Previously, in Trip's Life...

30 August 2015 - Sunday

On Saturday, I slept until about 10000 o'clock and then went to Ken's birthday party and was pretty useless. I did tie for first in one game of 7 Wonders before reverting to my usual lameness. There was no anime.

On Sunday, I slept in but then went to PAD&D5. Apparently our halfling ranger was a wood elf ranger all along, since halflings can't be effective archers. Whatever, D&D. After the panic with the deathless assassin dies down, we have to find one of the grad students who fled and didn't return; unfortunately, she has fallen prey to a pocket of the Dancing Death in a nearby ruin, and has to be beaten down repeatedly along with the rest of the undead. Professor Karsh finally coughs up a list of people who might (completely unwarrantedly!) hate him enough to spend that much on killing him, of whom the most prominent is a zealot of Apollo by the name of Hope, who goes around destroying remnants of the previous worlds before researchers can get to them. The fiend! We head off in search of her last known position, but run across the tracks of a band of riding lizards following a band of humanoids, and decide to follow up on that. The Black Sun kobolds and their magic sparklies that protect them from the vile rays of the White Sun by refracting the otherwise unseen dark radiance of Saturn are almost reasonable but then a fight breaks out. Now we have the stick of protection from sunlight, 30' radius! And, following the tracks a bit further, we also have Hope and her merry band of anti-intellectuals. Next session, we will have to figure out what to do with her.

Half Upon A Time (James Riley) is remixed fairy tales but not very good.

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28 August 2015 - Friday

This week has too much coughing and not enough Avalon. It is defective and I would like a refund, but I didn't get the extended warranty.

Ugh, earache. I tried taking painkillers and lying down for a while, but that didn't help, so I went to Urgent Care. Getting on the bus completely cured the pain, but I sat around the clinic until a doctor could look at it. I got my ears washed out, and antibiotics since it might be a bacterial infection. Evolution FTL.

The "Powder Mage" trilogy, Promise of Blood, The Crimson Campaign, and The Autumn Republic (Brian McClellan), is in the same space as the "The Thousand Names" series by Django Wexler: alternate Napoleonic-era warfare with magic. The magic here is much better-known, though, possibly because even a wimpy traditional sorcerer is a walking flamethrower. The newfangled gunpowder mages are much less terrifying, but they can snort a few lines of powder to get higher initiative, and send a ball farther than a traditional sorcerer can throw a lightning bolt, so it's hatred all around even before the republican revolutionaries depose the king and his cabal. Military action, intrigue, magical mysteries, criminal investigations, the odd supernatural being, and assorted doom ensue.

Secondhand Souls (Christopher Moore) just came out, so I went back and reread A Dirty Job since it's been years. I had forgotten a lot of the earlier book, including how racist it was. The new story does follow from the first one, but maybe not inevitably, and the final reveal is not as exciting as it should be. Alas.

The second book of Indexing (Seanan McGuire) is starting to come out in installments, so I went back and reread the first volume here too. It was still awesome. Sloane is extra-awesome, although not in a way that I would want anything to do with in person.

The Thorn of Dentonhill (Marshall Ryan Maresca) is about a young magic student whose parents are killed by organized crime so he becomes Batman. It turns out that fighting crime and attending college don't leave much time for sleep, which can be unfortunate when the conspiracies arise.

In The Suicide Exhibition (Justin Richards), heroic Brits fight against the Nazi menace and the psychic aliens they have co-opted. Espionage ensues.

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23 August 2015 - Sunday

Avalon is still super-busy with important life stuff, so I am sad. I mean, it is good that she has a life, but I have nothing to do in the evenings except stare blankly into space blblblblbl.

  • Whispered Words 1-2: The anime is just about as cute as the manga, and seems to follow it pretty closely. Oh the doom!
  • Dennou Coil 3: Yes, of course all the major players are in the same middle-school class! Including both Yukos!
  • Legend of Korra 3.1-3.2: Hey, look, last season's world-changing events changed the world! And now the politicians are unhappy with the superheroes. It looks like the theme of this season is going to be "you can't turn back the clock".
  • Sword Art Online movie: Really only the last 15 minutes, since Dave assures us the rest is just a recap of the series with extra swimsuits. Meh. SAO has failed us. We spurn it like a mazurka.

