Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Buffy Comic Project: "A Nice Girl Like You"



Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 12

Dark Horse (Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators: Christopher Golden (writer); Christian Zanier (penciller); Andy Owens (inker)

Setting: Season Three

T.V. Character Appearances: Joyce, Buffy, Cordelia, Oz, Xander, Willow, Giles,

Major Original Characters: Brad Caulfield (bully); Sandy Shipman/Ylisandroth (high schooler/demon)

Summary: Buffy is being bullied by a jerk named Brad Caulfield. Brad's girlfriend, Sandy, is sympathetic to Buffy and strikes up a friendship. When Buffy overhears Brad talking about a ritual of some sort, she thinks that maybe loser-Brad is using black magick to entrance super-cool Sandy. Turns out, however, that Sandy is really an ancient demon named Ylisandroth and she's sucking power from Brad and his friends! Ylisandroth gets the drop on some of the Scoobies, but Buffy saves the day by decapitating the demon with a ceiling fan. Yuck!

Review: Buffy's new friend, never seen before or after this issue, turns out to be evil? Whaaaaat! I can't actually blame guest writer Christopher Golden if this twist can be seen from miles away, because there's a limited number of stories that can be told if the characters, setting, and basic concept of the series can never change until the t.v. series allows them to. Anyway, next issue we're back with the regular creative team as the Selke storyline allegedly heats up.

Notes

* It's amazing how quickly the changing pace of technology can make stories seem dated. In this ish, Buffy's beeper goes off and she has to go hunting for a payphone in order to call Giles to learn that Sandy Shipman is really the demon Ylisandroth. I have this huge Buffy poster hanging in the guest room with the tagline "If the Apocalypse comes . . . beep me", which was once pretty cool but now seems kinda goofy. This issue came out in 1999, so cell phones couldn't have been too far off . . .

* In addition to the normal art and photo covers to this issue, there was a "Dynamic Forces Exclusive Limited Edition Gold Foil Cover with certificate of authenticity and limited to 3,000 copies." Basically, the photo cover with a different color logo.

* This has nothing to do with Buffy, but I've always loved this ad that ran in the issue. The idea of Thor standing around in his torn undies ironing his cape always brings a smile to my face.

Next Issue

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Haunting in Aylesbury [Cthulhu]

Yesterday I ran The Haunting for a group of players, two of them experienced and two of them playing an RPG for the very first time. The Haunting is a Call of Cthulhu scenario that has become something of a rite of passage for fans of the game, as it's been included in the core rulebook ever since the game was launched in the early 1980s. At it's core, The Haunting is a very traditional haunted house story. The gist of it, SPOILERS, is that an undead wizard reposes in a secret room in the basement of the old Corbitt House and wreaks all sorts of scary shenanigans on anyone trying to take up residence in there. The PCs, of course, are hired to investigate by the house's landlord. I always enjoy reading on the
Yog-Sothoth forums stories about how different parties fare in the house--some flee in terror and never return, some find the lich and kill it or are killed by it in straight-up battle, others do all kinds of funny things like bulldoze the house or blow it up with dynamite.

My PCs yesterday (a journalist, a librarian, a circus dwarf, and a pimp) never even found the secret room in the basement, which I don't think is really that uncommon. They did a pretty good job with unearthing all the history of the house through various records, though some poor Library Use rolls stymied their gathering a complete picture. A minor subplot in the scenario actually provided some drama I'm sure the writer(s) of The Haunting never envisioned. In the ruins of the cultist-run Chapel of Contemplation, the PCs can, with some diligent searching and a little luck, find an occult tome written in Latin. The book takes weeks to read even if a PC reads Latin (none of my did) and isn't intended to have any effect on the scenario. My PCs, however, decided (sensibly) to take the book to the local Catholic priest so he could tell them what it was about. Well, the priest didn't have to skim the book for long to realize it was full of "blasphemies and abominations" and should either be burned or securely lodged in the Vatican's vaults. When the priest refused to give the book back, two of the PCs suddenly turned violent. The circus dwarf punched him in the face, and the pimp broke his arm! The dwarf grabbed the book and ran off, but the pimp was then knocked stone-cold unconscious by the librarian, who hit him with her purse! The sheriff eventually arrived to haul away the pimp, while the others made their final report to their employer.

As a scenario The Haunting isn't particularly good--it has a very thin plot, which the director has to work to flesh out. But as an introductory adventure for two people brand new to role-playing, simplicity was certainly a virtue and I think everyone had a good time. If nothing else, it gave me an excuse to flesh out some locations that may come in handy when my real Cthulhu campaign resumes in a few months . . .

Friday, August 27, 2010

What I Read (2006)

Without further ado, here's what I read in 2006:

Jan. 1, 2006 Alice Henderson's Night Terrors "Really good Buffy choose-your-own about night demon that attacks."

Jan. 2, 2006 Daniel Justice's Our Fire Survives the Storm: A Cherokee Literary History "Proof-reading."

Jan. 8, 2006 Charlaine Harris' Dead in Dixie "A really fun vampire trilogy with psychic Sookie Stackhouse in Louisiana."

Jan. 11, 2006 Henry James' The Turn of the Screw and Other Stories "Classic ghost (?) story. Not as compelling as reputation."

Jan. 24, 2006 John Vornholt's Seven Crows "One of the best Buffy novels so far, really fun w/ Riley & Sam."

Jan. 26, 2006 Peter Filene's Joy of Teaching "Lots of good advice and examples."

Feb. 2, 2006 James M. Lang's Life on the Tenure Track: Lessons from the First Year "A pretty interesting account of an English prof's first year on the job."

Feb. 8, 2006 Stephen King's Misery "What a page-turner!"

Feb. 16, 2006 Marcel Proust's Swann's Way "Interesting study of memory and feeling, focussed on Swann's tortured love for Odette."

Feb. 17, 2006 Rebels, Reds, Radicals: Rethinking Canada's Left History "A good history, introduction, to socialism in Canada."

Feb. 23, 2006 Pierce Askegren's Afterimage "Caliogstro, evil alchemist, runs an evil drive-in movie place. Moderately fun."

Mar. 1, 2006 Ian Brodie's Friends of the Court: The Privileging of Interest Group Litigants in Canada "A book critical of the influence and public funding of interest groups."

Mar. 9, 2006 Harlan Coben's No Second Chance "Thriller involving murder and kidnapped daughter. Surprisingly interesting."

Mar. 14, 2006 Christopher P. Manfredi's Judicial Power and the Charter: Courts and the Paradox of Liberal Constitutionalism "A sophisticated and persuasive argument that courts have too much power in Canada."

Mar. 27, 2006 Christopher P. Manfredi's Feminist Activism in the Supreme Court "A look at LEAF's success in the SCC, very detailed."

Mar. 27, 2006 Christopher Golden & Nancy Holder's Immortal "Buffy book about immortal vamp. Average, but good subplot with Joyce being sick."

Mar. 2006 With Malice Toward Some "Book on how people make civil liberties judgments; difficult to slog through, but some insights."

Apr. 2, 2006 J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians "A very nice book about a magistrate of a lone outpost."

Apr. 4, 2006 Diane Duane's A Wizard Alone "The sixth Young Wizard book, about an autistic child. Not very good."

Apr. 11, 2006 Yvonne Navarro's The Willow Files, Vol. 2 "Novelization, straight-forward, of 3 season 3 eps."

Apr. 14, 2006 Ravenloft Core Rulebook "Not an especially well thought out book."

May 13, 2006 Hans J. Hillerbrand's The Protestant Reformation "Selections of historical documents. Boring as heck in parts, but educational."

May 13, 2006 Scott Westerfield's Touching Darkness: Midnighters Vol. 2 "Really good novel continuing The Secret Hour."

May 18, 2006 Diane Duane's Wizard's Holiday "Bit of a slow-pacer."

May 27, 2006 John Vornholt's Voices "The first B-5 novel--very good! Talia is framed for a bombing of Psi-Corp & has to go on the run."

June 2, 2006 W.A. Bogart's Courts and Country: The Limits of Litigation and the Social and Political Life of Canada "A pretty good book arguing for less litigation and more politics."

June 10, 2006 Samuel Walker's In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU "A great, readable history."

June 15, 2006 Patrick Fitzgerald & Barry Wright's Looking at Law: Canada's Legal System "A good survey introduction."

June 19, 2006 Lois Tilton's Accusations "A pretty good B5 novel where Ivanova is framed for a murder."

June 24, 2006 Chuck Zerby's The Devil's Details: A History of the Footnote "Not as much fun as I thought it would be."

June 27, 2006 Isaiah Berlin's Liberty "Collection of Berlin's writings on liberty. Negative/positive not as exciting/persuasive as I remember."

July 8, 2006 James Howe's Howliday Inn "A pretty good kids' book about a cat (Chester) and a dog (Harold) taken to a 'haunted' boarding house."

July 17, 2006 Scott Westerfield's Midnighters Volume 3: Blue Moon "Last in the trilogy about the secret midnight hour. Decent, but I think book 2 was better."

July 24, 2006 Ted Barris' Juno "Impressionistic, individual stories about Canadians at Normandy. Pretty interesting."

July 27, 2006 Amy E. Sloan's Basic Legal Research: Tools & Strategies "Okay."

Aug. 7, 2006 Enemies of Promise: Publishing, Perishing, and the Eclipse of Scholarship "Short and polemical, everytime a point is started the topic changes before becoming convincing."

Aug. 22, 2006 Hendrik Hertzberg's Politics: Observations and Arguments "Reasonably interesting collection of New Yorker essays."

Sep. 2006 Terry Pratchett's Jingo "A satire on nationalism and war-mongering. Pretty funny in spots."

Sep. 15, 2006 William Gibson's Pattern Recognition "Story of Cayce Pollard, a coolhunter, and a search for the origin of The Footage. Damned good book, though bit of a let down ending."

Sep. 17, 2006 James Howe's Bunnicula "Cute story of a 'vampire' rabbit."

Oct. 2006 Mel Odom's Cursed "Decent Spike/Angel novel."

Oct. 2006 John T. Noonan's The Lustre of Our Country: The American Experience of Religious Freedom "A surprisingly good book on various facets of religious history."

