Thursday, 19 July 2018

Would You Be My New Best Friends? - Doctor Who Series 11 Trailer

Since “Twice Upon a Time” and the twelfth Doctor’s regeneration into the thirteenth (played by Jodie Whittaker), it has been very quiet on the Doctor Who front—that is, until this week. A few days ago, we got the first teaser for the forthcoming Series 11, and today comes the first full trailer (watch it below) as well as the first peak at the new sonic screwdriver (see above). (Yes, I know a few pictures of the sonic screwdriver leaked at little while back, but this is the first official look.)

The trailer is pretty straight-forward as trailers go, with a succession of short moments from the new series and a narration by the Doctor over the top. There’s less to unpack from this than there was in the teaser from a few days ago, but what this trailer definitely has in spades is a sense of wonder and excitement. The shots and scenery viewed are simply gorgeous. Intriguingly, there isn’t a single look at any monsters or aliens. It focuses on the Doctor and her three new friends, without even a single other character appearing. But that’s okay, as far as I’m concerned. I like the greater secrecy being kept over this series than in previous years. It helps increase the excitement factor. I, for one, can’t wait till it starts!

Oh, and to answer the Doctor’s question, my answer is unequivocally yes!

(Edit: A few other characters do appear in the trailer beyond just the Doctor and her companions. They appear during blink-and-you'll-miss-them moments, but they're there.)

Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Universe is Calling - Doctor Who Series 11 Teaser

The new series of Doctor Who is still a few months away, but publicity is starting to gear up. The newest issue of Entertainment Weekly features Doctor Who as its cover story and, today, the BBC released the first teaser for Series 11.

This is not a trailer showing scenes from the upcoming series. Instead, it’s a specially filmed sequence to help whet the appetite for more (and it’s probably not a coincidence that it uses food to do so). On the surface, it says very little about what to expect from the new series—and that fits the more secretive style of new showrunner Chris Chibnall, compared to both Steven Moffat and Russell T Davies before him.

But looking beneath the surface, there’s a lot more to glean from this trailer. The new Doctor appears to have something of a mischievous streak to her: Through what appears to be some sort of time manipulation, she steals some of Ryan’s food and replaces Graham’s newspaper with a Beano issue (intriguingly, the same one the 11th Doctor hides behind in “The Rings of Akhaten”). But she has a kinder side too. When Yasmin discovers there’s no pizza left, the Doctor helpfully replaces it. Finally, the Doctor’s smile at the end shows a great deal of warmth and fun. There’s also the television announcer. While ostensibly talking about sport, the words—“They’ve got the makings of a really great team. They’ve got great energy. They’ve got great flare...I’m really excited to see what happens”—also apply quite easily to the new TARDIS team.

In just a few seconds, this teaser conveys a fairly clear feel for the new series. I’ve already been quite excited about the new series, and this teaser has definitely made me more excited!

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Inner Sea Faiths

Clerics have always been one of my favourite classes. I like getting into the mindset of people who devote their lives to serving greater powers. As such, I also love books that focus on those powers—what their religions are like and what drives their followers. One of the most-used Pathfinder books in my games (apart from the central rulebooks) is Inner Sea Gods, which provides detailed information on the core 20 gods of the Golarion setting (along with additional character options).

However, Golarion has considerably more than just 20 gods. Inner Sea Gods contains details on many of the others, but no book has unlimited space, so these additional details are understandably brief—half a page at most, and often no more than a single paragraph. Some of these additional gods have received more detailed write-ups in other sources, such as volumes of Pathfinder Adventure Path, but ever since Inner Sea Gods came out, I’ve hoped that there would eventually be another book that would collect together these other gods into one place.

Inner Sea Faiths is just such a book. It provides details on 15 of the lesser-known gods of Golarion, such as Brigh, Hanspur, Kurgess, and Sivanah. All 15 are given write-ups in the same style as the ones for the core 20 gods in Inner Sea Gods. Inner Sea Faiths is not as big a book as Inner Sea Gods. The write-ups are 6 pages long each instead of 8, and it doesn’t contain any new prestige classes, magic items, spells, etc. It’s also not a hardcover book. However, it is still a bigger book than most in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting line—96 pages long instead of the standard 64.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

The House on Hook Street

I love roleplaying adventures that fully integrate into their settings and make full use of those settings. Generic adventures that can take place anywhere are not necessarily bad (and there are certainly many very good ones), but there is something special about an adventure that can’t easily take place anywhere other than where it’s set. The setting helps add to the adventure’s flavour, and can make the adventure more memorable than one with a generic setting.

The House on Hook Street by Brandon Hodge is such an adventure. Set in the Bridgefront neighbourhood of the city of Korvosa, it makes heavy use of concepts and rules from Occult Adventures, and brings to life one of the poorest, most poverty-stricken places in the Golarion setting. It would be possible to use The House on Hook Street with a different campaign setting, but to do so, you would pretty much need to transplant the entirety of Bridgefront (and with it, much of the rest of Korvosa) into the other campaign world. You could change the names of Bridgefront and the locations in it, but it would still be essentially the same place. Without its setting, The House on Hook Street would be a very different adventure.

