Previously, in Trip's Life...

29 November 2015 - Sunday

I have returned safely from the Annual Thanksgiving Roseville Visiting Extravaganza! Much visiting occured! Food was eaten! Terrible band members were complained about! Marching band shows were seen! Ayse and Ken were exposed to Captain America and The Avengers and liked both of them! Food was eaten! But no Marith, because she had to go to the Caribbean with her crazy family.

We tried out 13th Age in Glorantha and it was somehow not a disaster even though I was GMing. Our conclusion was that the Gloranthan classes were underpowered compared to the core 13th Age classes, but reasonably fun. Not sure about the horoscope runes, though.

As always, Al and Sherilyn were exemplary hosts and friends, and completely concealed any desire to stab me for being a terrible guest/friend!

On the way back, we exposed Robert to Night Vale. Muahahahaha.

The protagonist of Seriously Wicked (Tina Connolly) is being raised in modern times by a wicked (well, at least obnoxious and secretive) witch, which makes high school even more fraught than it would be otherwise. Tying magic spells to algebra is a little too pat, and nothing else in the book is very surprising, but it was entertaining.

Windswept (Adam Rakunas) is union-based SF adventure, starring a cynical and grouchy union rep on a planet mostly inhabited by people who bail from evil megacorp ships and evil megacorp contracts even if it means raising and processing sugar cane for industrial molasses to run interstellar civilization (I didn't really buy that part either). Union intrigue leads to corporate intrigue leads to everything on fire and falling off a beanstalk, whee!

Apparently "Cthulhu Fhtagn" translates as "Great Cthulhu's House". (Yes, "Cthulhu" translates as "Great Cthulhu", and if you think that this infinite expansion is a problem, you just. Don't. UNDERSTAND! ...ahem.) The stories in Cthulhu Fhtagn! (ed Ross E Lockhart), however, are not all set in R'lyeh. They are all at least nominally location-based, but in four-dimensional space-time, that's not a high bar. Anyway, monsters and cosmic despair!

The setting book for Strange Stars is system-neutral, but there also exists the Strange Stars Fate Rulebook, which is a pretty standard implementation of Fate Core for SF, mostly stock except for Wealth stress and organizations. It is not very well constructed as a gaming book, though, being in large part bare Fate stats with page numbers for the corresponding entity in the setting book. Since they already had the setting book, you'd think they could have combined the two into one proper book.

The rulebook did have a pointer to the creator's blog, though, which has all the stuff that went into the setting book and more, and it's definitely OSR. Not only are some aliens ports of the slaad, but there are also ported aboleths.

The gimmick of Nurse Hitomi's Monster Infirmary (Shake-O) is not holding up for a third volume. Sad.

Volume 7 of Monster Musume (Okayado) made no sense in a way that did not follow from the lack of sense in the last volume I read, because that turned out to be volume 4 instead of volume 6. I had to go back to the bookstore to pick up 5 and order 6, but someday it will all work out.

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22 November 2015 - Sunday

Today people carted away my excess futon frame, and also my ancient TV and DVD player. Now I need to think about how to replace them with shiny new equivalents, but the design-your-own-couch store up the street starts at $1400 for a normal-sized couch, which seems like too much for someone with cats. I guess it's mail-order time.

Also today, I found a bookstore! It is somewhat far, but the bus goes pretty much directly there if one is willing to ride long enough. It is a huge chain bookstore, but even so I feel better about shopping there than hiding at home and only buying things on Amazon. Er, not that I buy books in physical form much, so I spent a while browsing the new SF section and noting down things that seemed interesting, but then I sort of went overboard with manga and art books, so I think they have their value from me taking up space in their store.

What time is it? by Avalon (Fri Nov 27 22:05:10 2015)

Ikea time!

Ikea time by Trip (Wed Dec 2 08:22:35 2015)

Well, time, anyway. The nearest Ikea is in East Palo Alto, which is kind of a pain.

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21 November 2015 - Saturday

Apparently I am a valued uncle to Nonny and Jus. I guess they are young and cannot be counted upon to show good sense yet!

