Review: Star Realms: Rescue Run

32980868[1]Star Realms: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Jon Del Arroz brings life and depth to two of the main factions of the world of the Star Realms deck building card game. He creates a backstory for the corporation centered Trade Federation and the militaristic Star Empire that draws you immediately into the lives of the main characters. It is not your typical shoot-em-up or space battle Military Sci-Fi, but is instead focused on intrigue and espionage. The world building is excellent, and the characters’ depths grows considerably as the story progresses.

The ‘sciencey’ stuff is cool too! Ocular implants, advance Artificial Intelligence, body mods, multi-level mega-structures extending from planet to orbit. Cool stuffs!

There is a very distinct romance arc to the story as well. Unfortunately, this is the main reasons I can’t give the fourth star on Goodreads. I don’t mind romance being a secondary arc, but this one puts it too much in the forefront for me. I also can’t abide ‘love at first sight’, ‘teen angst’, and ‘it makes me stupid’ romance either. That’s not my genre, so having to deal with it here was a bit sigh-inducing. The characters aren’t teens either, which made it worse. YMMV though, so if you like that sort of thing, you can definitely get it here.

All in all, I give this one 3.5 stars and call it just a plain old Fun Read!

 

It should also be noted that this book is now one of the 2017 Dragon Award Nominees (Best Military Science Fiction).

The voting is open to anyone. If you’ve read any of the authors here, you should go register to vote and show your appreciation. You can even grab a nominee or two and read up before the end of the month if you haven’t read anyone on the list yet.

 

 

 

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Review: Balance

Balance by Ryk Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Balance is a decent continuation of The Frontiers Saga Rogue Castes, but it is what I would call a ‘filler novel’. Sure, parts of it were necessary because they build the story up and introduce some new characters.

Unfortunately, it’s a slow read for the most part. The ending is great, which is typical of these books; however, the plot suffered from a bit too much foreshadowing, and a lot of extraneous information was dumped in regarding the details of how to program some of the tech. The entire trip to Earth could have been done much easier and without all the boring details of the trip. All of that just served to make the book tedious and longer that it had to be. Honesty, I think it could have been compacted with whatever is coming next to make a much more exciting read out of it.

There are some new characters that are introduced, and some expanded, that I just do not care about yet. Maybe they will be important later, but right now they are boring to watch. On the other hand, some of the newest were boring to start with, but ended up being kind of cool at the end.

It’s hard to write hit after hit, and this series has had it’s share, so one that’s not a chart topper is not going to make me stop reading the it by any stretch. So, I will give this one a 3 star rating and call it an Average Read. I look forward to the next one in the series.

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Terraforming Venus

So…I’ve been working on Venus stories, and was thinking of what terraforming it would look like. I saw this in the news and the gears went into overdrive….

 


It was too dangerous for direct observation to the uninitiated, so Mr. Smith narrated for the tour group as he walked the edge of the burning sulfur lake. “As you can see here, the terraforming process has introduced enough oxygenated atmosphere in this area that we sometimes get these situations at random. Heat and pressure changes, or the occasional lightening strike will set these fires off in areas with high concentrations of sulfur. It’s really mesmerizing to watch, but the byproducts are still the opposite of what we want for our environment here on Venus. A crew will be out shortly to deal with it so that it doesn’t spread.”

“How much longer will it be before we get to the Polar Dome, Mr. Smith? Little Suzie here really needs to potty, and she’s afraid to go in her suit.

Smith sighed and turned to walk back to the surface rover. “Just about ten more minutes Mrs. Jones.” He hated tour groups so much. Why Horizons Unlimited thought they need the pittance of money made from this part of the project, he would never understand.

 

Captain Sugar Britches, Parking Fairies & LibertyCon XXX: A Post Convention Report

OK, so the title is click-bait, I admit it. That’s right; I’m not really a Captain. But I was inducted into the Grand Rislandian Army, and I did lead my Blob army to a couple intergalactic victories, so almost.

Hmmm? What’s that?… Oh, Sugar Britches? Well, that part is actually kind of true… here, let me start at the beginning…

So, last Friday was the start of LibertyCon XXX (that’s Roman numeral 30 you dirty minded things, you). I arrived later than planned, but still too early to check in. As always at the Choo Choo, if you aren’t blessed by the Parking Lot Fairies, you end up miles from your room. I got a mixed blessing by getting a spot close to the Convention area before check-in time. It was not so close to the hotel, and my room-to-be, but I didn’t know that yet.

