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22 July 2009 @ 01:06 am
On a recent book store run, I found out that the downtown branch of Smiths had a reasonable pile of A. Merritt socked away. I've been wanting to read some of his work for a while, so I picked up one of each of the four titles. I chose Dwellers in the Mirage to start with, mainly due to the large number of tentacles upon the cover.

What followed was a somewhat surreal story, in which a traveler of sorts begins to suspect he is the reincarnation of the greatest warrior of a sort of proto-Nordic groups, one-time rulers of much of the world. He finds himself drawn to a great valley shrouded by perpetual fog, there finding the last survivors of these people. There, the tale unfolds into a struggle between his modern sensibilities and the call of the power and the past.

The tentacled beast is the unmaker, a power described as greater than the gods, inspiration for legends like the kraken. Happily, it is a major part of the tale, as old covers can often be misleading.

Merritt's style is a bit dated, but I can safely say I can see his influence in countless other tales. He's worth reading as past giant of the fantasy genre. I'm looking forward to tackling the other three books, plus the Ship of Ishtar once it ships with my Planet Stories  subscription.

I should mention this another Appendix N book. Merritt's influence on Dungeons and Dragons and in particular Gygax's prose is quite apparent, and I must say I enjoyed this book a lot more than Jack of Shadows, my previews Appendix N read.
Current Location: Eugene, OR
Current Mood: relaxedrelaxed
19 July 2009 @ 12:02 am
Back to  Planet Stories! June's novel was another Henry Kuttner collection, the whimsical Robots Have No Tails. Henry Kuttner, along with Leigh Brackett, has been one of my happiest discoveries in the Planet Stories line. In this collection of five loosely linked tales, Kuttner's slightly deranged inventor Galloway Galleger solves a succession of self-inflicted mysteries. You see, Gallager is a briliant inventor, but only when he's flat-out drunk. Once he's back to sober or even just tipsy, even he doesn't know what he's just created. All five were entertaining, but the collection really hit its stride with the third entry. It's a shame he didn't write more of these tails. They are pleasantly whimsical rather than outright slaptick, the sort of short humor I like best.

This collection also marks a change in format for Planet Stories. The books are slightly larger, and done in a two-column layout with internal art, all designed to create a "pulp" feel. I'm a fan of the new design, which I feel is more readable than trades and hardcovers usually are, but do have a few nitpicks. The first is being addressed - this volume feels too much like a magazine, rather than a trade. Sturdier paper and cover stock should be coming down the pipe. On a more amused note, the art depicting Gallager's robot friend is certainly cute, but the robot's described as being see-through, not metallic! Harrumph.

And now a plea to my journal readers. Both of them :) lemuriapress  recently posted that the Planet Stories line is hanging in there, but is still a labor of love. Every new subscriber helps ensure the survival of the line, and with it its mission of bringing back out-of-print classics. If you haven't given the books a shot, consider buying a few, perhaps starting with this volume or Kuttner's Dark  World. If you've already tried it, maybe pick up another a volume, and see if it strikes your fancy. Subscribers get an impressive 30% off of cover price and 15% off of already-published volumes, a great way to get six entertaining volumes a year delivered right to your door.

Consider doing your part to keep classic fantasy and science fiction alive. And thank you for listening!
Current Location: Eugene, OR
Current Mood: chipperchipper
17 July 2009 @ 08:01 pm

Because I have no damned sense, I bought another 2 feet of paperbacks today, annoying the heck out of taylorstime in the process.

A bunch of Burroughs, because I decided I wanted to own the Mars books
Left the Tarzan books on the shelf
The Gods of Mars
Warlords of Mars
Thuvia, Maid of Mars
The Chessmen of Mars
A Fighting Man of Mars
Synthentic Men of Mars
Llana of Gathol (wonder if sales plummeted on this one?)
John Cater of Mars

At the Earth's Core
Tanar of Pellucidar

Escape on Venus
The Wizard of Venus and Pirate Blood

John Brunner
Now Then!
The Dreaming Earth

Gardner F. Fox
Skipped some odd looking barbarian fantasy
The Hunter Out of Time
Escape Across the Cosmos
Kothar of the Magic Sword, with the back cover line "Kothar stole the helix from the fat Emperor of Avalonia". How could I pass it up?

Stuff I was excited to find
The Status Civilization, by  Robert Sheckley. Been years since I found a Sheckley book I didn't already own.
Jan of the Jungle, by Otis Adelbert Kline
Redbeard, by Michael Resnick. Didn't find his Ganymede book, alas!
The Charwoman's Shadow, by Lord Dunsany
The Solar Invasion, by Manly Wade Wellman. Mainly because lemuriapress has recommended some of his stuff.