Jus has made it to kindergarten, so she requested Dim Sum of Celebration with the usual suspects and also her Grownup Friends (Mike and Susan). Hurray for Jus!

Our new player Deirdre has been successfully integrated into PAD&D5! Apparently what we have been lacking in fights is a halfling ranger, because we ripped right through the giant scorpions and the bulette. (There was no bulette-surfing, however, so 13th Age still holds the lead.) When we got to the professor who had requested some Titanologists from the university, we did not immediately have to shank him even though he's a huge jerk, but we did have to protect him from a Deathless assassin. And now we know the secret of the Deathless (they turn into ghosts and black puddings the first time they're killed) so there are likely to be more coming to get rid of witnesses. And that's before we use the Soot of Structure to reanimate monsters from previous versions of reality. It will be great!

Today fortnight (today week week?) is Labor Day weekend, so we will try gaming next week instead. And maybe the week after Labor Day too, if we feel ambitious.

I need to figure out what to do about Labor Day. Ugh. Planning.

A Fox's Love and A Fox's Tail (Brandon Varnell) are terrible light novels in the magical-girlfriend anime genre, about a hapless highschool student in Arizona who rescues a fox and finds out that she's really a kitsune with no nudity taboo who has decided that they are married. Then the other yōkai who don't like kitsune find out that she's in town, and anyone who has read/seen Kanokon or anything similar knows how this goes.

Black Lament (Christina Henry) is the fourth book in the series that started with Black Winds. There are at least three more, but I didn't see #5 or #6 at the library, so I may or may not ever read them.

Unique (Andrew Miller) is a Rashomonesque urban fantasy, in which some vampires, some werewolves, some monster hunters, and some magi (authentic Zoroastrians!) interact separately with a series of unfortunate events, leading to confusion and unnecessary violence. There is a pretty adorable romance, and in the end many things are sorted out. It is a curiously pro-humanity book, and despite the author being described as a libertarian in his bio, the rule of law is presented as completely worthwhile, and the man from the government really is there to help. (The major groups and their interconnections remind me of Urban Shadows. Bah, gamers!)

In The Border (Robert McCammon), humanity is nearly driven to extinction as collateral damage in the war between two forces of incomprehensible aliens. A ragtag band of survivors make their way across the ruined Southwest, leaving dead comrades and lost SAN in their wake, and finally Earth is saved. Human effort, although present, isn't actually critical; in fact, it's more a religion-based triumph. So, although the post-apocalyptic alien doom is scenic and horrifying, as a story it's kind of anticlimactic.

what to do in the evenings besides staring into space blblbbl by marithlizard (Tue Aug 25 01:37:38 2015)

Write something for me and Avalon to read! Write something for Jus! Write something that makes you happy! Write about ninja catgirl pirate Wall Street traders! Any or all of the above! :)

Re: what to do in the evenings by Trip (Tue Aug 25 16:24:05 2015)

That would be all clever and stuff.

Susan was talking about NaNoWriMo at dim sum, but I have too many commutes and too few brain cells, or something. Plus what I wrote the one year I did it was embarrassingly horrible.

Agreed! by Avalon (Sun Aug 30 20:10:47 2015)

I agree about the writing. =)

Re: Agreed! by Trip (Mon Aug 31 18:38:47 2015)

What, that it's embarrassingly horrible?

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19 August 2015 - Wednesday


After the Ribs of Celebration, we figured out how to play 13th Age again.

Ktangs' having failed to locate the Stone Thief via ritual magic, the PCs head back to the temple of Sylphore so Son Sobretto can perform divinations. However, when they get there, the temple has already been devoured by a swirling vortex of masonry and destruction! Down in the maelstrom, some orcs are fishing stray people out of the masonry, mostly not with harpoons, so Anwë sneaks down to help people get successfully captured by orcs and get captured herself. It is the traditional method of her profession, after all.