Anyway, I missed the first panel I wanted to see due to lateness. I managed to catch most of the next one, Stealth In Space, all about how to hide things in space when the way you see stuff is through heat and light, and there’s nothing to hide behind. Space is big and cold, but if you’re trying to sneak up on someone (for reasons) you’re probably going to have a really hard time doing it if they are looking. I learned lots of back-of-the-mind things for possible later reference in writing.

After that, I had a gap and it was late enough that my room was ready. It was all the way up and all the way at the end as far from the parking spot as you can get… of course. And, also of course, all the parking fairies were hiding in the bushes laughing at me as they had let everyone else have the other closer spots. This brings us to the cause of the accident… well, besides the fairies, of course.

You see, I always take too many things when I travel. One of them is that heavenly anointed maker of happiness and giver of energy, the coffee pot. It is accompanied by its lesser servants: the remover of bitterness, carnation creamer; and the source of all pre-lunch energies, the sugar canister. They are weighty minor deities, but nonetheless must be appeased.

Naturally, being a Manufacturing Engineer, I have the gift (pronounced curse) of organization and efficiency. (Parking fairies can sense this, by the way, and use it for sadistic purposes – more on that in moment). Well, I discovered that I had room in the pull-behind bag for said coffee condiments, which would allow the number of trips to the far far away vehicle to be limited to just one. Huzzah for organization! Therefore, they went into the bag. With the clothes. (It should also be noted that Parking fairies also have a bit of foresight that I, as a human, do not posses).

Fast forward to a long hot walk and bumping the luggage up a flight of stairs (elevators are too slow… poor efficiency for the transition of a single flight). Once in the room, the plan was to utilize the redundant sleeping surface as a platform for accessing the case of holding for the weekend (unpacking is dumb… and inefficient).

Nope. I opened the case and found that approximately 1 pound (this quantity is known because a full sugar canister is half of a four pound bag of sugar, and I had filled it before leaving home) had escaped its containment device and liberally coated everything in the bag.

Now, I know what you are thinking… Why did I need two pounds of sugar? The answer is both simple and two-fold. The first, of course, is efficiency. When you prefer your sugar with a bit of coffee, as I do, it is quite annoying to have to open twenty small packets of sugar to fill a four cup mug. And you can only do that once because all the sugar packets are gone. Then you have to go borrow/steal from others. It’s very inefficient. Secondly, I didn’t really need two pounds, I only needed one, but the other was my redundant sugar. My only mistake was putting them both in a non-redundant container… and near my… well, I’ll get to that.

The majority of the sugar was now at the bottom corner of the suitcase… right where the undies were carefully stored beside the socks. I say majority because a very persistent minority of it was IN the socks… and the undies.

So, for the next thirty minutes I was forced not only to unpack shudder, but also to carefully shake out each article of clothing, each book I had brought for autographs, and each and every small crevasse of a suitcase. Of course, this meant the floor was now sugar coated as well. It had to be dealt with because… I mean, do you want ants? ‘Cause that’s how you get ants.

I was sure I could hear giggling from the parking lot when I made my way back to the truck for coffee mug I had forgotten in the cup holder. After that I made my way to game room to check out what was what there. I kibitzed on a little OGRE action and reacquainted with some folks I’d befriended last year.

Then I made my way back to the panel on Short Story Writing Tips which covered the usual range of ‘everybody does it different’ mixed with a few examples of ‘everyone agrees: don’t do this or that’. It was interesting to hear, and I did manage to pan a few small nuggets out of it.

Next, Opening Ceremonies kicked off the Con with Dominatrix (ices?) Toni Weisskopf and Brandy Spraker whipping the audience of filthy minded minions of LC XXX into… record scratch So anyway, the Con kicked off with a very humorous MC rattling off the many many many pros in attendance, and the annual drafting… welcoming of the slaves… um first timers. After, we all parted to revel in the festivities.

Later in the evening, I found myself making new friends in the game room again. Not only did I meet my first Critter (see Critical Role fan) in the wild, but I also discovered we shared an alma mater (Hail State!). The world is indeed small.

Soon, many of us were getting our initiation into the world of Star Realms courtesy of Mr. Jon del Arroz (still lugging a suitcase and wearing formal attire… I don’t think he got the memo about the South being hot and muggy.) I did not win the tourney, being taken out in round two by said memo-less del Arroz, but I was allowed to join the Grand Rislandian Army (from For Steam & Country) and got a set of cards out of the deal. Thanks Jon!

