Friday, April 30, 2021
Thursday, April 29, 2021
Author: H. M. Hoover
Pages: 160 pages
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
H. M. Hoover spent a lot of her time traveling from city to city in search of something. She apparently found it Virgina, where she settled down to write. Billed as a "young adult writer", her works are short and simple, and eye opening because they often feature worldviews and perspectives which could only those of a child. Exploration of the novel situations and realizations of discovery from the lens of the child's eye are her thing.
Lian is a 15 year child of brilliant astronomers on expedition to Balthor. Her parents are researching a star projected to go nova, which gives Lian itchy feet. A voluntary supply run ends in a crash, and Lian finds herself in world much larger than she new existed. Rescued by archaeologists investigating ancient structures and strange creatures, Lian opens their eyes to incredible discoveries.
As her discoveries mount, she enters a strange exchange with a machine-creature called The Counter and wild animals dubbed "Lumpies". The two are related. And her discoveries are all civilization altering, not just for humans but for other races on the expedition. Differences breed mistrust, but also kindness and compassion.
Join Lian, Cuddles and Scotty on this wonderful adventure.Books by H. M. Hoover on AbeBooks.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Letting the crazy run wild, I have updated my AD&D Character Sheet offering on DriveThruRPG. It now includes a second foldable character sheet with instructions on how to fold and staple this one page into a 20 page booklet.
The booklet measures 2 1/4 by 4 and 1/4 inches.
If you have order the original AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana, the new files will be available in your library as a free update. As per normal, I have not removed anything from this download. 80 of you have received emails. I would also like to thank all of you for supporting me.
If you have not ordered my AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana, the product contains 1 great character sheet scanned from a document created back in the 80s or 90s. It is the standard for all of my character sheets since then. The product is PWYW and I encourage you to download it for free to make sure it works for your needs. If you like it, you can reorder later.
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
So this is how I amuse myself. I made a 20 page character sheet from one sheet of paper.
Let me tell you what a pain in the ass that was. Everything needed to be orientated correctly and having gotten it wrong twice, I realized I had it right the second time, but folded it wrong.
As soon as I get folding instructions done, I'll add it to my character sheet download at DriveThruRPG. It will strictly be a print and write on affair. I have no patience for PDF forms where some of the data is upside down.
Sunday, April 25, 2021
Title: Another Heaven, Another Earth
Author: H. M. Hoover
Pages: 224 pages
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Mary Helen Hoover was born in 1935, in Ohio. Her family home's basement that was dug back when Thomas Jefferson was president. From that humble beginning, she hopped from Los Angeles to New York City to finally land in Virginia. From 1973 to 1995, she wrote 16 published books.
Another Heaven, Another Earth takes place on Xilan, a planet far from Earth. The crew of the Kekelu find it to be an idyllic place for potential colonization. Except for one problem. The colonists of Xilan had been there for over 500 years. Alerted by The Cube, a centuries old device of unknown origin, the healer Gareth stumbles on to the Kekelu's survey teams throwing their corporate colony venture into chaos.
The crew of the Kekule struggle to discover the source of Gareth's people, research their devolved technology and question how they came to be abandoned while fighting disease and infection brought on by this unusual first contact situation.
Gareth's people are revolted by the spacemen's attitude of superiority and treatment of the "primitives", seeing themselves not being "devolved" but survivors and masters of their world. Families struggled against the challenges of a new world while retaining what knowledge they could of the past.
Hoover pulls no punches with this classic story of first contact while successfully weaving a story that resists time by resisting the typical technobabble of the 1980s. Due to this lack of technobabble, aside from the one mention of film, the book avoids all the tropes that would date it.
While written for the young adult audience, it is wonderful story for people of all ages.
Saturday, April 24, 2021
I've got my hands full. A moment ago, I had a gift card. Now I have a reading list.
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Well, it's one of those days. Explosive creativity with little or no focus. In my last post, I shared the images I used to highlight my series posts. Not only did that involve Inkscape, it required Bluefish for html editing. I just need 5 more and I'll be done. I can do that another time. Can't stop now to finish something.