Odds, Ends, and Whims
When the Sleeper Wakes, by H.G. Wells. Will go next to When the Waker Sleeps by Ron Goulart.
Zardoz, by John Boorman. Because the movie was just that bad.
The Black Star, by Lin Carter. Since Appendix N says I should read some Carter.
The Weatermonger, by Peter Dickinson. Because it's old.
To Outrun Doomsday, by Kenneth Bulmer.  Same general deal. It might be good.
The Pear-Shaped Man, by George R. R. Martin. Short little pamphlet sized book, for a buck why not?

I guess I'd better try to do more than 52 books this year, since I've added that many to the "to read" pile in the past month.
Current Location: Eugene, OR
Current Mood: chagrined
14 July 2009 @ 12:14 am
Here's possibly the worst resolution cover image I've ever posted - I'll need to take a picture of my own copy. I'm a stickler for having the pictures match my edition. This is the second of the John Brunner re-reads, More Things in Heaven. A pretty decent step-up from the original title, The Astronauts  Must Not Land. The book itself is considerably expanded from the Ace Double, and tightened up in general. Of the two, I'd much recommend reading this version, which I felt wrapped up the story much more cleanly than the original. It also manages to come off a bit less preachy, and the twist feels less contrived. I do love Brunner's ability to trick you about just what sort of story you're reading.

Not much else to say on this. The next book takes us back to Planet Stories, now in a new format, so stay tuned!
Current Location: Eugene, OR
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
11 July 2009 @ 12:54 am
Getting way behind on the book posts, so here's another catchup entry. In a recent Ace double, I read a pair of Brunner stories that had later, expanded versions. Tonight's entry, Interstellar Empire, is one of those expanded books. Ace reprinted Brunner's novella-length "The Wanton of Argos" as "The Space-Time Jugglers". Interstellar Empire contains that story (under the original title) along with two more set in the same universe: The lengthy "The Altar on Asconel" and the fairly short "The Man from the Big Dark"

I'd rate the "Altar on Asconel"  as the best in the book. It begins as a fairly traditional space opera involving a post-downfall empire, with a pair of mismatched brothers seeking revenge on the murderer of their third sibling. It drifts into much more interesting territory, including an explanation for where the galaxy's nearly indestructable ships came from. The creepier elements are a welcome change from the standard "barbaric galaxy" format. The second tale I'd rate a fairly weak entry. It is also a revenge tale, but the initial setup is weak, and the story quickly falls into a familiar formula of the outworlder rogue-turned-good. It sounds all the right notes in all the right order, but does not rise above the genre. I've reviewed "The Wanton of Argos" elsewhere, so I'll leave that one mostly alone.

All in all, I'd recommend this book for the first and last stories, both enjoyable for the unexpected deviations from genre expectations. 
Current Location: Eugene, OR
Current Mood: dutiful
06 July 2009 @ 07:50 pm
Post-Banquet Wandering (11 PM)
After that fantastic banquet and trivia contest, I wasn't quite ready to turn in. The room 247 guys were off at Erik Mona's jam tape session, so I wandered the halls near my room for a time. Broke out the Rogue Chocolate Porter for a drink with Ogre and his wife, plus a few passersby who's name I had forgotten. Couldn't find the glasses that I'd packed, so I used the ones in  the room, which meant no cups for coffee in the morning. Oops Once it became clear the music session wasn't winding down any time soon, I wandered down to the bar, where a bunch of Paizo folks and convention goers were still hanging out. It was nearing last call, so I grabbed some local beer I forget the name of, plus drinks for iuztheevil and Wes Schnieder. Clinton Boomer was there, sharing stories about leaving his girlfriend in the vicinity of Tim Hitchcock, which led Jason to proclaim that Booms had been contaminated by Tim secondhand. Much funnier when you're hearing him tell it in person :) Boomer also had some copies of a book he'd self-published as a sampler for publishers, "The Awkward Game and Other Unfinished Stories". Snagged a copy to read, what I've skimmed through was fairly entertaining thus far

As I mentioned, it was last call, so soon I went on my vagrant way. Still no sign of the listening party breaking up. On my way down to check, I passed by a boisterous room in which I was invited to play Werewolf. In my ignorance, I called back that I reserved my D10s for Star Frontiers. Not finding anything else to do, I wound up back there just in time to catch the game that's since been immortalized on Youtube. If you look, you can see me at the end of the table watching near Mark/Yoda8myhead. Brandon as the "Candyman" werewolf just rocked.

