Monday, December 22, 2008


Well, the Pbp (as well as any other recreational pursuit, really) has slowed down considerably as my industry goes into further tailspin. I really need to spend more time finding a way out, and into something else. Presumably the public sector has purchasing people too, right? You have no idea how attractive that sounds right now. If my kids' school district were to hire a Procurement Manager for about the same salary I make now, I'd jump on that in a heartbeat. Or a university nearby. Or pretty much any public sector job, where I wouldn't have to stress constantly about what's going on in the external environment.

Plus, frankly, I'm not all that interested in the business of making cars. The fact that I've been in this job for almost nine years now is a strong testimony to the power of inertia and complacency.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Demons in the Mist

I'm really pleased with my game. Over the course of just a few weeks, it's generated over 1300 game posts and another over 1200 out of game posts. That's massive in case you don't know. I've been watching another game that started just a week or two before mine and features a lot of similar themes and even one or two of the same players, and its just over 300 posts in game. I don't mean to demean that game, because by all accounts it's brilliant, and probably quite a bit better than mine anyway. So why is mine generating so much traction?

I sure wish I knew. I've never had one that I've tried to run before that's been as successful as this one was been. I really, really, wish I knew what the secret to the success of this game was, so I could replicate it.

But I don't.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Just for fun, here's some artwork I found with a GIS for Miracinonyx, the American "cheetah." The artist decided here to give the animal a very cheetah-like coat.


Well, it's been a little while since I've made an update. We had relatives in town for Thanksgiving, and frankly, also, my blog's kinda a frivolous thing. It's hard to spend mental effort and energy on frivolous things when you're worried about things like your job, your company and even your whole industry going up in smoke.

But I've managed to do a little bit, at least. I checked out BBC's Prehistoric America on DVD from my public library. I've actually had that title before, but for some reason only watched the four episodes on the first disk and didn't see the other two on the second disk. The first episode that I hadn't seen, "American Serengeti" was probably my favorite. I'm a big fan of the almost Africa-like North American Pleistocene megafauna, which I think I've mentioned here before. Frankly, I feel kinda gypped about the animals that have lived historically (and currently) in North America when we had several varieties of elephant, lions, saber-tooths, five kinds of wild horse, two kinds of wild bison, four or five kinds of pronghorn, cheetah-like cats and more just a few thousand years ago. The show was kinda cheap about it: they intercut scenes of an actual cheetah running in Africa with scenes of pronghorns running in North America, and didn't say that the American "cheetah" wasn't actually a true cheetah at all, even though it would have been built very similarly. One of the two species of Miracinonyx was very similar morphologically to the cheetah (Acinonyx) but the other species was midway between a cheetah and a puma. And neither were all that closely related to an actual cheetah, they'd be obviously a different animal if we saw them side by side. The American "cheetah" was less closely related to the actual cheetah than a tiger is to a leopard, and those are easy enough to tell apart.

My favorite animal from the Pleistocene megafauna of North America is the American elephant, though. Better known as the Columbian mammoth, the Imperial mammoth and sometimes even the Jeffersonian mammoth, I believe that's its only a historical accident that we call them mammoths. If mammoth bones hadn't been discovered and identified in Europe first (they were one of the key points Baron Georges Cuvier used to outline and defend the theory of extinction) things might have gone very differently. Mammoths are as closely related to African and Asian elephants as African and Asian elephants are to each other. Maybe even closer to Asian elephants, actually. The non-wooly variety, the Columbian, Imperial or Jeffersonian elephant, would probably also be relatively hairless and gray-skinned, like extant elephants. It's not hard to make the case that if it had survived long enough to have been seen by Europeans, it certainly would simply have been called the American elephant. The wooly mammoth might also be the wooly elephant.

There's a curious passage in the Book of Mormon about them, actually. I know, I know, plenty of my (one or two) readers don't think the Book of Mormon is important or anything, but I think this passage is curious no matter what you believe about it. The Book of Mormon purports to be, regardless of what you believe, the record of ancient people in North America that was found and translated by Joseph Smith in the early 1800s. One such nation, the Jaredites as they were known to later people, kinda existed independently of the rest of the narrative, and their records were in turn found by the Nephites (the main "protagonist" culture of the Book of Mormon narrative) when their last king was found wandering all alone in the "land northwards." They had apparently engaged in a genocidal civil war so epic in scale that their entire civilization collapsed. Some Book of Mormon scholars point to trace evidence of lingering Jaredite linguistic influence in one branch of the Nephite people, which frankly makes more sense than actual complete and total military annihilation of the entire populace, but that's neither here nor there. The Jaredite history, which is summarized very quickly near the end of the Book of Mormon and recast by the Book of Mormon compilers as more of a cautionary morality tale than an actual detailed history lesson, has a rough date of 3100-580 B.C. give or take a couple of centuries on the beginning date. The passage in question is fairly simple: "And they [the Jaredites] also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms." Nobody's sure what is meant by cureloms and cumoms, although there are plenty of candidates for North American megafauna that we know of that Joseph Smith wouldn't have, but the horses, asses and elephants are problematic, since in Joseph Smith's time, it was well known that none of those three were native to North America, and horses only came with the Spanish. However, during the Pleistocene, there were five varieties of "horse" including animals that would be very horse-like, animals that would be fairly zebra like (no comment on the stripes or not; these are known from skeletons) and animals very like wild ass and/or onager. And the Columbian mammoth is a good candidate for the elephant.

Although much of the Pleistocene megafauna's notional extinction date is roughly 8,000 B.C. although a few samples suggest that they may have hung on longer than previously believed. In Tennessee, one specimen of a Columbian mammoth was fairly reliably dated to about 5,800 B.C. That certainly puts it within spitting range of the Jaredites, especially if you assume that the scanty nature of fossil finds makes reliable end-dates very difficult to pin down. One find can push it into younger territory by fairly large margins.

Mostly, though, I don't bring this up for any reason other than I think it'd be really cool to have complex, metropolitan civilizations that lived in Pleistocene North America, domesticated mammoths (and probably other animals as well) and were generally a visual treat to look at. How cool is that? The passage referenced above just got me going on that. The sword & sorcery setting that I've been kicking around for a few weeks is also based on pretty much that exact same premise, and I like it more and more as I dig around to refresh my memory of the North American pleistocene megafauna.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


My reading has stumbled a bit. All these books, and I'm not as excited as I used to be to read them. I think it's because I've read a series of them that are fairly mediocre. I haven't yet figured out exactly what I am currently excited about doing, so it's been a few weeks that I've been kinda drifting relatively purposeless. I'll eventually finish The Prisoner of the Horned Helmet but I'm not in a big hurry to do so. I watched Quantum of Solace which I quite liked and Twilight which I didn't mind, but didn't really like. The 007 film was better, in my opinion, than Casino Royale although apparently I'm in the minority for thinking so. I preferred the plot structure, if nothing else, and I even liked the villain better. I liked the development of the Quantum mythos; it's been a long time that Bond has needed a non-silly equivalent to SPECTRE to rear its ugly head, after all. But maybe I was alone-ish in thinking that Casino had a rough go with the pace-dragging recuperation scenes and the tacked on longish epilogue. I did, however, think that Quantum suffered from lack of exposition. I hadn't seen Casino recently, and Julie and I kept turning to each other and going "who was that again that they're talking about?" "what was this all about again?" I suspect that Casino and Quantum will stand together very well; they're quite tightly intertwined.

Twilight's target audience is teenage girls, so it's not terribly surprising that I was mostly unenthused by it. Not being a teenager anymore and never having been a girl, that is. I thought it was a bit slow and occasionally emotionally over-wrought, but not exactly terrible.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mostly repaired

Well, I've mostly repaired my blog. I still can't figure out exactly why I have that weird little dark rectangle up in the top right hand corner. However, since I also don't have that weird scrunching up that I used to have, maybe I'll live with it for now.

If anyone is an expert on the CSS used to create these blog templates and can figure out what's wrong up there, let me know! I'd love to get rid of that little unsightly formatting gaffe.

EDIT: Hey, a little playing around and it's gone. Suh-weet!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I deleted some files from my Photobucket account without realizing that they actually were an hotlinked in my blog rather than having been uploaded to blogger. Whoops! Shoulda known; I mucked with the code myself, I'd just forgotten.

Anyway, over the next few days, I may play around with the look and feel of the blog a bit, since I don't really remember the formatting html I used, and I don't actually have those images anymore. It'll take a little work to settle on a look and file that I like. I'd like to return to the dark text on ivory/parchment look eventually, though.

Monday, November 10, 2008

S&S Setting

Although it's hardly a new idea, I've been (off and on) fascinated with the concept of a prehistoric sword & sorcery setting. This isn't terribly different than the idea behind the iconic Sword & Sorcery setting, Howard's Hyborian Age or his earlier Pre-Cataclysmic Age of Kull of Atlantis. Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborean cycle of prehistoric, temperate Greenland also fit into this mold, as do L. Sprague de Camp's Conan ripoff stories of the Pusadian Cycle. However, the primary source that really kicked off this idea in me several months ago was the mediocre movie 10,000 B.C. which takes an excellent idea, and then fails to do anything really dramatic with it.

