A Long Spoon December 18, 2014 A Long Spoon Jonathan L. Howard A Johannes Cabal story. Burnt Sugar December 10, 2014 Burnt Sugar Lish McBride Everyone knows about gingerbread houses. Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North December 9, 2014 Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North Charles Vess Happy Holidays from Tor.com Skin in the Game December 3, 2014 Skin in the Game Sabrina Vourvoulias Some monsters learn how to pass.
From The Blog
December 9, 2014
The Eleventh Doctor’s Legacy Was Loss and Failure
Emily Asher-Perrin
December 9, 2014
Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2014
Tor.com
December 8, 2014
How Fast is the Millennium Falcon? A Thought Experiment.
Chris Lough
December 8, 2014
Tiamat’s Terrain: Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange
Alex Mangles
December 4, 2014
Potential Spoiler Leak for Star Wars: The Force Awakens Reveals Awesome Details
Emily Asher-Perrin
Showing posts by: Mordicai Knode click to see Mordicai Knode's profile
Mon
Dec 15 2014 5:00pm

All Your Giant Mecha Dreams Come True! The Legend of Korra, “Kuvira’s Gambit”

Legend of Korra Kuriva's Gambit

That’s...quite an eponymous ploy, hm? This episode of The Legend of Korra is named “Kuvira’s Gambit,” and I frankly was expecting something like the inverse of the Gaang’s invasion of the Fire Nation, or the Rebel’s plan on Endor, or Suyin’s assault on Kuvira in the first place. Make a distraction and let an elite team take out essential targets. I was expecting Kuvira and a crack assault time to ride in on, I don’t know, a heavy paratroop drop, and hit Republic City in the heart.

But no, I had it all wrong: Kuvira’s gambit is a 25 story tall mecha suit. It’s a short jump from last week’s “Operation Beifong”: now that the crew is back together—kit and caboodle—they’ve almost got a chance to prepare...

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Wed
Dec 10 2014 4:00pm

“Operation Beifong” Strikes Back on The Legend of Korra!

Legend of Korra Operation Beifong

What is the sibling term for “Linsanity?” Su-per Sa-yin? Okay, that’s pretty dumb, but Suyin cutting loose in this episode of The Legend of Korra, oh boy! I should say all the Beifongs bring the pain, and I do mean all the Beifongs—excepting Batar Jr. I suppose—because guess who came out of retirement to kick some butt? That’s right, the Original Beifong. Yeah, it’s a Beifong blitz!

But despite the episode title “Operation Beifong,” it isn’t all about the Beifongs. The heroic Bolin from “Battle of Zaofu” steps up to maturity, Zhu Li gets up to some new tricks, and Korra reaches out to the Spirit World. After last week’s more focused character piece, I am ready to see some earthbenders go toe-to-toe-to-toe...to-toe-to-toe! There are a lot of bare toes in this episode is what I’m sayin’.

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Mon
Dec 1 2014 2:00pm

How Korra Got Her Groove Back: The Legend of Korra’s “Beyond the Wilds”

The Legend of Korra: Beyond the Wilds

One consistent theme in The Legend of Korra is: Korra trains. It’s a motif consistent with Avatar: The Last Airbender, in fact. Aang traveled the world looking for bending teachers, and Korra has been doing the very same thing, right under our noses, learning from both friends and enemies. Airbending from Tenzin, pro-bending from Bolin and Mako. She’s learned spiritbending from Unalaq, she’s learned metalbending from Suyin, she’s studied with Toph...and now Zaheer. Korra’s problems stem from her being cut off from the Spirit World, which is ultimately caused by the anxiety caused by trauma, and with Zaheer’s guidance—as crazy as that sounds—she accepts what he did to her, and accepts that she survived it. The what is, not what might have been.

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Thu
Nov 20 2014 4:00pm

Dungeons & Dragons’ 5th Edition is Built on the Lessons Learned from Past Editions

Well, this is the edition to play. Dungeons & Dragons has gone through some vicissitudes over the last few years, but I think the 5th edition of the Player's Handbook puts any edition controversy to bed.

