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Site Help / I can't log in on FireFox or anything but IE
« Last post by Cheka Man on August 20, 2017, 08:35:39 PM »
and in IE the ideas box jams up when I try to submit ideas to this site. :(
News and Announcements / Re: Slow Going...
« Last post by Strolen on August 13, 2017, 08:45:09 PM »
I have many regrets, Aramax. I am bad at those type of things and my time in NJ was pretty darn busy. I never got up to see Murometz either.

Now I am in OK trying to settle in and figure out life for the next few years.
Cavern of Inane Natter / Re: The Call of Captain thulu v.4
« Last post by Scrasamax on August 13, 2017, 06:41:52 AM »
So one of the weird things thats suddenly gotten popular here where I live is rock painting.


My wife has gotten into it, and I have painted a few myself.
Cavern of Inane Natter / Re: The Call of Captain thulu v.4
« Last post by Quinton Segonia on August 11, 2017, 12:26:00 AM »
Good to know, thanks!

Oh how I dream of a Calphalon set some day... I moved back home and make best use of secockpit of my parents don't invest a whole lot in cookware since neither of them cook much. Our pans are probably my biggest issue right now, if not the general lack of more niche equipment. I really need to get a cake decorating stand.
(Or maybe a job.)

Yes,that's really a good idea,hope you good luck.
Citadel Tavern / Re: [THACO's Hammer] Splatbook updates
« Last post by DMRendclaw on August 08, 2017, 07:42:10 AM »
Splatbook 136 - Here, Kitty Kitty!

We’re busting out the catnip in this episode! Join DMs Brian, Glen, Cory and Fulongamer as they explore various feline persuasions! After answering a few emails, the gents settle down to work. They begin with the overview of the rakasta race in Dragon Magazine, then discuss the Cat’s Grace spell, then wrap things up with an oview of the various breeds of winged cats.

You can find us on Osrgaming.org, d20radio.com, Tumblr, Facebook, iTunes, Planetadnd.com and Twitter (@thacoshammer), as well as our home page at http://www.thacoshammer.info. If you are looking for an RSS feed or a different way of downloading the show directly, the address is: http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/94174. If you are looking for our Actual Play (AP) podcasts, you can find them on iTunes (search for WGP's OSR AP Podcasts), or you can go to http://feeds.feedburner.com/osractualplaypodcasts. You can also email the show at thacoshammer@gmail.com, and you can leave a voicemail for the show at 405-806-0555.

Email from DM Halseeker (past history, using software for writing adventures and campaigns)
Email from DM Freddy (incorporating sports and athletics into a 2e campaign)
Email from Chantelle Jones (speeding up combat)

People Skills – Rakasta (Dragon #247)
Magic Fingers – Cat’s Grace
Snipe Hunt – Winged Cat
Tomes and Illusions / Re: What books do you read?
« Last post by axlerowes on August 06, 2017, 09:32:29 PM »
Review of Empire of Chains by Ryan W. Mueller

Short Answer: It scares me that people enjoyed this book. People think this is good? I wish Strolen had read it (actually I wouldn't wish that on anyone) but I wish somebody would pay Strolen to edit it. He would destroy this rambling piece of word pain.

Long Answer:

Was John Steinbeck fantasy adventure fiction’s greatest fanboy?  His first novel, Cup of Gold, is a straight forward-pirate adventure that is also a retelling of the adventures of Captain Morgan (the English pirate they named the rum after).   Towards the end of his life Steinbeck finally began working on his life’s obsession: the legend of King Arthur. Steinbeck spent the last decades of his life re-writing and retelling Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur.  He never finished the work.  What classifies Steinbeck’s first and last works as fanboy efforts are that they are not original works, but the result of enthusiasm that has been driven to imitation.  Unlike other Steinbeck works, that were inspired by real life events around him, Steinbeck’s first and last works were extensions of the fiction and historical tales that he loved.  I assert that is what separates the fan from the fanboy;  the fan enjoys the media, the fanboy uses the media as a launch pad for his own ideas.  While some (Goethe) might dismiss genre works or fan fiction as coarse emulation, I think Steinbeck is proof that purposely derivative works can still be art.

Ryan W. Mueller’s book Empire of Chains (2017 available through Amazon) is an attempt to recreate the classic high fantasy epic. Mueller describes his book (at www.sffworld.com) as

“an epic fantasy for people who miss classic epic fantasy…I set out with the intention of giving fantasy readers a lot of those comfortable elements. They're the kinds of stories I still have a soft spot for. It's full of action, and I think I did an interesting twist on the dark lord trope.” 