After watching this round and the next round (I think), I joined in for several rounds as people rotated in and out of the game. I elected to be the town's bartender. In the course of the game I got  lynched at least once, and lead the call to lynch "Smurfette" (what we called Emily due to her blue shirt and nearly unique female status), just to see what color she'd turn. As the night wound on, I decided to stay just one more round after Mark bailed, since I hadn't got an interesting card yet. Lo and behold, I was the werewolf.

The very first round of accusations, I wound up getting grilled and blew my poker face pretty badly. Looked like I was on the fast track to losing. I managed to talk my way out of first place, and cast the deciding vote for killing another guy without looking too suspicious. From that point on, I had a lot of luck, plus I think I managed to make people think I was more amused than serious about the possibility of being singled out. Eventually, the town failed on their last chance to execute me, as luckily the seer had it down to me and one other guy that he hadn't fingered yet, and thought it was the other guy. At last, werewolves victories, townspeople? Delicious.

I wound up back in my room by 3, maybe 4 AM...not so good with an 8 AM slot the next day. But Werewolf was a great end to the best day of the convention. 

Current Location: Bellevue, WA
Current Mood: accomplished
28 June 2009 @ 10:23 pm
Recently I learned that Alan Dean Foster had finally finished his Pip and Flinx books with Flinx Transcendent, the 14th entry. I wasn't sure how many of them I'd bought and read, so I did an inventory of my collection. I found I was missing the last three (including the final book), as well as two earlier ones. This weekend I decided to bike down to the two Smith Family Bookstores (about an hour each way) to save some money off buying them new. Unfortunately, I have a bit of a problem where books are concerned, so my little trip netted me two used copies out of the four older books and another 22 books to keep them company. Turns out the downtown Smiths had a cache of A. Merritts, and the campus branch a pile of Edmond Hamiltons.

Here's what I found, with edition notes for the older books.

A. Merritt
The Moon Pool (1919, a 1966 Collier 2nd printing)
The Metal Monster  (1920, a 1966 Avon 4th printing)
Seven Footprints to Satan (1928, a 1968 Avon 11th printing)
Dwellers in the Mirage (1932, a 1967 Avon 4th printing )

Edmond Hamilton
Quest Beyond the Stars (1941, Popular Library)
The Star Kings (1947, a 1967 Paperback Library edition)
The Valley of Creation (1948, a 1954 Lancer edition)
Crashing Suns (1965, Ace)
Doom Star (1966, Belmont Tower Books)
The Closed Worlds (1968, Ace) - I need to find the first book in this series, The Weapon from Beyond

Out of Time's Abyss by Edgar Rice Burroughs, apparently the third book in a series that started with The Land That Time Forgot. Grabbed it because it caught my eye.

War with Robots
, a short story collection by Harry Harrison

A book called The Clones by the pen name P. T. Olemy that I picked up just for the weirdness of it. All google tells me is that this could be the worst book ever written, that is only a contender for that title, and that is the first science fiction book with the word clone in the title. Oh, and that the author did something else called The Pink Dolphin. And he might be George Baker, another author I can't out much about.

Some newer stuff:
Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson
The Sword Swallower and The Curse of the Obelisk by Ron Goulart
Brak: When the Idols Walked by John Jakes
A Tor double, Poul Anderson's No Truce with Kings and Frtiz Leiber's Ship of Shadows
Orphan Star and Reunion by Alan Dean Foster, two of the Flinx books I originally set out to get

The Wizard and the Warlord, The Thrall and the Dragon's Heart, The Elves and the Otterskin, and The Troll's Grindstone, all fantasy books by Elizabeth Boyers. Turns out not the complete series as I had hoped, grr, but rather 3 out of 4 and 1 out of 3 of two different series.

I also picked up the Goodman Games version of Dave Arneson's Blackmoor for $14 at Emerald City Comics.

My quest completed, I biked home and did a circuit of the new bookstores, picking up the final Flinx book and one of the others I was missing. I got sucked into one more book as well, a Keith Laumer omnibus called The Universe Twister. Stupid endcaps! The last elusive Pip and Flinx book I ordered from Abebooks once I got home, for slightly less than cover after shipping.

With the size of my unread pile I certainly didn't need to add another score to it, but it sure was fun. And looking forward to reading more vintage titles - exploring them via Planet Stories has been an adventure. Speaking of those titles, if you either love old classics or are interesting in learning more about them, considering ordering a few or becoming a subscriber. It's a great line of books, and it both needs and deserves your support!