Unable to mysteriously appear behind people, the others have to surf a bulette down and crash through the giant fanged dwarven gate. They end up no longer on the bulette, so its utility has come to an end and it has to be put down. (There are also wraiths.) After that, they wander through a ruined dwarven steamworks, pick up Anwë's trail, talk to a bound spirit that sends incoming material where it might belong, and end up in someplace called The Gauntlet. This involves climbing stairs until they inevitably find the pressure plate that turns the stairway into a waterslide. Son Sobretto has prepared for this (with rope!), but being on belay is not that helpful when an entire side corridor is sliding down the chute and everyone ends up in the disgusting corpse-filled water at the bottom of the staircase. A draconic head rises out of the water to glare at them.

Scorch and Rogue (Gina Damico) are the rest of the trilogy that started with Croak. The world-building is explained a little, although everyone involved with collecting souls is still completely insane, and the author is completely unafraid to kill off characters.

End of Days (Susan Ee) concludes the "Penryn & The End of Days" trilogy, about Earth being invaded by genocidal angels who are self-righteous but probably not any more divinely guided than humans. It's kind of like a happy ending, I guess.

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible is what happens when Ursula Vernon gets hold of the story of Sleeping Beauty. Need I say more?

The Boy At The End of The World (Greg van Eekhout) is not quite as pessimistic as its title, although certainly the human world is not in a good state when the last survivor of an ark bunker gets decanted. Robots feature heavily, along with mutant wildlife.

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18 August 2015 - Tuesday

Too much reading! Not enough Avalon!

Public Enemies (Ann Aguirre) is the second book of the trilogy that started with Mortal Danger, in which things get worse. Since the heroine started the first book trying to commit suicide after being humiliated on Youtube... Presumably next book she will rally, pull all the plot threads together, and use them to crush her foes.

I didn't realize it until after, but the protagonist's boss in The Deathsniffer's Assistant (Kate McIntyre) bears a distinct, though probably coincidental, resemblance to the detective in Gosick. However, the hapless protagonist has no choice but to put up with her and her creepy disgusting murder investigations, since his family has fallen on hard times and he has a little sister to look after and not sell to the Magic Monopoly despite her ridiculous power. The pseudo-Victorian setting powered by bound elementals isn't bad, although I'm not sure the way women are treated both better and the same is consistent. On the other tentacle, inconsistency is realistic.

Pacific Fire (Greg van Eekhout) is the sequel to California Bones, ten years later when things are even more of a mess in LA but someone has a plan that must not be allowed to succeed. Point of view is split between the main character of the first book and his protege, who has some osteomantic issues of his own in addition to the regular teenaged issues, as they both try to execute the caper. There is all kinds of setup for another book.

Kid vs Squid (also Greg van Eekhout) is for a much younger audience — not that Pacific Fire wouldn't be fine marketed as YA, aside from maybe the cannibalism — about a middle-school kid who spends his summer vacation getting mixed up with creepy nautical museums, Atlantean princesses, ancient curses, and aspiring superheroes, or at least one of each.

Yes, it is that Alice (Christina Henry), but only kind of. Instead of a surreal alternate world of talking animals, she gets a return trip to a pseudo-Victorian slumhole full of bizarre and horrible magical crime lords. Not a good place in which to be a woman, but she is not really taking their crap, and she has an axe murderer just escaped from the loony bin to back her up on that.

Hallow Point (Ari Marmell) is the second in the adventures of Mick Oberon, sidhe private eye in mostly-normal 1930s Chicago who gets mixed up in really convoluted mysteries. This one has a proper femme fatale, murderous fae, murderous humans, corruption on multiple levels, and more than one fake-out. Fortunately, sidhe heal quickly.

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16 August 2015 - Sunday

Avalon's house was invaded by wasps. It was very sad.

Marmalade's key metric is very good! The current regime will continue indefinitely, much to Ghirardelli's dismay.

No 13th Age because Ken is full of work and Mike is full of family.

No anime because Dave is out of town. I spent most of Saturday being useless on Tumblr instead.

No PAD&D5 because it is an off week. However, apparently we did well enough in the audition that Deirdre will be joining us next week.