Mueller is obviously an enthusiastic fan of the genre, and we can all understand his desire to appreciate fantasy fiction by contributing to it.  Mueller’s story is boiler plate stuff.  The evil emperor executes the mother of a teenage noble because the mom was plotting to over throw the emperor.  She was guilty, no argument there.  But the daughter of the dead woman grows into adulthood bent on revenge.  Through careful research in her castle’s library, when she isn’t practicing archery or sword play with the castle guards, the young noble woman (Nadia) learns of a spell that can kill the Emperor. He is not the kind of emperor that can be taken out by a rotted piece of horse flesh or a stray arrow to the eye.  The Emperor killing spell is called “White Fire” and to cast the spell she needs to obtain three scrolls. She eventually pulls everyone she meets and knows into this quest.

The interesting hook in Mueller’s story is that evil emperor knows of Nadia’s plan and indeed wants Nadia to carry out.  The emperor can “read the webs of fate” and he can see all (or most) possible futures.  It is the emperor that is indirectly guiding Nadia and her crew.  He pushes them to pursue his assassination and tries his best to protect them while they are doing it.  The Emperor believes that everything he is doing is for the greater good of humanity and he tells himself that this cruel overlord shtick is nothing more than an act and that deep down he is a good guy. It is a wonderfully interesting premise. I only wish Mueller was able to write prose as interesting as his premise and that he'd been able to bring his novel to a satisfactory conclusion.

Mueller takes a number of risks with his writing, which do succeed in making the writing style different than other epic fantasy novels but ultimately undercut his story.  First, most of his story is told through dialog and Mueller has no talent for dialog or any sense of the pacing of speech.  The characters in Empire of Chains talk as if they are in a bad radio play and lampshade all their actions.  For example, when one character is hiding in a closet he over hears the guards outside talking to each other aloud about whether or not they are going to search the closet.  A character falls off a bridge into rushing water and the other characters have to time argue before jumping in after.  The characters are always speaking aloud their entire litany of feelings and their own personal logic.   Consider the following excerpt.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Danica said. “I just don’t care for the thought of spending so long in dark cave. Not that there is anything to do about it. I just have to approach it with the best attitude possible.”     

While the character of Danica most resembles a summer camp song leader in attitudes and platitudes all the characters speak in essentially the same manner.  When given the choice of being subtle or overtly explaining something, Mueller’s characters always go the overt route.  The content of the conversations is also redundant.  In almost every chapter Nadia tells people “that she is going to kill the Emperor.”

In addition to being repetitive and clumsy with dialog, Mueller also doesn’t risk a large vocabulary in his writing.  I understand the desire and the need to cut back on the use of purple prose in fantasy fiction, but Mueller writes at close to a fifth-grade level.  Furthermore, he uses a lot of modern colloquialisms. For example, character’s don’t run away they “take off”.  It might be acceptable if the narrator had a voice that justified this, but there is no strong voice to the prose. Everything is written in a tight third person that switches between the main characters.

Finally, I personally disliked the top down view and show-not-tell use of meta-vocabulary Mueller and his characters employ to describe things.  When discussing a story or a video game, I might use the terms quest, party, hero or monster, but I don’t use them to describe my day-to-day life.  Remember Mueller’s character communicate in very modern English. There is a town that is literally terrorized by something referred to only as ‘a monster’, and when describing a transcontinental cave system the guide says ‘there will be monsters’. Fans of fantasy know that a monster is scarier and more monstrous when it has a name.  The use of generic and repetitive words makes the world feels flat and poorly thought-out.  In one particular paragraph, I noted every sentence had the word hero in it.  Mueller should come up with proper names for his monsters and crack out a thesaurus from time to time.

There are more things that disappointed in this book. The ending was anti-climatic and poorly paced. The two main characters got shallower as the book went on and not deeper.  Halfway through the book, God shows up and the characters start having discussions about how to maintain faith in an absent God in a cruel world.  The role of religion and faith in this world had not been explored and comes out of left field.  There were many pointless descriptions of combat and tangents the lead nowhere. I think Nadia actually ran away from home three times. The book was overlong. It was not a fun book to read. I lower my bar for self-published works, but this one was a chore. I pushed through so I could leave an honest review.