I ran to the store for stuff for dinner. Before I left, I painted a panel of wood for a photographic background for my model series.
I edited the photos down to web sized chunks. (For my own future sanity, I cropped each 2520 x 1800 then halved the resolution so they be 1260 by 900.)
I took pictures of 3 unpainted ships and decided I needed some color.
Well, that wasn't good enough. So I photographed an X-Wing toy.
But that wasn't my paint job. I haven't painted figures in years. Since I had the paint out, I slapped some on a few mechs. Little details mostly, because I can't focus for more than a few minutes.
Not bad. I need some sort of vinyl cutter so I can do something with these. Because records are vinyl and these are images of records.
Yup. It all makes perfect sense.
I decided to add in a mix of water chestnuts, onions, celery and carrots. Sure, I'd have to go back to the store, but why not? I love that stuff.
I had the cutting board out, I decided to treat myself with riced cauliflower. Since I was playing safe with the dog, riced cauliflower is better for me than rice. I chopped it all by hand. Riced cauliflower is great because I can't eat rice. I'm diabetic.
Oh, shhhhiii.... I forgot one thing today. I didn't check my blood sugar after lunch. Hmm.
Yeah... the little details.
This is what I was fighting last year about this time. Nice to know things don't change.
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Developers: Cyan, Inc.
Author: Rand and Robyn Miller
I lucked out in having a computer or two since 1980. I purchased a Timex Sinclair with the 8 k extended memory for the outrageous price of $126.00. It was so expensive at the time, I financed it and made 12 payments of $126.96.36.199% interest! Not bad for a kid financed entirely shoveling snow and mowing lawns. I needed mom's help. Every month I gave her $12.25 in cash and she wrote a check for me.
With everything going into the basic cost of the computer, I had to beg my parents to buy me software. A lot of times, I had to settle for going to the library for books on programing and a blank tape for storage. In 1981, the film War Games sparked my imagination as to what computers could be.
A little over a decade later, I discovered a game that embraced both limitations and imagination to amazing effect.
You're the protagonist in a story that isn't told but shown. The limits of the then modern day Macintosh allowed for spectacular images, but only just an image. One at a time. Plus a bit of sound. To do this, the Rand Brothers tweaked the hell out of their hardware and software, even stripping down the color palettes to capitalize on the Mac's meager specs. Better than everything else on the market but still limited to handful of hertz and less than a half dozen megs of RAM.
Gorgeous images told the story of a family shattered by envy, power and pride. Using the linking books, you search for the pages that will restore Sirrus, Achenar, and Atrus, whoever they might be. Catherine, the wife of Atrus and the mother of Achenar and Sirrus appears only via a note. You have no idea what is happening and what needs to be done. Your quest takes you to different worlds called "Ages" to recover the pages.
Each Age, named Selenitic, Stoneship, Mechanical, and Channelwood contains puzzles to be solved. The mechanic of the game required at least two puzzles, one to progress in the game and a second so you may return to Myst Island. Travel between Ages required a book written to describe that age. Open the book and see the Age. Touch the page and enter the Age. To return, you need to find the linking book hidden within the Age. Ingenious.
Game mechanics were limited to clicks. Nothing else. Move? Click. Actions? Click.
Pure and simple. Easy? Hell, no.
The requirements of the game also allowed for very creative storytelling. There is no clock, no death, no violence, and no enemies. Yet the nature of the game caused tension. This is the fusion of art and storytelling at it's finest.
This 28 year old game was the reason I started blogging. I wanted to make a fan site for this game. You'll notice there are no stars assigned to this review. How could I assign stars to something that provoked 10 plus years of work, hundreds of posts exploring the nature of play and entertainment?
|Unwritten: Adventures in the Ages|
of MYST and Beyond from
Sunday, April 18, 2021
This is not post 999.
This whole blogging thing started back in 2011. I wanted to create a blog about the game MYST. Check out this link to The Wayback Machine to my first website called Pretender to the Power.
Back then I had some goals that are still a driving force on this current iteration of my blog. I had an update section, a piece on artwork, models and figurines, a planned section for music which never really got off the ground, a movie review section which I only tangentially touch on for These Old Games, computer write ups, and plans to add more.
