List of Robert Jordan Fantasy Books, including The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan

The last three books of the series are co-written by Brandon Sanderson because Robert Jordan died in 2007 before completing the series.

1. The Eye of the World (January 15, 1990)
2. The Great Hunt (November 15, 1990)
3. The Dragon Reborn (October 15, 1991)
4. The Shadow Rising (September 15, 1992)
5. The Fires of Heaven (October 15, 1993)
6. Lord of Chaos (October 15, 1994)
7. A Crown of Swords (May 15, 1996)
8. The Path of Daggers (October 20, 1998)
9. Winter's Heart (November 9, 2000)
10. Crossroads of Twilight (January 7, 2003)
11. Knife of Dreams (October 11, 2005)
12. The Gathering Storm (October 27, 2009) coauthored by Sanderson
13. Towers of Midnight (November 2, 2010) coauthored by Sanderson
14. A Memory of Light (January 8, 2013) coauthored by Sanderson

There are also 3 companion books to the series...

The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time

  • By Robert Jordan and Teresa Patterson


The Wheel of Time Companion

  • By Robert Jordan, Harriet McDougal, Alan Romanczuk, and Maria Simons


Patterns of the Wheel: Coloring Art Based on Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time 

  • By Robert Jordan and Amy Romanczuk

 

Conan the Barbarian

Robert Jordan also wrote 7 Conan books (based on the titular Sword and Sorcery character created by Robert E. Howard). They include:

  1. Conan the Invincible (1982)
  2. Conan the Defender (1982)
  3. Conan the Unconquered (1983)
  4. Conan the Triumphant (1983)
  5. Conan the Magnificent (1984)
  6. Conan the Destroyer (1984)
  7. Conan the Victorious (1984)

 

Warrior of Altaii

This is Robert Jordan's very first novel, which is less well known. He supposedly wrote the 98,000 word first draft in just 13 days during the 1970s, but the book wasn't published until over 40 years later because it sat in publishing hell for decades. The rights had been purchased and later returned to the author, but the book wasn't printed until 2019 (12 years after Robert Jordan's death).

The book follows the adventures of Wulfgar, a warrior of the Altaii people, who is a Conan-esque character in a world of magic, prophets and royalty.

 


Robert Jordan also wrote a number of non-fantasy books, but they're not listed here.

Character Deaths and TPKs in Dungeons and Dragons

During my recent Friday 2nd Edition D&D game one of the PCs died through no fault of his own.

He died because a different party member went off on their own to explore the dungeon solo. This is an inherently deadly problem. What if you run into something that you cannot handle on your own?

The kind of monster that can potentially kill a character with only 2 or 3 hits, and is pretty good at hitting.

This is what happened on Friday.

  1. While one PC was changing into new plate mail armour (which takes about 10 rounds to do) the party cleric went off to explore on their own in a haunted keep.
  2. They encountered a ghost, one of the biggest monsters within the keep, which ages a target 10 to 40 years per successful hit. (A character hit multiple times can potentially die from old age.)
  3. After they heard screaming, the party rushed to help the cleric... but one of their best fighters was still changing into his new armour.
  4. The disorganized party isn't able to work effectively because they were not prepared for this fight. They are split even when they do leap into action.
  5. The cleric cast Sanctuary, effectively protecting themselves from the ghost.
  6. The ghost proceeded to attack one of the bigger fighters in the party who was closest. They scored two hits, aging the fighter for 40 years each time.
  7. The biggest fighter died at the age of 105 years old, going from age 25 to 105 in mere minutes.
  8. The party later defeated the ghost, but they have suffered a horrific and unnecessary loss.

The ghost encounter is meant to be a hard battle, but if the entire party is present and prepared they should suffer minimal damage / aging.

But when you add splitting the party to the mix, suddenly that encounter becomes deadly.

Hence the saying (and the song):

"Never split the party."


