading the Shining and Doctor Sleep, both by Stephen King, I wanted to read something that had been compared to King's works, but not by the author proper if that makes sense.

Swansong has a lot of great moments to it in terms of how it flows. It's also a very dated book. People think I'm cynical and pessimistic and well, a bit of a downer. I read this book and I see a lot of that still goes back to the 80's and the fear, the very real fear a lot of people had of the nukes flying at any time.

I know things todays are more strained it feels like, but I'm honestly not worried about Russia declaring nuclear war on us. One crazy holy roller taking out a city on the other hand? Yeah, real thing. Getting killed at random when seeing a movie on opening night by some nut job? Real thing. Being nuked back to the stone age? Not so much anymore.

Anyway, I've drifted off the topic. Swan Song is a good post apocalyptic novel in the ruins of earth after a nuclear war. Like many tales with a touch of the supernatural in it, there are no explanations for the 'weird' bits in it. Why is there a supernatural creature? Why is there a magical crown? Why is there a prodigy of the land that can cause vegetation to grow when it's dead. But if you have to have those things, you're reading the wrong book. I won't mind some more internal acknowledgement of it, some questioning of it by scientists, but that gets into that hard science and well, I'm a big fan of not pushing the genre.

By that I mean don't take something into a place it's not meant to go.  A good example of that would be "The Deal", a fan made Batman and Joker end all scenario. It's not that it's bad or I don't think it's good, but it's something that anyone could write if they want to break the standards. For example, it'd be easy to have Spider Man die with a few well placed grenades but it doesn't happen because that's against the genre. Ditto for most of the X-Men. Heck, most super heroes who actually aren't bullet proof. It's why Fury doesn't have a clone eye or a cybernetic eye or take that stupid amulet from Doctor Strange and put it in his skull. The genre works, and it doesn't even necessarily have to have internal consistency with itself, much less 'how' things might work out.

The same thing is true here. There are enough bits that make it a good read that you want to see what happens. Robert does a good job of planting story seeds early that have eventual payoffs even if those payoffs may be visible in their final revelation. For example, the whole 'Jacob's Mask' bit? That was pretty clear to people who were paying attention to the writing and tone of certain character voices aka foreshadowing at the time.

Swan Song is a good story for those looking for a post apocalyptic horror story. It's good in that unlike some stories, it's ending is open enough that Robert could write a sequel to it that would be able to pick up many of the threads and see where they go from that point.

But what about in gaming? Is there anything worth looking at there? I'll be hitting some specific spoilers next so if you'd rather avoid them, read no further.

Jacob's Mask: What starts off as a series of warts, apparently caused by radiation poisoning, forms into a harden bark like mask over the user's face that eventually cracks off revealing the person's inner character for the world to see. While this works great for people like Sister and Swan and Josh, those who haven't been so kind? Well, monster city. In a fantasy environment, such a disease could be caused by a variety of things ranging from strange spoors and fungus, to curses and hexes. In a fantasy game, instead of changing your face, it could change your race, perhaps your entire identity. It would be a quick way of adding new races to the campaign.

Sunlight: After the nuclear war, there's a long nuclear winter. No sunlight. In Chicago, when the winter hits, we have little sunlight, some days are gray. It's an oppressive feeling at time. If you can capture the long term effects of that, you've got at the very least, a campaign element to hit the players with every not and again.

Civilization's Fall: Robert does a fair job of showing how quickly everything goes to hell in a hand basket without the toys. Given the limits of technology at the time of the book's writing and when the war occurred, it'd be even worse given how interconnected things are today. The collapse might be quicker and harder as people long used to shopping at three or six grocery stores discover that variety doesn't mean anything without the means to produce and transport said goods. Even in fantasy settings that try to put the 'grim' into the setting, one of the ways this is done is with the destruction of the highways and byways of the land. Without roads, trade becomes a very dangerous and treacherous thing. Without fuel, vehicles become scenery. Without maintenance, buildings become deathtraps. Without upkeep, bridges collapse and cities burn.

Time Skip: While I'm not always fond of a time skip, especially one like between Forgotten Realms 3rd edition to Forgotten Realms 4th edition, some odd 100 years I believe, when doing smaller ones, like the 2 year skip in Girl Genius or the nearly ten year skip done here, it allows the author to keep a lot of the old toys intact while still keeping the majority of the setting in tune with what has gone before.

New Artifacts: One thing I've harped on time and time again is how boring it is for the 'old ways' to just completely dominate the new. Don't get me wrong, in my own fantasy writing I've done I've fallen into that trap in terms of ancient swords but Robert doesn't. He crafts a crown of class and gems and melted precious metals that has a unique power whose full extent is never showcased in the novel. Messing with a setting allows new things to come to the fore front as well as showcase old things failing.

Swan Song provides a lot of fuel for the imagination's fire.

In terms of other Robert R McCammon books, anyone have any recommendations? I have quite a few of them but the one I heard the most buzz outside of Swan Song was probably Boy's Life although I have Stinger and a few others as well. Recommend away!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Amazon Kindle Bits and Buys

One of the things I like to do, is mention when something is a good price or on sale.

Having said that, I've been pretty lax about this when it comes to Amazon. Some other forms of communication, notably Twitter, are better at sending out the shout outs to such quick, one day or lightning strike deals.

But since I'm already here....

Today's daily deal in the science fiction fantasy realm is The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I've heard good thing about it but haven't picked it up yet. I'm actually trying to work through my backlog of physical books, as well as books I have in other mediums. Having said that though I've still been buying comics. Go figure right?

For the monthly deals... m'eh?

I did pick up the Ultimate Comics Wolverine versus the Hulk, but that's only because I was amused by the Hulk ripping Wolverine in half. And the other day the daily deal had some of the introduction titles to DC's 52. Wow, they were worse then I thought they would have been. It's got to be hard to rewrite introduction stories for characters over and over again like they did for the Justice League. "Batman's real?" Ugh.

Still, it's good to check on the various sites every now and again. I do with that the Google Market was easier to navigate. For example, they have a section where you can check out books. Then there's a section where you can check out what's on sale. Trying to sort that mess into something you can quickly flip through by say author or price or genre? Nope. At least not that I saw. I'm sure that someone has a better method of sorting through there or that I'm doing it wrong, because that's just plain bad design.

And I've never used the iBookstore so have no clue how that one works.

Where is everyone else picking up their e-books these days? Any good deals? Any sites worth watching daily?