Tag: writing

We Love Trilogies

We Love Trilogies

But the question is, should we love trilogies. It’s really easy to think of a lot of them that at least started out as trilogies. Lord of the Rings is an obvious example, Star Wars x3, Hunger Games, Pirates of the Caribbean, Back to the 

TableTopTakes: Stipulations

TableTopTakes: Stipulations

I’m going to tell you about this game but…. That’s basically how the games works, but Stipulations is one of those party games, up there with Just One, that I’ve had a lot of fun playing. For me, Stipulations falls nicely in between games like 

TableTopTakes: Gloomhaven: Forgotten Circles

TableTopTakes: Gloomhaven: Forgotten Circles

Back to back board game reviews, though, this one is for the Gloomhaven expansion, not the whole game. If you have read my top 100 games (found here), you know what my #1 game is, but what you won’t know is that we actually wrapped up the main storyline for Gloomhaven a couple of months ago now. When we did that, I already had the Forgotten Circles expansion ready to go. The question is, do I like it as much as the base game?

I’m going to try and do this review with as few spoilers as possible. So I will not be talking about the plot that comes from the scenarios, but the mechanics of the scenarios and the new character show up before you get into any of that, so if you want a complete surprise those will be getting “spoiled” but they aren’t really a “spoiler”. The only thing I’ll say plot wise is that Gloomhaven: Forgotten Circles picks up immediately after the final main quest plot for Gloomhaven.

There are a few notable changes for Gloomhaven: Forgotten Circles. The first, and primary one, is that scenarios have changed. Now, the basic structure from the original game is having an Introductory section, then special rules, and a conclusion, but when you have doors that trigger more text, that is in another part of the book. So you have to flip through and look on a certain page and a certain section to figure out more and additional layout for the scenario, when the time is right. This normally triggers off of some action that you take in the game, commonly opening a door, but also stepping on a pressure plate can at times also trigger the next session. And a lot of the scenarios now have several of them that are tied together, so you are going to be setting up new parts of the scenario throughout.

This is both a lot of fun and annoying. Let me talk about the annoying part quickly first, this causes scenarios to go longer, normally when we’d set up a scenario we’d lay things out and then only put monsters on as we got into new rooms, and we already know what was going to be in those rooms. In the new set-up, you don’t know that, and while you know the main pieces that you’re going to need, the room layout is going to be a complete unknown. This causes these scenarios to go much longer than the ones from the base game. We could generally get through two scenarios in a night from base Gloomhaven, with the Forgotten Circles expansion scenarios, one generally takes the same time as two, because of some of the start and stop of set-up. However, while that is a negative and annoying, especially for people who feel like set-up is too long or solo players, I do like the fact that the story of a scenario can unfold the way that it does. Hidden information also makes the scenarios harder, and while we have a completely new set of characters which is interesting and the scenarios more challenging, if we had come in with characters we were familiar with and knew the map set-up, the scenarios wouldn’t be much more challenging. I do think that the story in this is better written than in the base game, and some of that is definitely having it unfold.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

The couple other new things are abilities that are added into the game. The first being that teleporting is a thing now. Everyone can’t teleport, but the abilities from the main game that cause you to teleport are now getting cards to replace some in the character decks to keep some consistent wording. Having a character that can, if chosen to be played that way, move around the board and ignore terrain is interesting. The other ability added in “regenerate” this is the opposite of “wound” where that one causes you to lose one health a turn and can be healed away, this one causes you to gain a health per turn and if you take damage it goes away. This has been key for us in some scenarios as we don’t have a tank or heavy healing character in our party. I like that trickle effect healing as something to kind of counter wound which can take out a party if you aren’t careful, this can keep you around a little bit longer or a lot longer.

