Lacking Natural Simplicity

Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.

Recent Reading

  • Metallic Love, By Tanith Lee; a Bantam Spectra Book, published by Bantam Dell, a division of Random House, March 2005. A very different book from Silver Metal Lover, its prequel.

  • Golden Witchbreed, by Mary Gentle, copyright 1983; first published in Great Britain by Victor Gollancz, Ltd.; William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1984.

  • The Fyre Mirror, an Elizabeth I Mystery, by Karen Harper; Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press, February 2005. Good.

  • Njal's Saga, translated with an Introduction by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Pálsson, copyright 1960; Penguin Books, 25th printing. Very good.

Recent Reading

  • The Blackgod, by J. Gregory Keyes, copyright 1997; Del Rey/Ballantine Books, May 1998. Book two of the Chosen of the Changeling series. Very good.

  • Pierced Heart, by Robin D. Laws; Trident, Inc., 1996. A good, though odd, novel set on the island of Al Amarja, the setting of the Over the Edge™ roleplaying game and the On the Edge™ trading card game from Atlas Games.

  • Delta Green: The Rules of Engagement, A Cthulhu Mythos Novel of Personal Apocalypse, by John Tynes, copyright 1999; Armitage House, February 2000. An interesting novel using the setting of the Delta Green roleplaying game adaptation of the Cthulhu Mythos to the modern world of government consipiracies and sinister aliens.

  • Wild Jack, by John Christopher, copyright 1974; Collier Books, 2nd edition, 1991. Another of Christopher's odd and depressing young adult SF books.

Recent Viewing and Reading

Recent Viewing (Kenji Misumi; Jarrold; Usher)

  • Zatôichi kenka-daiko, also known as The Blind Swordsman Samaritan, 1968. Directed by Kenji Misumi, writing by Kiyokata Saruwaka, Kan Shimozawa, Hisashi Sugiura, and Tetsuro Yoshida

  • Anonymous Rex, 2004. Directed by Julian Jarrold, writing by Eric Garcia (novel) and Joe Menosky. Slight, but watchable.

  • Mystery Men, 1999. Directed by Kinka Usher, writing by Bob Burden (comic book series by Dark Horse) and Neil Cuthbert. Slight, entertaining.

Recent Reading

  • Rajan, by Tim Lukeman; Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1979. This was the first of four projected books of oriental fantasy about the land of Khe'chin, but as far as I can tell only this one and Koren were actually written. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that Khe'chin was inspired more by Korea than China, but my ignorance of Korean history, culture, and legends prevents me from judging whether that is so or not. It's a pity that the series was never finished: Lukeman sets up an interesting background and situation. I might have read this one first during college, when I first had ready access to the Upshur County library, but I might have actually read it earlier in grade school or junior high when I might have borrowed it from the bookmobile. I re-read it because it was on the reading list of the Sorcerer & Sword RPG supplement, and it was well worth re-reading.

Recent Viewing and Reading

Recent Viewing

  • Zatoichi tekka tabi, also known as The Blind Swordsman's Cane Sword, 1967; directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda; writing by Ryozo Kasahara and Kan Shimozawa.

  • Zatoichi chikemuri kaido, also known as Zatoichi Challenged, 1967; directed by Kenji Misumi; writing by Ryozo Kasahara and Kan Shimozawa.

  • Zatôichi hatashi-jô, also known as Blindswordsman and the Fugitives, 1968; directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda; writing by Kinga Naoi and Kan Shimozawa.

Recent Reading

  • Crystal Soldier, by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller; Meisha Merlin Publishing, February 2005. Another delightful Liaden Universe story, this time time the story of the progenitors of Korval. Aptly dedicated to one of my favorite people.

  • King Dragon, by Andrew J. Offutt; illustrations by Esteban Maroto; ACE, October 1980. An odd book; the jacket copy and some internal references compare it to the Lost World novels of Doyle, Haggard, Burroughs, and Howard, but it doesn't have the same flavour at all.

  • Tomoe Gozen, by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, copyright 1981; illustrations by Wendy Adrian Shultz, copyright 1981; Ace Fantasy Books/The Berkley Publishing Group, 1st edition June 1981, 3rd edition March 1984. The first Tomoe Gozen book.

  • The Golden Najinata, by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, copyright 1982; illustrations by Wendy Adrian Shultz, copyright 1982; Ace, February 1982. The second Tomoe Gozen book.

  • Thousand Shrine Warrior, by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, copyright 1984; illustrations by Wendy Adrian Shultz, copyright 1984; Ace, March 1984. The third (and last) Tomoe Gozen book. The Tomoe Gozen books were recommended in the Sorcerer & Sword RPG supplement's reading list and are definitely worth reading for those interested in fantasy inspired by Japan or Sword & Sorcery fiction in general.

Retroforth 8; Stupid Visual SourceSafe; Recent Viewing

Retroforth 8

I've been playing a little bit with RetroForth 8 from the daily builds, just under another OS right now, not the native version, and the most useful thing I can say to someone just starting out with RetroForth is to look at the very short tutorial:

$ bin/rf
edit
use lib/tutorial
r

To save any changes, remember to use the w word.