More recently, I started reading James Silke's Death Dealer novels (I found the first three of four in a used book store for $2 each a month or so ago) which are set in the Mediterranean Basin during the Ice Age, a time which he assumes the basin was not flooded. As near as I can tell, this view is not supported by anyone anymore, and the closest thing is the Messinian Salinity Crisis some 5 odd million years ago in the late Miocene when the Mediterreanean partially (or maybe completely) dried up. Of course, this was twice as long ago as the best estimate for the appearance of Homo sapiens so naturally it doesn't work. Still; the idea of a Pleistocene high civilization that has since vanished without a trace is not a new one, and some archeological suspect, yet entertaining nonetheless books about the subject do appear from time to time. Heck; Graham Hancock seems to have built an entire career in trying to prove the existence of global high civilization that existed some 10,000 years or so ago and which subsequently disappeared and set humanity back eons to claw its way back up to where it had previously been only after thousands of years of suffering through the most prolonged dark age known to man.

I don't believe this kind of stuff for a minute, but... what if it's true? What if high civilization existed during the Pleistocene, perhaps in North America even? I started looking around for some geologically interesting places where I could construct such a setting, and came up with the idea of Lake Agassiz. This gigantic lake was once situation right in the heart of North America, and it took up more real estate than all of the Great Lakes today do combined. During the Younger Dryas, the last glacial maximum and cooling period of the Ice Age, Lake Agassiz was drained into the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, some scientists claim that it's feasible that the rapid draining of Lake Agassiz in fact caused the Younger Dryas, by putting all that cooler fresh water into the ocean and disrupting current flow. In any case, Lake Agassiz is a candidate for catastrophic, rapid draining; walls of water racing across the continental face in an event that would have been a suitable candidate for the elimination of the civilization that dwelt on its shores.

In addition to Lake Agassiz, Lake Bonneville is another good candidate; a gigantic lake that covered pretty much the entirety of what is now the state of Utah. This is another one that's believed to have flooded catastrophically about 14,500 years ago. See, this would be the difference between my setting and some of the others I've read; the utilization of real life geography as much as possible as the building blocks of the setting.

I know, I know, for anyone besides me, who cares? But I think it's an interesting challenge to try and build a setting, set around the shores of prehistoric Lake Bonneville, featuring the Pleistocene megafauna, and conforming to sword & sorcery conventions for wildness and fun.

Anyway, I'm excited. I've started making notes and playing around with maps already, and I'm eager to see what I can come up with here.

Atronomy pic of the day

If you haven't ever checked out the Atronomy pic of the day link, you should.

Here's a slightly older one of some bright, blue stars in a star-forming nebula in the Small Magellanic cloud. Get the full-sized version to check out all the background galaxies you can see. Wild stuff.

Friday, November 07, 2008


For some reason, I've been on a bit of a Predator kick. I've watched both the movies, and read the Concrete Jungle novel and am now reading the Cold War novel. They're not brilliant, by any means: both are by Nathan Archer, who was a newcomer to the writing gig at the time, and both are adaptations of prior Dark Horse comic book runs. Both of those original source materials were (apparently) written in the interlude between the first Predator movie and the second, since they completely fail to allude to anything in the second Predator movie, which honestly doesn't make sense unless they were simply written first.

Not brilliant... but fun enough and easy to read. Disposible fiction (probably why I bought them at used book stores) and frankly kinda mindless in a way; retreading the movies significantly, yet... after slogging through Gardens of the Moon that really kinda hit the spot. I'll read the rest of the Aliens and Predator and Aliens vs. Predator books that I picked up before I attempt anything a bit more serious.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Gardens of the Moon

Precision with terminology is a pet peeve of mine. In particular, I'm thinking about labels for subdivisions of fantasy fiction. At least at the moment. I've heard plenty of really sloppy labeling, like calling the Lord of the Rings movies Sword & Sorcery for example. One example that's not quite as blatant, yet is nuanced and significant nonetheless is the mislabeling of any fantasy that is highly fantastical as High Fantasy. High Fantasy as a subgenre is many things; ironically, having a high level of wahoo fantasy is not necessarily one of them, and in fact is probably a good indication that the work in question is not High Fantasy at all. High Fantasy tends to take place in fairly realistic worlds that closely resemble some real world society on many levels, usually a medieval one.

The reason I bring this up is because I finally finished reading Gardens of the Moon last night. And frankly, I don't think it's High Fantasy at all, although it is highly fantastic. You've got flying giant bugs, for example, that serve as mounts for army couriers. You've got gods and godlike beings that play around in the mortal worlds as a matter of course, and in fact the clash between several such beings is the pivotal climax at the end of Gardens. But the book is not High Fantasy. It's fairly dark in many ways, it's gritty, it's got tons of intrigue and espionage, it's got strong military themes: it does a lot of things, but adhering closely to standard High Fantasy plot points, setting points and other familiar themes is not one of the things that it does at all.

I can't say that I really liked it. I thought it was poorly structured. For hundreds of pages, I really didn't have any idea what was going on, who the characters being described were, and why I should care about the bizarre, inexplicable and unexplained things that were happening to them. That changed a bit as the book got on and I started to be able to follow plot threads, even though they still bounced around like the literary version of ADD without any explanation of what was going on. As the book wound up to its climax, though, I found that I was underwhelmed by the entire thing. There were some cool ideas in it, but I just never really bought into the characters or their plights, and the subplot resolutions felt empty to me. Not only did I not really like most of the characters, some of them very actively annoyed me (Kruppe being the biggest offender here, but Lorn, Rake and a few others count as well.) The characters all felt very flat and poorly conceived, and their cardboard motivations, or sometimes lack thereof, made them unsympathetic and boring to read about.

Many other things were introduced and then not fully explored, while other things got tons of activity, but it felt like buzzing around in a great deal of rather pointless noise. The plot structure really needed a stronger focus and concentration on accomplishing goals, and the characters (and dialogue) needed a lot of work. The setting was decent, although also not as well explored as perhaps it could have been. It wasn't showcased well enough to make it a real asset.

Do I like the book well enough to go on? Well, frankly, I've already bought Deadhouse Gates so that's a moot point. If I bought it, eventually I'll read it. If I hadn't bought it already, would I now that I've finished Gardens? Honestly: probably not.

Monday, November 03, 2008


One problem with a Play-by-post game is that you're stuck according to vagaries that don't plague face-to-face games. One of them is that people aren't necessarily posting at the same time. Games can lag for even simple tasks that could be resolved in seconds in face-to-face.

Another issue, and this has been plagueing me today, is server availability. Circvs Maximvs, where I run the "Demons in the Mist" game, has been flaky today, and quite frequently as I've tried to update it, I've found it unavailable. Grrr... One of the things that has made this game (so far) so successful was the fast pace. I'm concerned long term about losing momentum. These server issues, right on the heels of a long, weird, holiday weekend where folks weren't as available as they had been prior, is worrisome, as it can cause the game to slow down and never pick back up again as well as it had been.

Also; just a minor thing; I changed the settings so comments are now on a pop-up window instead of a new page. Maybe I'll get a few more that way.

Sword & Sorcery

Just for fun, I spent a little bit of time earlier on the Wikipedia article for Sword & Sorcery, and I like what it says about the subgenre in terms of influences. I think what's occasionally forgotten, especially today, is the influence of swashbuckling authors like Alexandre Dumas and Rafael Sabatini, and the influence of the classic Arabian Nights style Orientalism that also informed guys like H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

This is really just a plug, though... Rafael Sabatini. If you haven't read this guy, you should. In my opinion, his best novels are Scaramouche, Captain Blood and The Black Swan. Captain Blood also got a credible film adaptation in the 30s; the movie that made Errol Flynn and Olivia de Haviland both into superstars. The adaptations of Scaramouche (with Stewart Granger) and The Black Swan (with Tyrone Power) aren't bad, but aren't as good. Don't miss out on the original novels, though... Sabatini's skill with prose is considerable.

Sword & Planet

I really, really applaud Paizo for putting together the Planet Stories imprint to bring a lot of older pulp stories back into print. I've talked about it here and there from time to time, but I'm fairly anti-establishment in terms of literature, and part of that means that I eschew "sophistication" (to some extent) and celebrate the cheap and gratuitous thrills of the pulps. Of course, that's not really anti-establishment, especially since some of the pulp writers have now been dead long enough that its fashionable to like them again.

Be that as it may, I applaud Paizo for publishing the stuff, but I haven't yet become a consumer myself. In part, this is because I already have so many of these works from their earlier published efforts (especially the Leight Brackett and Otis Adelbert Kline.) I realize that in many cases, those earlier DAW or Ace versions or heavily expurgated and badly mauled, but I'm a tightwad by nature and it goes against the flow to buy something that I already have, even if the newer version is better. Other times, they just haven't happened to hit on stuff that I liked (the Michael Moorcock Mars books, for example, are absolutely terrible. I'd never buy those, no matter how fancy the new cover art is.)

That said, there are a few of their imprints that I actually really want to buy, including those by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore.

In any case, if you're unfamiliar with Paizo's line, or the whole brand of planetary romance and sword & sorcery pulp fantasy/science fiction in general, then do yourself a favor and browse through their catalog.

Rat Bastard vs. Cuddly Puppydog Love-a-thon

I've found myself somewhat subconsciously pulling my punches a bit in this Pbp, in part because I'm enjoying the character interactions too much to bring them to a premature end this early. That ever happen to you? Shautha really probably should've died this weekend, but she pulled through. Just barely. I didn't "cheat" per se, but I also didn't really give her the full treatment that I would have otherwise.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Meet the characters

I know I've been babbling on about my Play-by-post D&D game more than most of you are probably interested in, but hey, I'm still on the honeymoon with it, so you'll have to indulge.