The same player unfortunately bore the brunt of a similar incident a month ago when the party failed to navigate a lava fissure. They were using a safety rope, with someone with an 18 Strength holding the rope... But they character jumping over the lava fissure failed their jump check, and the PC holding the safety rope failed their Strength check to hold the rope. The chances of them both failing was one in 200, so highly unlikely (0.5%), but when it comes to deadly hazards people should be far more cautious.

Ask yourself, would YOU get on an airplane that has a 0.5% chance of crashing and killing you? Of course not. It is an unnecessary risk. But in Dungeons and Dragons players often assume they will be just fine and that the odds are in their favour, which it was, but eventually your luck can run out.

Now there are other ways the party could have have solved this particular terrain hazard.

  1. Tie the rope to a door handle. A solid door would bear the weight of the person jumping no problem.
  2. Build a bridge over the lava fissure. (I ran this dungeon once before and this is what the other party did. They used wood from broken wine barrels to build a bridge.)
  3. Solve the problem using magic. Possibly by using a spell like Stone Shape or something similar to build a bridge.
  4. Any number of other methods.

But these things happen sometimes when adventuring parties take unnecessary risks.

I am reminded of a different game from about a decade ago when the party was climbing an icy mountain, and they split the party and tried climbing it using different routes up the mountain occupied by baddies. So not only were they dealing with dangerous icy falls, there were enemies attacking them, and they split the party. Three characters died that day because they didn't take precautions (using ropes/etc) and they split the party. It was nearly a party wipe.

What I have learned however is that when you run a deadly campaign it brings out the problem solving in the group where every hazard and obstacle is dealt with more finesse, and splitting the party eventually becomes a rarity. Sometimes there are hiccups when the party makes a mistake...

Like failing to rest before running into a boss fight, and that can lead to PCs dying or even a TPK (the failing to rest example I am thinking of did lead to a TPK). When a party gets a chance to rest, and they're not in a hurry, they should always rest - even within a dungeon. Especially before a boss fight.

The failing to rest before a boss fight thing could always happen again too. All it takes is for the majority of the party to say "Yeah, let's keep going. We don't need to rest right now."

That is one of those mistakes players will make when they're low on hit points, low on spells, but they are not taking the danger seriously. Possibly because they've never had a TPK before.

For those who don't know a TPK stands for Total Party Kill. Everyone dies.

TPKs are very rare.

In order for a TPK to happen the DM needs to be running a deadly campaign (not pulling any punches or bending the rules to make sure the PCs survive) and the party needs to collectively make a huge mistake. Eg. Not resting to recuperate, rushing into a den of vampires unprepared, attacking something they know is too big for them to handle, etc.

So I think the party needs to have a chat about this issue. Everyone knows I run a deadly campaign, but now that they know that and have seen 2 character deaths in one month they need to start planning out their actions more carefully.

That doesn't mean they cannot take unnecessary risks, but there are such a thing as mitigating those risks. Eg. If the cleric hadn't wandered off, that would have been a much better solution. Alternatively, if the cleric really wanted to go off on their own they should have cast Sanctuary first... But even then that would be putting themselves at risk for traps or other hazards, and was not a guaranteed protection against monsters.

How to Read the Binary Alphabet in 5 Minutes

The Binary Alphabet is pretty easy to learn, but first you need to know what you are looking for. Each binary letter (or number) is an 8 digit code of 0s and 1s. To make it visually easier for you to recognize I have split the 8 digit code down the middle.

0110 0001 = a (for math reference 0000 0001 = 1)

0110 0010 = b (for math reference 0000 0010 = 2)

0110 0011 = c (because 1+2 = 3, so a+b = c)

0110 0100 = d (for math reference 0000 0100 = 4)

0110 0101 = e

See the pattern? Each letter in the alphabet starts with 011 and the 0s and 1s that follow indicate the number of the letter in the alphabet based upon math. When you reach 0111 0000 then it is a p or higher letter which means that when you see the first 0110 or 01111 it indicates whether it is at the beginning or the end of the alphabet. Otherwise you might confuse your Js with your Zs, so to speak.