No Marith, but we had a little anime anyway.

  • Dennou Coil 11-12: For some reason, I thought that episode was 13. But no, it is 12! Episode 11 also has Illegals running rampant.
  • Brother, Dear Brother 4: Thanks for digging up dirt on the main character's background, bitter loser! Now we can jump to all kinds of conclusions! (Mostly that people's lives would be so much better if they only communicated (and used proper security in doing so).)
  • Silver Spoon 3-4: All horses, all the time! Or, Hachiken and Maron's big confession scene! Also we find out who the blonde idiot is, and sure enough, she's the Nanami character.

I have been reading gaming PDFs!

The Three Rocketeers is a short World of Adventure setting for Fate Accelerated, which is pretty much what you might expect: replace major European powers of the 18th century with interstellar polities, add forcefields to all the swords, and away you go.

Despite the awesome name, Starfall is only so-so. Aliens invaded in 1951 and stomp all over everything with their horrible chitinous cyborg feet, humans must use a generic dice pool system to resist them.

Although somehow it came to me as part of an OSR bundle, Strange Stars is actually system-neutral, and probably not even well-suited for OSR mechanics. It is the far future, where Earth has been forgotten and the modified successor species to humanity tangle with aliens, strange knowledge, and transcendent technologies. It is supposed to be evocative, rather than descriptive, which it does okay at.

A Red & Pleasant Land actually is OSR, but is also Wonderland in a twisted reflection. Four courts of vampires, an entire country of dungeons and twisted space, nonsensical quests, jabberwocky, and puzzles that kill you instantly if you don't figure them out, all for your suitably high-level (like it will help) OSR characters!

Yoon-Suin is a more usual sort of OSR weird setting, based loosely on central/south/south-east Asia: self-mummified monks, yak-men of the northern mountains, jungles haunted by evil spirits, a great city ruled by slug-men, tables for exotic varieties of tea and opium with bizarre effects, squabbling philosophies, the Cult of the Elephant God, degenerate survivors of lost civilizations, enlightened hermits with incomprehensible powers, and more. There are lots of ways to get your character sheet permanently altered, not usually for the better.

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19 November 2015 - Thursday

Kelsey did not get the good job, which is very sad but does mean she can keep gaming with us.

This week, the PCs went into the dungeon that no one ever comes out of, following the person they are still intent on rescuing, and killed a dragon when they failed to intimidate it into giving up its prisoner. There was considerable doubt as to whether it could be done, but it actually worked pretty well and only one character was melted by acid so much that he couldn't be put back together. Next week is Thanksgaving, but after that the two teams will be combined or something, and I can go back to playing Anwë very badly.

It's not very well written, but... nah, The Rules of Supervillainy (CT Phipps) is just not very well written. It does have a lot of the recurrance of characters and secret-ID shenanigans famous from comic books, though, and some fairly alarming supervillains.

Speak Easy is made of Catherynne M Valente's flamboyant language, 1920s edition. In the Hotel Artemisia, the good times never stop, even when a mysterious door appears in the closet of a young flapper who has come to the city to charm everyone while finding her talent, leading to the darkness beneath everything.

The prequel series to the "Parasol Protectorate", set aboard a flying finishing school for female spies, ends happily with Manners & Mutiny (Gail Carriger). Villains are thwarted, boys are smooched, the realm is saved, everyone wins.

Silent Legions is by the same guy who did Stars Without Number, and likewise brings OSR mechanics to a non-fantasy genre, in this case Lovecraftian horror. The parts on making up horroriffic monsters and adventures are good, especially if you like idea tables or dislike the established Cthulhu mythos, but OSR mechanics are meh. At least this version has a skill system, so there is something besides combat mechanics that will only get your character killed.