Here's the PCs I've got, in alphabetical order:

1) Lash: a hobgoblin fighter/rogue, whip specialist. A down-on his luck hobgoblin version of Indiana Jones. Fairly steady, except when a get-rich scheme comes to mind, with a brash exterior and control issues. A natural leader.

2) Nixzaliz: human rogue. A young orphan woman who grew up on the mean streets of Zin and is out trying to make her fortune. She's got a bit of a cynical bite and has occasional bouts of extreme luck... both good and bad.

3) Ricardo Murciélago: human swashbuckler. All smooth, all the time. Ricardo can't ever seem to see past the nearest feminine face, and his sowing of wild oats reaches epic proportions. And causes him most of his trouble as well.

4) Scritch: shifter ninja. Rat-like savage assassin and quiet guy; keeps his thoughts to himself.

5) Shautha Voksdottir: Half-orc lady who thinks that maybe she's beautiful (she's not) but is constantly searching for male companionship.

6) Vuukran: Hobgoblin soulknife who served in Xoth-Sarnath's legions and who may have been hit in the head one too many times during combat training.

You can get the full picture of everyone right here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

AWOL Player back

My AWOL player is no longer AWOL, and it looks like we're in business. I've got her character introduced to the rest of the group, Ricardo's already flirting with her like mad, and I've sent some really creepy critters coming up out of the Mist to screw with them.

Fun times!

I actually re-read the entire game thread last night; it's surprisingly a really good read. These characters and their interactions really make it good, though. It's like the perfect storm of gaming awesome.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Demons in the Mist 3

Well, the first "scene" of my Pbp is over. It was a meeting with the patroness of their little adventure, that turned into a wild and crazy chase scene as they found a spy eavesdropping on their meeting. The players all rolled really terribly, which made for a lot of unintentional comedy. One player said that the game resembled every single Robin Hood and Three Musketeers movie ever made; in some ways it seemed to more resemble Robin Hood: Men in Tights. All in all, a highly entertaining kick-off.

I'm one player short; one of them never posted her character and has been AWOL for a few days. I sent her a private message and if I don't hear from her in a day or two, I'll go tap the first alternate to see if he's interested in taking over.

Gardens of the Moon

For what it's worth, I'm finally starting to really get into Gardens of the Moon, the first book in the "Malazan Book of the Fallen" by Steven Erikson. Who may be spelled Stephen or Steven or Erikson or Ericson, but I'm not going to the trouble of checking right now.

I checked it out from the library a long time ago, and about 100 pages in I turned it back in (because it was due) and I was really struggling to get into it. I had had the series recommended to me too many times to give up that easily, though, so I bought a copy and figgered that way I could take my time reading it. Why would I want to read a book that I was struggling so much with in the first place, you might ask. Good question.

I've actually been told by many that it's the weakest book in the series (ironic for a series opener, and unfortunate) and that it improves as it goes on. I'd even been told that Gardens itself improves as you get into it. So I decided that I needed to swallow it like a really big pill and trust that it would improve. Seems like maybe it finally is. I'll write a full review of the book here when I'm completely done. With any luck, that'll be sometime this coming week still.

Friday, October 24, 2008

New logo

You like it? I do!

I started (officially) my Pbp today. I mean, just a few minutes ago, really, so not much to report yet. I do really like the Spirit of the Century rule for chargen that I borrowed; each player writes for his character a small vignette that represents a novel or story that happened in the past; his own pulp adventure novel, if you like. It's not supposed to be long; a couple of paragraphs tops. Kinda like the dust jacket or back cover blurb on a real book.

Then, when everyone's done that, you randomly assign that character to two other players, so that everyone has two players and everyone was picked twice. They in turn write a couple of sentences emeshing their character in a supporting role in the backstory vignette of another character.

This way, every character has a connection to, at a barest minimum if the randomized picking comes up bad, two other characters in the group, more likely three and possibly four. This 1) gives them a reason to work together, because hey! they have in the past and know each other, and 2) have some instant roleplaying hooks to latch onto within the group.

So far, I'm not 100% sure how it's working out, but it was fun to try anyway. I like the process and will probably use it from now on.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Book queue

Just recently I made a pit stop by my two local used bookstores that I frequent, and picked up a few. Then, this morning, I decided I'd make a list of books that I own, but haven't yet read (or at least, I haven't read them since I bought them--some of them I've read before, just not as an actual owner of the book.) I included all the new ones I just got, naturally, but I had a few others too. I was surprised how many books it came to.

In no particular order (other than that I'm starting with the book that I'm currently in the middle of) I've got:

Gardens of the Moon
Deadhouse Gates
Aliens vs Predator: Hunter's Planet
Aliens: Rogue
Predator: Big Game
Predator: Cold War
Splinter of the Mind's Eye
Transit to Scorpio
Prisoner of the Horned Helmet
Lords of Destruction
Tooth and Claw
The Lies of Locke Lamora
The Books of the South (actually three Black Company novels consolidated into a single volume)
The Ginger Star
The Hounds of Skaith
The Reavers of Skaith
Warrior of Llarn
Thief of Llarn
The Black Arrow

Also, although it's not on my bookcase, somewhere kicking around in the house I've got a copy of Stan Nicholls Orc: First Blood that I haven't read.

So... I doubt I'll be spending too much time at the library for the next few months. I've got plenty to read already. As you can probably see, that's a fairly wide-ranging selection (well, relatively speaking.) I've got everything from the Classics (The Black Arrow) to formulaic write for hire books (the Predator and Alien titles) to disposible sword & planet hackwork (the Llarn and Scorpio books) to reasonably serious fantasy novels (Locke Lamora and the Malazan titles.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Demons in the Mist 2

I've created a new wiki: to cover the new Pbp I'm going to be running. I've invited everyone who's playing to have membership (and therefore editing rights) but so far only barsoomcore's signed on. Which is OK; barsoomcore and I have a demonstrated 95+% shared brain functionality, so I completely trust any edits he makes, assuming he makes any, to be almost exactly what I wanted to do or even cooler, anyway.

Anyway, check it out. I'm pretty excited about the campaign premise, and naturally, the game is made up of solid Circvs Maximvs A-listers.

Demons in the Mist, by Jango Dall

I've decided to try my hand at running a Pbp game again, mostly because I've been caught up in a strange campaign idea that Rel had with an otherwordly (and toxic) mist that blankets the world at lower altitudes, meaning that only mountain tops are habitable. I actually decided to make super-plateaus, sorta like the tepuis of Venezuela, only sometimes even bigger (I've got two side by side that are nearly the size of Puerto Rico or Jamaica, for example). The mist covers solid ground, but it's incredibly dangerous solid ground, rife with demons and monsters, and the mist itself will kill you.

I also wanted to see what I could do with running a D&D game that didn't feel at all like D&D because it had a bunch of different racial and class choices. So any class with a spellcasting progression was specifically disallowed, while psionics was specifically encouraged in its place. I used a few other house rules too, but I can get to those in a later post.

Mostly, I wanted to post my map. I did a search of "archipelago" in Google image search, and one hit was this picture of the British Isles, but with the sea level raised, giving it a very different coastline. I took that, faded it somewhat and added a bunch of names. I'll include a Gazeteer of those names later, but for now, here's the map.

Also; assume that this is all about half the size of the actual British Isles. You'll probably need to click through to get the full sized image if you want to actually read any of the names.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp

I have a funny relationship with these two men. Not that I know either of them personally (both have been dead for a number of years anyway) but I have a weird relationship nonetheless.

Today, Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp are mostly known for making a hash out of the Conan stories, revising them (badly) and putting them in print in a badly expurgated form, and maintaining that state of affairs for many years until Del Rey recently stepped in and "saved" us by publishing original versions.

However, both were notable science fiction and fantasy writers in their own regard, although both also wrote a number of really derivative works. Lin Carter in particular aped other writers, especially Edgar Rice Burroughs with his Callisto series (like ERB's Mars books), his Green Star series (sorta like ERB's Venus books), his Zanthadon series (very similar to ERB's Pellucidar books), his Mysteries of Mars series (very similar to Leigh Brackett's Mars books), his Prince Zarkon (very similar to Kenneth Robeson's Doc Savage stories)... well, you get the idea. L. Sprague de Camp wasn't above doing it either with his eight book Planet Krishna series (very similar to Barsoom) and his Pusadian Series (marked similarities to Howards Hyborian Age.)

The difference between them is that Lin Carter was probably a less accomplished writer, yet he made up for it with his unabashed, earnest "fanboyism" of his source material, which made his poorly done copies somewhat endearing rather than annoying. L. Sprague de Camp, on the other hand, didn't really seem to understand what made those original works fun in the first place, and had the off-puttingly elitist attitude of "I'm going to get it right!" by "correcting" what he saw as literary absurdities in Howard's and Burroughs' work. His own, then, had a kind of dry lecturing taste to it, with faint hints of self-congratulation lurking in the corners.

That said, I kinda get the concept of being a fundamentally less talented yet enthusiastic fan of something and attempting to recreate it to some extent in your own image. I tend to think that I'm not exactly innovative and imaginative when it comes to generating ideas, but I do have some modest talent for synthesizing various elements, shamelessly borrowed, and putting them together into an attractive repackaging scheme.

So, in that regard, I find I can summon a fair bit of sympathy for L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. In spite of their rather pointedly second-rate "original" fiction. In spite of what they did to the Conan stories for decades. In fact, I wish I could be as successful as they've been, even if their success has turned out to be ephemeral. I'd take ephemeral success in a heartbeat for my own work, frankly.