A decade later, many or most of these ideas still drive me. A little over 10 years of practice has lead me to over a thousand blog posts when you count all of the stuff lost over the various iterations of this blog.
So, this is not 999. It's more. And it will continue to be more.
Saturday, April 17, 2021
Publisher: The Other Side Publishing
Author: Timothy S. Brannan
Pages: 65 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reviewer's note: The date is taken from the forward, this could be the most recent update rather than the original publication date. If that is the case, my apologies but then that also means the author is providing an excellent experience by routinely updating his works.
EDIT - Even more confusion to the mix. I figured out why my stats looked wrong. Google Analytics pulled half the data from 2020 and half from 2021. I have no idea how that happened. I've updated this post with accurate webstats now. Sorry about that.
March was a confusing month. I tripled the number of downloads from DriveThru in a month where I removed the direct links from the sidebars of my website.
AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana: 2
Compass Rose Inn Minisetting: 3
Kobold's Folly: 1
Swashbuckler Character Class for D&D and AD&D: 2
These Old Games Presents: The Hex Pack: 2
Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners: 4
I've decided how I am going to change The Swashbuckler Character Class for D&D and AD&D. It will be renamed "The Character Pack for D&D and AD&D" and I will place all of my home brewed characters in it. They will get the same treatment as my Unicorn Character Class and be bundled together. The price will remain the same, PWYW.
I am looking at the Monomach, Hoodlum and Unicorn class right now for cleanup. I am thinking I will do a 3 page write up for each and make them their own "booklets". The Swashbuckler will have two booklets, the original and a new tweaked version based on character play.
The deadline is "I don't know".
Webstats felt very good but also perplexing. I am way down, so I don't get it.
Google Analytics Pageviews - 805
Google Analytics Sessions - 533
Pageviews per Session - 1.53
Back in Dec-Jan. someone pointed out my commenting system was locked up. By unlocking it, I have a lot more guests posting and commenting.
My other goal for March and April is to give my series posts logos. Disneyified logos like so:
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Today, I like to share the story by Plutarch of Chaeronea about Young Julius Caesar and the Pirates.
The Romans were never the greatest sailors so piracy was rampant in the Mediterranean. It didn't help that the pirates would take prisoners and sell them to the Romans, so they very people who should have put a stop to the practice were instead benefiting from the pirate's activities. At least in the short run.
The Cilicians were a group of pirates allied to Mithradates of Pontus, an enemy nation. The Cilicians would ransom the rich prisoners and sell the poor as slaves, which is evidence of the often short sightedness of the Romans. They were filling the coffers of Mithradates and damaging their own citizens when purchasing slaves or buying freedom.
Enter a 25 year old Julius. He was taken captive in 75 BC. The pirate captain demanded a ransom of 20 talents for the return of Julius. Julius laughed. He demanded that they ask for no less that 50. The captain, of course, agreed.
So began 38 days of wackiness. Julius joined the crew in their duties, cleaning and maintaining the ship. He organized games and physical contests with the pirates. He wrote poems and presented them to the crew. If crew didn't recognise his great work, he'd call them illiterate and threaten to hang* them. The same threat was issued if the pirates were too loud while he was sleeping.
After 38 days, the ransom was paid and Julius was set free.
Julius raised a fleet of ships and captured the Cilician pirates as they sat anchored at the city of Miletus. The pirates were all taken captive and marched before the Governor of Asia, a man named Marcus Junius for punishment. Junius hemmed and hawed about punishing the pirates as they were a source of revenue.
Annoyed, Julius marched the pirates out to the coast and had them all hung*.
It sounds like the bit in the Princess Bride about Dread Pirate Roberts and Wesley, from a different perspective. If you assume they are the same story, Wesley becomes a different sort of character. Very often, historical stories like this make their way into my campaigns.
*Hanging as a Roman punishment meant crucifiction. Romans wouldn't bother with rope if they meant to strangle someone. They'd use their hands. Strangulation fell between crucifixion and defenestration, throwing a person off a building or cliff. The Romans codified everything.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
First up, solar lights.