Nov. 11, 2006 Pratchett & Gaiman's Good Omens "Funny-in-spots story of Armageddon."

Nov. 26, 2006 Joan Hess' A Holly, Jolly Murder "A 'Claire Malloy' mystery. A used book dealer investigates a New Age murder. Some good parts, but not really a very good mystery. Some tin-eared dialogue."

Dec. 5, 2006 Stephen King's Cell "Cell phone users become zombies. Not great, but pretty good."

Dec. 8, 2006 Dan Raviv's Comic Wars "A history of Marvel's bankruptcy and the battle between tycoons to control it. Less interesting than I thought."

Dec. 11, 2006 Will Kymlicka's Multicultural Citizenship "A very important book on nationalism and citizenship with a lot of great distinctions."

Dec. 13, 2006 John Vornholt's Blood Oath: Babylon 5 Book # 3 "G'kar fakes his own death to avoid assassins. A good look at the Narn homeworld, but otherwise a bit bland."

Dec. 15, 2006 Alexander M. Bickel's Least Dangerous Branch: The Supreme Court at the Bar of Politics "Bickel's famous book advocates the 'passive virtues' of judicial restraint through tools like standing, ripeness, etc."

Dec. 21, 2006 J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone "Movie sticks very close to it, but still fun."

Dec. 2006 Shakespeare's The Tempest "Prospero's island. Not tragic as expected."

Dec. 2006 Creatures of Habit "A very good Buffy novel about drug raves. Great artwork."

Dec. 28, 2006 John Hart Ely's Democracy and Distrust: A Theory of Judicial Review "Argues for a process- and participation- based theory of judicial review. Starts well, then muddled."

Dec. 29, 2006 James Howe's Celery Stalks at Midnight "Kids' book with crazy cat Chester & dog Harold. Actually kind of boring."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Clone Wars Campaign: Lucif Sen Diablo

Lucif Sen Diablo was the alternate character for the player who usually ran Doxen, and was introduced near the end of the campaign. Whereas everyone's favorite grumpy Ewok was a master at long-range sniping, Lucif was designed to be a melee combat machine through the use of several unarmed combat feats and talents. The character could kick the holy bejeesus out of pretty much anything single-handedly, a skill demonstrated on everything from Akk dogs to (in what would be unanimously acclaimed as the single greatest beatdown of the entire campaign) a freaking rancor! Lucif was also a talented pilot, demonstrated by his successfully navigating a sector of space filled with both asteroids and corrosive nebula, which allowed the PCs to reach the planet of the Altered in the next to last story arc. On said planet, Lucif became the party's Captain Kirk by bedding a strange alien female.

Lucif was last seen in-game on the planet Haruun Kal doing exciting things in the jungle, while unbeknownst to him his ship was destroyed during a battle between Horellius Creen and Stefan Cassadine. But I'm sure Cassadine Enterprises would have made it up to him, and Lucif could once again sail the stars, "taking jobs for fast cash and faster women."



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Comics Crossover Classics: "For Love Nor Money"

Not every comic book cross-over has to be a multiverse-shaking mega-event that lasts a year and winds its way through every single comic book the company puts out, plus multiple mini-series and one-shots. When big tie-ins get you down, you need . . . Comics Crossover Classics.

For Love Nor Money

Year: 1993

Issues (in order): Terror Inc. # 11, Cage # 15, Silver Sable # 13, Terror Inc. # 12, Cage # 16, Silver Sable # 14

Reprinted: No

Crucial Backstory: Cage (steel-hard skin), Terror (detachable & upgradeable body parts), and Silver Sable (super-spy) are all adventurers who take on freelance mercenary work.

The Gist: An evil guy named Priapus secretly hires Cage, Terror, and Silver Sable to find the three pieces of the magickal item named "Vatsayana's Tryst." When assembled, the Tryst leads to an ancient, mind-altering artifact called the Carnal Serpent, which is allegedly responsible for Adam & Eve being lured out of the Garden of Eden and the whole Sodom & Gommorah (sp?) debacle. Priapus becomes incredibly powerful when he absorbs the Carnal Serpent, but Cage, Terror, and Silver Sable put aside their differences just long enough to defeat him and then go their separate ways.

Back-up Features: None that are cross-over related.

Part 1: Terror Inc. # 11 Terror is hired by a monk named Brother Randi to find the Carnal Serpent, and accepts as payment a promise that the monk will pray for his soul. Sucker! Brother Randi is secretly working for the evil Priapus, and is murdered once Terror is out of sight. Terror realizes he first needs to assemble the three pieces of Vatsayana's Tryst in order to find the Carnal Serpent. He finds one piece in the Arctic Circle, and then learns that Silver Sable and Cage have the other two. Terror tracks down Cage on a train and distracts him just long enough to steal a second piece, and then escapes in order to find Silver Sable aboard a cruise ship. There's definitely a lot of globe-trotting and action in this issue, though the plot is a bit difficult to follow at first. You're welcome.

Part 2: Cage # 15 Via flashback, we learn that Cage took this job from the Spectator in order to get some time away from his newly-rescued father. Cage follows Terror's trail and confronts the body-manipulating thief aboard Silver Sable's ship, as a storm rages outside. A three-way Battle Royale results, but once the pieces of the Tryst are assembled, Cage ends up with it.

Part 3: Silver Sable # 13 Cage and Silver Sable agree to work together, but Terror's not having it. After an exciting game of speedboat chicken, Terror ends up half-drowned in the ocean, and Cage and Sable are captured by Priapus and dropped in a shark tank full of . . . well, you know, sharks!

Part 4: Terror Inc. # 12 Priapus sets off, hoping the assembled Tryst will lead him to the Carnal Serpent. Meanwhile, Terror rescues Cage and Silver Sable, and the three decide to team up. Shocker! They set a trap for Priapus at a Spanish bordello, but Priapus uses the Tryst to turn the mercenaries' erotic/romantic fantasies against them.

Part 5: Cage # 16 Cage is trapped in a dream about his lost love, Reva, Silver Sable fantasizes about, of all people, Sandman, while Terror is confronted by three-different visions from the three-different people-parts currently composing his body. Terror breaks free first and helps the others to escape, and they track Priapus to the Lair of the Carnal Serpent in the Venezuelan jungle. Inside the lair, the Carnal Serpent is literally a massive serpent. The three mercenaries manage to destroy it, but Priapus absorbs its power and buffs out all bad-ass like and uses his new-found power to take control of the mercenaries' minds.

Part 6: Silver Sable # 14 The entrances mercenaries attack an Italian monastery so Priapus can feed off their erotic energies (why he travelled from Venezuela to Italy, I have no idea). However, Terror breaks free, once again helps the other two break free, but now they're up against a horde of Priapus-entranced monks. After a long fight, the mercenaries confront Priapus and tear the Tryst from his chest. A mystical snake appears and devours Priapus. The three mercenaries bicker a bit and then (presumably) go their separate ways . . .

The Bottom Line: Is This Worth Tracking Down? I can't say the crossover had any lasting effects--according to the Marvel Chronology Project, Priapus never appears again, and there's not a lot in the way of character development for the three mercenaries. Story-wise, it's about average--a lot of globe-hopping, a mystic artifact never heard of before or seen again, fighting amongst the "heroes" until they team up. The artwork also seems a bit rushed in some places. On the other hand, there's nothing really wrong with the books and fans of the characters will probably like the crossover, which includes some fun set-piece action scenes. The issues will definitely be cheap, though the hard part will be wading through the bargain boxes to find them.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Browns 2010 Schedule

I would like to claim that my reason for blogging less in the past couple of weeks has been because I'm writing the last chapter of my dissertation and applying for teaching jobs, but probably the more accurate answer is that I've been watching a lot of preseason NFL football.

Jake Delhomme hasn't actually looked too shabby for the Browns so far, nor has his back-up, Seneca Wallace. Still, since quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb and Jason Campbell were available for trade, the Browns definitely got the short end of the stick.

The Browns are in a damned tough division (Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals are all legitimate playoff teams) and they have a hard schedule considering they only went 5-11 last year. Here's who they're up against:

Week 1: Buccanneers
Week 2: Chiefs
Week 3: Ravens
Week 4: Bengals
Week 5: Falcons
Week 6: Steelers
Week 7: Saints
Bye
Week 9: Patriots
Week 10: Jets
Week 11: Jaguars
Week 12: Panthers
Week 13: Dolphins
Week 14: Bills
Week 15: Bengals
Week 16: Ravens
Week 17: Steelers

These teams have a combined win/loss record of 132-124 (52% winning percentage). The Browns pretty much have to win their first two games (against the Bucs and Chiefs) to have a shot at an improved season, because after that wins could be few and far between: the defending champion New Orleans Saints, Tom Brady's New England Patriots, and Rex Ryan's New York Jets are all non-divisional opponents that are among the best teams in the league. After week two, it's not until facing off against the Bills in Week 14 that the Browns will be up against a team they were clearly better than last year (proved in an epic 6-3 shootout).

A grateful thanks to The Wife for allowing me to purchase Rogers NFL Sunday Ticket to watch the Browns games, since the NFL Powers That Be have decided the Browns aren't worthy of appearing in any Thursday Night, Sunday Night, or Monday Night Football games.

Friday, August 20, 2010

What I Read (2005)

Huh, while foraging for a completely different thing in a place far from where I thought they were, I came across my book log for 2005 to 2007. I know there are many of you eagerly awaiting this revelation, so REJOICE! Or something. Anyway, here's 2005.
-------------------------------------------------
Jan. 2, 2005 Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach "Funny, fairly interesting, & a quick read."

Jan. 7, 2005 When Freedoms Collide by A. Alan Borovoy "Good discussion of pragmatism and incrementalism."

Jan. 12, 2005 Constitutional Law of Canada, Volume 1 by Peter Hogg. "What it is."

Jan. 27, 2005 Out of the Madhouse by Nancy Holder & Christopher Golden "Buffy book, creatures escape from the 'Gatehouse'. Pretty good."

Jan. 25, 2005 U.S. Bill of Rights and Canadian Charter of Freedoms edited by William R. McKercher "Collection of not terribly useful essays."

Jan. 28, 2005 Phédre by Jean Racine "Good story about woman in love with her stepson."