Check out his Star Realms: Rescue Run book too. I added it to my TBR pile as soon as I got home.Star Realms: Rescue Run by [Del Arroz, Jon]

Somehow, I managed to miss the dinner bell at the Con Suite and had to subsist on chips and soda, but the gaming and company more than made up for the exchange at the time. More games and coffee later, we began a late night Call of Cthulhu session. Our Keeper, Anita Moore, pushed us through time into a Nameless Horror adventure where I played the lovable rogue, Theodore Maynard. He had a knack for very poorly timed humor. It was a good fit, overall. I got to practice my British accent skills (have you ever heard a Britt that sometimes sounds like a good ole boy?). That lasted until just past 3 AM. I was quite insane by the end… so was Theo. I didn’t get to exhausted sleep until 4 AM.

FF to the next day and… What? Yes, yes, yes, I’m getting back to the Sugar Britches part you bunch of sensationalists! Have a little patience.

So, Saturday was going to end up hot, wet and exhausting (calm down). It started off with the hotel deciding it was very important that they mow the little patches of green between the wings of the building at 8:00 AM on the first night after the start of a convention because, obviously, that’s always a good idea and everyone must be awake by now. eyeroll I missed breakfast, but managed to fumble through a shower and get to the autograph session with John Ringo and my planned loop through the Art show.

I bought yet another Sarah Clemens Magnus & Loki print… I can’t resist them.

Magnus & Loki: Still Evil

It rained heavily a few times and the steam content of Chattanooga went up to somewhere around 113% plus or minus delirium.

This is where the problem came in. I wrote the giggles off to lack of sleep this time, but I now realize it was the Parking fairies. They play the long game, those fairies. I returned to my room for another infusion of coffee and to use the facilities. Now, I won’t get too graphic, but let me just say that I was very surprised to find myself unable to let go of certain body parts after using the restroom.

Now, for anyone not familiar with the details of men’s undergarments, in the front there is an area where the fabric overlaps, called the ‘fly’. It serves the purpose of both a potential access way and room for… expansion… in Engineering terms… a redundant mechanism for an extra degree of freedom of movement. In short (shorts?), it is arranged in a way that makes it quite possible for fine granules of a substance (say, sugar) to find their way into this overlap of materials and become trapped there… undetected. If said granules are water soluble, (also, like sugar) it can become mixed with sweat and then permeate through the cloth to coat… other things. I think you see where I’m headed with this, so I won’t bore you (or gross you out any further) with any more details.

Suffice it to say, the next thing I did was take another shower. The next thing I did after that was make sure ALL the sugar was out of any other articles of clothing before wearing them. (Damn fairies) [Thus ended (thankfully and forever) the not so daring adventure of Captain Sugar Britches.]

Tired and perturbed, I decide to grab another hour of sleep, then went to scrounge in the Con Suite for scraps because I had missed yet another meal call. I hung out in the game room until the next panel I wanted to see rolled around at 2 PM.

At the Baen Traveling Slide show, I acquired swag and list of books that I want to read on top of all the ones I am already behind on reading. I wish those Parking fairies could make me read faster. I bailed out after the first hour for another panel of interest.

At 3 PM, I was educated on the International Space Treaty by Space Lawyer Laura Montgomery. This was fruitful in that it gave me a good idea for a short story. Did you know that if you catch a cold in space, that it could technically be illegal to let you come back to Earth because you now contain a mutated organism?

Next, I learned a lot about Planetary Formation, exoplanets, and n-body models (No, they were not Swedish, nor were they wearing bikinis. I told you before ‘XXX’ is Roman 20170701_160941.jpg

numerals for 30!) from the Science GoH, Elisa Quintana. She works for the SETI Institute on the Kepler program. They look for Earth-like planets in other solar systems. She wrote the predictive model that tries to explain how they form, and determine where a good place to look next will be. I’m pretty sure she is much smarter than anyone else at the Con. In fact, she is probably an extra terrestrial being with partial amnesia who is trying to use Earth’s resources to re-locate her home planet. I spoke to her afterwards and tried to convince her to turn her n-body model into a video game for nerds. I’d play it.

Am I boring you? Ah, who am I kidding, no one reads this blog anyway, so I’ll just keep going for my own sake.

