drcpunk (drcpunk) wrote,

Recent Reading

Mostly on an RPG kick, but not completely. Lots of good stuff.

57. After School Nightmare, Volume 9. I have now read the entire series, albeit out of order, and I should read it again, this time in order. This is one of those cases where, for whatever reason, I probably enjoyed the series more with the spoilers I got than I would have without them. Without the spoilers, the ending would have annoyed me. With them, I could appreciate both the ending and the growth of all of the characters, especially the protagonist. I still think the most admirable character is the one who leaves after the fourth volume, but part of the point is that the protagonist is growing, and is coming to recognize what character flaws need to be overcome.

58. Alarums & Excursions #419

59. Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity. This is an rpg supplement for which I have waited eleven years. It was worth the wait, and I do not say that lightly. Delta Green is perhaps easiest to describe as "Call of Cthulhu, X-Files style" even though it was created before X-Files aired. The Delta Green line takes the mythos and moves it to the present day. This is one of the reasons Targets of Opportunity was quite as late as it was, as a lot was updated in the wake of the fall of the towers, Hurricane Katrina, and other recent events. It is not the book it would have been eleven years ago; it is the book that it needs to be for today. And, as with Delta Green: Countdown, each section could be sold as a standalone supplement. The part I knew to expect, on the Cult of Transcendence, made me a little apprehensive, as it seemed like a case where what was out there was enough of a no-win situation to make things a little too grim even for Call of Cthulhu, but this is not the case. Instead, there is a detailed explanation of the resources of the Cult and how these can be used, but also of the weaknesses of the Cult and how the PCs might prevail, either on the small or on the large scale. And, if any kind of big victory seems just wrong for Call of Cthulhu, fear not! There are options for a couple of twists that will cure an excess of sweetness and light.

60. The Smallville RPG. I had never heard of this until two days before GenCon, when I poked around online to make up a GenCon shopping list. Here is a game from Margaret Weiss Productions, a company that focuses on television tie-in rpgs that is getting a ton of love from the indie gaming community. I found that intriguing. I also discovered that I owned a copy of the company's Serenity RPG, because it was in the Haiti download bundle.

Smallville uses a simplified version of the Cortex system and is light enough on crunch that I don't wince. It focuses on character relationships, putting these front and center in both character creation and the character sheet. The most important things in any conflict are: Why are you doing this (what Value is coming into play) and for whom are you doing it (what Relationship comes into play)? I'm itching to try this one, and I don't generally go in for superhero rpgs. I also have not watched more than a couple of very early episodes of the television show, but that isn't a problem. As folks have reported online, the system will work for a variety of settings, so long as the focus of the game is properly understood. Mind, if the summaries of the various seasons of the show are accurate, Jor-El is an asshole (or at least, the Jor-El personality that does most of the interacting with Clark). There are so many over the top things in the show that it's just like a comic book, which is the point, and which gives GMs and players so many options for mixing things up, changing their minds, and then changing them back.

I've been reading the Dresden Files RPG and Solar System (the system for The Shadows of Yesterday), and it is fascinating to see the three games working out some of the same ideas to focus not so much on powers as on relationships and cool stories, yet not neglecting the fact that we really enjoy the powers and want our PCs to have them.

61. Extrico Tabula, a monograph for Call of Cthulhu, by Oscar Rios. I am an Oscar Rios groupie, and I played in one of the two scenario in here. Both are set in Roman times, one in Germany, and one in Britain. Both scenarios are preceded by a chapter about the area in which they are set, and I found the writing to strike a good balance, giving me sufficient detail to be useful (and not make me think I could have done the research online), but not so much as to bog me down or to seem dry.

62. The Dresden Files RPG: Our World. This is the sourcebook for the world of the novels, and I think you'll need it if you want stats for the types of beings that show up in the Dresdenverse, whether or not you want to use the Chicago setting or any of the named characters. Harry Dresden's character sheet is very well done, showing not just a version of him after the first novel, the point at which he would normal enter play as a beginning PC, but also a list of probable changes to his character sheet over the course of the first ten novels. And, if one wants to have Harry dead or as a villain, there are lists of how he might have died at various points in the series, or how he might have gone evil. My favorite is having his mentor's enthrallment spell work so that Harry's a lieutenant-level enforcer villain, along with his fellow apprentice, and the mentor is the big bad guy. It's enough of a left turn from the series to pique my interest, although I still want to playtest Fate Kerberos Club and see how I could blend that with the Dresdenverse. For some reason, I'm itching to run something Victorian-esque.

63. The White Cat, by Holly Black, the first book in The Curse Workers series. I'd been putting this one off until I could read it all at once. I think it's her best novel to date, which is good because it means that she's been growing as a writer. Possibly because I've been focusing on a lot of rpg reading, or possibly because the author is also a gamer, I've been thinking, "How could I incorporate this stuff into my games? How could I possibly get things to run just as beautifully as this novel?"

I like that this is not a novel where the magical world is Oh So Secret and Hidden. I've read a book with a vaguely similar premise where I thought, "No, so much more would be different if this were the case", but the world of The White Cat is very different. I adore the convoluted plotting, with cons within cons, reversals, and revelations that make my jaw drop in awe. Action packed with head fuck? Oh yeah! Give me more!

It's also a morally complicated story, with an odd note in the ending. I don't mind the content of the last two pages. It totally makes sense. But, I'm not sure I like that those are the last two pages of the book, and I find myself wanting another chapter. This is less of an issue for the first book of a series than it would be if this were a standalone book. Oh, and I can totally see the movie of this book. I also like both the front and the back cover pictures.
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