Review — Battle Chasers: Nightwar

It’s been a while since I’ve played a traditional turn-based RPG. I mean, my favorite video game ever is Dragon Quest VIII, which was released over 13 years ago, and I honestly haven’t played many games in that genre since. (Dragon Quest XI still has no western release date, but it’s on the agenda.) So here’s a (mostly) spoiler-free review of the game!

So when I got my hands on Battle Chasers, it was like an itch that hadn’t been properly scratched in a long time. The last JRPG I’ve actually put time into is probably the original Suikoden, and it’s been several years. Now I didn’t know much about Battle Chasers going into it, I just knew that the art was cool and some online people I enjoy praised it. When I found out it was a turn based I was delighted.

This game was just a blast from start to finish. The opening cinematic(s) did a great job establishing the personality of each of the characters, and it did some interesting role reversals that were cool to see. As I played it, I found that the game really had everything I wanted: a meaningful progression of power (leveling up is really impactful to the experience), a sense of exploration, rewarding the player for being investigative, a clear sense of what being a completionist would entail (meaning “what can I do to see all there is to see?”), and challenging them with optional puzzles and quests.

This game was also a lot longer than I expected it to be. It took me 45 hours to beat it 100% (not New Game+), and if I had the time I would have no qualms with going through it again. New Game+ is cool because, while it isn’t necessarily “harder”, you can much more easily get Legendary quality gear and feel powerful, even if the monsters you’re fighting are 6 levels above you (when the maximum level is 30).

My favorite thing about this game was that it had time to put in lots of unnecessary things. All of the dungeons are randomly generated, so the puzzles you see the first time will be different when you revisit it. (This is a double-edged sword I’ll get to in a moment.) It has lots of side quest type things that feel rewarding. There’s also lots of cool lore books that are interesting reads, and the narration in general can be pretty sassy.
Ex: The game gives you an option to throw money down a well. When you throw 1000g in (a good chunk if you’re about a third of the way through the game), the narrative replies with something along the lines of “You have enough gold to feed an entire village for about a month, but you decide it’s best wasted by throwing it into a well.” It’s neat because this game very much adopts the philosophy of “just because your character can do it, doesn’t mean it’s the right choice to make”. A lot of the game actually seems to be modeled as a Dungeons & Dragons type adventure.

 

 

I do have two problems with the game, though. The first is that it can be somewhat unclear with the consequences of something. When you find an artifact, the game makes a big deal telling you that they’re valuable, which implies you should keep them, even though you have the option to sell them for a different type of currency. What it doesn’t tell you is that this is literally the only use for artifacts. They’re meant to be sold. Don’t hold on to them. What’s more, some of the optional bosses can be encountered accidentally if you’re “adventurous” enough, and there’s actually no way to know the power level of what you might be getting into. (There’s a mini boss in one area that’s four levels higher than the monsters inside, and he has a passive of reducing the party’s healing by 50% when you’re fighting him. He’s no joke!)

By far my biggest gripe with the game is how the “random” tiles in dungeons are placed, though. There’s a random encounter in the first dungeon with a skeleton, and you can choose to help him or refuse. If you refuse, he attacks you. If you help him, you can find him (randomly, again) in a later dungeon, and he attacks you there. Here’s the problem. Neither of these events are guaranteed to spawn in either dungeon. And what’s more, you have to do the first dungeon at least twice in order to take both options, because in both instances he’s a unique monster. So in order to fight every monster, you have to do it multiple times. The worst part is it was bugged for me, so I couldn’t go back to the first dungeon to fight him after I helped him in my first runthrough. So I had to do New Game+ in order to complete my monster book. This is terrible game design!

But really, it’s a fantastic game. I expected to beat it within 15 hours, but it had over 3 times that content for me. Overall it’s great, and it can be very challenging if you want it to be. Also, it has fishing. In my experience, every game that has time to add optional fishing stuff to it is going to be a good game.