I've probably blogged about this in the past, but the question came up again and I've been giving it some thought.

Psion questioned, on TheRPGSite, the wisdom of using d20 for a planetary romance game, after finding that his Mars d20 game didn't exactly live up to his expectations. He's been running the genre with Spirit of the Century more recently, and been happier. At the same time, I was convinced to start another Pbp in a slightly unusual D&D-esque mileu. I'm using 3.5 with a few custom parameters. In doing this, though, I grabbed a concept that Rel came up with and is going to be running for his regular group using D&D 4e. So, the question is, why?

The answer comes in several parts, and one of those is quite simple: I'm lazy. I just don't have any interest in playing around with new systems anymore. When I was younger, system experimentation was fun, and I did it on purpose. Now, I'm more than happy to stick with a system that I know well, even if it doesn't do everything I'd like perfectly. Don't underestimate the benefit of system familiarity either; it's nice that I know d20 well enough that I can run it on the fly without much (if any) prior preparation to make sure I know what I'm doing. I also know it well enough that I can run it fairly fast and loose; utilizing the skill system to enable almost anything that you could think of as a player to attempt. Big benefit there.

Another benefit is the modularity of d20. Because of the open gaming license, tons of top notch game designers have tried their hand at d20, making up alternate rules that you can use for all kinds of reasons. Wizards of the Coast themselves put out a book of "official" house rule options called Unearthed Arcana that has a lot of cool options in it. The end result of this is that many of the things that I don't think d20 does well have already been more than adequately patched by someone... in many cases, I have more than one suitable patch to choose from, even. I'm not a huge fan of levels and the massive power discrepancy between low and high level, but if you run a game in a more limited setting, that problem takes care of itself (I rarely start at 1st level, and rarely run higher than 7th or 8th level before wrapping a game up.) And the E6 houserule set "officially" eliminates my level problem. I don't like how there's no AC progression to match To Hit progression, but UA has a houserule to take care of that. Various Action Points, Hero Points, Fate Points, etc. take care of many of my other problems with the system. Incantations and other alternate magic systems give me a magic system I like when the D&D default doesn't please.

A related benefit is the huge library of compatible material. This benefit is very hard to turn away from; I have access to literally thousands of feats, spells, classes, monsters, and everything else to choose from to use. In fact, this reason alone would be sufficient to keep me turning to d20 first, but the others ensure that I really have little interest in any other system most days. d20 may not be the literal "Holy Grail" system that does everything for me exactly the way I want it to, but I've had a really difficult time finding any other system that comes closer, and the other benefits of d20 give it the lead every single time I turn to run.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Not that long ago, I had the opportunity to pick up the Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting, a new OGL product from Paizo where they elucidate the details of the setting they invented to house the Pathfinder Adventure Path modules.

I'm a setting fan. I like settings. I don't really use them, per se, but I liberally steal from them. Therefore, even settings like the Forgotten Realms, which I cordially (sometimes) dislike are still of use to me, and settings like Eberron or Iron Kingdoms are goldmines. The Paizo folks, by and large, had impressed me, so I came into this setting book with high expections. As you'll see, they were more or less met, or even exceeded. This is a high quality product that offers something a bit unique to me; a setting that is both iconically D&D and yet very strangely attractive to me.

See; typically I don't like iconic D&D that much. Like I said, I don't like Forgotten Realms. I don't like Greyhawk. I don't like Blackmoor. I don't like Mystara (the Known World.) To me, they feel tired, bland, and even when they were new, they weren't that great. Pathfinder somehow manages to tap into everything that was good about those kinds of settings while simultaneously eliminating the stuff that wasn't. It feels very pulpish and classic fantasy (making obvious nods to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and others) while at the same time very modern.

That said, it wasn't a perfect book. It's pretty… it has a nice Wayne Reynolds cover, nice interior art, it's full color, quality paper, and attractively laid out. It's pricey, though. Cover price is $49.99 and it's got about 265 pages or so. The Eberron or Forgotten Realms books, on the other hand, sold for $39.99 and were at least fifty pages longer. Also, full color, with attractive cover art (also Wayne Reynolds even, in the case of Eberron) and attractively laid out. So right off the bat, I was a bit stung by the price. Indeed, the price probably introduced significant delay in me picking the book up. Once I committed to the plunge, though, I'm glad I bought the book.

It's got five chapters, and almost half the book is made up of Chapter 2: the different countries and regions. Chapter 1 is a little bit on races, cultures, classes and whatnot. Not my favorite type of material, but arguably important to include. I could take it or leave it. I did, however, appreciate the fact that they differentiated (at least in fluff, if not crunch---arguably that's the best way to do it anyway) between many different human cultures.

Chapter 2 is the real meat of the book, though, and I'm going to brush over it with a bit more detail. I can't comment on all the countries/regions, but a few highlights struck me. Absalom, for example, is the cosmopolitan port city where you can have it all if you like urban, intrigue type adventures Fun, decadent place. Cheliax, the "Nazi devil-worshippers" was a very interesting idea. Although described as in decline, I can easily see that nation poised like Germany shortly after the Nazi takeover, soon to be expanding at the expense of its neighbors, and causing all kinds of adventure possibilities in the meantime. Druma, the land of bizarre merchant-cultists make for intriguing and interesting patrons. Hermea, the land of the "eugenics dragon" is interestingly morally ambiguous (that's actually common in this setting… it may not have ditched alignment, or even officially downplayed it as Eberron did, but it's got that real amoral Sword & Sorcery vibe going all through it). Irrisen was another favorite; the ice kindgom of Baba Yaga and her heirs. Katapesh is another amoral merchant society, but much more alien than Absalom. The Mwangi Expanse was one of my favorites, as it is a catch-all for a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughsisms: a combination of Tarzan's Africa and the Land that Time Forgot all at once. I especially liked the gorilla kindgom. It's almost begging to have Opar buried in it somewhere, though. Osirion is this setting's Egypt, and they've decided to give it a kind of 18th century vibe, with the leaders having invited "archeologists" to come and raid their tombs for profit. Qadira is an interesting combination of the more liberal and progressive Islamic caliphates, the Persian Empire, and anything else interesting from the Middle East, with a nice, spooky bit where Asmodeus has caged the an even worse evil in a gigantic fissure in the ground. Ustalav has a nice gothic horror vibe going on; it's like Transylvannia of Stoker turned into a fantasy setting. Varisia is a large frontier region with only regional city-states separated by wilderness. The Worldwound is where demons sprout from the ground, inspiring crusades of varying effectiveness from its neighbors.

In the next chapters, gods and cosmology are discussed (which feels familiar to longtime D&D players, but not exactly the Great Wheel either), organizations like the Red Mantis assassins, the Hellknights (the SS of Cheliax) and the Pathfinder Society (adventurer patrons, mostly). The book finishes up by talking about all kinds of miscellany: a timeline, the Darklands (I guess the Underdark is a trademarked name; this is essentially the same thing), some mechanics (feats, prestige classes, etc.), Languages, trade routes, weather and climate.

The setting is designed to be used, of course, as is, but it's also easily raidable for use in any other setting, or homebrew. Like I said, as a bit of a D&D sceptic, who prefers a different take on fantasy than D&D usually has, I still found much to appreciate in this setting, and frankly, it made me kinda appreciate D&D a lot more. It showed me, if nothing else, that classic fantasy can be done in D&D without the overly intrusive D&Disms that tend to intrude.

As an aside, there are a few minor areas where the few mechanics it has do not exactly match the Pathfinder RPG. Technically this is an OGL product, presumably for use with D&D 3.5, that just happens to also be compatible with the Pathfinder RPG. It's a little less compatible with 4e even if you ignore the mechanics, because it frequently references classes and races that are not part of the 4e package to date, and you have to find a way to work in things like the Dragonborn, for instance. That said, the tieflings and Cheliax seem like a match made in …er… Heaven.

Fluffwise, there's no reason why you couldn't run a 4e game in the Pathfinder Setting with only a little work… either eliminating the dragonborn or finding a place to put them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


After a bit of delay, here's the last settings I meant to cover. Some of them are iffy---not D&D settings at all, but d20 settings that are really meant for slightly different games. But what they hey; this is my last post on the subject, so I figgered I'd go all out.

Freeport: This is one of my favorite d20 settings, although ironically the in print and best Freeport book is system neutral and could be used for any system (there are, in fact, companions designed to "port" the setting into d20, True20, Savage Worlds, and Castles & Crusades, as well as a blog post at publisher Green Ronin that gives some suggestions on using Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying.) That said, the setting is pretty iconically D&D, and obviously so, even though it doesn't have any system. The setting assumptions have elves, halflings, gnomes, dwarves, orcs, goblinoids, etc. and the presence of arcane magic users and clerics who perform their roles exactly as in D&D are inherent setting assumptions.

What I really like about the setting is that it very successfully ported D&D into the Golden Age of piracy. It did away with simplistic notions like alignment, and is pretty gritty, dirty, and yet still very interesting and fun.

Dragonlance: This was licensed and published by Sovereign Press, which is the company of (among others) Margaret Weis, co-creater of the setting in the first place. Decent setting. It always struck me as more appropriate for novels than for gaming; but I could be biased by the terrible earlier modules that were published by TSR back in the day. In any case, the setting has the annoying tendency to "blow up" regularly and get completely rebuilt from scratch. It's got some notable differences from "default" D&D, but bizarrely, rather than being a help, it's a bit of a hindrance in this case, in my opinion. The setting is too D&D to accept these differences with good grace.

