Horizon Forbidden West Is An Amazing Sequel

I have been playing a lot of Horizon Forbidden West lately. I bought the game the day it came out (as you can probably guess from my recent posts, I was incredibly excited to play it) and have sunk most of my video game time into it lately. All-in-all, it is an excellent modern example of how a sequel can be an improvement on the original game, not just a continuation of the story. Everything Horizon Zero Dawn did well, Forbidden West also does well, and then it adds a whole new list of excellent things. The plot is just as interesting, the world just as enthralling (maybe even more so, since they’ve really improved on the environmental design), and the battle mechanics are so much more fluid and engaging. As much as I am tempted to find a pattern of battle that works and stick to it as I did in Zero Dawn, the weapon systems and new combat skills make it incredibly rewarding to branch out and try new things that I’ve unlocked. Even just wandering the world to investigate the smattering of question marks feels more rewarding. I can’t think of a single thing that wasn’t markedly improved from the first game to this one.

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Tabletop Highlight: On the Importance of Dice

I am a firm believer in the importance of dice in tabletop RPGs. To be entirely fair, that’s not exactly an uncommon opinion, even if more people are moving toward digital dice rollers instead of actual rice. Sure, telling a computer to roll twenty six-sided dice makes it a lot cleaner and it does the math for you which makes it take less time, but there’s no feeling compared to being a twentieth level sorcerer casting disintegrate just so you can roll forty six-sided dice all at once. At one point, I literally had bought enough d6’s so I could roll damage all at once for my caster. It was an amazing feeling, making it rain dice like that. It was also incredibly difficult since I could barely hold that many at once and rolling them involved a lot of me saying “did anyone see where the beige one went?” and my friends replying “no, but I did find the purple one from last week under this radiator.” Good times.

All that aside, what I’m really talking about is the importance of specific dice, which is also a bit misleading since I’m not thinking of one specific die in all of creation. What I’m talking about is the importance of having specific dice for you to use. By our very nature, as creatures reliant on ephemeral chance to dictate the course of our gaming session, we tabletop gamers are a rather superstitious bunch. For instance, I not only have a favorite set of dice, but I pick the dice I use on any given night by how aesthetically pleasing I find them as I get ready for the game. I firmly believe that prettier dice roll better and no amount of bad luck on my more gorgeous dice can shake that belief. The inverse is also true. When my players are having a string of bad rolls, I swap to using my ugliest, most generic and awful dice so the enemies the party is facing roll worse. My absolute favorite set, the set that has rolled more triple-twenties than all of my other twenty-sided dice put together, is a beautiful set of clear plastic dice with bits of black paint or plastic swirled inside them. Unlike every other set of partially clear dice I’ve ever seen, the color is only on the inside of the dice. It doesn’t touch the outside layers at all, so you can spin the dice as you hold it up to the light and watch the smoky black color swirl at your fingertips. I don’t even let other people touch those dice. I keep them in a plastic container inside my dice bag so I’ve always got them ready to go in case I need to roll well on something important.

If you take a survey of all tabletop players, you’ll find a range of traditions and superstitions. There are players who believe in punishing their dice when they roll poorly and even destroying the dice if they keep rolling poorly after being punished. This punishment can range from something as mild as leaving the offending die on its own for a while to the incredibly gross tradition of putting one of your misbehaving dice inside your mouth for a while. I’ve even seen someone go so far as to file through a die they were punishing so it could never roll again, which just seems completely over the top to me. There are also people who believe that you need to roll all of your dice at once, regardless of how many that might be. I’ve got a friend who uses a specific die for every type of action his character might be taking in any game he’s playing, so he has to buy new dice every time he plays a game with an additional action type. I prefer to buy new dice for characters who are about to make their debut, so the character and the dice start off fresh. I generally only get new dice for characters who are supposed to be a part of a campaign for a long time and I do it to avoid any kind of mental influence on how I see the dice.

Despite the range of beliefs and the things people do with their dice, most people remain a bit more rational and logic-oriented than their superstitions suggest. I bet if you followed up your first survey with a second survey asking people if they though there really was something to their little traditions, almost everyone who answered the first one would say “no.” And yet we’d still turn around and immediately go back to our superstitions as soon as the situation called for it. The way I’ve always viewed it is that there’s no harm in being cautious or believing in something that’s probably not there. If it isn’t there, then you’ve just spent a bit of time marking a tradition. If it turns out that there was actually something to it, then you’ve got your bases covered already. It’s why I don’t really believe in ghosts, but I won’t denigrate anyone who believes in them. Additionally, and probably more importantly, it helps the players feel like they’re in control of what is pretty much just random luck. If you believe punishing your dice will make them roll higher next them, then you’re in control of your own outcomes because you can “encourage” your dice to get with the program. You more order you can impose on what seems like chaos around you, the better you feel.