Finally, I should talk about the new class that is added, the Diviner. I’m not considering this a spoiler because when you get the expansion and even if you aren’t playing the expansion scenarios, you gain access to the Diviner class. This class has a few new things that we haven’t seen before, besides being where we get teleporting and the cards that cause regenerate to be placed, the Diviner does a couple other new things. First, they can do a build that allows them to manipulate decks. It’s something that’s very odd, but they can sort the top of the monster attack deck or the top of an allies deck. This is not the build that our player of the Diviner went with, but it’s definitely something new. The other way you can build that character is by using rifts. Rifts are interesting because they can either have a negative effect for the monster, such as disarm or immobilize or they can have a positive effect on the allies such as giving them regenerate or strengthen (not sure if these are 100% accurate examples, but the basic idea is there). However, the rifts come into the play and stay in play, but they are only active for an ability for a single round, and we’ve found with our Diviner because of the speed of the other characters in terms of initiative that the negative ones work better since the other two characters are almost always going ahead of the Diviner.

Let me wrap up by talking about this overall. First, I don’t like this as much as the base game. While that was an easy A+ for me, this is more of an A-/B+ range. I’ll break it down below, simply because Gloomhaven can already be a long game and Forgotten Circles makes each scenario even longer. But I do like some of the other things in it. Regenerate is awesome and the Diviner is a very cool character. Plus the story feels more focused. In Gloomhaven it felt like sometimes the through story thread wasn’t completely there or that it jumped around a little bit, Forgotten Circles definitely has a more fully realized storyline. I don’t know, however, that I would say that it’s a must pick-up. With Frosthaven coming out that’s another big box game that is going to improve upon the linked scenario style to reduce the mid scenario set-up, if you aren’t done with Gloomhaven yet and you think you’ll want Frosthaven, I’d skip Forgotten Circles.

Overall Grade: B+
Gamer Grade: B+
Casual Grade: C-

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LitRPG – What Why and How

LitRPG – What Why and How

I’ve recently been listening to a lot of LitRPG and you’ve seen me talk about it with Sufficiently Advanced Magic, Ascend Online, and Towers of Heaven that I’m listening to currently. Those are the ones that I have enjoyed but I also read Awaken Online, 

TelevisionTalks – Stranger Things Season 3

TelevisionTalks – Stranger Things Season 3

I know, it’s been out for a month, but I’m a little bit late to the party. Right around the fourth of July we were busy, and then we were gone for a weekend, and then I was at GenCon, so we didn’t get around 

Rewatch, Revisit, Review – Mortal Engines

Rewatch, Revisit, Review – Mortal Engines

Let me hop into my thoughts on this movie immediately. I really really wanted to love this movie. The visuals that kick off the movie are amazing. The world that the movie is set in is amazing and I want to explore it more. However, the characters are not that interesting, the story feels like a lot of tropes jammed together without really building the story that you need from it. There probably will be some spoilers, but I’ll try and keep it vague.

This is the far flung future after humanity has blown itself up and screwed up the world. There are mobile houses that people travel around in where they can mine, and make a living. There are also bigger predator cities that chew up these smaller buildings for fuel. We meet our main character, Hester Shaw as the small vehicles that is getting chased down by a predator city. On the city we have Tom who is a researcher who has noticed that things on the city are going missing, things that could be used for a weapon.

In some way the story just sounds too predictable YA Dystopia. And I think that is some of the issue. The story leans into tropes, but leans into them too much, you want the familiar, but you also don’t want it to feel like it hits upon every trope. The movie packs in too many tropes this way and also because it tries to hit on so many things, you end up with a very disjointed story. You get a predictable bad guy with an anticlimactic end. We get a few other deaths that are supposed to feel like they mean something to the audience, but we’re not connected with the characters. It feels rushed, but also feels like it doesn’t have the action that it should. And when it does have action sequences, they aren’t anything all that interesting, and the main character who is fighting is just a poorly done character.

