Thursday, November 25, 2010

Game Book: Rogue Trader: Edge of the Abyss

Rogue Trader: Edge of the AbyssRogue Trader: Edge of the Abyss by Fantasy Flight Games

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great book for Rogue Trader games masters.

I liked Edge of the Abyss. There is enough there that is useful that will help me GM exciting RT games. My favorite bits:

Legends, myths, and lies. Great mood setters and examples of documents your players might come across.

The Breaking Yards at SR-651. What a great place to make repairs, meet pirates, and do business.

The Eldar: My players love the Eldar and Dark Eldar, even if their characters do not. They want more Eldar adventures, and these four Eldar (or 3 Eldar, 1 Dark Eldar) factions will help get that kicked off. I love the light cruiser.

The Rok 'Gol: A chaos worshiping race that looks like the Geiger designed monsters from Alien? That shows up when the players are at any archeological dig site? Works for me.

The Stryxis: My players are already fascinated by this race. Enough details and fluff to use them in many encounters.

Chaos Reavers. Yes please. I'm already using the Brotherhood of the Horned Darkness as the power behind several rival rogue traders. Time to ratchet it up and bring out the big boys.

Kasballica: Great. I've already built in a shadow war between the Kasballica and the Ameranthine Syndicate.

Vaults of the Forgotten. I'll mod it before I use it, but it's a fun action / horror scenario. You could substitute the Ameranthine Syndicate for the Kasballica if that's the way your campaign is moving. And I really like the hooks. The PCs are minority investors with the control being in the hands of criminals.

Most of the rest isn't bad, just not as useful to *my* campaign. I wish they had cut all the space they devoted to rival rogue traders (there are enough in "Lure ot the Expanse") and really fleshed out the Disciples of Thule and the "mysteries" of the other worlds. Vehicles for each race would have been nice. Worlds that would have helped my campaign:
  • a sample Pirate haven
  • a high tech, but non-Imperium, planet to trade with
  • a Thulian forge world

 Rogue Trader: Edge of the Abyss
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Friday, August 13, 2010

Game Book: Rogue Trader: Into the Storm (long)

Rogue TraderRogue Trader: Into the Storm

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is only one reason for players of Rogue Trader not to get Into the Storm, the game's newest supplement. If buying the book means not making rent, then don't. (I paid $50.00 for my copy, bought by a friend at Gencon). While not perfect, this a ridiculously good expansion of the game, and the only player-friendly supplement for Rogue Trader outside of the core rulebook.

Given they all share the same basic game system, Into the Storm has useful crunchy and fluff bits for both Dark Heresy and Deathwatch. Much is Rogue Trader specific, but players of the other two 40k games would find a lot to mine from. Players of other science fiction role playing games might find it an interesting read, but the rules are intrinsically tied to the Games Workshop's Warhammer 40k setting. This is neither a nice nor a realistic setting, but is a damned cool one.

Some of the standout materials are the expansion of character creation and customization, the vehicle rules (perfect for Dark Heresy and Deathwatch games), and the ability to play as an alien on a Rogue Trader vessel. The aliens covered are the Ork and the Kroot.

The hardbound, 256 page (2 pages for the index, 2 pages for ads) book is a handsome piece of work, with a generous helping of well done color and black and white illustrations. There are eight chapters.

Chapter I: Advanced Origins doubles the choices for a player character background. There are new character Home Worlds, Birthrights, Motivations, and so on. An optional Lineage is added to the Origin Path, letting the character start play as Disgraced or Witch Born among others. All this change does not invalidate anything a player may have come up with using the core rulebook; these are additions, not replacements.

This chapter also includes an alternative method to create a starship. Instead of rolling for Ship Points to spend, players can build one up using an Origin Path for starships.

Chapter II: Koronus Carreers adds the Kroot Mercenary and the Ork Freebooter as player character options. The Ork is surprisingly well done, and the opportunity to play a battle crazed green spore creature working for the "humies" has a lot of role playing potential. Not to mention the bird-like Kroot, who can assimilate traits of their enemies by eating them. Each alien gets their own Origin Path.

Also in Chapter II are Alternate Ranks, where a player character can deviate from the skills and talents of their chosen profession and spend a rank pursuing a specialty, such as becoming a Flight Marshal (think Starbuck) or and Ork Mekboy (who can turn any piece of useful equipment into something much more useful for a short period of time -- then turns into worthless junk). Elite advances add smaller customizations at a lower price.