Me — Habits and Resolutions

Everyone likes to start every new year with a resolution. Like “I want to lose weight” or “I want to be more mindful of other people’s perspectives”. If you’re not one of those people, you’re probably one that likes to bash on other people’s goals. It certainly isn’t easy to suddenly become a new person, and a lot of resolutions are sort of destined to fail.

One problem I see a lot isn’t that people establish goals that are too high, it’s that they set goals with no road map. They say “I’m going to lose weight” but don’t get a gym subscription. They want to eat healthier but don’t take the time to research what sort of food they should start eating. They just set this idea and put it on the shelf only to be procrastinated indefinitely. That just doesn’t work.

I used to make blog posts on “How to do X”, such as making this post about how not to fail, but I think life is, in general, too complex to have problems such as this solved in 500-800 words. So I won’t try to tell you the solution to the problem. Instead, I’ll just talk about what I do, because it seems to work out for me alright.

In the end, the goal isn’t actually as important as the steps you’re taking to get there, and a lot of those steps involve habits. I, like everyone I’m sure, have a lot of things I want to change about myself. But instead of deciding to turn instantly be the person I want, I’m taking actions that the person I want to be would have a habit of doing.

I actually got a Phone App called Habits that works amazingly well, and yet is so simple. You write down things you want to do, and how often you want to achieve those things. Most of my goals are daily things I don’t want to forget doing, so I can easily keep track of whether or not I’ve done that thing today. It also has a stats page that keeps track of streaks and how “strong” your habit is. It’s nothing special, but things I would otherwise want to be different about me are suddenly things I do regularly, because the only thing I need to remember is to open the app every once in a while and look at the checklist. I will say—checking things off a to-do list is an amazing feeling, so that in and of itself is a great reward.

So if you want to lose weight, don’t just give yourself a deadline. Ask yourself what steps you’re taking to achieve those goals and work for it. I have some awesome writing related things planned for this year, but I know that these things won’t magically get themselves done. I’m going to have to make sure I stick to my schedule.

Also, as a general rule I think post changes in a person’s life are too gradual to actually consciously perceive on a day-to-day basis, so having a resolution where you want something to change quickly is not only unrealistic, but also discouraging!

Best of luck!

Spear Gate — Chapter Eleven, Pt. 2

“Alright, I’m ready.” Varra kept her eyes closed, unsure of what was supposed to come next.

“Okay. Make sure your eyes are closed and your body is relaxed.”

“I thought that’s what we spent the last ten minutes doing.” She did a poor job hiding the annoyance in her tone.

“Don’t respond,” he replied, firm but gentle. “Just follow my instructions and be patient.”

She let out a breath. “Fine. Lead the way.”

“Once you’re relaxed, take a few deep breaths. In… then out…” Maelys spoke slowly as he followed his own guidance. A deep, slow inhale, followed by a full, steady exhale. “In… then out…” he repeated.

Varra did as she was told, waiting for the next step. He sure was taking his time.

“I want you to try your best to settle into this moment,” he continued. “Relax your breath, just breathe normally, and put aside all your troubles. Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t worry about the future. These things don’t matter as much as the present. Concentrate on your breath. That’s the only thing that matters.”

He stopped talking after that, and the only thing she could hear was the sound of her own breathing. The more she thought about it, though, she picked up the hollow echo that served as white noise in the dungeons. It was quiet, barely audible in between her breaths. Where was that noise coming from? What was the source of sound in such an empty space? They were most certainly the only prisoners here. The Hand of Justice often enacted his decrees immediately, and there were no petty thieves in Upper Terrace. Anyone like that wouldn’t find themselves here in the first place. Eathe was definitely a minority. People from Lower Terrace rarely if ever found a place here.

But she was glad that he had found that place. He was a remarkable man, and an excellent officer. She wished things had been different. Maybe they both would have been happier as commoners. Perhaps then she wouldn’t have had to live with the burden of—

“If your mind has strayed away from the breath,” Maelys said, “stop thinking about whatever it is. It’s not important. Just go back to thinking about the breath.”