The characters are also an issue in this movie. Hester has an interesting backstory, and I think that Hera Hilmar does a solid job, but she isn’t given much to work with. We really don’t get to see her shine as a character either, and there is some with her look if you think about it doesn’t make a ton of sense. With Tom, played by Robert Sheehan, he’s a pretty flat character, where he was great as Klaus in Umbrella Academy and playing an eccentric character, here he is a pretty thin character. Then you have Anna Fang. Talk about a great looking character but a very disappointing character. Kristen put it this way, she’s kind of supposed to be a Han Solo type character, but they don’t give her great lines to work with, and she does less than anything with them. She looks cool, maybe a little bit out of place, but that could be set-up with some better character development and story development, but that wasn’t there, and Jihae does nothing with it.

Now, not all the characters are bad. Hugo Weaving as the villain is amazing. His motivations aren’t fully developed, nor is his character, but he does a very good job with what he’s given. The real shame with his character is it’s death. It’s a cheap and not impactful death. I think you could argue that the point of it is to keep blood off of the main characters hands, but we already know that really isn’t something she’s worried about. So it feels weak and more like they hoped they could do another movie, but didn’t think that they’d be able to get Hugo Weaving again. Leila George has a smaller role in the film, but her part was interesting and she portrayed it well. I wish that we’d see more of her Katherine Valentine and Ronan Raftery who plays Bevis Pod with her. They were interesting characters that have the distinction of being the secondary characters who are more interesting than the main characters, which is too common is YA.

Image Source: IMDb

I’ve bashed this movie pretty hard. I think even with the characters who have some good development or are better acted, they aren’t given what they should have to work with in this film. I do want to knock one more thing, and that’s the weapon that is used in the movie. There are certain angles where that thing feels like a horrible mid 90’s green screen effect, not nearly as cool and polished as the rest of the world. That’s all I’m going to say about it, because I do want to jump into the visuals of the rest of the world which are amazing. The different vehicles all make sense as something that would be in the world. And while the Shanara Chronicles also do the future earth after something has happened, I think that the world of Mortal Engines is a whole lot cooler. The flying ships, the wall, and the general aesthetic of the world are cool, but the predator city is amazing, and the smaller vehicles are all slightly unique and you can see how they fit into the world. There’s are a level of dinginess in the world as well that works really well, and while you do get some Hunger Games vibes in the movie, they don’t lean into it too much.

There’s so much to explore visually and storywise in this world if someone were to do a good job of creating something cool, that it’s a shame this is the movie we got. And the movie did poorly in theaters, so we’re not going to get another one. Maybe fifteen years from now if the books have done well for Mortal Engines, we’ll get another crack at a move which will do better. There’s so much potential of the world that I want to see more of it. I don’t care that it seems to borrow from Shanara Chronicles, Hunger Games, Gurren Lagann, and Howl’s Moving Castle, and a lot more. There’s a chance for it to be unique, and I’d even read the books after having seen the movie in hopes that they are better and that I’ll get the story that I really want.

Overall Grade: C-
Critical Grade: B+ (Visuals), D (Story)
Fan Grade: C

Have you seen Mortal Engines, if so, what are your thoughts on it? Is it a movie you want to see if you haven’t seen it?

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TelevisionTalks: Umbrella Academy

TelevisionTalks: Umbrella Academy

This is going to be as spoiler free a review as possible. I might slip up, but I’m going to try really hard not to do that. I’ll likely be doing another post later with some spoilers and speculations and more details as to what 

Trope, Trope, Maybe?

Trope, Trope, Maybe?

I’ve recently started the fantasy series, The Demon Cycle, I won’t be commenting completely on this series because I’m not done with the first book yet, but it did make me start to think a lot about tropes in writing. The series thus far, and 

High or Low – Magic in Writing and RPG’s

High or Low – Magic in Writing and RPG’s

When I was writing about fantasy last, see the Not Your Normal Fantasy article, I touched on a concept that I really didn’t have time to flesh out. That what the difference between high and low magic fantasy settings are.

Image Source: Kingkiller Wikia

Let’s jump into the top right away because there’s not much need to explain what magic is, but in fantasy, there is generally magic. It isn’t in every case, but in a lot of cases there is some level of magic. That’s where the difference between high and low magic fantasy settings come in. High magic settings, magic is common place. In your most common examples with D&D, there is generally a fair amount of magic, probably more medium magic, but magic isn’t something that’s going to be shocking to most people. Low magic is on the opposite end of the spectrum, magic and magical items – in an RPG – are rare. People covet magic, fight over magic, and things like magical healing are not to be found.

