Some Thoughts Concerning Dungeons & Dragons

There was a post here, but I wrote it better as a newsletter issue. So go read that instead.

Posted by Drew Shiel on February 26, 2021 at 21:55

Star Trek: Discovery

We are, at time of writing, three episodes into Season 2 of Discovery. And I will be straight up about this: I am pretty firmly of the opinion that it is the best Star Trek yet. Part of this is because I think Michael Burnham is a fantastic character, one who has a fall-and-redemption story as essentially her origin rather than a long arc, and one who is clearly constantly evaluating the difference between doing what she knows is right and following orders, which is a quandry more and more in line with reality for anyone living in the 21st century, let alone the 24th.

Continue reading "Star Trek: Discovery"

Posted by Drew Shiel on February 7, 2019 at 20:00

Creaking Noises

So. It's been nearly four years since I posted here. But I have some relevant thoughts again, and I thought I might write some of them down. This isn't that post; this is just to blow the cobwebs out of the launch tubes, and see if I need to grease anything.

So, assuming this is followed by some more posting, hi.

Posted by Drew Shiel on February 6, 2019 at 16:44

Current and Upcoming Television

I hesitate to say we're living in a golden age of television, but from where I'm sitting, it certainly feels like it. I've just completed a four-year academic course, which has been absorbing what would otherwise be spare time, and I've only kept up with a few shows. I'm now looking around at what's out there to watch, and what's coming up soon, and it's honestly a bit overwhelming.

I am up to date, more or less, on Agents of SHIELD. I am somewhat behind on Flash, rather more on Arrow, and very much so on Gotham. I'm watching Agent Carter with my wife, and I think we're about five episodes into that. I haven't even looked at Orphan Black or Penny Dreadful, although I do intend to. And House of Cards and Clone Wars are being watched in bits and pieces; I'm midway through Season 2 of the former and about five or six episodes into the latter.

You'll note that House of Cards is about the only non-genre show I'm watching. That suits me just fine; I'm just not all that interested in non-genre television. But the real point here is that I can watch nothing but genre and still be talking about six or seven current shows. And then there's the upcoming stuff.

Supergirl, for instance, looks like it's going to be absolutely stellar. Take a look here, if you haven't seen it already. From the trailer, it looks like it hits a lot of my buttons; capable female lead, good female supporting characters, the trailer on its own passes the Bechdel test, faithful to the established mythology in so far as it needs to be, and also fun. Importantly, it's not going the grim route of some of the DC material.

Speaking of DC, they seem to be doing an ensemble series which I can only imagine is a counter to Agents of SHIELD. The trailer there is avoiding too many spoilers, but it looks like a solid piece, spinning off from Arrow and Flash. We'll see how the ensemble nature is managed in the long run; it's a difficult thing to do well.

And in non-superhero material, Lev Grossman's The Magicians (originally an excellent book series) is now making it to television as well; trailer here on Buzzfeed. It's slightly altered from the original - which featured the lead characters starting off in their teens - but I'm ok with that kind of change for practical reasons. It's provoking some whining in the fan community, but I reckon that's going to happen with any such change; the feature you lose is going to have been important to someone, somewhere.

2016 looks like being a good year for television, and I'm happy that I'll have the time to keep track.

Posted by Drew Shiel on May 17, 2015 at 15:45

Autumn Games

As noted elsewhere, I like to study in short bursts, and one of the things I like to include in the mix of stuff is a game. The requirements for this are things that can sit in the background and not really demand much effort, and which I can play in short bursts. Term has now started again, so I'm trying to decide what game would suit this.

Turn-based strategy games are good, although the king of all of these, Civilisation, in whatever incarnation it is at the time, tends to be too sticky; it keeps me playing rather than letting me return to the studying. And later in the game, it's pretty necessary to keep a flow of where you are in your head; trying to pick up where you left off while not remembering is hard. But maybe there are others out there now - I hear good things about Endless Legend. But it's currently €30 on Steam, and I object a bit to spending that much on a game I can't try in advance. Torchlight or Diablo are also possibilities. I already own Torchlight, which helps.

Some MMOs are suitable for this. EVE with remote trading (which I'm pretty sure my long-neglected character has) would be good. Wurm Online might also do; I'm sure there've been lots of new developments since I last looked. Although my deed has undoubtedly vanished.WoW, the way I used to play it with the auction house being the focus of activity, would also work. And maybe even the crafting and gathering stuff in it would be interesting. I just don't remember why I lost interest last time. EQ2's crafting and housing is another possibility; I recall it was good to drop in and out of. And Neverwinter has the advantage of being something I'm playing anyway at the moment, and being very good for drop in gaming.

I would like ArcheAge to be a possibility - it has a really nice looking combination of crafting, trading, and combat, with plenty of new stuff being poured in still. But it takes about ten minutes from deciding "I will play" to having a character moving around, and the random lag - which can amount to the character arbitrarily standing still for 30 seconds - makes it hard to play at all, let alone in short sessions. Also, I vaguely resent the way in which it's theoretically free, but you can't do some of the main activities at all well unless you're a paying customer. Neverwinter works this angle a lot better; give me the whole game for free and then dangle some shiny extras in front of me for cash, and I will pay up - at least as much as a monthly subscription for WoW or the like. But overall, I don't think it'll work, which is a pity.

Neverwinter and Torchlight are currently in the lead, with EQ2 and Wurm Online trailing slightly. I shall consider further.

Posted by Drew Shiel on September 30, 2014 at 16:14

Gotham: Pilot

I watched the pilot of Gotham over lunch today. I don't like to go all-out positive over a TV series from just the pilot, but I have to say this was a very good start. Spoilers follow, of course.

Continue reading "Gotham: Pilot"

Posted by Drew Shiel on September 23, 2014 at 14:59


What book should I read next?