The next event, hosted by my friend Doug Loss, was an RPG game called ‘One Last Job’. It’s an RPG where the players make up the story, describing what happens and giving out scars and legends to each other that can be used to help with dice rolls in situations that determine failure of success of the mission objectives. My new friend (Critter/MSU grad), his wife and I were the only ones who ended up playing due to the unfortunate time slot. Yep, right at meal time. I was starving by this point, so I had to beg a delay to get grub before the game. Anyway, it was still a great time. We invented some characters, told some lies and made some hilarious memories. Heck, I may even write the scenario up as a short story someday. You can get the pdf for the whole game and a few scenario ideas for free here.

After that, I tried to resolve some sleep deprivation, but… noise. Next year I will have earplugs that link to my phone so I can use them and still hear my alarm. Anyway, I gave up and returned to the game room where I was sucked into a game of Cards Against Humanity. It was deplorably fun, but I ended up with a migraine and had to abandon all hope at midnight. The parties below my room kept me from sleep for a few more hours. (The Choo Choo’s strike number three for me, as I had specifically asked to be on the other side. I would not stay there again even if the Con was not going to move.) I did get at least six hours I think, and the migraine went away.

When Sunday rolled around, I was up and checked out before the Kaffeeklatch started at 10AM. I decided to skip out early on that and instead just sat in the rocking chairs outside and enjoyed the morning air, which was not quite as stuffy as the day before. I caught up on email and Facebook, then headed to the Space Opera panel. It was fun, but mainly just turned into a ‘what’s your favorite/least favorite tv/movie space opera’ as answered by the ‘pros’.

I picked up my pre-auction art bid winnings (another neat print) at the Art Show and celebrated my friend Anita Moore’s win for Best 3D Art.

19657152_10154773811197005_9001426274413251804_n.jpg (960×540)

She does really amazing 3D-scapes that can be used for all kinds of miniature style game sets. If you’re in the market, you should definitely check her stuff out on her Facebook page here.

A round of lunch at a nearby shop with friends, old and new, followed by the Con closing Bitch Session, would conclude my LibertyCon XXX adventures. As I left, I thought I’d gotten the last laugh when I walked out the door and was right there at my truck. Then I realized I needed a new drink for the ride home and had to go get some ice… across the parking lot… at the back of the hotel.

Stupid Parking Fairies.

Review: A State of Disobedience

This is an older review (pre-blog) that I’m posting here because the book is currently available for FREE on Amazon. Go get a copy!

A State of Disobedience
A State of Disobedience by Tom Kratman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The amount of Awesome in this book is incalculable! If you are liberal in any way, do not read this book! Seriously, you might have convulsions, so don’t do it! If you are a conservative, read it and behold the awesome!

This is not one of my usual Sci-Fi books, but I chose it because I had read Kratman’s collaborations with John Ringo (Posleen Universe) in the Military Sci-Fi vein. This one is not exactly a Mil Sci-Fi, but more a Political Sci-Fi with Miltary involvement. The story is about the next civil war, if you want to call it that, beginning in the state of Texas when the power mongering POTUS sends the FBI (and the new Surgeon General’s Riot Control Police) to stomp on some abortion protestors. Things go way wrong, way fast, and the resulting tragedy is more that the Governor can stand. The story then begins to illustrate how things have gotten to the point of insanity, how the scenario could play out, and how, just maybe, the federal government could be brought back under control.

I absolutely loved every minute of this read, and would love to see more like it. I give it 5 stars and the call it a Super Awesome Kick-Ass Read!

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Review: StoryHack Action Adventure, Issue 0

StoryHack Action Adventure, Issue 0
StoryHack Action Adventure, Issue 0 by Bryce Beattie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this intro issue up just to see what it might be about, and the quality of the works chosen. This lower rating on this review isn’t necessarily fair because it is based on a faulty expectation on my part, but since I do these on Goodreads mainly as a reminder to ME of what I liked/disliked about the book/magazine/story, I have to give it anyway.

My biggest problem with it was not really the writing itself, but the sub-genre choices. I can’t say that anything in it stood out as a really great story, but they were all interesting in one way or another. The theme of the magazine is ‘Action & Adventure’, but I found that it leaned a bit heavily toward fantasy (magic) and the supernatural. That’s not bad, but it was not what I was expecting to read in it. They all fit the larger envelope, yes, but I want some sci-fi too. Robots or aliens or time travel, or maybe even dinosaurs would have helped. Thriller/spy stuff would have been a boost, too. Unfortunately, it’s just not in here.

