A Nation Under Our Feet Vol 1

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Vol. 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, & al., is narratively deep and visually impressive. There’s social, political, and economic allegorical levels to the story, which are welcome complexity to the overall genre. The inter-, intra-, and extra-, relationships that T’Challa must navigate and learn from are well developed and interesting to see explored. The art style is a nifty syncretic of many influences, both pan-african and including the futurism of Jack Kirby’s technological schematic visual lexicon.

This first collection starts out a little slow as it tries to deal with a bunch of previous narrative threads, but quickly picks up and builds a good foundation on which the following volumes can continue to construct. On the other hand, the apparently slow start also did give me a quick primer on the Black Panther series, which I am not familiar with, as this is the first I’ve read of any of them. These previous events are also the collective source of the current state of unrest and turmoil that is core to the developing story for both individuals and the collective groups involved. In that sense, I’ve just completely talked myself out of this being a problem and into it being a strength.

The last part of this volume includes a reprint of the very first appearance of Black Panther, in the pages of Fantastic Four, which is a nice bonus, and provides interesting comparison and parallax to the current artwork and writing, as well as being a bit of history to include.

I’ve already picked up the next 2 collected volumes, and am looking forward to the rest of the story.

Originally posted on my personal blog at A Nation Under Our Feet Vol 1

Index Card RPG Quick Start Rules

Runehammer Games just released a new, free Index Card RPG Quick Start Rules download. I’ve done several in a series of solitaire let’s play videos and have been talking about this game system lately. Here’s a way you can check it out for free and get started! The 33-page QSR has all you need to get started (except dice and stuff, of course), including a new sample adventure, Tooth of the Agnar, excerpted from the longer Savages of Kath let’s play scenario. (So even if you’ve already got ICRPG Core, there’s something new in here for you too!)

Download your FREE QUICKSTART and get playing right away! Perfect for…

• Those considering an ICRPG CORE SET purchase
• Players jumping into an ICRPG game
• The mechanics-curious investigating ICRPG

Star Trek Lives!

Star Trek Lives! Personal notes and anecdotes by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Sondra Marshak, and Joan Winston “Thanks to you, Star Trek fans …” “Aboard Star Trek’s flagship, the U.S.S. Enterprise, the starfaring adventurers are still dreaming the impossible—and making it come true.”

Time Turner takes me travelling to Unturned after a long coma

Returning to Unturned after a long coma … everything is new again!

Unturned by Nelson Sexton

Rigaroga is a technologist lost in the wilderness, having adventures in geekery and nerdy mishegoss.

The Odd Order is a place for Rigaroga, friends and acquaintances to gather online.

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Benediction Denied

Benediction Denied: A Labyrinth of Souls Novel by Elizabeth Engstrom is the first novel in a new series ostensibly set in the world of Matthew Lowes’ Dungeon Solitaire game. The story itself is a fantastical fall into a strange labyrinth wherein the main character is slowly revealed through his self-discovery while trying, with the aid of some mysterious cards, to escape his condition. He struggles toward an ultimate ending that does not pull any punches. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

This story could be a completely standalone read, both without reference to the other volumes but also without any necessary knowledge about the game, but it is the first in a series already planned to stretch into a significant number of volumes. This is an interesting start. I’m definitely intrigued by the potential of the full series, each volume of which the author claims a particular card from the game.

I made 14 highlights.

Originally posted over on my personal blog at Benediction Denied

Numenera Core Book

Numenera Core Book by Monte Cook Games, by Monte Cook with Shanna Germain, &al., was given gratis as part of my support for the The Ninth World: A Skillbuilding Game for Numenera crowdfunding effort (which is almost a whole year late to deliver!).

Multiple times I forgot I had this, rediscovered the PDF and intended to read it, then didn’t; and, rinse and repeat.

Numenera is a billion years in the future post-cataclysmic science fantasy setting, essentially God Emperor of Jean “Moebius” Giraud. The nuts and bolts are the, separately available but not entirely needed to play, Cypher System which is a framework on which other games can be built, such as The Strange, or used for other settings, such as Predation, but notably not Invisible Sun, which is the forthcoming new Monte Cook newness.

Characters in Numenera, and Cypher System, have three stats (might, speed and intellect) and can be described in a simple sentence, “I am an adjective noun who verbs.” In Numenera, examples of this character statement are:

“I am a Rugged glaive who Controls Beasts” or “I am a Charming nano who Focuses Mind over Matter.”