The numbers in binary are coded in a similar way, starting with 0000 0000 for 0, 0000 0001 for 1, etc.

That's it. Binary isn't complicated. It just requires a little bit of math. A 5 year old can learn binary because it is really that easy. Someone who learns how to read binary can get so good at it that they just look at the numbers of 0s and 1s and instantly recognize the numbers, letters or symbols.

If you want to stretch your nerd muscles you can people's questions with:

0110 1110 0110 1111 or 0111 1001 0110 0101 0111 0011

Of course, doing so... Some people will think you're insane. Or a huge dork. Or be really impressed.

Binary isn't just for computer dorks either.

Binary technically predates the invention of computers. The modern binary number system, the basis for binary code, was invented by German polymath Gottfried Leibniz in 1689.

What is a polymath?

A polymath is a person who has studied many different subjects and has an extensive knowledge of many subjects. Basically a polymath is another term for someone who is very nerdy. Similar to a polyglot (a person who speaks many languages).

Well, now that you've learned how to read the Binary Alphabet, you can add that as one of the languages you speak/read. Did that take less than 5 minutes? Yes, yes it did.

Speaking in binary code takes a long time however, so maybe only use that when you really want to show off to other nerds.

Dune, the Danger of Messiahs, and Fans

 


 Dune is finally out and Part One is good.

So there. That's my official film review. The movie is good. I am looking forward to Part Two when the main character, Paul, will start leaning into the messiah legend and taking advantage of it.

Oh wait...

SPOILER ALERT... STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOKS.

Paul is the messiah or is he?

Well... It is complicated.

Paul is the messiah, or the pretend messiah, or the pretend messiah is the messiah. Does it matter? But more importantly, Paul eventually becomes the villain.

Which will make Game of Thrones / Danaerys Targaryen fans feel that similar sense of betrayal when they realize the main character becomes the villain.

Wait... Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader? What?! No! You're ruining my childhood!

Seriously.

Get used to it people.

The best villains are the ones you learn to love first and then later learn to hate. Did you really think "the Mother of Dragons" was supposed to be a good character? She goes on her to quest to get the Iron Throne for what reason exactly? For vengeance? Conquest? Because she's a nice person? Definitely not the latter. She wants to conquer the world.

Paul, for all niceness, is a character bent on vengeance. He uses the tools, weapons and people at his disposal in order to achieve that vengeance. That is his primary motivation.

If you haven't read the books then you should go read them. Or read a synopsis for each book.

The new fans of the film(s) will be anxiously awaiting the 2nd film (Dune Part Two), which is already scheduled for October 20th 2023. So roughly 2 years from now. Which is plenty of time to read the books...


And even if you have already read the books, now is a good time to dust them off and reread the Dune series.

The books are: 

  1. Dune (by Frank Herbert)
  2. Dune Messiah (by Frank Herbert)
  3. Children of Dune (by Frank Herbert)
  4. God Emperor of Dune (by Frank Herbert)
  5. Heretics of Dune (by Frank Herbert)
  6. Chapterhouse: Dune (by Frank Herbert)
  7. Hunters of Dune (by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson)
  8. Sandworms of Dune (by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson)
  9. Sands of Dune [coming in 2022] (by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson)

Yep. You read that last one correctly. There is a new Dune book coming out June 28th 2022, which is co-authored by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. So thanks to the new film being a financial success we could be looking at the start of a film franchise with 10+ films that lasts most of the 2020s and 2030s.

Which will make fans of the books (and the films) really happy if the film series becomes super successful.

Is Dune Science Fiction or Fantasy???

It is both. It is also a Space Opera. Like Star Wars. The sandworms are basically the Dune equivalent of dragons (aka wyrms). Magic, the Force, the Weirding Way... similar concepts. So yes, Dune is both science fiction and fantasy (and a space opera).

I expect to hear a lot of silly people arguing about this over the coming years. So let's just get that out of the way now.



