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Roleplaying Games: Variants vs. Homebrews? June 9, 2021

Posted by jkahane in dragonquest rpg, personal, rpg hut.
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As most of my Twitter followers, and perhaps some of the folks here who follow my blog(s) know, I’ve been doing a lot of work on the DragonQuest RPG campaign of mine of late, re-typing in various files and doing some clean-up of older materials as well. And a question occurred to me, actually based on something a friend of mine asked me.

What is the point when a game becomes a variant or a home-added (or homebrew) game?

I don’t think I know or understand the difference between the two terms, and whether it has to do with adding new materials to the game while still using the game’s actual rules and mechanics, or whether it’s about strictly changing the game rules and mechanics themselves.

So what do folks think about this?

Happy World Oceans Day! June 8, 2021

Posted by jkahane in celebration, holiday.
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Today is World Oceans Day.

World Oceans Day is a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future. World Oceans Day has been around since 2002, and was officially recognised by the United Nations in 2008, recognising June 8th as the day. Not sure what this year’s theme is, but individuals and organizations across the planet are taking action for prevention of plastic pollution in our ocean.

The oceans are a necessary, nay vital!, part of our ecosystem, and it’s the only one we’ve got. Be kind to the environment, not just the oceans, but also enjoy the oceans today and everyday.

And remember, healthy oceans = healthy planet!

Books Read in May, 2021 June 3, 2021

Posted by jkahane in book hut, dragonquest rpg, month total, reading hut, review, rpg hut.
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A new month. Thus, as is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my May, 2021 reads.

Books Read in May, 2021

Between Silk and Sand by Marissa Doyle

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Magebird Quest by Dave Sering (RPG) (r)

Starsilver Trek by Diane Mortimer & Bill Pixley (RPG) (r)

The Treasure of Socantri by Gerry Klug (RPG) (r)

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong

The Shattered Statue by Paul Jaquays, David J. Ritchie & Gerry Klug (RPG) (r)

Heroes and Villains by Edward R.G. Mortimer (RPG) (r)

The Pirates of Pompeii by Caroline Lawrence

Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers (r)

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan (r)

March, 2021 Locus

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

And that was my reading for May, 2021. This was a pretty good month of reading for me, both in terms of the quality of the books read and the quantity of books read. Again, it doesn’t seem like I read a lot of books in May, simply because I was back working (again) on getting some gaming stuff ready for the DragonQuest, 2nd Edition RPG. I re-read a number of game adventures for the DragonQuest RPG as part of the months reads (noted above), and a couple of the other books read this past month were a bit of a slog to get through. It was another month of getting back to reading for the joy of it, rather than reading because I was bored and had nothing better to do. Made for a good change, again. Regardless, my bookcases are stacked with a pretty large To Read Queue (TRQ) still. The books I enjoyed the most were:

