Sunday, 9 October 2011

Listen:// Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Published By: Random House Audio

Just finished listening to this one and it was very entertaining. It's nothing particularly deep or ground-breaking, but it is a wonderful, fast-paced ride through 1980s pop culture and geekery. If you grew up in the 80s watching films like Wargames and playing arcade machines and Dungeons & Dragons, then you need to give this one a read or listen.

The audiobook is narrated by that geek favourite Will Wheaton, and he really is a top class narrator. I hope he does some more audiobooks, very easy to listen to, giving each character a distinct voice without descending into over the top caricatures like some actors do.

The story reads like YA fiction which is no bad thing, and stuffed with so many references to things I loved as a child that I'd find it hard to hate it even if the plot was non-existent. It's light cyberpunk stuff, with a worldwide virtual reality game inhabited by the usual hackers, geeks, and evil corporations.

Loved it.
At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.  

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Initial Impressions:// Mytherian Heroic Fantasy & The Goblin Skullkeeps of Rendaria

Have been incredibly busy lately but life appears to be returning to normal so hopefully I'll be getting some more reviews and things up here over the next few weeks.

First up is just a few initial impressions of Mytherian Heroic Fantasy, a pen and paper RPG for 1-6 players along with the first adventure setting for it, The Goblin Skullkeeps of Rendaria.

I first spotted this over at the solitaire gaming Solo Nexus blog, and I'm always interested in RPGs with solitaire mechanics, so I bought a copy as soon as it was available as a PDF.  I'm only now finding a little time to look into it and hopefully I'll get a play in and review or session report up. The author Erik Goodwyn has kindly released everything required as reasonably priced PDFs, and you can find those plus the hard copies over at Lulu

First is Mytherian Heroic Fantasy: Rules of Play, Perils and Treasures weighing in at a hefty 211 pages, you really do get plenty to read for your money. It has to be said the sheer amount of detail and data contained within is pretty impressive for product like this, there are some extensive tables and lists which leads me to believe that there is a fair amount of replayability to be had here.

The general layout and design is great too, it's clear, well written and the illustrations whilst mostly public domain are well chosen, and help set the mood for heroic adventure. Actually I really like some of the illustrations and I'm going to have to hunt some of them down, Erik has done a great job on finding and editing suitable stuff.

It looks like character creation is a straightforward affair, with a number of takes on classic fantasy heroes 
from the pious Sylmaran Paladin, to the boastful
Brendanian Blackwolf Knight, to the deadly Avithainian Ronin, the crafty Velian Ranger, the mysterious Londruinic Knight, the proud Sathenite Warrior and the mighty Svoedic Viking. 
Each comes with a small history, starting stats, items and one of those previously mentioned extensive lists of skills to choose from. It's great detail and Erik has obviously been working on this world for a long time, it really helps to create an interesting world to play in. The damage system is nice and simple too with everything having six wounds, but obviously some things are much harder to wound than others. As the author points out this makes wound tracking easy since a single die can be used for each character in combat.

Next is a section on magic or sorcery which Iv'e only skimmed over, and I don't have much to say on it yet. It does again have a nice long list, this time of spells available. I'm starting to think this game could really benefit from some cards to replace those lists, something I may look into if I enjoy it.

After that we have an explantion of how the adventure is played. On a brief read through it plays out like an RPG board game. You can move, explore new tiles, search for treasure and hidden exits, and of course encounter enemies and engage in combat. There is a neat looking system for wandering foes, using a number of warning dice which track enemies which might be getting closer until they attack.

The combat section is pretty meaty and I've only skimmed it, but it looks like there are a number of choices that can be made.

There is also a section on winning or losing and what happens next, like character advancement. Plus rules for a confrontational version of the game where one player takes on the role of an 'evil GM' and controls the enemies in order to beat the other players.

The second half of the book 'Perils & Treasures' contains what look like a set of campaign rules for stringing adventure together, and providing a load of city events and items to buy, plus some huge tables to roll on for random treasure.

The second PDF The Goblin Skullkeeps of Rendaria contains the setting for the first published adventure. This is required to play the game and contains the tiles to print, though you'll need to supply your own dice and miniatures or tokens. It's a shorter PDF at only 85 pages but it's pretty packed with events and enemies for the adventure. The board pieces could be more printer friendly, some contain large areas of black and they are quite big and one per page too. I've been doing a little photoshop work to try and create something a little smaller and I noticed they are not all the same size either.

Anyway this is all much longer and rambling than I intended. I think I'll give it a play and get some sort of session report up which will probably be more use than a review retreading the same ground.

Initial impressions...looks good, but I need to get it on the table and see how it plays. Great looking product for an independently produced game though. I really do think this would do better on RPGNow/DriveThruRPG though, Lulu isn't the best marketplace for this sort of thing.

Not Dead....

...just busy.

Service will resume shortly.