Book Review – Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner

Wow. A month between updates… admittedly not the longest break I’ve taken, but not ideal. Especially when I’ve got so much I want to be talking about. Anyway, I’ll hopefully be making another post soon talking about my plans for the blog, so I won’t go into that now. But before I wade into today’s review, there’s something I wanted to mention quickly.

A while ago I got an email from MacMillan Audio asking if I’d like to feature some sample soundclips for the Pathfinder Tales audiobooks on the site. I’m a big fan of the novels, and of audiobooks in general, so of course I said yes… then promptly forgot to actually post them. They’re finally up now, so if you’re interested you can check out samples for (at time of posting) six of the books over on the sidebar. As more become available, I’ll update the playlist. I’m still trying to figure out if there’s a better way to display the player on the site, I want to keep it prominent, but it feels a bit squashed over there in the sidebar. I’ll keep working on it.

And with that done, we can get started on the review of the newest novel in the Pathfinder Tales series (and Wendy, I owe you a huge apology for taking so long with this one). I’m going to try to keep this one a bit shorter than my usual reviews, I think half the reason I take so long between posts is that my usual in-depth reviews take hours upon hours to write.

Full Disclosure: I was provided with an advance copy of this novel by the author for review purposes. This has in no way influenced my opinion of the work, and this review is a full, fair and honest accounting of my thoughts on it. The copy I received is an uncorrected proof, but I doubt there have been any significant changes between what I read and the final publication.

Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn

Wendy N. Wagner

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars (are right… I know, I know, it’s a terrible joke, but I couldn’t resist…)

Jendara prepares to slam an axe straight into the face of madness...

Jendara prepares to slam an axe straight into the face of madness…

From the Paizo.com blurb:

The Stars Are Wrong

Once a notorious pirate, Jendara has at last returned to the cold northern isles of her birth, ready to settle down and raise her young son. Yet when a mysterious tsunami wracks her island’s shore, she and her fearless crew must sail out to explore the strange island that’s risen from the sea floor. No sooner have they delved into the lost island’s alien structures than they find themselves competing with a monstrous cult eager to complete a dark ritual in those dripping halls. For something beyond all mortal comprehension has been dreaming on the sea floor. And it’s begun to wake up…

From Hugo Award winner Wendy N. Wagner comes a sword-swinging adventure in the tradition of H. P. Lovecraft, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

I’m pretty excited to be reviewing this one. Not only is it bringing one of my favourite settings (Pathfinder’s Golarion) together with Lovecraftian horror, but it’s also the sequel to the first book I ever reviewed on this site, Skinwalkers. Skinwalkers was a favourite of mine, and I’m pleased to say that Starspawn is more than living up to the expectations I had for it. Ms. Wagner has once again managed to craft an exciting and, at least as far as the Pathfinder Tales series goes, unusually dark fantasy thriller. It’s worth noting now that those coming in expecting a true Lovecraft-style horror story are going to be disappointed, in keeping with the heroic fantasy nature of the setting, this is very much a pulp action horror story, closer to a Robert E. Howard mythos tale than a traditional cosmic horror story. This is in no way a bad thing, I’ve got room in my life for all manner of Cthulhu Mythos stories (though I will admit to a somewhat irrational hatred of Brian Lumley’s Titus Crow series), it’s just worth mentioning for the die-hard Lovecraft purists who dislike any suggestion that humanity can do anything but cower before the inevitable doom brought by eldritch horrors.

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Blood Bowl 2 console players get shafted… (Warning: Profanity)

Hey guys. Just a quick update in order to help work out some anger regarding some downloadable content for Blood Bowl 2. I’m still working on my review for The Ninja Crusade RPG 2nd Edition by Third Eye Games, just taking a bit longer than planned thanks to work and the fact that I’m currently having to read it on my phone, which makes for slow going.

Anyway, onto the rant, which I decided to do in the form of an open letter to Cyanide Studio (the developers) and Focus Interactive (the publishers). Fair warning, there’s profanity aplenty.


