This is Not a Game

Yeah, so this came across my transom recently, and it’s not…good.  Not even by D5D standards.

There’s a lot to dissect here, a lot of threads to tug on to unravel the knotted misery of this title, but let’s start with the title as a gaming supplement.  Does it work for what it is?  That’s a much more productive use of time than delving into the marketing that surrounded its release.

This represents a perfect distillation of everything wrong with supplement creation today.  It’s a narrative.  A linear tale told by the writer to the reader, with only a passing thought given to actual play.  This utterly non-Jaquayed funhouse dungeon is a level of silliness we should have left behind with TSR’s Slaver series.  Thirty pages to cover six rooms (depending on how you count them) will give poor old Bryce an aneurysm if he ever reviews this thing.

Lion Forge is a comic book company, and it shows.  The art is good, the story has twists and turns, and you don’t even need to play this to get the full appreciation for it.  It’s a nice little read that you can enjoy, then place on your shelf with all of the other nerd-signallery bric-a-brac that gathers dust.  You can pose with it in front of your stuff shelves to show what a totes nerd you are, tee hee.  But play with it?

I mean, you *could* use this to run a game session. In the same way you could use a Jack Vance story to run a game session, sure. But under that way of thinking, every movie, TV show, comic book, and novel ever told could have a D&D logo slapped on it.

And that’s the real problem here.  This thing will likely sell like hotcakes, because it targets the “D&D community” and not “D&D players”.  It’s an odd simulacrum of a gaming supplement, but it’s the pale shadow of a tenth generation mimeograph.  Fun, perhaps, but made for reading, or perhaps for storytelling, but not really for gaming.

And you’d thinking gaming, and use at the table, would be the first things to consider in a supplement for a role-playing game.  What with the word “game” being right there in the title.  But in these Humpty-Dumpty days, when a word means just what the entryists choose it to mean—neither more nor less – who can say what “a game” really means?

To say nothing of what “D&D” means.  To we old school gamers, it means a game that you play, and then back-bolt a story on top of once you’ve rolled your dice and moved your mice.  It’s a rough game of risk and reward played with the cold, hard math of probability and the unrelenting whims of the fates as they guide those polyhedrons.  To the modern gamer, it’s the mean girls table where the dice present little obstacle compared to the aims and goals of the other players, and a past-time where negotiated results are key and “Yes, but,” represents the pinnacle advice to keep people feeling engaged and happy with the outcomes that mostly line up with their expectations.  To them, the story is the cake, and the dice and rules are a frosting laid thin over the top of it.

These are two very different past-times, and they really need two different names to distinguish themselves.  Consider this analogy of an exchange, streamlined, but an accurate representation of many of my D&D conversations on social media these days.

Fake Gamers: Our football game takes only two players, twelve disks, and an 8×8 grid. Jump, capture, and king!

Me: That’s not football. That’s checkers.

FG: We like our version of football.

Me: Why call that football when it’s clearly checkers?

FG: OMG! Stop gatekeeping football!

Trying to use Thunderlock Barcrawl in a game of D&D would be like trying to use Thunderlock Barcrawl in a game of Monopoly.  Using Thunderlock Barcrawl to tell stories might work great, but I can’t judge it based on that criteria, because my stories are all carefully crafted narratives, and not just a bit of improv using D&D as a little blue notecard to help cover up my player’s lack of creativity.

Speaking of which…my works have been well reviewed.  For example, this collection of novellas has been described thusly:

Each dragon and each hero is unique and well-drawn, and the collection shows that the genre of dragonslaying tales has plenty of room for novelty and creativity without discarding its fundamental axioms.

See for yourself:

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Sparks Are Going To Fly

Yeah, I backed Jon Del Arroz’s comickal book.  Why haven’t you?

Twelve bucks for 66 pages compares favorably with the big boys, but I have a lot more faith in Jon to deliver a solid adventure tale that doesn’t insult me with its ham fisted exposition and ill-considered “action” than I do any of the major publishing houses.

This thing is half funded within 12 hours.  It’s happening, the only question is how many stretch goals it’ll hit.  Join in the fun.

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Here’s A Thing

Have you seen this?


