Recent Media 2/28

It’s been a while since I last updated, so here’s what I’ve listened to over the last 3 weeks–about 18 hours of travel.

The Dice Tower: 291, 292, and 293
Ask Me Another: Fifty Shades Of Dr. Ruth and Once A Jersey Girl…, 1/18 and 1/25
This American Life: 188 [kid logic], 486
Wait Wait: 2/2/13, 2/9/13
TJ Hour: 1009 Quotable, about misattributions to TJ
1010 Church and State, about Virginia Statute of religious freedom, state of State churches in 1700s, etc.
1011 Of Historical Significance, about TJ reconciling himself to slavery and bending the rules for the Louisiana Purchase

I’ve also read a few books, in between bouts of being sick:
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making [by Catherynne M. Valente] was very interesting, told in an unusual style harkening back to omniscient narrators. I really enjoyed the struggles of our heroine, the curious logic of the faeries, and the nicely stitched together view of the world. The final reveals about the villainess are dramatic and worth the quest.

Kingmaker Session 5

The cast of characters:
Bryan is our fearless GM
Brian plays Ambario, whose mastery of armor cements his bold advances
I play Arndor, a fey-blooded sorcerer (history here)
Marc plays our warrior Stannis, skilled with a bow
Hudson plays Sonja, who fights with savage fury, hewing foes with a great-sword
Paul normally plays Egg Shen, a monk from distant eastern lands, but he was out this week

Hours of travel after our encounter with the Owlbear, we neared the fortress of the Staglord. From our side, a single road approached the blasted waste that stretched hundreds of feet from the walls; the monastery’s curse clear in the barren soil.

As we studied and debated approaches to the wooden walls, we were suddenly interrupted by a high voice. Perlavish, as he introduced himself, was revealed to be a pseudo-dragon–about cat sized with large wings. He told us that he’d been sent by his friend, Tig, with important information.

  • That empty land is more than burned or cleared; it’s cursed to the soil.
  • The Staglord can somehow see the Fey
  • Falgrim Sneed was leading a group of more than 20 bandits against Oleg’s Trading Post!

We asked Perlavish to help the fort, but his courage wasn’t up to it. It was clear that they had quite a jump on us–riding at a gallop probably wouldn’t be quick enough to warn the fort. We convinced him to carry a note invisibly to Erastil’s priest. He reluctantly agreed. Arndor broke out his mother’s writing tools and dashed a quick warning to the fort’s defenders.

We decide to halt our own raid; we hoped to move fast enough to catch the bandit force between the soldier’s at Oleg’s and our own blades, as a bloody vice. But fate denied us that chance; unknown to us, the bandits struck only shortly after Perlavish delivered the warning to the priest. That notice was all it took for the soldiers to turn the ambush into a rout; a half dozen or more bandits died, and the rest retreated to the comfort of the Thorn River Camp.

We pushed our steeds and arrived the day after the bandits had retreated to their camp. Egg Shen scouted at twilight; a keen eared guard heard something and directed a search in Egg Shen’s direction. But Egg Shen successfully returned to us, unheard… leaving them wondering if they’d jumped at shadows.

On Egg’s report, we decided that a leisurely meal would give them time to relax after their scare. After our meal and full dark’s fall, we struck. Their camp was divided by the Thorn; we struck hard at the guards on our bank, firing arrows at the shadowy forms in the distance. Many arrows were wasted on both sides, with only stray arrows finding targets. In large part that was due to Egg Shen’s bold leap onto the firing platform, which forced the last archers on our side of the river to drop their bows and draw swords. They swirled in combat for almost a minute, while the rest of the battle developed.

Something like a half a minute after our arrows had first announced our attack, Falgrim successfully rallied a few of his men for a charge across the river. Ambario and Sonja were pleased to crash into their rush, drawing them into darkness. Hypnosis took a few foes out of the fight temporarily; the heroes pressed their advantage, and Falgrim fell to Ambario’s deadly blade. The few remaining foes fled; in the distance one fell as Stannis dropped two arrows at extreme range into his back.