He couldn’t read minds, could he? Had he been lying about not knowing how to use magic all this time? Did he know how she felt? Did she know how she felt? All these stupid emotions did nothing but get in the way. She didn’t want to see Maelys die, that much she was certain of. She would only have herself to blame if he did. And for how little they knew each other, he did seem intent on trying to help her.

“I’m going to ask a question,” he said. “And I want you to answer simply with yes or no. Have you been able to remain focused on just stay on the breath?”

She exhaled, knowing full well she had done a very poor job of listening to his instructions. Maybe if he held her hand again… She shook her head at the thought. “No,” she admitted.

“That’s okay,” he said, his voice still full of levity. “I told you it’s hard the first time. Once you get comfortable letting go of your thoughts and attaching your focus to the breath, then I can try to teach you how to do mind projection.”

She heard him shuffling, and took that as a signal that the practice was over. She opened her eyes and looked up at him as she stood with him. “I’m sorry.”

He put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay. Really. Don’t beat yourself up. I honestly didn’t expect you to be as patient as you were.”

But she hadn’t been patient, had she?

A door swung open, and she heard the sound of footsteps walking, almost marching down the corridor. Eathe.

The current Hand of Defense walked in, armored in full plate as he often was, and without a helmet as per usual.

“Greetings, you two. Getting along well?”

Varra, already the closer of the two, stuck her hands out from the bars and grabbed him by the shoulders, pulling him in for a kiss. Eathe was clearly caught off balance, but seemed to relax into it with a few awkward steps.

After a moment, she parted, and the room was left in a stunned silence. They glanced at each other, and Maelys shrugged. She thought about kissing him again, if they were just going to stand there slack jawed, but thought better of it. One was probably enough. For now.

“Right…” Eathe said, clearing his throat. “Now that that’s out of the way, on to business. I come with bad news.”

Maelys didn’t say anything. If anything, he took a step away from the two of them. What had gotten into him? “Well,” Varra said. “Out with it.”

“We’ve got a few minutes to chat and plan,” Eathe replied. “But I’m to take Maelys to the inner courtyard to be executed now.”

Prompt — Heart of the Gods

(I’ve narrated this story and published it on YouTube! Go check it out if you would rather listen!)

 

If there was one thing Yo’isiro loved about his home, it was the sound of the waves caressing the wooden posts of his house. He liked the fishing, of course, but it didn’t call to him the way it had his father. It was the bones, probably. That had always been the most unsettling part of his life in the Shita’ilo village.

With some reluctance, he put his waist-wraps on and left his little hut. The walkway from his hut to the docks was longer than others, but he didn’t mind. He kept his head down as he walked and watched as the clear blue passed beneath the boards he trod upon. It brought a smile to his lips, but it immediately retraced as he looked back out into the bay.

Enormous bones jutted out from the lazy water all around the village, as they always had. Spines trailed out onto the surf, huge ribs that dwarfed the size of his peoples’ homes made pathetic attempts to trap the water beneath, and beneath the waves Yo’isiro envisioned the vast skulls of gargantuan beasts long dead. Ku’alana, his people called them. Gods of the Sea. He had never understood why they should worship something very clearly dead, but knew better than to question these things. Answers to such questions were probably just as unsettling as the reasons for those questions.

“Welcome dawning, Isi,” a woman greeted him on his stroll, clothed in similar wraps around her waist. A pleasing sight that did wonders to shake his mood.

“As welcome as you, Atak’ae,” Yo’isiro said with a smile.

“Do you have your offering for tonight’s bonfire?” she asked.

He frowned, shoulders slumping. “That is tonight? I thought the moon wouldn’t rise for a few more days.”

The woman rolled her eyes, but her grin was playful. “The Elders said yesterday it will be early again, Ku’alana only know why.”

“These are bad omens,” Yo’isiro grumbled.