Planescape: Maybe I'm cheating a bit by including this one. Technically, it hasn't been published, but in actuality, Planescape was pretty much folded into the core setting (it was also originally built on the core setting back in the day, too) so a number of core books get pretty close to recreating the setting in a 3e milieu anyway. I like it. It's wide open and somewhat crazy, but it pulls that vibe off with panache.

The Wheel of Time: One of the first alt.D&D's built off the d20 engine, the Wheel of Time game is the setting for the Wheel of Time book series, naturally. This is another one that has some interesting things about it, but isn't a good setting to use for gaming. The big story's already being told in the novels, obviously, and the heroes of the novels are the heroes of the story. That makes using the setting difficult. Add to that that the author is, again, "blowing up" the setting and rebuilding it as he goes, and the setting has some things that are worth borrowing, but it isn't a good one to use as is.

Star Wars: Now I'm really far afield, but this is a favorite setting of mine. It's pretty wide open, if you remove your game from the events of the movie somewhat. I like moving it forward a few hundred years in time, but the Knights of the Old Republic video game proved it could be done moving backwards a few thousand years too.

Traveller: Again; a not-D&D setting, and the "T20" book doesn't actually have much setting in it, but it's a fun setting. Another "wide open" one that actually encourages an awful lot of GM creating, and gives you good tools to do so.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Fantasy settings continued

Here's the next wave of fantasy settings I'm commenting on. Probably one more post on this topic too.

Dragonstar: Briefly in the early days of Third Edition D&D, Fantasy Flight Games put out this setting, which was essentially "D&D in space." And I don't mean that in the Warhammer 40,000 sense of having "elves" and "orcs" and "dwarves"; I mean that in that it is literally Dungeons & Dragons in space. On spaceships. Casting spells and everything.

Kinda a fun idea; honestly I was never really sure what to do with it, though.

Urban Arcana: This one is a little iffy; technically it's a d20 Modern setting, not a D&D setting, but d20 Modern and D&D are already essentially the same thing to begin with system-wise. This setting was more explicitly D&D in modern times though; it even has drow fer goodness sakes. For my money, I'd rather play this as a kind of Dresden Files meets Buffy meets Shadowrun.

Sovereign Stone: This setting was most notable for 1) being written by Margaret Weis of Dragonlance fame, being illustrated by Larry Elmore (of all kinds of older D&D product cover artwork fame) and having a pretty nifty new magic system to replace the D&D default.

Sadly, other than that, it fell pretty flat. So the elves are samurai and the dwarves are Mongols... that's not original, that's just swapping one tired paradigm for one that's silly. I bought these books on the cheap from an old Wizards of the Coast outlet store in the mall back when they were closing all those stores, otherwise I probably wouldn't have bothered. Other than the magic system, there's not even anything worth borrowing here.

Northwall: Not so much a setting as the seed of one included in FFG's Darkness & Dread book, which is otherwise a book of alternate rules and GMing advice for running a horror fantasy game. Northwall is a chapter near the end that serves as a kind of mini-campaign setting. As a setting itself, it's not that interesting, original, or fleshed out, although it is kinda nice. The book is really more notable for the alternate rules.

Scarred Lands: Famous for getting a monster book out before the Third Edition Monster Manual was on sale, this setting is kinda interesting. The premise is that there was a war between the gods the titans a la Greek mythology; except that instead of happening in the distant past, it just got over with a few decades ago. The world is still scarred from the conflict (hence the setting name) and it's got a bit of a fantasy post-apocalyptic vibe going through it. Sadly, the setting is difficult to encapsulate in a single product; the Gazetteer being the closest thing to an actual setting book. Rather, it trickled out via various products over several years.

It's got some great things to borrow; tons of original monsters, Hallowfaust, d20 "skaven" and more, but it's a little difficult to run coherently on its own, I think. Plus, it's kinda weird, frankly. And not always in a good way. Too many "out there" ideas rather than a few well developed ones lead to a scattershot feeling setting.

Rokugan: Technically introduced as a D&D setting in the Oriental Adventures product, this was also released as a setting book by AEG as well (I have both.) Sadly, although Oriental Adventures was an easy read, I have struggled to get all the way through Rokugan, even thought the setting appeals to me. It's a kind of sorta ancient China, samurai Japan and D&D all rolled into one. The AEG book starts off with a lot of alternate rules, which have been handy for borrowing, no doubt, but which also make the book extremely difficult to read.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Campaign settings

I just bought the Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting which is the setting book associated with the Pathfinder (surprise, surprise) line of products, which is what Paizo Publishing has been focusing their efforts on since the expiration of the Dungeon and Dragon Magazine contracts that they were doing.

I like campaign settings in general. I've got quite a few. Here's a few of my thoughts about some of them that I know better than others:

Eberron: Great setting. Intriguing hook for a setting, well executed, very interesting, and with several new useful things that I've since borrowed heavily (shifters and changelings, most particularly.) The Pulp Noir vibe is a great change of pace from "default" D&D tone, while at the same time not being all that radical of a departure to begin with. Eberron is one of my favorite fantasy settings. The only thing is suffers from a it is being too kitchen-sinkish. Keith Baker (the setting's creator) had to leave it open-ended enough that everything in D&D could fit if needed by individual DMs, and he had to make a lot of D&D conventions default. Not his fault, and I'm not surprised by it, but it is a weakness. It occasionally makes the setting feel a bit scattershot.

Forgotten Realms: Lots of elements to borrow, but I don't really like this setting much. In fact, it's the "setting I love to hate." I don't like the over-the-top high fantasy tone, I don't like the hippie sexual utopia vibe (granted, that's pretty subdued in the setting book itself. As it should be), it's way too inclusive to the point of incoherence, and just generally there are few things that it does that I don't think I could get better elsewhere. That said, there are plenty of things here that are nice to borrow: the Red Wizards and Thay in general, for example. The Shining South and Unapproachable East and even The Underdark books are all top notch. Worth having in my opinion, just not worth running as is.

Greyhawk: I've got the old 3e Gazetteer, which arguably isn't enough of a setting to go on, but I think it qualifies. Greyhawk is pretty much unadulturated iconic D&D. I'm not a huge fan; it feels very vanilla to me, and has many cheesy/silly elements.

Diamond Throne: This is the setting that went along with Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed alt.PHB. Pretty nifty in some ways, although boring in others. Conflict is kinda minimized, the world is a relatively peaceful happy place that doesn't scream "Adventure! Action!" like it should, and it's also a lot more high fantasy than is my wont (I'm a bit of a low fantasy, Sword & Sorcery, grim'n'gritty fan if that's not already clear.) One thing I did like was that the setting was relatively open ended rather than extensively cataloged. But heck, that's even more true of a homebrew setting, right? Anyway, a few things worth borrowing, and worth reading as an exercise in creating a d20 fantasy game and setting that's specifically not D&D and seeing how it's done.

Midnight: This is another setting that benefits from a strong hook. There's only one god in Midnight, and he rules with an iron fist, cruelly oppressing the typical PC races. A lot of people describe this setting as "Lord of the Rings, except that Sauron won." I think, being a bit of a Tolkien pedantic, that it more closely approximates Beleriand after Nírnaeth Arnoediad, when Morgoth rules openly having defeated most of the elvish and mannish kindgoms one by one, right up before Eärendil went west and got the rest of the Valar to come kick him off his throne once and for all.

I think the setting is also a great toolkit to borrow from. In fact, I specifically by default borrow a lot of the setting rules for other games I run; the Defender is a great low fantasy alt.monk and the Wildlander is one of the best alt.rangers in print, in my opinion.

Iron Kingdoms: This is, by far, my favorite D&D setting right now. Not being content with vanilla, more of the same, Privateer Press created a world in the throes of an industrial revolution, threw out or radically redesigned most of the standard D&D races, and made a real tone change. Iron Kingdoms simply isn't high fantasy; it's gritty and rough and tough. It works best with themes of social revolution, open warfare between superpowers, intrigue and espionage, and rooting out horror elements (so some of my favorite themes are guiding principles of the setting, as you can see.) Very highly recommended. Very highly.

I've got more, but let's stop there for now. Also, I haven't read enough of the Pathfinder setting to comment yet anyway...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Wizard of Earthsea

Although I tried (and failed) to read it as a teenager, A Wizard of Earthsea was a setting concept, at least, that I quite liked. The idea of a massive, convoluted system of islands, lumped together in the middle of a vast and supposedly unending ocean all around it was pretty intriguing.

But, like I said, I couldn't really get into the book. Over the intervening twenty so odd years, I've become slightly embarrassed by the fact that this slim little trilogy (each book less than 200 pages long) that's considered a classic by so many fantasy readers, has eluded me, so I finally broke down, got it from the library and read the first volume. Just finished it an hour or so ago.

Honestly, though, it felt more like a duty than something I enjoyed. I'll probably read the next one or two also, just to say that I have, and because they're short, but I didn't really like it that much.