The flower shaped ones are from the Dollar Store. The really bright ones are from Ollies. I paid about $21 for 13 of them. I have no intention of leaving them in the raised bed, I'll probably arrange them around the hot tub and along the back of the garden.
The raised bed is almost complete, I need to put up a center rail and some screens or chicken wire to protect the cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, basil and thyme from the bunnies. The goal is canning pickles and gardenia all from my own garden.I should have done cauliflower, onions and hot peppers, but I am out of space. This bed is 4 feet by 8 and everything that can go on trellises will. The problem is, I have 52 seedlings ready to go.
Swords Against Wizardry (1968),
The Swords of Lankhmar (1968),
and Swords and Ice Magic (1968).
He is one of my favorite writers and I can't believe what a great deal I got on this hardcover. The cover is a bit... 80s? I don't know. The stories are better than the cover art, so I'll ignore it. I guess you now know what are the next three books I review will be.
My final find was a length of rope. What adventurer doesn't have some rope? This one is in blue so I don't hit it with the lawnmower. The dog was very excited when I cobbed together a lead for her out of it. She loves being outside and will probably be a part of game night in the garden.
Publisher: 20th Century Studios
Rating: 2 of 5 stars.
I've been a long time fan of The New Mutants. The idea of seeing the characters come to life on the big screen got me really excited.
Until I saw it. This damn film has been to Limbo more times than Illyana has. It was not worth the wait, it seems to suffer from some sort of technovirus in addition to many questionable story and plot choices.
Here is the run down of the character's names and powers:
Rahne Sinclair, aka Wolfsbane. A mutant that can take the form of a wolf or a transitional human/wolf form. She has all of the sense of wolves plus more strength and perhaps a healing factor.
Sam Guthrie, Cannonball. Can generate thrust anywhere on his body to propel himself through the air. While thrusting, he is impervious to anything. He does not have a healing factor.
Roberto "Bobby" da Costa, Sunspot. Bobby has the ability to absorb sunlight and use it to empower himself with great strength, invulnerability and flames.
Danielle "Dani" Moonstar, Mirage. Dami has the ability to project people's greatest fears and make them real. Historically, she not good at nicknames. Not only has her character changed her own code name in the comics several times, she doesn't even use other people's code names. A rare inversion of the "movie stars have no comic book codenames" trope.
And finally, Illyana Rasputin. Magik. Oh, boy. She's a sorceress with a magic sword, the ability to teleport, partial body armor, a tail, and a baby dragon.
There are only three other characters, Dani's dad, the Demon Bear and the evil doctor Dr. Cecilia Reyes who can make force shields.
The film does a variable job at depicting the character's powers on a budget. The effects were on-par with Ready Player One which is not a complement. Ready Player One was a massive mashup of decades worth of video game art which works in that film. It isn't great for other film types like The New Mutants.
The whole premise of the movie didn't make sense. The kiddos are trapped or staying a hospital for mutants. The hospital had a staff of one, Dr. Reyes.
Now, I've had a bit of experience working with kids and young adults. The first rule of these sorts of operations are two deep leadership. If you are not using two deep leadership, you're an imbecile. Dr. Reyes is an imbecile, she's trying keep the kiddos in the hospital all alone. Sam, Bobby and Rahne have given themselves over to the idea of staying. That kind of works. Dani is uncertain as to what is happening, leaving her open to staying or escaping as the chance presents. That doesn't go well at all.
The final character, Illyana has something else going on. She's a mass murderer and can teleport. Why is she still here, if not to kill everyone else in the film? And she definitely hates everyone, in a nasty, condescending, racist way.
As far depicting superpowers, they did a good job for a few of the characters. Sam's blasting ability was a great special effect. Dani and Rahne power's appear reasonable well done, magic and werewolves are classic B-movie fodder. They couldn't have done this poorly if they had tried. I think they tried. Bobby's abilities were just ho-hum. Illyana's powers come off as a cheap video game most of the time for no good reason.
