Cold Wind April 16, 2014 Cold Wind Nicola Griffith Old ways can outlast their usefulness. What Mario Scietto Says April 15, 2014 What Mario Scietto Says Emmy Laybourne An original Monument 14 story. Something Going Around April 9, 2014 Something Going Around Harry Turtledove A tale of love and parasites. The Devil in America April 2, 2014 The Devil in America Kai Ashante Wilson The gold in her pockets is burning a hole.
From The Blog
April 13, 2014
Game of Thrones, Season 4, Episode 2: “The Lion and the Rose”
Theresa DeLucci
April 11, 2014
This Week’s Game-Changing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Was Exactly The Problem With The Show
Thom Dunn
April 8, 2014
Let’s Completely Reimagine Battlestar Galactica! Again. This Time as A Movie!
Emily Asher-Perrin
April 4, 2014
The Age of Heroes is Here. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Chris Lough
April 3, 2014
A Spoonful of Music Makes the Nanny: Disney’s Mary Poppins
Mari Ness
Showing posts by: Mordicai Knode click to see Mordicai Knode's profile
Mon
Apr 14 2014 5:00pm

Did you ever form your adventuring group into an organization: a secret society, a gang, a guild? Not just random folks who met at a bar and decided to rob and murder a dragon, but a group with an identity?

We did in Earthdawn; our group was called “LOOK BEHIND YOU!” because we would shout it and then try to run away, and our battle cry was “WHISTLE!” because we famously all blew our skill checks to make and discern the code of chirps and hoots we planned out in advance. We weren’t scoundrels per se... well, okay, our Illusionist made copper coins seem like gold so we could afford inns, but we were broke! And sure, maybe my character was hiding from the police, but he was a freedom fighter! You know how it goes.

The Rat Queens know how it goes, too; they put the “party” in “adventuring party.” Kurtis J. Weibe and Roc Upchurch’s first trade paperback, Rat Queens: Sass and Sorcery, is out now, and quite frankly, it’s a blast.

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Wed
Apr 9 2014 1:00pm

My travels through Dark Souls II have come to an end... and a beginning, but before we dive in to that, let me spin my mythos theories. In Dark Souls, the final “big bosses” are the keepers of the Lord Souls, the divinities of the game like Gravelord Nito, a shambling horror of hundreds of skeletons or the Witch of Izalith, the mother of witches consumed by fire and chaos. Actually, you fight the Bed of Chaos, not the Witch of Izalith; the witch was destroyed, or transformed, and her Lord Soul birthed demons into the world. Similarly, Gwyn, the emperor of sun and lightning, split off pieces of his Lord Soul, giving it to kings and knights, making them into demigods which, of course, you have to fight.

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Thu
Apr 3 2014 4:30pm

While playing and writing about Dark Souls II, I’ve been thinking a lot about a disagreement I had with a friend of mine who I was trying to get to play the game despite the fact that he had no interest in doing so. He said “I watched someone’s speedrun on Youtube, so I’ve got the gist.” Which... nope! The Souls series is about exploring and about problem solving. Watching someone who knows where everything is, how to fight all of the enemies, avoid all the traps and where to go next? That is the opposite of Dark Souls, I or II (or Demon Souls, for that matter).

I’ve been lost and rudderless for most of this game—in the best way—constantly seeking clues on where to go next. When I find out what to do, then I go in like a wrecking ball, as the bard said. Even then, it is a thinking person’s game; you can’t find your way through a level without looking in the nooks and crannies for treasure or secret doors, without figuring out the tactics to beat the enemies in it and the strategy needed to take out the boss. That is the game.

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Tue
Mar 25 2014 10:00am

I play Dark Souls II with what I call the “Playground Rules.” That is to say, very simply, that if I could have asked a kid on the playground for help with an NES game I was stuck on, I have no problem extending that logic to a modern game, but otherwise, no spoilers. No guides, no walkthroughs, and sadly no forum browsing.

