Friday, December 26, 2014

Inspirational Reading - Part 7

Time to continue looking at sources for Inspirational Reading for games. This time I start looking at the individual authors listed in Appendix N.

Poul Anderson is listed first, and there are three specific novels mentioned. Anderson is probably best known for his science fiction. Like a lot of authors in the appendix, though, his science fiction occasionally incorporates fantasy elements and he wrote some straight fantasy as well. Of the three novels mentioned, Three Hearts and Three Lions and The Broken Sword are fantasy. The High Crusade blends science fiction and fantasy.

Aside from the mentioned books, I am including a few more from Anderson in my list. The Ys series is historical fantasy set in the time of the Roman occupation of Britain and incorporates fantasy elements related to the legendary city of Ys in Brittany. I'm also adding his novels about King Harald Hardrada. The end of his reign is considered the end of the Viking age and his travels and career may have had some influence on Robert Howard when he was writing his Conan tales.

That adds the following to the reading list:

Anderson, Poul; Anderson, Karen. Dahut (King of Ys 3)
-----. The Dog and the Wolf (King of Ys 4)
-----. Gallicenae (King of Ys 2)
-----. The Golden Horn (The Last Viking 1)
-----. The Road of the Sea Horse (The Last Viking 2)
-----. Roma Mater (King of Ys 1)
-----. The Sign of the Raven (The Last Viking 3)

Next on the list in the appendix is John Bellairs' The Face in the Frost. I first read Bellairs in grade school, starting with The House with a Clock in its Walls, The Figure in the Shadows, and The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring. I recognized the name when I first read the DMG, but wasn't able to find a copy of The Face in the Frost until recently. Since this is his only adult fantasy novel, it's the only one I am including in the list.

As an aside, Bellairs was a faculty member at my undergraduate alma mater for a year prior to writing The Face in the Frost. According to various bits of online biographies, he taught at Shimer College for a year in 1966 then moved to Bristol, England for six months, where he wrote Face.

Next up I'll take a look at Leigh Brackett

Back online

The last half of this year has been an adventure. Lots of personal stuff has gotten in the way of me posting anything. I moved from Palo Alto to Long Beach in September, and I haven't had an internet connection at home since the move. That has meant a lot of reading actual, physical books and painting miniatures instead of sitting in front of the computer every evening after work. 

I'll update with pics of the minis once I get them transferred to the computer. I'll also start picking up some of the other projects, including the Inspirational Reading posts, once I get all the updates done on my computer.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

First 5E session

Tonight I ran a quick D&D session using the new rules and the adventure from the Starter set. It was a short session, and we only got through one encounter and a little follow-up. We had to look up a lot of details as we played, so that slowed us down. All of that aside, I really like the new system!

There are some things that are different than I am used to from previous editions, but the differences seemed to make things easier overall. The hardest part of the system so far is figuring out exactly what calculations to do in specific situations. Once you work out the basic math, it all runs smoothly.

The initiative is continuous, rather than being rolled fresh each round. That helped keep things moving along during combat. I am probably going to make some initiative cards with basic stats for monsters and characters to help me keep track of things a little better.

The lethality and healing balanced pretty well. First level characters are fragile, but there are plenty of ways to head off the reaper. Second Wind helped one of the fighters stay on his feet, and the cleric was able to throw a couple spells to help everyone else. Critical hits could definitely cause some serious damage to a low-level party. I scored four criticals on the characters in the one combat, and most of them were down for at least a round or two. Despite the wounds, the party was able to recover enough with a short rest at the end of the encounter to keep going.

I like the mechanics for death and dying. Unless the character takes a massive amount of damage, you have to fail a few rolls before your character is done. That gives enough time to allow for some intervention. I think it will keep more characters alive, but there is still plenty of tension when you're rolling those saves.

Hopefully I can get another session in the next couple weeks. In the meantime, I'm going to keep reading the rules and the adventure so things can run a little smoother next session.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Another try

I've been neglecting the blog for the last few months, mostly because I haven't really had a lot of energy for it. Some of that is because I haven't been able to find any people to game with locally. Most of it is that I have been getting dragged down by real life stuff.

