JP On Gaming

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

[Kinda Book Review] Imperial Earth by Arthur C Clark

I picked this audiobook rather randomly. Being in a Sci-Fi mood, I picked this book because I wanted to space stuff. Arthur C Clark is one of the leaders in Sci-Fi as the man who wrote 2001, a movie that both intrigued, terrorized, and interested me all at once.

The science element is strong and interesting. The description of life on Titan and how the frozen volcanoes work and some of the unique elements of the planet and space travel. ACC really knows his stuff when it comes to the space race.

We see a lot of elements that we are just breaking today (cloning, holographic projections, space travel) and others that are well established (smart phones, internet). He spends a lot of time describing these devices. Unlike other writers who do this, ACC's devices ARE things that are useful, realistic, and that seriously help mankind.

The story is set on the 5th centennial (2276 AD) and a big celebration is coming with representatives from all over the Solar System: Earth, Moon, Mercury, Mars, and Titan. Each of these nations developed their own flavor and culture - even if the story mostly focuses on Earth and Titan. Duncan Mackenzie comes to Earth as the representative of Titan he also plans on getting himself cloned as he cannot have children (long story).

Duncan's trip to Earth is a trip to the Eastern USA locations viewed 300 years in the future. He visits locations and places that exist today but in the future.

As the story evolves, we are introduced to a series of characters... None of them are particularly engaging or endearing. Kalindi, his youthful love interest may be the only one that has some sort of realistic plot. Every character, including Duncan, is bland and flavorless. They have a short discussion. "Is that guy trustworthy" "Yes" And he is.

Whatever interest the start drew from me quickly gave way to boredom as the reader was terrible. It felt like a robot reading. Gah, it was painful. Very painful.

He approaches many social elements I do not share his views on, one of the biggest reason is that these changes happen within 300 years. Other elements he hints at but rather than completing his approach, he simply drops the situation rather than create a serious discussion. Topics include alien existence, cloning, people living underground, veganism/goo-eaters.

The one element I found myself seriously at odds with his views was in the subject of love relationships. In the future (300 years, not a million. three centuries), people live a mostly debauched lifestyle when young, having kids left and right then forming strong and tight families with a mom and dad.

No. Just no. Human nature is not that way. Strong families and super-promiscuity do not go hand in hand, particularly in frontier areas like Titan. My position on those is that in such situation, you would have tight families with a mother and father at the center. Should one become widowed, the surviving parent would remarry, forming a Brady Bunch.

BTW, there is nothing "imperial" about Earth in there. Earth is a decadent place where people only look at the past.

The best element of this story however, and the shining jewel of this dreary, boring story, is its conclusion when we get Duncan's address to the United Nations. That speech, not only ties the story together, but is also a view into the future. Even though mankind turned away from the stars to look at how we can screw up the Earth, the stars and future are where mankind eventually will end up.

So rating this book... Well overall, this is a solid 2/5 but a 5/5 if you only read Duncan's final address. I kept finding myself nodding at every one of his points.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

[Kinda Book Report] Batman Nightwalker by Marie Lu

I bought this book for the kids at Halloween Free Comic Book day. I am not a huge fan of modern comics, not enjoying the pace and politics in the stories.

This is not an origins story, which I like. Instead, we find a 17 year old Bruce Wayne who is about to turn 18 and take over the Wayne Fortune. An interesting take.

I won't spoil the story, which I found more interesting than I thought. In a vein similar to Joker, this is not a superhero comic but a sort of coming-of-age story. The events shown here will mold Bruce Wayne from a child into the billionaire-playboy/Batman of the future.

I really liked the story. It had interesting twists and characters that were more than one-dimensional (though many of the side characters are effectively just that, cardboard cutouts). The pace was extremely fast. The art top-notch, in a fake two-color "black and white" works amazingly to evoke Gotham.

Now if I have a ding to it: the pace was breakneck. I kept flipping the pages so fast that I caused a hurricane in the Caribbeans!

In the end, I will give this book a 4/5. I liked it much more than I expected but felt it went on too fast.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

[Old Pro Tip] Setting up a gaming group

I have been reading across the internet "I'm a GM and I can't get a campaign going."

I was lucky to be able to travel and form RPG groups in no less than four countries (Canada, France, Ireland, and the USA). When I reached all countries but my native Canada, I was able to get a gaming group going within a month. Here are some of the lessons I learned.