Of course, the setting is only one part of a successful adventure. A good adventure also requires an exciting plot with interesting encounters and villains, and The House on Hook Street certainly has these. It embroils the PCs in a tale of drugs and lucid dreaming, and brings them into conflict with creatures of nightmare. It can be difficult to do horror effectively in a roleplaying adventure, but while The House on Hook Street isn’t strictly horror, it does contain some incredibly creepy moments that may strike fear in even the hardiest of heroes.

It is a complex adventure, and GMs should be sure to have read and reviewed it thoroughly before play, but it’s one of the best adventures I’ve seen in a while.


Monday, 2 July 2018

June Round-Up Plus Doctor Who Gets a New Composer

It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these (see here for an explanation of my absence if you haven’t seen it already), and there’s not a whole lot to cover in the past month. But it does feel good to be getting back into the swing of things again.

Much of my recent stuff has involved getting caught up on things I should have done ages ago, so that means finally getting a review up of the Doctor Who Series 10 finale, “The Doctor Falls”, as well as last December’s Christmas special, “Twice Upon a Time”, featuring David Bradley as the first Doctor and introducing Jodie Whittaker as the thirteenth.

I also began catching up on the large number of Pathfinder products I intend to review, beginning with a return to the Giantslayer Adventure Path with the third instalment, Forge of the Giant God, as well as Adventurer’s Guide.

Pathfinder and Doctor Who have tended to make up the bulk of my posts (and there will continue to be lots of those), but I want to expand into covering more of other things as well. In particular, I’m intending to have a few more reviews of novels, and I started this past month with a review of The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci.

Perhaps most exciting for me, however, is my own novel, which I am currently looking for beta-readers for! The Child of the Volgs is an epic fantasy novel that I have been working on for quite some time, and beta-reading is an important stage in the development of any book. It allows the author (in this case, me) to get feedback from a variety of different people, which the author can then use to help in further revisions. For the beta-readers themselves, it presents an opportunity to see and be involved in the process of creating a book. You can help make the book into the best book it can be! I’ve got several beta-readers already, but I could definitely use more. If you’re interested please check out my Beta-Read page for full details.

Looking to the future, I’ve got a review of the Pathfinder Module The House on Hook Street coming up in the next couple days. I’ll also be getting to more Giantslayer this month and hopefully a few other things as well. There will also be another novel review. With Doctor Who not currently on the air, there won’t be any new reviews (unless I finally mange to get back to finishing my Series 8 reviews), but I do hope to do a couple of Doctor Who-related posts, including a look back at the entirety of the Steven Moffat era of the programme. That might not happen in July (it’ll depend on how much time I have), but it is definitely a goal before Series 11 starts around October (no confirmed start date at this point). Of course, I’ll probably cover any major Doctor Who news that comes out.

That said, so far, there’s not been a whole lot of news about what to expect in the new series (which I kind of like—it maintains the surprise), but a few things in the year I was gone that I didn’t cover included the actual announcement of Jodie Whittaker as the thirteenth Doctor and then, later, the reveal of her costume (see picture at top of post), which took a brief time to grow on me, but I now really like. There was also the announcement of who would be playing her companions: Bradley Walsh as Graham, Mandip Gill as Yasmin, and Tosin Cole as Ryan. It’s been a long time since the Doctor has had three companions (the last time was during the fifth Doctor’s time with Tegan, Nyssa, and Adric), so I’m very intrigued to see how the series handles the larger TARDIS crew.

It was also announced some time back that Murray Gold, who has composed the music for Doctor Who since it returned in 2005, would not be returning for Series 11. Just a couple days ago, it was announced that Segun Akinola would be the new composer. I generally liked Murray Gold’s music for the show, but he was there for a long time, and Doctor Who has always thrived on change. With the début of a new Doctor (particularly the first female Doctor), this is as good a time as any to change up the music, and I look forward to hearing what Akinola brings to the series. As far as I’m concerned, there are exciting times ahead for Doctor Who and I look forward to October (or whenever the new series starts).

Anyway, thanks to everyone who reads this blog! Have a great July!

Monday, 25 June 2018

Adventurer's Guide

One of the best ways to make new mechanical game content stick out and be memorable is to attach it to creative flavour content. In a game like Pathfinder, which has a massive plethora of options published over numerous books, this has pretty much become a necessity. This is one of the principal reasons I adore Adventurer’s Guide so much.

When Adventurer’s Guide first came out last year, there was some controversy over the fact that it contains Golarion-specific content. Previously, most books published as part of the hardcover Pathfinder Roleplaying Game line have been setting-neutral (apart from a few minor things like the names and domains of gods). Golarion material was limited to the other Pathfinder lines like Pathfinder Campaign Setting and Pathfinder Player Companion. In this way, GMs could use Pathfinder Roleplaying Game books with any setting (whether Golarion, some other published setting, or one of their own creation) without having to make any adjustments.

However, more recent books from the year or so have started to contain more Golarion-specific content. Occult Adventures contains references to the multiverse structure used in Golarion products rather than a more generic planar structure like that used in the earlier GameMastery Guide. Adventurer’s Guide goes even further, presenting eighteen organisations all taken from the Golarion setting. The book is pretty much tied completely to the setting.