The same is true of having specific dice for specific things. I probably haven’t rolled more triple twenties with my favorite set of dice than with any of my other sets, but the belief that I do roll more twenties makes me remember when I do. It’s simple confirmation bias. The same is probably true of punishing dice or whatever inane thing we all do that makes us feel more comfortable with the fact that the world isn’t as cut-and-dried as we’d like to think it is. Random things happen outside our control or comprehension and we get a glimpse of that when we play games with dice because the difference between success and failure is pure chance. For the vast majority of us, there’s no skill involved, no talent, just dumb luck. Even the most skilled of us, who should be able to succeed no matter what is thrown at us, can sometime fail because of chance. So roll the dice and hope you get more passes than failure.

Tabletop Highlight: Up For Interpretation

One of the things I’ve struggled with for my entire time as a DM is how to interpret what my players say. In this case, I mean everything from trying to parse vague statements so I can correctly describe my players actions to stuff like determining whether or not the player said the character did something versus having them assess the likelihood of success if they go ahead with that idea. Meaning has gotten fairly easy to ascertain at this point and I’ve learned how to ask them for clarification without giving them information they shouldn’t have, but I’m realizing more and more that the different between thinking out loud and making their character recklessly charge into a situation is mostly on me.

Before my current campaign, this wasn’t something that came up a lot. Since I preferred to run comedic campaigns, I just did whatever the group would find funniest so long as it was actually something they meant to say. Usually, players are pretty good at making it clear when something is a joke their character would never actually do and when it’s something they actually want to happen. Even if it is, most players in my shits-and-giggles campaigns understand that they might need to roll up a new character at any point in time and don’t get too emotionally attached to them. Even if it winds up costing them their character, they’re usually fine with it as long as it’s funny and I’m good at coming up with comedic but nonlethal consequences, so it usually doesn’t come to that.

In my current campaign, (which I’ve taken to calling “Broken Worlds” because the planes of my universe have been shattered by the war between the Good deities and the Evil deities so that only a handful are left in a precarious balance that could send all of existence spiral out of existence at the drop of a pinhead full of dancing angels), the stakes are a little bit higher and my players have more restrictive concepts for their characters. Laughter is always appreciated and silly situations make for excellent sessions, but they’re not going to break character in order to make a joke or exploit some comedic potential. They want to stay true to how their character would act and are more interested in the drama and risk of their current situation than a chance to make a joke. Here, my interpretation of their intent, when it comes to them discussing actions or plotting the course of action their character carries out, matters a lot. It is the difference between spending two in-game (and real-world) hours trying to burn down a wooden door and them spending a minute trying to unlock it.

If you started watching Matthew Colville’s videos on Running the Game, he says that he’s fine giving his players (and their characters) information that they either should know as a result of living in the world or that they’d be able to easily ascertain (that they wouldn’t need to use a skill check to know). I agree entirely, but I draw the line at redirecting their course of action when they’re making assumptions. For instance, anyone who looked at the aforementioned wooden door would have seen that it had a latch and a lock without needing to make a skill check. It is clear as day that the door is locked. To determine the type of lock and whether or not the door has any kind of magical or physical protection, they would need to make a skill check. If they decide that, upon hearing it is a wooden door, that they’re just going to build a bonfire in an attempt to burn it down, I won’t stop them. If I describe something they’re inspecting and they miss it because they aren’t paying attention, then I’m not going to stop them from doing something dumb. That’s an important learning experience for them.

Similarly, how they frame things is important. If they say they go do something, their character has gone and made an attempt at doing whatever it is they said. If they say they’re going to do something, I’ll cut them a little slack. For instance, if the rogue says he turns invisible, dives into the murky water, and positions himself at the last-known location of the octopus they’re preparing to kill, then his character has vanished and then jumped into the water. If he says that he’s going to do that, then I’ll let his fellow players stop him or tell him something the character would know that the player does not which might influence his decision.

