Princess Holy Aura: Chapter 18

Holly had made a friend, so let's go forward a bit in time...     Chapter 18.      "I push the door open slowly," Seika said, miming the action across the broad table. Her voice echoed in the mostly deserted cafeteria, giving an appropriate overtone to her words. Holly glanced at the other three members of the Steampunk Adventure Club. "Any of you doing anything while the Countess opens the door?" Caitlin Modofori shrugged. "Iron Jake's got his flux baton ready, but other than that he's just watching." "By my [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Persona 5

"We will definitely take your heart!"   The Persona series of JRPGs, the most successful component of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, is simultaneously unique in its approach, and at the same time something of a perfect distillation of what makes console JRPGs work. I have previously reviewed Persona 3 and Persona 4, as well as Persona 4 Arena, a fighting game spinoff of 4 which had startlingly deep story and character elements. Those prior experiences set a terribly high bar for the sequel to clear. It succeeded. Like its [ Continue reading... ]

Just For Fun: Tabletop RPGs 2: Effects Versus Causes, OR Why I Hate _Champions_

In my prior RPG discussion I talked about my basic approach to running a game – that the world is the important thing that I'm presenting, and the rules are the tools – often imperfect and clumsy tools – used to help the players (who are stuck in our world) interact with the game world through the characters, who live in the game world. But what makes a game world a functioning world rather than, say, a bunch of settings, people, and things? My simple answer for this is that it is a place with an underlying logic to it. Our world has the [ Continue reading... ]

Just For Fun: Tabletop RPGs – Game Balance OR World Trumps Rules

I've been a roleplaying gamer since 1977, when I first encountered Dungeons and Dragons – unless you count the venerable game of "let's pretend", which I was playing from the time I was 4 or 5, and even had some rules for to minimize the arguments. I discussed my initial encounter with commercial RPGs, and the influence it had on my life, in this prior entry: In this entry, though, I want to talk about running RPGs and how I view this extremely challenging hobbyist [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: Dragon Age: Inquisition

As my prior reviews of Dragon Age and Dragon Age II made clear, those were impressively good games with excellent characterization, good gameplay, and a deep and engaging plot. A third game had an incredibly high standard to live up to. Instead, the first and second games now have a problem of living up to the third. The game starts with a column of warriors – presumably Templars – marching on one side, a column of mages on the other, heading for a massive keep in the distance. Starting the game… causes the tower to explode. You begin [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: A Fire Upon the Deep

On the edge of the Galaxy, an archaeological expedition finds a cache of ancient wonders. But in delving into the secrets of a civilization so advanced they can barely comprehend it, they unleash… something. A Something that bides its time, hidden until it is prepared, and then acts to consume them all, flower into malevolent power. Only a desperate sacrifice by two researchers – themselves also nigh to reaching a superhuman state – allows any of them to escape at all. At the same time, far towards the center of the Galaxy, a race of strange [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: Wizards of the Coast

As I have mentioned elsewhere, I was a major presence online in the Usenet gaming communities* for many years (going back to the late 1980s). One day, in 1991, I was contacted by a person going by the name of Mavra, whose real name I later learned was Peter Adkison. He said he was part of a new RPG company and was looking for people to take a look at an early draft of their first planned product, and I was the sort of gamer he was looking for. Little did I realize how important a first contact I had just made. I of course [ Continue reading... ]

GamerGate: My Comments

  WARNING: Some strong language, especially for me, ahead.     I rarely make what could be considered political or activist posts. This is mainly because of two things;   I am rarely 100% certain of everything I say, contrary to many people's impressions of me. On important subjects, I hear people talking, with apparent authority, and saying things that come to opposite conclusions. I'm not equipped any better than most of these people to decide who's right and who's wrong. I may come to a conclusion of [ Continue reading... ]

On My Shelves: King Khan

       King Khan is a novel by Harry Connolly, author of Child of Fire and other stories in the Twenty Palaces universe. I've reviewed Child of Fire elsewhere, and as I said there it was an excellent read, but riding my tolerance for dark material closely, presenting a gritty, horrific universe where even the protagonist can't avoid getting his hands … and the rest of him… dirty in more ways than one.        King Khan is almost the polar opposite of the Twenty Palaces universe. While Harry's deft mastery of language is still [ Continue reading... ]

Under the Influence: The Arduin Grimoires

       Back in the ancient days of roleplaying games, Dungeons and Dragons was pretty much the only game in town, a game consisting of three little booklets: Men & Magic, Monsters and Treasures, and The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures, followed a bit later with the supplements Greyhawk, Blackmoor, and Eldritch Wizardry.        But one day, I joined a game with a GM – John Robb – who was using a new book: like the others, it was a staple-bound pamphlet-style book with a sort of buff-colored cover, on which was a warrior [ Continue reading... ]