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15 November 2015 - Sunday

After being terrified into the Giant Pit Mine of Unlight & Dinosaurs, the PAD&D5 PCs wander around trying to gather intelligence (all jokes applicable) for their inevitable assault on the Dark Tower. The Black-Sun-reflecting mirrors that focus the unlight on the antisolar power receiver atop the tower turn out to be guarded by acidic monstrosities that are invisible unless you look at them in the mirror, and everyone except Zach wishes they were invisible then too. The cycad jungle is full of synapsid predators of various sorts, which the (giant, mutated) kobolds apparently produce in the tower and then herd out over the bridge of glass. Despite the Frederick's desire to hijack a kobold scout's pteranodon, the PCs stay mostly under cover until they stumble upon a patrol of allosaur riders and violence ensues. They try to break contact and lie low, but the derelict mining machine they hide in turns out to be haunted, and the now-deserted mirror-guardian tunnels around their first encounter are not enough to foil the keen senses of the kobolds' tracking dogosaurs. Things look grim for a bit, until Ella does her ever-popular bear trick, and finally the PCs are able to capture a kobold and grill her on what's going on.

The kobolds are there to grow strong under the Black Sun, which shone when they ruled the world and mammals were little rat-things, before Apollo ruined everything with this whole White Sun nonsense. They are also seeding the surrounding desert with shattered mirrors, spreading the influence of the Black Sun across the region and eventually the world! Muahahahaha! They do produce dinosaurs in the basement of the tower, using titansblood distilled from the light of the Black Sun by the Deathless Assassins on the middle floors (who also use titansblood to make their bodies, and possibly to power their gate to the outside world). Somewhere near the top live an ancient reptilian witch, and her humanish disciple who cannot die. Glass coffins may be involved.

Starvation Cheap is a supplement for the OSR Traveller-genre Stars Without Number, but not much of it is actually OSR mechanics. Mostly, it's a gamer-level description of how modern militaries are put together and function, a low-res system for mass combat and determining how the war is going overall, and random idea fuel for creating both wars the high-level PCs' mercenary outfit might want to get involved in and individual missions the low-level PCs could get sent on. All of these could be used for any similar setting, or maybe even setting of a similar tone.

Volume 2 of Rat Queens (Kurtis J Wiebe, Roc Upchurch, Stjepan Sejic) continues the sass, sorcery, tragic backstories, sex, and tentacles. How can you go wrong?

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14 November 2015 - Saturday


Naturally, the best present was cars.

The new PMH pizza with pulled pork and tiny bits of pork skin was interesting, but I do not feel the need to repeat the experience. The Figgy Piggy is still great.

Marith has no more super-stressful job! However, her doctor suggested that part of the reason her tummy is always upset is what she eats, so we had to get her a tomatoless pizza.

  • Dennou Coil 10: Finally they are finding out stuff about Kanna. Also, mysterious labyrinths in plain sight!
  • Brother, Dear Brother 3: Another fiendish plot enabled by the lack of mobile phones!
  • Silver Spoon 2.1-2.2: I was right, Hachiken's future is in administration.
  • Legend of Korra 3.11: Apparently this is one of those settings where combat experience can overcome any amount of formal training.
  • Steven Universe 13-14: The common theme of these two episodes: it's hard being a teenager.

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12 November 2015 - Thursday

Finally, the 13th Age side plot with the B team leveling up quickly and being inexorably drawn to meet up with the A team is nearly at an end! After crushing a bunch of orcs beneath a landslide and jacking their wyverns, the B team has arrived at Scarsdale and it is now all Ken's problem! But, this may all have been in vain since Kelsey is also looking at a new job that will have her working evenings instead of gaming. It sounds like a much better job than her current one in every respect, so we all hope she gets it, but then we will need new gamers again.

In Soth, the PCs are cultists in a small town, trying to summon their dark god. Only three more human sacrifices, and infinite power will be ours! I mean, theirs. But they have to avoid arousing the suspicions of the townspeople... There is a GM, but all the townspeople and other impediments to victory are generated during play, so there's almost no prep required.

When I saw the title of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Becky Chambers), I figured it meant Earth, but no! It is legitimate space opera, although of dubious scienceness in some aspects, and actually pretty charming.