Below are my reviews for the stories themselves:

A Tiger in the Garden” by Alexandru Constantin (2 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A disgraced and exiled noble, stripped of his status, spends his days drinking and whoring in the exotic jungle colonies. When pressed to pay his debts he gets entangled in a deadly plot involving deceit, murder, and the dark magic of the deep jungle.

I didn’t care for this one much. It took an unexpected twist at the end that seemed sudden and basically changed the sub-genre from pirate adventure to paranormal.

The Monster Without” by Julie Frost (2.5 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A werewolf private eye with serious save-the-damsel issues is on the hunt for the killer of a teenage girl. When a woman hires him to protect her from her abusive boyfriend, the cases collide in a way that may cost him his sanity-if not his life.

Urban fantasy/supernatural/noir combo that seemed like something I’ve read or seen before. Not bad, but I don’t like the supernatural stuff.

Hal Turk and the Lost City of the Maya” by David Boop (3 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A Texan bounty hunter has chased a criminal through Mexico and into Guatemala. Can he survive when he and his quarry fall captive to a bloodthirsty, long-forgotten ancient civilization?

Entertaining, but the main is a bit of a Mary Sue.

King of Spades” by David J. West (3 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: What happens when the dead come back to haunt us? General Joab has to find a way to free his king from the rising specter of a long thought dead Goliath.

I was very interested in this story from the start, as I have not seen many alternate takes on Biblical history like this. Unfortunately, once the source of the trouble was revealed, I was back to the ‘I really don’t like paranormal so much’ point again. I would have probably been able to suspend that, but the ending fell flat for me. I don’t see historic David reacting that way, so I just ended up thinking…’meh’.

“Desert Hunt” by Jon Mollison (4 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: The first steps in Karl Barber’s hunt for the leaders of a human trafficking ring land him in the ancient city of Cairo. His investigation takes an unexpected turn when the fate of a single girl compels him to strike before he’s ready.

Good, but too short. I wanted more. This is the type of story I was expecting in the magazine.

The Chronicle of the Dark Nimbus” by Keith West (3 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A cursed prince, is living in exile with his squire until the curse can be broken. They have been sent by their royal sorcerer to protect a thaumaturgist from assassination.

This one was a good action story in the fantasy genre. It starts in the middle and ends in the middle of an overarching tale that you don’t get to know about though. It felt like a chapter in an adventure novel.

Menagerie” by Steve Dubois (1 star)

Summary from Goodreads: In the Victorian era, a teenage countess and her motley band encounter a plot to restore the Confederate States of America.

The League of Extrodinary Goofballs outsmarts them dumb ole Rebels that just don’t know when to pick their own stinkin’ cotton. This one is clichéd as hell. It has a few funny moments, but not enough to save it from the awful plot.

Daughter of Heaven” by Shannon Connor Winward (4.5 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A dealer of ancient artifacts flies to Mars to identify a particularly interesting piece. Can he survive when he triggers the fulfillment of a world-destroying prophecy?

Best story in the set just from sheer scope. Great imagery, and a very nice imagining of a universal scale calamity.

Dead Last” by Jay Barnson (3.5 stars)

Summary from Goodreads: A junior-level agent for a modern-day magical cabal on embarks on his first field assignment. When a necromancer turns his contacts into gun-toting zombies, he must use every bit of his wits, talents, and sometimes inappropriate sense of humor to survive.

This is a better than average story due to some neat ‘tricks’ of the characters. Still, it is paranormal/magic kind of stuff which is not what I was wanting to read in this magazine.

So, maybe my expectations were off. Could it be that my mental taste buds were expecting savory and got sweet? Possibly. The stories were well written, just not my cup of tea. Unfortunately, the average comes out just under 3 stars. I’ll be generous and round up. Maybe the next issue will be better. I’d probably give it a shot. So, this one gets 3 stars and I call it a Variable Read.

If you want to give this one a try yourself, you can sign up for the newsletter and received a free copy at www.storyhack.com.

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Review: Tanager’s Fledglings

Tanager's Fledglings
Tanager’s Fledglings by Cedar Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This exciting coming of age tale among the stars really explores what it’s like to be an introvert that still needs people. Jem is a young man whose adopted patron has left him with a good education, a well founded route through the inhabited start systems in which to ply his trade, and a trading ship – the Scarlet Tanager – to do it in… if he can keep it.