- Run Short Events I cannot stress this enough. Once we leave school/college, time comes at a premium. Spouses, jobs, children, video games, professional sports, or porn: RPGs require time and you are competing with people's own time. Many WANT to play but are not ready to put the time to actually play. Running short events is a great way to do this, by focusing on a 4h "one-shot", you bring the best of the story to the table, dropping the extra fluff. It allows you to showcase your GMing style by showing off your strengths. People are more willing to devote 2-4 hours than their every Saturdays to playing a game.

It took me YEARS to run a dungeoncrawl I'm comfortable with running and doing a good job of it. I'm typically not one who enjoys running them. But that's a rant for another day.

- Run in public This is one I learned over the many years of trying to organize games. I have been lucky enough to work with a number of great stores over the years: Le Griffon Feerique, Gamers Haven, Petrie's Family Games, and now Grand Adventure Comics. (Yes I forget a few)

This helps both sides of the equation. As a GM, I don't bring in a bunch of strangers into my house, where other family members keep interrupting. Similarly, I may not be interested in going to people's homes (I have pet allergies). There are some people you do not want in your home, to say nothing of the weirdos.

Yes, you cannot use your 100,000$ super-surround sound, 3D-projector, full wall of miniatures, and other convenience. There are on-lookers breaking the immersion, you have to keep it PG-13, you cannot act out every scene, and you may have a closing time impacting your game time.

So I ask you: what is your end game? Run a campaign. Or run a campaign at home, on your own time?

- Keep it simple This is a big issue I see a lot. Many GMs plan massive arcs that take the PCs from levels 1 to 135,000 and will run for three decades. I say do the opposite. Focus on short games, ones you can resolve in one to four sessions. Again, this allows you to focus on your best elements. By doing this, you can vet your players: who is good, who is offensive, who knows his stuff, who is a noob, and allows you to remedy situations: remove a player, train the crew, adjust your own style to the group, or change based on what they want to see.

Simple allows for expansion, saving you prep-time.

I would like to call this running the game as Columbo. Columbo was a series of made-for-TV movies starring Peter Falk as the detective. The movies were tied together only by the titular detective (hey! don't blame me, I am not a fan of the series). Perhaps this lends itself better to running a series of "I'm hiring you bum adventurers for this mission, " instead of a plot where the PCs are the chosen ones.

- Participate in Organized Play Organized Play campaigns: Adventure League, [Path/Star]finder Societies, Shadowrun Missions, Living Arcanis, or even my own Legacies, are always looking for GMs. This is a good way to meet people. Not only do they reach more people than you do by yourself but it allows you to showcase your skills. Having run a few games, you will be able to invite people you like to your own campaign.

- Fail All of the above lead to this one. You WILL fail. That's fine, just get back up and try again. You may luck out or you may fall flat on your face. Like everything in life, you get back up and try again.


Friday, November 1, 2019

[Kinda Book Review] City of God by St.Augustine

When I ordered this book from Amazon, a few years ago, I never expected the massive bible-size tome that came. Back in 2018, I decided to read it, see what this was about.

I was not quite sure what its content was either. I knew it would deal with early Christianity history, but I thought it was a particular gem when this book was written around 415AD following the first sacking of Rome by the Goths in 410. I expected - and was rewarded - with such insight.

What I got was a serious, complete, expansive, and very well-laid out explanation of Christianity. Explained in fairly simple terms are the relation between polytheism and Christianity; the relation of philosophies with Christianity; Hell; Heaven; angels; fallen angels; sin; the afterlife; the beginning and end of the universe. This is a complete exposé of it all.

Although his words are simple, the resulting content is complicated. Not the type of reading one does before going to sleep - as I did. This book is heavy and forces you to think about what is said, a book of philosophical theology. Each chapter requires some time to reflect on what was just read.

Because of the heaviness of this book, I took breaks to ready "lighter" material in-between.

As I completed reading of this book, I found myself saddened. This is one of those books that marked me and that will be with me forever. It confirmed many of my own thoughts while putting words and arguments into many others.

So, the review: 5/5 without a doubt or hesitation. If you are interested in Christianity, History, or Philosophy, you will find this book fascinating. Just be prepared to invest time into getting all you can from this.