27 September 2011

Gigantic Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book Flowchart, from NPR

I hadn't seen this until today, so I apologize if I'm late: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2011/09/flowchart-for-navigating-nprs-top-100-sff-books/

It is, essentially, the NPR's listeners' list of the top 100 science fiction and fantasy books, laid out with silly commentary in a massively-branching flowchart form. It is fantastic, and it's scary when I realize I've read a great deal of the books. Now I've just got to read a couple more, and maybe I can have the whole series finished... except I'm not going to read the Sword of Shannara any more than I already have, nor any Robert Jordan. Thanks, though.

26 September 2011

Books Are Cool

What's that? You like having images reposted instead of having substantial content? Well, why didn't you say so?

For what it's worth, it's still cooler being well-read. We all know people who "don't read," have hard time understanding differences in opinion, or that fact that somebody else might know more than you, but I can only hope that they're a dying breed.

24 September 2011

The Mushroom Kingdom

This is going to be a place. It's going to happen, because it is awesome.

I don't want to ruin it with my clumsy attempts at writing.

23 September 2011

Like a ping-pong ball in a washing machine.

I jump around a lot.

When I try to explain my mind to people, I always use the train metaphor. It goes like this:

"You know the phrase train of thought, right? Well imagine it really is a train. It goes in a straight line, usually, and it twists and turns and has little signs and there's some scenery and whatever. 

Now imagine you have two train tracks. They've got two trains moving at different speeds, and their tracks cross sometimes, or sometimes a train jumps from one track to the other and they're both moving the same way, or opposite ways on collison courses, or sometimes a train derails and it's still scraping along. And that's what it's like to be in my head."

I don't know if it's especially useful, honestly, but that's the way it is.

So when I keep announcing projects and then working on something else and then back to my progress, please try to imagine what it's like to be a conductor for two trains who won't stay on their damn tracks for more than ten minutes.

Have a nice day. =)

20 September 2011

The Last Ringbearer

Let me just quote straight from the site:

More than 15 years ago Russian scientist Kirill Yeskov tried to settle certain geographical problems in Tolkien's fantasy world. One thing led to another, and he tackled a bigger project - what would happen if we assumed that it's no less real than our world? His conclusion was that in such a case, the story of the Ring of Power is most likely a much-altered heroic retelling of a major war - but what was that war really about? 

The result of this re-appraisal was the publication in 1999 of "The Last Ring-bearer" - a re-thinking of Tolkien's story in real-world terms. Dr. Yeskov, a professional paleontologist whose job is reconstructing long-extinct organisms and their way of life from fossil remnants, performs essentially the same feat in "The Last Ring-bearer", reconstructing the real world of Tolkien's Arda from the heroic tales of the Free Men of the West written in that world. We have a pretty good idea how well heroic tales map to reality from our own world..."

Essentially, the Last Ringbearer is a post-Lord of the Rings story written from the perspective of the "bad guys", an idea I've always thought was interesting. After all, nobody ever thinks they're doing "evil". Even guys who are doing some not-very-nice things have good intentions. I haven't read the book yet, but it's next on my list after I finish the Odyssey and my re-read of American Gods.

19 September 2011

What is up with "Balance?"

For some reason, it seems that the idea of more player freedom will totally unbalance a 2e D&D game. One example: From the Complete Book of Dwarves: " So long as the majority of remain lawful good, strongholds of chaotic, neutral, or evil dwarves will not unbalance a campaign and will give it more flavor and variety."

Ever since I've been peeking through the Complete series of Books, I keep finding more and more exhortations against seemingly small things that "could unbalance your game world," like allowing Gnome Paladins. Apparently, if you let one person play a Gnome Paladin, then everybody could play Gnome Paladins. Obviously Paladins are a human-only concept, and allowing for Gnome Paladins would seriously upset the entire game world! Therefore, it is IMPERATIVE that you not allow Gnome Paladins!