Feb. 7, 2005 Rethinking Church, State, and Modernity by Lyon & Van Die "Sociology/history of religion in Canada."

Feb. 17, 2005 Pragmatism and Other Essays by William James "Argues that 'truth' of a statement should be measured by outcome of putting it into practice."

Feb. 21, 2005 Kynship by Daniel Justice

Mar. 9, 2005 Uncivil Obedience: The Tactics and Tales of a Democratic Agitator "Fairly useful book on civil liberties tactics."

Mar. 17, 2005 Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke "Good, but not as extraordinary as I'd been led to believe."

Apr. 4, 2005 Ghost Roads by Golden & Holder "Volume 2 of Buffy 'Gatekeeper Trilogy'. Well done, excellent Spike & Oz."

Apr. 10, 2005 The Double by Dostoyevsky "Very, very good POV of hallucinating, insane person."

Apr. 19, 2005 The Charter Revolution and the Court Party by Morton & Knopff "Conservative criticism of judicial activism. Very good."

May 9, 2005 Recognizing Religion in a Secular Society edited by Douglas Farrow "Not terribly interesting. Good essay on taking moral differences seriously."

May 27, 2005 Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett "Light fantasy, good humour, with touches of deeper social commentary."

June 1, 2005 Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens "Okay."

June 12, 2005 Sons of Entropy by Golden & Holder "Book 3 of the Gatekeeper Trilogy. Pretty exciting."

June 2005 Queen of the Slayers by Nancy Holder "Follows the end of Season 7. Some very good stuff, but a weird ending."

July 7, 2005 Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett "Discworld novel with golem-religious theme. Very funny and good."

July 19, 2005 Crossings by Mel Odom "Buffy book where VR game testers get sucked into another dimension. Average."

July 27, 2005 Spark & Burn by Diana C. Gallagher "Basically a novelization of some Spike appearances--not particularly good."

July 30, 2005 Jump Start Your Book Sales by Marilyn & Tom Ross "Useful, but more for self-published non-fiction."

July, 2005 Meet the Stars of Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Jan Gabriel "A fun, breezy bio of the main stars and how they got started on the show."

Aug. 3, 2005 Justice Behind the Walls "A book on corrections in Canada--some good stuff & stories."

Aug. 2005 Paleo by Yvonne Navara "A surprisingly good Buffy book about reanimated spirits."

Sep. 2005 The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Expéry "Very sweet book"

Sep. 28, 2005 The Suicide King by Robert Joseph Levy "Buffy choose-your-own-adventure book. Very hard--tried 3 times, but well written."

Oct. 18, 2005 The Evil That Men Do by Nancy Holder "Just not very interesting."

Nov. 1, 2005 Divided by God by Noah Feldman "Proposes solution to church/state conflict."

Nov. 2005 Keep Me In Mind by Nancy Holder "Not so good Buffy choose-your-own adventure book."

Nov. 2005 I'll Trade You an Elk by Charles A. Goodrum "Memoir of boy whose father stumbled into running a zoo. Reasonably entertaining."

Nov. 2005 Colony by Berns & Metz "Choose-your-own adventure Buffy book, with ant creatures. Pretty good."

Dec. 3, 2005 Fledging by Octavia Butler "Modern vampire story. I was rather disappointed--not very interesting or well written."

Dec. 14, 2005 Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Philosophy edited by James B. South "A few interesting essays, especially the ones critical of the show."

Dec. 30, 2005 Village Evenings Near Dikanka and Mirgorod by Nikolai Gogol "Collection of short stories, heavy fantasy influence (devil appears frequently), with mix of moods."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Buffy Comic Project: "A Boy Named Sue"


Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 11

(Dark Horse) (Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators: Andi Watson (writer), Joe Bennett (penciller), Rick Ketcham (inker)

Setting: Season Three

T.V. Character Appearances: Giles, Buffy, Oz, Willow, Xander, Cordelia, Amy Madison

Major Original Characters: Dr. Flitter, Selke, Todd Dahl (singer)

Summary: Sunnydale's town hall is pushing a blood donation drive, so Buffy and Giles decide they better "stake out" the place in case vampires attack. Which they (the vampires) do. Four dustings later, Sunnydale's blood supply is safe. Meanwhile, Todd Dahl, the lead singer of a hot new band, tries to put the moves on Buffy, but she totally shuts him down. Todd only has eyes for Buffy, however, and totally ignores soon-to-be rat Amy Madison who is head-over-heels in love with him. To get revenge on Todd, Amy casts a spell to turn him into a woman, and alleged hilarity ensues before Buffy convinces Amy to cancel the spell. And in the series' only long-running sub-plot, disfigured vampire Selke is finally returned to normal.

Review: The vampires-attacking-blood-donation scenes come off as bland and almost shoe-horned in, as if Buffy has a quota of dustings to make every issue. It is good to see Giles get some field-action, since he's been library-guy for the past several issues. The idea of a jilted Amy switching someone's gender is in character for everyone's favorite non-Willow/Tara witch, but the execution doesn't do anything new or clever with an idea that's been around for a while in genre fiction like this. I'm glad Selke finally got her groove back, because it's time for her to do something to justify her role as Buffy prime opponent in the comics.

Notes

* No letters page this issue, and next issue is billed as a "special fill-in issue."

* One of the vamps that Buffy stakes has huge, bat-like wings and can fly. I was going to snark on what is so obviously a departure from the show's depiction of vampires, but on second thought the show was pretty laid-back about suddenly introducing new types of demons that never appear again.

* I wasn't sure if Amy's appearance here fits into continuity because of her rat-ness, but research reveals that if the issue is set before Season Three's Gingerbread then it works out.

* I love this picture of Sunnydale high, with the "F" shaped windows. What a message to send students!
Next Issue

Clone Wars Campaign: "Jedi & Assassin"

The "Present" sections of this short story actually take place just before the beginning of Session # 39. It's an important story in that it reveals that Tarn's Master, Horellius Creen, and Arresta's husband, Stefan Cassadine, have been working together to manipulate events for quite some time. Conversations between two of the most powerful and important NPCs in the campaign would have been difficult to do "on screen", but short stories like this really allowed their personalities to come through. I particularly liked the idea of Creen being something of a technophobe.

Jedi and Assassin

The Present

Stefan Cassadine walked the streets of Mondder feeling mildly perturbed. Months ago, Jocasta had given him a falsified transponder code for the The Knife’s Edge which identified the ship as belonging to a member of the Authority Direx Board, allowing it to bypass normal customs and security protocols and land directly at the ARC. But on this trip, Stefan had only the ship’s small runabout—little more than a glorified escape pod—and Jocasta was the last person he wanted to know about his presence on Etti IV.

Instead, he had suffered through the starport’s interminable landing and clearance process in one of his usual cover identities—that of a holovid location scout. But more than mere annoyance weighed on his mind—there was surprise and apprehension that the Jedi had chosen to hide here, just a handful of kilometres from his greatest enemy’s stronghold. But this is where the coded message beacon hidden deep in Coruscant’s undercity directed him to go, and Stefan was determined not to turn away. Arresta might never forgive him for what he was about to do, but if all went according to plan, she would never know.

Advertising was everywhere, and even the sidewalk tried to persuade Stefan to buy a refreshing Gloday Spritzer.™ Eventually, he reached one of Mondder’s many residential spires, this one almost wholly inhabited by Plexgrove Combine employees. Plexgrove owned the spire, and most of its workers grew deeper in debt each payday, once the cost of rent and purchases from the company store were factored in. But the 97th floor contained apartments available for rent to some of Mondder’s few independent contractors, and it was here that Stefan was headed.

When he stepped out of the turbolift, he saw a woman in a distinctive blue jumpsuit just coming out of an apartment. For an instant he thought Jocasta had set a trap, and his hand dropped to his belt pouch—although weapons were prohibited on Etti IV, their detectors were crude when it came to poisons and neurotoxins. But as the woman approached, he saw the word “Technician” written on her shirtfront and that she had a distant, almost confused look on her face. She walked by Stefan without a glance and into the turbolift. He walked to the same apartment she had just left, and knocked softly on the door. It opened, and Horellius Creen was waiting.

The Past (circa 85 A.G.)
Sneaking into the Jedi Temple had not been an option. Stefan had been around long enough to know that Jedi were not invincible, but he had also heard enough stories of their vaunted intuition and bizarre mental abilities to make the proposition too risky. He was a man, and could think like men, and assess weaknesses and vulnerabilities. But Jedi were something else entirely, almost another species, with powers he could neither predict nor understand.

Instead, he walked in through the front door as Stefan Cassadine, CEO of Cassadine Enterprises, a specialty shipping company. Like many other petitioners, he felt distinctly uneasy—wondering if his every thought, secret, and motivation were laid bare for the Jedi to see. Were that the case, his only option would be to run, and run far.

The Padawan on visitors’ duty seemed surprised when he asked to speak to Master Horellius Creen, and she had to check a datapad before giving him directions. The route to Creen’s quarters took him far below the Temple, through a veritable labyrinth of ancient and rarely used stone passages. Creen’s living space was a grotto, filled to every nook and corner with ancient scrolls. The man himself sat there, poring over a dusty scroll, his eyes just inches above the inked text. He didn’t look up until Stefan said his name several times—finally, with a sigh, he rolled up the scroll and began to speak in a harsh whisper.

“I am aware of your presence, young man. A little patience would do you good. But speak, now, for I am quite busy with things far beyond your ken.”

Stefan snorted. No one had dared call him “young man” in quite some time. He took a datapad out of his jacket pocket, clicked it on, and slammed it down in front of Creen. The screen showed a Holonews story titled “Thousands Watch Hacked Holofeeds of Glamorous Princess and Her New Jedi Boy-Toy Gallivanting Throughout City.” Stefan gave Creen a moment to read it, and then began speaking.

“I’ve been watching this girl for a long time—she’s made me proud. But her dalliance with this boy threatens to slow her development,” he said. “I want you to do something about this Padawan of yours.”

Creen thought for a moment. “Your manners may be wretched, young man, but your timing is impeccable. I had myself begun to think the boy is losing focus. But pay it no mind. A careless word said in the wrong circle and the Council will be prompted to halt him short. He’ll renounce the girl if everything he’s been striving for his entire life is at stake.”