Chapter III: Extended Armory is a big toy box. Not just weapons and armor, but also medical equipment, drugs, bionics, and special equipment for Orks and Kroot.

Chapter IV: Starships Expanded has new hulls and components for starships. Now the players can build all sorts of ships, and the GM can throw new designs at them. There are example Rogue Trader vessels, including the Sovereign Venture, from the free Rogue Trader Quickstart adventures.

Chapter V: Vehicles, covers ground, air, and small spacecraft. How fast they move, how many people or how much cargo they can carry, and how they can shoot at (and ram) one another. High speed chases, aerial dogfights, crashes and more are covered. 14 sample vehicles are listed, included iconic 40k examples such as the Aquila Lander, the Rhino armored personnel carrier, and the Ork Warbike.

Chapter VI: Expanded Psychic Powers not only adds more powers for Navigators and Astropaths to choose from, there are new extended actions for both professions to use in Starship Combat. No longer do the three eyed Navigators and the blind Astropaths have to sit there and look pretty while the pilot, gunners, and auspex operators get all the glory. Now they can use their psychic powers to tip the balance the next time a pirate fleet tries to take on the player's starship.

Chapter VII: Enhanced Game Mechanics is the chapter where they put all the new rules that didn't fit in the other chapters. Social Interaction Challenges can be used to sway planetary rulers, sign trade agreements, broker peace treaties, and more. The mechanic is very similar to Exploration Challenges from the core rulebook and fills the same purpose as the 4E Skill Challenge, albeit with more player control.

Endeavours get some extra attention with the addition of Background and Meta Endeavours. A Background Endeavour is one where the players hire the work out. It's beneath them, they would rather be swashbuckling across the stars than hauling ore, so they let their hirelings take care of it. Sometimes the hirelings screw up. Royally. Meta Endeavours string together many endeavours to create an entire campaign. While interesting, that's not how my game rolls. I don't have every game session planed out for the next two years of playtime. But the concept made me think harder about the theme and direction of my campaign.

Expanded Acquisition Rules spell out what happens when player characters throw too much money and influence around. Bad things, like attracting the attention of thieves or even the Inquisition.

Ship Roles creates a job description that player characters can choose to fill. While the Rogue Trader will take the Lord Captain slot, the rest of the players have many choices, such as First Officer, Choir-Master Telepathica, and Ship's Confessor. Not all roles suit every type of player character, but there are plenty of choices. Each role gives the Gamesmaster another way to involve the players in running their ship and each player a bonus to a useful skill.

Chapter VIII: Port Wander is an extensive gazetteer of this enormous space station. Maps, history, major movers and shakers, shady meeting places with shady characters, adventure hooks, and dark secrets. This chapter tips into Gamemaster material at times. Having the less detailed Footfall gazetteer in the adventure Lure of the Expanse at least keeps the secrets out of player hands. Still, this is an excellent example of what to put into a Rogue Trader setting. There is a sidebar on the use of Port Wander in Dark Heresy games.

Problems: Some of the tables don't include everything they should, such as the ships components table leaves out a plasma drive. Some of the examples confused me more than the rules they were meant to illuminate, like the first Social Challenge example. Where did that -10 on the Blather test come from? (After a long time, I think I figured it out. It should have said in the example.) I'd rather have a 4 page index than 2 pages of ads. But these are nits.

Overall: Highly recommended.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Meet the new Bosses

In order to up my productivity, and get my book done, I've taken on a new boss. Instant Boss.

This allows me to work, take a short break, then reminds me to get back to work. So far, so good.

My other boss is Bupropion. I use Bupropion as an ADD medication. It has changed things, but gives me bad dry mouth, which my dentist does not like. I no longer have any craving for caffine in the afternoon, and my contribution to Starbuck's bottom line has dropped 98%.

Yet I can still goof off, so I'm not sure I'll stay on it. I hate the dry mouth, but I'm drinking a lot more water.

So far, Instant Boss is a keeper.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Review: The Grand Ellipse by Paula Volsky

The Grand Ellipse The Grand Ellipse by Paula Volsky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book takes Around the World in 80 days and turns it into a race not only to see who can complete the Grade Ellipse first, but also to see if anyone can stop a brutal empire is on the road to enslaving the world.

While the point of view shifts between characters, Luzelle Devaire, adventureress in a mock Victorian world is the heroine. Volsky does a fantastic job of showing us a woman in a man's world who will just not give up. If she wins, she has a shot at saving her country and is guaranteed control over he own life.

