1st Try

So far, I have only sold one story on the first try: Dragonhawk One of the reasons why I believe that it was so successful is that even though I had the plot for the story in mind when writing the story, I also used (for the only time time since I restarted my writing “career” by buying Storymill and then later Scrivener) the Character Sketch Template Sheets provided by Scrivener.  One of the things that the character sheets forced me to do was to think about my characters from the external and the internal

External

So, on the Character Sheets, there is a place to fill out all of the external characteristics of the character.  What do they look like, what is their background, etc.  All of the things you might ask yourself when filling out a biography for a character.  Sure, it isn’t much, just spaces where you can write a paragraph or so, but I did that for both of the main characters in the story: Kelfryn (the young man who was a Hawkrider, but wanted to be a Dragonrider), and Scryfe (his mind-bonded hawk, who didn’t understand his rider’s obsession with dragons and dragon eggs).  It really didn’t take that long to write out each one–maybe half an hour to one full hour for each one.  However, when it came to describing the characters and knowing the history, my mind was able to weave a narrative around them that made them seem (to the editor who bought the story, and hopefully his readers), well, alive in some undefinable way.  It also made it easier, for me, to come up with a reason why  he was doing what he was doing that seemed both rational and in keeping with the character.

Internal

Perhaps the most important point is the fact that the character sheet provided a place for internal conflicts–i.e., what is the character struggling with internally.  For Kelfryn, he wanted so much to be a Dragonrider of old and to have the status of a Dragonrider.  His great grandfather had been one as had countless generations before that and in the world I created, even though there were no more Dragonriders, there was still an air of mystique about them and a reverence.  Even though he knew it was forbidden in his culture, his desire to bring them back trumped his good sense and he (pardon he pun) “hatched” a plan to steal an egg, thus setting the story in motion.

Concluding Thoughts

As I said earlier, this is the only story which has sold on the first try–and I didn’t even like the story all that much (the kid learns his lesson while I wanted a fun adventure story).  While I may never have another story accepted on the first try, this incident is trying to tell me something: good characters need both internal and external conflicts.  To help me, I printed out several character sheets.  My goal, of course, is to use them for each of my projects to help get at the inner conflicts and to create well-rounded and dynamic characters. I’m starting this with The Independent.  I’m working on the 2nd Draft now and I’m hopeful that a Character Sketch Sheet will help me to create Ryn (the protagonist) into a round and dynamic character.

Perhaps, one day, I can even reach the rarefied heights of getting back to getting a publication on the first try.  It’s something to shoot for anyway.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1)
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Characters–Now with Faces

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 12
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)

Goal = 5 Pages a week.  Working on Rough Draft for the next 5 pages on Fridays/Over the Weekend.
Actual = 1/5 Pages done.  The writing process went fairly smoothly and I completed the page before going to bed.  It wasn’t particularly hard or easy, but just a basic drafting session.  Four more to go.

  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 3 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 4 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Here is a summary from Amazon: “In this hip, accessible primer to the music, literature, and art of Afrofuturism, author Ytasha Womack introduces readers to the burgeoning community of artists creating Afrofuturist works, the innovators from the past, and the wide range of subjects they explore. From the sci-fi literature of Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, and N. K. Jemisin to the musical cosmos of Sun Ra, George Clinton, and the Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am, to the visual and multimedia artists inspired by African Dogon myths and Egyptian deities, the book’s topics range from the “alien” experience of blacks in America to the “wake up” cry that peppers sci-fi literature, sermons, and activism. With a twofold aim to entertain and enlighten, Afrofuturists strive to break down racial, ethnic, and social limitations to empower and free individuals to be themselves.”
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Scrivener’s Character Sketch Feature

So, I’ve known about Scrivener’s Character Sketch Template for a while now.  I’ve actually used it to great effect.  I did a character sketch for Scryfe and Kelfryn years ago and it is (to date) still the only story I’ve ever sold on the first try.  However, I’ve recently discovered a way that other writers are using the template that never occurred to me and I think that it is pretty useful, so I thought I’d share.

Drag and Drop Characters

Scrivener, like many pieces of Mac software, allows you to basically drag and drop images from your computer or the web into the program with just the click of the mouse (or touchpad these days).  While I’ve done that and used the feature for the “Notes” section to help me visualizing places that I wanted to describe in my fiction, I’ve recently seen other writers dragging in images for their characters.  They are sort of “casting” their stories much like a director/casting agent “casts” their movies.  I think this is “aces” (slang for “a bloody brilliant idea”)!  I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t think of that–sure, you might not find that perfect image that is a one-to-one match for the character in your mind, an image that is close would definitely help the writing process.