I'm not kidding, that's a passage from the Dungeon Master's Guide. Either I'm missing something, or changing the flavor in a game creates a very serious imbalance that could topple your entire campaign. Or something. This must be what people quote when they claim that Gygax was a tyrant, because it really makes the author (whoever he is) seem extremely petty. Who gives a shit about Gnome Paladins? If somebody asked me if they could play a chaotic evil Hill Dwarf Ranger, man, I don't give a damn. Play whatever.

17 September 2011

Expanded Dune sucks

I'm not going to try to review Dune, because a) I'm not in the mood, and b) I don't think I'm smart enough. Or good enough of a writer. Dune is the sort of book that the Lord of the Rings wishes it could be- an expansive fantasy epic with interlocking plots within plots, a baroque and utterly foreign culture, and magnificent writing. Everything is vaguely familiar while still being absolutely, brain-shatteringly different.

But enough of that, this still isn't a review.

The copies of Dune I have in my possession came rather third-handly by way of my brother- his high school chemistry teacher apparently didn't want them or any of the other rather sizeable stack of old science fiction books that had been given to her by the principal, so she asked if anybody wanted them. Nobody said anything- so my brother took the whole stack. Fuck yeah, right?

There was some Arthur C. Clarke and some other old science fiction guy (hey, I don't remember, give me a break), but mainly, I liked reading Dune. My family noticed the speed at which I devoured the books, and the fact that I read them two or three times in a row and got me both the rest of the original series and some of the expanded series.

So I read the entire original series. Almost couldn't put them down.

I cracked open and started reading the Expanded series, a collection of books based off of Herbert's notes and written by his son and some random other guy. Apparently, they're very popular and I wouldn't be surprised if they're more popular than the original series.

I say that because they suck.

No, they really do. The new books are really crappy. It takes away the ancient/modern mystique with it's complex and convoluted characters and intricate storylines and sense of overwhelming mystery and in its place, you get a fairly dry and boring account of (for example) a no-ship's random flight into space that goes nowhere and doesn't say anything. There's nothing. It's so poorly written that it honestly makes me upset. I'm like 200 pages into this thing and I'm still waiting to care. It feels phoned in.

But apparently, people eat that shit up, and I can believe it. Who wants to think when they read a book anyways? Cmon, that's so last century.

So, in summary, don't get the Expanded Dune books. Stick with the original series- you won't regret it.

16 September 2011

15 September 2011

Effin' Dragons, Man

Dragons are in a weird spot for your theoretical fantasy lover.

On one side, there's the obvious awesomeness of them. They're giant firebreathing dinosaurs, and that completes the "totally rad childhood" sort of deal, where all you ask is that the things be as ridiculous as possible and that's ok. On a more intellectual side, it's really interesting to contemplate a non-humanoid intelligence, especially one that lasts for centuries and has as much of a difference in perspective as it's possible to have. Lizards are strangely fascinating, giant intelligent lizards doubly so. I can't imagine that our two species would have much of anything in common- we're land based, they fly; we're warm-blooded where they are cold-blooded; we have soft fleshy skin and theirs is hard and tough; we require tools to master our environment where they do it naturally, and so on. 

But on the other side, there's the Spencer's and Hot Topic esque dragons, the silly pseudo-badass motif that people who love wearing silk shirts and having awkward facial hair love. The kind of guy that you look at from across the room and go, "That guy is not very bright." The kind of guy who can solve differential equations but cannot figure out how to talk to a girl without getting slapped. You know the guy I'm talking about because our hobby attracts a lot of that kind of guy. And it's really annoying. Look, go google "dragon" real quick, like I had to in order to get that picture of a black dragon up there. You see those godawful dragon tattoos and the gay sparkly fairy-dragons and the overly compensating hypermasculine dragon and the vaguely 70s wizard/dragon combo? Yeah, that's why dragons are also the lamest thing ever. 

