Monthly Archives: May 2006

My Novel Needs Feedback


Almost six months ago I wrote a novel.  It's been through two revisions, but badly needs reader responses and feedback before I can really go anywhere with it.  I want to have another rewrite under my belt before I start trying to send it out to publishers.

If you haven't read it and would like to, comment or shoot me an email ( and I'll get you a copy.  It's a 53,000 word sci-fi novel about a woman who's spaceship crashes on an unknown planet and she has to find a way to survive.

If you have been sent a copy, tell me what you think of it already!  To date, not one person other than my parents has given me any feedback.  Which my novel needs.

What a find!

I was over on the East side of Madison (not unusual) during the day when stores are open (more unusual.)  On a whim, I stopped at the Electronics Boutique in the East Towne Mall.

What did I find there but Buffy season 1, Angel season 1, and Battlestar Galactica season 1, which came to a total of just over $50 with my discount card.  (BSG was only $9.99!)

I've only got two more Buffy seasons to go, and I haven't seen all of BSG, so I'm especially happy about finding that.


I Resolve…

…to write at least 500 words a day on the Age of Air or Shattered Vistas, every day at work.

In perspective, that's not that much.  I regularly wrote 1500+ words a day when I was working on The Barren Garden (my novel), but it was crazy sometimes, and I wrote it by hand and then typed it into the computer(!).  500 is comparatively easy:  all I have to do is sit in front of the computer for half an hour and write.

But getting there can be hard to do.  So this is a motivational thing:  I promise that I am actually working on these projects.  Because now if I don't, I'll look and feel foolish, and the internet will be obligated to deride me.

Optimistically, I'm hoping to pump out 1000+ words a day.  The 500 word quota is to make sure I do *something*.

(By the way, chatting about my games/books on my blog or does *not* count towards my quota!  That's important for inspiration, but it doesn't get me any closer to a final draft.)

Making Final Fantasy 8 Fun Again

I've been playing Final Fantasy 8 on an off over the past few months.  I put it aside when I found myself with a borrowed Xbox, and picked it back up once I finished Crimson Skies and Jade Empire.

Final Fantasy 8 is widely derided as the worst of the series.  And I'll tell you why: the Battle System is terrible.  Well, the Battle System is the same as 6 & 7, what's wrong is the Guardian Forces.  They are EVERYTHING about your character, and it's too easy to get in the trap of 'cast my summon spell over and over for the entire game.'  Yeah, the cut scene for Iffrit is pretty cool… until you've seen it hundreds of times.  Not fun.

But… I've discovered something very cool.  If you choose not to ever activate your GFs (you need them to get special abilities and magic, but you just choose not to ever cast the summon spells), the gameplay actually becomes fun again.  The draw system stands on its own without the everpresent specter of the GFs looming over, and you actually get to use the fringe special abilities (there's some keen ones out there.)  And since you're not pumping xp into making your summon attacks stronger, you unlock the nifty wierd abilities instead.

Gameplay considerations aside, FF8 was still good for a number of reasons:  it's a very pretty game.  It's not as pretty as FF10, but its got its cool features.  FF8 suprises me even today by having NPCs randomly be in a location or not- highly unusual for a PS1 platform.  FF10 has clearly smoother CG, but there's just alot of neat little details in FF8.  What CG there is impresses me as much as anything I've seen in more modern games, and theres some cool splicing of CG and sprite gameplay (you move your sprite in the foreground, but crazy stuff is going on in the background).  There's some obvious border problems, and you can tell for sure when they're using the effect, but it still looks darn cool.

And the plot is neat.  Cool stuff goes down.  I also like most of the characters.

Minigames!  Gotta love a collectible card game within the game!  It's easy, fun, and the first time I played through I played it more than the actual game (because lets face it, the battle system was that bad.)  I like collecting stuff.  (Best in-game CCG prize of course, goes to Xenosaga.)

The Age of Air

One project I'm dreaming up, in a very formative stage, is the Age of Air.  It's high fantasy, and I'm thinking a system-neutral setting book- essentially, a 'fantasy atlas.'

Anyway, I got an idea-dump thread going on over at, so if high fantasy, elemental themes, swashbuckling, and airships interest you, head on over and take a look and fire off some random thoughts.  More codified updates to be here.