Thieves' World, The Shared Fantasy World

Thieves' World is a series of anthology books featuring thieves (for the most part) set in the same shared world, with a variety of authors contributing to it.

Created in 1978 by Robert Lynn Asprin, Thieves' World is a shared world fantasy series that gained popularity during the 1980s and has since garnered a following. The original series comprised twelve anthologies, but new anthologies have been coming out in recent years.

All of the stories take place in the city of Sanctuary, which is  located at the edge of the Rankan Empire. Many of the people in Sanctuary are downtrodden and as such many people have turned to thievery to make ends meet. Religions are competing for supremacy, invasions of the city happen over the course of the various anthologies, and at one point the city is conquered by the snake-worshipping Beysib when the Rankan empire collapsed. Some of the characters are basically demigods (similar to Hercules), being the offspring of various gods from the different religions.

The first anthology was published in 1979, the series continued until it went on hiatus in 1989 after the twelfth anthology. In addition to the anthologies some authors have published novels and novellas in the setting of Thieves' World.

Starting in 2002, Lynn Abbey, who co-edited several of the original anthologies, relaunched the series with the novel Sanctuary, which was followed by the anthologies Turning Points and Enemies of Fortune (see my video above). Some of the older authors returned and several new ones were added. Abbey also oversaw the republication of the original anthologies in omnibus editions because the original books were out of print and difficult to find.

The Anthologies

  1. Thieves' World (1979)
  2. Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn (1980)
  3. Shadows of Sanctuary (1981)
  4. Storm Season (1982)
  5. The Face of Chaos (1983)
  6. Wings of Omen (1984)
  7. The Dead of Winter (1985)
  8. Soul of the City (1986)
  9. Blood Ties (1986)
  10. Aftermath (1987)
  11. Uneasy Alliances (1988)
  12. Stealers' Sky (1989)
  13. Turning Points (2002)
  14. Enemies of Fortune (2004)

There are also novels, novellas, short stories and comic books set in Thieves' World. So there is a lot more out there to potentially read if someone wants to.

Book Review: Bastion by Mercedes Lackey

The following video is a book review of Mercedes Lackey's book "Bastion".



And my phone started to get full so the video was cut short... so here is part 2 of 2. 


 

Twas an enjoyable book, but the lack of action during the first 300 pages of filler / fluff was rather disappointing. I was expecting more from Mercedes Lackey.

The lack of a central villain (with a name) was also problematic. Twelve nameless assassins just felt like the book was missing a villain which the reader could really love to hate.

Eg. Voldemort is a good villain that people love to hate (as opposed to Severus Snape, whom readers just plain love now that we know his full backstory, who only felt like he was villain during the first 6 books of the Harry Potter franchise.)

The Collegium Chronicles series of books isn't going to be made into a TV show or a film series, that much is certain. It isn't boring. It is technically enjoyable, but there is a lot of fluff.

As a fan of Mercedes Lackey this ended up being a disappointing read.

2nd Edition AD&D Exorcist Class

Okay, so let me start by saying I have a rather unusual problem that necessitated me making an Exorcist class for 2nd Edition AD&D. I am writing a novel titled "The Exorcist's Dagger" in which one of the main characters is an exorcist, and I realized that I need to define exactly what her powers are as an exorcist.

Furthermore in my world exorcists are not priests. They're not wizards either. So this is not a wizard class or a priest class, but something different. As different as druid is to cleric, except more so. They're just something "different", just like the Taltos class is different from bards or druids. (You can find the Taltos class in Dragon Magazine 247.)

Thus I realized that I needed to create an Exorcist character class for AD&D just so I knew what the abilities and limitations of the character would be in my book. Thus the character class listed below is NOT meant for gaming. It is meant for a book.

So to create this character class I am going to go through the steps outlined in pages 22 and 23 of the 2nd Edition DMG (more or less in order) and see what abilities make sense for my version of the Exorcist class.

