David Gemmell Reread!

It’s that happy time of year again, where I get to reread and revisit the works of my favorite fiction author, David Gemmell!

Every August, I dive into a massive reread of all of Gemmell’s fiction works, and this year, I’ve decided to review and talk about each book as it goes on (this blog needs some serious love, so here’s something to start with). I read each of his books in their respective groupings/series, and for clarity’s sake, here is my reading order.

If you wanna read along, or discuss the work, I’d love that. I don’t get to rave or talk about the themes in Gemmell’s work enough.

505352Rigante series – Flintlock Fantasy before “Flintlock Fantasy” was really a genre, this book series is probably my absolute favorite work of his. I love the take on cultures from across the sea, the detailed worldbuilding, and the century spanning timeline.

  • Sword in the Storm
  • Midnight Falcon
  • Ravenheart (my personal favorite in the series)
  • Stormrider




Drenai Series – Second favorite, because it’s a classic. You can’t go 618177wrong with the best Heroic Fantasy on the market. Or ever.

  • Legend (it’s a classic, and it’s my favorite book of his).
  • The King Beyond the Gate
  • Waylander
  • Quest for Lost Heroes
  • Waylander II: In the Realm of the Wolf
  • The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend
  • The Legend of Deathwalker
  • Winter Warriors
  • Hero in the Shadows
  • White Wolf (The Damned Series Book 1)
  • The Swords of Night and Day (The Damned Series Book 2)


last-guardianStones of Power – This one is a little weird, so I just copied the Wikipedia description. It reads like two vaguely connected series.

“This series is known by several names. The entire series deals with the Stones of Power, also known as the Sipstrassi. The first two books contain a re-imagining of the Arthurian legend. The last three novels involve the protagonist Jon Shannow.”

  •  Ghost King
  • Last Sword of Power
  • Wolf in Shadow
  • The Last Guardian
  • Bloodstone


Hawk Queen  – Dimension hopping fantasy. Love it.

  • Ironhand’s Daughter
  • The Hawk Eternal


Standalone Novels

  • Knights of Dark Renown
  • Morningstar
  • Dark Moon
  • Echoes of the Great Song

Troy series – Historical Fantasy!

  • Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow
  • Troy: Shield of Thunder
  • Troy: Fall of Kings

Greek series – More Historical Fantasy!

  • Lion of Macedon
  • Dark Prince


Mercenary Mondays: Manic Mondays…

Note: Mercenary Mondays is an ongoing series of posts about the Schlock Mercenary Roleplaying Game and it’s behind the scenes development!

This post will deviate from the general theme of Mercenary Mondays to talk about a topic that is very close to my heart. The advent of some close friends of mine announcing an anthology, and my desire to ensure no one has to suffer alone.

First, please look at this IndieGoGo campaign. Then please read these posts:

 From Howard: Schlock Mercenary

From Rob’s brother, Dan Wells: Fearful Symmetry.

From Larry Correia: Monster Hunter Nation

From Sandra Taylor, Howard’s better half: One Cobblestone

Now for my spiel. In the last few years, I’ve become much more open about a struggle I’ve faced for a long time. At age 19 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, type 1. I am also rapid cycling, in addition to the usual effects. At last count, in one year, I had 18 cycles between manic and depressive.  I tend to level out on the side of depression if I do level, but it generally only lasts for a few weeks.

When I was 18 and at college, I was away from home for the first extended time in my life. I struggled with loneliness, failure, and emotions I hadn’t had to deal with on my own. High School had always been easy, and I’d never tried, so my average grades weren’t any indication and I knew it. My grandfather had suffered from manic depression, and my parents had brought it up to me in the past, but it’d never really gone anywhere.

So when I was suddenly alone, watching debt mount up due to poor spending habits, watching my GPA suffer and struggling to maintain a positive social life. And I was failing at all of that. So, that spring, I attempted suicide. It was a shock to me the next morning, first that I’d survived, but second that’d I’d hit so low. Before the semester was over, I’d tried three times. Let me try to explain how it feels:

Depression is a complicated mental illness, especially for the sufferer. You’re sad, which is a common emotion. You’re frustrated, again, common. Angry, upset, hurting, and more. All of these emotions are common ones we all struggle with. So you wonder, in the depths of an illness you might not even realize you have, why it’s so hard for you to deal with everything that is so easy for so many other people. I mean, I’m just sad. Other people get sad. You don’t realize how dark and deep it goes. Depression is an anchor that weighs down on your life. It holds you, pinned beneath a sea of emotion you can neither swim out from, or breathe in. And suddenly, as this anchor is weighing you down, the only option you see out is to end your life before you drown here.