(I'm not going to mention people that have sexual fantasies about dragons or half-dragon hybrid people or whatever, except in this paragraph, because it's not relevant. Although it is kind of weird. As far as I'm concerned, these people can do as they will.)

So it's an uncomfortable situation. They're awesome, and also douche-magnets. 

This is a problem because in the idea I had late last night, the Dragons are the first intelligent race, and also a primary source of magic. There are dragon cults that cling to the dragons, protecting them in their relatively vulnerable slumber in exchange for awesome powers, that guard their secrets, and generally wait for their Dragons to wake up and cause some havok. It's like a modern-day religion (in that the words are passed down through generations with slight alterations through time, like misspellings and mistranslations, without the original writers being around), except all the proof you need is in the slowly-breathing mountain of fire that's sitting right there. 

And also being the source of your magic. Whatever.

The point is, having a campaign world largely feature dragons makes me feel both pretty awesome and a bit like a hack. It feels like dragons are the scapegoat for a lot of things, and the plot point of a lot of novels. Maybe if I read TVTropes I'll feel a little better about myself. But maybe not. After all, Our Dragons Are Different is itself a trope...

14 September 2011


If you weren't aware, there is currently a Flat Earth Society in America, today. I'm not kidding. No, seriously. Look it up. They're bio-luminescent crustaceans that make the Moon glow because it's certainly not a sphere illuminated by the reflected light of the sun, no way! That's absurd, because the universe revolves around the Earth, the Earth is a flat disk ringed by enormous ice walls, and the Sun is a flat, glowing disk illuminated by, I presume, Sun Shrimp.

I actually sat down and wrote some setting material for a D&D-styled world of broken shit and forests with a lot of elements from the Flat Earth society, specifically the sillier ones because the difference between silliness and high fantasy is in presentation. If I told you that orcs sprung up from the mud because a crazy wizard needed an army post-haste and so he magicked one out of the ground and then armed them in, essentially, sharp boomerangs with hooks, you'd either be rolling your eyes or realizing that I just paraphrased the Lord of the Rings. Again.

I think this next module (which is probably going to be longer than one month, unless I make this month's product a supplement of some sort and totally cheat) is going to be set in the world I'm inventing, because I'm nothing if not inconsistent.

13 September 2011

I have a cat.

My cat's name is Mary. She's black and has big yellow eyes and some sort of dangly belly hair that makes me think she has ringworms or something except she's from the Humane Society and I'm pretty sure they take better care of cats than that. For like $80, they'd better take good care of my future cat.

The reason I'm talking about my cat is because this is her:

It feels like my day revolves around my cat.

When I get up in the morning, she notices. She goes from wherever she was (sleeping in the closet, sleeping on my pillow, standing in the bath tub, charging towards and away from my socks, in my dresser drawers) to my bed, and then, to my face. She puts her face next to mine and sniffs it. I don't know why she does it, because it makes it hard to breathe and she knows what my face smells like. Protip: It smells the same way it did every single day before today, for the last two years.

Then, if I stay up, she starts meowing. Just like in the picture. Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow. The entire time I'm getting up, brushing my teeth, filling my cup full of water, looking for pants that aren't pajama pants, she's either meowing or following me around. Because she loves me, and desperately needs my attention now that I'm finally not sleeping.

I love my cat. Sometimes, I don't quite know why.

The Insanity Workout

I am sweaty and tired. My shirt is sticking to me with the sheer force of the sweat I've accumulated for the past half an hour (or was it 45 minutes?). My calves ache, and I walk with an old man hobble.

Now, look. I'm not your typical RPG gamer, or your typical gamer in general. I'm not overweight. I'm not hideously underweight. I'm skinny, yeah, but not to the point where people poke fun of me, or make jokes on how skinny I am; at least, not anymore.

But I've been slacking off on keeping myself fit. Honestly, it feels nice to work out again. I'm more alert in the mornings, I'm sleeping better, I breathe easier, I eat more, and I feel better about myself. Plus, my girlfriend is excited that I'm going to have a "nice body" (her phrase, not mine) again. Honestly, it's pretty sweet.