Stefan inclined his head graciously. This had gone better than he had expected. “Then you have my thanks, Master Creen, and I’ll spare you any further interruption.” He turned and started to leave.

“It may not be enough,” Creen said matter-of-factly. “If they both remain on Coruscant, they’ll be drawn together again—even if the trial ends as I expect. The boy’s training is at a vital stage, and he cannot be sent away. The girl will need to be distracted.”

Stefan turned back slowly. “What did you have in mind?” he said.

Creen considered while he began to absent-mindedly rearrange scrolls. “I believe I still know someone in Republic Intelligence. Perhaps young Arresta can suddenly become crucial in the war effort.”

The Past (circa 293 A.G.)
Creen heard the footsteps booming down the corridor and sighed, wondering how he was going to get any work done with the constant distractions—this was his third visitor this month. He knew Stefan Cassadine was livid, but one needn’t be a Jedi Master to sense such a thing. Cassadine rounded the corner, his face an iron mask and his eyes red and piercing.

“Where is she?” he said sharply.

“Ostensibly, headed towards Corellia,” Creen replied. “But this girl is deceitful—an admirable trait, at times—and I suspect she’s gone to Alderaan.”

Stefan paced, clearly working hard to keep his anger under control. “You didn’t tell me the boy had already left by the time I brought her here,” he said accusingly.

“Would it have made a difference? You wanted to test her loyalty in an environment safe from Ventress but with something to keep her from growing idle and restless—thus, this ‘mystery’ she was assigned to investigate.” Creen waited a moment, and then continued. “And now, you know the results of the test, Ventress is no longer a factor, assuming you dealt with the Guild, and young Arresta is certainly not idle.”

“Her disappearing was never part of the plan!” Stefan shouted. “When I catch up to them—and I will—that boy Jedi will breathe his last.”

Creen slowly shook his head. “That would be discourteous, Mr. Cassadine. Tarn Tamarand may yet still be of use to me—and killing him now will leave him forever fixed in her affections. Every time she looks at you, she will think of him. No, she needs to realize that Tarn means nothing to her. She needs to forget about him entirely.”

“I guarantee she’ll never see him again,” Stefan said.

Creen chuckled. “Must a celibate old man instruct you on the ways of the heart? Indeed, perhaps time and distance will dull her feeling, or he’ll die in a misadventure. But more likely, the day will come when you realize nothing you can do will truly keep them apart. And on that day, you’ll come to me.”

“You try my patience, old man. Speak plainly.”

“Yours may be the way of the killer, toxic dart and poison needle, but my ways are the subtle mysteries of the Force. Old ways, lost to most, but there for those who would seek them. I can ensure that she’ll forget about Tarn Tamarand, as one would forget the flash of a dream before waking. She’ll be yours then, if you can keep her.”

“And if this day should come,” Stefan said carefully, “what will you ask from me in return?”

“Will it matter?” Creen replied with the hint of a smile.


-------
Return to Clone Wars Campaign Main Page

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wicked Lovely [Book Review]


I have to admit I was skeptical when my wife gave me a copy of Wicked Lovely for Christmas a couple of years ago. The cover art and the general subject matter ("faeries") made me think this was going to be the tweeist teen book ever.

And of course, it's actually pretty decent. Maybe even "good."

The faeries in this book's world are not the two-inch tall cute things famously "photographed" by English schoolchildren and made famous by Arthur Conan Doyle. Instead, they're full-size, invisible, and quite malevolent entities that torment unsuspecting mortals for the sheer joy of it. The plot, standing alone, is a bit on the twee side, as it involves a faerie ruler, the Summer King, seeking to have a curse undone by finding his one true mortal love who will reign beside him as the Summer Queen. But standing in the way is the evil Winter Queen, and etc. It's better in execution than in concept, as the main characters have believable, interesting personalities, the dialogue is well-written, and the outcome is by no means predictable.

A sequel called Ink Exchange is now out, and I could probably be talked into reading it . . .

Friday, August 13, 2010

What I Read (2009)

Here's what I read in 2009. I have some book logs from several years ago which I'm very curious to read now, but they're buried at the bottom of my closet and I'm simply too lazy to dig them out.
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Jan. 2009 Heat by Nancy Holder "Buffy/Angel crossover novel involving Chinese dragons, terra cotta soldiers, and etc."

Jan. 26, 2009 A History of Christianity by Kenneth Scott Latourrette "First in a 2-volume series, stops at 1500 C.E. Very pro-Christian and leaves out much of the most interesting stuff."

Jan. 27, 2009 Pursuit by Elizabeth Hand "The sixth and final young Boba Fett novel, as he gets a chance to attack Mace Windu. An exciting climax to the series."

Feb. 2009 Wild Space by Karen Miller "Probably the best Star Wars novel I've ever read, tells of how Bail Organa and Obi-Wan bonded during the Clone Wars."

Feb. 2009 Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris "Sookie Stackhouse investigates the death of her cousin and gets in various misadventures."

Feb. 2009 Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt "A great book about a modern sorceror's adventures in protecting the city she rules. Nice humor and creatively edgy."

Feb. 2009 X-Wing: Wraith Squadron by Aaron Allston "A nice entry in the series as a group of commando-trained cast-offs form up a new starfighter wing."

Feb. 28, 2009 Academic Legal Writing by Eugene Volokh "Not a lot for me, but a good book to give to a student."

Mar. 8, 2009 Harry Potter et le prisonier D'Azkaban by J.K. Rowling "I can finally give Mario back these books."

Mar. 11, 2009 Poison Sleep by T.A. Pratt "The second Marla Mason book, about a comatose reality-changing rape victim. Still very entertaining."

Mar. 24, 2009 Nation by Terry Pratchett "A really good, non-Discworld book about science vs. religion and dealing with tradition."

Mar. 30, 2009 Broulliard Sanglant by Nancy Holder "Jack the Ripper is actually an evil faerie and has come to Sunnydale to start a faerie war. Lame!"

Mar. 31, 2009 Labyrinth of Evil by James Luceno "Lead-in to Revenge of the Sith. Pretty good."

Apr. 12, 2009 The Naked Public Square by Richard John Neuhaus "A dense and well-written book that covers a lot more than you might think."

Apr. 13, 2009 The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan "Rand takes the sword Callandar and the Stone of Tear falls in another exciting entry."

Apr. 16, 2009 Le crime de Culdéric by Francie Pelletier "A novel about a teen and her boyfriend's involvement in discovering who was responsible for murdering a woman whose ghost they've encountered."

Apr. 22, 2009 The Great Brain by John Fitzgerald "A funny book about a mischievious older brother in 1890's Utah."

Apr. 23, 2009 La Malédiction by Sonia K. LaFlamme "Limpid ghost/haunted house story."

Apr. 23, 2009 The Shadow Within by Jeanne Cavelos "A prequel to B5, telling the story of Sheridan's wife's encounter with the shadows. Really good stuff."

Apr. 29, 2009 The Sunnydale High Yearbook by Golden & Holder "I really like this--it's quite sweet, funny, and authentic. A great Buffy keepsake."

Apr. 29, 2009 Something in the Water by Trevor Baxendale "My first Torchwood book (# 4) in the series. A 'water hag' from the planet Strepto is impregnating men. Quite gory and gross, a decent read."

May 13, 2009 Another Life by Peter Angelides "Torchwood book (# 1) about a giant spaceship in the water causing flooding and a body-switching alien. Not too shabby."

May 17, 2009 The Han Solo Adventures by Brian Daley "A fun trilogy, fast-paced and set in new, unrevealed sectors of the galaxy: the Corporate Sector and the Hegemony."

May 26, 2009 Skypoint by Phil Ford "Torchwood book (# 8) about something in an apartment block that is eating people. Really well done, non-Rift related, fast moving and edgy."

May 27, 2009 Tunnels by Gordon & Williams "French translation about a museum curator and son's discovery of an underground city of Albinos. Interesting idea, but surprisingly boring."

June 5, 2009 Pack Animals by Peter Anghelides "Torchwood book (# 7) about alien tech that brings magic cards to life. Silly plot but good subplots."

June 8, 2009 Full Circle by Michael Palin "Travel diaries of trip around the Pacific. Surprisingly uninteresting."

June 9, 2009 Best Practices for Legal Education by Roy Stuckey "Comprehensive critique of U.S. legal education--quite dry, but with some convincing points."

June 9, 2009 Missing: Sanctuaire by Meg Cabot "Great main character--a spunky, snarky teen."

June 25, 2009 The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan "What a great, exciting book--I love this series!"

July 1, 2009 Order 66 by Karen Traviss "Last of the Republic Commando books. Order 66 is a little underwhelming but solid."

July 1, 2009 Dead Reign by T.A. Pratt "Really funny, as Marla has to deal with Death wanting her dagger."

July 3, 2009 Trace Memory by David Llewellyn "Torchwood # 5. A man named Michael keeps bouncing through time and the pasts of each Torchwood member. An average book, but fun to see some character moments before they joined Torchwood."

July 2009 Wizards at War by Diane Duane "Something is weakening the fabric of the universe. Below average and disappointing."

July 2009 Border Princes by Dan Abnett "Torchwood novel about a 'fake' member of the team named James--very good."

July 28, 2009 Ultimatum Pour OSS 117 "A spy novel set in Venezuela. I can't say I understood most of it."

Aug. 2009 Chaos Bleeds by James A. Moore "Okay video game tie-in."

Aug. 10, 2009 Toutes Les Lumieres De Hong Kong by Maragret Mayo "Romance Harlequin about a young girl who takes a job for a fashion designer in Hong Kong and the love triangle that forms with him and her best friend."

Aug. 2009 The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov "First book was amazing, as Harry Seldon comes up with a plan through the study of psycho-history to allow for the reformation of empire 1,000 years hence. Latter two books not so good."

Aug. 16, 2009 Almost Perfect by James Goss "An amazing Torchwood novel! Absolutely hilarious and well-written. The Perfection are out to re-make the world in their own image."

Aug. 19, 2009 X-Wing: Iron Fist by Aaron Allson "A nice page turner, as the Wraiths try to track down Warlord Zsinj's Iron Fist."

Aug. 2009 The Battle For America 2008 by Dan Balz & Haynes Johnson "Account of the 2008 Presidential race--not a lot of secrets, but a fun and engaging read."