An open letter to Cyanide Studio and Focus Interactive RE: Blood Bowl 2 DLC

Hi to whoever ends up reading this at either of the above companies (I’m hoping against hope that it actually makes it to at least one of you),

I’m a long time fan of Blood Bowl. I’ve sunk a stupid amount of time into the first game, and I play at least a few matches a week in Blood Bowl 2, so long as work and other commitments allow it. I’ve been really looking forward to the new teams, especially once I’d heard that hey, if you already owned the game when they came out, they were meant to be free. So I was super excited when I decided to check in and saw that the Norse had finally been released. Right up until I actually read the update. To quote the bit that concerns me:

To respect the PC players of the first Blood Bowl game, which accumulated 23 races through 3 paying editions – we have heard their frustration – we decided to create the FOUNDERS INCENTIVE for PC players of Blood Bowl 2: players will receive the Norse, the Undead, the Necromantic and the Nurgle teams for free, as long as they purchased the game before the races release.

I’m sorry, but “to respect PC players of the first game”? Fuck that noise. I’m one of those players. I’ve paid for every goddamn edition of that game on PC, even after I bought the console version and realised what a shitty game it was, because I was willing to trust that the PC version was better (which it was, though that’s not a very fucking high bar to set). I was running leagues up until last year when the last of my players jumped ship to Blood Bowl 2. So I got it on PS4 for a few reasons:

  • My PC wouldn’t have run it at any reasonable quality
  • My setup here is awful for PC gaming (I don’t have a desk or anything I can sit my keyboard and mouse on, making it a real hassle to play)
  • I knew I’d have some guaranteed opponents amongst friends who bought it on PS4

But hey, to hell with my loyalty to the series, I’m a filthy console gamer, so instead of getting the same teams to the PC players get for free, I’m expected, along with all the other console players, to pay out the arse for the teams. They’re over $10 AUD each here. By the time the 4 new teams are out, I’ll have had to shell out nearly $65 for them and the original two DLC teams. That’s a goddamn joke. I mean for fucks sake, if they’d at least been priced reasonably, I wouldn’t be anywhere near this angry. But I can fucking well buy brand new AAA games on day of release for what I’d have to pay to get these teams that you’re just handing out to PC players. I’m not kidding, I bought Doom and Uncharted 4 (one of the most highly anticipated games of the year) for less than $70 AUD each.

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RPG Review – WITCH: Fated Souls

So I realised a while ago that despite this being a primarily gaming focused blog, I’ve never actually reviewed a game on here. It seems like an odd oversight, and I figured it was about time I fixed it. I’ve got a stupid amount of RPGs I could review (seriously, I’m running out of space for them), but decided I’d start with one of the newer ones I’d picked up from a Kickstarter project.

Since it’s the first time I’ve reviewed a game, I’m still figuring out the format I want to use. I might change it up a bit over the new few reviews I’ve got planned. Anyway, with that out-of-the-way, let’s get this show on the road with my review of Angry Hamster Publishing’s first game…

WITCH: Fated Souls

Creator: Elizabeth Chaipraditkul

Publisher: Angry Hamster Publishing

Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

Witch Cover

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Book Review – The Cleaners Book 2: The Maids of Wrath

Been a busy couple of weeks, but I’ve got some time to sit down and smash this out now, so it’s review time! Today I’ll be talking about the second book in Josh Vogt’s The Cleaners series, The Maids of Wrath. As always, there may be some minor spoilers in the review, but I’ll avoid any major plot points or gigantic twists. On the topic of spoilers though, some fair warning. This is a review of the second book in the series, so in order to discuss it properly, there’s going to have to be some spoilers for the first book. These are not minor spoilers, since the end of that book sets the stage for this story. So with that said, if you haven’t read Enter the Janitor, and are interested in seeing if this series is something you’d enjoy, you can find my review for that here.

Full Disclosure: I was provided with a pre-release e-book of this novel by the author for review purposes. This has in no way influenced my opinion of the work, and this review is a full, fair and honest accounting of my thoughts on it. 

The Maids of Wrath

Josh Vogt

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

These aren't your anime-style magical maids...