I know, these last couple of posts haven't been RPG related. Eat me. I don't feel like writing about that right now.

12 September 2011

Good God, it's been a minute

As I type these words, the taste of Green Onion potato chips lingers in my mouth. The crumbs are still on my pants. (What, you think I'm gonna let that crud get in my keyboard?) It's a bizarre taste, but one that isn't all that horrible.

I haven't made any progress on my module this month, but I expect that to change. I've started a workout regimen, changed my sleep schedule, and started to freelance write with more dedication. I've been busy trying to cocoon it up so that when I start feeling better, it'll be awesome.

Life goes in those little up and down cycles, although sometimes I suspect that mine are higher and lower than they have any right to be.

Anyways, expect some cool things coming from here. My mind's been percolating. Keep an eye on this space...

04 September 2011


The squonk is a real-life "monster" that apparently is so ugly that it spends most of its time hiding and crying. If you catch one, it can turn into a puddle of tears and bubbles and evade capture. It apparently exists in the forests of Pennsylvania, although it's hard to imagine a creature with such existential angst would make it very far in the world.

Regardless, I think that squonks will feature in the next thing I write. There's something about these warthog-like doofus things that's got a lot of pathos.

02 September 2011

September Module: Adderhold

This month's module is going to be a little more traditional, but still with a twist or two in there.

It's going to feature a physically enormous warlord (think Xerxes in 300) who has plans of not just ruling the kingdom, but of being acknowledged as a god. He's decimating his foes and nigh-unstoppable in battle.

He looks like this guy.

So what do the currently ruling powers (who very much would like to continue to be the current ruling powers) do? They hire the PCs to infiltrate the dude's place and learn what they can. They need to figure out how he knows their battle plans, if he has a sorcerer on his side, who he really is and where he came from. They want the PCs to poison his castle's well, and to break open his wine barrels, make as much of a problem as humanly possible without getting caught.

Of course, the PCs can get violent, too, if they want, but that'll be significantly more difficult than sneaking around and being subtle. It's all in how the PCs want it, I suppose.

01 September 2011

Samore's Daughter's Permissions

I set the mini-module to be public. Sorry about that! Google Docs defaults to private, and I'd forgotten to change it.

Let me know if there are any further problems with the download, but it should be working as intended.

One Month Module #1: Samore's Daughter

So the module's about as finished as it'll ever be. To be honest, it feels like it's not enough, like I aimed too low for the first one. It was interesting, though, writing something with such a definite and inflexible deadline.

I think it turned out ok. It is what it is- a small scenario that you can plunk down in the middle of anywhere. It's not especially violent, it's not especially creative. It's a situation that calls for subtlety and creativity, that allows a lot of DM interpretation.

Honestly, I'm not particularly happy with it. I know there are holes in it. For example, there's no art, not even clip art. There's not a map, although I don't think a map would help very much. There's no list of things you can buy at the city, there's no mention of wizards or dragons or magic. If you play through it right, there probably won't even be any fighting.

Honestly, Samore's Daughter is more of a teaser than an actual module. It's the sort of thing I'd run when nobody's really sure what everybody's supposed to be doing, to get a little bit of action and intrigue going, where the players have to decide whose side they're on and what they're going to do about it, and then you can have a couple of loose end tying sessions and then there you are. Like my other modules, it is extremely short. This one clocks in at around three pages of actual content. But it's not pretentious, and it might even be long for what it is. It makes me think of Dune and a Game of Thrones, in that it's essentially about people moving around, although the way that the module is expressed perhaps doesn't make that clear.

Samore's Daughter isn't without its flaws, but I think it's at the very least a C. It's passable, it's different, and it might even be runnable. Who knows?

Pick up the PDF here.

Looking Back

They say that if you don't look back at who who were from a year ago and cringe that you haven't grown enough. What if I look back f...