I’m not an ass about it. I’ve made it clear to my players that their intent matters and they need to be more circumspect about how much time they spend dithering about or making plans. I even let it slide for the first five levels and gave them a little speech before I started. I was incredibly clear that I was expecting a little more from them and what exactly I was expecting. There’s no way they could spend two hours of real-world time discussing how to attack the next room without some time passing in the game. And if they take two in-game hours to burn down a wooden door they could have unlocked, then there’s a really good chance the people behind the door are going to be prepared for them. I could have just told them the door had a lock, but none of them checked the door for a lock and no one was listening when I told them it was a simple, locked wooden door with iron banding. As much as I love my players, I’m not going to take them time to re-describe something when they weren’t listening the first time unless they actually ask me to do so.

There’s no hard and fast rule about this sort of thing. If you’ve got more experienced players, they probably expect to be taken at their word. They’ll frame things as questions, ask for more details as needed, and try to make quick decisions–be warned: not all experienced players learn this skill. They’re generally good at making their intent crystal clear. If you have newer players, they’ll probably hesitate more and might not be good at policing their expressed intent versus their actual intent. Some players take longer than others and some new players just get it right off the bat. Some games don’t really care as much about punishing people for not being cautious and some don’t really require that much focus on people’s intent because the situations in the game don’t really leave much room for interpretation. There aren’t many ways you could misinterpret fighting a bunch of orcs.

As always, the big thing is to reflect on how it might fit into whatever game you’re running or how you play your character. There’s a lot of room in D&D for being a bit of a word-lawyer. My favorite point to make to DMs as a player is that you don’t need to make a bluff (the skill that lets you lie) check if you’re not actually lying. Most of my characters develop a certain amount of skill for skirting the true as it suits them and my favorite villains to play are the clever ones who get captured. Wordplay is one of my favorite games and not everyone spends their free time practicing how to artfully arrange words so I don’t really expect my players to take things to that level. I just give them a slap on the wrist when they do something dumb. I’ll never give them an impossible situation as a result of their poor decisions, but I will make things much more difficult for them.

After all, what’s the point of playing a game like D&D if doing something dumb doesn’t run the risk of getting you killed? There’d be no tension if they knew they’d be able to take back any wrong decision they make or that there were no consequences for taking too long. If you constantly leave the dungeon to replenish your spells and rest, then the dungeon is going to prepare for your return. They’ll be ready and waiting for you, this time, and heaven–or what’s left of it–help you if you leave again.

This Superhero Anime is a Smash Hit

One of my roommates recommended that I watch My Hero Academia since I was looking for something to watch while I was on vacation. We both expected me to sit down and watch two to five episodes at a time, like I’d down with pretty much every other show I’ve watched, but that is not what happened. I got sucked into the show immediately, lost track of time, and watched the first whole season that afternoon and evening. The following day, I spent the entire day watching all but the last five episodes and I would have watched those if I didn’t have an event the next day that required I get up early. It was close. I almost decided to just stay up so I could watch the last few episodes even though it would have left me bleary and exhausted for the day of watery adventure.

My Hero Academia is, on the surface, your basic action anime that hits all the requirements: teenage male protagonist, male rival who is both a friend and enemy, the hero has a great power he can’t properly wield, he’s in training to be some kind of action hero, and there’s some vague threat looming in the background that slowly becomes more apparent as the series goes on. The protagonist even has the same personality markers as all the other male protagonists of similar anime: a heart of gold/unwavering belief in his peers, the drive to work harder than everyone else, a casual disregard for his own well-being when it comes to protecting people, and a hair color that stands out from his peers and elders (with exceptions for genetics). If all you do is look at the surface, it is simply a fill-in-the-blank action anime with a delightful superhero twist.

The minute you start to look beneath the surface, which is actually easy to do because the show does a masterful job of peeling back the layers for viewers of all ages, there is a startling amount of complexity to all of the characters. The protagonist, Izuku, is not only a hard worker, but he’s also very clever. His analytical abilities lead to more victories (and often less costly victories) than the use of his potentially overwhelming power. His inventiveness, when it comes to finding ways to make use of his rather unreliable powers and applying the powers of his teammates, is unmatched. If he seriously tries, he can usually find a way to make use of the “quirks” (the special powers that most people in the world develop before they’re four) of his peers to defeat whatever foe or obstacle he’s facing. Not only is he intelligent, he’s actually pretty in touch with his emotions and good at reading people, so he has a tendency to find ways to help the other conflicted teenagers he attends Super Hero High School with.