#1. What races can be an Exorcist?

Well, I can't really imagine dwarves, gnomes or Habbels (my version of halflings) being exorcists - and the class can do a sort of "spirit magic", so I don't see them doing this. I also don't see elves or minotaurs doing this either. To me the elves and minotaurs would just use clerics if they're having a problem with evil spirits or demons.

So just humans. That gives a class modifier of 0.

#2. What combat value should the Exorcist have?

I imagine they should suck at combat, but not as badly as wizards. So rogue Thac0 works for me. That gives a class modifier of -1.

#3. Saving Throw Table?

I think the Exorcist should be good at saving throws versus possession, so their save versus spell should be fairly good. But they should suck against things like Poison. So the Wizard saving throws is the only one that truly makes sense. Class modifier is 0.

#4. Hit Dice per Level?

I think d6 makes sense. I see an exorcist as being tougher than a wizard, but not as awesome as a priest. Class modifier of 0.75.

#5. Hit Points Beyond 9th Level?

 Not as squishy as wizards, but not as robust as fighters. So 2 hp per level. Class modifier of 1.

#6. Armour allowed?

With their spirit magic in mind I think Exorcists should be able to wear some armour, but not a lot. So the limited AC of 5 or worse makes sense. Class modifier is -0.5

#7. Weapons allowed?

Hmm. Limited sounds good. 4 weapons of my choice that do d6 damage or less. So dagger should be one of them obviously (my book is called "The Exorcist's Dagger" for a reason). I think crossbows also makes sense for an Exorcist, who is a bit of an undead hunter. Quarterstaff, sure, why not... and war hammer (becomes relevant later for the Spiritual Hammer spell). So dagger, quarterstaff, crossbow, war hammer. None of them do more than d6 damage (thanks to crossbows sucking in 2nd Edition... See my custom rules for Crossbows in 5th Edition to see what I mean) and the Exorcist is very limited in their choices. Class modifier is -1.5.

#8. Optional Abilities?

Okay, now we get to the fun part... What abilities should the Exorcist in Korovia have???

Let's make a bucket list of abilities...

  • 3 skill proficiencies (cleric or wizard)
  • 1 weapon proficiency
  • Priest spells (a limited spell list)
  • Wizard spells (a VERY limited spell list)
  • Turn Undead
  • Can use magical items allowed to clerics.
  • No other abilities. No thief skills. Nothing especially useful in combat.

The total class modifiers for this bucket list is... 10.

#9. Restrictions?

Must be lawful, must destroy undead/exorcise demons (even if not being paid for it), cannot own more than 10 magical items (because otherwise it interferes with the spirit magic). Class modifiers is -2.5.

#10 Adding Time...

Adding up all of the class modifiers we get a total of 6.25. So the Exorcist goes up levels at the same speed as a Rogue.

Their primary abilities is that they can use spells and Turn Undead, which means that because Rogues level up faster than Priests that the Exorcist's ability to Turn Undead goes up at a faster rate than clerics, and their spells also go up at a faster rate... But they are very limited in their choice of spells.

So what spells can my Korovian Exorcist actually do?

  • 1st Level: Bless (to create Holy Water), Detect Undead, Exorcism*, Invisibility to Undead, Magical Stone (for destroying undead), Protection from Evil/Good.
  • 2nd Level: Detect Evil, Detect Possession*, Spiritual Hammer.
  • 3rd Level: Hold Undead, Remove Curse, Speak with Dead, Speak with Demon*.
  • 4th Level: Abjure, Protection from Evil/Good 10' Radius.
  • 5th Level: Dismissal, Dispel Evil/Good, Magic Jar, Reverse Magic Jar*.
  • 6th Level: Banishment, Control Undead, Trap the Soul.
  • 7th Level: Astral Spell, Holy Word.

* New spells! See below.

NEW SPELLS

Exorcism - Upon casting this short ritual the Exorcist gains the ability to Turn Demons using their Turn Undead ability for the next 24 hours.