Instead of D&D, I had water park with Ayse and Ken and Jus and Nonny, which was okay fun, but very dehydrating. And full of queues!

Class Warfare is an alternate character creation system for Dungeon World, or rather a class creation system. It isn't completely free-form, but it breaks down each of the existing DW classes into three components, each with one starting move and a handful of advanced 2-5 and advanced 6-10 moves. These can then be assembled into new classes, either three from one group (fighter, cleric, wizard, thief), two from one group and one from another, or two from one group and an advanced move from one of them. Since there are like a couple of hundred of these, there is plenty of scope for new points inside the existing space of classes, although Class Warfare doesn't help much for going outside that space. But then, going outside cleric/thief/fighter/wizard takes you outside of old-school dungeoncrawling, which is arguably outside DW's domain.

I really did not like Last First Snow (Max Gladstone) as much as the first three books in the series. It was all socially-conscious and stuff, but didn't add anything new. We didn't even really need to see how the protagonist of Two Serpents Rise and his father got into their conflicted relationship; it was already pretty clear. Bah.

The first four books covered a plot for world domination that turned out to be just a side effect of the real plot. In The Killing Floor Blues (Craig Schaefer), the main character glimpses the magnitude of the plan, and also spends some time in the hoosegow. Surprisingly, it is not much like the prison from Convict Connections although it does have its own... special qualities.

Unfinished Muse (RL Naquin) and Accidentally Aphrodite (Dakota Cassidy) are both frivolous supernatural romance with hapless modern women getting unexpectedly tangled up in Greek mythology. They more or less lack redeeming qualities.

The End Of All Things (John Scalzi) is the sixth installment in the "Old Man's War" series, following the evolving political situation among the Colonial Union, Earth, the Concord, and organizations without letterhead, as hapless human PCs try to keep it from exploding.

Black Wings, Black Night, and Black Howl (Christina Henry) are also supernatural romance, but based on Christian mythology plus whatever it is Grim Reapers come from. The main character has a bad case of snowflakes, but she at least does use her status when it's helpful and doesn't let it go to her head too much the rest of the time.

In Hellhole (Gina Damico), a hapless teenager digs up a devil and evil ensues. It is mostly hilarious evil, but there is some real damage and horror behind the frat-boy obnoxiousness of the devil's behavior. The way they get rid of him is out of left field, though.

Croak (Gina Damico) is also about humans roped into soul-collecting duty, but with a charmingly violent teenage protagonist and world-building on par with early Harry Potter. First of a trilogy.

Wasps by Avalon (Tue Aug 18 19:45:13 2015)

It was pretty awful! But much better now =) xoxoxo

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11 August 2015 - Tuesday

My iPad contains the Internet, at least when I'm in civilization Wifi, and the Internet contains anime, therefore my iPad contains anime, including the new show GATE, which is about heroic(ish) JSDF soldiers exploring a fantasy world that opened a gate and attacked Tokyo. It is definitely flawed, and problematic in a variety of ways (though not as many as some), but it is cute and I like it.

Urban Shadows is urban fantasy somewhere near the Dresden Files, powered by the Apocalypse. Although it has a different set of basic moves, and adds some genre-specific special moves, Urban Shadows is probably the PbtA game that's closest to Apocalypse World, and the commentary shows that the developers thought a lot about what moves are for and how they work (not to say that the developers of Dungeon World, tremulus, Monster of the Week, etc, didn't, just that they didn't display the fruits of their thought).

Compared to AW, the three major innovations are Factions, Corruption, and Debt. There are four Factions (roughly: unpowered humans, humans with powers, ex-human monsters who eat humans, and Not From Around Here), which each character has a -1 to +3 with, and when you use a social move on someone from a Faction, or the Faction as a whole, you get to check off that Faction. Check off all four, and you get an advance, or in other words, you only get to level up if you're in the middle of everything.

You get Corruption for using your powers wrong, like the Oracle giving a false prophecy. When you get five Corruption, you must erase it all and get a Corruption move, but there are only five Corruption moves, and although four of them are awesome, one of them is Become An NPC Monster.

