Sunday, December 29, 2019

Review: Romance of the Perilous Land

I'm a little hesitant to review a game I've never played. I'm hesitant to review anything, ever, for that matter. I'm excited about this one, though.

Romance of the Perilous Land is a beautifully illustrated and practically laid-out game set in a synthesis of British fantasies including not only the familiar Arthurian tales but less well-known (at least to me) legends and folktales.

The rules are likewise a clever synthesis of systems, including old school D&D-ish stuff, Fifth Edition D&D features like backgrounds and edge/setback (advantage/disadvantage), and a few things that remind me of 7th Edition Tunnels & Trolls. Of the pieces I didn't recognize, I'm not sure which are his own invention and which came from other games I'm not familiar with. In any case, piecing all those components together into a coherent whole is every bit as much of an achievement as making all the rules up.

I love the magic. Items range from homespun charms to rarer enchanted items like the hand of glory, to unique legendary artifacts. The spell-casting system works kind of like the way I always pictured the old school D&D system working. Instead of the somewhat absurd memorize-forget-rememorize routine, the idea is that, in preparing a spell, you're making a special charm, which you then use to cast the spell quickly on the spot. Malthouse has rebuilt the system around this concept instead of just changing the chrome. I'm too lazy to go into more detail, but it's really cool.

The magic (especially the spell list) is one of the things that makes me think this system would work well for Middle Earth in addition to the setting provided. I'm a little torn on whether I'd want to do this, though, because the Perilous Land setting is great, and one of the main reasons I bought the game. One drawback, though, is that there's no map. Maybe this was intentional. After all, folklore almost never gives you a map, just "beyond so-and-so" or "many days' ride" and stuff like that. I would still kind of like to have one.

I'm not sure about the spell names, either. They're atmospheric, but long. Seems like writing them down in stat blocks multiple times might get old. I dunno. I haven't tried it yet.

The setting is, as I said, a synthesis of Arthurian myths and other legends. In melding everything together and making it his own, Malthouse takes some liberties, but that's inevitable and I like the result. In addition to locations, the book provides factions, major characters, gods, and a bestiary that I can't wait to put to work.

This game looks like all kinds of fun to me. Right now it's like half price on Amazon, too.

Full Disclosure: I've known Scott online for several years and helped publish some of his earlier work.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Most People Stop with the Z

I took a nap after work and got treated to one of my favorite kinds of dreams. Sometimes it's exploring a weird, impossibly labyrinthine house, sometimes it's a neighborhood or a city, and sometimes it's the woods. This one was mostly woods. Those are the best.

It started out in the neighborhood I grew up in. After some nebulous task and a conversation about it being unseasonably warm, I decided to go for a walk. The neighborhood had these sidewalks that wound around behind and betweeen a lot of the houses. There were several wooded patches and rustic-looking little playgrounds scattered around. That was where I headed. Just like in reality, it had been a long time since I had been there.

One of the little playground things was nearby. A lot of space had been cleared out but of course the whole area was bigger because there's always another corner to go around in dreams. I was surprised to see that they had even added two full-size swimming pools. There weren't any people around, though. Actually I didn't see any more people for the whole rest of the dream.

I wandered off another way, ended up at this one walkway that went up a hill towards the edge of the neighborhood and dead-ended. The rest of the trails were kind of clustered in an interior space but this one was just a straight shot off on its own. I don't know if the dead-end was always the plan or they just ran out of space. Both of the parallel streets also dead-ended when I lived there, but they've been extended since then. Anyway, I guess those two things were the main reasons this particular trail fascinated me as a kid.

So anyway, in the dream I walked up to the end, noticed the backyard of a house where one of my friends had lived. I saw the newer houses along the same line. At first I was going to turn back, but I could see that at least some of the forest was still back there, and enough people had walked that way to make a path that continued the line of the paved part. The new houses were odd and kind of cheap-looking, like decorated storage sheds or manufactured homes.

I started seeing weird trees with long twisted branches and stuff, which made me glad I had come this way. Past the houses, I got to the crest of the hill. It was familiar territory. The walk down led into a bunch of pines. I also saw a cleared area with rows of, I dunno, some kind of lettuce-y thing with big dark leaves and I heard dogs barking.