All of his classmates at U.A. High School are heroes in training as well, and a lot of them are still working on why they want to be heroes or what kind of hero they want to be. There’s a guy with engines in his calves, a woman who can turn things she touches weightless, a dude that sweats explosives from his hands, some guy with a tail, a woman who can create objects which pop out of her body (which is most of the cheesecake in the show, since her costume is revealing so as to not tear when she pops out a cannon), an invisible girl, and a guy whose whole body hardens into some kind of metallic-y stone substance, and so much more! The personalities of the cast are, for the most part, just as diverse as the powers. Sure, the explosives guy has anger issues, the invisible girl is constantly afraid of being overlooked, and the dude with engines in his legs is incredibly driven, but they’re also more than just that facet of their personality. Explosives guy wants to be the top-ranked hero and proves his drive despite appearing to be a villain-in-waiting. The invisible girl is a solid hero who wants to keep her friends safe and isn’t afraid to do whatever she needs to in order to succeed. The drive young man is also willing to learn, sharing a surprising depth of wisdom with his classmates and proving to be a capable leader in the few instances he isn’t overshadowed by the protagonist and his rival.

Even the teachers aren’t the rather shallow caricatures they appear to be. Each of them gets their time to show the various aspects of their characters, the wisdom and strength they’ve attained throughout their lives as heroes, and the strength of their conviction when it comes to their pupils. Even the hero who is passing his power onto the protagonist, All Might, shows a surprising depth of character considering his surface-level is just some big muscle-y dude who punches stuff really hard while shouting the names of states or cities in the US while smiling. It turns out he carefully crafted the image of himself as the ultimate hero, the “Symbol of Peace,” in order to discourage villains from attacking all the time and to give the non-hero populace someone to believe in, even going so far as to sacrifice his physical health in order to stay that symbol when he probably should have retired.

That being said, the plot is actually pretty standard. The protagonist wants to be a hero, gets a one-in-a-million chance to become a hero, constantly throws aside the rules in order to do the right thing, and continuously overcomes all the boundaries between him and his goal by trying harder. The big change comes in how the other people in the world react to that and the consequences he faces. It is illegal in his world for people who don’t have a hero license to use their quirk to hurt someone, and he almost goes to jail for doing just that. His super-powered attacks take an incredible toll on his body and, while there is a certain amount of  “Ta-da! You’re magically healed!” there’s also a point VERY early on where he learns that he will eventually suffer irreparable harm if he continues to damage his body and have it healed. Most of his cleverness goes into figuring out how to use his powers while minimizing their impact on his body. Unlike most similar protagonists, Izuku actually has the potential for serious consequences and, even when he tries to “technically follow” the rules, he almost gets in a huge amount of trouble. Even his mentor takes him to task for being reckless.

I would recommend watching My Hero Academia because it is a really fun action anime with depth of character and actual consequences for being a reckless moron (I’m looking at you, Naruto). Finally, you can watch something about a kid who just wants to be a hero and succeeds by trying hard without feeling the little bit of guilt you (or at least I) always feel when watching adults just let kids get away with some really dumb shit. It’s a responsible action anime!

Tabletop Highlight: The Action Economy in D&D

One the things I’ve noticed as I play more and more 5th edition D&D is that the changes to the action economy have a huge impact on the way the combat encounters play out. I can’t help comparing it to the 3.5 edition campaigns I run and play in. Overall, they’re very similar, sharing the same major points. Beyond that, the similarities start to break apart and each version tends toward the overall design patterns of each system. 5th edition tends toward simpler types of actions and broader classification while 3.5 tends toward greater variety but a rather extreme degree of complication required to access that greater variety.

In 5th edition, there are four types of actions a player can take in a single round (the time it takes for all characters and monsters in an encounter to take their individual turns): A “movement,” an “action,” a “bonus action,” and a “reaction.” There are also “free actions” but those are given at the DM’s discretion and can be used for saying something brief or certain skill checks depending on the DM’s decisions. A “movement” is exactly what it sounds like, plus a few other things. Your character can move up to their maximum per-term distance or do some sort of movement based action like standing up, climbing, jumping, or dropping to the ground. An “action” is a very broad classification encompassing everything from attacking other people to casting spells to interacting with other people or the environment. A “bonus action” can only be used as a result of a power granted to your character by their class or by a magic item. This can be any other classification of action, but only a specific action per power. For instance, a rogue gets a bonus action that lets them run away from enemies during combat or hide themselves after attacking. The last type of action is a “reaction” and that is a very specific subset actions that can be granted by your class or are one of a small set available to all characters: counterattacks as enemies pass you, cast certain spells, or use an action you prepared.