Debt replaces AW's Hx, DW's Bonds, etc as the mechanism for pulling characters together. It is pretty similar to Oaths in AGON: when someone does you a solid, you owe them one, which they will no doubt call in at the worst possible time. You can roll to resist having a Debt called in, but of course the horror of a 6- is always waiting for you. Oh, and did that guy you owe mention that he traded your obligation to the crazy werewolf down by the docks?

So, yah, why do I not have more gamers?

In California Bones (Greg van Eekhout), bones of extinct or mythical critters are the nonrenewable resource that powers magic, and the La Brea tar pits have given a particularly egregious mage the power to rule an otherwise fairly modern Southern California with a fist of dragonscale in a glove of Stalinist oppression. Naturally, a physical basis for magic invites thefts, and it's all heists and capers and torture chambers from there.

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9 August 2015 - Sunday

Now Cera has twelve bags of my outgoing books, which she will keep or sell to her local used-book store or donate to her local library and I don't have to do anything more with those books ever again yay!

  • Chihayafuru 2.24-25: Why did they stop making this anime? Chihaya isn't Queen yet, never mind defeated/dating Arata! The end.
  • Dennou Coil 1-2: Little kids! L33t Granny! Deathtrap by disk format!
  • Sword Art Online 24-25: The end! The treatment of women never rose above Significant Fail, so only Kirito got to hero. We will not watch a second season of this.

We had an observer at PAD&D5, a friend of Rachel's (and Techer from before our time), who is considering joining the game. I think we probably scared her off, though.

Having retrieved some of their stolen stuff and taken another Daughter of the Revolution prisoner, the PCs rampage to the roof, cow the enslaved blue dragons into obedience, steal the sky chariot despite Kamala and her weird little flying machines, and fly it back to the kobolds lurking near the Royalist lines. The DoR is handed over to the Royalists for spiritual vivisection (to get the soul of the prince she killed back), the dragons fly off with their mooks, and the PCs get a long rest.

There are still a couple of days before the Fire Festival, so the PCs decide to kill the time by exploring the Castle of Glass on the ethereal plane. After a bit of excitement with some previously-slain ogres and kobolds and a horrifying repair process on the chains being used to winch down the moon (which Zach avoided through clever use of orbital mechanics), they arrive at the castle and engage in conversation with Sauriel the robot medusa lady, who is also Prometheus's concubine and Kamala's mother. Zach uses his immunity to divine observation (extendable to others with suitable handholding) to conspire with her, which eventually leads to the two of them running off to the Moon while the other PCs aren't looking, so that Sauriel can be reunited with her love and Zach can ask about overthrowing the gods (just curious, really!).

Zach uses his magic key to get through the gates of the Moon into the prison dome, and to jam it behind them, but the giant gingerbread Kerberos just digs under the door and wrassling ensues. Sadly, there are more wrasslers than Zach has mind control spells, so although he manages to get the answer, and try to implement it by unlocking the chains, he is dragged down by friends and giant bats before the aspect of Prometheus is freed to wreak novelty upon the world. Curses! Well, maybe next year.

Since Sauriel is trying to help Zach, she also gets grappled (politely!) by The Frederick, which results in them spilling out onto the roof where Orimar the Decapitator, leader of the rebellion, is trying to perform the Fire Festival ceremony to cement his rule, and instantly petrifying Orimar. Naturally, The Frederick was wearing his haunted white dragon scalemail codpiece, so the legend of the White Dragon lives on!

Next session: The recrimination phase! Also, Zach tries to get his magic key back from Ella.

The Chart of Tomorrows (Chris Willrich) is probably the conclusion of the "Bone & Gaunt" series, in which dragons do not eat the world (probably) despite the worst efforts of Mongol-analogs, Viking-analogs, things from beyond time, flying carpets, and teenagers.

I was afraid I would have to wait ages for the last "Exordium" book, but no, The Thrones of Kronos (Sherwood Smith, Dave Trowbridge) is out! It ends the major plot pretty conclusively, but a whole bunch of minor threads are left open, so there could be more books. Sadly, I don't think there will be.