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

The only potential problem that I see with this is that if you get your work published, you should find someway to acknowledge the art/photo that helped get you there (if at all possible), especially if it was an artist’s sketch.  That’s why, whenever I use an artist’s image in the cover image for a post, I always try to credit the artist’s name and promote their website in that blog post.  I don’t promote artists as much as I probably could (i.e., use more artwork from artists) because I know what its like to produce your work, but not paid for it.  I’d like to showcase it, but I’m not a gallery and don’t have the resources (aka funds) to license work for extended periods of time, which is why I do it sparingly.  However, as a member of communities like Deviant Art , I can tell that there are some AMAZING artists out there that I would LOVE to work with at some point.  Here is a Pinterst post to prove my point (click to see more images).

So, writers out there.  If your story gets used/picked up by a publisher, how about throwing a few dollars back to the talented artists and photographers that helped to inspire your work by, perhaps, buying some of their work as well?  We may not all be doing the same type of creation, but at the end of the day, we’re all creators together.  Let’s help each other out, shall we?

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

Finished Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Mini-Review)

Oathbringer_Amazon

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Independence Word Count: 6,000 words (+1,200 words)–1st Draft Finished (7/6/18)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 5000 words  by July 7. 
Actual = 6,000 Words finished on July 6.  I wrote 1,200 words Friday night while I waited to go home.  I didn’t have a great couple of days, so I just wrote.  I only had 178 words for the 5,000 word goal, but when I got there, I wasn’t finished, so I just kept writing until the story was done.  I’ve given it to my alpha readers and then will do another draft whenever I get the feedback back from them.  I’ll probably work on a revision/revisions for the month of July before delving back into a new project in August.  Watch this space for future developments.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    Traveller RPG: I started this a while ago as a book that I was reading just before bedtime, but I didn’t really make much headway.  I restarted it and I’ve just finished the introductory character generation section and I’m now moving on to the skills section and will be soon moving into the “lore” section.  This is a revamp (rules 2.0) of an old school British RPG from the 1980s.  Updated for modern times, this fairly short book still gives a great set of rules, game system, and lore that I hope will serve as inspiration for new sci-fi works in my own writing life.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Finished Oathbringer Last Week

So, I finished Oathbringer last week.  I wasn’t intending to finishing it, but I can’t say that my week was the greatest due to the amount of schoolwork that I had this week and the fact that I didn’t do as well on my presentations that I would have liked.  So, as normal, I retreated into my books, specifically Oathbringer and finished off approximately 250-300 pages this week.  The book clocks in at over 1,200 pages (!) and I had been reading 2-3 chapters per day, until the last couple of weeks.  For those who don’t know, Oathbringer is book 3 in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives series.

Dalinar’s Story

Each book in the series, so far, has a focus on one or two major characters while other characters are present, but are in the background.  In each of the two previous, we find out about the background of our “focus” character throughout the course of the novel.  Book 1, The Way of Kings was Kaladin Stormblessed’s story, while Book 2, Words of Radiance  was Shallan’s story.  Even though Jasnah Kholin is on the cover, it is actually her father, Dalinar, who is the “focus” of this novel.  We get to see his history and his motivations as to how he became “Blackthorne,” a figure to be feared and why he moved away from that persona.  Sanderson masterfully weaves the reasons into the story and by the end of the book, we see Dalinar journey on an arc that leaves Dalinar (and the readers) with an understanding of why Dalinar deliberately learned to restrain his battle lust.

Moving the Story Forward

What I like most about this Fantasy series is that it actually moves the story forward.   If there’s one thing Sanderson is good at, it is actually progressing the story.  For instance, the “Big Bad,” Odium, has been teased for two books, but this book, not only do we get to see him, we also get to interact with him and see what makes him the “big bad” in this story.  In other words, he gets Darth Vader it up.  Other contemporary fantasy writers (I won’t name names) tend to stay mired in the potential of the threat, rather than actually getting to the threat itself.  I really liked this book.  While it isn’t my favorite novel in the series–that honor still goes to Book 1, The Way of Kings–I still thought that it was a great novel that really engages the reader while moving the story forward.

Overall Grade: B+

A very good addition to the series.  Maybe not the best one so far, but it definitely slacked my thirst for new content in that universe.  Now that I’ve finished it, however, I’m consigned to wait another 2 to 2 ½ years for Brandon Sanderson to release another.