Depression isn’t so simple as that metaphor. It’s the saddest you’ve ever felt. I’ve never been so angry as I am when I’m depressed. I rail against my life. I push people out. It’s the worst feeling in the world, and all your failures, and everyone telling you to “snap out of it”, “buck up” and more simply drive you further down. It’s the worst sadness you’ve ever felt. You’re so sad you can’t get out of bed. You don’t eat, because it’s too painful to try to cook. You don’t sleep, you don’t shower, you simply lie there and hate yourself. And invariably, you are forced to power through your regular life, and act like nothing is wrong. But you feel worse, because emotions everyone can handle are causing these problems.

Couple that with manic phases, and it’s worse. When manic, you can do anything. You can accomplish any number of tasks, do them perfectly, change the world, never sleep, and be the greatest person. You start every project you’ve ever wanted to do. But the manic only lasts so long before you crash into depression. Then you’re realizing you can’t do anything. You can’t change the world, you can’t even finish these projects you started. So you spiral deeper and deeper into the black morass that is just eating you up.

Have you ever tried to explain happiness to someone? What terms would you use? It’s a truly impossible task to describe emotions to someone, the best you can use is a close analogy. An imperfect metaphor. And it’s never good enough, like hearing only the refrain of your favorite song on the radio. Sufferers from depression, anxiety, and manic disorders have the same trouble, but it’s a herculean task to share how that affects a person with someone who has never seen the colors of the soul that are darker then black.

There is so much resentment, and anger, for no one truly grasps what you go through. How could they? You’re alone. No one supports you.

After I tried suicide, I felt like a worse failure. Not only was I this bad at life, but I couldn’t even kill myself properly. What an incredible conceit I had! I thought I was worthy of just escaping the pain. I wasn’t. Depression wouldn’t let me go, it’s talons were in my skin, holding me back.

That was eight years ago.

I still go to therapy regularly. My doctors and I are still trying to find a medicinal combination that leaves me as a functional human being, while curbing the worst of the feelings on both ends. I’ve survived multiple suicide attempts, and dangerous liaisons with my self. I’ve become much better at handling my life. I’ve held a job for the longest in my life now. I’ve advanced and done well. I’m working on Schlock Mercenary RPG with Howard, and developing my own game line for publication, becoming that much closer to my dreams.

Every time I wake up, I have to look in a mirror and see myself. I see a person who hates himself so much he tried to kill himself. I see a person who overcame that to become a (hopefully) good person. I see a person who still allows himself to be defined by his depression and anger. I see a person who wants to be so much more, and is always trying to climb that mountain, regardless of how many steps down the slope he slides.

It’s hard to be this person a lot of days. But I’ve slowly come to terms with it, and I can honestly say, I wouldn’t be anyone else (except Captain America) most days.

Now, you might be asking how this relates to the Schlock Mercenary RPG and I could spin you a tenuous line of logic and you could all nod your heads and agree.

I won’t do that.

Games like this, comics like Schlock, novels like Rob’s, and more are all created by people who are human beings. We put love, and time into this craft, because we want to accomplish something. Making players, readers, and fans happy. Pride in craftsmanship. Selfish desire to self-promote. But it gives us something more valuable. A platform.

I only ask that you remember all those who don’t have a platform to vocalize about this. We have the benefit of readership and presence, and these sort of posts are an attempt to bring more awareness to a struggle several million people have. You probably know someone with bipolar disorder, depression, or another mental illness.

Appreciate them.

Love them.

Don’t pressure them, but try to understand and support them.

Above all, please ask for help if you need. No one deserves to handle these things alone.

I’m always willing to turn an ear. I know others are too.

Why We Play

This post is the first in a series from myself and some excellent guest authors regarding roleplaying games and how we got into the hobby and how it’s affected us. What we play to accomplish and more.. Enjoy. 

Summer 2000. I was a tall, skinny kid from North Dakota at a Boy Scout camp in Minnesota. We were sharing a campsite with some other troops, and since ours was fairly small, we had made pretty good friends with the other scouts. Near the end of the night, I saw several of them sitting around a camp table. One of the scout leaders was standing up and gesturing expansively. More ghost stories clearly. So I wandered on over. Paper, books, and pencils were scattered across the table.

Clearly. Not ghost stories.

I was sat down, and someone handed a character sheet. A older scout instructed me in assigning ability scores, choosing a class (druid seemed appropriate), a race (half-elf, because they had cool names), and an animal companion (a badger, our troops animal). It probably took 20 minutes for me to pick my spells, thumb through the Monster Manual to look at my badger and see what was going on, and pick my weapon. Dire flail. Because hell yes. It’s a two headed flail…seriously. So awesome.