We returned with Falgrim’s corpse and loot from his men. For our deeds, a masterwork longsword is being crafted for Stannis, while Sonja’s masterwork blade is much larger. We rearmed and set off first thing in the morning, south, hoping to catch fleeing bandits. Instead, we crossed wandering mites; who fell to our charge, led by Stannis who wants to see the foul beasts eliminated. Another day’s travel and we approached the Staglord’s keep.

Ambario decided on some bold research. He strode down to the blasted lands, then left the safety of the road. 20′, no attack, but a few steps further and suddenly zombies burst from the soil. Egg Shen rushed to the rescue, while Stannis contributed deadly arrows to the mix, and the other heroes contributed less useful archery. The fourth zombie fell in a heap of dust and our heroes waited to see the response. They didn’t have long to wait; again, dusty zombies burst from the ground, attempting to encircle Egg Shen and Ambario. Flashes of magic light blasted the zombies as Arndor unleashed his newly mastered magic missiles down to complement Stannis’s deadly archery. Now that the had good information, Ambario and Egg Shen cautiously retreated toward the road, downing zombies steadily. When the last zombie fell, no new one leapt up to fill its place. The road is the only safe route through.

Over the next two days, the heroes studied the fort and recovered from their wounds. A ladder was roughly hewn in preparation for the upcoming assault. When the second night fell, the heroes crept together to the edge of the light. From there, Egg Shen trusted his stealth, carrying the ladder forward. A guard caught Egg Shen in the attempt; Egg converted his creep to a rush, throwing the ladder against the gate and scrambling ably up. The other heroes rushed up behind him, and were amazed when Egg Shen leaped from the wall to the neighboring tower and engaged the defenders. Stannis’s arrows proved deadly against the bandit archers, screening the other heroes as they climbed over the palisade and dropped to the silent street below.

Between them, Egg Shen and Stannis took care of the ready defenders, while the raiders (Ambario, Sonja, and Arndor) scuttled around the solid walls and found a pair of doors in a short hall behind a wooden portcullis. Feeling time was of the essence, Sonja hewed at the great boards with her greatsword; the first respondent was hypnotized by Arndor after his puzzled question, “What are you doing?”

Sonja’s sword battered away, the gate shuddered under each powerful blow. As it rocked and rattled, a guard appeared at the other door. No, not a guard at all… the powerful smell and bulk were a clue, but the great horned helm marked this foe as the Staglord himself!

(cliffhanger ending!)

Recent Media 2-5

Books
Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson. It turned out to be a good novel, set in an interesting time; I haven’t read a lot of revolutionary era historical fiction. The magic system is interesting, but I do wonder about the lack of limitations… as the final battle revealed. Still, it was good, and I’m looking forward to the sequel, Thieves’ Quarry, due in July.

Directive 51 by John Barnes. I’m about halfway through. It’s very interesting so far; sympathetic to all sides. I do wonder about a department of the future and why it had to be introduced… though it sounds gimmicky enough that I can buy it. I like the idea of the mutually incompatible passions getting tied together into Daybreak.

Podcasts
The Dice Tower Episode 290: A solid episode.

TJ Hour: Episode 1007 – The Art of Power, part 2. I’m very much looking forward to reading the matching book; it sounds like a good generalist book with an interesting skew.

TJ Hour: Episode 1008 – Commonwealth: Mostly listener mail, with the first in a series of guest hosts. The first three minutes were rough adjusting to the new voice, but it went along fine.

Wait Wait: 1/12 and 1/19. They were fine, but didn’t really stand out for good or bad. It’s good to be past the repeats.

Nathan Lowell’s Talking on My Morning Walk 1-20: Vaguely interesting, but I don’t know him, so his offhanded references to his books are mostly lost on me. I won’t be downloading more.

This American Life #173: Three Kinds of Deception. Interesting stories, but not revelatory. It felt like a filler episode.