Review Policy

So, there’s a weird juncture, where as someone who is trying to publish a game, and a consumer of the same industry products, that you have to keep your opinion to yourself.

As such, I will no longer be reviewing roleplaying game products. In the interest of honesty, I’ve left my previous reviews up (all except the one right before this was determined. I said what I said, and I will adhere to that), but it’s unfair of me to publicly express these opinions, nor appear to demean, or detract from my colleagues, and their efforts and hard-work.

If you wish to hear my private and personal opinions, you’re welcome to message or contact me asking for them.

Otherwise, enjoy my past reviews, and I’ll find other items to fill the void on this blog!

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RPG Review: King Arthur Pendragon v5.2

Will played in my Pendragon campaigns many times. The man knows his KAP.

Write, Liam. Write.

Will Raves

It’s not fair. I mean, what game has a chance against Nocturnal Media’s King Arthur Pendragon RPG?

Am I giving away the ending? Oops. Please carry on.

The Review

I’m going to approach this review as if you know nothing about previous versions. That said, King Arthur Pendragon 5.2 is a mainly cosmetic update from KAP 5.1. I own both in PDF and 5.1 print-on-demand hardbound, and they contain mostly the same content. A few errata have been merged in, but otherwise, the two versions can be used interchangeably. Primarily, the changes relate to layout and art.

But, oh wow. The new art is impressive.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

The Pendragon book isn’t the most massive RPG book I own, but it’s nowhere near the smallest either. Most of my previous reviews have been of minimalist RPGs who’s rules could be distilled into a few pages if you wanted them to…

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Alan talks on Writing Excuses

At LTUE 2017, I got a chance to sit down with the talented Writing Excuses crew and talk about how to turn ideas and stories into games!

You can listen to it HERE.

We talk about Planet MercenaryTiny Frontiers, and various components of games. Luckily my fantastic hosts make me sound smart, and we had a great time.

I certainly hope I get the chance to do it again!

 

 

 

Star Trek: Discovery Thoughts

So, I watched the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery last night. First thing you need to understand, is I’m a massive Star Trek fan. Hugely so. It’s likely my favorite IP. There hasn’t been lots of Star Trek stuff to go gush over til recently (new RPG, which is amazing. New TV show. Kelvin timeline finally gets good in Star Trek Beyond) so my fandom has lain rather inert the last decade plus.

Well, no more. Star Trek: Discovery is airing, and I can finally let loose the rampaging beast that is my Star Trek love affair.  I have lots of feelings here.

So what *did* I think of Discovery? Well, anonymous internet reader, I’m glad you asked. Spoilers abound below the logo here.

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Let’s do this right:


THE GOOD

  • The Visuals: It was very pretty. The ship and uniforms screamed Star Trek (I adored the new ship designs they’re working with). It was a high quality and pleasing show to watch.
  • Michelle Yeoh: First off, Michelle Yeoh can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. Also, she’s the perfect fit for a Star Trek captain. I can’t imagine a better choice. And of course, she was excellent as the captain of the Shenzhou.
  • Sonequa Martin-Green: Excellent acting, considering the writing she got (more on that later.)
  • The rest of the Cast: Solidly turned in performances. No complaints. They looked like a Starfleet crew (visually, acting, and more).
  • New Intro: I really liked the new intro music and graphics.

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This is the big section. THE BAD

Ok, so. I can’t bullet point this section because it’s way too big.

War Story: Why is Discovery a war story from the start? Star Trek has always been about exploration, hope, and diverse species working together.

I mean the famous opening leads with: “”to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations.” I’m not saying you can’t have violence or physical conflict in Star Trek (obviously you can, and should), but TNG and DS9 (which were the most “war-like” of Star Trek) still had the focus revolve around exploration, discovery and the future.

Sigh. There was nothing to indicate this is anything more than a science fiction war story, which really irks me.

Inter-crew conflict: Gene Roddenberry famously had a “no long-term inter-crew conflict” rule (which obviously was broken in the past, but never seriously, or with long term intent.) Now, as to the sanctity of that rule, I don’t think it’s necessary. We all know conflict drives good stories, and the Discovery writers have long made their intent to dispense with this rule clear. Shockingly, guess what didn’t work for me.

Good drama, pathos and conflict among a crew drives good storytelling. Having your first officer lead a mutiny against her captain of seven years (who wants to give her a command, and clearly serves as a mentor who things highly of her)? That’s stupid and lazy.  Especially when there was nothing given to us in the prelude up to that moment that suggested Burnham would take Sarek’s advice over her captain. It’s an absurd level of conflict with no basis for existing. Completely stupid. I mean, what’s the thought process?