Nobody actually asked this, but I'm going to make some recommendations anyway, because I'm in a mood to dispense wisdom, and I think that recommending books to read is about as wise as it gets.

So if you're looking for general life advice, then I recommend David Allen's Getting Things Done. Saying it changed my life is something of an exaggeration, but it certainly turned me from someone who had a long list of projects and not a lot of success in finishing them into someone who, by and large, manages an insanely busy calendar of stuff, gets projects finished, and doesn't go mad in the process.

If you're looking for a good graphic novel, I reckon you can't go far wrong with Saga or The Unwritten. Saga is still running, as far as I know, but there are two or three collections already, and The Unwritten has about eight collections, and is one of the better comics I've read in years. It's up there, to some degree, with Sandman. Saga is a sort of science-fiction, science-fantasy setup, detailing the life of a child whose parents were on opposite sides of a long, long war. The Unwritten is about a guy who's part Christopher Robin, part Harry Potter, and his quest to find out if he's real or fictional.

And if you're looking for a novel, well, Ann Lackey's Ancillary Justice is pretty thoroughly stonking. The point of view character is one avatar of a multi-selfed artificially intelligent spacecraft, who has a rough time perceiving gender signals, and therefore calls everyone "she". There are elements of the Left Hand of Darkness in it, and a bit of the feeling of Charles Stross' work on Saturn's Children, and maybe a bit of C J Cherryh. It's very much worth your time.

Posted by Drew Shiel on September 13, 2014 at 21:07

Doctor Who: Deep Breath

There was a time, about six, seven years ago, when this was one of the premier Doctor Who sites, at least according to Google. And lo there was traffic, and therefore there were comments, and mostly the comments were strange, or at the very least obsessed with whether Rose would come back, and then if Rose would come back again, and then if Martha was a better companion than Rose, and so on. It was very much about the companions, in the comments.

This mystified me a little; that's not really how I watch Who. I've always been more interested in the big plots, the aliens and their interactions, and the long-term continuity. The concept of the Church of the Papal Mainframe, and its Silent confessors, for example, is a fascinating one. But by and large, with the huge focus on the companions in the series itself over the last few years, I haven't been paying as much attention.

It is possible that I will be paying more attention to the Twelfth Doctor. Spoilers, of course, follow, for the first episode of Series 8: Deep Breath.

Continue reading "Doctor Who: Deep Breath"

Posted by Drew Shiel on August 25, 2014 at 16:44

Max Gladstone: Full Fathom Five

Earlier this month, I reviewed the first two books in Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence. I have now, finally, finished reading the third, Full Fathom Five. I say finally; it was only released on July 15th. But two weeks is a long time for me to take to finish a book - I was savouring it, stretching it out, and making it last, which I almost never do.

Some minor spoilers follow; nothing you wouldn't find in the first few chapters.

Continue reading "Max Gladstone: Full Fathom Five"

Posted by Drew Shiel on July 30, 2014 at 11:05

Top MMOs by Revenue

There's a post on Polygon listing the top MMOs by Revenue. The top one, obviously, is World of Warcraft. However, the second is Lineage, and the fourth is SW:TOR, which I find very odd. This isn't a lifetime revenue measure, either; it's the last year. The top four here made more than $100 million in that time.

There are some games on there that I've only barely heard of, too: TERA:Online is not on my radar at all, likewise Blade and Soul, and RIFT. And I've really only heard of Lineage 2 by way of it's predecessor. Looks like I'm more out of touch than I thought - or else I'm paying attention to a very Western-only section of the MMO demographic, and not getting much from the Korean-focussed market where Lineage and its relatives are popular.

Posted by Drew Shiel on July 21, 2014 at 11:39

The New D&D: Swaying Opinion

Earlier, I expressed my doubts concerning D&D's 5th Edition.

However, since then, I've had a look at the Basic Rules, and read some impressions from other gamers.

In particular, there's a line in the Basic Rules which says "You don't need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender", and goes on to explain that androgynous, hermaphroditic, and various other points along the gender spectrum are ok to play. I will concede a great deal of slack to 5th Edition on the basis of that one line. It also makes sure you know you can play male or female characters of any race without hindrance.

It's not enough to make me buy the books, but I might give the game a try at a convention, and I'm certainly much better disposed toward it.

Posted by Drew Shiel on July 10, 2014 at 09:56

Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence

A very long time ago now, when I first started writing on, I had intended the site to be mostly book reviews, and sometimes even essays about fantasy and sf books in general. That never really happened, for one reason or another. However, there are a few books I want to review in the coming weeks, and I'm pleased to be able to fulfil some of my original thinking.

The first ones I'm going to look at are Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise, the first two books in the Craft Sequence.

Some spoilers are inevitable, but I've tried to keep them to an absolute minimum.

Continue reading "Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence"

Posted by Drew Shiel on July 1, 2014 at 16:24

Speculative Browser Game

I am thinking about a particular browser game, and I'm not sure it exists. It's a sort of a combination of Farmville, of Neverwinter's Gateway, and of the auction house of World of Warcraft. Maybe a bit of Civilisation thrown in, or EVE's Planetary Interaction. Let me list some features.

Continue reading "Speculative Browser Game"

Posted by Drew Shiel on June 30, 2014 at 14:35

The New D&D: 5E, Next, or... Whatever

When I first heard of the new, new D&D - the 5th Edition, or D&D Next, as it was called for a while, I was interested. 3E had been a really good streamlining and improvement on 2E, and 4th Edition was a completely different game. I was expecting 5E D&D to be another different game, with something built in from previous versions, but new material as well. I signed up for the playtest to see what was in there.

Continue reading "The New D&D: 5E, Next, or... Whatever"

Posted by Drew Shiel on May 20, 2014 at 12:40