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong – Nightmarish villains with superhuman enhancements. An all-seeing social network that tracks your every move. Mysterious, smooth-talking power players who lurk behind the scenes. A young woman from the trailer park. And her very smelly cat. Together, they will decide the future of mankind. Get ready for a world in which anyone can have the powers of a god or the fame of a pop star, in which human achievement soars to new heights while its depravity plunges to the blackest depths. A world in which at least one cat smells like a seafood shop’s dumpster on a hot summer day. This is the world in which Zoey Ashe finds herself, navigating a futuristic city in which one can find elements of the fantastic, nightmarish and ridiculous on any street corner. Her only trusted advisor is the aforementioned cat, but even in the future, cats cannot give advice. At least not any that you’d want to follow. Will Zoey figure it all out in time? Or maybe the better question is, will you? After all, the future is coming sooner than you think. The first book in the Zoey Ashe series, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits is a weird and eccentric ride that will enthrall some readers and turn off others. I honestly don’t know what to say about this book. Set in a world that is ridiculously violent and social media oriented, the basic plot is simple enough. The problem is that the characters here come across as one-dimensional, although our protagonist, Zoey Ashe, is fleshed out a lot more. Zoey is a strong character, but she tends to react to everything in the story, not really becoming active and part of the action until the last quarter of the novel, and even then, the sheer physical violence perpetrated on her in the last part of the novel was so over the top and really “futuristic” that I found it somewhat unbelievable. That said, most of the characters in the novel are brutal, cruel and mysoginistic, and they treat Zoey quite horribly. The main (super)villain of the piece, Molech, is totally one-dimensional and comes across as a truly stereotypical cyberpunk-ish type, but at least for the most part one understands what his goal is and what his purpose in the book is. The fun in this novel really comes from The Suits, the men (and one woman) who worked for Zoey’s late father who are sworn to protect her. These characters come across as a bit more multi-dimensional, more complex people, but the reader only sees them this way through flashes, since this is, after all, Zoey’s story. And, like I said, even they don’t treat Zoey all that well. The prose of this book is all right, but drags at times with exposition. When the action happens, and there’s actually quite a lot of it throughout the course of the novel, it’s non-stop and fast-paced, but quite over the top and somewhat bloody. That said, the book is also hilarious, though I’m not sure some of the humour will appeal to some readers. The book could have used an edit to reduce the page count by about 50 to 100 or so. This book was certainly entertaining, and I would definitely recommend this book as an octane-filled ride for a good summer’s entertaining read, but it’s definitely weird and eclectic.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig – Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets? Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better? In The Midnight Library, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place. When it comes down to it, this is the ultimate “What would I have done differently?” story. This book will certainly make the reader think and might give the reader some new perspective on life. The reader should be aware that this book starts somewhat darkly, but when it comes down to it, the story is one that is uplifting by the end. The novel, plain and simple, is about recognizing all the possibilities of your life, but it’s more about letting go the regrets of what you could have been. The protagonist, Nora Seed is miserable, miserable enough to be not only thinking about suicide, but acting on it. Instead of the blackness of death, she awakes in the Midnight Library accompanied by her Elementary School librarian, Mrs. Elm. Mrs. Elm explains that the library is filled with books that represent all the possibilities of her life, an infinite number of paths, created by an infinite number of choices. When she chooses a book, she will be transported into the life, and can live it until she decides if it’s a life she would want to continue. Author Matt Haig’s writing is very good – clever, clean, and with no distractions, yet full of great observations and insights. Nora’s character is a deep one, and is fully explored during the course of the story. One thing that bothered me is the fact that she is an extremely talented character – she could have been a rock star, an Olympic swimmer, a successful Ted Talk speaker, etc. – but this lends Nora depth, and provides an interesting set of alternatives to what Nora’s life could have been. That drives home the book’s main theme. My real problem with the book is the mechanism that allows Nora to revisit her past: a suicide attempt. This is an uncomfortable subject for a lot of people, and while I appreciated the author’s take on the subject and the challenge that it represents to the reader, it seemed to be dangerous to have the suicide attempt itself be the mechanism for triggering the chance to relive one’s life. That, and the fact that suicide really is never the answer and wastes the potential of a valuable and valued life. When it comes down to it, this matter could have been handled through time travel, a magic potion, a freak accident, anything but a suicide attempt. That said, The Midnight Library is a very well written parable of one woman’s journey to find meaning in her life and move beyond her regrets. It is well worth a read, and I recommend it. I know that I’ll be checking out some of Matt Haig’s other work based on my read of this book.