Detect Possession (similar to the 2nd level spell Detect Charm).

Speak with Demon (similar to Speak with Dead).

Reverse Magic Jar (exactly what it sounds like. Automatically reverses the spell when cast. No save.)

NOTES

You may have noticed that the Exorcist has very few wizard spells in their repertoire, but that doesn't mean that the DM/player (or me, the writer) cannot create new spells which are Exorcist specific.

This class isn't very good in combat, as you have probably noticed. This is deliberate. It has some useful spells that are handy at low levels (Magic Stone, Spiritual Hammer, etc), but many of the spells are really only good for dealing with curses, undead or demons.

Exorcists don't actually need a holy symbol to do their magic, nor do they need a spellbook. Instead they learn their knowledge of Exorcism Magic/Spirit Magic from other exorcists (often people who instructed them in the profession), books, conversing with priests and wizards, and building their knowledge gradually over time.

For descriptive purposes in my book the exorcist will be using Ard symbols instead of holy symbols, which they can sketch in the air in front of them using their fingers (similar to Doctor Strange and wizards in the Marvel franchise).

Is the Exorcist's magical abilities divine or arcane? A bit of both. They're spirit magic. The exorcist believes in the existence of various gods, but their power primarily comes from the spirit world, much like how a druid's magic comes from nature instead of from a specific god.

Thus there are different kinds of magic in Korovia.

Arcane Magic (usually used by wizards etc)

Divine Magic (usually used by clerics or priests or the gods themselves)

Nature Magic (usually used by druids, unicorns, fairies, etc)

Spirit Magic (usually used by exorcists, ghosts, etc)

But there are other kinds too like Eldar magic (used by the Eldar Noramir, the entities who created the universe and the world of Aoerth). Eldar magic is so powerful that even the gods have limited ability to use such magic. Only the Eldar Noramir can use it to the fullest extent.

And Ard Magic, which is magic based on symbols, pentagrams, hex markings, evil eye wards, lucky charms, etc. This is a very simplistic form of magic that in theory almost anyone can use if they have the materials needed for making such symbols. However Ard magic is very basic and weak.


Exorcist Class Creation Notes

0    Human Only
-1    Rogue Thac0
0    Wizard Saves
0.75    D6 HD
1    2 hp per level after 9th
-0.5    Limited AC of 5 or worse
-1.5    Limited to 4 weapons of d6 or less
10    Optional Abilities (see list)
-2.5    Restrictions

6.25    Total

The Wulfric the Wanderer Series by Charles Moffat

 


Wulfric the Wanderer: The Portal of Destiny
(May 1, 2020)
by Charles Moffat (Author)
4.6 out of 5 stars (3 Reviews)

Wulfric has grown weary of hunting in the Snowfell Mountains of Korovia and decides to head south, looking for danger and adventure. What he finds however is a portal that takes him back in time to when legendary warriors walked the land, and when great dragons ate warriors like himself as a snack.


The Cult of the She-Bear (Wulfric the Wanderer) (Jan 1, 2021)
by Charles Moffat (Author)
5.0 out of 5 stars (1 Reviews)

Wulfric the Wanderer has traveled back in time to Korovia's Stone Age, when it is on the cusp of the Bronze Age. He has earned the trust and respect of the chieftain Ko Margus, and Wulfric has accepted that he is somehow destined to be trapped in this time period for the time being. But trouble is afoot. The priest of the tribe doesn't trust him and is growing suspicious. Worse, the tribe is being splintered between those who worship the tribe's horse god and a cult within their ranks of those who worship a she-bear goddess.

When the tribe finds megalithic carvings of bears in the side of a mountain the two sides begin to bicker about whether to destroy the carvings. Wulfric decides to investigate the nearby caves and the cave art within, finding more caverns that delve deeper into the mountain. What he doesn't know is that the bear carvings outside are magical wards that prevent a demonic entity inside the mountain from escaping. If the carvings are destroyed the entity will be freed and it will be able to feed once more...