Current Mood: happyhappy
21 June 2009 @ 12:34 am
Escape from Hell is Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's long-awaited sequel to Infernal, 33 years in the making. Unfortunately, I can't say it was worth the wait. Niven's writing has been very uneven of late. While I enjoyed Rainbow  Mars and parts of Ringworld's Children, both fail to meet the standards of his earlier work. As far as Niven and Pournell's collaboration go, I'd rank Escape from Hell well behind even The Gripping Hand and Footfall, and nowhere near greats like Lucifer's Hammer and The Mote in God's Eye.

Escape from Hell is in many ways a rehash of Inferno, but what's worth, it spends most of its page count treading over the same ground. Over and over we see people chosing to stay in their punishment in Hell, or joining the increasingly human-run administration of Hell. Odder repeated elements are any number of dead folks involved in the civil administration of New Orleans pre-Katrina (with no mention of why they all seem to have died around the same time), and overuse of explosive martyrs. The most interesting question raised in the first book, the function of Hell itself, is largely left unaddressed, which comes across as strange given that a major point of the book is how the rules of Hell are changing. I only recommend this book to diehard Niven fans, and even then, only as a curiosity. Honestly,  I wish I'd spent the time reading more vintage scifi.
Current Location: Eugene, OR
Current Mood: indifferentindifferent
13 June 2009 @ 04:00 pm
Paizo Fight Club (4 PM)
My last event before the banquet was Paizo Fight Club. I went into this expecting something PvPish, not usually my favorite. Got something completely different. We were broken up into tables of 8-10 and told to pick a 3rd level iconic. The 11 single-classed Paizo iconics were all represented, using Pathfinder Final rules. There were some special rules for the event: crits automatically confirmed, no duration tracking for spells (they last as long as the character is sitll alive), various squares that scored points, gave bonuses, or healed. Our judge for the event was the worthy Wes Schnieder,  who was tasked with taking our actions one by one around the table and with running the monsters whenever the head judge iuztheevil called out for a monster turn (Jason also sometimes ran the turns himselves, but with four tables to oversee, he was quite busy). Our table pretty quickly twigged to the idea that if we took our turns lickety-split, we'd get more than one action in before the monsters activated. Int theory our goal was to score the most invidual points, but aside from some fireball friendly-fire we more or less cooperated. Upon a death, you grabbed a new character from one of the unused iconics, putting your old character back for future use.

Wave 1 was a band of rather nasty ogres. Once they were dispatched, we found ourselves hip deep in undead lead by a deranged sorcerer. As all this went on, strange terrain effects happened: entanglement (no moving for one round), reinforcements (which thankfully did nothing, as when it triggered we'd just started the undead battle, and nothing was dead), gain 10 hp, rotate characters, lose 10 hp (even if you  hadn't gained the 10 hp before), and fog of war (can't see anything). Despite this, we slaughtered the last of the undead, and found ourselves fighting the final wave - a juvenile blue dragon. Despite horrific losses, we finished off the dragon -  20 minutes before time was called. We were the only table to defeat said dragon :)

In the course of the event, I played Sajan the monk, Amiri the barbarian, Harsk the ranger (due to the rotation event, he wasn't too great a draw but I did double-crit with him), Seoni the sorcerer (loved that scroll of fireball). All but the barbarian died under my leadership, with the dragon dropping right around when I lost the sorcerer. Early in the session, when Jason called out that their would be a prize for most deaths, I shouted "right her!", and I did indeed tie for most deaths.  Sadly, I had too many points to win the tiebreak.

During the event, a number of prizes were tossed out at the tables - item card packs and a Legacy of Fire deck at my table. I won a few of them, but shared them with the table. For the overall prizes, Brandon at our table won the event (and a future copy of the PF RPG, as I recall), 3 others won some Paizo books, the player with the most deaths won a Critical Fumble deck, and one player, the one with the most crits I think, won a Critical Hits deck. The event itself was a blast, particularly considering I had thought about skipping it in favor of more sleep. Many thanks Jason for putting it together, and to Wes for being such an on-the-ball judge.

Unfortunately, the game was so fast-paced I never got a good in-depth look at the PF RPG final characters. I get the impression that may have been intentional.

Oh, and for the wisenheimers - we are in fact encouraged to talk, nay boast, about Paizo Fight Club. See you next year!