Drag Hunt (Pat Kelleher) and Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef (Cassandra Khaw) are novellas in the setting of the "Gods and Monsters" shared universe thingie, as seen in Unclean Spirits (Chuck Wendig) and Mythbreaker (Stephen Blackmoore), but not concerned with the main plot. In Drag Hunt, Coyote loses his penis (again) and must retrieve it from obnoxious and misguided conspirators; trickster high jinks ensue. The hero of Rupert Wong is trying work off his damning load of bad karma by serving as mediator and general facilitator for the supernatural community of Kuala Lumpur, which includes ghouls, the spirits of human sacrifices, vampire babies who want to unionize, trouble-causing foreign riffraff, and other sources of morbid laughs (for the reader, not for Rupert).

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8 November 2015 - Sunday

I checked out the local comics shop, but they carry approximately 0 manga, so they are useless to me. Useless, I say!

There are no real bookstores nearby, nor gaming stores. Bah!

Finally I managed to be organized enough to invite Dave over to help me move my big bookcase to where Avalon said it should go. I repaid him with fuzzy brown purrs.

I'm always certain I'm GMing 13th Age wrong, but after reading the 13th Age Game Master's Resource Book maybe I'm not that far off. It did convince me that icon relationships need to have concrete stories, not just vague thematic sympathies, and that I shouldn't feel bad about cranking up the difficulty of battles beyond "fair". Also, terrain is good, even if fighting on the grid is easier. (When I get the physical book, it will come with a GM screen, which I probably won't use but arguably should.)

Baroque Space Opera uses Fate Core for the kind of mystic, non-sciency SF seen in Dune or Star Wars or Lexx. Peasants living in primitive squalor, advanced technology understood only by secretive guilds in fancy robes, genetically-engineered elite, semi-immortal psionic god-emperor, etc. In general, if you like the tropes of this subgenre, you'll like BSO; otherwise, note. However, one thing that bugged me possibly out of proportion was that the empire is described as containing a hundred planets, being 149ka old, and having planets undergo colonization as a regular thing. I guess that could work if colony planets were strip-mined and then abandoned, but you'd think a swath of devastation like that would deserve mention.

Ryuutama is another Japanese RPG brought over by the same people who translated Tenra Bansho Zero. Ryuutama is much closer to Golden Sky Stories in tone, though, even though it does have violence. It is to a large extent a tabletopification of CRPGs of a certain period, with equipable items, magic herbs found while wandering the map, non-positional combat, and goofy-looking monsters, but there is an in-game justification for people wandering around, at least. There is also an in-game role for the GM, which includes justifications for the PCs' lives being interesting but not too painful. It may be heartwarming, and is definitely kind of pastel.

The Hellsblood Bride (Chuck Wendig) is the sequel to Blue Blazes, in which the problems at the end of the first book get much, much worse, and the protagonist must choose between two unacceptable options. We find out more about the terrible underworld, but the new magic encountered doesn't seem entirely consistent with worm-gods. Nevertheless, it may give me Ideas.

Ronin Galaxy archives is shounen comedy with a little action, apparently defunct now.

Exodus: Machine War: Book 1 (Doug Dandridge) is more substandard military space opera. There seems to be a lot of that sort of thing on Amazon.

Esoterrorism: From the Secret Files of the Red Room (CT Phipps) explores the question of "what if the secret conspiracy to protect humanity from knowledge of the supernatural was composed entirely of complete rat bastards?". The answer is not pretty (except the succubus part of the answer).

Yah, pretty much.

Amazon by Avalon (Fri Nov 13 18:47:06 2015)

delivers, I have heard. =)

local comic shops by marithlizard (Sun Nov 15 18:11:02 2015)

You could order manga from them as an encouraging gesture! Still likely cheaper than Amazon and morally superior at the same time!

Re: local comic shops by Trip (Mon Nov 16 08:33:09 2015)

Isn't Amazon always cheaper because they can negotiate bulk discounts? Anyway, of course I can order online, but that's not as good for browsing and seeing what's new.