During the early levels of a 5e game, most characters use only movements and actions, occasionally dipping into reactions. At higher levels, most characters have a variety of bonus actions to pick from and sometimes ever class abilities or spells that give them additional actions. This keeps combat encounters moving relatively quickly for early levels but can bog down combat a bit at later levels. An added complication at later levels is the introduction of “legendary actions.” These are actions available to a certain class of powerful monster, typically used as boss monsters, that give them additional actions they can take when it isn’t their turn. This can help offset the ability for a group of high-level characters to gang up on a single monster and destroying it before it can do anything because they have so many actions they can collectively take each round.  That way a legendary monster is attacking the characters just as many times as they are attacking it.

In 3.5, there are a greater variety of actions. There are “full-round actions,” “free actions” (that function the same as the 5e classification of the same name), “standard actions,” “move actions,” “swift actions,” “immediate actions,” and the dubious titled “no action.” “Move actions” and “standard actions” are basically the same as 5th edition’s “movement” and “action” classifications. A “swift action” is similar to a reaction, but on your turn. It is used for certain types of spells or activating certain magic items. An “immediate action” is a specific subset of “swift actions” that can be used at any time, even when it isn’t your turn. The “no action” is used for minor shifts of footing (like turning in the space you already occupy) or for delaying your entire turn until a different time. The “full-round action” is a type of action that uses all of your other actions at once to do something big like cast a difficult spell or perform a few attacks at once.

From almost the very first levels of 3.5, characters have access to things that use all of their action types. While the number of things they can do with these actions is limited, a clever player can find a way to put them all to use. As the players level up, the opportunities provided by all of these actions only increases. The only thing preventing individual turns at later levels from lasting forever is how difficult it can be to parse through the actions available to a character and which actions are used by what abilities. The rules are often open to interpretation or buried deep in a seemingly unrelated section. The balance is that since most people can’t figure out how to exploit the action variety in 3.5, it usually never becomes a problem. While certain monsters can make use the variety of actions available, most cannot. Without legendary actions, most big, solo monsters are at even more of a risk than their 5e counterparts because they only get to attack once their turn and can be quickly killed before they have a chance to attack plenty of people. 3.5 counters this somewhat by giving solo monsters abilities to damage lots of people or have a chance to take people out of the fight temporarily.

As a DM, I prefer the simpler 5e action economy. Each action is its own thing and cannot be turned into a different action type. In 3.5, there is an action hierarchy and bigger actions can be used to get an extra action of a smaller type. A standard action can become any other kind of action, while a move action can become a swift action or immediate action. This means that a lot of tracking needs to happen so I can make sure my players aren’t abusing the system by taking multiple swift actions when they shouldn’t be able to do so. The action economy gets incredibly complicated once people start trading actions around or using abilities to change things so that something that’s usually a standard action now happens twice as a swift action.

The longer I play 5th edition, the more I consider swapping to use only that system. I’d miss the variety and options I have in 3.5, but it would make my individual sessions much easier to run. I’ll probably never leave 3.5 because I want to tell a good story more than anything, but I can dream.

Saturday Morning Musing

Rejection is hard. Few people enjoy it. I spent all of last weekend resting because of it. I did my first submission of 2018 and got a form email rejecting my submissions, so I decided to spend my weekend reading, gaming, and resting.

Rejection is something I’m still not used to facing. It has become familiar, but I don’t know that it will ever become something I am used to. I’ve faced it numerous times, as a writer and in other parts of my life. I didn’t exactly spend the four years between my relationships not asking women out. I didn’t just quietly hate my old job and the way things worked at my old company. I’m an action-oriented person. I do things. I ask people out, take risks, and try to affect change when I think it needs to happen. I submit at least one creative piece a month, and used to apply to any conference I thought was relevant in college. I have seen a lot of rejection and I’ve gotten good at processing it.