Up ahead, where there used to be power lines that traced the edge of the subdivision, there was a road. There was another wooded area on the other side of the road. I wanted to go farther, but the cats woke me up.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

2019: Keep on Livin'

"There’s this emperor, and he asks the shepherd’s boy how many seconds in eternity. And the shepherd’s boy says, ‘There’s this mountain of pure diamond. It takes an hour to climb it and an hour to go around it, and every hundred years a little bird comes and sharpens its beak on the diamond mountain. And when the entire mountain is chiseled away, the first second of eternity will have passed.’ You may think that’s a hell of a long time. Personally, I think that’s a hell of a bird."
--The Twelfth Doctor

I've been feeling stronger this year. I'm not there yet. Is anybody ever really there? It's nice, though, to get to one of these self-indulgent little retrospectives and, instead of saying, "I think I might make some progress next year," actually saying, "I think I made some progress this year."

Starting off the year... ugh. January is like coming out of an amusement park and realizing that your car has been stolen. A big thing early on was trying to get a better hold on my time. Backing away from Facebook helped some. I also found new ways to sneak in writing time at work or wherever. Anything to turn that post-holiday slog into something better. It paid off in more progress on The Nameless Way and a brighter outlook in general.

The Scrap Pile campaign wrapped this year. I think Curtis and Tom might try picking it up, but this year Tom's prequel was the only move in that direction. I didn't set out to end the campaign. I love the Scrap Pile. I had plenty of ideas for more scrapventures, although the heroes and their antics were starting to feel a little stale. Stuff just came together, though. A long-running plot (not even mine, for the most part) ended in one character's death and a lot of post-betrayal bad feelings (in-character, not real world). It just felt right. At first it was just a hiatus to make way for a new team but eventually I decided it was over.

Partly, that was because of my new most bestest thing, Defenders. It was originally just going to be a one-shot for Carnage. Despite having re-watched everything and taken copious notes, I was a little nervous about doing justice to the shows and to a real-world setting I've never even visited, so I ran a playtest first for some friends. I had a great time. Charlie and Kyrinn were game to keep it running, so run we did.

Glasses: After years of slogging along with readers, I finally got prescription glasses with progressive lenses this year. It may not sound like the sort of thing that's worth mentioning, but it made a huge difference to me. I'd almost call it life-changing. Everything is so much easier.

Escape: City of Heroes is back! It's in the form of a bunch of quasi-legal third party servers, so I have no idea how long it'll last, but for now I can play the game again with a whole swarm of other people, and that's been great.

Facebook: Eventually I missed hearing what my benighted friends were up to so I created a new Facebook account and deleted the old one. I still refuse to use Its messenger or even keep the FB app on my phone. I'm not happy about feeding that monster, so I'm trying to limit my contributions. Apart from a comment here and there, I avoid adding content. I post a lot less on FB than on MeWe or Twitter. Anything substantial on Facebook appears only as a link to somewhere else (whereas I even post complete blog entries on my MeWe page). There's almost certainly an algorithm to make sure the posts of people who do this are never seen by anybody, and Facebook users are conditioned not to click external links anyway, but fuck it. And of course I avoid using Its peripheral services or liking anything from a page that doesn't belong to me or one of my friends. I'm under no illusion that anything I can do will impede Facebook in any way, but that doesn't mean I have to help It.

Conventions: I didn't go to Gen Con this year. That was really just because of dayjob bullshit and a long trip I had to take. I didn't want to cancel and I missed seeing all the people I usually hang out with there, but it turned out to be kind of nice skipping all the hassles, so I'm planning to skip next year too. I did go to Carnage and had a great time. The Defenders event went over well. The others were all right. And of course there were friends I hardly ever get to see and there was booze to drink. And I love that resort. I also went to BASHCon, which is always a laid-back good time.

Maggie's Farm: Oddly enough, there's a little bit of game publishing news. I'm slowly pecking away at a compiled edition of the three Qalidar books that organizes everything in a friendlier way and might include a few extra bits. My pace on this is very leisurely. I just pick it up whenever I can't decide what else to do. I might even finish it before I die, but if you're looking for odds, your money would probably be better invested in that flawless blackjack strategy your uncle told you about.

For next year? Keep waking up. I feel like I actually got somewhere this year and I mean to celebrate it, but I've still got a ways to go. Keep sneaking off to write at work. Stay aware of things that screw with my head and waste my time. Either manage them or dump them. Don't let people derail me and drag me into their agendas.


And another one, and another one...

Maybe exercise more.