Updates: A New Gig, Stargate, Three Worlds, and More

I’m sorry for not posting more lately. I’ve been very busy. There are a lot of things going on at the moment I would have in the past done deep dive posts on, but I don’t have the time or energy these days. I didn’t want to leave this blog to rot, though, so I’ll do a quick rundown of all that’s new.

The official logo for Dungeons and Dragons, fifth editionFirstly, part of the reason I’m so busy is that I’ve picked up another new writing gig. I’m not sure how much I’m contractually allowed to say in public right now, but I can say that it’s writing Dungeons and Dragons adventures. It’s not for Wizards of the Coast; it’s a third party producing adventures under the Open Gaming License. It’s a fairly well-established company, though. I already knew them before I even applied for the job.

It’s also not clear to me if this is a short-term thing or something that will be ongoing for the foreseeable future. I think it depends on how happy they are with my work.

Professional game design is something I’ve always wanted to do, so I’m glad to have the opportunity, but the workload is more than I’m used to, so it’s taking a lot out of me. Someone without my disabilities would probably be fine, but for me it’s taking a lot of energy. To their credit, my new employers have been pretty patient and even made accommodations to work with my unpredictable schedule.

This has delayed work on my own tabletop game, Wyrd Street. I’m unsure if I’ve mentioned it on this blog before, but I do plan to talk about it at some point. For now the short version for those who haven’t already been told about it is that it’s a D20-based RPG about ordinary heroes in a fantastical world. It draws a lot of inspiration from the earlier sections of Dragon Age II.

The idea at the heart of it is that anyone can be the hero, no matter what the rest of the world thinks of you or what struggles you might have in your life. You might not be a hero of legend, but you can be a hero to the people who depend on you. You might not save the world, but you can still save someone’s world.

That’s on the backburner while I focus on the new job, but I hope to get back to it at some point. Early play-tests were going well. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. Several people have said they enjoy combat in Wyrd Street more than in 5E.

The Stormfall palace in Wolcen: Lords of MayhemOn the video game front, those who follow my column on Massively Overpowered may have noticed I got sucked into Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem. I just finished the campaign, and I definitely want to play more, but I also have a lot of other stuff in my backlog I want to get to, and while I think Wolcen’s polish issues have been exaggerated, waiting for a few more patches to smooth out some of the rougher edges doesn’t seem like the worst idea. We’ll see how I feel; the combat and the build system in that game are just so addictive.

I did finally break down and pick up Nier: Automata on a Steam flash sale recently, so I hope to get to that soon, as well. Still a lot left to do in Star Trek Online, too.

Speaking of sci-fi, now that I finally have a library card, I discovered they have the entire series of Stargate: SG-1 on DVD, so I’ve been binge watching through that.

Despite the fact I’ve seen every episode of Atlantis and Universe, I’d only seen bits and pieces of SG-1 prior to now. I got interested in it pretty late in the game, and it was never on TV at times that were convenient to me. Then I didn’t have a TV. DVDs are too expensive, and there’s never been a convenient way to stream it.

But now I’m finally getting to watch it all in order. I just started on season four, and the show finally seems to be find its footing.

I won’t lie; if I didn’t know for a fact the series gets better, I might have given up on SG-1 in the first few seasons. It’s not that it’s terrible or anything, but it’s not enormously compelling either, and some aspects of it really haven’t aged well. It does feel like it’s starting to find more of a voice now, though, and I know the best is yet to come.

I’m also binging Welcome to Night Vale pretty hard right now. I got tickets to a live show in my area for later this month, and while I know it isn’t strictly necessary, I want to be fully caught up before I go. I’ve “only” got about twenty episodes left now, though I also want to listen to the recordings of all the previous live shows, and I haven’t touched those yet.

Official art for the audio drama Welcome to Night ValeI also finally tried one of the other shows by that company, Alice Isn’t Dead. Only listened to a few episodes so far, but my first impression is it’s really damn good. A bit Secret World-esque, and I adore Jasika Nicole’s voice. Wish I could get her to narrate my life.

Finally, when it comes to books, I just got done reading a collection of short fiction set in Ian Irvine’s Three Worlds setting, A Wizard’s War and Other Stories. It was fine and all, but I definitely expected more. None of the stories really jumped out as being super memorable. Don’t regret reading it, but it’s definitely not essential, even if you’re a serious Three Worlds fan.

Limetown and Night Vale: From Audio to Print

There seems to be a lot of crossover between the world of audio and the world of print. Both of the podcasts I’ve become a fan of in recent times — Limetown and Welcome to Night Vale — have put out tie-in novels, and I figured it was time I gave them a read.

An official banner for the podcast drama LimetownWhen it comes to the podcasts, I think I still enjoy Limetown a little more than Night Vale (though it’s a very close race). But when it comes to the books, Night Vale is the decisive champion.

To be honest, I didn’t much enjoy Limetown’s novel at all. It doesn’t provide much insight into the conspiracies and intrigue that are the setting’s focus; instead, it mostly provides backstory for Lia Haddock and her uncle, Emile.

That’s not the worst idea in theory. A character study could still be interesting, even if it’s not necessarily what I’m looking for in a Limetown story. But it’s not even a very good character study.

In the podcast, Lia comes across as fierce and determined, but also warm and human. In the book, her determination comes across more as obsessiveness. She wants to solve mysteries not because she cares about the people involved — the book makes it very clear that Lia doesn’t care about anyone, at all — but simply because she has a deranged need to poke at any unanswered questions she finds.

Not only does it not make for an enjoyable book, it dampens my interest in the podcast, too. Part of what hooked me into Limetown was how much I loved Lia as a character, but the book kind of made me hate her.

By contrast, the Night Vale novel — while not without a few hiccups of its own — is a much better experience.

Official art for the audio drama Welcome to Night ValeShifting focus away from Cecil, Night Vale’s print incarnation focuses on two ordinary citizens of Night Vale: Diane Crayton, PTA member and single mother of a teenage shapeshifter, and Jackie Fierro, a pawn shop operator who has been nineteen years old for an indeterminate number of decades.

The more detailed perspective of a book makes the surrealism of Night Vale a bit harder to swallow at times, but once you readjust to an even greater sense of weirdness than the podcast provides, it’s a good read. It’s got the same humour as the podcast, and I found myself audibly cracking up on nearly every page.

The thing that’s really impressive about this book — that’s also true of the podcast to some extent — is how real the characters and their struggles can feel. Once you get past the carnivorous insectoid librarians and wheatless deconstructed croissants, this is a very down to earth story of family struggles that is deeply relevant to our own world. Having dealt with some of the issues this book brings up in my own life, I can confirm that the characters and their struggles feel very authentic and relatable.

I do think the ending could have been more conclusive, and you definitely have to be careful about when you read this book relative to where you are in the show (I unintentionally spoiled myself, as I read the book before I’d caught up to when it was released), but even so the Night Vale novel definitely gets my recommendation.

I wouldn’t bother with the Limetown one. It’s not worth your time.