Steinbeck said of the Le Morte de Arthur, that he didn’t care as much for the content of the book as much as he loved the language.  The book was beautifully written in his opinion but it didn’t do the characters in these epic stories justice.  In Steinbeck’s retelling of the Arthurian legend, he puts that right. Mueller’s story suffers from the opposite problem; there is an interesting idea in the Empire of Chains, but the author didn’t care about the art of writing enough to give us prose or characters that pop of the page.  Like Mallory’s Le Morte de Arthur, Empire of Chains gives us lots of battles but not enough character. I hope someday Empire of Chains will get the fanboy treatment and we finally get an exploration of this corrupted, clairvoyant and well-meaning Emperor.  I believe Mueller has a good story to tell, but I think he will need somebody else to do the telling.

Citadel Tavern / JULY 2017 HIGHLIGHTS
« Last post by Kevin Cook on August 05, 2017, 12:21:48 PM »
If you are not interested in new or rare dice that were added to the worlds largest collection of dice this month ... Please ignore this post

What's wrong with this picture? Click on the photo above to see the highlights of dice added in July 2017 

Citadel Tavern / MoonHunter has a blog
« Last post by MoonHunter on August 04, 2017, 10:32:09 PM »
I do have a new blog. Updated at least three days a week.  It is, of course, about gaming. 

So, if you want to see what I am babbling about, visit here.


Cosmic Pluralism / Re: Cosmic Era Progress Log
« Last post by Jeremiah on August 04, 2017, 04:19:10 AM »
New submission up


The economy of the Atlantic Federation is a mix of universal basic income, free to play/pay2win gaming, and post-scarcity digital abundance.

I don't expect this sub to get a lot of waterproof marine power inverters , it's economic in nature, and the evil within isn't the tentacle dripping sanity shredding kind, just the callous pragmatic kind that we are all too used to.

I've been thinking about this piece for a while, tandem currencies like in the freemium games, and what sort of economy would exist after Capitalism, after America, post scarcity.

And it's kinda frightening.

That's really helpful.
Tomes and Illusions / Re: What books do you read?
« Last post by axlerowes on August 03, 2017, 08:15:08 AM »
A review of the Book Nanotech Deliverance by Evan Hirson.

Short answer: It is awful.

Long answer:
I use to work next door to a neuroscience lab (I was doing infectious disease research). The scientists in that lab studied the cognition of reality by placing nanofibers into individual neurons in the brain. Using this system, which was apparently quite comfortable once you got use to it, the researchers could predict what a subject was going to see (in terms of the perceived object’s spatial relation to the subject) before the subject had physically responded to stimuli. In short, your brain already knew what you were going to see before you looked at it. What surprised me most about this research was how cavalier all these young scientists were about the results.  I am not a neuroscientist, so I didn’t try to refute their findings, but this brought up all kinds of questions for me about choice and the nature of reality.  If my neurons are conspiring to create a perception of reality before light even hit my retinas than how can I make true choices?   


Nanotechnology and choice are two of the topics I had to wrestle with when reading Evan D. Hirson’s science fiction novel Nanotech Deliverance (published in 2016, available through Amazon). Hirson’s work is an account of a few months in the life of a young man named Russell. Russell is living in a near future time in which people still have motorcycles, snow still falls in New York and the headlines are still dominated by the acts of war and terrorism.  But according to Russell it is not all bad though because there are jetpacks.  One day Russell comes home to find his best friend, a maternal middle-aged neighbor, being interrogated by a couple of government types in black suits.  In short order Russell learns that the black suits are part of an international organization aimed at stamping out a covert alien invasion (I am giving little away here. This is revealed in the first 10% of the book). The extraterrestrials outwardly appear human and indeed his middle-aged neighbor/best friend is on of those aliens. But unlike the malign otherworlders that are seeking to enslave humanity, Russell’s neighbor is a good egg.  After a couple of violent encounters with ‘gang members’ Russ and his friend prove their worth and join forces with the anti-alien task force.  Russ’s admission to the multinational men-in-black task force is a fortuitous turn for humanity, because it turns out that Russ has a special quality that makes him the key to defeating the alien menace. What is Russ’s special quality? He has a deep well of inner rage that when properly channeled and augment makes him almost invincible.