I am amused to no end that there is an adjective noun in Numenera for “Shadow jack” and if you wanted to play something like Roger Zelazny’s Jack of Shadows, this would be right on.

Anyhow, if the rules system stopped near there, it could be great, but then things get a bit overwritten and complex.

The Cypher System foundation is touted for its “elegance, flexibility, ease of use, and focus on narrative” but the rules quickly become strangely crunchy with stats and pools and edges and effort and skills and abilities and tiers and so on and on. Without having read the Cypher System Core Book, I gather from Numenera that there’s a lot of room for expansion on the three possible character types, and short list of descriptors. As “elegant” and “flexible” as Cypher System is supposed to be, the types and descriptors are very specific. These aren’t the broad narrative-driving Aspects of Fate or Clichés of Risus, but end up being very explicitly detailed crunchy blocks of text in the rule book, and, moreover, then, by being so crunchy, leave vast swaths of undetailed unknown others by omission. The more crunchy the rules, the more obvious the omissions.

An example of the kind of issue in Numenera which gave me pause was how the three character types, each which have some core element, clearly didn’t explore the full range of possibility. The core stat for a Glaive is Might. The core stat for a Nano is Intellect. But, the Jack starts with flat stat spread. So, what about a character type with Speed for their main stat? What about a type that is built around Effort? What about a type that is built around boosting Pools. And so on. For all the eventual crunchiness heaped onto the simplicity of the character statement, there’s just a wild amount that isn’t covered or explored. It’s a very strange dichotomy. Without having read the core books for Cypher, itself, or The Strange, I wonder if these other directions are explored there for character types, but, the point is, they aren’t in Numenera.

One of the more interesting things for me in Numenera was the focus on the numenera, the bits of recovered future tech, as a core mechanic and motivator. This reminds me of Index Card RPG Core‘s focus on loot as the method of advancement and ability development for characters. Like a game in a setting of Heavy Metal, the scratching out of some ancient nano-magical future tech artifact from the dust and rubble can change everything, then fails or is replaced, and gets tossed away. This provides a kind of Nomic or Fluxx-like game of self-amendment, constantly changing the rules of the game itself by introducing more or less awesome MacGuffin after MacGuffin.

The world building is Silmarillion-level and seems like the writer’s bible to a series of novels, in that it is excessive and clearly thought out even farther than detailed, a full encyclopedia of future history and hints at a forthcoming piecemeal conveyor belt principia.

The core book also contains the short story The Amber Monolith by Shanna Germain, which is available separately. I ended up reading it separately before getting around to the core rule book, and it makes more sense to read it in context.

The art and world are lush, but it all seems like something one collects and reads, not so much plays and develops stories within. I have no doubt that this ticks the bits of brain that drive collectable card game fanatics and the like, but the simplicity and elegance seems to me to get lost for what should be a framework open and welcoming to players at the table.

There are parts that seem fantastic to me, but also there’s some things missing in all the complexity. In the end, I find myself wishing to play in the world of Numenera, but with different rules, such as Index Card RPG or Risus, or, hell, even Toon or Amber, to free up the narrative gameplay from the gaming system.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Numenera Core Book

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson is full of luscious Lovecraftian dread and danger that wakes to well answer the faults of its inspiration, a fine example of new Cosmicism with nostalgia and foreshadowing and familiar and novel. Plus, there’s talk of libraries and a magical cat.

I made 18 highlights.

Originally posted on my personal blog at The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

Summary for the month of Aug 2017

Here’s a summary of activity for August, 2017.

I was able to start streaming again, over on Twitch, Mixer and YouTube, though I’m struggling to find the right settings. But, I’ve gotten a few streams up this month. Realistically, I probably need a stream PC to improve the quality, but that’s just not going to be something I can afford right now. So, I’ll do what I can with what I’ve got, as one does!

I’ve also started a weekly series of solitaire roleplaying adventures using the Index Card RPG Core game and accessory sets. I’ve got some fun ideas I’m working on for future videos with original trials and cards, but I’m still working on those ideas.

I’ve also started to try to do a couple book reviews a week over on my personal blog, which I’m syndicating over here for titles that make sense for this blog. I’ll keep doing that, and am hoping to keep up the pace of at least two reviews a week.

You can also see that I’ve been posting pictures from my Instagram, and have been keeping up a steady flow of geeky stuff there. There’s also an occasional video I post over there too, which don’t make it to the blog. Check it out!

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Here’s a summary of posts on the blog from last month