From vampire romance to supernatural ​horror to religious thrillers, Silver Empire has ​brought ​fresh, talented new voices to the front in genre fiction. Now Silver Empire is moving forward with its latest project, a massive foray into the world of superheroes. Heroes Unleashed is a multi-author, shared-universe superhero world launching this fall ​from award nominated and critically acclaimed authors.

More at the link.

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Sociable Media

In the wake of high-powered Hollywood millionaires realizing that they are as vulnerable to the isolate and swarm tactics they love to use against their political foes as their political foes are, its worth taking a moment to consider your own social media back trail.

Twitter contains all of the knee-jerk, off-the-cuff goofing around commentary.  That’s the place where ideas get flung about, held to the fire, and tested against all comers.  It’s an ephemeral place, and you’d have to be a fool to make things easy on your enemies by leaving every little experimental comment and thoughtless reaction up there forever.

To cover my tracks, I use Tweet Delete, an automatic service that periodically clears the trail by deleting every tweet older than about two months.  That’s long enough for people to say their piece and catch up.  Two months is an age and a half on Twitter.  As I write this, the two day conflagration of WorldCon76 getting hammered by the bottom feeding crabs in the SJW bucket has already faded away, and that was yesterday!  Granted, the stalkers can always archive or screencap tweets, so its not perfect, but it sure does make things a lot harder on them.  Sometimes that’s good enough.

This blog on the other hand, is a permanent record.  It contains considerably more thoughtful pieces filled with nuance and posts carefully crafted to try and cover all the angles.  Once I’ve hashed things out on twitter – both center stage and in the backstage group areas – then I can sit down and write up something a little more worth everyone’s time, and put down the sort of thing that I don’t want to get Infinity Gauntleted away by automated systems.

Things like this meme I made to describe a real life conversation I had with my daughter today:


If you think that’s funny, you should read this alternate earth adventure I wrote.

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Capturing Hearts and Minds

One of the aspects of the current culture war that many other people have a touched on, but never drilled deep into is the ongoing cultural Prisoner’s Dilemma faced by productive members of society and the SJW locusts. Over the last few decades, the SJW locusts have made out like bandits, always choosing the “Betrayal” option, while men of good will continue to choose “Loyalty”. In the last few years, the men of good will have finally found their spine and begun flipping over the table rather than play along with the locusts.

Consider that our society features two main cultures. On the one hand you have the normal people motivated by normal desires. They get up, work hard, raise families, retire, and do what they can to propagate the cycle for another turn of the generations. It’s hard and often thankless work, but at the end of the day, it’s a far more satisfying life than the emptiness of pursuing short term fun and games. It’s also a lot more expensive in terms of time and money, and so considerably less appealing to short term thinkers like the SJWs.

They might be driven by emotional stimulus, rather than rational, but they aren’t stupid. The childless weirdos know thier legacy will die with them, and they need to fill the hole in their lives somehow, so they turn their attention to the fertile fields planted and raised by others. Squandering their lives on short term pleasures and short term thinking means capturing the hearts and mind of other people’s kids serves as the expedient means by which they can pass their destructive worldview along to the next generation.

Which creates the prisoner’s dilemma. Let somebody else bear the cost of raising children, then swoop in to steal the harvest through cartoons (like Xhe-Ra), comics (from the Big Two), and the education system. The American Remnant foolishly trusted the conservatives to conserve that last one, but we’ve learned our lesson and don’t intend to let the rest of the culture go without a fight. We’ll get to that in a minute, but first it’s worth observing a few other points about SJW attempts to capture the hearts and minds of the children of normal men.

For one, childless weirdos lack the experience necessary to have anything useful to pass along to children. They are the last people anyone should trust with thier children’s time or attention. All of their ideas about what kids are, what they like, and what they want, are mere theories with no practical basis in real-world knowledge. Having never experienced the personalities of children – in the womb! – they adhere to the idiocy of the blank slate theory. Having never watched children instinctively reach for toys – at the chromosomal level! – they adhere to the idiocy of gender neutral play time. Having never experienced in real time the relentless needs of the mind of a child, they assume their own experience suffices. This despite the utter failure of their own stunted childhood that to provide them with a deep appreciation of actual adulthood, which is self-evident given their inability to act like an adult and take on their adult responsibilities.