Magik has the most wide ranging abilities, each with a vast scope. But they attempted to confine her character in tight spaces, like either Nightcrawler in the Oval Office or Captain America in the elevator. It was not a good choice because she has a massive frickin' sword. It looks like she can't fit in those spaces. When she gets out the open, they do a far better job at displaying her powers but by that time they had already decided on the video game style which wasn't applicable to the filming process.
Far too much time was spent on Rahne, who is a the most likeable character in the film but not the protagonist. They were one step away from having "The Wolfsbane Movie" and failed to make it. That would have been better than this, even if it was called, "A Werewolf in Starbucks".
My favorite bit was everytime Sam used his powers. He displays these brilliant blue/orange shimmery flames like charcoal on the grill which is an amazing play on his character. Sam comes from a mining family, so the reflection of coal in his powers is pure awesome.
Magik was shown trying to knock the Demon Bear into Limbo. It made perfect sense since she couldn't win in straight combat, but this tactic was negated by the strange video game special effects. It was kind of hard to tell that was her intent rather than random flashy scenery. The Demon Bear was awesome and terrifying, but the viewer shouldn't be rooting for the villain.
All and all, I give it one and half stars of five. (EDIT -- On rewatching, I've decided that Rahne and Sam merit a star on their own, so two-ish stars) Maybe you should read my 5 star review of Dungeons and Dragons (2000) to evaluate how not good this was.
Now showing on HBOMax, but you could wait a bit longer.
Monday, April 12, 2021
Publisher: Looney Labs
Designer: John Cooper
Artist: OTHER Studio
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
The first page of the instruction sheet sums it up: "What Chess is to medieval warfare, Homeworlds is to Star Trek and Star Wars."
This game is fascinating. You're off to fight an interstellar war against an opponent, manage resources, planets and ships with just 4 types of game pieces. Insane, but it works. This is one of many games by Looney Labs which use the Looney Pyramids. The game includes 36 pyramids of differing sizes and colors, a board for the bank, the rule book and a token to indicate which player's turn it is.
Star Systems are indicated by an upright pyramid. Ships are indicated by a pyramid lying on it's side, your ships a;ways point away from you. Enemy ships point towards you. When a system is explored, a new upright pyramid is placed from the bank. When all ships leave a system, that planet is placed back in the bank.
Movement is simple. You can only move to stars of different sizes. Stars of the same size are not connected and travel is blocked. A binary star, two stars in one system is connected to stars that do not match either of the two star sizes.
Each player picks a color and builds their home world with a binary star and one large ship. The colors you choose at the start of the game controls your choices later on, so choose carefully. All of a sudden, your opening choices create puzzles to be solved by you. Color and size of the play pieces represent different options and limitations.
Players choose from a Basic Action, a Sacrifice action which puts a pyramid back in the bank or a "pass". Passing your turn isn't optimal at the start but I am told that no action might be the best option later in the game. There is a forced action called a Catastrophe when the players place 4 of the same color pieces in the same star system.
Each color means something:
Pretty simple? No.
Size also determines what each piece can do. It all gets very complex very fast.
These simple rules create a very rich system of game play. One of the nicer aspects of the game is it assumes loopholes in the rules will allow a player to create actual logical loops in play which may seem like cheating, but are merely built in options which may or may not be useful based on the pieces in play. This also makes the bank behave as a "third actor" in a two person game. What is in the bank creates or limits options.
There are 3 win options, destroy all of your enemy's ships, destroy his or her home world or force your opponent into causing a Catastrophe in their home system. There are also a draw and deadlock conditions which result in a tie.
I've only played 10 or 20 times and not always to completion, but the rule set is so ingenious, it keeps pulling me back for more. I really want to master this system and Home Worlds.
Friday, April 9, 2021
These models are remarkably tiny and detailed. The beauty of these things are the plastic quality is high as is the craftsmanship. The sprues are designed in such a way that after trimming, there is very little sanding or smoothing.
Every part is so tiny. But Bandai designed these kits with keyed parts. The keys prevent you from placing the wrong piece in the wrong place. One word of warning. If you dry fit some of the pieces, they are very, very hard to get apart. Just skip dry fitting.
I'm decades out of practice, so mistakes were made. I'll detail those last.