Tag: recommendations

Chalion

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion series of medieval fantasy based on historical Spain is comprised of three books (The Curse of Chalion, The Paladin of Souls, and The Hallowed Hunt) and some novellas (haven’t read these yet) all set in the same world. They all stand alone, which is notable as I’ve been reading a lot of first-book-in-a-series lately, and it was so nice to read something with an actual beginning, middle, and ending. It was also wonderful to read something with active, capable characters who could keep up with the implication of events in their own world and actually even beat me to figuring some things out. Bujold’s writing is a delight and her characters are real, flawed people who are easy to root for. The world also feels very real, too, likely bolstered by the fact that, unlike a lot of the YA fantasy we’ve done, it doesn’t carefully tiptoe around things like the existence of homosexuality and abortion or the consequences of rape and war.

Also!!! Paladin of Souls has a character who’s fat but it’s not a character flaw!!! I’ve literally never seen this in a fantasy novel before, the only time his weight comes up as anything but a neutral physical descriptor is toward the end where it’s noted that after some times trapped under siege he’s thinner and it’s sad because it shows how much he’s been through.

Oddly, this series seems to get sold as romance, which is weird because it’s… not. Especially for medieval fantasy where who-marries-who court-style stuff is usually a big focus, it lacked romance. It’s really weird, kind of the opposite of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which was sold as straight fantasy but was actually romantic fantasy.

Also, as a final pre-jump aside, despite these being excellent fantasy, Bujold is actually known for her space opera series, to the point that it got her a lifetime achievement award at last year’s Hugos, and if you follow the sidebar, you may know space opera bores me to tears. I’d be curious to hear if any fans of the genre are familiar with her series.

Anyway.

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Shadowrun Returns, Shadowrun: Dragonfall and Shadowrun: Hong Kong

You know how long-running horror franchises would inevitably have an installment set IN SPACE in a desperate attempt to cling to life by introducing a superficial new element that doesn’t actually fit the genre? Well, Shadowrun is an old TRPG that can be accurately described as cyberpunk but WITH MAGIC. In 2012 magic came back, a large percentage of people turned into various fantasy races, many animals mutated into mythological beasts, people learned to summon and bind spirits of nature, dragons awoke from their millennia-long slumber and decided that running corporations is a good substitute for hoarding gold. Meanwhile, technology advanced in a classic cyberpunk fashion: prosthetics enhancing your abilities beyond human limits, cybernetic implants allowing full-immersion link to cyberspace inventively called the Matrix, etc.

These events resulted in a weakening and sometimes outright collapse of governments, with corporations essentially taking their place and running the world in an orgy of wild capitalism.

The game takes its name after shadowrunners, the presumed PCs, who are essentially freelance black books operatives hired by various corporations, organized crime syndicates and individual clients as deniable assets to do various shady jobs.

Honestly, my knowledge of the setting is rather limited, and I would appreciate someone chiming in on it. From what I’ve seen of it, it feels that sometimes Shadowrun strikes gold in its design (like how it has literal lizard people dragons – a classic metaphor for greed and malice – essentially running the world through corporate proxies) and other times it’s content to just throw “awesome” concepts together (Magic! Cyberware! Matrix! Samurai!) with little regard to creating a thematically-coherent whole.

But anyway, apparently there are three relatively new RPGs set in this setting, and I’ve decided to check them out. They are… pretty solid, actually.

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Night in the Woods

This game is really good and you should play it. I cried so many times. It’s a bit small for a $20 game, but definitely pick it up if there’s a sale.

I briefly mentioned Night in the Woods during my review of Always Sometimes Monsters, and I think it’s time to go a bit more in-depth on that. Night in the Woods is an amazing example of how to do realistic right. It doesn’t just have realism, it has verisimilitude. The whole story, from beginning to end, is amazingly, painfully real, not because of cynicism and darkness, but because of sentimentality and hope. I saw myself and the people I know in these characters and their relationships over and over again. This is a story about finding something to cling to in a world that’s falling apart, which I think is something a lot of people need right now — and the ending is eerily topical for something that started development in 2013.

Also, Demontower is super fun and the central mechanic is really clever.

Only thing you need to know that the game isn’t very clear about: whoever you hang out with on the first day, stick with them through the rest of the game.

Feel free to use this as a discussion post.

Sugar Sugar Rune

Anno Moyoco has quickly become one of my favorite mangaka. Sugar Sugar Rune is her shoujo series, and while not anywhere near as serious as works like Sakuran and In Clothes Called Fat, it has the kind of messages I’d expect from her having read her josei works. SSR is big on critiquing femininity but manages to do so without throwing women under the bus, which is really great. It’s also something of a reverse-harem setup, which is extremely rare. The plotting and worldbuilding flounder at the end, but if you like shoujo or have a girl who you think would be into manga, this is an excellent starting point.

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Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines

Let’s crack the posting champagne with a recommendation!

I really, really enjoyed this game. It’s not just an excellent wRPG but one of the best I’ve ever played, with a really unique setting and lots of choices that effect the outcome. Just some good fun. It also did weirdly well with women for a game that came out in 2004, though it definitely still had some issues, most notably with sex-based slurs and having a sexuality that was solidly aimed at straight men.

(That said — that the players was presumed male meant that if you played as the female PC, your character was 100% a lesbian — she had no interest in men whatsoever and hit on all of the women. I shipped my character and VV pretty hard, ngl.) (more…)

Yggdra Union

I was once again incredibly surprised by this series. This is an excellent game, and if you’re a tRPG fan I highly recommend it. It shines in the way it explores the moral complexity of war, the nature of just war, and the effect conflicts of the elite have on civilians. The game was also remarkably egalitarian, both in costume design and gender ratio. The art style was pretty odd, but it grew on me and I think it gave the game a unique atmosphere overall.

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Atelier Ayesha: Alchemist of the Dusk

I liked this game a lot. The way the story petered out at the end as a sequel hook was disappointing, and as always I wish there was more free time to explore the world, but overall it’s a super solid entry into the series, and it’s more plot-heavy than anything in the Arland trilogy. It tries to be a more traditional jRPG, I think, with decent success, and if you liked the other games you’ll like this, though I don’t think it will convert anyone. (more…)

Sugar Candy Bullets Can’t Pierce Anything

This was a short light novel that I would definitely recommend. It doesn’t do anything groundbreaking, but the characters are likable and it tells its story well.

Because I use my time wisely, I compiled the original file — which was hundreds of png images — into pdfs. The full file is here, and you can get it in four parts for your Kindle or whatever here. (more…)

Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland

A13 English Logo

This may have been the strongest game in the Arland trilogy, at least from a gameplay perspective. I also found Meruru to be really likeable, loved the idea of a princess working to better her kingdom, and thought her outfit with its adorable, practical little bloomers was super cute.

edit: Disclaimer: Wrote this when I was off my meds and kind of whatever the opposite of high is. BUT YOU CAN’T MAKE ME REDO IT HAHAHAHA

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