Don’t Botch…

If there's one thing that people who have read half of the D&D rules get wrong, it's the rules for rolling a natural '1' on a d20.  If you are one of those people, allow me to inform you of the correct procedure:  YOU DO NOT HIT AN ALLY OR OTHERWISE 'FUMBLE' WHEN ROLLING A 1 TO ATTACK!  YOU JUST FAIL!  YOU DO NOT SUFFER A COMICAL HUMILIATION WHEN GETTING A 1 ON A SKILL ROLL!  IT'S NOT EVEN AN AUTO-FAILURE!"  *Ahem*

Botches and fubmles are fun, but only when they provide spice here and there, and aren't happening constantly.  So what's good and what's bad?

The Decent:

Abberant/Exalted/Etc:  Rolling no successes and any 1's is fairly rare, so humiliating botches don't come up often, so it's usually funny when they do. 

Alternity:  You critically fail when you roll a natural one on a d20.  BUT all the skill descriptions have specific results for what might happen.  They're usually bad, but the GM can't just say "gee, a plane falls on you."  Plus you have Last Resort Points so you can change it to a regular failure if you really really want to.

Savage Worlds:  PCs can 'botch' if they roll double ones; it's not terribly likely, and feels like a holdover from Deadlands.  Doesn't impact the game too much either way.

Shadowrun 3rd Edition:  Rolling all ones is not very likely to happen.  Botches really only occur at the 1-2 level.

The Good:

Deadlands:  Rolling over 1/2 ones happens often enough to provide spice.  Botches are only supposed to be so terrible unless you took the Bad Luck hindrance.   Huckster backlashes are random botches that regularly happen.  They are a feature, not a bug.

New World of Darkness:  Penalties have to reduce your roll below zero, and then you have to intentionally choose to roll a chance die anyways.  Botching doesn't happen very often, but when it does, you're specifically asking for it.

Shadowrun 4th Edition:  You can 'glitch' and succeed on the same action:  you get what you wanted, but there's some unfortunate complication.  I love it!

The Ugly:

d6 Starwars:  I've only read through the rules once, but you have a 1 in 6 chance of botching, and the GM is allowed to completely reverse the results of your roll with it.  Think about that. 

House Ruled D&D:  D&D does not have botches or fumbles.  Take them out of your game already.

Old World of Darkness:  1s counting as negative successes is really not fun.  At high target numbers, botching is exactly as likely as getting a success!  Isn't this fun?

Shattered Vistas: Playtest Thoughts

Daniel, Victor and myself threw some dice around after Victor's HeroQuest game.  It was a good experience and made some things very clear:

*Rolling lots of dice and checking off boxes is fun.

*The damage system is fundamentally broken.  (Especially so for mooks, but especially os for everyone).

*Die pool limits are a must, especially for the GM.  (I already kind of knew this one.)

*When people spend Reserves matters.  (This one caught me by suprise, and I have no idea how to handle it for player vs. player.)

*There aren't really any coherent character death rules.

I Love Trouble Tickets…

…for all the wrong reasons. 

It's a little dark corner of the forums.  What is it?  Ostensibly the site discussion and announcement forum.  But that's not why I love it.

It's like a seamy gossip-rag.

Why bother with Tangency's could-be flamewars hoping for someone to get banned?  Just go to Trouble Tickets, and look for a thread saying "so and so is banned."  The ever-so-helpful mods provide a link to their banning post, and that's your gateway to a magical thread which got derailed by personal attacks.

I don't even know who any of these posters are, and I'm uninformed about whatever it is that they're arguing about.  But they're really, really passionate about it, and take it far too seriously.  As an entertainment medium, it's delicious.

If Tangency is a soap opera, then Trouble Tickets is the spoiler-packed commercial for that soap opera.

My System Is Damaged

The damage system for the Shattered Vistas needs help!  Specifically *your* help.  Pitch in here:

Fast, Furious, Fun!

Savage Worlds remains all three of the above.

I just wrote up the stats for a big huge fight to take place when I play. It took me less than half an hour to look up the stock stats for orcs in the book, and extrapolate some stats for baddass “boss-level” orcs. Levelling up NPCs in SW is easy. Just tack on some stats, skills, add an Edge or two, give them slighty better gear, and you’re done. Making D&D NPCs is not fast, furious, or fun. If I wanted 3 10th level orcs, or even 5th level orcs, I would have to apply new attack bonuses, saves, skills, feats, spell slots, and equipment. This involves copious chart-examination and cross-referencing and optimization. SW does not.

I am seriously looking at Savage Worlds for all my future Dungeons and Dragons needs.