She took a few steps closer, her voice quiet but enticing as she looked up at him.”Well, you had best go out and catch something good today. I’ve already decided to pick your offering tonight. You’re my favorite bed-mate, you know,” she continued, grabbing his waist-wraps and starting to untie them. Yo’isiro gulped, heart pounding. Then, her tone grew harder, more demanding. “Don’t embarrass me by bringing a poor gift. Again.” She tightened his clothing back up with one swift tug, jerking at his hips so hard he winced at the pain.

Now that was a request he could not ignore. The last time Atak’ae had chosen him as her bed-mate had been months ago, and his pathetic offering on this last moon’s passing hadn’t been accepted by any of the girls in the village. It was a disgrace he had no wish to repeat. He nodded dumbly.

She trailed a soft hand down his chest and winked. “I’ll see you at the bonfire.” And with that, she continued on her way.

Yo’isiro sighed. But then shook himself out of it. He liked fishing. All men did. And he was good at it. There was nothing to be upset over. He would offer the best fish the village had ever seen, and Atak’ae would choose him with no shame. But the best fish all lived in…

He looked back out past the shore again. Six Ku’alana skulls rested along these coasts, and inside them, the Ku’kataiyo, Heart of the God. He would win more than Atak’ae’s affection with one of those. A fisherman that caught one would be fed for an entire moon’s passing. He wouldn’t need to fish for days.

Yo’isiro clenched his fists a few times and took a deep breath. Then, he marched onwards towards his boat.

 

The waters were as pristine as always. Despite the gentle waves making their endless trek to the shores, the ocean floor was still clearly visible here, where the kelp was not bountiful. Most of the village was built over waters just over ten feet deep, but it looked deceptively close. Children had to be taught at a very young age that it was much deeper than it seemed, but the Shita’ilo were natural swimmers, so there was little to be concerned about.

He gazed at the rising sun as his boat bobbed up and down with the waves, and a smile pierced his lips. Simple, and gentle. Yes, this was what life was all about. He passed other boats of men fishing. Most with spears, others with traps. Some further from the coast used nets. They waved to each other as they passed, but he avoided getting close enough to any to exchange words. There were several boats, but not as much as he might have expected on the night of a bonfire. They must all have their offerings, Yo’isiro thought. Only he could be foolish enough not to know about it.

He approached the giant rib cage in the center of the bay. The largest skeleton of the Ku’alana. The bones pierced the vast green of the kelp forests below, towering high over him. A chill went down his spine as he watched the current pass through the kelp and reveal a shadowy mound under the water some distance away. Small schools of fish swam around the god’s skull, twisting around long strands of green. He rowed his boat above the mound and tossed the anchor aside, careful not to hit the skull. Enormous and sturdy as it might have been, it would be disrespectful to damage the remains of his gods.

He took stock of his tools, scratching his head as to what might help him catch one of the Ku’kataiyo. No trap was large enough to snare one of the Hearts of the Gods, and a spear would only anger it. Spears wouldn’t work well underwater, anyway.

He grabbed a net and, taking a few deep breaths to prepare his lungs for a long dive, leaped from the craft into the water.

The water was much deeper here than it was at the village, but it wasn’t so deep as to warrant danger.

Fish swam ahead of him as he plunged downwards, and soon he came up to the immense skull. The majority of the right side of it was buried in sand, but it still stared at him with two black holes where its eyes would be. Its jaw was thrust out like the muzzle of some beast, and the teeth that were exposed were long and sharp. It was like nothing his people had ever seen before, but then, that was what made them gods. “You dare to challenge me and take my heart?” it seemed to say. “So be it. Come forth and be tested.”

He clenched his own jaw and swam into the closer eye socket.

Immediately the world darkened. Light filtered through the kelp forest well enough, but very little managed to find its way inside the skull.

Before long, he saw what he was looking for. A fish somewhat longer than he was laid passive, almost completely flat, at the base of the sand below. Some fins shot upwards along its back, but the real danger was its tail fin, which had several thorns on it. While not poisonous, it could still strike with enough force to kill a man. Yo’isiro would have to be careful, because once he grabbed it, the Ku’kataiyo would thrash its tail around in defense, and a net would not protect him from the thorns.