Sigh.

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

 

Game Mode On: Artificial Game Extension

ghostrecon_tier1_gamespot

Tom Clancy Ghost Recon Wildlands Tier 1 Mode. Image Source: Gamespot

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Independence Word Count: @4000 words (+203 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 121 words (5000 words by July 1).  Currently at approximately, 4800 words
Actual = 500 words Monday & Wednesday morning/.  So, Monday night I managed to hit my Scrivener goal of 127 words, but didn’t make my 250 word goal.  I was too tired to work on this Tuesday night, but did work on it 4th of July (morning) and got about 

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3)
    Finished this last night.  I’ll write up my impressions of this title and post it for a blog entry next week.  Look out for it.
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
    Lingua FractalA Rhetoric book that details the convergence of Rhetoric and Technology and how they interact in today’s world.  Finished a Book Review for it on Friday for class.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

Reading two or three chapters in Oathbringer every day.  I really shouldn’t be, but it is so good, that I generally read it while eating dinner (and then I go back out to the library to do reading for school).   Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Games Played on June 30th

Hello, and welcome to my inaugural weekly post on the games that I’m playing on the weekend (really Saturdays as I don’t really have time in graduate school to devote the entire weekend to gaming).  I’m going to try to position this as a “bonus” post that goes up on a Saturdays in order to fill out my goal of posting six (6) days a week.  This post will 1) highlight some of the games I’m (currently) working my way through (i.e., playing), 2) offer criticisms and trends that I see based on the actual gameplay and 3) highlight avenues of scholarship that I’m currently pursuing as a rhetoric scholar in video games.  Yes, I know the last one if fairly “nerdy,” but it may spark other rhetoricians to cover games that I’m not going to cover (for instance, while I might get a Switch and cover Nintendo games at some point, I don’t intend to ever own a Microsoft console and will not be covering/featuring Microsoft games (not until they completely overhaul their corporate culture, at any rate, something that I don’t see happening in the near or far future, but I digress).  Most of the games I will be focusing on will be Sony exclusive games or 3rd party games that are on the PlayStation format.

So let’s get started, shall we?

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

So, this one is vexing to me.  I like this game, but I feel that it has gone on waaaaayyyy too long.  It is an open world game and it has this conceit that you have to take down Sicarios in the open world to get to the main villain.  However, what it does to extend gameplay is that it has a rating of up to 5 levels for each region and each region is rated 1 to 5.  I’ve worked by way through the game and I’m currently in the last of the ⅘ difficulty regions, and will be moving on to the 5/5 regions soon.  The problem is that not only does the difficulty spike, but the game adds in an external Tier system that forces the game’s difficulty even higher if you want to move up to the highest “level” so not only do the regions become harder, but so too does the game itself.  This slows down progress immensely and makes it difficult to progress through the game.  I’ve been playing this one since February and it has delayed me from getting back to Horizon Zero Dawn, The Witcher 3, and into another Ubisoft game, Watch Dogs 2.  I don’t mind a “meaty” game, but this trend towards extending gameplay just to keep players from playing other games is annoying a best.

Until Dawn

So, let’s establish something right from the outset: I don’t really like horror.  I like tension, I like action, I like drama, but I don’t really like horror.  Yes, I will sometimes dabble in that genre, but usually it has to be fairly mild, the original TV version of Stephen King’s It, and of James Herbert’s novels, some of Dan Simmons novels (specifically the “horror” ones) among others are somethings that I enjoy.  Right now, I’m playing Until Dawn by Supermassive Games for the Playstation 4 (PS4 Exclusive), and it is seriously creeping me out.  It uses ALL of the horror movie “tropes” to try to elicit “jump scares” from the player (and with me it is succeeding big time!).  Stingers, dark environments, limited viewpoints, etc., they’re all there.  If horror is your thing, then you have to try this game.

Basically, the story revolves around these teens who reunite after a tragedy occurred one year ago.  Like an 80’s horror movie, you’re tasked with controlling one or two of the teens and trying to make story decisions that will keep them alive.  Well, I’m not doing so great.  The character that I have just got surprised by a wolf/large dog after having to have his fingers amputated to get out a trap.  I’ve lost at least two teens so far (and if the wolf is any indication, its about to be three!).  The graphics are very well done–while there are times when “uncanny valley” does affect the character models, but only slightly and not enough to take me out of the game (just enough to notice it).

