On Remembering and Forgetting

One of the most important things I think a person can do is remember.  That is why I started my journal in college.  At first, I had things to do which I needed to be reminded of.  Then I learned things I didn’t want to forget.

I think the worst curse I can say to someone, after “May you live in interesting times” is “I will forget you.  I will forget what you have done”.  Within the past year, I have been doing some more close reading about the written work of several authors and about their lives.  There are some writers whose work I feel is so foul, or worse, their actions while alive were so vile, that I feel they deserve to be forgotten.  The worst thing you can do to someone who leaves a creative legacy is forget them and their efforts.


Reviews of Omission

I have some more thoughts about what I am willing to read and review.  I am generally not indifferent to what I read.  Reading is one of the few engaging activities I have where I can safely indulge a feeling of passion.  I either truly like something or I develop a loathing for it, after I have read it.  That sometimes applies to content creators as well.  I do not separate the art from the artist.  It has been my experience and observation for the past thirty-five years that if a content creator is unethical, or worse, morally corrupt, their work reflects that.  I have decided that I won’t post a negative review of a creative effort here unless I have some informational or educational point to make.  I also refuse to engage in analysis of the sundry content creators I have learned of over the decades since the early Eighties whose behavior available in the public record is of the clearly morally repugnant sort.  That kind of analysis would be a hit piece or character assassination at best or an actionable ad hominum attack at worst.  That is not the purpose of this blog.  I have fewer limitations when reviewing a book on Goodreads, but I am still constrained by policy from posting a personal attack on an author.

Which brings me to the topic of this post.  If you fail to see a review of a work by a content creator who had been or has been active since the early Eighties, then the conditions outline above mostly likely apply.  The exceptions to this are a whole laundry list of authors and their works available on my Goodreads “to read” list.  I am insatiably curious and am willing to give a content creator a shot if I can’t find a review of their work which warns me off.

That reminds me.  It might be useful or even helpful if I make my Goodreads lists available to the general public.  I might have to tinker with the permission on my Goodreads profile, too.  Ah well, I don’t have anything else better to do this morning after I publish this piece.  😉

Pathfinder Character Conversion: Catalena

The following stat block is of a character which was originally a street shaman from ShadowRun named Chameleon.  I changed some basic facts about her and cleaned up her backstory.  It was for mature audiences and I don’t write that kind of language on this blog.

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Catalena CR 3
XP 800
Female human (Varisian) sorcerer 4
CN Medium humanoid (human)
Init +5; Senses Perception +4
AC 11, touch 11, flat-footed 10 (+1 Dex)
hp 25 (4d6+12)
Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +5
Speed 30 ft.
Melee dagger +1 (1d4-1/19-20)
Ranged darkwood light crossbow +4 (1d8/19-20)
Bloodline Spell-Like Abilities (CL 4th; concentration +8)
7/day—laughing touch
Sorcerer Spells Known (CL 4th; concentration +8)
2nd (4/day)— flaming sphere (DC 16)
1st (7/day)— entangle (DC 15), mage armor , magic missile , summon monster I
0 (at will)— acid splash , detect magic , disrupt undead , light, prestidigitation, read magic
Bloodline Fey
Str 9, Dex 13, Con 13, Int 13, Wis 10, Cha 18
Base Atk +2; CMB +1; CMD 12
Feats Combat Casting, Eschew Materials, Improved Initiative, Toughness
Skills Bluff +10, Diplomacy +5, Intimidate +8, Knowledge (nature) +5, Perception +4, Spellcraft +7, Use
Magic Device +10
Languages Common, Halfling, Varisian
SQ woodland stride
Combat Gear potion of cure light wounds (3), potion of cure moderate wounds (2), silver crossbow bolts
(50), wand of magic missile , alchemist’s fire; Other Gear crossbow bolts (20), dagger, darkwood light
crossbow, cloak of resistance +1 , backpack, belt pouch, belt pouch, belt pouch, belt pouch, entertainer’s
outfit, flint and steel, sunrod, trail rations (4), waterskin, donkey, bedroll, bit and bridle, feed (per day),
feed (per day), pack saddle, 485 gp, 5 sp, 5 cp
Special Abilities
Combat Casting +4 to Concentration checks to cast while on the defensive.
Eschew Materials Cast spells without materials, if component cost is 1 gp or less.
Laughing Touch (7/day) (Sp) As a standard action, if melee touch hits, foe can take only move actions
for 1 rd.
Woodland Stride (Ex) Move through undergrowth at normal speed.
A Varisian wandering kid. She is a magically-active tomboy. She looks like a pint-sized version of Seoni, with a little more clothes and no tattoos.