Dark Souls II (and its precursors) actually seems to be more or less built with this exact ethos in mind, as the use of “orange soapstone” signs attests. The Souls series allow you to leave “graffiti” in the game, messages formed from default sentence fragments, that show up in other people’s games. This is how you find secret doors, or hidden items, or how you (hopefully) don’t walk past the save point of a bonfire. Learn from your Uncle Mordicai’s mistakes!

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Tue
Mar 18 2014 12:00pm

Dark Souls II

I got Dark Souls as a present last December, and it almost immediately became my favorite game of the recent console generation. A massive third person dungeon crawl, it appealed to the core of what I find enjoyable in video games; the risk to reward ratio is just perfect, by which I mean it is a game that is as brutally hard as an old Nintendo Entertainment System game, and like an NES game, the joy of getting good at it really sticks with you. I played it till I’d unlocked every single trophy.

The sequel, Dark Souls II, just came out. Part of the genius of theses games are their cooperative mechanics and the fact that their ambient style of storytelling drives speculation and theorizing. And that there is so much of the game that is obfuscated—random treasure drops, illusory walls, hidden areas—that figuring out its secrets is a shared, community activity.

I’m going to be reviewing the game, in the guise of a playthrough report, for the next few weeks.

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Mon
Dec 23 2013 4:00pm

JRR Tolkien Lord of the Rings FellowshipIn “Advanced Readings in D&D,” Tor.com writers Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode take a look at Gary Gygax’s favorite authors and reread one per week, in an effort to explore the origins of Dungeons and Dragons and see which of these sometimes-famous, sometimes-obscure authors are worth rereading today. Sometimes the posts will be conversations, while other times they will be solo reflections, but one thing is guaranteed: Appendix N will be written about, along with dungeons, and maybe dragons, and probably wizards, and sometimes robots, and, if you’re up for it, even more.

Finishing up Appendix N, we come to the heavyweight on the list, the one they call “The Professor,” the one, the only, J! R! R! Tolkiennnnnnnnn! Yes, we saved J.R.R. Tolkien for last, so get ready for all the hobbits halflings hobbits you can shake a stick at.

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Fri
Dec 20 2013 6:00pm

Krampus the Yule Lord  Brom

He sees you when you’re sleeping. The Krampus that is. You all know who the Krampus is, right? That diabolical figure covered in black fur, with horns like a goat, cloven hooves and a long red tongue? You better watch out. The Krampus is the legendary Christmas counterpart to Saint Nicholas, who punishes the naughty children while Nick gives the good ones gifts. Sure, he didn’t really make the trip across the pond, but over in Europe he was and still is a popular part of the holiday season. You better not cry, you better not pout. The spooky figure dragging rusty chains who snatches up bad children, swatting the naughty with birch switches, stuffing the worst in his sack to carry off.

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Wed
Dec 18 2013 4:00pm

The Black Amazon of Mars Leigh Brackett

In “Advanced Readings in D&D,” Tor.com writers Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode take a look at Gary Gygax’s favorite authors and reread one per week, in an effort to explore the origins of Dungeons and Dragons and see which of these sometimes-famous, sometimes-obscure authors are worth rereading today. Sometimes the posts will be conversations, while other times they will be solo reflections, but one thing is guaranteed: Appendix N will be written about, along with dungeons, and maybe dragons, and probably wizards, and sometimes robots, and, if you’re up for it, even more.

Leigh Brackett is up this week; in particular, a couple of stories from her “Leigh Brackett’s Solar System” planetary romances!

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Mon
Dec 9 2013 4:00pm

Swords Against Darkness 3 Anthology Andrew OffutIn “Advanced Readings in D&D,” Tor.com writers Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode take a look at Gary Gygax’s favorite authors and reread one per week, in an effort to explore the origins of Dungeons and Dragons and see which of these sometimes-famous, sometimes-obscure authors are worth rereading today. Sometimes the posts will be conversations, while other times they will be solo reflections, but one thing is guaranteed: Appendix N will be written about, along with dungeons, and maybe dragons, and probably wizards, and sometimes robots, and, if you’re up for it, even more.

This week is a strange case, as it is the work of an editor, not a writer, that caught Mister Gygax’s eye: Andrew Offutt, and his Swords Against Darkness III anthology, to be specific!