The 3rd edition, its Open Game License, and its 3.5th revision were a golden age for the hobby, but the more tactical combat-oriented 4th edition turned a lot of folks off; and it all went down while Pathfinder, the unofficial 3.75th edition, was coming on strong.

We all remember the dark days of the Edition Wars; they never left some dark corners of the Internet, but 5e seems to be largely immune. I playtested it in early versions and have been playing it with folks from around the Tor offices since then... and now it's bound and printed and finalized! It's different enough from rivals to be its own thing, and it's learned smart lessons from previous editions, combining AD&D 2e's relative simplicity with 3e's customization. There's more of 4e in there then some people will want to admit, too: at-wills, short rests, hit dice, all the bonus actions, races and powers.

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Mon
Nov 17 2014 4:00pm

The The Legend of Korra’s “Reunion” is All About the Ties that Bind

Avatar Legend of Korra Reunion

Well okay, with this episode of The Legend of Korra, Kuvira seems to be well and truly beyond the pale. Ethnic concentration camps, Kuvira? Yep, you’ve gone and Godwin’d yourself. Not to mention that all the guys have the sides of their heads shaved, all Hitler Youth style. It’s a good look in Sleep No More, but here it is frankly just ominous. There is no doubt in my mind that the next stage in Kuvira’s plan is the “re-unite” the Earth “Empire” is marching to conquering Republic City. It looks like she’ll be in black-and-white by the time she gets there, though this season’s theme of “Balance” still gives me hope of some nuance in the final ethical calculus.

Worry not: this is a fun episode; a nice change from last week’s episode that features Asami’s stun glove, Bolin’s hot lava, the Noah’s Ark of Bumju, Naga, Pabu and some sky bison & flying lemurs, and Korra back in Water Tribe duds.

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Tue
Nov 11 2014 2:30pm

Kuvira Ascendant: The Legend of Korra, “Battle of Zaofu”

Avatar Legend of Korra Battle of Zaofu

The real winner of last week’s episode of The Legend of Korra was Zhu Li, making the winner of this week’s episode is fair turn about: Varrick! The absence of his much-needed assistant has made his heart grow three sizes. The other big winner in this episode is Kuvira, which means—you guessed it—that everybody else from Korra to Suyin is a loser. Varrick and Bolin are the only non-losers, and while I’m proud of those two disasters for somehow managing to evade trouble—Varrick, above all else, has a knack for that—I don’t quite know if “winning” sums up Bolin’s rather desperate situation. I think “not losing” just about covers it.

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Mon
Nov 3 2014 12:30pm

Zhu Li Does the Thing on The Legend of Korra’s “Enemy at the Gates”

Legend of Korra Enemy at the Gates

This episode of The Legend of Korra, “Enemy at the Gates,” is a nice beat in the tale. It isn’t rushed to get to the bang-pow-smash ’em up bits, but it isn’t treading water, either. After last episode’s healing, Korra is ready to get back into the story, and this episode eases her in, gives us a wiser Korra trying to take the high road, while forces work around her escalating the conflict.

The main story happens out of Korra’s sight, as Bolin and Varrick figure out that Kuvira might not be all that benevolent a dictator after all, and have an all out mecha brawl escaping. So okay, maybe a little whammo-biff-sock brawling, after all... plus Asami Sato, solo, sorting out her life all on her own. So much for friends!

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Fri
Oct 31 2014 4:00pm

Demon: The Descent is His Dark Materials Meets Terminator and Aliens

Demon: the DescentThe front of the book calls Demon: The Descent a “game of techgnostic espionage,” but what the heck is that? Imagine you are playing a cyberpunk game, but instead of having an implanted set of Wolverine-like spurs...you have an implanted flaming sword that chants “hosannah” in a blasphemous growl. Imagine a game of top secret cat and mouse like The Matrix, but rather than men in black and hackers wirefighting, H.R. Giger-esque shapes with the names of angels clash. It’s Twin Peaks, where the death of Laura Palmer was engineered by a false gnostic machine-god at the heart of the Black Lodge and Agent Cooper is an enlightened angelic freedom fighter (which he sort of already is, to be fair).