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Work in Progress: The Steppencow

I’ve been doing Spring cleaning in my place and that means I often find something interesting.  In this case, I found a stash of computer print outs of drafts of stories I lost in the Russian Virus Attack and Hard Drive Wipe of 2006.  I just had to share the outline of one of them today.  I’m in one of those moods.  😉

The Steppencow

Barry Ballovitch through of himself as the Steppencow, was a yak of the steppes.  This was a secret he kept to himself.

He had set aside his personal desires to find a good, solid job.  He worked as a clerk in the Department, for the Company.

Once he had settled into his job to support his family he felt content.  Two decades passed.  After such a long period of service, he began to feel the desire to break free from the constraints of his comfortable life.

Barry took his life savings, bought a Sil limousine and toured the Country.  He stayed out late, danced and drank in clubs.

In the middle of the eastern country, among the waves of grass, Barry left his luxury car and bought a horse and carriage.  He rode it into the sky, into the setting sun.

It’s Hesse with a dash of Kafka and Thorne Smith.  😉

Review: The Four Horsemen Present Young Character Options

I am doing this review at the suggestion of BJ Hensley.  Ms. Hensley is the designer of Young Character Options and it was a recent conversation I had with her via Facebook which suggested to me that I ought to do reviews on this blog.

Young Character Options is a fifteen page PDF.  One page is the cover, one page is the credits and one page is the OGL.  That leaves twelve pages of content.

The first bit of content which stood out for me was a sidebar on page five entitled “Young Characters”.  The sly references to young characters in popular fiction had me laughing out loud, which is a rare event for me when reading Pathfinder content.

The introduction includes advice on how to integrate young characters into your fantasy setting, making the point of talking it over with your players about whether or not young characters would be appropriate in your campaign.  The introduction continues with a description of how each of the core Pathfinder races raises children.

The next major section is “life paths”, concepts for how a young character could possess abilities beyond their years, starting with “Old Souls” and ending with the “Orphan-Rogue”, aka “Street Rat”.

The next section is a one-page listing of Young Character Traits, including advice on dumping the Ultimate Campaign rules for young characters in favor of the guidelines presented in this supplement.

The next two pages present Young Character Feats, or how to model the abilities of an exceptional child adventurer.

The supplement wraps up with six pages of Young Character Archetypes.  I have less to say about this because I have never played the classes in Pathfinder for these Archetypes.  On the other hand, three years of study of Pathfinder rules suggests to me there is nothing mechanically out of whack with this section.

All in all, this is a useful and fun supplement for those who want to add exceptional young characters to their campaigns and explore the potential such characters have.  There are no technical flaws in the PDF I downloaded.  The text is written in clear, easy-to-understand language.  The crunch, given my relative inexperience with Pathfinder, does not display any kind of error that I could spot.

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On Reviewing Influences

I have three reviewers who have influenced my technique for reviewing creative material.  The first is Roger Ebert, the late movie critic.  I used to watch his televised reviews and the way he got into how a movie worked or didn’t work got me interested in movies in general.  He would praise movies with effective or entertaining elements and he wouldn’t hold back if a movie blew chunks.

The second reviewer who influenced my technique was Harlan Ellison, from his column “Harlan Ellison’s Watching” in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Again, he was a movie reviewer, but he had things to say about broader creative currents in American pop culture, too.  The column that stuck with me was his description of going to a juvenile hall with copies of one of his books for the inmates to read and discuss with him.  The boys in juvie were so educationally impoverished they couldn’t comprehend that Ellison had the books they were holding published.  In their dim minds, they thought he had physically written them.  When asked what kind of media they liked, they responded by starting to describe scenes of extreme violence from movies, getting increasing excited as their descriptions became more vivid.  This was an eye opener for me.  It was the first sign to me that a notable number of parents and Hollywood both were screwing up ethically, being indifferent to the effect of what minors were viewing and finding entertaining.

The third and final reviewer is Endzeitgeist, the RPG content reviewer.  He is my go-to reviewer when I want to find out whether a Pathfinder supplement is cool or sucks hot volcanic rocks.  He goes into detail about what the good content in a supplement is, if any or if there are flaws in the product and exactly what those flaws are.

I’m nowhere as skilled, talented or experienced as these three people, but their work serves as models for my own.


Review Schedule and Policy Update

I have recently been reading some good books, but I haven’t finished them yet.  I do intend to review them.  My Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone review wasn’t all that positive.  I find it easier to write a review which points out the flaws in a work than write a positive review.  My positive reviews can be summed up as:  It had cool stuff in it.  When I write a negative review, I am more engaged in the material and more engaged in how it is flawed than I am with a review of a book I liked.

Also, a fairly common response of mine to reading a book which I actively loathed is the desire to write a savagely satirical pastiche of the piece.  I feel it is the least I can do in response to an author committing a written atrocity.

Of the books I have read all the way through this year, a dozen of them, I haven’t read one bad book.  I hope to review them all eventually.