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Mon
Dec 2 2013 4:00pm

The Shadow People Margaret St ClairIn “Advanced Readings in D&D,” Tor.com writers Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode take a look at Gary Gygax’s favorite authors and reread one per week, in an effort to explore the origins of Dungeons & Dragons and see which of these sometimes-famous, sometimes-obscure authors are worth rereading today. Sometimes the posts will be conversations, while other times they will be solo reflections, but one thing is guaranteed: Appendix N will be written about, along with dungeons, and maybe dragons, and probably wizards, and sometimes robots, and, if you’re up for it, even more.

Margaret St. Clair is up this week, for her novel The Shadow People. An underworld story about skulking elves and blood magic, of bell bottoms and psychic powers.

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Mon
Dec 2 2013 10:00am

Tolkien, Alignment, Non-Violence, and Why Hobbits are Required for Middle-earth to Survive

At this point, using the Dungeons & Dragons alignment system to categorize popular culture is old hat; it has made its fair share of funny memes and passed into common parlance. There are a lot of things wrong with the alignment system, but I think it remains a useful descriptive tool. In fact, I think using it as a rubric for understanding the ethics at play in J.R.R. Tolkien’s work—from The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings and back again—can actually tease meaningful statements out of the text. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it explains the whole point of the most contentious of all characters: Tom Bombadil.

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Mon
Nov 25 2013 4:00pm

Philip Jose Farmer The Maker of Universes World of TiersIn “Advanced Readings in D&D,” Tor.com writers Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode take a look at Gary Gygax’s favorite authors and reread one per week, in an effort to explore the origins of Dungeons & Dragons and see which of these sometimes-famous, sometimes-obscure authors are worth rereading today. Sometimes the posts will be conversations, while other times they will be solo reflections, but one thing is guaranteed: Appendix N will be written about, along with dungeons, and maybe dragons, and probably wizards, and sometimes robots, and, if you’re up for it, even more.

This week it’s Philip José Farmer and his World of Tiers, an epic that bridges high fantasy, the pulps and whimsical science-fiction.

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Mon
Nov 25 2013 3:00pm

The Legend of Korra

Oh, straight up: spoilers.

This is a “big moments” finale, but a lot of little elements pepper these two episodes as well. Grey DeLisle is all up and down it as the scorpion-spider-angler spirit and with her silliest voice as the memorable spirit mushroom. She’s not the only old school voice: we’ve got a little of both Irohs, and Jason Isaacs shows up as Zhao the Moon Slayer! The new guys are on point as well. And is it just me or is Bolin like the Chaotic Good version of the normally Chaotic Neutral Archer? I actually didn’t mind his romance wrap up; I thought it provided closure and made the “dynamic” between Bolin and Eska work, at the end. Similarly, I’m not mad at Mako or Korra for the triangle—amnesia, end of the world, emotional cowardice, I believe all their drama. Asami gets the short end of the stick though; dear Book Three: be all about Asami Sato, okay? Pema and the airbending kids are cute, cheering for giant monster battles and telling Saint Jinora to be careful. Then there are...bigger discussions.

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Mon
Nov 18 2013 4:00pm

Lord Dunsany The King of Elfland's DaughterIn “Advanced Readings in D&D,” Tor.com writers Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode take a look at Gary Gygax’s favorite authors and reread one per week, in an effort to explore the origins of Dungeons & Dragons and see which of these sometimes-famous, sometimes-obscure authors are worth rereading today. Sometimes the posts will be conversations, while other times they will be solo reflections, but one thing is guaranteed: Appendix N will be written about, along with dungeons, and maybe dragons, and probably wizards, and sometimes robots, and, if you’re up for it, even more.

Lord Dunsany is up this week, and while you may have come for the fairytales or the precursor to Lovecraft, we think you’ll enjoy the creepy playwright and mythmaker even more.