Sep. 6, 2009 Slow Decay by Andy Lane "Doctor Scotus' weight-loss clinic is turning people into monsters in this quality Torchwood book."

Sep. 12, 2009 The Desperate Mission by Jude Watson "First in the 'Last of the Jedi' young adult series, about Obi-Wan's life on Tatooine."

Sep. 2009 Le Sac de Couffignal by Dashell Hammett "Translation of three Hammett short stories. Best part is the lengthy post-script by his lover, Lillian Hellman."

Sep. 23, 2009 I Am America (And So Can You) by Stephen Colbert "Stephen Colbert's book--really quite hilarious."

Sep. 25, 2009 Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover "Adds more insight on Ani's friendship with Palps."

Oct. 8, 2009 La lune des jardins sans soleil by Jean-Louis Trudel "A very creative SF novel about a stowaway orphan and the 'bonsai-children' warriors who help her out."

Oct. 12, 2009 The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte "Novel by the youngest Bronte sister, about a woman who leaves her alcholic husband to start a new, secret life."

Oct. 13, 2009 X-Wing: Solo Command by Aaron Allston "Very exciting as hunt for Warlord Zsinj heats up."

Oct. 15, 2009 The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan "Rand kills Rahvin/Gaebril, while Moraine and Lanfear disappear into a gateway."

Oct. 27, 2009 Marie Quatdoigts by Roger des Roches "Young adult novel about a girl with four fingers on each hand and her new red-haired friend whom she takes to the catacombs."

Oct. 2009 The Nature of the Judicial Process by Benjamin Cardozo "A book about judges and judging; very wish-washy in a way, but also probably very accurate."

Oct. 2009 Brothers of the Snake by Dan Abnett "A Warhammer 40K book. I was thrown by this being a series of connected short stories. Very military SF without a lot of cultural flavour."

Oct. 2009 Dark Warning by Judge Watson "A quite nice hand-off from Obi-Wan to new character Ferus in attempt to create safe refuge for Jedi."

Nov. 6, 2009 Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque by Edgar Allan Poe "Short stories, a few of which show trademark horror while a surprising number are humorous."

Nov. 7, 2009 Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno "Story of Jedi Roan Shryne's attempt to survive aftermath of Order 66. Good insight into Anakin becoming Darth Vader."

Nov. 2009 La mystérieuse affaire d'Echo Falls by Peter Abrahams "A really likable mystery about a schoolgirl who models herself after Sherlock Holmes."

Nov. 28, 2009 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte "Jane falls in love with Mr. Rochester only to discover his insane wife in the attic."

Nov. 29, 2009 Bay of the Dead by Mark Morris "A pretty mediocre Torchwood novel about simulacram-zombie invasion."

Dec. 1, 2009 The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde "Very fun and readable, as Thursday keeps Eyre intact."

Dec. 2009 Spell Games by T.A. Pratt "4th book in the Marla Mason series, as Marla's con-man brother comes to town."

Dec. 11, 2009 Starfish by Peter Watts "An undersea station is the birthing ground of a rival genome, Behemoth. Characters are interesting, if difficult to connect to."

Dec. 19, 2009 The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton "A really nice book as Isolder of Hapes & Han battle for Leia on Dathomir."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Clone Wars Campaign Recap # 39

This session sees the PCs' first clash with the "new and improved" Purity First. I'd been dropping hints for several sessions that Purity First had been receiving a great deal of funding and training, and were no longer the sloppy xenophobes encountered on Coruscant. Although the PCs never followed the thread through to the end, I always had in mind that after the debacle on Coruscant, the organization's existence had come onto Chancellor Palpatine's radar and served as a useful proxy for his own interests--thus, it was the Supreme Chancellor's Office that funded the organization and turned it into a well-oiled paramilitary group capable of taking over a small planet like Mongui.

This session occurred during a period in the campaign where some of the many flaws in the Saga Edition rules became apparent to me, as I couldn't for the life of me find any foes to really challenge the PCs unless I wanted Level 20 bad guys stumbling around every session. The idea with the Purity First Phalanx was to help solve this problem by taking advantage of the "Aid Another" and "Rapport" rules, which basically allowed a single member of the group to make an attack roll with bonuses gained from every other member. Finally, I had a reasonable chance of hitting and doing damage! After a long and bloody first battle that ended in the PCs fleeing and (only barely escaping), the PCs were smart enough to avoid straight-up slugfests against the Phalanxes in the future.

I've always let the dice fall where they may in the campaign by rolling openly on the table. Sometimes this would result in the PCs getting screwed by a statistically aberrant number of natural 20s, but in this session a natural 1 ended up radically altering the campaign's future. After Stefan Cassadine's frustration with Arresta's lingering ties to Tarn Tamarand grew unbearable to him, he persuaded Jedi Master Creen to try to erase her memory that Tarn ever existed! This was Creen's forte (he had a few special feats in this department), and all he had to do was roll a Use the Force check that overcame Arresta's Will Defense. And he rolled a natural 1, and automatically failed! Suffice it to say that Creen was not Arresta's favorite person after that, and she had some things to stay to Stefan too . . .

This is a fun story-arc, and I'm looking forward to sharing subsequent sessions. I have to admit, this is probably the darkest I managed to lure the PCs into becoming, and you'll see why in future posts.

SESSION # 39

In his office high above Coruscant, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine peers out over the city. He’s already made plans to send most of the home defence fleet away on a futile mission to the Outer Rim. Within weeks, if all goes as he has planned, crisis will quickly follow upon crisis. Coruscant will come under siege, the Jedi will be exterminated from all but memory and the Republic itself will have reached the end of its days. A new Empire will be born . . . Yet a single stray thought lies uneasy in his mind – a mere shadow, less than nothing—but somewhere in the galaxy, he now knows there are others like himself—far older, and perhaps even more powerful . . .

Having departed from Nal Hutta, Arresta agrees to Doxen’s request that she task her intelligence network to seek information on who knew that he had assassinated Harno. She then contacts Xam back on Etti IV to check in on the baby. She confirms that Stefan has not yet checked in, but leaves him a message via Xam that she will meet him at the scheduled rendezvous coordinates. Arresta then contacts A’tel and tells him that she left some information out the last time they spoke. She explains that if her dreams are a message from Tarn, that it seems he believes that some of the Sith they encountered at the Jedi temple are still loose – and more are looking to break free. A’tel sounds unimpressed and advises her that the Jedi Council can be slow to recognize this type of threat. Still, when Arresta asks, A’tel agrees to try to reach out with the Force to contact Tarn. Leveraging the connection that both he and Tarn have with the strange anomaly lightsaber, A’tel is able to make contact with the confused, heavily clouded mind that he knows belongs to Tarn Tamarand. He gives Tarn a mental signal encouraging him to contact Arresta. A’tel then suggests to Arresta that he might be able to offer help in her endeavours on Mongui. He suggests that he send Array – a clone trooper he worked with on his latest mission – to help her. Arresta accepts his offer with her thanks and provides coordinates to a cantina on Mongui for the clone to meet her party. She also suggests that if he arrives first, then Array should engage in recon activity to better understand the strengths that Purity First possesses.

Meanwhile, on board The Knife’s Edge, Arresta, Doxen and Kevlax enage in a preliminary strategy session on how to re-take Mongui. Arresta is able to share details of the planet’s population and city structure with the others and they agree that guerrilla tactics will likely be necessary. Doxen appears in favour of using Korg’s heavy artillery to take out critical military targets, while Arresta wants to focus on assassinating the leaders of Purity First. Both agree that more information is required.

That night, Arresta again finds herself in a strange and frightening dreamscape. She appears to be back in her Coruscanti penthouse, attired in a beautiful gown and tiara as she was the night of the grand Aquaria ball, when her daughter was conceived. Approaching the balcony, she finds Tarn, likewise attired in dress Jedi robes, waiting for her. He approaches and kisses her neck, as rotting creatures, acting as paparazzi swarm around the couple. Tarn suddenly staggers back, with a knife in his back, asking why Arresta would betray him – the Empress Uncanny shouldn’t know he is coming. Frantic, she tries to assure him that she would never do that – she is trying to save him. She tells him that his plan isn’t safe – that he will be attacked by Jocasta and her crew and will be killed. As Tarn backs towards the edge of the balcony, he continues to plead with Arresta that he needed her and she didn’t come…. For her part, Arresta begs him to understand that she wanted to – but she is trapped by obligations she can’t escape from and that if he would only come to Mongui, where Jocasta is also heading, she would do anything to help him. Before she can say anything else, Tarn plummets off of the balcony and Arresta awakens with a gasp….

[A.G. 1008]

The Knife’s Edge drops out of hyperspace at the edge of the Essowyn system, home of the small moon Mongui and the massive gas giant it orbits. Waiting there is the tiny shuttle carrying Stefan Cassadine. Stefan is in a buoyant mood and, after docking, tells Arresta that his business trip was successful. After he and Arresta are reunited, Stefan asks his wife if anyone tried to contact her while he was gone. Arresta declines to mention the connections that Tarn has made with her dreams, and Stefan seems sceptical that Arresta has told him the truth. He is also less than pleased when she tells him that her sister – accompanied by Bel Sekand – should be joining them soon. Arresta however, informs him that she did the best she could – and that she continues to be very unhappy at being separated from her baby and forced to return to her home planet. Stefan has Arresta set up a briefing in a few hours while he settles into the ship. Later, he takes Arresta to a cabin, which had been empty, but which he now tells her houses a guest who she must keep secret – as Jocasta and the Sun Runners might not take kindly to his presence. Inside, surrounded by incense and candlelight, she finds Horellius Creen.

Creen, in his harsh whisper, evades her questions about why he is there. Instead, he asks her if Tarn Tamarand has been in contact with her, which she denies. Creen begins to speak to Arresta in a sonorous voice, talking of Tarn and of her feelings for her ex-lover, repeating over and over that Tarn is nothing more than a distant memory. Arresta feels a sharp pain in her head and a smothering sensation, as though her memories and feelings for Tarn are being leached away. Suddenly though, Arresta breaks free of Creen’s influence and her mind clears. Pretending that Creen has been successful, Arresta agrees to speak to him again in a few days – when, he assures her, they must be completely honest with one another. Outside, Arresta notices Creen and Stefan nod to one another over her shoulder and she realizes that her husband was behind this attempt to alter her memories. Just then, a call comes in that a G.A.R. shuttle is passing through the system. Arresta updates Stefan that Array will be joining them. He expresses concern about Array’s allegiance to the soft-hearted Republic, but agrees to let Doxen speak to the clone when Arresta sings her friend’s praises.