The exotic world that mixes gas light technology with the fantastic is the backdrop of Luzelle's race for freedom. Among her many competitors there are two men who she is attracted to, each from opposite sides of the war that is about to engulf her nation.

Great fun, with high stakes and a character you come to know better than she knows herself.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Song Of Ice And Fire Roleplaying: Adventures In The Seven Kingdoms (A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying) A Song Of Ice And Fire Roleplaying: Adventures In The Seven Kingdoms by Robert J. Schwalb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With the upcoming HBO mini-series based on A Game of Thrones, there is buzz again about George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series.

The other day, my gaming group tried out the quickstart rules for this roleplaying game, and I was quite impressed. At no time did I feel lost, that I was just playing a generic fantasy role playing game with no purpose but to slay monsters. We were all members of the same house, a young lord, who has taken over the house at the age of 14; his uncle, the proud knight; his bastard brother who dreamt of one day becoming the master of horse; the young squire, who has hidden her gender in service to her dream of becoming a knight; and so on.

So I picked up the rulebook. I have the ugly orange cover, but the rules are well done, and my original feeling that this game will ground you in a noble house is born out. There is a chapter telling the players how to design their own house. Players will get to decide on building castles, towers, and other buildings to hold their lands. They will have to chose between devoting resources to defensive fortifications, political influence, lands, law, population, military power, and wealth.

Like any role playing game, there is a chapter on combat. There are also chapters on intrigue and large scale warfare. Seduction, poisoning, lies, and the rest of the staples of court intrigue are covered.

The rules follow the books very closely. You can create a character like any of those found in the books. You can be a cripple who has had his third eye opened and can see through the eyes of his dire wolf, like Bran Stark. You can be a noblewoman who stays within the boundaries of her class and gender while striving to protect her house and family like Catelyn Stark. Or a dwarf (human) nobleman with a big mouth and bigger wit like Tyrion Lannister. And so on.

Besides gold and experience, the players also work for glory. Glory is a resource for their house, which can be spent to improve the house's fortunes.

The cover art is annoyingly bad, but some of the other illustrations are fine.

If you wonder about roleplaying in a fantasy world based on a series that is not complete, this game is set just *before* Game of Thrones. This is a very low magic world, which is quite refreshing.

Recommend for George R R Martin fans who are also gamers. Or should it be the other way around?

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Terrior 2010

This weekend McMinnville hosted the first Terrior writing conference. Ursula K. LeGuin was the opening speaker, who presented a rather funny take on storytelling, and why it's better to make things up as opposed to stick to the facts.

"Fact is hard to come by, and is very controversial. You are more likely to connect in a shared reality with your reader if you write Fiction."

She went on to liken life expeience to compost. "You never know what will come up. You think you're planting a petunia, and up pops an eggplant. This is good. Go with your eggplant."

On falling book sales: "The majority of people have never read for pleasure and never will. That's OK. There are more readers than writers, and it's your job to find a way to write and get paid for it."

There were many other speakers and workshops, and I took away useful ideas from each one I attended. The offical site:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dark Thursdays

Alison asked me if we could have one day a week where we don't use electronics for entertainment and noodling. Sounds like a good idea to me. No chasing Robot Chickens in Azeroth, no hunting wargs in Middle Earth, no TV, no Radio, no YouTube, no email, no Facebook. Even no Blogging. My kindle gets a dispensation, as reading is a good thing.

Thursday is the day. So if you send me a message, you'll have to wait until Friday for a reply.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Game Book: Lure of the Expanse

Rogue Trader: Lure of the Expanse Rogue Trader: Lure of the Expanse by Fantasy Flight Games

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This a campaign for the Rogue Trader role playing game. In order to use this, you'll need a copy of Rogue Trader as well. This review is aimed at Games Masters who may be considering Lure of the Expanse, and contains spoilers for players. Stop now if you are a player!

My guestimate is 15 to 20 sessions would be played out before the end of this campaign. The approach is modular, so you could skip parts, or just cannibalize pieces for use in your own adventures. Or you could add your own customizations.

The plot is a race to claim a world of immense wealth, somewhere out there among the Heathen Stars. There are nine Rogue Trader dynasties, including the player's, competing for the prize. Each of the NPC Rogue Traders has their own agendas, modes of operations, and personalities. They all start out as rivals, but may become bitter enemies or even allies. The book covers how they will probably act at major plot points of the campaign. There is no reason to believe all nine Rogue Traders will be alive at the campaign's end, but it could happen.