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Mon
Nov 18 2013 1:00pm

I’ve thought about it and first things first let me lay out the answer: I’m only going to talk about “Night of a Thousand Stars” and “Harmonic Convergence” in this post. Yes, the other episodes were posted online, but I want everybody to be able to follow along, even though I personally am an online viewer. Are the other readers of this blog? Speak up! How do you get your Korra?

That aside, there is plenty to talk about in these two episodes! And lots to like. This is a big arc, but if you ask me it doesn’t let you down, even as the stakes get higher and higher. Maybe you disagree; but for me, there is nothing in the two episodes we got fair and square this week that I didn’t like. We’ll have plenty of time to talk about the last two episodes later.

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Fri
Nov 15 2013 5:00pm

Listen, this is a book with Cthulhu, Grendel and a bunch of nosferatus on the cover; you tell me whether or not you think this book is going to be awesome.

Okay, okay, since I can’t really just write a one-sentence-with-a-semi-colon as a review, I guess I will tell you: Pathfinder Bestiary 4 is in fact as awesome as you would guess that a book with a Lovecraftian horror, an Old English poetry reference and nod to German Expressionist films on the cover would be. I’ve seen what Pathfinder can do with its Bestiaries a few times before, and this keeps of the tradition of delivering diverse concepts, interesting mechanics, and enough art and fluff to give even the system neutral reader enough bang for their buck just shopping for inspiration.

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Tue
Nov 12 2013 11:00am

The Land Across Gene WolfeI’m on to you, Gene Wolfe. You and your tricksie word games. I’ve gotten wise to your sideways translations, your σπάρτα into σπαρτον making Spartans into Rope-Makers, I’ve puzzled out the name of the protagonist of The Fifth Head of Cerberus and when Jonas talks about his pet merrychip, I know you are talking about the extinct proto-horse Merychippus. When I saw there was a new Wolfe book with the title The Land Across, the wheels and cogs in the old noggin started spinning and grinding. I’m no great linguist or scholar of languages but what jumps out at me is “across”—trans—and from there and the context clues of the description—“Eastern European” particularly—even before I cracked the page I had a hypothesis.

The Land Across is Gene Wolfe’s Transylvania novel.

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Mon
Nov 11 2013 4:00pm

Moon Pool A MerrittIn “Advanced Readings in D&D,” Tor.com writers Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode take a look at Gary Gygax’s favorite authors and reread one per week, in an effort to explore the origins of Dungeons & Dragons and see which of these sometimes-famous, sometimes-obscure authors are worth rereading today. Sometimes the posts will be conversations, while other times they will be solo reflections, but one thing is guaranteed: Appendix N will be written about, along with dungeons, and maybe dragons, and probably wizards, and sometimes robots, and, if you’re up for it, even more.

Up this week is A. Merritt’s The Moon Pool, full of ray guns, frogmen and lost civilizations!

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Mon
Nov 11 2013 2:00pm

The Legend of Korra A New Spiritual Age

I started talking about “The Sting” by plunging ahead with spoilers, but I can’t bring myself to do that here. Even picking the right visual to go at the top of this post is something that needs to have some thought put into it. If you’ve seen the episode, I’m sure you know what I mean…or rather, who I mean. I didn’t watch this episode live, and someone else’s excitement spoiled me, so I want to dance around it until we get under the cut.

While I dance though, I’m making a “eee ee eee!” noise of nervous glee. Korra and Jinora go off into the Spirit World, The Legend of Korra continues to get “more Miyazaki,” and some old friends, like Wan Shi Tong, show up. As well as some others. So, are you ready to step into the fairytales of the Four Nations?

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Mon
Nov 4 2013 4:00pm

HP Lovecraft

In “Advanced Readings in D&D,” Tor.com writers Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode take a look at Gygax’s favorite authors and reread one per week, in an effort to explore the origins of Dungeons & Dragons and see which of these sometimes-famous, sometimes-obscure authors are worth rereading today. Sometimes the posts will be conversations, while other times they will be solo reflections, but one thing is guaranteed: Appendix N will be written about, along with dungeons, and maybe dragons, and probably wizards, and sometimes robots, and, if you’re up for it, even more.

Up this week is the spooky uncle of fantasy literature, H.P. Lovecraft!

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