Doxen makes contact with Array and advises him to meet them on the planet and to pay special attention to the way that ships are approached and searched. Array informs him that he will be getting “dropped off” by the shuttle, but will be involved in recon activities. In the middle of the afternoon, Array’s shuttle appears in hyperspace near Mongui. Doxen sees that Array’s shuttle has been destroyed by fighters scrambled from the planet. Unknown to him, Array has survived by completing a high altitude, low open jump from the atmosphere to the planet below.

Doxen updates the Cassadines and pays his respects to Stefan before using the yacht’s pool facilities to refresh himself. Meanwhile, Arresta, continuing to play dumb about what Creen attempted to do to her, probes Stefan on his plans and about why Creen is there. Stating that the Jedi is a great tactician, Stefan shares very little of his plan. Arresta sadly reminds him that he isn’t her teacher anymore – and that a marriage should be between equals, before leaving their quarters.

Shortly before the briefing is to commence, The Rakish Charm, a ship owned by Bel Sekand comes out of hyperspace. After some negotiation regarding shields and weapons status, Sekand and Corinne D’Avilos come aboard the yacht. Bel and Stefan engage in some verbal sparring, before joining the others for the briefing. The strategy session that follows is mainly focused on how to approach the planet. It is agreed that it is unlikely for the non-humans to avoid scrutiny if they land on board the yacht. Surprisingly, Bel volunteers to pilot Stefan’s runabout, containing Krevlax, Doxen and himself to the planet where they will approach a mining facility to obtain ground transport and make their way to the city. With some modification by Miklos, who has the mechanical skills required, the shuttle is made roomy enough that Korkoth is able to join them.

The others, including Korg, who will be made to appear as though he is a back-up power generator in the engine room, will arrive on The Knife’s Edge, led by Stefan. Corinne updates the group that Purity First has taken all alien species who refused to leave the planet into custody and that non-humans are executed every week. Her resistance cells are scattered, but she does have some ability to have irregular short-burst communications with them. They have advised her that in terms of artillery, Purity First has two refurbished C.I.S. tanks at their disposal. In addition, they have adopted a modified phalanx fighting formation which the resistance has not had success in dealing with. Corinne further suggests using her old scavenger yard as a base. She advises the non-humans in the group that the sewer tunnels running underneath the city may be the only way they can move about undetected by Purity First.

During the briefing, the conversation is lively and comes from all parties – except for Arresta. With the exception of the occasional short comment, she appears disinterested in the discussion. Corinne asks her if she is alright, but Arresta brushes it off, instead asking her sister how she finds it, having both Miklos and Bel Sekand competing for her attention. Corinne smiles and says that is enjoying it – “You cannot have too many men.” Arresta politely disagrees.

Krevlax visits with Miklos who is unsure of what Sekand has in mind for him and confused about what Corinne’s intentions towards him are after these years of separation. He tells Krevlax that he does wish he could be free to pursue his own life. Later, Bel pulls Corinne and Miklos aside and grants the slave his freedom, telling them that he only wishes Corinne’s happiness and that he hopes that he is the man she ultimately chooses. Later on, Bel Sekand pulls Doxen aside and offers to double any offer that Cassadine makes for Doxen to assassinate him.

Late that evening, Doxen, Bel Sekand, Krevlax, and Korkoth take the runabout towards Mongui. The voyage takes about three hours from where The Knife’s Edge is stationed at the edge of the system. Although Doxen is only an average pilot, he knows how to avoid detection even when piloting a starship and the runabout makes a safe and undetected descent at a point 180 degrees around Mongui from where the capital city is located. As they skim over the ground at low altitude, they see on the horizon the distinctive black clouds of dust and smoke representing one of the moon’s mineral excavation sites. On the far side of the huge pit, several small buildings are barely visible. A few guards in silver and white armor holding maces can be seen patrolling both the perimeter and the massive cargo-sleds. The group decides this is a perfect opportunity to steal ground transportation and, if possible, see if the reputation of Purity First soldiers matches reality.

Leaving Korkoth to guard the runabout, Krevlax and Doxen approach the mineral quarry stealthily while Bel Sekand is charged with the task of seeing if the quarry guards are susceptible to deception. Bel approaches the two guards and he is immediately asked for his papers. The guards are immediately suspicious of his story of having been in an accident, and scrutinize him carefully as they report in on their comlinks. Shortly thereafter, a group of soldiers emerges from the buildings on the far side of the pit and begin to approach at a steady march—the newcomers are armoured from head to toe, and carry a mix of riot shields and large blaster rifles. Although Doxen is able to remain hidden behind a rock, Krevlax is not so lucky. Without saying a word, the disciplined phalanx of Purity First soldiers halts. The first rank kneels and activates the energy fields of their riot shields, while the soldiers in the back take careful aim and open fire.

Krevlax is initially caught in the open, but he soon rushes in to fight the conscript guards (now numbering four) who have tried to take Bel into custody. Working together, Krevlax and Bel quickly dispatch three of the conscripts. Confident that Bel can handle the fourth alone, Krevlax charges the phalanx which has been pouring blaster fire in his direction. He hits them like a tornado, but they swarm over him and the Anx is suddenly in a melee with ten opponents at the same time. Meanwhile, Doxen (having taken up a sniping position behind a rock) begins to fire at one of the gunners in the phalanx. The riot shields of the first rank of soldiers is little obstacle to the Ewok’s incredible aim, but the heavy armour and sheer stamina of the guards allows them to brush off several blaster shots. Even when Doxen emerges from cover and runs to help Krevlax, the phalanx ignores him in order to focus their attention on the massive, ferocious street-fighter who is able to strangle two full-grown men simultaneously. As Doxen and Krevlax begin to get worn down, Bel is left alone to fight a single conscript. His duel seems to be going well, especially when he unveils a strange whip-like weapon recovered from the edge of the galaxy. However, a sudden turn of luck leaves the crimelord suddenly blinded and forced to guess where his opponent will land the next blow.

In the middle of the melee, Doxen spots a shuttle starting to land near the excavation pit and decides to retreat back in the direction of his own ship. Krevlax begins to follow a few moments later, but the silent and implacable Purity First soldiers drag him to the ground through sheer numbers and pummel him into unconsciousness. As Doxen sprints towards the runabout, he manages to call out to Bel (who is fortunately facing the right direction) to run straight ahead. The two adventurers reach the runabout just seconds before their enemies. After Korkoth buys them some time by swatting one of the conscripts like a fly, Doxen begins the take-off sequence and the runabout lifts off. Doxen heroically takes the runabout straight toward the fallen Krevlax. Although Doxen and Korkoth manage to drag Krevlax on board and take off, two members of Purity First manage to jump aboard as well. Unable to take the weight, the runabout lurches and Doxen, back in the pilot seat, uses the opportunity to execute a half roll, unbalancing the two boarders, who slip out the open door and hit the ground hard. Using all of his ample strength, Korkoth manages to hold on to prevent the unconscious Krevlax from falling out as well.

The runabout takes several hits from Purity First blaster rifles as it speeds away toward the capital city, trailing black smoke. Doxen keeps it low to the ground in an attempt to elude pursuit, but no one on board has the mechanical know-how to fix the sputtering engine. Still, at least with the naked eye and the runabout’s primitive sensors, it doesn’t look like they are followed.

Meanwhile, back on board the yacht, Stefan finally returns to his suite to find his unhappy wife waiting for him. Arresta probes him on why he sent her friends down to the planet with so little strategy and he responds that she was the one who advised him to trust that Doxen could handle himself. Besides, he adds, any scenario that places Bel Sekand at risk is an acceptable scenario to him. He questions his wife on her behaviour during the meeting and reassures her that this ordeal is almost over. He appears shocked and appalled when Arresta reveals that the mind control attempt by Creen didn’t work – and that she knows exactly what he was trying to do. As she angrily confronts him about the fact that Creen attempted to violate her mind, Stefan claims that he had no involvement in this. He ridicules the idea that a Jedi could alter someone’s mind in the manner she suggests, encouraging her to contact A’tel to validate that for herself. Arresta calmly tells him that she does not believe his plea of innocence. When Arresta tells him that he isn’t the only one she has obligations to – that other people need her, Stefan tells her that if any of her friends – A’tel or perhaps Daal, require assistance, that he would be glad to help her – and that in future, if she wants to have adventures, she certainly can, as long as he approves them as “safe” for her. He’ll even go with her.

Arresta tells her husband that she only came to Mongui out of loyalty to him – and now, she doesn’t understand why she bothered. He reminds her that he suffered while she was missing for a year and a half – but she tells him that he should have trusted her to come home on her own. Stefan continues to promise her that they can have the life they want together, with Allegra, and that they will be completely free when this mission is over, but Arresta obviously feels betrayed. She tells him that cannot understand why he would ask Creen to do this – to change her into someone else. He attempts to stop her leaving the room by grabbing her arms, and though Arresta angrily shakes him off, Stefan won’t be ignored. “I am still your husband and Allegra needs us both. Don’t forget that she is ours – and she needs both of her parents.” Arresta echoes his statement that yes; Allegra certainly does need both of her parents as she glares at him. Stefan suggests that they take a step back, so neither of them will say anything that they will regret. Observing her husband through newly opened eyes, Arresta crosses her arms and coldly agrees. Stefan leaves to take a shower, and when he returns he finds that Arresta intends to sleep on a spare bed in the nursery.

[A.G. 1009]

After just over nine hours in flight, Doxen sets the heavily damaged runabout down in a rocky canyon about 60 kilometers from Mongui City, landing just as the sun is rising. After a difficult battle and narrow escape, it seems clear that breaking Purity First’s hold on Mongui may be more difficult than initially thought.

