Bridge of Birds

Bridge of Birds, A Novel of an Ancient China that Never Was by Barry Hughart.

I really liked this book. It is a world that could almost be our own, with some exaggeration. The two heroes, Number Ten Ox and Master Kao Li are vividly drawn do have some stereotypical attributes but vivid personalities.

The quest is grandly heroic, and the characters are vastly overmatched in every way. Watching them persevere and overcome, their cunning and unique problem solving, and the unique challenges they face are all engrossing.

Around the middle of the book, it becomes clear that the first grand quest is actually only one of two quests that they’re committed to–no matter how little they understand or care about the second. But the scope continues to grow and they’re tackling truly legendary challenges by the end.

It’s big and bold and very well done. Very enjoyable.

Recent finds

Simple World, a purpose built Apocalypse World hack for one-shots.

FAE con “pregens” — an excellent technique. I can’t get no…

Making characters was fun. I didn’t want to do full char gen at the Con, even with a simple game like FAE. Too long, or more likely, choice paralysis. Nor did I want to do full pregens as a big part of Fate’s fun is the group making the decisions. So I mooted a card based idea, and ran with it in the end. I wrote 6 high concepts onto cards and let the players pick.

This got great buy in straight away. None of this is set in stone and I deliberately wrote Aspects with flex in them. Then, Troubles, on another six cards, and again with plenty of flex and some obvious conflicts written in.

At this point the players were brainstorming away and looking at each other’s picks. This was a big plus for me. Usually with pregens, players are so intent studying their own paper that they don’t pick up on the other PCs. With this, everyone was super aware of the party, all of it.

Then I put out some rules in the form of some pre picked Approach numbers, written on cards, taken straight from the FAE book. (see page 10). Easy. Then I killed the entire party.

Dangerous Women

Dangerous Women is a mixed anthology, with several very good stories, many interesting and good, and a few “meh”. Interestingly, Martin’s story that’s boldly advertised is in the last category. The Princess and the Queen, or, the Blacks and the Greens describes an interesting time, but the POV selected is a historian who confines himself to the broad sweep… which means that there’s no personality; other than that the world is fiction, it’s almost as dry as a real world history book.

A Queen in Exile by Sharon Kay Penman, was a fascinating look into real history, with a solid look at Queen Constance. It’s interesting, and features a strong protagonist–despite her not matching current fantasy fiction, picking up a sword an leading her men. There is a lot of enduring and being moved by outside forces… I really liked it.

Joe Abercrombie’s Some Desperado kicks off the book. It has a very western flavor (despite a lack of sixguns); it’s tense and gritty, well handled.

Rather than going story by story, I’ll just note that there’s a wide range of stories. For a very broad range of action, adventure, noir, fantasy, or sci-fi, there’s at least an interesting story or two for you.