To return to the regular forth interaction style use the exit word.

Here is a page about the RetroEditor (red) at forthfreak (which has a gForth version of the RetroEditor), and a here is a page about RetroForth in general.

Retroforth looks like a good place to get back into forth: it's small and simple, as well as using some of the latest forth thinking: tail calls, simpler control structures, and so forth. And it runs on several operating systems as well as a native operating system itself, so it should be convenient for experimenting.

Stupid Visual SourceSafe

Visual SourceSafe has a command line, but it is incredibly annoying to use. Among other things, it normally truncates its output at 80 characters wide or so, so to use in a script it you have to write the output to a file and then mung that. Of course, the output format for most of the commands is not particularly useful, so you have to mung it up a lot before you can do anything useful.

Recent Viewing

  • Zatoichi Jigoku tabi, also known as Blind Swordsman and the Chess Expert, 1965; directed by Kenji Misumi; writing by Daisuke Itô and Kan Shimozawa.

Recent Reading

  • Skeleton Man, by Tony Hillerman; read by George Guidall; Recorded Books, 2004. Enjoyable. It's been a couple of years since I've read anything by Hillerman, and I've obviously missed a few books. I'll have to go back and find the ones I've missed.

  • Koren, by Tim Lukeman; Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1981. This was also one of the books on the Sorcerer & Sword reading list. I have read it before, but it was definitely worth reading again. I'd like to find Ragan and re-read it, too.

Recent Reading; S&S RPGing; Tékumel RPGing

Recent Reading

  • Witherwing, by David Jarret; Warner Books, September 1979. This is one of those books that is more interesting for the glimpses of the underpinnings of the setting than for anything that the characters do or that happens to them. Enjoyable in an abstract way, for someone interested in Swords & Sorcery fiction.

Sword & Sorcery Roleplaying

I read Witherwing because, like Gardener F. Fox's Kothar, it was in the reading list of Sword & Sorcery books in the Sorcerer & Sword supplement for the Sorcerer roleplaying game, both which were written by Ron Edwards. It was listed as one of the references for the “Mutant-Future” example setting. Sorcerer & Sword (as is typical of Sorcerer and its supplments) approaches Sword & Sorcery very differently from most roleplaying games: it concentrates on the original Sword & Sorcery authors (for instance, it considers only those Conan stories actually written by Robert E. Howard, which by now is probably the smaller part of the Conan series), includes RPG mechanics only for things that can't be handled by concepts from other RPGs, ignores the loot and level basis of the widespread monster- killing style of roleplaying, 1 and only including things that will be directly useful in play. This later means, for instance, that there is no detailed, specific background material included, since it takes than stance that most of that material is never used in play. Instead, there are examples of starting with a minimal setting and creating the details during play.

In any case, I thoroughly recommend Sorcerer & Sword for anyone who is playing grim, intense, Sword & Sorcery-based roleplaying games.

And as source material for “Mutant-Future” games, Witherwing is full of ideas.

Tékumel Roleplaying

I've read more of Guardians of Order's new Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne roleplaying game and it is very good. I've noticed a few typos so far, but nothing serious, and the game itself seems pretty clearly explained. Moreover, the world background material is very good. The old Swords and Glory, Volume 1, the Tékumel Sourcebook, 2 still has more detailed information, but the new game provides a distilled essence that provides enough detail for newcomers to understand Tékumel and have some idea of how to play a character from the setting. It concentrates on Tsolyánu, which is the area of Tékumel on which we have the most information, and has information for the more common non-human races as well.

Mechanically, the system is derived from the Guardians of Order Tri-Stat game system, although it uses 1d10 instead of 2d6 or 2dX, and it uses 6 stats, instead of 3. The list of attributes available to starting characters has been simplified and specialized for Tékumel and the skills list has been expanded and specialized for Tékumel. Magic is handled separately with a system that seems to capture the flavor of Tékumel's ritual and spell-based magic very well. Character creation includes those social aspects that dominate Tsolyánu culture: clans and careers in the legions, temples, or government, as well as an extensive subsytem for dealing with resources, a subject which can be complicated in Tsolyánu since property tends to be owned by the clan rather than individuals, as well as smaller subsystems for dealing with teamwork, respect, and favors.

Overall, I'd say the game is somewhat crunchier than BESM (there are stat requirements for weapons and some careers, and spells can have multiple levels with different enhancements and various specialties), but much, mucher lighter than Swords & Glory, Garásiyal, or 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragon.

Verdict so far: the new game makes me want to play Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne, and provides the right material so that it's possible to see how to do so.

1

This does not mean, as some have assumed, that the author is against loot and level gaming: he elsewhere praises T&T, which is one of the most loot and level based games of all.

2

Which is still available from Tita's House of Games, by the way, and well worth it for the Tékumel aficionado.