This hard bound book is full of immersive, high quality, art that sets the mood for your role playing games. The illustrations are both color and black and white.

The book is broken into three parts:

I. Eye of the Needle. This which sets up the action with an adventure on the asteroid-city of Footfall full of intrigue and prophesy. There the players meet their rivals. When they leave Footfall, they have their first run in with the Eldar in ship to ship combat.

The play then progresses to the Heathen Stars, where the prophesy has led them. There are optional encounters in transit, many of which highlight the role of one of the players. For example, one deals with a warp storm that threatens the ship, and the player who is the pilot gets a chance to shine. Should your group not include a pilot, you may decide to skip this encounter and focus on the ones that most directly include your players.

At the end of the journey they find a planet with Eldar ruins and a broken star map to the treasure world. Local flora, rivals, and the Eldar will complicate things for the players. Each rival is given a course of action, but it is up to the GM to decide which rivals arrive on planet when the players are there and how they react to any player overtures or attacks.

II. The Heathen Trail. In order to complete the star map, the players must take readings from a number of other worlds found on the map. How many is up to the GM. If the GM has a world of their own design they want to insert into the campaign, this is a perfect place to do it. Each world has an Eldar structure where the reading must be taken.

Five worlds are given, and on each there is an Eldar device where the players must take the readings. The GM is advised the players need to take readings on at least three of them, but if everyone is enjoying themselves there is no reason not to have them do all five. The players could find a rival has beaten them to a world and destroyed the structure needed to take the reading. Some rivals are more likely to be encountered than others. And the Eldar would like to stop the players if they could.

On some worlds, the players could go in, take the reading, and leave. But on all the worlds there are optional side adventures that can lead to more profit for the trip. Each of the worlds is unique and entertaining in their own way.

Should the players skip a world or two, they could always return after the campaign.

III. The World Beyond. Here the treasure planet called the Dread Pearl is described, along with it's treasures and dangers. The world has been hidden by warp storms for 10,000 years, and now the storms clear.

The remaining rivals swoop in as well. The book describes the likely actions of the rivals, the native humans (descended from a lost ship thousands of years ago), and the Eldar. Treasure is all about.
Some of the rivals try to co-opt the natives, one bombards them into submission from orbit, and another herds them into slave ships. So much for paradise.

This is a lost Eldar Maiden world, and the returning Eldar wake their planet up. The GM is given almost unlimited power to throw at the players as countless Eldar Wraithguards awake to cleanse the world of the human taint.

The Eldar summon back the Warp Storms to prevent the world from falling to the humans, and the players must get off world with as much treasure (and perhaps rescued natives) as they can before the world is sealed for another 10,000 years. Options are given that allow for a variety of exciting escapes from the Dread Pearl.

Overall The book includes the ships of each of the rivals, as well as an Eldar craft. The adventures allow for space combat, diplomacy, investigation, exploring alien worlds, chances to engage in criminal enterprises, and some serious role playing with the rival Rogue Traders.

There are a few places where a little more guidance would have been useful, particularly in how the players could upgrade their own ship with the salvage they can do during this campaign. I just know my group will want to try that.

If you GM Rogue Trader, you will want this book. Even if you just pick bits of it, you'll want this book. Highly recommended.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

David Levine returns from Mars

David Levine spoke last night at Powell's Technical Books on his recent trip to Mars. David is a science fiction writer, and was chosen to be the crew journalist on mission 88.

Wait? What? Mars?
David went on a simulated Mars expedition run by the Mars Society. He wore a space suit, did science, wrote a blog from Mars, and fixed leaky toilets. The site of the Mars landing is really in Utah, far away from anything. The "astronauts" use only what they bring with them into "space" and have to constantly improvise repairs and workarounds.

One of his takeaways is how much of a "protagonist" he and the five other crewmembers became. If something went wrong, they fixed it right there. No waiting, hoping someone else would take care of it. That's part of the simulation, since Earth is a long way away, and repairman won't come visit.

It was obvious he and his crew mates bonded. Which was well, as the shower wasn't working. Sponge baths only.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Book Review: Silver Borne (Mercedes Thompson, #5) by Patricia Briggs

Silver Borne (Mercedes Thompson, #5) Silver Borne (Mercedes Thompson, #5) by Patricia Briggs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Here's what I said when I just started the book: I really need to understand how Briggs manages to make these books so wonderful. My life is better when I'm reading one of these.

Now that I've finished it, I'm not so enthralled.