So, 30 minutes down, and the rest of my life was utterly changed. Aramil Naell, the half-elf Druid, was the first character I ever played. It was a simple adventure. Hunting kobolds. Fighting a white dragon (I summoned a thoqqua, a elemental fire worm that drills through the earth), and it was over. Maybe two hours of game play total. I remember thinking how cool it was to play a board game where I controlled a character.

I went home to North Dakota. The only stores that carried any RPG books was the Borders and Barnes and Noble in the only mall in town. I saved money I earned for a long time. In the meanwhile (several years), I read every fantasy novel I could get my hands on. Robert Jordan, R.A. Salvatore, Weis and Hickman, David Gemmell, Elaine Cunningham, Ed Greenwood. Anything that had a D&D label on the cover, or a fantasy looking character I devoured. Anything with a TSR or Tor imprint was given a shot and read.

About this same time, a friend introduced me to Warhammer Fantasy. While looking at models at the only hobbystore in town, I saw boxes of dice. I still have the first set I bought. Crystal Green. White lettering. Eventually I spent 100$ on all 3 core source books for 3.5 edition D&D. I still had no play group, and so I eventually taught my younger siblings to play.

After that, it was history.

16 years of roleplaying has lead to a lot of history. I’ve studied the origins of the hobby extensively. I’ve hunted down old editions and bought them online and at cons. My RPG book collection is extensive and covers games from Stormbringer to World of Darkness, to 1st Ed D&D to Pathfinder to Traveller to Empire of the Petal Throne.  Boxes of dice litter my house. All my old characters are in a binder carefully kept and placed. Minis, campaign notes and more are just scattered everywhere.

I’ve graduated from player to gamemaster more often then not, and I relish the chance to play. Everyone is different and plays for different reasons.

It took a long time for me to realize why I played and what I enjoy in RPGs. Story, character growth and strength are great, but what I relish, more then anything, is the chance to be a hero. Almost all my campaigns revolve around heroes. The world needs more heroes, and sadly, our modern society doesn’t allow heroics in everyday life. Roleplaying gives me that out. I play to be a hero I can’t be in real life. But more then that. I want a game that allows for laughter and fun with friends. The realization that all of us are playing a game and telling a story together, and that in the end, a game is just that. A game. A tool to provide fun. It’s a tool that when you forget why you use it, you stop using it right. A good RPG gives every player what they want and need.

Some of my best campaigns were in college with my friends. Staying up late during finals week to hurry and rush the resolution of a campaign before we all left for 3 months. All nighters to finish that epic battle and save the world. Characters dying and frantic rushes to the temples to bring them back. Markus Cryst, my rogue turned thief guildmaster. Ser Dante Alabaster, Paladin of the Ninth Order. Suka Coldheart, Ice Witch and Queen of the Northern Reaches.

Roleplaying has given me life-long friendships. I’ve got shared stories with some of the best people I’ve ever met, and the bonds you forge in the late hours of a night with friends are hard to break even through distance and lack of communication. It’s affecting my writing, my day to day activities and how I handle myself. I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff and let the little things slide. I’ve become more patient, more analytic, and I’ve learned to approach problems in out of the box ways.  I would never change this hobby for anything in my life, and I will always be grateful to the lessons I’ve learned.

Scion has become my favorite RPG. As the child of a God of classical mythology, fighting to save the world, it’s really the game that falls right up my alley. Built to drive cinematic, environment destroying combat, it’s a game about choices against parents who only want to use you as tools in a war, defending your legend against evil and monsters. Awesome powers, heroic feats and so much more. I’ll drop anything to run Scion. The tales of the children of gods. Heroes in the extreme.

For me, RPGs will always be about heroes and villains. Knights in shining armor, fighting alongside knights in battered and dented armor. It’ll be about not choosing evil over good, or the easy way out. For me, it’s how we want to view ourselves.

It’s escapism into a reality where I am more then the sum of my parts. Where the equation is not balanced. Where the words I use to describe myself are ideals, not truth. Synergy into heroism. Indomitable. Honorable. Chivalrous. Gallant.

Why do you play RPGs? What are they to you? Sound off in the comments!

The Last Paladin

“Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”

Stories of fairy tales, heroes and more are sadly lacking in our modern society. I’ve created this blog to allow for personal output, blogging about gaming, roleplaying and more. Just a simple website to allow some limited expression through out the world, and hopefully allow me to feel.

So, feel free to come along this ride with me. if you don’t want to, that’s fine too.