For two, many of these SJWs infiltrate children’s media as predators. But don’t take my word for it. Take it from somebody who lived it.

Either way, these are the last people anyone should entrust with their children’s precious time and attention.

Much to the chagrin of traditional households across the country, Corporate America loves hiring the childless weirdos because they are cheap – no extra mouths to feed at home, you see. But Corporate America gets what it pays for, and that means hollow stories featuring hollow characters having hollow adventures. And the resultant consumer revolt, as seen in tanking ratings (TV) and sales (comics and lit), demonstrates that parents have way more control and influence than Corporate America or their SJW servants realize.

Any media produced for children has to clear the parent hurdle first, or it won’t ever see the light in their children’s eyes. The end-run around parents that worked so well with the education system is failing when faced with the everyday judgement of the marketplace. Parents are turning their backs on their beloved childhood memories as the locusts prop up distorted simulacra devoid of the context and inspirational foundation that made those tales and characters so beloved in the first place. Children might fall for the demons draped in skin-suits of 80’s characters but their parents see through the flimsy disguises.

Which means, like so many other properties hauled out She-Ra revamp – actually, given the way the producers have adopted the de-feminizing strategy of feminism, it could actually be called a devamp – will fail. As it does, we can expect the usual water carriers in the critical media to blame “toxic fans” for not pretending like the skin-walker versions are improvements on the original in fairly short order and to no avail. She-Ra will die a quiet death, and the locusts will move on to another field to ravage.

But the responsible parents will be there, standing guard. And with each iteration, fewer and fewer consumers will be there ready to give up their hard fought legacy. Instead, they will look elsewhere for new alternatives.  Two prime examples leap to mind.

And it’s not just major players like this that are working to deny locusts access to the fertile fields of our children.  Thousands of decent men and women have taken up the pen to produce content suitable for the preservation of civilization and the continued prosperity of future generations.  My own tale of a decent man caught up in a fight bigger than any he imagined and fighting to save his family – and all of Galactic Christendom – from the predations of an alien empire makes for a clean, inspirational, and fun alternative to the major media productions.  Suitable for you and your kids, you won’t be disappointed.

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Cirsova Volume I Kickstarter

Cirsova Magazine represents one of the crown jewels of the great Geek Spring that we’ve all been enjoying these past few years.  One of the early trickles of content that has turned into a deluge that I can’t even keep up with, it has introduced me to a host of otherwise unknown and hard to find authors.  Some of the best working today, and more than one of whom has grown from a mere yellow name on a pretty cover to an author that I would count as not just inspiration for my own writing, but also as a friend.

If you haven’t read it yet, you can find all of the back issues on Amazon.  Better yet, why not take this last chance and back the Kickstarter for the final two issues.  For just ten bucks an issue you can get physical copies delivered to your home, with digital copies thrown in for good measure.

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Mother Russia

From “Adam Wreck”, a perfect entrée into comic books for kids, we turn our attention to “Mother Russia“, a much darker tale written and illustrated by Jeff McComsky.

Set in the fictional 1943 ruins of Stalingrad just a few weeks after the horrors of war gave way to the horrors of the zombie apocalypse, “Mother Russia” features one of the Motherland’s female snipers holed up in a watch-tower, passing the days by pot-shotting at the undead hordes wandering the streets below.

The ruins of Stalingrad make for a perfect zombie tale.  Plenty of corpses.  Plenty of ammo.  Plenty of supplies laying around ready to be scrounged.  Throw in the forced détente between Nazi survivors and Commie survivors, and you’re left with a three way fight with no easy protagonists.  To overcome that limitation, McComsky gives you a female protagonist whose vulnerability makes her the easy sympathetic point of view.  Add in an early bit of heroics to show that she isn’t the usual sort of Communist monster, and the story easily sucks the reader into its dark world.

Her counterpart and foil and reluctant partner, a grizzled Nazi officer carrying the shade of Otto Skorzeny on his shoulders makes for the perfect partner.  Abrasive  and difficult to like, particularly given an early betrayal/massacre by his hands, his strength and dedication to duty make his later heel-face turn profoundly satisfying.  As with the other titles I’ve read from Alterna, “Mother Russia” presents a strong character piece leavened with moments of action and heroism that represent the best comic books have to offer.