It's almost as good at the previous books, lots of very interesting things happen, many are unintended consequences caused by Mercedes' adventures in the past, and there is some great character development.

I wavered between 3 and 4 stars, but the plot was a bit of a let down.

This is the fifth book that starts off with Mercedes in the cross hairs. I would love to see a plot where she is proactive.

Most urban fantasy heros have noir professions that lend themselves to being proactive. Wizard for hire, private investigator, police...

It's cool that Mercedes is a Volkswagon mechanic, but that doesn't create a reason for her to go out and seek trouble. Five books where trouble seeks her out is a little much.

I liked the set up to the climax. I liked the aftermath. But I missed the climax. Without giving anything away, I didn't really believe Mercedes' solution worked. I kept reading a few paragraphs thinking it had failed. Then "oh, that worked."

Anyway, I enjoyed reading this book, will read the next, but I hope this was a transition to a more proactive Mercedes Thompson.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1) 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Silly me, I saw the movie before reading the book. And the film followed the book fairly closely, at least until halfway through. Without spoiling either, they end with differing moral dilemmas.

I don't read a lot of books with omniscient narrators, but it worked for this novel. It did feel a little cold and distant. But I needed some distance from the brutal center of this mystery.

I enjoyed the setting in Sweden, it made me think about how women's rights have, and have not, advanced world wide. The Swedish title is "Men Who Hate Women," for good reason.

Nit: Why couldn't the English translator leave it in metric? My world model for Sweden does not include square feet or Fahrenheit. He/she did leave kilometers in when the action shifted to Australia. Is Australia more metric than Sweden?

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Cherie Priest Reading

Cherie Priest read at the Beaverton Powell's from her book Boneshaker. It's a great Steampunk read, and she's a great speaker. She's very enthusiastic about Steampunk, history, writing, and wild ideas.
I left fired up to work on my Mongolian Steampunk short story. It's been languishing on my laptop's hard drive, and it's time to make it publishable.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nhoj Fail


Dear John W.S. Marvin:

Thank you for applying to the Clarion West Writers Workshop for 2010.

We are sorry to let inform you that you were not selected for this year's class. We had a large number of applicants, and because the workshop is limited to eighteen students we could not find room for all of the promising writers.

We wish you the best with your writing and hope you have a productive summer.

Thank you again for your interest in Clarion West.


Neile Graham

Oh well, I didn't like the focus on short stories while I'm trying to finish my novel. I'm bummed, but what can you do? Work harder and get this novel done!

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Republican Edits Aren't Working, Time for Universal Plot Care

I've been getting consistent feedback on my novel from my critique group. And I've been trying to fold my fixes back into the new chapters before I hand them out. But I keep getting the same broad strokes feedback: Humor's great, Plot's not strong enough.

While watching the news on the Health Care Reform debate, I heard a Republican say "Let's just do small things, one at a time, that we can all agree on." And President Obama say "We need comprehensive change or it just won't work."

So, channeling my inner Obama, it's time for bold, comprehensive, edits.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Buntho Critique Group

I put up a new website using Blogspot for my Science Fiction and Fantasy critique group. Check it out:

We are named Buntho because we came out of a Ursula K. Le Guin Portland State class. In her critiques, Le Guin would give the reactions of a clueless, literal-minded reader named "Buntho."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Clarion West

I applied to Clarion West Writer's Workshop. I sent in the first three chapters of Voodoo Coffee and a synopsis. I'll hear if I got in or not sometime this month. Fingers Crossed!

2010 Clarion West Writers Workshop

Our instructors for the 2010 Clarion West Writers Workshop are Michael Bishop, Maureen McHugh, Nnedi Okorafor, Graham Joyce, Ellen Datlow, and Ian McDonald, the 2010 Susan C. Petrey Fellow.



Monday, March 1, 2010

Book Review: Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Moon Called (Mercedes Thompson, #1) Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first novel in what has become my favorite urban fantasy series. If you have never read urban fantasy, this would be a great place to start.

Mercedes Thompson is a Native American shapeshifter and Volkswagen mechanic who get involved with some dark deeds when strangers attack an employee of her's. The strangers and the employee are werewolves, and as we follow Mercedes in her dealing with the dark forces that have invaded her life, we learn of her unique childhood. She was raised by werewolves in Montana.

We also get to meet the local "alpha" werewolf and his punk rock daughter, and a host of interesting minor characters. The setting is in the Tri-Cities, Washington. It's modern, and while the public do not know about werewolves or Native American shapeshifters, the magical fey have gone public. Instead of magic being unknown by the public (Jim Butcher), or common place (Kim Harrison), it is in the process of coming out of the closet.