Demon is a game about building up a mortal life as a “Cover” and using that Cover to strike back at the horrifyingly Lovecraftian God-Machine that keeps the World of Darkness in chains. You know how to hit it where it hurts because you used to serve it as one of it’s constructs, one of it’s robots, one of its angels. Before you Fell.

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Mon
Oct 27 2014 2:30pm

“Your grandpa was a real pain in my butt!” The Legend of Korra: “The Calling”

The Legend of Korra: The Calling

Great news everybody: the sad times on The Legend of Korra are over! Well, for now, anyway. Thanks to the Amazing Airbending Kids setting out last episode, and thanks to Toph playing Iroh and, ultimately, thanks to Korra. I was glad to see the “recovery story” take a sideways turn in the second episode and become its own weird story about Korra seeking for answers, for help, for her own path. I appreciated that but I’m pretty much always glad for a gloomy plotline to wrap up in television. Now it has.

I wish Toph could be telling this story— “...and Sokka fell in a hole.”— but you’ve got yours truly instead. Alright! Korra learned important lessons! She overcame her own conflicts! Now let’s get out of this swamp and have Korra go solve some external conflicts. In sweet glorious bending battle and what have you.

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Mon
Oct 20 2014 2:00pm

Kuvira Always Gets What She Wants: The Legend of Korra’s “The Coronation”

Legend of Korra The Coronation

The politics in The Legend of Korra are getting down to brass tacks. It’s hard not to see Kuvira as a net positive. There is no reason whatsoever to support the royal dynasty. Heck, as far as I’m concerned, there was every reason to support its overthrow. An actual caste system, an apartheid of rings that is so culturally ingrained that even the mall in Republic City’s “Little Ba Sing Se” is segregated by class. A powerful secret police, kidnapping and press-gangs. Propaganda and cruel whim and extortion. I’m with Bolin on this one.

I think Kuvira should hold an election—why wouldn’t she, she’s beloved—and then just claim authority thus. President Raiko sets a precedent for it. Then there you go. We should be so lucky: I kind of want to see Bolin succeed at keeping her on the strait and narrow...even as tensions increase.

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Mon
Oct 13 2014 10:30am

The Non-Linear Hero’s Quest: The Legend of Korra, “Korra Alone”

Legend of Korra Korra Alone

Well this episode of The Legend of Korra was a lovely treat, and not just because we saw you-know-who. You might think it strange to call an episode that focuses entirely on Korra’s painful physical rehabilitation and distressingly empathizable post-traumatic stress disorder a “treat,” but “Korra Alone” really was.

What I didn’t want was a whining, emo, “feels” episode. I’ve sort of had my fill of them for a bit, not that they don’t have their due time. I was hoping for, at best, a recovering montage. What I got was something like I was talking about when I discussed Kuvira last week: neither one option nor the other, but a new, third path. We got Korra on her own self-motivated Hero’s Quest. She’s neither sulking nor recuperating: she’s proactive.

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Mon
Oct 6 2014 1:15pm

Whatever Happened to Avatar Korra? The Legend of Korra Returns!

Avatar Legend of Korra After All These Years

For someone who happens to have a show named after her, Korra sure doesn’t get much screen time in the premiere of the new season of The Legend of Korra! Doesn’t bother me none, personally; I’ve always like the without-the-Doctor Doctor Who episodes, myself. Still, can I tell you something? I’m well ready for this depressing plot line to come to an end already. Really, I hope the whole recovery story arc runs on an accelerated track. I’ve had enough emo Korra in this series; I’m ready for no-holds-barred, cage-match, all-or-nothing Korra to come back.