PaizonCon 2009 Pathfinder RPG Preview Banquet (7 PM)
Finally! The main event! Amazingly, I hear some attendees didn't pay the extra few bucks to go to the banquet. First we queued up, during which process I acquired TheLesuit (my old pal Chris Jarvis from the early days of Living Greyhawk) and Fray as table-mates. They let us in to the buffet a few at a time, after which we were to find tables. The food was surprisingly good. Roast beef, turkey, a stellar selection of desserts including rolo pie, and various halfway healthy things. We were joined at our table by Dario of Pact Magic fame, Yehuda who I believe traveled from  Israel, and Melissa, Dan and Darien who I don't know too much about. About the time we were mostly done with our food, the special guests and Paizo folk began arriving. Our  special guest was Jason Nelson, of RPG Superstar top 4 fame, and our Paizo employee was none other than esteemed publisher Erik Mona ( lemuriapress in these parts). As we enjoyed desserts and drinks, Fray kept our table in stitches with stories about his Crimson Throne groups, including highlights like setting helpless townspeople on fire with a flaming bear. Not a typo.

All good things must pass, and soon the dining portion of the banquet came to an end. Joshua Frost introduced Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens, the first speaker. She talked about the early days of Paizo, now almost 7 years old (and will be as of July 1st this year), and what a shift it was from those days of running Dragon, Dungeon, and the Star Wars fan club. She compared her mood aboutPathfinder RPG with other seminal events in RPG history, like the car ride that led to Vampire, and the basement where she first heard the Magic the Gathering pitch. "They have to buy more cards to play? What a stupid idea!" She also gave a quick-shout out for Gary for starting up the messageboards on Paizo.com 4 or 5 years ago, and what a community it has grown up to. Apparently board members even come up in discussions during lunch!

The next speaker was Jason Buhlman ( iuztheevil ), and the purpose of the banquet: the Pathfinder RPG Preview. I'll just go ahead and call it Pathfinder RPG Omega, my favorite nickname for it. What follows is what I wrote down during Jason's tour through the PDF of the 578 page masterpiece that is Omega. Note some of these details are already known from Beta, the Paizo blog, or other sources.