While the cover may indicate otherwise, this isn't lady-porn. Mercedes has a past, has some men (non-human, but male) in her life, but sex and romance support the story, they do not take it over.

The plot, character building, and backstory never get in each other's way, and the book just kept building to a major confrontation. Really nice writing.

Monday, February 15, 2010


If I ever even hint of buying anything from Dell again, please shoot me.

I ordered a nice I7 gaming rig in September 09. It was to include a free upgrade from Vista (boo!) to Windows 7 (yea!).

The shipment was delayed over and over again. By the time I got it in November, Windows 7 was already out. But I had (and still have!) Vista. Boo!

So in November, I go to the Dell website and register for my free upgrade. I thought, "that's pretty sneaky, if I hadn't gone here, I wouldn't have gotten the upgrade." Little did I know.

The web site told me I was registered, and I would get an email from Dell when my Windows 7 upgrade was available.

Come Febrary, I'm starting to wonder what's going on. So I use the Dell chat customer support. I call customer support. I get a different message each time I call.

Friday I'm told "No problem, we can take care of you. Expect an email telling you how to get your upgrade soon."

Today, Monday, I get a call while I'm out. Alison can't understand what the man is saying.

So I call the number and after lots of hold time I get told I'm too late. I needed to have called in January. For the upgrade I've been waiting for since November. For a computer that should have shipped with it pre-installed.

I hate Dell.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tattered Fates, Post Play

Back in May 09 I read and reviewed the Dark Heresy adventure Tattered Fates.

We finished it last night. Overall, it was a lot of fun.

Choo Choo My players didn't complain too much about the railroading of starting the adventure already captured. I think it was because it was already done, "off screen," so we didn't have one of the those long fights where the players have to lose.

High Times Finding the dying Inquisitor was a high point, as was wandering around Xicarph wondering what the hell was going on. The best part was watching my players decide which baddie to trust. The criminal boss at the big fighting pits? Or the more powerful, but creepier Spider Bride? They went back and forth on that issue, but came down with the fighting pit boss. The Spider Bride was just too creepy.

Lows The low point was the Widower. The game mechanic to kill the Widower was an interesting one. If the players did less than 20 hit points in a round, there was no effect. If they did 20 or more, the Widower died. I had heard the Widower was too easy to kill, especially if the party has a powerful pysker (we do). So I bumped it to 30, and he still went down before harming the party.

Why? Well, it really made sense for the Widower to take out trash talking Heron Mask first. I should have had him sneer at the Beloved and rip open a player, but I thought a demonstration of his power would be exciting. Oh well.

Then there are the players. They like to unload on the first round and go for a quick kill. Burn Fate Points, use special weapons and ammo, whatever helps.

Then there are the weapons my players had. The adventure starts off with them bare knuckled and fighting hand to hand, and gives ideas on where the players equipment might be stored, should the GM want to give it back.

I considered not giving anything back, but the psyker had his brain, and the rest of the adventure threatened to be the psyker and his little friends. So I had most of the equipment sold off, but not the melee weapons. As I my players reach the upper levels, I'm really opening up the equipment choices to keep the others competitive with the psyker, so there were two power weapons in the mix, including Greel's power scythe from the House of Dust and Ash.

What I wish I had done: Changed the Widower to die only on the second round where the hit points exceed the threshold. Maybe even the second consecutive round.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unseen Academicals (Discworld, #37) Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very funny book. If you like Terry Pratchett, you'll like Unseen Academicals.

The plot concerns what happens when a violent street sport not unlike football/soccer gets the attention of not only Lord Ventinari, the beloved dictator/assassin of Ankh-Morpork, but the wizards of the Unseen University and an ancient goddess. But what it's really about is Mr. Nutt, a strange creature who calls himself a goblin and works at the university making the candles dribble just so. Mr. Nutt has some interesting abilities that shake Discworld to its foundations, or at least its elephants.

Like any Terry Pratchett book deciding what it's really really about is never easy. Sport as a replacement for war. Identity. Moving beyond history. Kindness verses love. And really good pie.

There are plenty of fascinating characters, such as Trev the fast talking young man who has fallen for Juliet who can't make great pies. And Juliet's best friend Glenda who can. Plus you get to cheer on the wizards of Unseen University as they put together their own foot-the-ball team.

Any guesses on who plays goalie? Hint: Oook Oook!

Another great Discworld book. Keep them coming.