D&D Season 3: Rage of Demons

A good summary post for character creation this upcoming season: Creating a Rage of Demons character.

The AL Player’s Guide
Pregen PCs
Madness is a big risk this season
The State of Hillsfar
Hillsfar Bonds and Backgrounds
The gods and temples near Hillsfar
Handling Hillsfar (and its Xenophobia) A good article that gestures at ways to incorporate Hillsfar’s racist xenophobia without letting it overwhelm your game or ruin players’ experiences.

On Basilisk Station by David Weber

This is the first Honor Harrington book, and though it had some formatting issues, I got sucked into it and look forward to continuing to follow Honor for several books more.

Honor is a compelling main character; honest in a world that’s not, and she pays the price for it. I like the world building in the background; it give a feeling of figuring out in detail, but only awkwardly info dumps near the end.

Some of the POV transitions aren’t well marked, so it’s a bit of a surprise to find that you’re now looking from the opposing bridge’s point of view. Despite adopting POVs easily, the extra characters feel like they’re grounded in the setting, not just reflections of Honor’s actions necessary for the plot.

Falling Sky by Rajan Khanna

The story was okay, but I must be more burned out on zombies than I thought. There’s good character development, an interesting situation and recent developments to propel the story… and I still didn’t get very excited.

The hero’s identification with his past is strong and should be moving, and the final declarations of interest should have won me over completely, but I just didn’t engage deeply enough. I’ll keep an eye out for more by the author in another setting.

California by Edan Lepucki

Another strong book. This one’s set in a near to very near future, a very slouching apocalypse. In the background terrible things are happening (hinted at or alluded to throughout the book), and terrible things happened before. The heart of the book, though, is about small communities and withdrawal.

The two POV characters begin in the wilderness of a largely depopulated future. They begin well aligned, two against the world, struggling in primitive conditions and savoring the small victories. The world of the beginning is no Eden… except against the corrupted world revealed in flashbacks and (especially) going forward as they explore.

The ambiguity of the decline (which, especially at first, is presented as mostly a people give up and opt out future) keeps you invested in figuring out how the world went wrong. The obvious pieces, which show up in the politics of both the past and future, is a grasping withdrawal from the commons of the wealthy. A lot of the book pivots about memories of movements to fight back against that withdrawal and the complexities underlying even small villages.

I keep dancing around revealing the plot threads, though these are almost entirely just to keep track of what I’ve read. Long story short, this is a slow built complex feeling world. For such small communities, there’s a lot of tricky relations and histories to work through…

Frieda and Calvin really work as authentic characters in a world that feels realistic–a future like “another couple of years down the wrong path…” The ebb and flow of the couple’s relationship and trust also rung true. Honestly well done, though bleak.

Organizing some links

An interesting modular board manufacturer: Game Night Life.

Le Joueur’s No Myth game style and examples, saved from the Forge.

A custom 5e screen with interesting info: post, direct link (pdf). Great for GMs new to 5e.

(5e) Special resources for Elemental Evil —
The State of Mulmaster
Mulmaster Backgrounds & Bonds
Elemental Evil Player’s Companion (new character race and spell options)
Elemental Evil themed trinkets
Elemental Evil Player’s Guide (Organized play rules)
Elemental Evil Quickstart Guide

Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

I finished reading this and was excited to read more. I’m requesting the next two books in the trilogy from the library, but would be content with this as a stand alone.

The book is well written; Devi is an engaging protagonist, but also one with work and a background. In contrast to the YA novels I’ve been reading, it’s nice to have a hero who has been around. The story starts off with her asking an ex (kind of) about her plan for advancement and getting a reality check.

That she takes on the crazy, high risk mission as a step in her career advancement tells us a lot about her. And, as she reacts to the “things are stranger than they seemed”, her reactions reflect experience and realistic calculation.

In the background is a universe that seems plenty plausible. There are some aliens, but there’s not the casual acceptance of a Star Trek or Star Wars universe. There are a few human empires: their relationship seems mostly political, very important if you’re a planetary homebody, but companies and ships travel and trade between them.

As I said, this book is well written, and has a nice mix of action and character development. There’s also an interesting romance angle, but even the romance reflects an experienced woman–not a lovestruck teenager blindsided by feelings for the first time. Her determination to buckle down and concentrate on what’s important is great… and reflects women I’ve known.

Books 2 and 3 here.

The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato

This is the sequel to The Clockwork Dagger. At the end of The Clockwork Dagger, I mentioned that the book was fine, but not my A+ number one, so I wouldn’t really look for more of the series. Part of blah that assuming that the next book would be the middle of a trilogy… which meant that when I learned that it was only a two book series, I decided to check out the sequel.

Octavia and Alanzo continue their flight, and are soon in a much less war torn land. It’s still a world on the edge of industrialization, with grime and rampant poverty played up from the start. From there, the two of them move through various societal strata, and have difficult relations with Alanzo’s family.

Long story short, the book was well written and went to some very interesting places (a call back about Mrs. Stout’s family, an explanation for the Tree’s fading), and Octavia struggles appropriately–there’s a lot of difficulty to overcome, and it takes a lot of pain and grit at the end. The implacable tree at the end proves to be as sad a betrayal to us as it is shocking to Octavia.

Everything resolves in a nice epilogue; the world went through a rough patch, but it’s going to be revitalized now. Which is a fine place to leave the world. I’m left ambivalent; it was a good story, with good characters and unique powers, well told… but they’re still not books that I love. I’m again vaguely curious at to what you’d do next with the world, given the tumultuous changes, but am content to let it lie.

Apocalypse World by Vincent Baker

This was my second read through, with over a year and exposure to several other Powered by the Apocalypse games in the meantime. It made all the difference–probably alongside seeing the new Mad Max movie and listening to discussions about how it would make an excellent AW scenario.

I want to play it now–to the point where I’m considering working on a campaign for it. I’d probably lean a little differently on my sources; it’d probably feature a lot more Canticle of Leibowitz and The Road, since I’m much more a reader than a movie goer.

Interestingly, moves of all kinds and the MC’s role came through solidly; I get, in a way I missed the first time, how the MC acts and how that results in a particular game style. The responsive nature was apparent, but this time the advice about how hard you respond, etc., really came through. (I was looking for it, of course, since it was something I’d felt that I’d lacked the first time around.)

Even Sex Moves, something I’d tittered about before, came clear on the reread. The only thing they really do is affect your history with someone–and the game makes a statement about the characters are affected. For example, the operator picks up his companion as a job to juggle; that’s very different from other playbooks that immediately leap your history (Hx) to +3… or just giving you +1 to your next roll.

A big difference in this go around, I think, was reading the characters not as classes, but as solid chunks of setting. It’s a world with characters like these, where these characters shine…

Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

A solid book, well written and appealing. The perspective is YA, but some of the twists are pretty sophisticated, and the cost of Eve’s magic is well done.

There’s a lot of interesting about identity, loving who you’re supposed to, and deviating from the plan. It wasn’t my favorite ever, but it was solid and I’d certainly read more books by the author–though in a new universe next time.