Still enjoy the setting idea, though. One of these days I'll make my own Islands in an Endless Sea setting, and give a nod to Ursula LeGuin as the inspiration for the basic idea. I seriously doubt I'll add any other borrowings from Earthsea beyond that, though.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Dark DND"

After letting it lie fallow for quite some time and working on other projects, I'm actually having a bit of fun poking around on my DarkDND wiki. It's funny how I got back to that; I recently picked up A Wizard of Earthsea because I hadn't ever read it and kinda wanted to. I had forgotten that 1) Nemmerle is a character from Earthsea (I had made an abortive attempt to read it years ago, so I know something about it) and that his setting, Aquerra, was loosely based on a similar idea geographically. So, I started poking around his wiki.

He's actually the one who turned me on to wikispaces in the first place, so that made me turn to my wiki (plus I can cross pollinate with my other setting; both now feature a circum-Mezzovian Sea geography, for instance) and when I turned to my wiki, naturally I wanted to start typing a few new entries.

Sigh. I wish I had a better attention span.

Monday, September 22, 2008


It's my own fault, of course, but I'm getting a massive backlog of books lined up. I haven't cracked open Gardens of the Moon in the better part of two weeks because stuff came in from the library that I had for a limited time only--Dead Beat, Proven Guilty, The Wizard of Earthsea, Iron Angel, White Night and The Case Against Barack Obama.

In the meantime, I also bought Deadhouse Gates in anticipation of finishing Gardens. Le sigh.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

All the good ideas have already been done!

I've lamented this before. Just today... a few hours ago, no less... I finished reading the 7th Dresden Files book, Dead Beat. As the title implies, this one features necromancers and undead.

One character got the very bright idea of animating Sue. Yes, that Sue, the most complete and largest Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered, and sitting in the Field Museum in Chicago (actually, I'm not certain if that's where Sue is these days. She went on a roadshow for a while, and I've lost track of her location. But that's where she was in the book.)

And what do you do with an undead dinosaur? You strap saddles on her back and ride her through the streets of Chicago to go munch on the other characters wimpy regular zombies and specters, of course.

*sigh* Whenever I think I have a really cool idea that's actually kinda original, I find that someone else has already done it. Rampaging undead dinosaurs? Cross that one off the list.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New character

Well, my "Pirates of the Mezzovian Main" game ended this last weekend. Sadly, I'm a poor finisher, in my opinion, and it kinda started fizzling and I hurried the end up because I was tired of running it. My set-up and plot twisting occasionally exceeds my ability to bring it all home. Granted, the group's increasingly erratic schedule during the summer kinda dimmed my enthusiasm too, making me much more amenable to just "let's wrap this up and move on" kinda thing. So, anyway. The game's over.

Fun setting, though. As I mentioned earlier, my Dark•Heritage setting has borrowed a lot from my Mezzovian Main (including the Mezzovian Sea), which in turn borrowed a ton from Dark•Heritage. Funny incestuous and tumultuous relationship between the two settings. D'oh.

Our new game is going to by a Bob-run Cthulhu campaign set during classic 1920's Cthulhu times. Apparently we're starting off in Perth, Australia, although there's no reason that we have to be from there; just there at the beginning of the campaign visiting someone in the loony bin.

I knew that 1920's Cthulhu was coming up, and in casting around for a character on which to model my character, I early on turned to Bertie Wooster. Perhaps a bit less excessive, a bit less of a parody, but similar nonetheless. Luckily, the character I rolled up fit that fairly well, although perhaps too good in the Intelligence and Education stats. Still, I can run with it. I don't have a Jeeves, so I can't be quite as incompetent and Bertie himself was.

I'm still looking for a name; I came up early with Basil Haverghast, but I might yet change that. Might even borrow a name or two from Wodehouse myself; Basil "Chuffy" Chuffingham, for example. Or Willoughby Fink-Nottle. Something vaguely silly, but not too over-the-top.

For those of you who are familiar with Wodehouse and Lovecraft, how do you suggest I pull off that fusion? (assuming anyone reads this in the first place?) I'm all ears for suggestions on how to make this a memorable character. My last two characters with this group ended up being a bit forgettable, and I want to avoid that, without going too far and becoming an attention hog. I think the somewhat arrogant and a naive/helpless Bertie Wooster model might be a way I can do that. He's not completely useless; he can shoot a shotgun like crazy, and he's been trained as a doctor, although he finds the practice droll now that he can afford not to do so. He speaks French and Latin reasonably well, has tons of credit rating (influence with the peers, no doubt... or the Drone's Club) and can do a few other things. Being a parasitic comic relief character who can't do anything on his own wouldn't help create a good group dynamic, after all. Plus, I don't have a Jeeves to get my bacon out of the fire, so I need to be able to credibly do it myself on occasion.

For what it's worth, our group will also have a rather gruff bruiser named Billy who works on a tramp steamer, a silent movie star (possibly with a weak and/or annoying voice, so he's worried about the rumors of "talking movies" that's starting to work its way around Hollywood), a professor of parapsychology (female) educated at Cambridge, so a natural rival for my Oxford (Balliol College) educated character, and an Aussie cowboy.

Fantasy Top 10

Because I saw some other random guy on the internet make a list of Top 25 fantasy novels/series, I thought I'd try my hand at it. I'm not going to do 25, though, I'm going to only do 10. There's no point unless you're a little but selective, after all.

Also, I'm letting myself take on a fairly broad definition of fantasy. That primarily will be apparent in three of my picks, that are arguably not fantasy, but which I think are close enough that it's quibbling and nitpicking to not accept them. I'm also going to include a shorter list of very popular books/series that I did not include and why. And, of course, my own personal experience is not comprehensive. There's a lot of fantasy that is very highly regarded, but which I simply haven't gotten around to reading. Naturally, I can only pick stuff with which I'm familiar.

10. Myth Adventures, by Robert Asprin. A rather long-running series of fantasy parody books, starting with Another Fine Myth and continuing on ad nauseum. Asprin somewhat lost his way after a while, but there's a least half a dozen really good books before it starts getting stale. Fantasy does have a tendency to take itself too seriously; these books are great because not only do they parody a lot of fantasy riffs, but they are qualitatively good stories in their own right; they're not just silly parodies. A relatively high tolerance for puns is required to read these, though, and a thorough knowledge of history, literature and pop culture will help in getting some of the jokes and references.

9. The Dragonlance Chronicles, by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis. I'm as likely as anybody to belittle and deride game-related fiction. Most of it isn't very good. Most of it, in fact, is downright terrible. This three-book series, though, is the exception to the rule. In fact, it's probably fair to say that this is the series that kicked off game fiction as a viable genre. Without Weis and Hickman's trailblazing work, there wouldn't even be any such category in the market today. But don't hold that against them; this features compelling characters, a charming plot, and some interesting scenarios. Despite being a branded product, it still managed to create an interesting setting to feature it all in as well.

8. The DreamQuest of Unknown Kadath, by H. P. Lovecraft. This is actually merely a single novella, but it features an awful lot of ties to the infamous "Cthulhu Mythos." Despite being part of his Lord Dunsany inspired "dream cycle", in my opinion, it's actually one of the best "mythos" cycle stories as well, featuring as it does a visit to the far side of the moon with the terrible froggy weirdos that live there, and a visit to Azathoth's own blasphemous court deep in outer space. When it's not showcasing some of the better horror that Lovecraft ever wrote, it reads a bit like a slightly more intellectual sword & sorcery fantasy, with a lot of atypical and very intriguing ideas. Also, because it's relatively short, it's an easy breezy read.

7. The Face in the Frost, by John Bellairs. This is another rather short work, that's actually somewhat difficult to find nowadays, which is suprising. I love it. It's purportedly at best semi-serious and somewhat humorous, and certainly the rather silly old wizard and his buddy who make up the main characters are faintly comical. However, Bellairs slips in between this cozy pseudo-comedy and actually terrifying writing with a facility that surprises me. The Face in the Frost also manages to be a great "horror fantasy" novel at the same time that it's a great "traditional fantasy" novel. Highly recommended.

6. The Warlord Trilogy, by Bernard Cornwell. I really enjoy this series, but some might take exception to it being called a fantasy. It very neatly straddles the line between fantasy and historical fiction. It includes a number of fantastic characters (including Merlin and Nimue) who do work magic… but at every turn you have to wonder if the "magic" isn't just a lot of luck, coincidence and con artistry. Be that as it may, any story that features King Arthur, the quest for the Holy Grail (here an ancient cauldron important to the druidic tradition rather than a Christian artifact) and Merlin will appeal to fantasy fans. I consider this a gritty, realistic fantasy set in Dark Ages Britain (and Armorica) with well drawn characters, fascinating plots, intrigues, betrayals and an ending of tragedy and pathos as the native Celts, despite their successes, eventually give way, allowing Britain to be Saxonized and themselves to be thoroughly Christianized. This theme of the "Golden Age" which ends is an important one in fantasy as well, which makes it feel even more like an exemplar of that genre, for those who still quibble about its inclusion here.

5. Conan, by Robert E. Howard. Del Rey recently put all of Howards seminal Conan stories together into three trade paperback volumes and put them back on shelves after years and years of expurgated neglect. Although Howard as a writer has some notable weaknesses (his prose is sometimes clunky, Conan is too good to be believed in many cases, he can tend to offend modern sensibilities here and there) it also has some remarkable strengths. It's really alive in a way few writers have ever managed to get their prose. It jumps out at you, grabs you by the throat and throttles you. The rather amoral, realistic nature of his setting is also fascinating; unlike much of the post-Tolkien fantasy, Howard completely ignores issues of good and evil, and while in many ways Conan himself is a relatively honorable chap, in many others he's an execreble and frightening fellow as well. He feels very much like a larger than life historical character in a historical version of our world… that just happened to never exist, and which happens to have all kinds of weird and frightening demons, monsters and sorcerers hiding in its darker corners. The Conan stories are one of the two pillars on which the modern fantasy genre is built, so they really can't afford to be missed.

4. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond Feist. Feist has tons of books set mostly on his world of Midkemia. I think there's something like twenty five or thiry. I've only read about the first half dozen or so, but they are really good books. Oddly enough, although not technically a game related fiction like the Dragonlance books, Midkemia was created for the college group of Dungeons & Dragons players to which Feist belonged in the early to mid 1970s, and in a lot of ways, it starts off with a very D&D-like "Tolk-clone" manner. I gotta give Feist credit, not for being really all that innovative, but for his really good execution. He's the writer who proves the axiom that even cliches can be absolutely fine if the story's well written, the characters engaging and the plot dramatic. Of course, at the time he wrote the first book or two, the cliches weren't yet so thoroughly ingrained anyway. To some extent, it looks more cliched in retrospect than it would have when it was new.

3. Star Wars, by various authors. Granted, this is a multimedia extravaganza. They are primarily movies, though, with attendent novelizations of the movies. And lots of people really quibble with this as a fantasy. But think about it. Although it takes place in space, has spaceships, blasters, and all of the trappings of a decidedly non-fantasy type setting, Star Wars is absolutely fantasy. The Force is just another word for magic, and the Jedi are just an order of wizards (Obiwan is specifically called a wizard by some characters in the first movie.) The lightsaber dynamic makes the Jedi also analogous to knights-errant. In addition, there's the much-touted correllation between the grand story of Star Wars and the "heroic mythological cycle" as described by Joseph Cambell. To be honest with you, I'm a bit sceptical of this myself; I'm not that impressed with Joseph Campbells thesis (he genericizes so much that it's difficult to find any story that doesn't follow his heroic journey outline. Is that a case of him finding the key to the human psyche, or simply the fact that he removed so many details that he's not saying all that much?) and I'm also skeptical that Lucas ever meant to create a "modern mythology" (his early interviews never mention it; they talk about him making a modern serial a la Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. Personally, I think Lucas latched onto Campbell's theories after the fact because it lent his story some artistic credibility and Campbell latched onto Star Wars because it fueled the popularization of his name and his theories… and thereby drove up his book sales.) Be that as it may, when the setting, the characters AND the plot all feel like classic fantasy with a twist, I'm calling it fantasy.

2. John Carter of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Barsoom series of short books, starting with A Princess of Mars are probably going to get me a little bit of grief too, since they bear a passing resemblance to science fiction. However, c'mon. A guy travels to Mars by some kind of mystical means and hits it off with a princess. The stories and the setting itself are very classic fantasy fare. Heck; more fantasies would be improved by looking at what old ERB did years ago. Long before Tolkien did it, ERB was creating coherent geographies (well, more or less) and laying the groundworks for fictional languages. Not only that, some of the early Barsoom stories are some of the funnest stories ever written. That said, the series went on longer than it probably should have. Later volumes are very retreaded and some of them even read like parodies of his own earlier work.

1. Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien. This shouldn't be a surprise. Tolkien is the other pillar on which the modern genre is founded, and frankly, his shadow and influence can be a daunting thing. Most modern fantasy imitates Tolkien to a greater or lesser degree which is unfortunate. I would want to de-emphasize my own similarities to Tolkien if I were a published writer, because the comparison can only make me look poorer by comparison. Despite the fact that the pacing and style clearly aren't for everyone, Tolkien was a true master of his form of prose. Every single word is carefully chosen and placed in a really remarkable way, and the setting itself is lovingly developed far beyond what is explored in the books themselves. I've probably read the three books of LotR more often than I've read anything else ever written. I think it's a true masterpiece, and without it, the fantasy genre either wouldn't even exist at all today, or it would look tremendously different than it does.

A few books didn't quite make my list, but I want to mention them. Lloyd Alexander's five book Prydain Chronicles are excellent, classic high fantasy built on a real world mythological basis. Glen Cook's Black Company novels kicked off an entire little subgenre and he has many imitators. The Dresden Files novels are another interesting series; a fusion of Raymond Chandler and Harry Potter; hard-boiled fantasy detectives in modern day Chicago.

A few notable series did not make my list, and astute, clued-in fantasy readers may wonder where they are. Robert Jordan's sprawling Wheel of Time novels had a great start, but bogged down so badly near the end that it's no surprise really that the author died before finishing them. That series is at least three times as long as it should be, and it still didn't finish. George R. R. Martin is similarly overwritten, but at least it seems to avoid being too soap opera-ish. Steven Erikson is a relative newcomer, but with seven (or is it eight now?) books in his rapidly growing Malazan Book of the Fallen series, he's hard to ignore. So far, I've only read (most of) his first book, and I don't think it's all that good. However, word on the street is (nearly) unanimous that he improves very rapidly from a weak start. If I redo this list in a year, who knows? Maybe he'll be on it.

I'm not a fan of Terry Brooks, David Eddings or R. A. Salvatore. To me, their plots and characterizations are pretty thin, and their settings aren't very interesting. I know they sell an awful lot of books, though. Eddings in particular has openly admitted that he writes formulaic drivel on purpose because he thinks that's what the market wants. Based on his sales figures, sadly, he's probably right. I also really struggled with Phillip Pullman and China Mieville; two authors that get a lot of attention. I didn't find their books engagingly written. The best thing that could be said about either is that their settings were at least unusual. The Narnia books are considered classics of the genre, but they're not quite my cup of tea, so to speak. Children from our world mysteriously becoming heroes in another is a little too Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan for my taste.

A few other authors are starting to make waves (actually some of them made waves years ago), but I haven't yet read them, so I can't comment. Guy Gavriel Kay is one. Ursula LeGuin. Brandon Sanderson (in fact, I'm intently curious in him, in part because it occurred to me that there's a small chance we could be related---my mother's maiden name is Sanderson, and there's a few other correspondences as well. I need to dig into some family history and see if we coincide somewhere.)

Lots more. The fantasy genre has really exploded over the last few decades, and it's well beyond the capabilities of most readers to stay in the loop about everything going on anymore.

As an aside, you may also notice that quite a fair number of books I picked are books that were also on the list I posted below. Only one of them (Face in the Frost) did I discover because of that list, though. Obviously Mr. Rateliff and I simply think very similarly in terms of what's good fantasy and what isn't.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Classics of Fantasy

Just found this set of links again. I read these articles years ago and I think they're very well written.

Hobberdy Dick
The Hobbit
The Books of Wonder
Tales of Averoigne
The Book of Three Dragons
Watership Down
The Night Land
The Face in the Frost
A Wizard of Earthsea
The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
The Worm Ouroboros
Bridge of Birds
A Voyage to Arcturus
Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser
Collected Ghost Stories
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
The Well at the World's End

Series discontinued...

Well, whatever I said I was going to post; I'm not.

I'm not even in the same headspace as last time I posted. Because my wife monopolizes the computer at home in the evenings a lot, I tend to post these blogs from work. When work gets really busy, I tend not to post blogs. That's happened just recently, and work doesn't look like it's going to slow down much in the next few months. So whatever I promised I would post (a series on Capcom and SNK backgrounds, I think, was the latest nonsense) I won't.

Instead, I'm getting caught up in stuff that's going on now which means 1) new TV shows (season 4 of Supernatural, season 2 of Terminator, season 1 of the Clone Wars and possibly season 3 of Heroes. Trying to decide if I care at all about the last one or not.) Also, books. I just read Scar Nights by Alan Campbell, and it's an interesting debut novel. Quite good. I also finally broke down and started reading my copy of Gardens of the Moon; the first book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series (so far clocking at eight of ten projected volumes) in part because so many of my friends recommended it so much---I checked it out from the library earlier and struggled through about 100 pages before giving up.) I'm doing better with it this time, but it's still not well-written in any sense of the word. Word on the street, though, is that the series improves dramatically after this weak opening act. I also bought the collected Books of the South volume of Glen Cook's Black Company series. So I can finally move beyond the first three volumes, the "Books of the North" as they're sometimes called. Also, technically, the only ones I don't own now are the "Glittering Stone" subseries; the last four volumes. Glen Cook is another writer who's style I don't really like, but who's ideas, plots and characters manage to hold my attention anyway.

I'm also feeling guilty and unhappy that my own novel is progressing so slowly... I'm gonna really buckle down and start writing, setting myself a goal of 1000 words a day. We'll see if that's supportable or if I'll have to reduce it to 750 or even 500. For now, that's my goal, though.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Benimaru, the ladies' man

There's a character in the King of Fighters games who's supposed to be a notorious ladies' man. Here's a few images of him...

Uh... yeah. As if the tight leather pants and leopard print halter top weren't suspicious enough, he's got more feminine mannerisms than most women I know.

Friday, August 15, 2008


My interests are sorta lika a drunk pendulum, and there are several endpoints of its swing that it may linger on for some time before swinging a different way for a while. All of the interests remain, but at any given time, one or more will be ascendent and the rest will be quiescent.

Right now, my interest has returned to the Japanese superhero anime-like two dimensional martial arts games. That designation is my own invention; what it really means is that I'm playing a lot of Street Fighter and other games like it right now. The other games like it include the King of Fighters series, the Fatal Fury series, and other games like that, all by developers Capcom and SNK. You pick characters and face off in a two dimensional playing field and attack each other in a combination of martial arts and super powers.