He uncurled the net and tried to extend it out over the fish, hoping it would float down and ensnare the fish without incident.

The instant the net made contact with the fish, it lumbered forward, clearing the net and resting back on the floor without any sort of agitation. He cursed internally and swam down to scoop the net back up.

He folded it and crept up to the fish’s tail, then swiftly began to wrap the net around the tail to pacify it. The God’s Heart tried to swim forward but was caught. It jerked its tail back and forth, and the thorns pierced through the netting and it was free once more.

The fish kept swimming, but it reached the side of the skull and turned around.

Yo’isiro gulped, resolving to try one more time. He discarded the ruined net and swam towards the giant fish. Once he was over it, he lowered himself and mounted the fish, grabbing it by its fins. Its dorsal fin prevented him from sliding off (though this wasn’t exactly comfortable) once it started swimming forward again. It was still difficult, as the fish thrashed wildly in an effort to swing him off. He held on tight, and once the fish tried to curve around the edge of the skull, he gave it a sudden jerk to the side and it slammed against the thick bone.

With that, the fish grew still. Stunned, probably. Yo’isiro let out a breath of relief that he had not been killed, and then instantly realized his mistake. He desperately needed that breath.

In a panic, he grabbed the fish and pushed as hard as he could off the ocean floor, swimming out of the skull and back up to his boat. Without any breath to help him stay buoyant, it took longer than he was comfortable with, and he considered leaving the fish so that he could more quickly breach the surface.

But no, he had won, it would do no good to leave his offering here. He just had to hope he would not drown.

He gasped the air as he found the surface, thanking the gods that he had not died risking his life just to please a woman.

He tossed the Ku’kataiyo with both arms, and heaved himself up after it. The fish took up most of the space on the boat, but with its tail on the other side, he had nothing to fear. With a nod of respect to the Heart of the Gods, he used his spear to give it peace as it lay stunned on his craft. Then, he pulled up the anchor and started to row back to the Shita’ilo village.

As he passed, he noticed a few men stop what they were doing to murmur “Ku’kataiyo” under their breaths. He tried to to be both humble and proud of his trophy as he made his way back from the skeleton of the Ku’alana, glad that the second thing he would be mounting tonight would not try to kill him or throw him off.

 

Prompt: https://polosatkin.deviantart.com/art/rock-627470113

rock_by_polosatkin-dadkv1d

 

D&D — Dialogues 4: Do You MIND?

Sometimes, things just don’t go as well as you expect they might. Or sometimes they go just as poorly as you feared. It all depends on the dice with D&D. This one isn’t a funny story, but instead was a great moment of just how frightening some moments can be if done right.

 

This is the same campaign of Dialogues 2 and 3, only my character, a human priest named Kallos, has since died. In the session immediately after Dialogue 3, in fact. After getting knocked unconscious, he was thrown across the room (1 failed Death save) and then he rolled a 1 on his turn immediately after, so… dead. It happened really quick, and the party was only level 3, so there’s really no coming back from that.\

My new character is a halfling barbarian named Xiuhcoatl (pronounced Shee-uh-ko). She’s something of a monotone character, deadpanning everything, but she’s also a sadist, so it’s an interesting combo. This Dialogue, however, isn’t really her story.

The party has ventured deep into a tunnel, chasing an evil duergar who attacked our town. We have to find him to stop him from telling his people of the surface’s defenses. As we delve further into this cave (we’ve been in here for hours), we find a man sitting in the middle of a pile of bodies, all cut in half. He stands in darkness, mumbling to himself, and in walks my brother, who then joined the party. (This was a welcome surprise to the half of us who hadn’t been told he was coming.) His character seems a little… unstable. We warily accept him into our fold as we continue on.

Now, the party didn’t rest before following the dwarf down here. We fought him, he ran off, and we gave chase. My level 4 barbarian is at 18/53 health, our other warlock is tapped out for spells, and we’re all but spent as it is.

