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BookLog 2010.04.14 — Bonk by Mary Roach — Hackmaster Basic from Kenzer and Co — Pathfinder by Paizo —

I’ve picked up a pile of books lately, but haven’t had much in the way of time to read them. I’m in the middle of writing a module for Labyrinth Lord, I’ve been trying to go to the gym (and playing hookie as I write this), and I’m plotting a special getaway next week with someone, all of which eats time. I’m going to continue reading Bonk by Mary Roach I think. I put the book down a few chapters in just after I moved back to Bakersfield and never got back to it. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t get back to it, its actually a pretty good read, and well worth getting back to. I find myself enamored with her right on the face of it style of writing, she doesn’t take the attitude that the science of sex has always been 100% above board, or the attitude that its entirely sleezy. The first chapter very honestly and openly talks about the nature and controversy of early sexual research, and the “lets bring a bunch of students round to my place” attitude of some researchers, while at the same time making it clear that a semi-serious study of human sexual biology and culture answers very important questions about who we are and who we want to be. Illustrations mark each chapter, although not in any significant way. While there were a couple that really stand out (an image of a farmer stimulating a pig sticks in my mind) generally speaking its not a strong point of the book and was done strictly for presentation. I”ll write more when I’ve actually read the entirety of the book, but so far I’d have to say its well worth picking up.

As you can no doubt tell from my OSR Podcast I am an avid fan of “Old School” role-playing games, these were games published between the 70′s to early 90′s that, due to being groundbreaking new concepts at the time, generally had a very rules-lite/intellect-heavy feel to them. These were games with which you could pretty much adapt any historical on fantasy text into source material for play. Publishers moved to more marketable fields as they started having to compete with Computer games, and while I’ve always held this to have been a mistake, I’ve never been able to bring myself to calling these games bad, just that they weren’t games I had any interest in playing. Well my interest has been peeking as of late and as such I’ve picked up two new books, one the modest page count, but large format paperback Hackmaster Basic from Kenzer and Co, and the massive tomb Pathfinder from Paizo publishing.

Hackmaster is the product of years of dedicated mockery. Hackmaster had its start as the name of an entirely fictional Dungeons and Dragons game. Because despite appearing in a licensed D&D publication (Dragon Magazine) Knights of the Dinner Table [4] was not actually licensed to use TSR’s properties. Being a spin-off of the Knights of the Dinner Table comic strip, the game had its start as a fairly decent lampooning of classic Dungeons and Dragons, but with some interesting rules mechanics, and in Hackmaster basic the game takes on a slightly more serious demeanor. For starters the game is written in very arrogant prose within the fictional identity of Gary Jackson, a man who is for the Knights of the Dinner Table game design team what the Gorillaz are for the artists collaborating. The arrogant prose is funny at first, but thankfully lightens later in the text or it would get tiresome. The game bills itself as having that Old School feel, and to be honest it does read like those classic games I love soo soo much, but it also adds a little more crunch than you’d see in any of the real classic D&D retro-clones, still it is the first game of this style that really makes good use of slight vagaries of ability points, and overall I think it’ll make for some fondly remembered evenings of dragon slaying and treasure stealing. One thing I do wish was there, or at least available as an expansion, was a full description of the earlier editions setting Garweeze Wurld, or even an overview of the later editions setting Kingdoms of Kalamar, instead the game is presented in a rules only format with very little setting material, although some discussion of hot to game, and an entire chapter on dice that you’ll probably only read for a laugh once.

Paizo who by the by Sell the above Hackmasters print edition,were the publishers of Dragon Magazine, Dungeon Magazine, and with the coming of d20 various other materials for Dungeons and Dragons until the coming of 4th edition and the end of their license to publish Dragon magazine. At that time they found themselves in a bit of an odd situation, due to new licensing and player disinterest in the new edition they had little interest in continuing along Wizards of the Coasts chosen path, but at the same time they had adventure paths for the third edition that were doing very well, so they used the D20 srd and built up their own game that takes off where D&D 3.5 left off. Calling themselves (unofficially) 3.75 they’ve cleaned up alot of the rules, simplified where possible, and generally created a massive volume that holds all the basic rules you’ll need (sans monster descriptions) to play, and can be used to beat bullies to a bloody pulp with. I’m not exaggerating when I say this is the biggest Role Playing book I’ve ever owned, while its about the same thickness as Shadowruns third edition (a terrible investment since they came out with a fourth edition nearly immediately after) its definitely a taller and wider form factor. Its worth the price of admission, I don’t generally play the sort of “fantasy superhero’s” style that 3rd edition focuses on, but occasionally it could be fun.

Stepping back from my nerdgasm, I have recently come to posses a rather large pile of WW2 books from my grandfathers stash, adding to my already full literary backlog. Most of these books have found a nice cool home in my storage space, while a select few have taken up residence in my room awaiting a good read. Back to work I suppose.


Categorised as: BookLog | Reviews



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