Here I am, a highly trained, very successful Starfleet officer, raised by Vulcans to be logical, confronted with an enemy empire we’ve not contacted in a hundred years. My adopted father, a Vulcan ambassador, says the Vulcans always attacked Klingons on sight, and then the warlike race sued for peace. Hm, my captain won’t open fire based on my recommendation, based on this single piece of information, only I am aware of! I know! I’ll directly break the chain of command on the bridge, and then attack her when she reprimands me! Then I’ll order the crew to open fire on an enemy who hasn’t attacked us, or even powered up weapons?

It’s inane. Martin-Green turns in such a great performance, I feel so bad that she got such terrible writing and plotting.

I don’t even know what to think.

The Klingons: Oh. Yeah. Sooooo, this was a thing. First off, NONE of those Klingons were memorable. Their scenes dragged on under the weight of all Klingon dialogue and subtitles (and I love subtitled films.) Their make-up was uninspired, and it was just a mass of 90s goth club costumes, dialogue spoken through a mouth full of cotton, and unmemorable characters.

Other Star Trek has been so good at making the individual Klingon’s individuals that, it was jarring to have to deal with the opposite.

WHY IS IT A PREQUEL?If you made some minor adjustments and updated a few details, you could slap this movie into the timeline 100 years after Star Trek: Nemesis (the last stop in our canon timeline) and we’d have an all new story that moves Star Trek further into the future. This obsession with prequels and re-writing what has gone before didn’t work for Enterprise (even when Enterprise is good, the prequelness hurts it), and I have no faith it’ll work long term here.

Sarek: What the crap was that? I know Spock and his father didn’t get along or talk much, but did Sarek have a human ward he never told Spock about…who..also served in Starfleet? And was probably somewhat infamous (as that mutiny would suggest?)

It really throws the claims of “main timeline” into murky water and tells them to tread for a bit.

Here’s a bullet point list of the rest:

  • Holograms (I can’t recall a time they used Holograms like this pre-TNG, and not even in TNG/later shows that much after season 1.) Does Sarek have a desk in the exact spot in his office, so he can mirror Burnhams? How does that sitting thing work?
  • Burnham’s placing her opinions over Starfleet values: Geez, someone did not get a complete psych eval. Why is a commanding officer so willing to throw Starfleet ideals and values to the wind to satisfy their own needs/beliefs?
  • The idiotic plan to capture the Klingons? Why would you beam TWO human Starfleet officers (Captain and First Officer) into enemy territory because you “need to redeem yourselves?” I mean, first off: A living officer with years of military experience is still worth more alive than dead to the Federation. It’s a boneheaded tactical decision.
  • WHERE WAS THE DISCOVERY?

Look, for all my complaining I’m glad there’s a new Star Trek on TV. And I hope it’ll be good. But I’m gonna be waiting til the season is wrapped up. I canceled my CBS All Access this morning.

I hope Star Trek: Discovery finds its feet and moves itself forward into something resembling Star Trek in the long term, and for it’s sake, I hope it happens fast. I’m not sure how long viewers are going to pay for CBS All Access to watch ST:D without more to it.

A boring life update post.

So what’s going on in the life of Alan these days. This poor blog has been a bit neglected.


Moving

The wife got a new job, so we’re moving! As I can work anywhere, it’s really irrelevant where we live. However, this means my day is filled with work. Frantic packing. Stress.

But it’ll be good. The new place is a better fit for our family and lifestyle (less fast-paced than SLC Valley where we live now).


Working

Oh man. Am I working like crazy.

In the last 3 months, I’ve released 2 roleplaying games, ran a Kickstarter (currently on), helped with two others, and am prepping two more releases in the next few months, and more next year.

I got a new job. It keeps me pretty busy. I’m still doing work for Nocturnal Media, Planet Mercenary and a few other items.


Gaming

With the impending move, the gaming has slowed a bit, but here’s what we’re currently playing:

  • Star Trek: Adventures – I actually get to play in this sucker, and I’m playing the Human Captain, Montgomery Rhodes. I should do a bigger write up about this.
  • Blue Rose – The new edition of Blue Rose grabbed me and one of my groups is trying it! Good times.
  • D&D 5e – We’ve got an ongoing D&D 5e campaign that is going great.

There’s other odds and ends in there, but that’s the primary thrust!


Puppies

Oh yeah. I have two puppies.

We’ve had Fae (the Black & White Chihuahua / Greyhound mix) since April-ish. She’s a little terror who runs on pure energy, and Ella (a Chihuahua-something mix) whose sweet and clingy and tolerates Fae with excessive patience.

They’re pretty freaking adorable, and they keep me busy. Also much healthier!

Ok, there you go. Life update! Expect your regularly served gaming posts and record reviews to start as soon as the move is over and my records are unpacked (sad Alan).

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