So our DM was surprised that, when we find a crumbling door and some tents nearby, we don’t rest and plan. In fact, we don’t even take the sneaky approach.

I accidentally alert the dwarves to our presence, and the party takes cover. Theren, our spent warlock, casts Grease at the choke point in the doorway. Jod, the crazy warlock, and I hide behind the doors and whack them as they walk through. There’s three duergar. Then, three more show up. Things are going well. The duergar are rolling pretty low and, miraculously, we haven’t taken any damage yet (in this fight, that is).

But as I said, we’re already tapped out. By the time we take out three of the dwarves, a mind flayer steps out of the third and last tent. As soon as all the players see this, we decide it’s best to retreat. We can’t take on three more duergar and a mind flayer. And while Kollin the player knows how dangerous they are, Xiuhcoatl has never seen one, and she likes to grapple people. If an illithid is grappling you it can eat your brain, which will kill you outright. So she might unwittingly get herself killed just because she doesn’t know what she’s up against.

On Theren’s turn, he takes out Remnant’s Necklace (as mentioned in Dialogues 2). We’ve since learned that this necklace will “greatly empower a single spell cast through it”. We haven’t been told what that means, exactly, so Theren casts Eldritch Blast through the necklace at the mind flayer. He does this to push him back and to discourage him from following the party as we make our escape.

The DM asks him to roll 5d10, as opposed to the normal Eldritch Blast damage of 1d10.

A giant beam blasts through the fray, slamming into the mind flayer and throwing him back into the tent. The party sort of mutually misinterprets this as a signal to go in, so we do.

Jod walks up to the mind flayer and casts Arms of Hadar, thrashing tentacle-like wads of paper (part of his backstory) wildly at him and the three remaining duergar.

On the illithid’s turn, he casts a wave of psychic energy outward, and the DM asks all of us to make an intellgence saving throw. If I recall correctly, our rolls were 3, 4, 4, 5, and 6. Our best score against this save was 10, and we needed to beat a 15. Think about that. Out of 5 people, all of us failed what could be considered a fairly average spell save DC. This also dealt about 12 damage, if I recall correctly.

So all 5 of us, in addition to the duergar, are stunned for 1 minute, or until we make the saving throw on our respective turns. Our monk has fallen unconscious. I’m at about 4 health. Theren’s almost down, too. All of us are stunned, and since Kallos died, the party no longer has a healer.

At this point, I would have said the chances of a TPK right here and now would be over 70%.

Jod and Xiuhcoatl make their save on their next turn. Theren and our artificer are still stunned, and our monk is unconscious.

On the mind flayer’s next turn, he walks up to Jod and grapples him with his tentacles. Really bad news.

On Jod’s turn, he casts Cloud of Daggers at 3rd level. This spell deals 4d4 (6d4 at 3rd level) damage when a creature enters the cloud or starts its turn in the cloud. So he deals 6d4 now.

Xiuhcoatl is too far away to get to the illithid without using a dash action. Instead, she rushes over to the monk and gives him a healing potion.

On the monk’s next turn, he jumps up and runs over to the mind flayer and starts clobbering him. He’s looking rough.

Everyone else is stunned. Theren would have cast Eldritch Blast to knock the mind flayer away. Our artificer could have dealt tons of damage, but they can’t.

I’m panicking because this is only the second time my brother has played D&D. I don’t want his character to die after him barely playing, but I’ve done all I can.

The mind flayer’s turn begins, and before anything else happens, Cloud of Daggers deals its damage.

The numbers on these d4 were 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4. He dealt 21 out of 24 possible damage, and because he rolled so well, the mind flayer dies, and Jod lives to see another day.

We were pulled to the brink, and as far as Jod’s life was concerned, that fight could not have been any closer.

 

Needless to say, we rested after that fight.