I think Korra’s ready, too. She’s brawl-bending, putting her in the underdog role that Bolin and Mako were in as pro-benders in season one, and they’re the authority figures with government ties; how the tables have turned. We’ve had three years of lapsed time, so I think it is possible. Plus...perfect opportunity for Korra to be taken under Toph’s wing as a mentor, just sayin’.

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Thu
Sep 18 2014 4:00pm

Dungeon World Puts Narrative First

Dungeon World is having a very real, meaningful impact on how I look at games, and how I look at my game.

I’m a big believer in cross-product, system-neutral play, which is to say that I encourage everyone to steal from every game they own when building a campaign or creating an adventure. If the mechanical crunch doesn’t work, ignore it and take the story ideas or abstract rule concepts that you like. If flavor and genre don’t match, use the mechanical parts you like and just reskin the rest. I’ll use Pathfinder’s GameMastery Guide to roll up a random location for my World of Darkness game just as easily as I’ll repurpose the time travel rules from Transdimensional TMNT with a heaping serving of cosmic horror for my Great Race of Yith themed Call of Cthulhu mini-series.

No matter what, I’m always on the lookout for the next mechanical innovation to inspire my own homebrew campaign; last time is was Mouse Guard’s Trait system, and those are now being tempered by Dungeon World’s similar Tags and complications. I like this game enough to...already be thinking about how I could rebuild it from the ground up to suit my play style.

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Fri
Aug 29 2014 1:00pm

Descend Pathfinder’s The Emerald Spire

Pathfinder’s The Emerald Spire is a true megadungeon. Rise of the Runelords was a campaign, but Emerald Spire is an big old fashioned dungeon that just keeps on going and going. I like boutique, meticulously DM-crafted worldbuilding. I like open, sandbox games in unique homebrew settings. I also really like giant, out of the box, hardcore superdungeons. There is no need to be forced into some “new school versus old school” rivalry here. Have some cake. Eat it, too! Then throw it at opponents for d3 non-lethal damage in a giant food fight, that’s what I’m saying.

If you have talked to me at any length in the past year, you’ve probably heard me go off on a rant about defeating The Temple of Elemental Evil; one of the perks of playing one of the great classic dungeons is that you can brag about it, as well as share war stories with other survivors. The Emerald Spire belongs up there with your Tombs of Horrors and Castle Ravenlofts; PCs are going to be delving into the Spire for a long time, and I’ve no doubt it will generate its same share of shaggy dog stories.

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Mon
Aug 25 2014 12:00pm

The Legend of Korra Season Finale: “Enter the Void” and “Venom of the Red Lotus”

Avatar The Legend of Korra

So you want a big, two-part, smash ’em up finale? The Legend of Korra delivers and still leaves enough room for a bittersweet not-with-a-bang-but-with-a-whimper capstone. I’m left thoughtful in the wake of everything that happens; in a lot of ways, this feels like the spiritual sequel to the end of Book Two in Avatar: the Last Airbender, and the preponderance of crystal and gurus makes me think that’s quite intentional. As the same time, these episodes intensely channel the series finale of “Sozin’s Comet,” but with the clever conceit of a role reversal. Here the nimble, evasive airbender is the villain, and the one soaring around on jets of flame is the Avatar.

Book Three of The Legend of Korra has been great, not just in comparison to the first two seasons but on its own, and it concludes here. It’ll all end in tears, but what kind of tears?

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Mon
Aug 18 2014 2:00pm

Is The Legend of Korra’s “The Ultimatum” the End of the Line?

Avatar Legend of Korra Ultimatum

Let’s not everyone freak out at once. Just last episode we talked about the knife edge of doubt that an “all-ages” show like The Legend of Korra has been able to walk when it comes to violence. The Earth Queen’s demise could have been the Earth Queen’s defeat until the burden of context clues pushed it over. Heck, this episode we see a number of seemingly fatal falls turn out to be misdirection, on all sides, so I guess my point is: all we can do is speculate about the ultimate fate of one of our favorite characters.

