JP On Gaming

Monday, October 28, 2019

[Kinda Book Report] Tarkin by James Luceno

With a new Star Wars movie coming, I decided to listen to a Star Wars Audiobook. I am a huge fan of Peter Cushing, his portrayal of Grand Moff Tarkin, the man who destroyed Alderaan.

To keep this short, this book is the garbage I expect from Star Wars litterature. Tarkin is a Mary Sue who is never in true danger, always knowing more than his enemies. The story is predictable once you realize how invulnerable he is. I do not recall a moment he did not have the right training. In the end, I just could not wait for the end as the eye-rolling hurt my eyes.

The biggest problem is not the story but how it is written. None of the "now" events have any influence of impact on Tarkin. He experiences nothing that changes him or even confirms his beliefs. He has them from birth or teenage. Well, Mary Sue Tarkin...

Having said that, the audiobooks production was really high: the music and sounds - from the Star Wars soundtracks and movies. Whoever did that really did a great job of it. The voice work was absolutely fantastic, with Tarkin, Darth Vader and the Emperor standing out.

So... The rating? The story is worth 1/5. As I said before, I never felt he was in any danger and that he would always get the upper hand just... because. Now the production was one of the best, I would rate this as 5/5. The sounds added to the atmosphere and made the story tolerable from the cringe.

I will settle on a 2/5 for the whole package. Keep your money.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

[Kinda Book Report] Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

There are books you always wonder what they are about. This is one of these books.

To put this book into context, its author, Marcus Aurelius was the Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD and is considered one of the "Five Good Emperors".

The book is a series of short thoughts, personal notes about the world and people. Very much organized as a modern days book of proverbs or maxims. They are not organized in any order, giving the impression of someone's personal note book being used and published.

However, it is a series of short reflexions that give us direct insight into stoic philosophy. Stoicism preaches a quiet living, and the ultimate futility of life, and the restraint of passions (in really short). I consider myself closer to epicurianism but found myself agreeing with many of his points.

One interesting point was the relation of the gods. The stoics were polytheistic but also understood and thought in a partially monotheistic way. That was an interesting side point.

So in the end... I would give this a 4/5. It was interesting but in the end, a little repetitive. It's a short one though.

Friday, October 11, 2019

[Ravenloft] The Vanishing Ziggurat released on DM's Guild

A few years back, I built a massive pyramid using girlscout cookie boxes that filled my garage. I did not have any specific idea what I wanted to do with it. I had an overall idea of what I wanted to do with it. Nothing overly fancy, a dungeon crawl with a few surprises.

Having play-tested it a few times each time adding new elements and making the dungeon more setting-neutral than the original version, I changed the target level band, some of the monsters and a few encounters completely to arrive at its final, current form.

This is an adventure nominally set in Ravenloft but really, it can be adapted to your setting quite easily. Because of the nature of the adventure you can literally set it anywhere...

This is the first pure dungeoncrawl adventure I ever written and I will say it was a refreshing and fun thing to write. Yet in spite of that, from the feedback, I managed to put in an interesting story line and an underlying plot. This adventure has new unique magic items and more than a few unique twists on known monsters.

Get it on the DM's Guild today!

[Kinda Book Review] The Wars of the Jews by Flavius Josephus

This is a book I had on my list for a very long time, and I listened to it as a free Audiobook from

For those who do not know, Josephus was a Jew who chronicled the world during and around the Flavian Dynasty (Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian). First captured by Vespasian, he was freed and served him during the campaign. So this book is a report by someone who party to the events described therein, not someone far removed from them.

Josephus began as a rebel general who fought against Vespasian in Galilee before being captured, enslaved, and then freed by him. So we deal with someone who was there, dealt with the situation and had first-hand knowledge. A few times in the narrative, he is sent to speak with the Jews to ask them to surrender to Titus.

There are seven books with the narrative beginning around 200BC, through the period of the rise of Christianity, to the naming of Vespasian as commander of the army to punish the rebels by Nero, to the Year of the Four Emperors, to Titus' destruction of Jerusalem, and the destruction of Massada which ended the war.

The First few books presents the wars of the Seleucid kings in Judea and the many regime changes in Judea: the one king, then the tetrachy, and the Roman intervention. A veritable who's who of the late Roman Republic pass through: Pompey, Caesar, Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra all appear influencing the region. I was fascinated.

Like many, I knew of the region around that time was from the Christmas story: King Herrod and Salome. They appear here but in the context of the wider world. In fact, they seem to be mere local despots with limited power overall with the kingdom of the Jews broken into four pieces and each king named tetrach (ruler over a fourth (roughly): Galilee, Judea, Samaria, and coastal regions).

Josephus describes the area as a hotbed for rebellious activity: under the Greek/Seleucids, then under the Romans with only limited periods of peace in-between. Religious fanatics, corrupt and avaricious governors and family squabbles contributed to the destabilization of the area.

So the wars begin and the Jews enjoy a fair amount of early successes, ejecting the Romans from their lands and continuing the administration in place.

Nero assigns Vespasian command of an army to conquer the territory.

This is the part where we must be wary and apply some common sense. As Vespasian was Josephus' patron, the book from here on does a fair a amount of what I think is propaganda as the Roman commanders (particularly Vespasian and Titus) are always portrayed as fair and generous. Still the narrative is interesting and pretty clear.

I never visited Jerusalem or Israel but after reading this book, I can say I have a pretty good idea what the city looked like.

Josephus provides us with ample stories anecdotes - many of them absolutely horrible of the famine in the besieged city. The worse is that of the woman who cooked and ate her own son.


Yeah. That was hard.

This book demonizes many of the players in the who affair, such as the leaders of the Zealots. It is clear that he regrets the whole war and its conducts but at the same time he admires and commends the Jews for their courage and spirit.

Another fun thing... The narrative definitely reminded me of terms and expressions taken from the Bible, particularly the most historical books - such as the Book of Kings.

So this book came in perfectly as I received a new war game: SPQR which I cannot wait but try with ActionMan. It's an ancients skirmish game of which I'll post more later.

Rating? Really? You ask me for a rating of a book that held my attention for over twenty hours??

FIVE EAGLES (out of five).