Return to Clone Wars Campaign Main Page

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tallossin Trailmarker & Sarabian Drowslayer

A couple of weeks back, a friend of mine got a hankering to run some old-school D&D using the Labyrinth Lord retro-clone rules. I started gaming with 2nd edition AD&D, so it was an interesting and fun experiment to try an earlier incarnation of the rules. With five of us each playing two characters simultaneously, we had a large but not particularly well-rounded party: heavy on Elves and Halflings, but not a single Fighter or Cleric! Still, there was some great role-playing to along with the the kicking of some kobold- and giant rat- ass, and we even managed to make it through the session without any serious casualties (there was an embarassing moment where we all panicked and ran frantically to escape the giant rats, but maybe that part gets left out of any Bardic verses about our epic adventures).

Hopefully we'll get to pick up the game in September, but in the meantime here are my two characters: Tallossin Trailmarker (a talkative and somewhat starry-eyed Halfling) and Sarabian Drowslayer (a would-be general, out to restore her family's honour).
-----------------------------------------------------
Tallossin Trailmarker is the only son of the legendary halfing sheriff Tobias Trailmarker. When Tallossin was just five years old, Tobias heroically died defending the village from a marauding ban of orcs. Ever since, Tallossin has wanted to live up to his father's image--but there's a catch. Tallossin's mother has her eyes set on a bride, Trethia, for her son, along with steady employment in his Uncle's cheesemaking shop. In order to escape a sedate and (to his mind) boring life, Tallossin has fled the village without authorization, carrying his father's shield and sword, in order to make a name for himself as an adventurer. He knows the only way he can return to the village is by having such amazing exploits that all will be forgiven, and he'll be named the next sheriff.

Level 1 Halfling (Lawful)

Hit Points: 7

Armor Class: 2 (Chain Mail, Dexterity, Shield)

Strength: 15
Dexterity: 17
Constitution: 14
Intelligence: 11
Wisdom: 13
Charisma: 14

Saving Throws: Breath (13), Poison/Death (7), Paralyze/Petrify (9), Wands (9), Spells (12) [last four include +1 Wisdom bonus against magic]

Special Abilities: 90% Hide Outdoors, 1-2 on d6 to Hide Underground, +1 Initiative if alone or with other halflings, +1 Missile Attacks, -2 AC vs. creatures larger than human sized.

Melee THACO: 18 (short sword, 1d6+1 damage)
Missile THACO (short range): 15 (sling, 1d4 damage)

Equipment: Shield, Sling, Sling Bullets (x30), Short Sword, Chainmail, Backpack, Bedroll, Map Case, Flint & Steel, Ink, Quill Pen, Parchment, Trail Rations (x10), Iron Spikes (x6), Torches (x4), Waterskin, Pony ("Stinky")

Coins: 10 gp, 1 sp, 5 cp
-------------------------------------------------

Sarabian Drowslayer comes from a long and distinguished house of Elven adventurers, but the House has fallen on hard times--evidence has been brought forward alleging that its members have been trading with dwellers in the Underdark. In order to regain her family's honor and clear its name, Sarabian plans to amass sufficient wealth and power to lead an invasion of the Underdark and clear out the hated Drow once and for all . . .

Level 1 Elf (Neutral)

Hit Points: 6

Armor Class: 1 (Splint Mail, Dexterity)

Strength: 15
Dexterity: 18
Constitution: 12
Intelligence: 13
Wisdom: 12
Charisma: 11

Saving Throws: Breath (15), Poison/Death (12), Paralysis/Petrify (13), Wands (13), Spells (15)

Special Abilities: 60' Infravision, Actively Find Hidden Doors on 1-2 on d6, Immune Ghoul Paralysis

Melee THACO: 18 (longsword, 1d8+1 damage)
Missile THACO (short range): 15 (shortbow, 1d6 damage)

Equipment: Longsword, Shortbow, Arrows (x20), Splint Mail, Waterskin, Trail Rations, Spellbook, Backpack

Spells Known: Read Magic, Sleep, Invisibility

Coins: 4 gp, 5 sp

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sporting News Pro Football 2010 Yearbook


Ouch, they predict the Browns to go 2-14--a full three games worse than last year's pathetic showing. It'll be a fun experiment to review these predictions in about six months, so here's who they picked for division winners:

AFC East: Jets

AFC North: Ravens

AFC South: Colts

AFC West: Chargers

NFC East: Cowboys

NFC South: Atlanta

NFC North: Vikings

NFC West: 49ers

Now, since there are four teams in each division, pure random chance would result in about a 25% success rate. If the Sporting News can significantly exceed that, we'll know they have some idea what they're talking about. (for those interested, they predict the Jets beating the Cowboys in the Super Bowl).

Oddly, though, their prediction of teams' final season records is often at odds with their evaluations of whether the same teams are getting better or worse. For example:

The Bills are predicted to go 3-13, a three game drop from last year's 6-10 record. Yet their "stock report" is "up."

The aforementioned Browns are also receiving an "up" grade, and are also predicted to lose three more games than last year.

The Titans, on the other hand, are predicted to win three more games than last year and make the playoffs, but have only a "steady" stock report.

The Broncos, predicted to lose a whopping four more games than last season, also receive a "steady" stock report.

Does this make any sense?

And for the sake of posterity, the biggest jump the magazine predicts is the Chiefs, who they think will win five more games than last year to jump from 4-12 to a winning 9-7 record.

The Buffy Comic Project: "Hey, Good Lookin', Part 2"



Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 10

(Dark Horse) (Volume 1, 1998-2003)

Creators: Andi Watson (writer), Joe Bennett (penciller), Rick Ketcham (inker)

Setting: Season Three

T.V. Character Appearances: Buffy, Giles, Willow, Oz, Cordelia, Xander, Joyce, Angel,

Major Original Characters: Selke, Dr. Flitter, Rouleau (demon gangster)

Summary: Giles' research pins down the corpse-eating demons as a pack of ghouls. Completely coincidentally, Buffy is harassed by a tight-knit group of models when she decides to take a modelling scout up on her offer. Could it be that these models are actually the ghouls, and that eating human flesh is the way they stay young and attractive? Yes, yes it could be. They set a trap for Buffy, but she fights her way out of it with Angel's help and the ghouls are killed. Meanwhile, the still-disfigured Selke has a meeting with a man named Rouleau, who seems to be a demon mobster leader. Rouleau humiliates Selke, and she vows revenge.

Review

I could complain about Buffy's main supernatural threat (the ghouls) and her main social threat (the models) converging completely by coincidence, but the show could often be just as ham-fisted in tying its plotlines together. I actually wouldn't have minded seeing the Buffy-as-model subplot go on longer, as it was at least something we hadn't really seen before, and tied in well to Buffy's fear of growing older while Angel remained the same. As villains, the ghouls weren't particularly interesting, as their fighting style seemed exactly the same as vampires. And as for the Selke story-line, I'm still not really sure what her plans are or how this Rouleau character ties in.

Notes

* I thought the demon that Buffy killed last ish was the one responsible for the corpse-eating, but apparently not.

* The inside cover labels this both "Hey, Good Lookin' Part 2" and "Bad Blood Part 2". I'm not sure why the double subtitles.

* The artist has returned to drawing Xander with a stubble-goatee. I really have no recollection of this from the show, but then I have no idea why the artist would invent it.

* I love the art cover to this issue--the only time I can think of where they played around with the logo and trade dress to come up with something really original.

* This scene just killed me: we see Angel feasting on a dead ghoul, which is gross enough as it is, but then on the next page he's slipping Buffy the tongue! At least pause for a breath-mint in between!


Next Issue

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Clone Wars Campaign: Siege Commander Korg


Siege Commander Korg was an NPC that ended up with a far better personality and more "air-time" than I had originally intended. In his first incarnation, he served as the "big bad" for the first story-arc of the campaign, in his role as leader of the Separatist forces on Mongui. A MagnaGuard droid given additional responsibilities as a reward for meritorious (bloodthirsty!) services, Korg first clashed with the PCs on the roof of the Mongui Royal Palace. They managed to turn the tables on him and steal his shuttle, but not before an exciting and cinematic battle between Korg and Jedi Tarn Tamarand in the open bay doors of the shuttle as it lifted off. Instead of falling to his apparent destruction, however, Korg used his magnetic grapplers to stow away on the outer hull of the shuttle and survive to plan his revenge. Months later, he lured Arresta, Daal, and a poor bureaucrat disguised as Tarn to a remote, icy planet in Both Sector. In a one-on-duel with Arresta, however, Korg was decapitated and sank beneath icy waters.

His head was retrieved by Jocasta soon after, however, and that's when Korg 2.0 began. With his maniacally destructive personality installed in a massive war-bot chassis (seen above), he became the Sun Runners enforcer. With rocket launchers, twin E-webs, and more, Korg could destroy a small town in minutes. Still, it wasn't enough to keep him from being torn apart by a pack of Haruun Kal Akk dogs, but enough of him was scraped together by Daal to allow him to be shipped back to the Sun Runners in more-or-less operative condition.

When you add up his win-loss record, Korg turns out to be a lot like a comic book supervillain such as the Rhino or the Blob--intimidating as hell, but never actually winning a fight!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Secret Ninja Druid

In my goofy-idea department of past role-playing game characters, this one is right up there. When I was a teenager, we had been playing second edition AD&D for quite a while when everyone decided to roll up first-level characters for a new sword-and-sorcery campaign. I must have recently purchased The Complete Ninja Handbook or something, because I decided I had to play a ninja, which were kind of like fighter-thieves with a lot of special rules. Except, I didn't want any of the other players to know I was going to be playing a ninja. So I created an elaborate (to my mind) deception, in which I would purport to be a druid. Now, this Cunning Masquerade of Staggering Genius involved the following elements:

1. I wrote DRUID at the top of my character sheet in large caps, so anyone casually glancing at my character sheet would think that I was, in fact, playing a druid.

2. I had my character carry around a scimitar, since that was one of the few bladed weapons druids were allowed to wield under the rules.

3. I scoured dozens of optional rulebooks until I found a Nonweapon Proficiency named Cantrips that allowed a non-spellcaster to throw a handful of zero-level spells.

4. I told everyone I was playing a druid.

Now, you're probably thinking "Wow, with a disguise that perfect, no one would ever figure out that this purported druid was actually a ninja. And also, you, Jeremy, should move to Hollywood and work in movies because you are a master of illusion." Au contraire, believe or not, my veil of druid-ness (druidity?) was pierced!