Review — Wildcat

I recently got through Wildcat, by JP Harker, sort of in between all the physical books I’ve been reading lately (I’m still in between books two and three of Lord of the Rings, and have been thinking about picking up a new series by Samantha Shannon). So I picked this one up and resolved to finish it before the end of the year, and I did! I’m pretty proud of myself on that front—while this is no Stormlight Archive, the book is pretty thick.

To my knowledge, this is the author’s debut novel, and I’ll admit it, it kind of reads like one. There’s a lot of choices made in the book that seemed off, and a lot of the plot can be called simple. That’s not to say the book is bad—it does have some awesome scenes that I thoroughly enjoyed—but it doesn’t knock anything out of the park.

I think a big part of the problem is the fact that really, I’m not the target audience for the book. I would have trouble pinning this one done to a genre, since some subplots get a lot of attention and the main conflict doesn’t come into the foreground until more than halfway through the book. There’s lots of action and threat of physical conflict towards the beginning and end, but it slows down a lot in the middle, and there were times where I wasn’t sure if this book was actually a romance in disguise.

The biggest problem is easy to diagnose, though: There’s just too many characters that are named. As in, 70% of the characters that this book considers “important” enough to name shouldn’t have been. It makes things really confusing for the reader when they have too many names to juggle. (I’ve found that the author often doesn’t see this because in their mind, the name is used as a label for a character they’re already familiar with. The reader doesn’t have this luxury.)

Imagine that every character name used in a story is a marble. Every time you introduce a name (even if its an alias of a familiar character), you grab a new marble, and set it on the table. Realistically, your table can see about thirty to fifty marbles (names). But eventually your table doesn’t have enough surface area to be able to lay them all flat across the table, so you have to get a bowl to hold all your marbles. Except, now you can’t see some marbles, so when you come across that name in the book, you don’t have any idea who it belongs to, because now the book assumes you remember.

I’ll use a quote from the book to show you what I mean: “The town was now heaving with people and Rhia saw that her Aunt Eleri and Uncle Aeron had arrived, along with her cousins Pryder and Merrion, and their wives Eluned and Kira. Cerridwen, their sister, was chatting with her own husband, Natan, who was looking as red-faced as Rhia felt after her climb up the hill.” Now, as both a reader and a writer, I know none of these characters are important. They’re just furniture. This paragraph of nine unique character names has eight too many, because the only one that matters is the protagonist’s. (Side note: if these characters had actually turned out to be important, and the author had expected me to memorize who was who, that would have been even worse, but thankfully that wasn’t the case.)

In all honesty, there were times where a character that was in the beginning of the book didn’t get any scenes in the middle, but became important at the end of the book, and I had no idea who they were. The name was so unfamiliar to me that I didn’t even know where their name had come up before, so I couldn’t even use the book as a resource to figure out who this character was. I’m not exaggerating when I say with full confidence that there are probably over 200, maybe 300 unique names in the book. No, I didn’t go back and count, but realistically there shouldn’t even be 100 different names, especially since scenes like the one I described only serve to confuse the audience.

That said, that’s the most glaring issue with the book. If you have a notepad and write down all the character names and a short snippet of who they are as you read the book, it’ll be much more coherent. It’s a shame, because there are some awesome moments in the book.

So, final thoughts? While the book isn’t the best, it shows promise. Having the willpower to see a book through from start to finish is no small feat, and especially with a book this long, it’s commendable. To me, that says “I’m in it for the long haul”, and I can easily see future books really starting to shine.

Me — January ’18 Update

Greetings, welcome back, hello again, and good to see you. Today marks the return of the Daily Dose, as well as, of course, the beginning of the new year. Pretty fortunate that it starts on a Monday, eh? It really compliments my posting schedule. As you can imagine, lots of things are going to change. My intent for this new year is set with one major goal: to have a more presentable output of writing for people to read and enjoy. This blog’s original purpose was to force me to write at least 500 words a day, and I can safely say it’s more than achieved that. Unrelated stress aside, the blog has proven invaluable. I think it’s time to shift my focus. So, here’s what I’ve been doing over the break, and what my plans are for the next several months.