The Pirates of Pompeii by Caroline Lawrence – Following the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius in A.D. 79, hundreds of refugees take shelter in makeshift camps. When children begin to go missing, Flavia Gemina and her friends Jonathan, Nubia, and Lupus investigate. What is the truth behind the powerful and charismatic man known as the Patron? And can the friends survive when facing pirates, slave-dealers – and death? This is the third book in the Roman Mysteries series featuring Flavia Gemina and her friends, Jonathan, Nubia, and Lupus, and continues on almost immediately from the events in the second book, The Secrets of Vesuvius – a Pompeii devastated by the eruption of the volcano, that also has significant ramifications for those living in the surrounding area as well. The story is set after the events of the eruption of Vesuvius, and involves a fabulously wealthy almost godfather-like type (is he a kindly family man or the hypocritical head of a Roman crime syndicate – or both?) and slave traders who are profiting by rounding up for sale the many orphaned children and runaway slaves in the area after the eruption. While the novel starts off somewhat slowly, the reader gains more insight into the four main protagonists, notably Nubia (and we learn that isn’t her actual name). While the other characters get some character development here as well, Nubia’s character and background are fleshed out some more, and the story is also about the Flavia/Nubia relationship of mistress and slave, among other things, with Flavia being poorly influenced by both the Patron, Publius Pollius Felix, and his eldest daughter, Polla Pulchra. The last third of the book sees the friends in serious danger, and the action is pretty much non-stop until the end of the book. This book has lots of cliffhangers and mini-mysteries, but the best part of the novel is the children’s relationships, the accurately drawn setting, and the unflinching look at slavery in the Roman world. Author Lawrence does a good job of handling the topic of slavery in this novel, making it horrible enoough for middle-grade kids to understand, but not to the point they will be overwhelmed by it, though there are some bits here that are explicit enough to have made this reader wince at how the children slaves are treated. That said, this third book in the series changes the dynamics between several of the characters, and is just a fine read (though a bit tedious in the first third of the book) that offers up some interesting background on several of the main characters. While this book stands alone, I do suggest reading the second book in the series first. Highly recommended.

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines – Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror, he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped. With the help of a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of oak cudgels, Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. And his search will uncover dangerous secrets about Libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic… This book is the first in the Magic ex Libris series, and was a pleasant surprise. I’m a fan of librarians, and there are some really good novels (and shorter fiction) about them, but when it comes down to it, Libriomancer is a love letter to science fiction and fantasy books, well, just books in general. The world of this book, and presumably its sequels, is our world, but with a magical world behind the scenes. Not so different than a lot of books and series with an urban fantasy feel, but what makes this book different is the incredibly unique magic system. In this version of the world, full magical ability is very rare, but lesser magical ability is slightly less rare, and Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press and a fledgling sorcerer, learned that belief magnifies (their) power. This power comes about when multiple people read the same book, and the readers’ collective beliefs in the book allow a libriomancer to reach into the world of the book and pull anything that can fit out into the real world. This ability does not come without cost, as it requires energy to manifest the items, and if the ability or book is overused, the characters from the book can possess the libriomancer and the fabric of reality can be threatened. It’s an incredibly unique, really thought provoking concept, especially for afficionados of fantasy. Add to that the story is filled with inside comments, jokes, and cameos from real world books, both big ad small, as well as some fake books created for the story, and it just adds to the life of the nature of magic in this story and what libriomancers can do. The various characters in this book are also quite distinctive and strong in style and feel, notably the two main characters. Isaac Vainio, the disgraced libriomancer (from whose perspective the story is told), makes for a good narrator, and we learn a great deal about him, his view of the world, and the magic of this world. Lena Greenwood, the dryad companion who comes to Isaac for help after the events that befell the Porter psychologist/psychotherapist, gives the reader a unique magical connection to the world, and has an interesting background and personality. While the interplay between Isaac and Lena makes the story both endearing and gives it real emotion, the reader learns a lot about Libriomancy through the two characters, as Isaac either explains something about it to Lena or thinks about it. Their relationship is one that will seem familiar to a lot of readers, but there are some very nice twists and turns. The story has some interesting other characters in it, and while the various Porter (the organization that Isaac works for) characters are quite distinctive, it’s the taxonomy of vampires that was fascinating somewhat here, too. In this world, even people that are untrained sometimes sink their hand into the world of the book, graze the fangs of a vampire, and then they themselves become a vampire, with all of the powers and vulnerabilities of the breed described in the book. The vampire plot of the story would make a good tale in and of itself, but this is the story about Isaac, libriomancy, and Lena, and their seeking out what’s going on and the mystery of what happened to Johannes Gutenberg. This was a fun, entertaining read that picks up speed after about page 40 and then takes the story not only in fascinating directions, but offers up glimpses of slices of this magical world. Highly recommend this book. And I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book, and see where author Hines goes with it.