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5 August 2015 - Wednesday

We did play 13th Age this week, and also ate yummy fish stuff. The PCs made it back to the Court of Stars with the book full of impractical methods to ward off the Stone Thief, and then went to find the Stone Thief so as to extract the book full of clues about its missing eyes, but only found a bunch of surly gnolls and their medusa queen. Since Anwë can see perfectly in the dark now, the medusa's attempt to avoid inadvertantly petrifying her guests by keeping the lights low failed and it looked like there was going to be a fight, but there somehow wasn't.

I really need to learn to stop trying to give my characters social skills. The only person I've ever gamed with who I could possibly have a bigger mouth than is Dave. (Okay, maybe Miriam, but I'm sure that would have changed if we had been less terrible introductory gamers.)

Although it is an accusation all YA fantasy with schools must face The School For Good And Evil (Soman Chainani) is not really very much like Harry Potter. It is straight-up metafairytale, and does a lot with beautiful=good/ugly=evil, starting from the hot blonde being put in Evil School and her creepy brunette friend in Good School. It's more than a bit heavy-handed, but I can't tell exactly what the target age range is, so maybe that's okay.

Twin Star Exorcists vol 1 (Yoshiaki Sukeno) shows why fourteen is not the right age to tell people they are part of an ages-long breeding program, especially when one of them is a jerk and the other is psycho. If their powers are really heritable, though, any offspring they manage to have should be pretty terrifying.

Rebecca Tregaron is the pen name Rachel Manija Brown uses to write lesbian romance, like Angel in the Attic. It is pretty short — novella? novelette? chibi-novel? — but cute and full of attractive women and a little mystery. Apparently it is the first of three parts of "Werewolf in the Kitchen".

In The God Hunter (Tim Lees), a secret megacorp gathers "compacted residue of human emotions" to convert into electricity. Some people call them gods, but that's just unprofessional and unobjective. And this talk of one of them wandering around eating people must be nonsense, because energy doesn't do that, and even if it did, it wouldn't eat enough people to become unprofitable.

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3 August 2015 - Monday


The party was full of people who are a hundred times cooler than me, but that is only to be expected.

Ayse & Co & Marith went to a Renfaire, which may or may not have been more fun but was certainly healthier.

  • Natsume's Book of Friends 3.12-13: End of the season! Man, youkai are annoying. But Nyanko-sensei is such a tsundere.
  • Chihayafuru 2.23: Thinking about anything except the game is still an excellent way to lose.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico 25-26: The end! All is revealed, but very little is resolved! There is smooching.
  • Sword Art Online 23: Finally, they find out! And handle it about as well as you might expect, or maybe better in Kirito's case. They aren't very close to reaching the top of the tree, though, and there are only two episodes left.

Hostage (Sherwood Smith, Rachel Manija Brown) is the sequel to Stranger, in which we find out more about the villains and a little more about the world (but only a little). There is also a lot of trouble, a fair amount of PTSD, the power of friendship, and some smooching. Oh, and explosions.

Two new supplements for The Strange:

In Translation: The Strange Character Options has a bunch more descriptors, type abilities, and foci for characters. Some of the foci are pretty specific, but that's okay since you can get a new focus just by fleeing to a new recursion. I was amused to see that one of the paradox abilities is basically "Draw Trump of Person", and another is basically the traditional D&D spell rope trick. There are also negative descriptors, like Paranoid, that still give you net positive benefits. The new elements all seem in keeping with the ones from the core book, though, even if the spell-casting foci are kind of inflexible.

Worlds Numberless and Strange has a bunch of new recursions to explore, in varying levels of detail, and exciting new places to get shanked in both Ardeyn and Ruk. (The Ardeyn one is actually kind of cool.) Contents include, but are not limited to: Atlantis, Arthurian legend, barbarian adventure, blasters, dinosaurs, flying ships, giant bacteria, grey aliens, Halloween, kung fu, Martian war tripods, nanomachine plagues, Nazis, octopodes, Oort cloud bodies, samurai, Shakespeare, Soylent Green, starfish the size of minivans, wicked witches, and of course zombies. A few more character options, monsters, and artifacts are included.

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