The story is fun and engaging. You discover the star lanes, stations, and hazards of space travel as the main character experiences his first solo journey as a full-fledged ships captain… complete with dangers and decisions that he’s never had to make before. Despite a somewhat sedate pacing at first, with a good bit of youthful angst mixed in, you will definitely be pulled into the action as Jem is pulled into the happenings surrounding his various ports of call. From space mine rescues, to battling bureaucrats, to repelling boarders, when the other shoe drops, you soon find that Captain Jem, despite his self-doubts, is quite the man of action… ‘when needs must’. But he still has time for taking care of puppies!

There is also a very deep intrigue afoot in the galaxy, which reveals itself, along with a character from a prequel. I read the prequel first (which I liked very much), and after due consideration, I recommend that order. You could read it after without a problem, but I think my knowing something ahead of time made this book feel a bit more exciting as it was revealed to the characters. But, hey, YMMV. Discovering the history of one of the main characters after reading this might be right up someone’s alley!

Only two small complaints kept me from giving five stars here. First, in several places I saw a tendency to split phrases at points more indicative of verbal conversation. Unfortunately, they were not good, as I sometimes lost track of the subject, for reading through. (<– like that but maybe not quite so exaggerated). It threw me off my reading stride because I like to make sure I get the ‘tone’ of what I’m reading correct. When I fail, I have to go back and ‘try again’… and I hate do-overs! 🙂 Secondly, I did feel like the ending was somewhat abrupt. Not horribly so, but there is a lot of build up of the unknown outcome of Jem’s continued Captaincy after he completes his first trade circuit, but at the end it is given a quick-pass explanation which was I expecting to be more… IDK, just more. Then again, to paraphrase something I read in this novel… Since I’m not perfect, “I cannot be the bottleneck through which everything has to pass.” because “There’s another name for that.”
You should definitely judge for yourself, because the book is really good.

To conclude, the lead-up to a sequel is excellent, and I look forward to picking it up. I give this novel four starts and call it a Fully Fledged Adventurous Read!

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There’s No Dark Side to Critical Role – A Fisk of TheDMsCraft Video

This is not my normal blog fare. This is not a book review or some creative writing. This blog is about Dungeons & Dragons, and specifically about a video regarding Live Broadcast RPGs on the internet.

 

If you have never watched Critical Role, then this post is probably not going to make much sense to you. If you’ve never played D&D, or some other RPG (or at least watched someone play), then it definitely won’t. If you have, then you can get the gist of the discussion.

For those who don’t know, but want to keep reading… a bit of background…

The internet (youtube, twitch.tv, etc.) has created a platform for game streaming of all kinds: Video, Tabletop, RPGs, etc. RPGs themselves are a big & expanding part of that.

Critical Role is self-deCRshowPage-241x160[1]scribed as a program where ‘a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors get together and play Dungeons & Dragons’. It can be seen live on Geek & Sundry’s Twitch Channel Thursday’s at 7PM PST (10PM EST). It is nearly up to 100 episodes, most of which are at least 3 to 4 hours long, with many going longer. You can find all the back episodes on YouTube as well. The DM & players are Voice Actors with huge presences in video games, anime, and other media.  The cast is made up of Matthew Mercer as DM and the players: Liam O’Brien, Laura Bailey, Ashley Johnson, Travis Willingham, Sam Riegel, Taliesin Jaffee, and Marisha Ray. The most well known actress in the group is Ashley Johnson who plays Patterson from Blind Spot, and was also the child star who played Chrissy in Growing Pains. Taliesin Jaffee also played several child star roles, including the little boy with the woobie in Mr. Mom. IMDB these folks, and you will find a lot of credits. Anyway, it’s an excellent, entertaining show that I really enjoy watching each week.

If you want to see what it’s about, you can find Episode One here.  They start out seemingly ‘low budget’ in quality, but trust me, it gets progressively better and is so worth it. If you do start watching it, start from the beginning, and please come back and let me know. I would find it quite pleasing to know that someone began their CR journey through my blog!

Now, back to the subject of the blog…

After seeing this video by TheDMsCraft cross-posted on the Critical Role Fan Club on Facebook, I just had to comment on it. As a Critter, a fan of Critical Role, it seemed to me to be a video full of opinions that were pretty much all-around wrong, IMHO. DM Scotty seems to have a bit of an ego, and I think this video shows him to be feeling somewhat threatened in his niche. Anyway, it irritated me, as a fan, so I’m fisking the video. Topic points are paraphrased or summarized.

Watch the video first. Fisking below:

  • “I don’t feel that RPGs are a great spectator sport.”