Overall, I managed to read 7 novels, 5 RPGs and RPG products, 1 magazine, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in May. This brings the year total in 2021 to a set of numbers that look like this: 29 books, 12 RPGs and RPG products, 5 magazines, 37 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

‘Tis the 1st of June June 1, 2021

Posted by jkahane in cangames, conventions, diabetes, dragonquest rpg, health hut, life, new month, pandemic, personal, rpg hut.
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June 1st. The start of a new month.

And I am so happy to see the end of May. (And I suspect that most people out there feel the same way.)

Last month was a pretty wretched month for me (and lots of other people). Most of this can be attributed to the current status of the world order and society in general due to the COVID-19 pandemic (which shows no sign of slowing down, to be honest, despite the vaccination crusade going on out there) and the self-isolation and lockdown that was imposed and is still partially in effect for the most part. While the self-isolation and lockdown are being eased so as to restart the economy everywhere, the virus is showing quite clearly that it’s not done with us for the most part. Regardless, the world around us and the social nature of humans has also shown its ugliness during the course of the pandemic, with terrible events happening (that I’m not going into here). Needless to say, I was pretty sad that CanGames 2021 did not happen this year, due to the coronavirus shutdowns everywhere and limited social activity if any at all. Other than a bit of gaming in September/October of 2020, I’ve not gamed since February or March of last year. I’m missing the gaming obviously, but that’s due more to the social interaction and seeing people during the gaming sessions. Heck, I’ve not seen my goddaughter in over six months, and that was only because of some of the gaming we did in late 2020, and– ah, never mind. Not going to dwell on this.

I’ve spent much of May dealing with severe foot and leg pain, major problems with my left hip/abdomen, a potental cancer diagnosis, and some diabetic problems that I’ll not discuss for the moment. I was pretty miserable for much of May (and still am, to some extent) that I was hit with a major period of depression. I’m still suffering somewhat from that, and am feeling pretty lonely and lonesome. That said, I did manage to do a fair amount of reading in May, and have made some in-roads on working on old DragonQuest RPG materials, and making notes on new stuff for the game. Watching mostly game shows, and haven’t really been watching a lot of DVD stuff (those are starting to pile up). Not a lot of positives in my life, but still I’m trying to take what I can get.

On the down side with June, this is the day that usually truly heralds the coming of summer for me, and the hot weather that I really dislike. It’s been a pretty hot month of May, with some bitterly cold weather as well, so that doesn’t augur well for June. The allergy season is in full swing, and is a brutal one, and I’m suffering from that as well. The month ahead is full of doctor/hospital appointments for me, and lots of blood tests, to see what’s going on with the potential cancer business, but the COVID-19 pandemic is interfering with the scheduling of other tests, so we’ll see what happens with that.

Anyway, June is off to a somewhat quiet, not great start, though the weather is heating up to start the month off. And the hospital tests and stuff start later today.

In the meantime, I have to try not to fall into a deep depression about things and the fact that I don’t see or talk to anyone, other than my mom once in a while and one of my friends once a week.

“One day at a time in June” is my motto.

Happy Memorial Day May 31, 2021

Posted by jkahane in health hut, holiday, pandemic.
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Today is Memorial Day down in the U.S. of A.

I want to wish all my friends a pleasant and safe Memorial Day.

While I understand that folks want to celebrate and enjoy the day, just remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is still continuing out there, and regardless of folks getting vaccinations, play safe out there this weekend (if you have to) and stay healthy.

‘Nuff said.