I’d really like to put this game in conversation with Scream.  While older, the Scream series has many of the same tropes, but Scream is self-aware in a way that Until Dawn isn’t, even though UD is a newer game.  I’d really like to examine both how those tropes play out in the two works and why the game’s developer, Supermassive chose to minimize/ignore some of the newer, self-awareness of the conventions of the horror genre.  Right now, horror as a genre, is making a resurgence, and I might even (if I have the courage) to add in more and newer examples in the horror genre (ItGet Out, and even A Quiet Place–as much as I’ve railed against it) to examine the rhetorical nature of UD.

Costume Quest 2

This a smaller title and it is a one that is based on monsters taking over halloween.  It features simplified combat and a fun art style.  The story is also pretty good as well.  It doesn’t look like it will be a very long game, but it does look like it will be a quality game. I’m trying to get through some of the “free” games that I’ve acquired through Playstation Plus.  I’ve got about 30 smaller games that I’ve downloaded over the past three years and I’ve not really played them, so this is my attempt to try to eliminate my backlog of games.  I’m about halfway through (as best I can tell) and I’m having fun with it even though it is starting to get challenging.  Looking forward to seeing how it ends.

Well, that’s all for this week–have a good weekend!

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

Finished EdgeDancer (Novella) by Brandon Sanderson: Mini-Review (Non-Spoilers)

edgedancer_cover_amazon

EdgeDancer Cover From the Stormlight Archive.  Image Source: Amazon

Word Count (What I’m Writing)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3041 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

0.  Zero. Nada. Zilch. That’s my level of production since Tuesday of next week.  What happened?  Bad day on Wednesday and a realization that I’m still not focusing on enough on characters when I sit down to “plot” out my stories.  To be fair, school and reading for school interrupted as well as I should write after class (about 4:15), but usually end up spending the time in the sun outside watching YouTube videos instead.  

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3)
  • For School:
    Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
    Rereading the Sophists: Another book on the history of Rhetoric
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Ubisoft Multi-platform): Open World, Third Person Tactical Shooter–About ¾th of the way through.  Special Ops/Military combat in a fictional Bolivia taken over by a Mexican drug cartel.  Difficulty is auto-leveling to its hardest difficulty (Tier One status) and it is slowing down my progress in the game as enemies take more hits to die, but you take far fewer hits to die.  Difficulty is currently set to ADVANCED–the game’s doing, not mine.  Very irksome when all you want to do is finish the game.
  • Until Dawn (Sony PS4 Exclusive): Third Person, Horror– branching storyline game that features a variety of choices that affect the outcome of the story using a system call the “Butterfly Effect.”  As I’m writing this, I haven’t put any time into this game as of this weekend because of E3.

A Bite-Sized Interlude

So, last week I finished EdgeDancer by Brandon Sanderson after a bad day of classes (I won’t go into the particulars, but it was one of those “Bear Eats You” days).  In a nutshell, I thought it was a good story.  It is one that I wish that I’d known about before buying/starting Oathbringer by Sanderson as it is a prequel of sorts and it delayed my beginning Oathbringer until I finished reading it.  It is part of the new trend of authors releasing “side” stories in-between entries in the mainline series.  Tad Williams has done it–in fact, I still haven’t had a chance to buy the actual  new”mainline” novel in his Osten Ard series because I only just bought his novella and finished it earlier this spring.  To my knowledge Elizabeth Moon hasn’t done that with her Vatta series, but Diane Duane has done it with her Young Wizards series (and for this one, I bought the mainline entry, not realizing that their were two side stories available that I’m going to have to go back and get at some point).  In the mid-80’s, EdgeDancer might have been a full novel as it clocked in at about 200 pages.  However, as Oathbringer is approximately 1,000 pages in length (and is in the general range of Sanderson’s normal length), this book is only about 20% of what the author is capable of writing.

A New Character and a New Power

EdgeDancer focuses on a new character, Lift and her new abilities.  I’m actually not sure if we’ve seen Lift before–I somewhat feel that we might have seen her (or maybe it was the characters she interacts with) in an Interlude to the main story, so if she isn’t completely new, please forgive my memory (I haven’t read Bks 1 & 2 recently).  I found the story to be pretty good.  The main character’s characterization was excellent and the setting was well done.  I felt the ending seemed to veer slightly as it has a misdirection that I’m not sure completely works (no spoilers), but the resolution of the story was strong enough that I immediately jumped into Oathbringer.  I love Lift’s powers and can’t wait to see if they will be worked into the mainline story.  The antagonist of the story was well done, if off the stage for most of the story and I have to say that even with the ending lurching wildly, I did still enjoy the final confrontation scene.