  • Cover - of course we've all seen this by now. Some of us even have the poster!
  • Page 22 The Races in their Underwear
  • Page 25 The Half-Elf
    • Everyone can pick a favored class now. Half-elves can pick two.
    • Half-elves and half-orcs add +2 to any one ability
  • Page 29 I think this was the barbarian's page.
    •  ogre art from Hook Mountain Massacre
    • Rage points are gone, rage is tracked in rounds per day now
  • Page 43 Domains 
    • Domains, bloodlines and speciality schools are now in the classes chapter, even if they weren't before
    • Domain spells are back
    • Many of the domain powers stayed. Usually gained at 1st and 6th or 8th level.
  • Page 62 The Paladin
    • Uses the iconic art
    • Detect evil can zero in on a single target instantly
    • Smite evil lasts until the target you are smiting is DEAD
    • Evil outsiders, dragons and undead take double the bonus damage from smites
    • Smites ignore DR
    • Paladins now have mercies. At various levels, they select a single condition from a small list. Their lay on hands ability now cures this condition. Cure disease has been rolled into the mercies.
    • Paladin caster level is now level - 3 rather than 1/2 level.
  • Page 103 Skills
    • Perception is no longer broken down by sense in Omega. Thank goodness. By extension, racial sense bonuses are gone.
    • Concentration is no longer based off of Spellcraft, as revealed on the Blog.
  • Page 115 Feats
  • Page 117 Even More Feats (that's a lot of feats)
    • Vital Strike, Improved Vital Strike, and Greater Vital Strike form a feat chain that allows extra damage on a standard action attack.
  • Page ?? Equipment
    • nice armor illustration
    • All medium and heavy armors went up by 1
    • Special materials (darkwood, mithral, etc) are now in the Equipment chapter
    • Mithral now overcomes DR/silver
    • The weapon chart shows more weapon properties, such as which can be used to trip
  • Page 195 Combat
    • Combat Manuevers are now defended against by Combat Manuever Defense (CMD). Essentially it is 10 + Str + Dex  + size modifier + AC modifiers that count against touch attacks.
  • Page 220, 222 Magic (I believe, notes are fuzzy)
    •  Nice illustration of Karzog
    • Scribing spells in a wizard's spellbook is cheaper. 1st level spells for 10 gp, 9th level spells in the vicinity of 800 gp.
  • Page 367 Spells
    • Nice illustration of Seltyiel (I think) barbecuing a bunch of yeti with a wall of fire
    • Over 100 pages of spells
    • Light now ranges across dark, dim, normal, and bright. Darkness and light spells shift the light condition. Bright light is the level needed to hurt creatures inconvenienced by light.
  • Page 380 Prestige Classes
    • Art is a half-orc assassin
    • Assasins can make you dead, permanently. Makes it easier to get paid when your target isn't standing next to your employer laughing at you.
    • The shadowdancer will be previewed in Kobold Quarterly #10!
  • Page 403 Gamemastery (not 100% sure on that being the section header)
    • Art of our old friend Treerazer
    • Campaign tips
    • A touch of epic rules
    • Tips for ending your campaign
    • XP charts
    • Wealth by level charts. Now in ONE PLACE for PCs and NPCs.
  • Page 430 Environment
    • Avalanche art. Jason: "See those guys there? They're DONE!"
    • Rules for dungeons. And probably stairs.
    • Underwater combat. And a chart that makes sense.  Though I have to say that I always understood what the tail column meant - it is what damage and to-hit penalties your tail has, based on your swim category.
  • Page 453 NPCS (another probably erroneous section header)
    • Art: commoner with a pig! No, it isn't a class feature.
    • Our favorite NPC classes are back.
  • Page 504 Magic Items
    • Ones I could pick out of the art: bracers of archery, strand of prayer beads, marvelous pigments, horn of Valhalla, lyre of building
    • Jason's now famous story about the marvelous pigments: over and over again, folks turned in the page with marvelous pigments on it with "The pigments are applied by a stick tipped with bristles, hair, or fur" circled, and "Like a BRUSH??" written next to it. So the Paizo folks researched it, and found that it had been like that in every version since the first appearance of t he items. Says Jason: "So we kept it!" The room roars with applause. Apparently Monte Cook then told his table "That's pretty much what happened when we designed 3rd edition too". And folks, this is why I buy Paizo stuff.
    • For no particular reason, right about now we were told monks now get full BAB progression when they flurry. Yum!
  • Page 560 Appendix
    • Diseases are here. Now including the plague.
    • Some changes to poison and disease in the final, including longer onset times and slower frequencies. Jason referred to this as the "How to Poison the  King" dilemma, as in, if he starts taking rapid damage, he's going to get healed right away.
    • Recommended reading list, a la the classic Appendix N. No, it isn't literally Appendix N in Omega.
    • Character sheet
    • Glosssary of conditions
    • INDEX!!! (ooh, pretty)
  • Final Thoughts and Questions
    • ECL's replacement will be in the Bestiary. Pronounced "Best", not "Beast", by the way, despite the mocking calls from the room. I certainly did not know that.
    • There are a few new wondrous items
    • No Golarion artifacts, but there are some from interesting sources
    • Jason took time out to thank all the staff for helping, except for Sean Renyolds ( seankreynolds ) who was no help at all :)
And we're still not done! Now Erik Mona, the publisher, stepped away from our table to take the stage. He first commented on the oddness of having to raise the microphone when speaking after Jason the man-mountain. He then thanked Josh Frost for all the hard work organizing the banquet - much applause. He talked about his 10 years in publishing, due entirely to his love of books and RPGs. Unfortunately, with the work of publishing, designing and editing there is a loss of joy when a new book comes out - by that time, your sick of it. Then he held up the Wayfinder fanzine, and said "this brings that back". Much applause. More thanks: Jeff Alvarez, "in charge of everything real" at Paizo.  Also a shout-out to Gary for all his hard work on the web site.

New announcements from Erik:
  • RPG subscription starting next week (now old news). Preorders to be rolled into it, free PDF as usual.
  • The long-awaited hold this order to ship with my next subscription option!
  • "Super-exciting RPG line announcement" GM Screen in September. $14.99, 4 panels, bulletproof iron (okay, hardcover book stock)
  • "Super-duper-exciting RPG line announcement" Gamemastery Guide in March
    • Campign and world building
    • 320 pages, $39.99
    • How to write an adventure path
    • How to get a group together
    • How to run one-on-one sessions
    • Premade statblocks, such as guards, pirates, and cultists
    • Lots of 1st ed DMG style charts (which lead to a shout-out from our table about the harlot sub-table), including diseases, poisons, rules niblets
The closing preview speaker was Vic Wertz,who announced that those two products would be available for pre-order at 11 PM that very evening, and that the art on the screen was by Wayne Reynolds.

Josh Frost took over the microphone to run what turned out to be the highlight of the evening - the PaizoCon trivia contest. 25 questions were asked, 5 each in the categories of Combat, Fate, Magic, Persona, and Social. The questions themselves can be found by scrolling down on this thread. Josh did an amazing job keeping it fun, alternately praising the good tables and mocking the poorer answers. After rounds 2 and 4 we got scoring updates, which I kept hasty notes on to verify our lead (or lack thereof). Half the fun was the team names, listed below with their scores. We were the Brazen Strumpets, name chosen from the aforementioned Harlot Subtable.