I did download the Basic rules for 5th edition, though, and I got my Starter Set in the mail yesterday. So I've been reading a bit of the new rules, and I'm planning to try to run the adventure from the Starter this weekend. I've only read the first forty pages of the PDF and the first ten or so pages of the adventure. So far, there is a lot to like in the new edition.

The Starter set is nicely put together. The box is sturdy, and I like the art. The dice are decent. I think the covers on the books could be sturdier, which I understand is a common complaint. I would have liked to see more complete rules in the set, but I think they work for an introduction.

I love the extra space and the spacer in the box. I punched a few holes in the spacer with a stylus so it comes out easier, and I plan to keep my dice, some minis, and other things under the spacer. There's enough room for a lot of small game items that I like to use, and keeping them under the spacer will save some wear on the books.

Even though I haven't read much of the adventure, I already like it. There is some good guidance for DMs in the encounters I've read. It seems like there is some room for exploration. The thing I like best though is the separation of the mechanical elements from the text of the adventure. It seems to me, if a DM is willing to create the stat blocks, it would be easy to run the adventure with any edition. It's a simple change, but I like it.

The Basic rules are obviously incomplete, but I expected that from what I read online before it was released. Still, there's a lot of material there. I think releasing the rules in pieces is a good idea. It allows people to read a little at a time and digest it, rather than jumping right in with everything and getting overwhelmed. Depending on how it develops, I may eventually print and bind the whole thing. For now, though, I'm happy to read things as they're released and be happy.

I'll be putting together a lot more of my thoughts about the game later. For now, I'm going back to reading the adventure. Hopefully, this will get some of the fire back.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Paint Table Saturday

The past couple of weeks I haven't done much painting. I've been working too much on other projects when I haven't been buried in the day job. So today is a bit of catch-up on painting projects. I'm working on finishing the not-so-fast speed painting on my skaven, painting some old Heritage and Grenadier minis for a friend at work, and continuing building a 1/72 MiniArt medieval fortress. Hopefully later I'll get interrupted to roll some dice or go see Captain America: Winter Soldier. Otherwise, I'll be bouncing back and forth on these projects for the day.

MiniArt medieval fortress in progress

Skaven and more on the paint table

Sorry for the blurry pics. I snapped them quickly with the cell phone so I could get this posted and get back to work.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

May light perpetual shine on him

I just found out that Dave Trampier passed away earlier this week. I have been a fan of his work for decades, and I always hoped he would eventually return to art and gaming. Sad to see that this will not be the case. My thoughts and prayers are with him and those close to him.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Kurt Vonnegut and why I keep working on things I will never get to play

Vonnegut mural in Indianapolis
After growing up in Indianapolis, I have a particular fascination with things that are related in some way to my hometown. Not the least, of course, is Kurt Vonnegut, the onetime Hoosier that fled the state and became one of its most notable expatriates. I enjoy his fiction, but I mostly enjoy his appreciation for things midwestern without the fawning devotion and xenophobia that often go along with that. I also appreciate his ideas about creativity and writing. I have often heard him say that you need to keep creating, whether your creations are wonderful or terrible, simply because creation and the creative process are good for you and make you more human. They help you discover things about yourself and the world that you would not have without trying to express them.

Today someone linked me to an article about a letter that he sent to some high school students in 2006. I think it expresses this well.

It immediately made me think about gaming. I spend a lot of time writing and developing gaming ideas and material that I know will never actually make it to the table top. I paint a lot of miniatures that will most likely sit in foam trays and be auctioned off to someone for pennies when I'm gone. I draw maps and write adventures that sit on my hard drive or fill up notebooks on a shelf. I post things on here, musings, ideas, and fragments that hang in electronic limbo. Sometimes I get lucky and get to play a game using these things. Most often, I don't.

I still consider all of this activity productive, though. I am exercising my creativity and making something new that teaches me things about myself or how I see the world or lets me imagine and see the world in new and different ways. If I share that with others and they enjoy it as much as I do, great. Even if they appreciate it just for the effort I put into it, great. If they pan it or ignore it or never see it at all, it's still good. I created it and, in the creation, made something more of myself.

So even if you're not actively playing a game, the adventure is still worth the effort. Thanks, Mr. Vonnegut.