Overall Grade: B (Above Average):  This story is a good set up for Oathbringer.  Is it necessary?  No, but it is fun and if you enjoy the world of the Stormlight Archive series then it gives you a new character with new powers in a setting we haven’t seen much of in the series.  It is available in either a standalone volume or in a large volume, Arcanum Unbound with novellas from his other fantasy series.

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

What’s On My Bookshelf: Numenera Role-Playing Game By Monte Cook

Numenera_Amazon

Numenera Book Cover (Futuristic humans and aliens on the cover)

Word Count (What I’m Writing)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3041 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

I didn’t manage any new words on any of my major projects–I didn’t even manage a blog post.  I realize this is where I’m sabotaging my writing, so I’m redoubling my efforts to write at least 250-500 words each day on at least one of these projects.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading)

  • For Fun: Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novella)
  • For School: Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
  • For Research/Personal Development: Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Ubisoft Multi-platform): Open World, Third Person Tactical Shooter–About ¾th of the way through.  Special Ops/Military combat in a fictional Bolivia taken over by a Mexican drug cartel.
  • Until Dawn (Sony PS4 Exclusive): Third Person, Horror– branching storyline game that features a variety of choices that affect the outcome of the story using a system call the “Butterfly Effect.”  My latest choice may have just gotten one of the characters killed.  😦

There Have Been Eight Previous Worlds

“Each world stretched across vast millennia of time.  Each play host to a race whose civilizations rose to superman but eventually died or scattered, disappeared or transcended.  During the time that each world flourished, those that ruled it spoke to the stars, reengineered their physical bodies, and mastered form and essence, all in their own unique ways.

Each left behind remnants.  

People of the new world–the Ninth World–sometimes call these remnants magic, and who are we to say they’re wrong.  But most give a unique name to the legacies of the nigh unimaginable past.  They call them . . .

Numenera.

Thus begins the blurb on the back of the Numenera RPG.  Numenera was one of the two rpgs that I wanted ever since I heard about them (the other was The Strange, also by Monte Cook Games).  They are both $60 books (!), but I waited patiently for sales and eventually got them both (at various times) for half price (around $30 each).

Super-Science and Sorcery

So, I have a confession to make: one of my most favorite series of all time is the Saturday Morning show Thundarr the Barbarian.  I loved that show and I would love to see (or write) a live action version of it one of these days.  I’m linking the show’s intro. down below, but in it, there’s a line that links “sorcery” with with the term “super-science.”  This is a “short-cut” for the very well known idea/adage in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy community “that any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic.”  Airplanes would seem magical to most non 20th century people (although a few talented dreamers, such as Galileo, might be able to make the inferential leap).

That is what Numenera does.  It posits a future where at least eight other civilizations have risen and fallen and their technology, long forgotten, appears almost magic when discovered by those of the Ninth World.  Thus, you have this dynamic element of future tech combined with mystical abilities for your character–the best of both worlds.

Not the First, but so far the Best

I have to say that I’ve not really had a chance to do a deep dive Numenera yet because of school.  I’ve only had the chance to skim the book a couple times, so there’s probably so much that I’m missing in terms of describing it.  Also, I have to acknowledge that this isn’t the first RPG to combine technology and magic.  There are quite a few, but even back when I was in high school, Rifts was a RPG that I ran that also incorporated this post apocalyptic setting and integrated super-science tech with the mystic.  However, this is by far one of the best settings that I’ve seen so far (again, having only skimmed the rulebook), and I think that it really understands the concept of “Super-Science.”

I’m hopeful that it (like its sister book, The Strange) will help inspire ideas for my own writing as I’m really interested in the concept of “Super-Science.”

Oh, and if anyone knows someone who knows someone who knows the person who holds the rights to Thundarr the Barbarian, please have that person call me.  I’d love to write the screenplay or graphic novel script for a Thundarr the Barbarian live action movie and/or graphic novel.  I’m not picky! 😉

Have a great weekend!

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

C64 Nostalgia Review: Knights of Legend

A Birthday RPG

I cannot quite remember how I heard of Knights of Legend by Origin as a child.  It was either through an article or advertisement in a magazine that I bought at Waldenbooks called Computer Gaming World (CGW), although it could have been in a different magazine–I just can’t recall.  Regardless, I read either the article or adcopy (no internet/interwebs for public, only military/government at the time), and thought it was neat.  There was a go-to place that I found that would do mail-order for Commodore 64 games that I’d ordered from in the past, so I asked for this for my birthday.  I remember it coming on-time and after I got back from school and had dinner, cake, and ice-cream, I remember opening up the game and diving in.