Of course you don’t. That’s because you are looking at it from the perspective of control. You are a DM, and you don’t control this one. That grates on you, doesn’t it?

But, let’s examine the reason you actually stated. You are comparing it to the experience you get as a player; as someone who wants to be immersed and BE the ROLE PLAYER. However, if you actually watch the shows (which I suspect you have not, or at least not much because you are pre-biased against the possibility of it being good), you will soon come to realize that you can still get an emotional connection with the players and their characters. You can become vicariously attached to them in an emotionally satisfying way. And if the Player is great at it, it will have much more pull than you can imagine. This is no different from any long running series. Soap Operas, for instance have a very similar ongoing story that millions of people follow daily. Reality/Talk Shows pull in millions for short intense sessions of immersion in someone else’s lives (scripted or not)… think of these as One Shots. These are all spectator sport RPG analogs.

Can you get the same experience out of WATCHING an RPG vs. playing a character in one? No. It’s different. It’s not meant to give you that experience, it’s meant to give you a similar, yet unique one. And, since it’s mostly a new form of entertainment that’s evolving, we (fans and producers) are just discovering the actual format differences. Critical Role is not Acquisitions Incorporated, and neither of those is Harmon’s Quest… but none of them are ‘wrong fun’, and they all have loyal and large audiences. That fact alone disproves the initial argument.

  • The Camera Effect

Yes, there is a camera effect. It was noticeable when Critical Role started. It is still there now. They do tend to keep the audience in mind… as they should. They are not playing a home game for self entertainment. Although some fans argue – ad nauseum – that it’s ‘THEIR GAME’, they ARE playing for an audience. Granted, they have fun, and they have said that if it ever becomes ‘not fun’ for them then they will probably stop playing. Fair enough. But yes, Matthew Mercer as DM, with obvious consent from the players, guides the story to be ‘non-boring’ and keep it moving forward. For example: Shopping – a boring thing mostly, is done off-line, or when it’s done live, there are lots of comedic moments involved. If it gets bogged down, Mercer clamps down on it. Other example: Crafting – planned and done off-line for the most part. Other other examples: Character Advancement, XP awards, etc. All these things are not something the audience wants to watch unfold (well, some of us really nerdy folks might, but not most) so it gets done offline. That’s for the camera. So, yes the effect is there. So what? What’s wrong with that? Answer: nothing.

If what you are really concerned about is the effect on the way characters are played, then I have to say it is even less, and as time goes by, the camera is mostly forgotten and they just play their game. This is true for all the live RPGs I’ve ever watched. The Critical Role cast is a very talented group, and they do it very well. They also had the added benefit of established characters coming into the live stream. The cast of Aquisitions Incorporated plays toward the audience more, but I have also seen them tell the audience to shut-it! The new AI C-Team is very ‘chat’ participatory (Jerry Holkins actually lets them make narrative choices and refers to them as the Shadow Council). These Camera Effects are bonuses in my opinion. They don’t take anything away from the enjoyment, they add to it. The premise that the Camera Effect is in some way ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ is another ‘your fun is wrong’ statement that should not be applied to a Live View RPG event. Again, it is not the same as playing yourself, and it should not have to be.

  • DM Scotty would never make a basic mistake.

Oh come on dude! If you are as great/seasoned as you claim, then you should know that: A) No one knows all the rules, and B) The rules are made up, so changing them is OK, too. It’s right there in the DM guide… go lawyer it… I mean, look it up.

  • I’m the Best DM

Who are you again? Other than this video someone posted because you pissed them off, I’ve never heard of you before now.

  • Danger of Critical Role – Unreasonable Expectations

Yes, Scotty, we Critters understand that these are professional voice actors we are watching. No, they did not start out with the best equipment. It got better because the fans supported the show because they were just that good.

It is not edited, other than for rebroadcast. And why would you worry about someone watching the show being discouraged from playing because they can’t produce a twitch video? Didn’t you just say that the point of the game (paraphrase of your words) was to become a character, not show off for an audience? Your fears seem more to me like justifications for you dislike of something that is becoming more successful than you THINK you are. Again, who are you?