Shifting Shadows in Iztark
(Wulfric the Wanderer) (Mar 1, 2020)
by Charles Moffat (Author) , Charles Moffat (Illustrator)
5.0 out of 5 stars (1 Reviews)

Wulfric the Wanderer has defeated the dark wizards inhabiting the Ivory Tower of Iztark, but upon exiting a strange old man approaches him with the promise of riches if he can assassinate the dark wizard known as Merchant-Lord Phrax Al-Amun. But Phrax's palace and harem full of women is guarded by more than mere mortal guards and the wandering barbarian-turned-assassin will have to battle his way through all manner of dangers and distractions.


Black Monoliths of Al-Kazar (Wulfric the Wanderer) (Sep 7, 2012)
by Charles Moffat (Author)
4.5 out of 5 stars (2 Reviews)

Tahira, Wulfric's great love, is dead and the barbarian from Korovia decides to strike out on his own. His journey brings him to a Quinian trading post on the coast of Al-Kazar... But what he encounters there however is black magic and 'Black Monoliths of Al-Kazar'. Forced into slavery Wulfric the Wanderer must unlock his own rage within the dark abyss of his soul.






The Unbreakable Arrow
(Sep 1, 2020)
by Charles Moffat (Author)
4.6 out of 5 stars (3 Reviews)
The stranger arrived in the village leading a dying injured horse.

The village was nameless, a collection of huts and stone buildings surrounded by the dense trees of an endless forest. The bedraggled people stared out of their hovels at the strange man with his injured horse, many a greedy eye on both of them. The look of desperation in their eyes was also one of hopelessness. These people had seen dark times and had taken to living in the woods to avoid the darkness enveloping much of the world.

The stallion was a dark grey roan and its flanks were speckled with injuries from arrows, presumably from bandits that plagued the road to the west. Most people would have simply slain the horse and put it out of its misery, partially because the meat alone was valuable, but this man did not. He led the horse to the nearest water trough and allowed the steed to drink for a long time before gently pulling the horse away.

The wanderer was tall and broad of shoulder, with a bushy black beard covering a handsome yet roadweary face, with a mane of unkept black hair with hints of grey around the temples. He was dressed simply in blood spattered clothes and carried a similarly blood spattered arming sword on his hip. The bandits would be burying their dead tonight. He had no armour or other weapons to speak of. Just the sword and the clothes on his back.

Further up the road was the stables at the top of the hill, surrounded by immense pine trees. The stranger walked up the rocky hill dense with tall cedar trees, past the blacksmiths pounding away on their forge next to a gully littered with the old bones of deer, elk and woolly rhinos. They were making swords with handles made from antler and ivory.

The stranger had seen such swords before, in the hands of the bandits who had attacked him on the road. The stranger led his horse further up the hill, slowly, almost gingerly. His horse was breathing heavily. When they arrived after much time he paid the stable boy with copper coins out of a hidden pocket.

"I dunno iffen dis horse will be livin' through da night melord," drawled the stableboy, a skinny uneducated lad of perhaps fifteen winters with a face of pimples and pock marks from surviving the pox. "He be lookin' ta drop dead as a doorknob any moment now."

The stranger produced a gold coin from an unknown location. He held it up for the boy to see. "This is the finest and bravest horse I have ever seen. I want you to wrap his wounds with clean linen and make certain he is well fed, groomed and kept warm during the night. If he lives until morning when I return, this coin will be yours. If any horse deserves to live, this horse does." The stranger gave him a small knowing smile, belying an untold story that made the lad curious to learn more. "Now where can I find a place to sleep?"

The stable boy pointed north. "Ye be gonna walk thatta way. When ye see da forest glade wid all da purdy flowers then da inn will be da tall-like building on da right."