As I read the book though I wasn’t sold on Russell’s emotional depth or his inner struggles with anger and control.  Part of the reason for this lack of connection is that Hirson makes a lot of risky choices in his style of writing. Most of the book is written in a tight third person in which the setting is described in line with Russell’s own opinions and thoughts. For example, one of those initial black suits is a woman of Japanese descent who is one “of the most beautiful Orientals he’d ever seen” and is later described in the narration as the “Japanese bombshell” or a “contemporary female samurai”.   However, there are events and exchanges when Russell will suddenly leave the page and we are suddenly in a limbo of perspective. This makes the voice of the novel unclear. Another risk that Hirson takes is to name characters and refer to recollections that are never explored.  Russell thinks to himself that he should contact Josh, the only friend from his youth, but Josh is never mentioned again.  The tattooed ‘gang member’ Sean passes by on a motorcycle but is never mentioned again.  The setting is also introduced slowly and clumsily. It is not until I was half way through the book that I realized most of it was happening in Western Australia.


Then there are the tangents. There is a silly chapter in which Russ battles ‘terrorists’ that has nothing to do with the larger plot.  Characters, such as Nathan, are mentioned by name and given actions without any previous introduction.  Hirson’s writing choices are also challenging; paragraphs often have no clear subject and he is willing to risk a sentence fragment or two. Yet the writing style has a kinetic energy that helped me push past the tangents, and the rapid changes in perspective.  While the prose isn’t art, it is enthusiastic and that enthusiasm comes through the text.


But Nanotech Deliverance is science fiction.  As Kurt Vonnegut told us, a science fiction fan will forgive a lot of poor prose if the ideas explored in the text are strong and engaging. Nanotech Deliverance does have a lot of interesting and compelling science fiction concepts. Unfortunately, Hirson wastes every concept introduced in the novel so that he can focus on the Mary Sue character that is Russell. For example, the aliens have a  device called the pyschotramua machine. This device is making humans more violent and is the cause for the increasing violence in the world.  There are a lot of things that could be explored with narrative construct like this.  Are the ‘terrorists’ and ‘gang members’ still morally responsible for their actions?  Are the main character’s being altered by this device? Can you have any trust in others or yourself when this device exists? These questions are not explored. By the end of the book the device is irrelevant to the plot.


There is also the titular nanotechnology. These microscopic pieces of alien hardware are injected into our heroes and the devices give them super strength, longer life and super intelligence.  This is another interesting narrative device that could be used to explore self and choice or at least there could be some ambiguity as to whether the nanobots are even a force for good. But Hirson doesn’t spend any time on any of these questions.  All the nanobots do is make the good guys super strong, with Russell being the strongest one.


There is also a ‘second brain’ that the aliens have in which they retain racial memories.  Another fantastic concept wasted by Hirson.  How does having racial memories change your sense of self?  Not really explored, the racial memories are just an excuse for information dumps.


Okay so Nanotech Deliverance is not well written and it is not a thinking person’s science fiction story. Is it a fun adventure story? There is a global conspiracy trying to take over the world and Hirson could have used this plot to write a jet setting spy novel. He didn’t. There is a trip to New York and one to Eastern Australia, but those are trips in name only. Most of the novel takes place in the HQ, a dormitory like building where all the characters live, work, and eat together in a cafeteria.


The most surprising part of Hirson’s novel was what he chose to focus on instead of science fiction or suspense. The major theme of the novel is rationalization and vindication, specifically rationalization and vindication of Russell’s actions and behavior. Through out the novel the characters will revisit Russell’s actions, and explain those actions until it is clear that he made the best decision possible and anybody who doubted his wisdom or ability was mistaken.  Even during the climatic battle one of the minor characters takes the Doubting Thomas character aside and explains how everything Russell is doing is right and justified. One could assume that Hirson doesn’t trust his readers to reach the “correct” conclusion about his character. But I don’t think that is it. I think this pattern of misinterpretation, underestimation and misjudgment of character is what Hirson wants to explore with his writing. As the novel progresses, the character of Mayu (the female agent of Japanese descent) starts to act solely as a source of these misjudgments regarding Russell, and other character’s have to explain to her that he isn’t sexist, reckless, or dangerous. All of Mayu’s Cassandra-esque predictions turn out to be false and the conclusion of the novel is Mayu realizing Russell’s true merit.     


The problem with the ending is that we never see Russell’s true merit.  Hirson is in too much of a hurry to get his character into the action and we don’t learn what Russell is like before his world gets turned upside down.  Almost everything we learn about Russell is told to us and not shown.  Character growth should be about choices, but I not sure Hirson believes in choice.  In Russell’s world there is one right answer and thus one right choice. However, because of the sloppy prose, the undeveloped ideas and the book’s obsession with analyzing itself, I am afraid that reading Nanotech Deliverance was the wrong choice.   
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