The Well of Ascension (Mistborn 2)

The Well of Ascension is the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy. It’s very much an Empire Strikes Back type middle book. There are still lots of interesting things going on but the conflicts are muddier and the opposition is suffocating (rather than more viscerally scary).

After the good accomplished by the heroes in the first book, everything seems ready to fall apart. The book begins a year after book one, with Elend ruling a shaky kingdom centered on Luthadiel.

If I had to quickly summarize the difference between this book and its predecessor, I’d say this book is like the first, minus the “planning the overthrow of the Last Empire” crime caper style collaboration and adding an extensive “politics and ruling” subplot. This was still a great book and has me eagerly awaiting book 3 (The Hero of Ages).

One of the biggest changes is spoilery, so I’ll put it below the fold. Continue reading “The Well of Ascension (Mistborn 2)”

Gaming Next Year

Enjoy Christmas and Boxing Day (the 26th). Friday, January 2nd is looking unlikely– Jennifer’s Mom is due in from Salt Lake around then. If they run behind schedule, I’ll call around and try to schedule a last minute game. Otherwise, we’re looking at the following Friday, January 9th. How does that work for you?

Tagging and Compelling Scene Aspects

A great exchange (though long) about how and when you can/should apply location aspects. (From the FATE mailing list.) The following is my nickle summation, though the whole dialogue is an excellent one.

  • Compel a scene aspect when: It complicates the narrative in an interesting way.
  • Apply difficulties due to the situation when: Players are already invested in the scene, or an obstacle affects all sides equally.
  • Ignore mechanical penalties when: Failure doesn’t advance the plot interestingly. Rolling against a boring obstacle doesn’t do much for the story; move on to describing how it slowed/impeded their efforts but get on with the story.

Here’s the thread. Lenny is responding to a general question about scene aspects and difficulties:

As a player or GM, you can tag a scene aspect to give yourself a bonus or to compel for effect. On one level, that’s mainly about simplicity; SotC has a fair amount of crunch to it already if you use every rule in the book. So “penalties” are always positively facing; they’re bonuses for the person who’s going to roll against you or for the obstacle that you face. Ultimately, if there’s no resistance, then failure isn’t particularly interesting, and hence it doesn’t matter.

Continue reading “Tagging and Compelling Scene Aspects”

Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh

Cyteen is a long book with a lot of depth, which makes for a slower read but a thorough look at the world. It’s a story about the Union during twenty five years or so of turmoil in her Alliance/Union universe. The focus is on Ari Emory and Justin Warrick, with several other characters.

Resune, where most of the book is set, is a fascinating place, filled with hard working scientists. Cyteen is a rough world, less terraformed and bland than many science fiction worlds– still a work in progress. Science gets a lot of attention, given Resune’s control of the science seat, and the two POV character’s training in science. The science that’s most prevalent in the series is genetics and cloning, with psychology making a strong appearance.

I enjoyed it quite a bit; as mentioned at the beginning it’s long and feels long, but that fits the story pretty well. One difficult part is that Ari is a child for a good chunk of the book, and it’s not an annoying POV. Which was unexpectedly nice to see.

Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy

After a few “take it or leave it” encounters with Heinlein, I decided to give him another chance. This book was pointed to as written for teens and a good introduction to the universe. I’m glad I gave him another chance– the book was a very quick read and fun. Near the end, as the protagonist ages a bit beyond the intended readers it gets a little vague… but it’s hard to make business as exciting as exploring the universe.

Thorby’s primary interactions are great; we come to see his owner, Baslim, as a real father figure and intriguing mystery. The book really changes in the middle, kicking Thorby out of his pattern and thrusting him into a series of strange situations that he takes well– but struggles with appropriately.

The ending is the weakest part of the book; instead of a crisp or decisive point, Thorby is drawn into the tedium and unmapped horizons of professional adulthood. A good ending for this hero’s experience.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

I read Mistborn almost compulsively over Thanksgiving. It was responsible for a couple of short nights– up too late reading.

Mistborn is almost a crime / revolutionaries blend, set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world. It’s a fascinating setting, with an underworld that feels appropriately gritty and deceptive. The two primary characters shine and the rest of the cast does well.

I loved Vin; she felt real and reliable even as she changed dramatically over the course of the book. Kelsier is interesting– the book really focuses on him, but most of our view of him comes through Vin’s eyes. The way he changes and pushes what’s possible time and again made it a joy to watch him in action.

The world is fascinating; bleak, with ash steadily falling for the last thousand years. The skaa; peasants and serfs, beaten down and beyond the possibility of revolt… almost. The magic system is interesting– balanced, logical, and simple in concept. The greater metals and lesser, mistings versus mistborn, and the like all combine to make the world feel like it’s had these concepts for a long time. Security takes appropriate precautions versus the metals, but has to balance the few metal wielding magicians against the bulk of the peasantry.

I can’t say enough good things about it– except that I was unaware that its sequels are already out. They’ve already been requested from the library, so I hope to leap into the sequels soon.

Next Game: It’s a tricky season

UPDATE 2: At the moment, it looks like we’re on for tomorrow night, though Ben has a challenging day and Jennifer’s traveling back from Modesto.

At the moment, December looks like a tricky month for scheduling. Despite that, let’s see if we can make anything work. Update: This weekend (12,13,14) is out due to work scheduling [Kev] and other commitments [Jennifer and Dad]. How does Friday the 19th work for you?

This weekend [December 5, 6, 7] is out; Ben is studying for finals. I suspect Kev’s coming up on finals of his own. Instead of scheduling a game, let’s all make flashcards and quiz them!

Next weekend, Jennifer’s having a work party on Friday night (the 12th). The rest of the weekend might be possible– are you available Saturday or Sunday? Let us know in comments.

If the above doesn’t work, we can talk about arranging the next weekend [December 19, 20, 21]. Hopefully we’ll be able to discuss it in person at the end of a session next weekend– but if not, start thinking about it now.

Happy holidays everyone!