4 - Operation Mmmm Daddy YumYum (that's an average score of zero)
5 - 1, 2, 3 ACD
6 - East Coast Gamers
6 - Sons of the Sea Serpent
7 - Bristlestick
7 - I Rolled a Four
9 - Paziomaniacs (if you have trouble saying Paizo, use Lisa's advice - rhyme it with Pie-Dough)
9 - Licktoads
13 - Hot Cross Buns
14 - Aroden's Faithful
15 - Critical Fumble
18 - Team Thistletop
18 - Sanctimonious Trout
18 - Cook Until Done
20 - Boomer's Tumors (with special guest Clinton Boomer)
21 - The Mighty Muttonchops
22 - Bestmasters (making fun of the aforementioned Bestiary pronunciation, with special guest Neil Spicer )
22 - Brazen Strumpets (go us!)
22 - Razmiran Faith Barge Union #107 (Sean Reynolds as Paizo guest did a one-man wave, a total hoot)

The three way tie went into sudden death. Each time had to write the name of as many continents as they could. All three tables turned in five. Into Overtime Round two, the planets. This time, the Bestmasters andd the Brazen Strumpets tied at 3, while the Faith Barge Union, bouyed by wikimaster yoda8myhead, fan without peer Lilith, and former PaizoCon organizer Timitius, clocked in at a whoppin' six. So my table settled for 2nd-place-by-tie-break, and were relieved when Erik said we indeed did not let him down. I didn't really need a $50 gift certificate for the Paizo store, right? And I should give credit to Jason Nelson, Thelesuit, and Fray, who answered a lot more questions right than I managed to.

With that, the banquet wound down, and we went on about our merry ways. Could not believe how much fun the banquet was. The trivia contest was the perfect way to go out on a high note.

 I'd intended for this blog post to finish off day two, but it is already quite long, and I'm running out of steam. Stay tuned for what went on AFTER the banquet...

Current Location: Bellevue, WA
Current Mood: jubilantjubilant
13 June 2009 @ 08:00 am
It was pretty rough getting out of bed at 7 AM. Not sure how much sleep I had, but I'd wager it was around 4 hours. After a shower and a change, I wandered over to mustering for the Pathfinder Society rounds. Nice to have lucked out on the room - it was literally next door to the gaming area. Once it was clear I had a little time, I dodged downstairs for breakfast, only to find that a pack of locust-like gamers had devoured nearly everything that could be describe as edible, including all the juice.

Lost At Bitter End (8 AM)
My table for Lost at Bitter End was all new Pathfinder Society players, so we wound up running it with a group of 5 8th level iconics. I think it was Harsk, Ezren, Merisiel, Seela,h and Kyra. I don't want to spoiler the module too heavily, but suffice it to say I think that if I hadn't made a GM error in the 2nd encounter, we'd have finished the adventure in about an hour. They seem to enjoy the feel of ancient empires, and I'm hoping they left wanting to do Pathfinder Society again. There was one death, Ezren the wizard flew up out of the battlefield in the last encounter, and promptly got engaged and crit-killed by one of the foes who also had flight. Sometimes it is a bad idea to call yourself out as a special target. Amusingly enough, he was the one person with the tools to get the group out of the hole they found themselves in, so my band of Pathfinders wrapped up the scenario with a two-month timeout waiting for a relief band to arrive.

During the break, I dropped by the Paizo store to nab the caravan map pack. Had seen it during the interactive the previous night, and decided it had to be mine! Also stopped by the artist's table, where Corey Macourek was selling custom map tiles and giving insight into the process of laying out map tiles and flip-mats. I'm going to have to spring for one of those some day. He was very generous with his time, especially considering my complete lack of artistic talent. I had enough time left over for a tuna melt at the hotel restaurant. Not bad, but I couldn't get the dumb new ketchup bottle open for my fries.