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7 November 2015 - Saturday

  • Silver Spoon 10-11: Wow, that's a lot of bacon. But then, they have a lot of growing teenagers to devour it. Why don't I have that much bacon?
  • Brother, Dear Brother 1-2: "Wait, what happened? Did the train explode?" "No, that was just the sky emitting a bolt of PURE MELODRAMA!" Creepy goth girls with painted thumbnails! Artificial class distinctions! The Umbrella of Contempt!
  • Steven Universe 12: Ah, this is where all that gem fusion talk on Tumblr comes from.
  • Legend of Korra 3.10: This is not a good plan for disgovernance. But it seems unlikely anyone will miss that queen.

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5 November 2015 - Thursday

Finally, Kelsey made it to gaming. With pizza!

This session, I oppressed the PCs with orcs, and then bonus orcs. It did not go so well for the orcs, because I forgot to double the opposition for all parties that include a barbarian.

In The Rest of Us Just Live Here (Patrick Ness), the chapter headings tell the story of teenagers with unusual names and tragic backstories having an adventurous and romantic and betrayal-filled time protecting the world from the latest supernatural threat that no adult will acknowledge or talk about later. In the actual chapters, the narrator and his friends are just trying to get through their last few weeks of high school while dealing with love, dysfunctional families, impending separation, electoral shenanigans, and the mysterious events that are going on in their small town.

That was pretty good, so I also read The Knife of Never Letting Go (Patrick Ness), which is set on a colony planet where a local plague turns all men into broadcast telepaths. Somehow, this fails to lead to a culture of univeral honesty and goodwill even toward other humans, never mind the local sophonts. A large part of the book is the protagonist finding out about the world outside his small town.

The heroine of Free Agent, Armageddon Rules, and Wish Bound (JC Nelson) works for a fairy godfather who eschews magic in the providing of services. It's just not cost-effective compared to mundane methods like cleavage and guns. There is, nevertheless, a lot of magic going on, and princes and queens and hidden magical kingdoms and evil witches and worse werewolves and actual demons and wars among all of the foregoing. Some aspects of the setting are comedic (frequently in very dark ways), but there is plenty of trauma to go around, and not necessarily much happily-ever-after.

The Blue Blazes (Chuck Wendig) also has a hidden world of magic, but it's in the tunnels beneath NYC and goes down through horror after horror to where the worm-gods dwell in the Ravenous Expanse. The main character is a Big Bruiser for the overmob, the one that restricts traffic in the blue mineral that lets you see the monsters for what they are to those in the know, and keeps the goblins and serpent people mostly down in their tunnels instead of up preying on humans. He has a troubled family life, which he completely earns his disad points for, and naturally everything goes to hell and he gets beat up and subjected to grotesque fates. Surely you expected nothing less from Wendig?

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1 November 2015 - Sunday

Hurray, we have a real GM for PAD&D5 again!

Apparently the side trip to the shallow sea of leaked history did not put the invisible stalker off Zach's trail, but it can't actually see him, so after driving it off once and then hiding inside rocks to recuperate, the PCs are able to jump it and beat on it until Dain gets tired of it and uses dispel magic.

Then, after a brief encounter with the annoying senior professor who called them out into the desert in the first place and his obnoxious grad students, they decline the chance to have The Frederick launched from a trebuchet into a huge zone that is hidden from all awareness and conscious entry, instead preferring to have him magically terrorize them into fleeing down a sewer through the ward, while they drag him along with a rope. Apparently Zach gets surprisingly good traction when frightened.

The hidden realm is a giant pit mine, miles wide, full of cycads and dinosaurs and mirrors reflecting the Black Sun, with an enormous tower supporting a sphere of blinding unlight. Depending on how far down the spiral they want to go, the PCs can cross to the tower on a rope bridge from a kobold encampment, a glass bridge from somewhere dubious, or the swamp full of horrible bugs at the very bottom. Dinosaur-punching seems inevitable.

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