Also, you obviously don’t know squat about the Critter Community that’s sprung up around this show, or even Matt Mercer’s GM Tips. For those attempting to become GMs BECAUSE OF CRITICAL ROLE (tons of new face…BTW), the fact that they will not be close to flawless (aka, Mercer Level), and will have to work at it, is something that is known. And yes, they understand that playing does not require the use of many voices for characters, PC or NPC. We’re not as stupid as you must think. #WeKnow

The other thing you are not aware of, or simply discount, is that this community is very supportive. It’s a place where encouragement abounds. Tips, tricks, resources, and advice are freely shared here, and that, I believe, is going to grow Critters into a DM showcase. (Hmmm… Critter Certified DM has a nice ring to it. It should be on a shirt, maybe… or the bottom of a mug at least.) So, perhaps you don’t know enough about the audience of this show to even comment on things like this. Or, maybe you do, and that’s why you feel threatened in your niche? Either way, it’s an audience that you have very much riled up.

So, dear blog readers…to sum up…

Critical Role is a show that has succeeded beyond the expectations of anyone. It brought me into the world of D&D. I now play on a regular basis because of it. I will probably DM eventually. The rise in popularity of D&D, at this point in time, is a direct result of this show. I know it existed way before, but CR was a tipping point. I have a feeling D&D is about to peek it’s head into ‘mainstream’, which brings with it a whole other set of challenges for the ‘old school’ players. DM Scotty seems to be one of those. He’s seems worried that too many people will start having fun the wrong way, and maybe change the landscape too much for him. He doesn’t seem to realize that the side effect is that more people will enjoy the game the way he does as well, thus growing and giving new life to it. It’s going to be OK, Scotty. We can have our fun while you still have yours too.

Be Pleased.

Review: Machine World

Machine World
Machine World by B.V. Larson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have you ever known an intelligent person who routinely made stupid decisions because it seemed as if actually trying to think was painful to them? Meet James McGill, one of the smartest dumb-asses you’ll ever run across in science fiction. He’s just in the Earth Mercenary Corp because everyone has to have a job, and it might as well be this one. Despite the fact that he’s a voluntary soldier, he really hates taking orders that he finds to be stupid, which are most of them. That always gets him into trouble with almost every side of every situation he encounters… which of course means he up for promotion!

There are flaws in this book. I don’t care about them. It was fun to read, just like the others have been. There is just the right amount of intrigue mixed with ass-kickery to satisfy. The only slow parts (to me at least) were the agonizing self-manufactured woman troubles that McGill allows to happen.

The flaws that I chose to ignore are mostly the characters decision making processes. As soon as you think you know how McGill will react, nope… he does something else. He’s tends to be overly forgiving of some pretty hellish grievances from others, and he is lucky almost to a Mary-Sue fault.
The major flaw in this book which cost it the 5th star from me is the fact that two of the main antagonists were known to be in collusion by McGill at about 2/3 through the book, but at the very end it was stated that he only suspected it. This was an editorial mistake, but it was very glaring, because many of McGill’s decisions were based off that collusion being a fact, not a suspicion.

Still, I don’t want to just talk about the flaws. The action and world building were detailed without getting overly bogged down. The galactic, as well as human, political intrigue is still intense, and widening. The series is definitely going places, and intend to keep following it.

I give this book four stars and call it a Just Shut-Up and Enjoy The Ride Read.
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Review: The Whisperer in Darkness

The Whisperer in Darkness
The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was in my daily search of the internet for meaningless things, many of which connect unerringly to even more meaningless things – that is to say additional meaningless things rather than things that have even less meaning (although that too is potentially an outcome) that I happened across this short tome of bush-beating horror. Having read previous Lovecraftian lore, and realizing that this should be a somewhat simple endeavor, being only slightly over sixteen thousand words, I began to read. The tale of creeptastical fantasy and lore ever so slowly unwound with the typical style.

Herewith is an example of said style.

The story of which you are about to read is a scary one in which horrendously putridienous things occur. You will no doubt find them difficult to believe. If I had not been witness to them myself, I would hardly believe them either, but I assure you they are completely true; although I no longer have any evidence of their veracity, and find myself on the verge of insanity from just trying to get started telling you this story in a very long and meandering sentence. But first, you must look at this bush. It may seem to be an ordinary bush, and quite possibly it is, but it might not be, so pay close attention while I beat around its edges to make sure. I assure you that by doing so, I will extend the anticipation and sense of impending doom to a level that makes the really bad scary thing seem that much more so in the end.

Boo.

End style sample:

And there you have it. Lovecraftian horror at it’s core.

Oh, the story was pretty good. The narrator was an idiot who couldn’t resist the lure of the fantastical and almost ended up in a bad way. It’s not that long, so if you like Lovecraft, go read it. It’s free.

http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/t…

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