These aren’t your anime-style magical maids…

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A deer, a pirate and a mutant join a kult – Kickstarter Round-up

Woo! First post of 2016, and the first post in far too long. I’ve really got no excuse, I just let things get away from me, and before I knew it, it’d been six bloody months since I’d posted. So, yeah, sorry about that.

Anyway, to ease me back into posting, I figured I’d start with something easy that I haven’t done in quite some time. A Kickstarter project round-up! The timing works well too, because goddamn am I ever backing a lot of projects right now. For this round-up and any future ones, I’ve decided to only talk about projects that I’m 100% guaranteed to be backing, and that I’m extremely confident in the ability of the project leads to actually not only deliver their product, but to do it at a high quality, since I’ve felt a bit guilty over some previous projects that I pushed hard that ended up being very disappointing to me (not going to name names, but there’s been a few seriously shocking results). As is usual for me, most of these projects are RPGs (I tend to back RPGs or boardgames for the most part), but there’s one comic in there.

Now, in the interests of not making myself start silently screaming in horror over how much money I’ve sunk into Kickstarter recently, I’m not going to include the three projects that finished in the last day, I’ll just be covering the four projects that are still in the funding stage… So let’s start this party off with the project I’m currently most excited about…

KULT: Divinity Lost

Project Ends: 8:00 AM AEDT, 01/04/2016
Current Status: Fully funded, and smashing through the stretch goals!
Expected Delivery: December 2016

I’m not even sure where to begin with this one, I’m so excited! I guess a little history is in order. Kult is a Swedish RPG that was first released in 1991, though its first English edition wasn’t released until 1993. If anyone reading this remembers the Satanic Panic that certain areas of the USA had over D&D, they’ve got an idea of some of the ridiculous and unwarranted controversy that Kult had to deal with in the years following it’s release (in brief, media outlets in Sweden linked it to a number of disappearances, suicides and so on that involved people who played the game… it even got mentioned in the Swedish parliament in relation to a motion to stop tax-payer funding for youth groups that play RPGs). Controversy aside, the game was praised for its depth and handling of religious and philosophical content and ideas in a mature, if somewhat disturbing (it’s a horror game, what do you expect, puppies and rainbows), manner. The setting is our modern society, but what we perceive as our world is in fact an illusion, created by powerful being known as the Demiurge to hold humanity prisoner and stop us from regaining our divinity, while the players take on the roles of various characters from all walks of life who have started to see through the illusion and discover the stranger nature of reality. I won’t go deeper into the setting here, there’s a lot to cover and I don’t have all night, but for a decent overview of it, check out the Wikipedia page. The system had some really innovative ways of dealing with mental balance and featured magic systems based on real life mystical traditions, so it’s a pretty fascinating read. Honestly, it’s one of my favourite RPGs of all time, though I’ve rarely been able to get groups together for it.

The cover of the original English edition of Kult, featuring some of my favourite game artwork

The cover of the original English edition of Kult, featuring some of my favourite game artwork

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Book Review – The Cleaners Book 1: Enter the Janitor

Note: Sorry guys, this is way later than I expected it to be. The last couple of months have been a bit of a struggle for me, and I’d found it hard to bring myself to write anything. Pushing myself to get back on track again, and hopefully the fact that I’ve got myself into a bit of a steadier routine should help with that. 

Okay, time for another review! This time around we’re looking at the first book in The Cleaners series, Enter the Janitor, by Josh Vogt. You might recognise the name from my review of Forge of Ashes. Forge of Ashes was Josh’s debut novel, with Enter the Janitor hot on its heels. It’s a bit of a genre shift as well, jumping from the fairly traditional fantasy (with some decidedly non-traditional elements) of the Pathfinder Tales line to urban fantasy with a comedic bent.

Anyway, enough preamble. Let’s get into the meat of this.

Full Disclosure: I was provided with an e-book of this novel by the author for review purposes. This has in no way influenced my opinion of the work, and this review is a full, fair and honest accounting of my thoughts on it. 

Enter the Janitor

Josh Vogt

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Ben and Dani, ready to fight the literal scum of the universe...