As always, here’s the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

First and foremost, I’m changing my posting schedule (again) to line up with my current school semester. I scheduled school very poorly last semester, which was the primary reason for the hiatus—just getting through each day was exhausting. So, while I’ll talk about school in a bit, the idea is that the more fun, entertaining posts will be closer to the weekend, because Mondays and Wednesdays are now extremely busy for me. I want to publish more fiction to read while also writing stuff like Reviews and Life. Those posts are more for me, as nobody is coming on this site to see what I thought of the new hot movie. So I’m moving posts around to accommodate that system. Mon-Wed are for me, Friday and Sunday are for also me you. Here’s the new schedule:

Sun — Spear Gate
Mon — Me
Tues — Review
Wed — Whatever
Fri — Fiction

(Notice I made most of the titles alliterative so its easy to discern which topic is on what day.) D&D has been demoted from its weekly standing because, while I do love it and play it as often as I can, it really isn’t that large a facet of my life. It’s the same thing that happened with improv. I love it, I just don’t have a “weekly” amount of discussion for it. That said, expect stories from sessions (which may be somewhat common) to pop up on Wednesdays, not Fridays.

My writing plans are pretty straight forward. Spear Gate is still my main project, and I’m determined to see it “to the end”, wherever that may be. It still isn’t that long—a product of only producing 600ish words a week—but I need to get out of the habit I’ve gotten into lately of giving up on projects before I even finish them. It isn’t good for me. I’ve got some good characters, good worldbuilding, and especially some good plot twists lined up. I just have to earn them, which means Spear Gate is still probably the only thing that will post on a Sunday for several months yet to come. I will say, however, that I’m working on some secret stuff on the side. So along with the fact that Friday’s posts will be fiction based on various universes (often unrelated flash pieces, probably), Spear Gate won’t be the only project I’m looking at.

As far as video games go, my life has been pretty consistent lately. I’ve been playing almost exclusively Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, depending on how much energy I have, but I also recently played through Battle Chasers: Nightwar, which was pretty neat. Expect a review on that pretty soon. My main focus right now is HotS, but I’ve completely stopped playing Destiny 2 because it’s just the biggest letdown of the year as far as games go for me. Maybe I’ll fill the FPS void by getting back into Overwatch soon? (My brother also got me a sweet gaming keyboard and mouse for Christmas. The LED kind that you can program to do whatever you want. So I’ve been playing with that a lot recently setting it up to light different colors depending on the game I’m playing. It’s pretty neat.)

The last several weeks of the year has been characterized by my frantically trying to get caught up in some podcasts and books I’ve been working on. I’ve achieved that for some—I’m all caught up with Critical Role and Writing Excuses in preparation of the new year—but now I was primarily listening to Oathbringer, which is just a monster of a book, until yesterday. Now I’m also actively listening to Voice Acting Mastery, but I just started that one. As far as physically reading goes, I just finished Wildcat, which I believe is the debut novel of an author that lives in the UK: J.P. Harker. Expect a review on that soon, too!

So, school. Last semester was pretty awful for me. I noticed that every semester I tend to have one high maintenance class. One that requires a majority of my focus while the others are pretty much in the sidelines. In Fall of 2017, I had three high maintenance classes, and they were back to back, with no break. That’s not to say that they were exceptionally difficult, mind you, just that I couldn’t sit back and relax in any of them. One of them I hated my teacher, another was a theater class (so most of the semester we were performing in that time slot), and the last class had very difficult concepts to grasp. (These also weren’t my only classes.) So, yeah, it was hard to hold on to all of that.

This semester should be different. While I am taking just as many classes, they’re all on the same two days, and I know I’ll like most of my teachers. At this point I’m mostly taking electives for the two degrees I’m working on, so it should be a mostly easy ride. Just don’t try to talk to me on Monday or Wednesday because I’ll be exhausted.

So, here’s to a new year. It’s bound to be better than last year’s travesty because 2018 isn’t a prime number.