One thing I’ve said this entire season is that the stakes and the tension are high; it feels like anything can happen. I’m hoping the fallout from this recent turn of events is more of a melancholy sad, with more of an “Appa’s Lost Days” feel to the consequences than what the worst case scenario could be. Enough of all of this vague spoiler-free mummery; let’s talk brass tacks, below the cut.

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Tue
Aug 12 2014 3:00pm

No Kings, No Masters in The Legend of Korra’s “Long Live the Queen”

Avatar Legend of Korra Long Live the Queen

Well, The Legend of Korra continues to be amazing. Like, old-school, top of its game, Avatar the Last Airbender good, that’s what I’m talking about. Zaheer...ah, I’ll sing his praises as this season’s villain enough later on in the post, no need to start now. Asami, sure, I’ve been asking for more Asami and now I’ve got it. Basically at this point I’m starting to get a little cocky—can I just ask for anything and get it? Stock in Cabbage Corporation? I never got that Koh the Face-Stealer cameo I was hoping for from the Book of Air with Amon or from the Book of Spirits’...well, spirits. Maybe I’ll be in luck next week; at this point, anything seems possible. I’m very excited about this show right now, and I really hope the “digital transition” is going well. If there was ever a time to proselytize a show to show the number-crunchers and bean-counters what’s what, it’s now.

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Mon
Aug 4 2014 1:30pm

The Legend of Korra’s “Stakeout” Yields Answers to Big Questions.

Avatar the Legend of Korra Stakeout

This episode of The Legend of Korra gives us what we’ve been waiting for—a glimpse into the inner workings of Zaheer and his “Red Lotus” gang. I’m going to unpack that and sort through what we learn about our antagonists a-plenty, but that isn’t all we get, not by a long shot.

Last week I’d said we’d seen almost every kind of specialized bending, except the plantbending of the swamp folk. Well, now we’ve seen the Mos Eisley of the sandbenders, so check one more off the list. The desert seems “painted,” more brightly colored than the one where Sokka went cactus-juice crazy, but it still vibes Tattooine, right down to spirits being denied access to a saloon the way droids might be kicked out of a cantina. All this casual discrimination and political oppression! Almost makes you wish someone would do something about it, doesn’t it?

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Mon
Jul 28 2014 12:30pm

The Legend of Korra Goes Digital: “The Terror Within”

Avatar Legend of Korra

It’s sad that we have to wait to discuss “The Terror Within”—one of the tensest episodes to date, bringing back the sense of real menace that Amon had—in order to talk about how the sausage gets made, but we should. There is an elephant koi in the room: Nickelodeon has decided not to air the rest of The Legend of Korra and instead will make the remaining episodes available online. I know, I’d rather talk about how we finally get to see an all-out battle between Zaheer and his team of what fans are calling the “Red Lotus Society” versus Team Avatar and the Metal Clan, but we need to discuss the nuts and bolts of how we’re going to be able to see the stories, while we’re at it. I mentioned I was worried last week, but it was too little, too late. At least the episode we actually did get was excellent, right?

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Mon
Jul 21 2014 1:00pm

The Legend of Korra Keeps Kicking Butt and Taking Names with “Old Wounds” and “Original Airbenders”

Avatar Legend of Korra

I’m incredibly impressed with this season of The Legend of Korra. No more shaky footing, no more “well, lets see how it plays out,” none of that, no doubt, no wait-and-see, just constant high-quality action. If you have friends who drifted away from the show, or if you are that friend? Grab them (or yourself) by the scruff of the neck and drag them back. I admit, I’m a little worried about Nickelodeon’s commitment; this “let’s air two episodes at a time” doesn’t strike me as a good sign. The show is firing on all cylinders, but I’m worried it will be too late for some of the fans... so trust me, Book Three: Change is pure perfection. “Old Wounds” and “Original Airbenders” really continue the tradition at the heart of what made Avatar: The Last Airbender so great: focusing on character conflict and growth.

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