The game came packed with 6 (!) floppy disks and a packed-in insert exhorting owners (of the IBM/IBM compatible versions) to get a hard drive and install it on there (a review I found said it had 4 disks, but I remember 6, though perhaps I’m wrong–I’ll check when I get home and revise this as necessary–regardless, it had many more than was normal for the time).  Now, understand, most games came on one floppy disk.  Sometimes the game might use front and back to store the floppy, but two disks were rare.  Some of the most intensive games out there used two disks and if they were really, really pushing the capabilities of the system, they might use up to 3-4 disks (for some reason, I’m thinking of the AD&D Gold Box games here), but for a game to need 6 disks was practically unheard of at the time.  Unfortunately, the C64 was older tech and did not have the option of adding a hard drive, something that was just starting to take hold in the PC/IBM computing space of the time, so I had to make do with the floppies.

Unique Races

Now, when I looked up this game on Wikipedia, I was fairly shocked to find that very few outlets seemed to have covered it and that it had an abysmal rating in the few outlets that did give it a look.  I (ultimately) thought it was a bad game (more on this in a moment), but I didn’t think (at least initially) that it was all that bad.

One of the things that this game had going for it was that it had (from what I recall), a fairly unique set of races.  What the game did was combine the RPG systems of race and class into one, so that whatever you picked determined your profession.  Some examples: a Kelden Cliff Guard, Ghor Tigress, or a Klvar Elf (a magic-user).  Each one of these is example of a race/nationality combined with a type of class to get your profession (fighter, magic-user, etc.).  At first, creating a class seemed really fun and unique and it occupied my time during the rest of the school year.  It wasn’t until the summer vacation/break that I was really able to dig into it and discover its flaws.

knights_of_legend_screenshot_indieretronews

Knights of Legend Screenshot.  Image Source: Indie Retro News.

Encumbrance and Fatigue System No Bueno

The real problem, I soon discovered when I tried to actually do anything is the problem that the game’s designer, Todd Mitchell Porter was 1) far too ambitious with the ideas that he implemented in the game for the technology of the time and 2) confused complexity with fun.  The game’s manual (which I’m holding in my hand as I write this post) is a whopping 142 pages in length.  (There are actual RPGs from that era that are shorter than this manual–yes, I acknowledge that they were mostly “home-brew” RPGs by amateurs or very small RPG companies, but still, the fact remains true).  I once had a professor note, as I had once praised a piece of criticism that was very long-winded, that just because it is long and involved, doesn’t necessarily make it good.  That’s the way that I feel about this game in hindsight.  Teenage me loved the sprawling “epicness” of the game for the sheer possibilities that it seemed to offer, but in actuality, the game collapsed under the weight of its own systems.

Case in point–the fatigue and encumbrance system.  Once you got out of the character creation system and outside of the town, into the wilds and into combat, that’s when the game fell apart.  The game used a “hit location” system, meaning that limbs could be incapacitated without killing the body and your characters were “flimsy” meaning that the weakest of strikes could render them critically injured, so the best strategy was to wear the heaviest armor you could find.  However, you could carry only so much, so that you’re armor and weapons weighed you down and every time you took an action, you became more and more fatigued until you couldn’t fight and had to rest.  In combat, this came to down to two results: 1) wear too light of armor and getting your party decimated or 2) wearing too heavy of armor and having your characters able to withstand encounters, but leaving you too fatigued to swing your weapons.

I once had a Kheldon fighter (who had wings and could fly), fly up to his opponent to attack, but after flying, he became exhausted and had to rest each and every turn because his weapons and armor kept him from recovering enough to do anything and the enemy slowly battered him to death.  I did win a couple of battles, but on the whole, I discovered that the entire system was broken because it prioritized “realism” over “fun.”  The possibilities that had seemed endless when I bought the game and when I was just creating characters, turned out to be limiting and frustrating when one actually played the game because of the way the systems interacted with one another.  Just because something works a certain way in real-life, doesn’t mean it should work that way in a game.

Needless to say, the game didn’t really receive a whole lot of attention after that summer. I dabbled with it here and there, but for the most part, it was back to AD&D Gold Box games until I got my first PC where I tried another Origin game, Wing Commander II by another visionary developer, Chris Roberts, that I found more to my liking.  But that’s another blog post, for another day.

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.