I don't think I even made it through the first session before the others were all "Why don't you cast some freakin' healing spells?" That, and the fact that I couldn't have actually performed any cool ninja stuff unless it was through secret notes, rendered the whole concept pretty ridiculous.

I think the character lasted maybe two sessions before dying. My character sheet for him shows him at the sad state of -10 hit points, but only a few hundred XP from reaching the heights of Level 2. And I guess because I was so concerned with writing DRUID at the top of his character sheet, I never even wrote down his name.

Goodbye, unnamed Secret Ninja Druid, may you live on in some Valhalla-like realm full of idiots who never realize your hidden identity . . .

DRUID

AC: -1
THACO: 20
Hit Points: -10

Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Level: 1 (XP: 880/1250)

Height: 6'1, Weight: 180, Age: 18

Strength: 17
Dexterity: 18
Constitution: 17
Intelligence: 14
Wisdom: 11
Charisma: 13

Saves: PPD 13, RSW 14, PP 12, BW 16, SP 15

Languages: Common, Special [Was "Special" my code for ninja handtalk or something?]

Weapon Proficiencies: Broadsword, Cutlass, Katana/Bokken, Khopesh, Longsword, Ninja-to, Scimitar, Chaise [What the hell is a "Chaise"? Isn't that French for "couch"? Was I proficient in couch-fighting?]

Nonweapon Proficiencies: Aki-Jitsu, Persuasion, Acting, Disguise, Cantrips

Base Thief Skills: Pick Pockets 10, Open Locks 15, Find/Remove Traps 5, Move Silently 60, Hide in Shadows 60, Detect Noise 10, Climb Walls 40, Read Languages 0

Backstab

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What I Read (2008)

For a few years now I've been keeping a book log--one or two short lines about each book I read. I don't expect this to be of widespread interest to anyone, but I figure by placing it here I can recycle my paper copy and reduce a tiny bit of clutter. So without further ado, I present the unedited . . .

What I Read (2008)

Jan. 15, 2008 Disappearing Nightly by Laura Resnick
A light-hearted supernatural mystery about disappearing acts. Congenial but not creative enough to warrant a second look.

Jan. 15, 2008 The Dungeon: The Black Tower by Richard A. Lupoff
Shaggy-dog tale of Major Clive Folliott's search for his brother Neville in the Dungeon. A nice beginning with a strong air of mystery.

Jan. 18, 2008 J'etais un Rat! by Phillip Pullman
My first French novel! I was able to follow the plot, even if a lot of details eluded me.

Jan. 24, 2008 Galactic Campaign Guide by Peter Schwaghofer & J.D. Wiker
A helpful GM's guide to Star Wars gaming.

Jan. 31, 2008 Monster Island by Christopher Golden & Thomas Sniegoski
A really great Buffy book about a pureblood invasion of a half-blood demon island. Good mingling of both show's casts.

Jan. 31, 2008 Replaced by Emma Harrison
A pretty good Alias book about a biochemical threat.

Feb. 11, 2008 L'île de l'enfer by Ellen Miles
A "Christer Sisters" mystery about an arsonist at a vacation resort. My second French novel.

Feb. 13, 2008 The Dark Abyss by Bruce Coville
The second book in the Dungeon series, as Clive and his band continue to follow his brother's trail. Pretty good and intriguing mystery.

Feb. 13, 2008 Tales From the Empire by Peter Schweighofer (editor)
Short stories from the Empire & New Republic era, including first Mara Jade appearance. Not half bad.

Feb. 28, 2008 Carnival of Souls by Nancy Holder
Average Buffy novel about a seductive carnival coming to town.

Mar. 5, 2008 The Cestus Deception by Steven Barnes
A good Star Wars novel, as Obi-Wan & Kit Fisto are sent to a planet producing bio-droids.

Mar. 2008, The Dark Side Sourcebook by Slavicsek & Wiker
Not especially interesting or helpful Star Wars sourcebook

Mar. 2008 Valley of Thunder by Charles de Lint
3rd volume of The Dungeon as the group is split into two before reuniting. Solid.

Mar. 23, 2008 Blindsight by Peter Watts
An interesting book with some thought-provoking ideas on consciousness; should check out his others.

Apr. 10, 2008 The Lost Slayer by Christopher Golden
Strong Buffy novel where she sees an alternate future where Giles is a vampire.

Apr. 12, 2008 Tales From the New Republic by Peter Schweighofer & Craig Carey (eds.)
Short stories set in various time periods after Endor. Some really nice stories.

Apr. 22, 2008 Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
Decent Guards book featuring Vimes going back in time to encounter his younger self.

Apr. 29, 2008 The Lake of Fire by Robin W. Bailey
Volume 4 of The Dungeon, the group travels through an inferno landscape and then discovers elaborate cloning facilities. Still retains my interest.

May, 2008 Medstar I: Battle Surgeons by Reaves & Perry
A Clone Wars novel about a MASH unit; oddly plotless, but I-5 is fun.

May 4, 2008 The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
A pretty fun novel about a "Literary Detective" in an alternate world where space & time are flexible.

May 12, 2008 Child of the Hunt by Golden & Holder
A Buffy novel about the Erl King & the Wild Hunt, with a theme about runaways. Really good actually.

May, 2008 X-Wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael Stackpole
A pretty interesting Star Wars novel set about seven years after Endor. A real sense of hope and progress.

May 28, 2008 Harry Potter à l'école des sorciers by J.K. Rowling
The French version of the first book--some odd name changes, like Snape is now Rogue, but fun to read.

May, 2008 Jedi vs. Sith
A really good reference book that has some great artwork and info.

June 1, 2008 Restless Gods by Reginald W. Bibby
A theist-oriented sociological study of religion in Canada, finding that the churches are resilient.

June 5, 2008 The Hidden City by Charles de Lint
Book Five of The Dungeon, as we receive the first intro to the Ren and the Chaffri, and learn about the ganine.

June 7, 2008 Medstar II: Jedi Healer by Reaves & Perry
Slow moving. I'm glad I-5 and Den Dhur were there.

June 15, 2008 One Thing or Your Mother by Kirsten Beyer
An interesting Buffy novel featuring Snyder's mom.

June 16, 1008 The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett
Cohen the Barbarian tries to kill the gods which will destroy the world.

July 1, 2008 X-Wing: Wedge's Gamble
The Rogues infiltrate and bring down Coruscant. Logic a bit hard to follow in places.

July 1, 2008 The Final Battle by Richard A. Lupoff
The last book in The Dungeon series. Disappointing, with too little time spend on supporting characters.

July, 2008 Democracy's Discontent by Michael Sandel
Argues that civic virtue should re-emerge as a pre-eminent value. Good on historical analysis, poor on modern implications.

July, 2008 The Comic Book Killer by Richard Lupoff
An enjoyable mystery with an insurance adjuster protagonist.

July, 2008 Résumé with Monsters by William B. Spencer
An interesting, light-hearted but well-written take-off of the Cthulhu mythos.

July 31, 2008 The Tail of the Tip-Off by Rita Mae Brown
An insipid, underwritten mystery novel w/ talking cats.

Aug. 8, 2008 Boba Fett: The Fight to Survive by Terry Bisson
Pretty fun kids' book tells of 10 year old Fett seeing Pops get whacked on Geonosis.

Aug. 18, 2008 The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
As great as ever.

Aug. 19, 2008 Jedi Trial by Sherman & Cragg
A crappy, boring Star Wars novel about a Separatist takeover of a communications center.

Sep. 3, 2008 Legacy & Secrets of the Jedi by Jude Watson
A pretty good book focussing on Padawans in different time streams.

Sep. 8, 2008 Drowning in Fire by Craig Womack
A novel w/ each chapter focussing on a different character and time period in Oklahoma Creek territory. Mostly okay.

Sep. 12, 2008 Truce at Bakura by Kathy Tyers
Re-read for gaming & still quite enjoyed.

Sep. 22, 2008 America: The Book by Jon Stewart
Hilarious in places.

Sep. 2008 Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow
A demon-hunting "necromancer" in supernatural-filled world. Main character bi. Unsure about reading more.

Sep. 2008 Crossfire by Terry Bisson
Second Boba Fett novel, pretty good, as Boba meets up with Aurra Sing.

Sep. 2008 Harry Potter et la chambre des secrets by J.K. Rowling
A lot of fun.

Oct. 4, 2008 The Krytos Trap by Michael Stackpole
Third X-Wing novel, telling of difficult aftermath of Republic invasion of Coruscant

Oct. 2008 Under Arrest: Canadian Laws You Won't Believe by Bob Tarantino
A very well-written book on obsolete laws.

Oct. 10, 2008 Go Ask Malice by Robert J. Levy
A great Buffy novel, telling of Faith's origin.

Nov. 2, 2008 Yoda: Dark Rendezvous by Sean Stewart
A great Clone Wars novel, introducing a really interesting Padawan named Scout.

Nov. 22, 2008 The Sociology of Religious Movements by William S. Bainbridge
Some fascinating case studies of cults like the Millerites and Processians.

Nov. 2008 Beggars Ride by Nancy Kress
Third & very readable book in the trilogy, featuring the murder of all the Sleepless. Very thought-provoking.

Nov. 2008 Anne Perry's Christmas Mysteries
Two short novels set in the carriage-horse days. Nice characterization, even if plots are a bit dull.

Nov. 2008 Bablyon 5: Betrayals by S.M. Stirling
Another nice entry in the series, detailing a Narn-Centauri peace conference w/ several good subplots.

Nov. 2008 Where's My Cow? by Terry Pratchett
A very short but cute picture book.

Nov. 2008 Maze of Deception & Hunted by Elizabeth Hand
The third & fourth Boba Fett books. Still good.

Dec. 5, 2008 Thud! by Terry Pratchett
Tensions mount between dwarfs & trolls w/ Vimes stuck in the middle. Another quality Discworld story.

Dec. 9, 2008 The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
What an exciting book! It just gets my blood racing like no other series I've ever read.

Dec. 2008 Slings & Arrows Comic Guide (2nd edition)
A great and useful guide to comics, full of anglicisms like "bog standard" and "kack".