How To Break Into Print in Kobold Quarterly (1 PM)
My first seminar of the convention was Wolfgang Baur's "How to Break Into Print in Kobold Quarterly". Not much to say about it, but some of the high points are below.
  • Kobold Quarterly started in 2007, and is up to 9 issues. The 10th issue goes to press soon.
  • The process of getting published in KQ is fairly simple: submit a query, as described on their web site. The query will either be greenlit or rejected. If you get accepted, get it written, if you fail, try again! Queries should include a compelling hook, rough length, a ruleset such as 3E, 4E or PF RPG (or non-rules dependent), and why KQ would want to publish it.
  • Be up to date on what KQ has published! Wolfgang rejects a lot of articles based on having already run something like that, and it's much better to be told "we're just about to run that" than "we just ran that 2 issues ago". Publishers remember little details like that
  • Shockingly, less than half of accepted queries get turned in. If you get greenlit, turn it in!
  • Completed queries might get sent back for revised, turned down, or accepted for the web instead of in print. Usually you'll want to wait 3-6 months before inquiring about whether or not you've been accepted - it can take a while for things in the slush pile to make it into print.
  • 1-2 page articles (800-1600 words) are a great place to start, since they can fill in for space that wasn't taken by ads. Longer articles are much harder to find space for.
  • The editorial board on KQ usually takes 2 votes of 3 to go forward, though Wolfgang can overrule.
  • Ecologies are extremely popular queries. It is probably best to start sending queries for other things first.
  • Some issues have vague themes, such as Fall horror, Spring humor, or Winter cold. Usually the theme covers only a few articles.
  • Payment is on publication. Expect around 1 cent a word for print, at most 1 cent for web.
  • Some tips:
    • Don't play to the editor's likes. They can tell.
    • Humor doesn't sell that well.
    • Be careful of using anyone else's IP. Permission to use it is tricky, and can spike an article.
    • Don't propose series of articles. Columns are even worse.
    • Every issue tries to have monsters, magic items or spells, and maps
    • If you must do a series, the web site is a more natural home than Kobold Quarterly itself
    • Player focused is an easier sell than GM focused
  • As far as the web site go, it's not a booby prize. Anything published on the web is good enough to make it into print. So don't be offended if you are offered web instead of print.
  • Articles need to be in 2-3 months before press. But since it is a magazine, a missed deadline just means it can be published later.
As I'm hoping to get into print, I'm quite happy I attended this seminar. We'll see if the editors like the article I'll be turning in to them at the end of August!

This seminar was recorded, you can find the recording at archive.org.

Patronage Projects from Open Design (2 PM)
Same room, same host, many of the same guests. I didn't take too many notes on this seminar. It was mainly discussion of the patronage process at Open Design, along with a bit of talk about what the next project might be. Also got a peak at some of the art and layout for Halls of the Mountain King, which I should have a tiny little piece in. As far as Open Design goes, I highly recommend joining up for the next project. It's a ton of fun. Of the upcoming ideas, I'm most excited about the angels descending upon a city to reform it (good as the villain!), after that the tentacle-themed Atlantis style adventure. I'll probably be voting against using Pathfinder RPG rules, though - standard D20 is easy to convert to PF RPG, and I'm betting sticking with the core SRD will yield a larger audience.

Designing Dungeons with Monte Cook (3 PM)
I had this event in my schedule lottery as something of an "also ran", but it turned out to be pretty fun. Full disclosure: I'm not a subscriber to Dungeon a Day. Yes, it is cool, and yes, I may well join up some day, but at the moment, I'm behind on my reading as is. I love the "dungeon as the campaign" theme, and I love the "dial a difficulty level" aspect too - too hard, go up a level, too easy, go down. The safety valves he mentioned in the design seminar were fun too - new ways to backtrack that only open up as you go deeper, so that you can control access to undeveloped or overly dangerous areas.

Some high points:
  • A coupon to join up at Dungeon a Day for the best available rate (about $7 a month)
  • The value of dungeon dressing for increasing verisimilitude. Sometimes an old shoe is just an old shoe.
  • The use of verisimilitude in general, what a great word
  • The joy of exploration for the sake of exploration. Sometimes the dungeon is the story. A lot of us are too hooked into story-driven campaigns, and mixing it up can be fun.
  • Again in the spirit of mixing things up, if you use minis, run fights without them once in a while.
  • Use empty rooms.
  • Modulate the tension. In the spirit of keeping things varied, a recurring theme. Sometimes it should be easy. Sometimes it should be bad. Sometimes it should be really bad. Running things tense all the time leads to a lack of tension overall.
  • Advice for splitting the party: try to get them both involved in a fight, then run the battles concurrently. Keeps both groups engaged, and adds yet more variety.
The seminar has me favorably inclined to give Dungeon a Day a try. And I'm thrilled Monte Cook's back in to game writing, and having a good time doing it.

Day Two will continue in another entry, covering Paizo Fight Club, the fabled banquet, and strange sounds made in the night...

Current Location: Bellevue, WA
Current Mood: bouncybouncy