Monday, June 15, 2015

The Week in Geek

So the last episode of the season is already out, but I have not watched it - because I am not sure I want to watch it. I saw the "Last on..."- bit which showed a certain character long lost (well, two actually, if you want to be precise about it) and I can't decide whether I want HBO to spoil it for me, or if it's better to drop it and wait for The Winds of Winter. I will probably cave in sometimes during the day, I'm so very weak.
So while I ponder the ramifications of watching the finale of season five, I might as well do a breakdown of the week that was in my little geek bubble.

Most of my geek-time this week has been devoted to tabletop RPGs. It remains my favorite hobby even at my venerable age of forty - not necessarily playing, but dabbling with it. I've made maps and written lore for my own setting, which I do in spurts when the inspiration strikes me. It has become a massive beast, my setting, and I enjoy tinkering with it, trying to keep track of a cast of thousands, a complicated political situation, and adding to its geography and history.

I also bought, a few months ago, the virtual tabletop software Fantasy Grounds and have been tinkering a lot with it (according to Steam, about 140 hours). It's not the best virtual tabletop for me (yet - a massive update to the engine is promising, but still far ahead) - Roll20, even the free version, does a lot of the stuff I like to do better - but it is the perfect accessory for storing information to keep on a second monitor when playing online. However, for anyone playing one of the supported rulesets (including the last edition of Dungeons & Dragons) I believe you can't ask for better software (though you'll need third-party software if you want video- and voice chat) - it automates a lot of the tabletop's rules, which is the software's biggest draw over other so-called virtual tabletops. As I'm going to run my old gaming group from the olden days (that would be mid-to late-nineties) set in the Forgotten Realms, I'm using Fantasy Grounds to add a lot of setting lore, encounter tables and all that hat into the program, brushing up at the same time. It's time-consuming but just the kind of fun for a geek with a penchant for the compulsive jotting down of fantasy setting data that has no value whatsoever.

I've spent a couple of hours playing fantasy video games, as well - I leveled a female elf ranger, Lya Duskwalker from zero to hero in Neverwinter, trying that game again (as part of my current obsession with the Forgotten Realms); the Steam summer sale had me buy the Enhanced Editions of Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn and Icewind Dale, another two games set in the Realms. I haven't installed the former yet, but gave the latter a whirl, trying out the included Heart of Winter expansion which I haven't tried yet. And I must be doing something wrong; whenever I roam outside of the starting hub (the hamlet of Lonelywood) my party basically gets destroyed, be it by angry barbarians or undead thingamagogs. So I haven't really been able to savor that adventure yet.

After decades of owning the good old AD&D rules, I caved in and bought the 5th edition core rulebooks as well as the accompanying adventures published so far (again, to scratch my Realms-itch). I have to say this incarnation of the game is superior to all editions before it. The presentation, the internal logic of the ruleset, the refurbishing of level progression and character development, it all feels fun and is a nice read.

Finally I've continued with Miles Cameron's The Red Knight. Currently at 62% read or thereabouts, the book has picked up its pace after a lull, and is quite interesting right now. I can't get over how many typos the books has, though. It really ruins the immersion in an otherwise finely told tale. In addition I have - you guessed it - dabbed my toes in a Realms novel, Curse of the Azure Bonds, which - not surprisingly - is terribly written. So bad, that I worry it will affect my own writing. The only reason I'm reading it, is to "see" the Realms. A guilty pleasure, I just love all the zaniness and the atmosphere, but at the same time the total lack of internal logic in the setting makes me wonder what attracts me. My guess? Nostalgia. The good ol' days when a shoddy adventure seemed like the best thing ever. A fix. Scratching of an itch. Dreaming. I don't know.

Last night I also read CRPGAddict's run-through of the classic Eye of the Beholder-game, which is another Realms-based game from the days of yore, and which also tugs at my nostalgia strings. I know there is a link between the Eye of the Beholder-games, my initial infatuation with RPGs, and my constant returning to Forgotten Realms despite the bad novels and half-baked concepts found therein, but I am not quite sure how to properly articulate it all. All I know is that I love to read the sourcebooks, and that certain areas - mostly those initially developed by Ed Greenwood - just give me that sense of wonder, of adventure, of ... the otherworld.

SO... will I be watching Game of Thrones S5E10 today? Stay tuned for either a review or a definite decision on not seeing it.

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