I was actually planning to not submit anything this year. I’ve got a lot on my plate with daily blog update, trying to figure out how twitter works (I think I’ve gotten the first couple steps down, but tips are always welcome!), and trying to get back into the swing of working on my books. There isn’t much time in there for me after you factor in my job, self-care like sleep and working out, and dating. But I guess I’m back to it? There’s no reason not to submit if I’ve got a contest or magazine and something appropriate sitting in the wings. Except, you know, rejection.

These days, rejection is a lot like a bee sting. It is painful and uncomfortable, but hardly fatal (I’m not allergic, so the analogy works for me) and the pain will diminish as time passes. Before long, all you remember is that you were stung. That’s what these rejections were. Painful and not something I wanted four of at once, but I handled it fine and I’m alright now. Honestly, the most frustrating part, and the only thing with any emotional bite left to it, is the lack of feedback.

Feedback is super useful when getting rejected because it means the reader like your stuff enough to make suggestions, even if it wasn’t what they were looking for. I don’t remember where I read it, but someone wrote that the process of getting published follows a pattern. First, you get form rejections. Then, once you have improved your craft, you start getting rejections with feedback. After that, you start getting a few small acceptances mixed into the rejections with feedback.

I know the above process is hardly something I can count on and not even an unlikely expectation, but it still sucks to not have gained anything from the stress and work of preparing something for submission and submitting. As annoyed as I felt, I felt even worse for my friend who had written an entire short story to submit and gotten a form rejection. I just took some poems, wrestled with my doubts, cleaned them up, and sent them off. Took about five or so hours, all told. My alpha reader spent several days working on this story, getting feedback, and turning it into something I honestly thought was a perfect fit.

While I didn’t enjoy it, I am thankful for this rejection. It forced me to slow down and take a break. I keep myself running at a high level of stress to maintain my focus, but I have a tendency to not let go of my tension when I need a break. I hold onto it and ruin my ability to enjoy whatever rest I’m allowing myself. Thanks to the rejection, I’m spending more time on taking care of myself and prioritizing doing things to recharge. I had someone contact me via my blog to recommend a game and I started playing that last weekend. I’m loving the game so far and enjoying having something super rewarding and engaging to invest my time in. I’m planning to review it for next week’s review day, so hang tight and you’ll get to read about a game that wound up being thematically appropriate to me and my life right when I started playing it.

The rejection sucked. The rest was good. Today, I feel more ready for the future than I’ve felt in well over a year. I am doing new things every week, constantly expanding my capabilities, and improving myself. I’m just over two months into 2018 and I really feel like this is going to be my year. I don’t know what it will bring, but I’m ready for it.

Oathbringer is Breaking the Pattern.

I really enjoy Brandon Sanderson’s writing. I haven’t yet read even half of what he’s written, but I discovered him through his completion of the Wheel of Time series and have been a fan ever since. While my enjoyment of his writing hasn’t quite reached the level of my love for Terry Pratchett or Patrick Rothfuss, I would still rank him among my favorite authors. My love of Pratchett and Rothfuss comes as a result of their craft and their characters while my love of Sanderson’s writing comes from the interesting and different worlds he has created. When I first started reading his Stormlight Archive series, I was instantly hooked on the way his world differed from our own. All of the creatures and the lands were different because of the enormous storms that visited most of the world, so everything either had some kind of rocky shell or carapace to protect it from the storms and weather.

While he doesn’t do as much world-building as he did in the first book, I’m still enjoying his series. The latest, Oathbringer, was just as exciting as the previous two, following a few main characters as they try to deal with the horrible storm that sprang up at the end of the previous book. Despite the early warnings coming from the protagonists’ group, most of the world doesn’t believe them and is thus caught unaware when all the shelters they have built to protect them from the normal storms fail to protect them from a storm coming from the opposite direction. While a lot of the previous novels was a mixture of action, character development, and political intrigue, this novel saves a lot of the action and character development for the end. Instead, most of the novel is a little on the dryer side, covering lots of history, some new perspectives and characters, some character development focused on one person in particular, and tons of politics.

Initially, I was surprised by the amount of people in my various social media feeds commenting that Oathbringer was rather slow and not as fun as the previous two books. After reading the book, I can kind of understand. I don’t agree, but I recognize that this book is a bit of a departure from his usual constant world-building with action to move the scenes along. I think that this book is important proof that Sanderson is going to be able make this potentially ten-book series a success. Plus, he’s managed to do it very well, mixing in plenty of interesting information that, while somewhat predictable in terms of plot and outcomes, does an amazing job of fleshing out people and the world. I really enjoy the sense of history this book has added to the series. It answered so many questions that I’d had since the start of the series and even threw in a couple twists I did not see coming at all. They caught me entirely off-guard and that was wonderful.

