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 Fifth Edition 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.

Review: The Stormlight Archive, Book Three: Oathbringer

The friend who was lending me Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive books switched to ebooks, but thanks to my local library, I’ve pressed ahead with the series.

Cover art for The Stormlight Archive, book three: Oathbringer by Brandon SandersonThe previous two books in this series suffered from painfully slow pacing, but made up for it with spectacular endings. Oathbringer breaks that pattern, which is both a blessing and a curse.

The upshot is the pacing is a lot more even throughout. The pace is still a little on the slower side, but not unpleasantly so, and he doesn’t seem to spend so much time getting bogged down in irrelevant details. Things move forward at a slow but steady pace, and Oathbringer is a lot more approachable and readable than its predecessors.

The only place it does drag a bit is Dalinar’s story. His story in the present day isn’t exactly thrilling, but what’s really tedious is the flashbacks that are peppered throughout the book. They keep teasing a big reveal but it takes so… long… to get to it. I actually skipped ahead — something I never do when reading — and read all the flashbacks up to the reveal in one go because I was tired of being strung along.

That doesn’t do much to make the book as a whole less enjoyable. It’s still a great read… right up until the end.

The previous two Stormlight books have justified themselves with intense, kickass endings full of exciting action and big reveals. Oathbringer tries to double down on that, but there can be too much of a good thing.

The ending to Oathbringer tries so hard to be an epic, fantastical thrill ride that it crosses over into the realm of the ridiculous. And this is coming from a Warcraft fan, so that has to say something. I accepted Richard A. Knaak and Rhonin’s psychic dinosaur army (albeit grudgingly), and even I think this is too much.

We’re only three books in, and already the power levels of the heroes have gotten so absurdly high that it’s nigh-impossible to inject any drama into the story. The Radiants are all invincible gods at this point. The middle of a good fantasy epic should leave you struggling to imagine how the heroes could possibly triumph, but at this point I struggle to imagine how they could possibly fail.

I’ve heard it said that Brandon Sanderson is planning this to be a ten book series, but I don’t know how he’s going to pull it off. He’s already answered almost all the big questions, and already the power levels of heroes and villains alike are so high it threatens to break the story. How in the world is he going to wring another seven books out of this? To me it feels like there’s one book worth of story left at most.

Based on this series, Sanderson is great at world-building and creating memorable characters, but he really needs to work on his plotting.

Overall rating: 6.9/10