Many people, particularly those who don’t use the Golarion setting, were not happy with this change. They felt the book should have been published as part of the Pathfinder Campaign Setting line (which has had several hardcovers published for it, including The Inner Sea World Guide, Inner Sea Gods, and Inner Sea Races). While I do understand why people might feel this way, personally, I like the change. I fully admit to a certain amount of bias here as I use the Golarion setting for my own games, and I’ve always preferred setting content over generic rules options. But I also fully believe the best mechanical content is generally that which is also attached to flavourful content. It isn’t strictly necessary to attach it to a setting to make something flavourful—Occult Adventures, as an example, certainly provides a lot of flavourful content that is not tied to a specific setting—but a setting can help provide a framework for that flavour.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Giantslayer - Forge of the Giant God

I began reading Forge of the Giant God (the third part of the Giantslayer Adventure Path) by Tim Hitchcock about a year ago, and got through roughly half of it. I didn’t stop because I disliked it; it was just the state my life was in at the time (see this post for details). Over the next several months, I occasionally went back to it and got through a little bit more of it each time. I thought I eventually made it all the way through, though when I came back to it last week with the intention of reviewing it, I discovered a bookmark (one I thought I’d misplaced) about three quarters of the way through. Assuming I was wrong about finishing it, I picked up reading from that spot.

And was thoroughly confused.

Some things seemed familiar as though I’d read them before and others seemed completely new. More importantly though, I realised I really didn’t have a good enough recall of even the earlier parts of the adventure I knew for a fact I had previously read. This served as a pretty good example of why you should never spread out the reading of something like this over a year with months-long breaks. So I decided to do what I should have done as soon as I picked it up again last week, and that was to reread the entire thing beginning to end.

And I’m glad I did. I came away from it with a higher opinion of the adventure than I had before. I remember previously really liking the opening section of the adventure and disliking the rest. However, this time around, I liked it more. I do still think there are some issues, but they don’t bother me as much they did. The adventure is a little too similar to the previous adventure, The Hill Giant’s Pledge, in that both involve sneaking into a similar giant-controlled location (and The Hill Giant’s Pledge does it better). Following up one adventure with another that does virtually the same thing runs the risk of making things stale for the players. However, there are things to make this adventure more unique, and good GMs should be able to make it into a memorable experience.


Thursday, 14 June 2018

Beta-Readers Needed!

Hey folks! I’m writing a book! In fact, I’ve been writing it for quite a long time now, and it’s finally reaching the stage where I can start thinking about eventual publication. But first, I need some beta-readers to provide me with some feedback to help make the book the best it can possibly be. I’m hoping that maybe a few of my readers on this blog might just be interested. If you are, I’ve set up a special page on this blog with complete details of what the beta-reading process entails and how you can get involved. Click here or on the link at the top of this page to get there.


Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The Savior's Champion

Reading has always been an important part of my life. I do a lot of reading, but recently, most of that has been either roleplaying books or non-fiction. Last month, I realised that it had been over a year since I’d read a novel. Clearly, that needed rectifying. But first, I needed to choose something to read. I own a huge pile of books that have been waiting to be read for years, but I decided to skip all those and go for something completely new. My attention turned almost immediately to The Savior’s Champion, mainly because I’ve watched a lot of author Jenna Moreci’s YouTube videos and I was aware of its recent release.

I’d read a number of reviews of the book, most of them gushing with praise, so I figured it was a safe bet. However, despite the positive reviews, I didn’t expect to love the book as much, just like it. Too often, I’ve encountered things that don’t turn out to be as good as the hype. Also, I can be very critical of my entertainment, even the things I love (just read my Doctor Who reviews for examples of that).

Well, I was wrong. I absolutely loved this book. It very quickly became one of those books that I just couldn’t put down (except I had to because I had to go to work or do other boring things like that). It may have been over a year since I last read a novel, but it has been even longer since one had me so enthralled beginning to end.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Doctor Who - Twice Upon a Time

I know that, over the entire history of Doctor Who, most actors playing the Doctor have done about three seasons before moving on. Nevertheless, whenever those three years are up, it always feels much shorter. It feels like barely more than yesterday that I was writing about the arrival of Peter Capaldi when, in actuality, it’s nearly six months after his final episode aired. The entire era of the twelfth Doctor has come and gone.

With Series 10, particularly its final two episodes “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls”, the twelfth Doctor’s era has very nearly gone out on a high. Indeed, as I state in my review, the only significant problem with “The Doctor Falls” is that it’s not the twelfth Doctor’s final episode. Instead, it drags the regeneration out to another episode. That episode, December 2017’s Christmas special, “Twice Upon a Time”, is not a bad episode, but it also falls pretty short of being a great episode.

There are a lot of good elements to the episode, but it also feels very tagged on. It’s not the climax that Series 10 was leading to (that’s “The Doctor Falls”), but also doesn’t quite manage to be its own thing. It’s still reliant on the Doctor holding back his regeneration—on an emotional state set up in the previous episode but not successfully carried through into this one.