The black and white art is used to good effect to paint the bleak backdrop of Zombie Stalingrad, and the camera never shies from the horrors of war.  Add in some unforced cursing, and you get a book that’s not for the younger set, but one for fans of zombie action and darker character studies alike.

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The Death of an Icon

Bradford C. Walker, one of the better and more productive members of the cultural shift in fantasy and sci-fi circles, has a new IP on the way – The Star Knight Saga!   Look at this great concept art, and hit up his site for more information and a look at the full picture.

For the past 30 years, nothing has been as iconic a representation of the Star Wars universe as the light sabre.  The look and the sound of the thing immediately conjures up the image of a brown-robed warrior-monk who fights for truth and justice.  Those brave few men whose discipline and training allow them to use such a dangerous weapon to great effect.

The power-sword has never been unique to Star Wars.  From Fritz Leiber’s “rods of wrath”, violent energy blades that appeared in his 1943(!) story, Gather Darkness, to the late 1970s Sunsword of Thundarr the Barbarian, and everything in between and following along, the concept of a sword…but more powerful and visibly radiating that power, is a stable of science-fantasy.  And yet, something about the implementation in Star Wars made them seem more rare, mysterious, and unique that setting in a way that no other IP could match.

Until lately.  It started with the over saturation in the Prequels, then became worse when any random waif or garbage man could pick one up and use one effectively and without lopping off his own arm accidentally.  The death of the light sabre’s stranglehold on our imaginations probably came when one of the two most iconic wielders of said weapons chucked his family heirloom lightsaber over his shoulder with a silent shrug.

Okay, Luke.  I’ve followed your lead when it comes to trusting myself, choosing my friends over my own training, and loving my father come what may.  If you think light sabres mean nothing, who am I to say otherwise?

For some time now, and I’m only just noticing this major shift in my own perceptions, the light sabre is no more special or unique than dark lords, space fighter dog fights, or planetary princesses in need of rescue.  It’s just another energy blade, and so just one more aspect of space fantasy that doesn’t immediately conjure up images of the Skywalker family.

Looking at Mr. Walker’s promising artwork, it struck me that it doesn’t look at all derivative of Star Wars.  It’s its own thing, still well within the space fantasy genre, but it doesn’t have to fight its way through a lot of Star Wars baggage to establish itself.

Congratulations, Disney.  In your handling of Star Wars you squandered more genre real-estate than you realize.

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Adam Wreck

Getting my comic book fix while waiting for the next Al*Hero to drop, I ordered up a few copies of the second best deal in comics these days.  Alterna Comics uses newsprint and ink that rubs off on your fingers for that extra old school charm.

Adam Wreck“, written and illustrated by Michael S. Bracco, presents a sci-fi take suitable for younger readers.  The titular character’s genius parents take

their reluctant son off earth in search of extraterrestrial life. The good news is that they find it. The bad news is that the first aliens to meet mankind are space pirates, and Adam soon finds himself stranded on an alien planet, determined to find his way back to his parents. Aided by the usual sort of Northwest Smith style opportunist, Adam’s adventure provides a solid story with the sort of thrills suitable for younger readers.

The pirates are scary enough to threaten, but silly enough not to lead to bad dreams. Adam’s parents represent a strength of the title – they are loving, brave, clever, and outmatched early enough to justify a rescue by their young son. The art is suitably cartoony, and the touch of orange and blue coloring is used to good effect. The design of the aliens and spaceships are fun and creative.

I wouldn’t recommend “Adam Wreck” for serious connoisseurs of sequential art as a medium of exploring the subtle distinctions between good and evil, and man and monster.  But it does make a perfect gateway drug to lure your children into the wider world of graphic novels.


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Heard the Horns of Elfland?

If you’re reading this, it’s because something happened and I’ve stopped blogging at this address.  In the event that I’m cut off, drop dead, drop out, or just move on, let me leave you with these words:

If you ever heard the horns of Elfland dimly blowing
If you ever wanted to carry a kicking, half-naked wench under your arm
If you ever felt like detonating a nuclear weapon on R’lyeh

Vaya con dios, my friends.  Be good to each other.

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