While the book’s major plot twist was unexpected, it was also kind of expectedly unexpected. Sanderson intentionally paints the characters into the corner, making it seem like they have no choice but to give in or surrender to the bad guys, because making something happen. Most of the time, it is only unexpected because it adds some new world mechanic or gives us some rule or information we didn’t have previously. There’s always some foreshadowing to pick out in retrospect and he always does a good job of laying the groundwork so whatever happens never feels entirely like a Deus Ex Machina, but there are a few close calls during some of the big moments (and that’s not just restricted to this book). I don’t mind it too much, but it can feel a bit annoying to have all this build up of a dramatic moment happening while you’re just reading along calmly because you know they’re going to magically get out of the tight spot using some brand new power or mechanic that develops right then. The best thing I can say in Sanderson’s defense is that he literally built that mechanic, the spontaneous power-up and new power moments, into this series.

I definitely recommend the book and the series as a whole because they’re honestly just so much fun to read. They move along well, are easy to read, and there’s just so much interesting stuff happening that they’re hard to put down.


NaNoWriMo Day 7 (11/07)

Well, I’m officially further behind now. Another evening of video games (Destiny 2 and Overwatch) means little writing was done. I did a bit, thankfully, so I’ve managed to hold on to my “write every day” goal, but tonight looks like it won’t be any more productive. I’ve got D&D this evening and I realized this morning that I never actually prepared the dungeon my players are investigating. Sure, they started it last session (which was a while ago), but starting a dungeon is WAY easier to wing than doing a whole dungeon.

Because of my daily blog updates, I’m guaranteed to get writing in every day. That’s certainly helpful, but it also means that I need to write 2200 words a day to stay on schedule. More, now that I need to catch up. Given that I’ve got a lot of commitments coming up, I’m not sure that I’m going to be able to take much time on the weekend to catch up either. Part of me wants to give in because, even after 5500 words, I’m still kind of hating my story, not mention the whole “half the words I should have written by now” thing.

That being said, I feel its important to acknowledge that I hate my story because it’s about aspects of life that I find challenging. All of my reading and video game escapism is to escape exactly the things that I’m writing about. I have to go into my head, where all my worst problems exist in their strongest forms, and get close enough to them to write about them without getting so close that I get caught up by them. It’s a very fine line and, as I found out Sunday, getting caught in them has consequences that last for days.

Writing can be dangerous. I can’t try to ignore my problems if I have to walk among them. My mind is my strongest ally and my most dangerous foe. It provides me the weapons to fight back while supplying the energy my problems need to wear me down. I am my biggest problem.

This reflection on living with mental illness has been brought to you by National Novel Writing Month: “an incessant reminder that everything has a cost.”

Gee, this would up being way more maudlin than I intended.


Daily Prompt

Most people enjoy action. A good action sequence can take place in almost any kind of story because there’s so much than can cause an action sequence to unfold. Chase scenes, fight scenes, races of all kinds, sports, shootouts, head-to-head combat via video games, and more! Write an action scene for your character today. They don’t need to be the primary actor in the sequence, but they should be observing it.


Sharing Inspiration

As a not-typically-cheerful person, I’ve often struggled with our culture’s focus on the common interpretation of what the founding fathers called “the pursuit of happiness.” As creators in general, we’re often not prone to being the most cheerful sorts. We all have our bouts of melancholy or severe/crippling periods of depression (Ha ha ha…). When I start to feel like the pressure to embrace this undefinable idea of “being happy,” I often turn toward The Oatmeal for my dose of cynical–often scatological–humor to remind me that life isn’t always about being happy and that, sometimes, all that matters is to feel energized and content. I suggest you check it out (this comic, specifically) if you’re struggling to feel alright with being unhappy.


Helpful Tips

Writing can be a difficult task when so much competes for our attention every time we sit down at our computers. If you’re having trouble focusing, I definitely recommend turning off the internet for a while. Disconnect your computer from the wi-fi or landline, turn your phone on airplane mode, and turn off any other devices. Turn off your second monitor (if you’ve got one), load up some CDs or setup your iPod, and then just get to work. Eliminating distractions can help you push to reach higher word count goals in less time.