Ben and Dani, ready to take on the literal scum of the universe…

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A Fistful of Roses, Part II: Fire and Blood (WIP)

Hey guys, welcome back to my campaign journal for A Fistful of Roses, the Savage Worlds cyberpunk campaign I’m playing in using the Interface Zero 2.0 setting. For anyone who hasn’t seen part one, you can check it out here: A Fistful of Roses, Part I: My Name Is Roxy

Alright. Posting part two of this, but as you might have noticed from the title, this is very much still a work in progress. Honestly it’s been a struggle to write this part, I haven’t been able to get it to a point I’m happy with. But it’s been a few weeks longer than I’d planned between posts, and I need to move on to other stuff. I’ll be coming back when I’ve had a chance to get some feedback so I can try to fix it up, but if I let myself dwell on it now I’ll never let it go.

A quick note. As is almost always the case, we’ve changed a few things about the setting, and made our own assumptions when something may not be perfectly clear in the book (or we’ve just missed it somehow). So we’ve assumed that the Tendril Access Processors (TAPs) that people have implanted in their heads act as general comms devices as well as providing augmented reality feeds and data access. We also changed the JUMP bikes a bit, neither the GM or I were a huge fan of the Formula One looking cars shown in the sourcebook for them, both of us had been picturing motorcycles that hover instead of having wheels, kind of halfway between a high end sports bike and an ATV. Actually I’m not even sure if they’re meant to hover or not, or are just able to leap into the air when needed. Either way, that’s how they look in our game.

All of that said, hope you enjoy it, and as always, feedback is very much appreciated.

NOTE: Profanity is a little more prevalent in this one than the first entry. I’m still working out Roxy’s character, and I’m leaning towards making her relatively foul mouthed and prone to bursts of anger.

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A Fistful of Roses, Part II: Fire and Blood

0015 Hours – The Strange Island, Korea Town

Shit. It’s after midnight, and I’m still sitting here, nursing another beer, waiting for Felix’s damn bartender to show up so we can get down to business. At least the night hasn’t been a total write-off. Turns out that hybrid couple those Bloody Hand gangers were hassling run the local hardware store. Said they’d have something for me in a few days, a thank you for running off the goons. I’ll have to try to keep ’em sweet, it’s always handy to be on friendly terms with gunrunners. Still, it doesn’t look like things are going to calm down here any time soon, and I’ve got other places to be. Felix and I’ll just have to have our chat another time.

I savour the last of my beer. It’s heavy and rich, bitter-sweet with undertones of chocolate and coffee. I push the glass away, the taste of  toasted hops and malted barley lingering on my tongue. Hell, forget about finding a fixer, I’d come back just for another glass. I stand, stretching, the leather of my impact suit hugging my body, a familiar, comfortable feeling. No point trying to say goodbye to Felix, he’s busy serving the crowd. A hand darts out from behind the bar, grabs my wrist as I turn to leave. Clawed and lightly furred … I follow the arm back to see Felix looking over my shoulder. He’s worried, I can see it. Slitted pupils wide, tufted ears laid flat against his skull. Something’s got him spooked good and proper.

“Trouble coming,” he hisses, leaning in close. “Your friends are back, and they’ve brought company. I figure this ain’t good for either of us, so what’s say we back each other up here. I turn to follow his gaze out to the street. The gangers from before are on approach to the bar, along with a group of their friends. Four of the others look like carbon copies of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, same shitty tatts and grubby gang colours. The last one though … looks like they went crying to their boss-man. Same sort of thug, just trussed up in a badly fitted suit instead of the leathers and muscle tops the street crew favour.

“Deal. But the drinks are on you after this,” I shoot back at him, a grin on my face. “And I’ll be expecting some extra consideration when we’re negotiating my cut for any jobs we might work together in the future.” I’m whistling in the dark, trying to hide the rising panic. Three, even four of these guys between us, easy. Seven … Well, I hope Felix has some heavy ordinance back there with him, ’cause all I’ve got is my revolver and a pair of stun-gloves. They’re just street trash, but a near four to one advantage is going to count for a lot. I pull the gloves out of my pocket and slip them on. There’s a faint buzzing in my palms as they hum to life, and I slide a hand behind my back, drawing my revolver and flicking off the safety, concealing it between my leg and the bar

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