Happy Birthday, Ben Mansfield May 29, 2021

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Happy Birthday, Ben Mansfield!

Today is actor Ben Mansfield‘s birthday. Mansfield is the hunky actor who played Captain (don’t call me Hilary!) Becker for three Series of the Primeval tv series.

Here’s wishing Ben Mansfield, who turns 38 years young today, a very Happy Birthday, and a terrific year ahead!

Happy Towel Day! May 25, 2021

Posted by jkahane in celebration, holiday.
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Just want to wish everyone a Happy Towel Day!

While it is a celebration of the life of Douglas Adams and all that good stuff, there is a message in there as well for everyone, even if one doesn’t see it. So do something towel-ish today, and celebrate all things Hitchhiker. 🙂

Happy Victoria Day! May 24, 2021

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Happy Victoria Day!

Today is Monday, Victoria Day.

I would like to wish all my fellow Canadians and all my Canadian LJ friends a very Happy and safe Victoria Day.

This year’s celebrations will be somewhat, if not completely, muted due to the presence world-wide of the COVID-19 pandemic that still continues to plague the world, but regardless of that, have a good day, get some rest in preparation for the (albeit shorter) week to come, and if you manage to be around or see any fireworks tonight, be safe and enjoy!

The CanGames That Isn’t II May 21, 2021

Posted by jkahane in cangames, conventions, gaming hut, health hut, pandemic, personal, rpg hut.
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Today, May 21st, the start of the Victoria Day weekend here in Canada, would have been the first day of the local CanGames gaming convention here in Ottawa for 2021.

Sadly, of course, that will not be the case due to the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to plague the world still. The CanGames staff decided to postpone/cancel this year’s edition of the convention once more, a decision that I fully agree with despite the current rise in vaccination rates (but mostly the first jab still). I presume that the Rideau Curling Club is still shut down at the moment, and won’t open likely for some time yet.

In the meantime, here’s the listing of two of the three games that I had hoped to run at the convention this weekend.

Game: DragonQuest, 2nd Edition RPG (with home rules)
Time: 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Number of Players: 5/6
Description: An attack on a small community near a dreaded forest leaves several villagers dying of a terrible moredhel poison. Can your player characters retrieve the herbal cure for the toxin before it’s too late?

Journey to Arian
Game: DragonQuest, 2nd Edition RPG (with home rules)
Time: 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Number of Players: 5/6
Description: A merchant has hired your player characters to transport a series of packages by mule from the town of Silvertown to the village of Arian in a specified amount of time. Can you make the delivery on time? And is the job exactly what it seems to be?

To be honest, I was quite sad to hear there would be no CanGames 2021 this year as I was quite looking forward to it, but I wasn’t surprised. That said, CanGames needs all the help it can get. It is a small gaming convention that doesn’t do as much advertising as it should, and needs to bring more attention to itself so as to keep the eyes of the gaming world on itself, and attract and bring more people in to attend it. But more importantly, I firmly believe that CanGames has outgrown the Curling Club venue that it’s based at, and needs a new, more airy, tidier, food friendly place as a venue.

In the meantime, to all my gamer friends out there, be safe and be healthy. And I’ll see you at CanGames 2022! 🙂

Should I Be Worried? May 19, 2021

Posted by jkahane in health hut, pandemic, personal.
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Today is exactly 5 weeks since I had the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to combat the COVID-19 disease and pandemic.

As I noted back in this journal entry, the appointment for the second jab was cancelled that day. And I have been unable to (re)book the second appointment to get the second dose of the vaccine.

My doctor said that because of my health (the diabetes, the fact that I’m severely immuno-compromised, and a few other things), I should get my second dose by no later than the end of July. However, I am unable to book the second apppointment (just tried again moments ago), and the folks at the other end of the vaccination booking set-up couldn’t tell me when I’d be able to arrange this. I keep getting the same answer: “Soon”.

Should I be starting to get worried about this not being booked? What happens if I don’t get the second jab within four months of the first one?