Why do I have such an unnatural affinity to this particular kind of game? I'm not overly Japanophilish and I don't even like anime, so I'm not sure I can answer that. I just do. It's like those old Apple Jacks commercial where the dad asks the kids why they like Apple Jacks; they don't even taste like apple. They look at each other in confusion for a few minutes then say, "We just do!" and go on happily enjoying them. I suppose I'm that same way. I can't rationalize my near obsession with that type of game, it just exists and that's that.

What I'd like to talk about with these fighting games today is something that I think is often overlooked; the rather striking (at times) animated artwork that makes up the "stages" or backdrops for the fights. Finding sprite rips online of characters performing their moves is easy; finding animated (or even just still) images from the games as backgrounds is somewhat trickier. I have, however, managed to collect some of them, and I'm going to use a few to illustrate my points.

There were some interesting developments in the games as they went on. Most of the earliest backgrounds (i.e., Street Fighter 1) are fairly simple and relatively crude by later standards (no surprise; everything about the game is) but they did establish the precedent. Lots of scenic stuff in the background; Mt. Rushmore, Mt. Fuji, etc. They had very little animation, and little "effects" still at this point, but in 1987, they looked pretty stunning for graphics on a video game, honestly.

The first Fatal Fury game, as well as several of the stages from Street Fighter 2 gave us something new; cheering audiences watching the fight. The fights still took place in odd places; scenic locals, often, or just some location in the street, but the cheering crowd was an interesting touch. As time went on, that developed in many cases to just simple scenes of people going about their life; shopping in an open air market, playing in a park, etc. If you really think about it, that's really bizarre; when two martial arts superheroes start fighting right in front of you, you'd think you could quit doing what you're doing and pay attention. It doesn't bother me too much, though, because by the time that idea developed, the backgrounds got very, very technically proficient indeed, and many of them look fabulous.

Right now, I'm actually working up a rather ambitious fanfic (yes, I really am that nerdy. Sigh.) and for me, trying to set the fights, whenever it makes sense, in an actual stage that appeared in an actual game is something that I think is quite fun. After all, I've got by now literally hundreds of background images to choose from. Sadly, I don't actually have animated images of that many, but I've got quite a few.

Here's a few of my favorites.

This first set is from Art of Fighting 3. I'm otherwise not a huge fan of the Art of Fighting series; it just didn't catch my interest the same way Street Fighter, King of Fighters, or even Fatal Fury did, but it has a bunch of cool characters that later went on to feature in King of Fighters games, and of course their backgrounds are the equal of anything SNK otherwise did on the old MVS hardware. The game is also set 100% in Mexico which gives it a unique perspective; most of the other games tend to bounce all over the place, so backgrounds can come from a variety of places.

This one is one of my favorite backgrounds ever, from any game. Just check out the artistry there and remember that this was done on hardware that debuted in the 1980s. There's a night time version of this as well, but I like the lighting of the day, plus you can see the pyramid in the distance. Cool stuff. My fanfic will very definately feature this scene. Somehow.


Both Capcom and SNK have a somewhat unusual fixation on trains. Hardly a game gets released that doesn't feature a train somehow. The very first Street Fighter had Joe's stage; an urban trainyard with grafitti covered railcars. This one is one of my favorites, just because it's so bright, clean, the rain and wind effects, etc. Perhaps not as overtly cool as fighting on a moving flatcar, which is another popular effect, but still very nice.

If you don't believe that the backgrounds can lend a lot to the atmosphere and ambience of the game, and create a real sense of drama, check out this evocative graveyard, with the squabbling crows, the dead trees, the wind-blown weeds, the ruined church in the distance, the gray rolling stormclouds. This background has it all.


Here's one of the ones I mentioned where---if you really think about it---why are these people just sitting around doing their same day to day stuff? I dunno, but I can forgive it because it looks pretty cool. Check out those shafts of sunlight coming through the treetops, too.

This is a boss stage from King of Fighters '99. This shows the very comic bookish nature of many of these games; the whole hi-tech secret lab kinda thingy. This is the cloning facility for the boss Krizalid of NESTS.

Besides trains and trainyards, airports are another repeating influence. They're usually military airfields, but here's an interesting commercial airfield scene, set at sunset out on the tarmac.


This is one of my favorite. This scene itself is nice, but not extraordinary. What makes this one so unique, and sadly I don't have the other versions that I can show you, is that in the second round it changes; most of the people are gone and dark clouds start rolling in. Wind starts blowing and it starts to sprinkle. By the third stage, it's raining cats and dogs; a truly remarkable effect, with washed out back layers and water bouncing up from the table and puddling in the grass.

I could do plenty more SNK backgrounds, but let's switch gears and show some Capcom ones for my next post.

Monday, August 11, 2008

King of Fighters

That link is an interesting little series of essays posted on a messageboard (you don't have to be a member to read it, and they go all the way through the first page before it turns into posts and responses rather than actual essays) that neatly describes one of the reasons I like the King of Fighters games so much. My interest in these kinds of games waxes and wanes with time, but it never goes away (just a few months ago, it faded and I was really into reading fantasy novels and D&D books; now I desperately want a PS2 so I can buy a few games that are out that will round out my collection... for now. Until KoF XII, Street Fighter IV and Super Street Fighter 2 HD Remix come out for Xbox 360 and PS3 anyway.) Now, I'm back staring at these bizarre manga/anime like Asian plainclothes superheroes of martial arts games and loving them as much as ever.

I've got more to say on the subject, but I'll get back to it in another post. In the meantime, read the link above. It's refreshing, for a fan like me, who wandered into KoF late after exhausting Capcom's games (again, like me) explaining exactly what about them so captivates me.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

2-D still lives

Just when I thought it was safe to claim that my favorite video game genre was effectively dead and my rather largish collection was more or less complete... it's not true anymore.

Just recently we've had releases of stuff that's never been easily (or legally) available stateside on good systems in better than arcade perfect formats: Street Fighter Alpha Anthology, the Fatal Fury Battle Archives (including the fabulous Real Bout games), King of Fighters XI and more.

And now, we're getting a Street Fighter II Hi Def Remix; Street Fighter 4, King of Fighters '98 Ultimate remake of 98 (quite possibly the best of the series), King of Fighters XII, with an all new vastly improved look, and who knows what else.

To say nothing of Arcana Heart, which is probably even more anime-like than Guilty Gear in some ways (and therefore not really my cuppa tea, but still important in helping to revitalize the genre.)

I'm not sure whether I should be disappointed or excited that I'm not yet done collecting after all!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Click Click Drone

"You know I hate to ask
But, are friends electric?
Only, mine’s broke down
And now I’ve no one to love."

Those lyrics by Tubeway Army nearly thirty years ago have proven strangely prophetic... my main online "hangout" has been unavailable all day today (and pretty iffy for several weeks, actually) and although I don't actually spend that much time there during the day, its amazing how much I miss it if I can't connect at all. Makes it seem like there's something important that I've forgotten to do.

Weird. Now I need to get out and talk to some real people tonight to shake off the funky feeling that I'm actually living in some kind of cyberpunk nightmare. Although I know intellectually that that's not true, of course (I actually have about as active a social life as I can stand at the moment; any more going on and I'd be overloaded and need some time to myself.)

The post title is a "famous" line from the John Foxx "hit single" "Underpass." I put famous and hit in quotes, because actually it wasn't all that commercially successful, but in a fair world John Foxx would be better known today that Gary Numan. Gary Numan himself repeatedly said he was imitating Foxx, particularly from his swan song album with Ultravox Systems of Romance which is also often called the "first synthpop album." If you hear songs like "Dislocation" and "Quiet Men" it's easy to see where Numan is coming from with that claim. Sadly, when John Foxx went solo and produced his landmark album Metamatic it was overshadowed by Numan's own success. Foxx's work is much more polished, and while I'm a big Numan fan, and I think some at least of his songs are truly brilliant, I think Foxx is a better musicial and composer both.


Well, it's been quite a while since I've made an entry. A lot of real life personal stuff has intruded, and quite frankly I've simply been preoccupied.

I haven't, however, forgotten this blog to become yet another fallow, abortive attempt at journalizing online.

This post is mostly just a "hey-o" to say that I'm still alive, I still think about things on occasion, and I still wish to post such thoughts. I'll continue to do so as time permits. At this very moment, I don't have anything in particular on my mind, however. I've been busy enough that many of my usual hobbyist pursuits have been pushed to the backburner; I haven't thought much about fantasy novels, dinosaurs, video games, music or anything much like that (other than that I discovered that Gary Numan remade his own song "Metal" and bought it for $.89 from Amazon. Check it out; it's very cold and poignant.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

80s Music Videos

I've been trawling about Youtube for 80s music videos. Again.

I saw one that I think was new to me: Van Stephenson's "Modern Day Delilah." Which, lets face it—with a video about an actual hairdresser is just to corny to be fer real.

Check out some Real Life too; one of my favorite 80s bands, and often mistaken for a one hit wonder. Most people remember "Send Me an Angel" thanks to about half a dozen movies that used it in their soundtrack, but they hardly put out a bad song. "God Tonight", "Face to Face", "Catch Me I'm Falling", "Girl Jesus" and the very creepy "Sister Sister" are among my other favorite tracks of theirs.

Their "Catch Me I'm Falling" is no relation to Pretty Poison's "Catch Me (I'm Falling)" although that's an 80s song that's good fer a laugh too.