And the article is done. Or I’ll talk about why you might want to pick one setting over another.

First off, consider the story you are trying to tell. How important is magic to it? If magic is important to the plot, and gaining a specific type of magic or a specific magical item, ask yourself then, is that because magic is rare or not. Is the item important because it’s a forgotten relic from long ago with a magic that was long lost, and now a group of wizards are going to be fighting over it? Or was it thought long lost, and now that it’s been found regular people are fighting for it because magic is so scarce. But then again, it’s possible that magic doesn’t matter in your story, is that because magic is common place so it doesn’t stand out as special or because it’s so rare that the two people off to the side of the story who can use it aren’t going to drive the story?

Image Credit: Amazon

From there you can start fleshing out your world and determining how magic is used, is it swish and flick magic or dancing in a circle under the full moon magic? If you haven’t decided this can also help make your decision. Even if you have a lot of magic users, it can be a world that is harder to influence by magic if the magic only works during a full moon and requires extensive rituals. It could even be that everyone has some form of magic but if the ability to cast magic is too complicated most people won’t do that, creating a low magic world. Or for example, in Harry Potter, magic is simple, but the world as a whole is low magic, we’re just in the high magic part of it for the series, so even with swish and flick magic, it’s been hidden away. Hiding magic is always interesting and can make your world feel more low magic though it could eventually end up being higher magic magic as time goes on, such as if in the world of Harry Potter magic was to be revealed, it would make the whole world feel lower magic in some ways, but higher magic because it isn’t as isolated.

Finally, consider what level of magic you want s you consider where you want the focus of your story to lie. If you’re doing a story about a normal person who makes it big in a world where magic is common and overcomes that perceived deficit, than you’d want to go high magic. But if you don’t want your story to focus on magic, going with a lower magic setting would make sense. It’s possible in that last example that you could have a higher magic world, but magic is just common place, but you have to worry about the restrictions of magic.

Image Credit: Flavorwire

In fact, that’s another reason why you want to consider your magic level of your world. In a world with a lot of magic, a lot of problems are going to be solved by magic. Especially in stories about the hero overcoming lack of magic or just overcoming without using magic, you have to set-up a world where magic wouldn’t make that much sense to be used. That means the Harry Potter swish and flick magic might be too simple for your world because it doesn’t expend energy or resources. But if you can only cast a spell from a faerie circle, during a full moon, while dancing around in a circle and doing a chant in the fresh dew, you could have a lot of magic, because that magic is just hard to do. At the same time, if you are using magic, you don’t want to fall the other direction of making it too weak that there would be no reason to do any sort of magic, because the technology of your story works more effectively.

Finally ask yourself where your magic comes from, that is going to make a huge difference. Is it that it’s divine magic and anyone can get access to it if they believe in the right deity whether that deity is good or evil? Or does the magic come from within and some people just inherently have it like in The Magicians or Harry Potter? If you just have to truly believe in a deity, people are going to have magic, and there’s going to be a lot of it because people will believe since they can see very tangible proof. But if it’s an inherent ability, than you can decide how few or many people get to have it based off of how much magic your story needs.

These are just a few things to consider. It is interesting to look at it for books, but as well for RPG’s where you can take something like Dungeons and Dragons and turn it into a low magic setting. What do you do when a player wants to play a Wizard? It can create interesting stories as your players might have a rare character or you might not let them start out as a magical character at all.

What are some examples you like of high or low magic worlds? Have you played in a game where it was very high magic or very low magic?


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Not Your Normal Fantasy – Concept Article

Not Your Normal Fantasy – Concept Article

We all know fantasy pretty well, at least I’m assuming that we do. We’ve seen and/or read Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. We might have read the Shanara Chronicles, Wheel of Time, Mistborn, or so many other epic fantasy series or watched shows