The stranger walked north, following a trail through the tall trees and past wooden huts with quiet villagers who were busy worshipping their dark god. This village was not unlike others he had visited recently. These were dark times and whole villages now worshipped foul gods in an effort to stay alive, falsely believing that if they worshipped a dark god that the dark god would spare them from destruction. Dragons and demons roamed the land, and these villagers had made their homes in a thick forest, hiding from the sight of any dragons that might fly over, and praying they did not attract the attention of any wandering demons.

Want to keep reading? Buy the book. A Sword & Sorcery novelette featuring demons and dragons.

"The Girl in the Red Hoodie" = Superhero Boxing Vigilante

By Charles Moffat

My new YA pulp fiction novel "The Girl in the Red Hoodie" came out yesterday and it is already #64 on Amazon.ca's Superhero Bestsellers List... It isn't in the top 10, but I'll take it. It is my first superhero novel and my first Young Adult novel, so I wasn't expecting to be in the top 10 by day two anyway.



WHAT IS THE BOOK ABOUT?

The book description:

Yasmeena is an immigrant who works at her father's boxing gym. When the city of Toronto is targeted by a group of white nationalists who take hostages inside the CN Tower and conduct terrorist attacks across the city she ends up being at the right place at the right time. Becoming a vigilante was never her plan, but as the terrorists continue to conduct attacks and assassinations she ends up in a fight for survival and has only her boxing skills to help her and her family survive.

A coming of age story of a would-be superhero.

 

WHO IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?

Yasmeena is somewhat shy and studious, and she keeps her boxing skills a secret from her friends. Her parents are from Saudi Arabia, but they came to Canada years earlier when her father decided he wanted to open a boxing gym - and in defiance of his father - chose to do that in Canada instead of in Saudi Arabia. Yasmeena is an only child, but she is very close to her parents and her best friend Ameera.

Does she have a love interest? Yes, she does... His name is Alesandro, but you will have to buy the book to learn more about him.

WHERE DOES THE BOOK TAKE PLACE?

The book takes place in Toronto, my home for the past 22 years, with many of the locations in the book being real places you can visit:

  • The CN Tower, which judging by the cover, gets destroyed and lands in...
  • Simcoe Park, which is next to the...
  • The CBC building...
  • Bloor/Danforth
  • Pape
  • The Eaton's Centre
  • Toronto City Hall
  • Old Toronto City Hall / Courthouses
  • The Prince Edward Viaduct Bridge
  • The Millwood Overpass Bridge
  • Thorncliffe Park
  • E. T. Seton Park / The Toronto Archery Range
  • The railway lines north of Thorncliffe Park
  • Kawartha Lakes

 And many more locations.

WHEN DOES THE BOOK TAKE PLACE?

I wrote the book during 2019 and 2020, and the book starts in January 2020. What happens after that is basically an alternate version of the year 2020. So if you really didn't like what happened that year then you will be interested to read an alternative version of the events of 2020 that doesn't involve a global pandemic and has very different results.

When I was finishing writing the book in 2020 it didn't really make sense for me to include the pandemic as part of the events happening in the world, so I ended up making the book part of my "Alt-Earth" series of books which features an alternative history version of Earth - an alternative history that includes weird events, magic and other things based on real world events.

You can learn more about the Alt-Earth setting and timeline of books by visiting either:

WHY DID I WRITE THIS BOOK?

Honestly, I came up with the idea for the book back in 2012/2013 roughly, when the first Hunger Games films started coming out. I felt there was a market for a book series about a young woman who does boxing, and that I could portray her as a superhero in a realistic way similar to the film 'Unbreakable'. At the time I wrote down a basic premise of a young female boxer who ends up fighting the mafia using her boxing skills, but I later changed it to her fighting white supremacist terrorists.

I felt that having the young Muslim immigrant character as the hero, and the evil white supremacists as the villains, that I would be more accurately portraying the changing political climate in North America, and making a much more profound statement about race relations.

WHAT MOVIES WOULD I COMPARE THIS BOOK TO?

  • Rocky, obviously. But also specifically Rocky IV.
  • Unbreakable
  • Red Dawn (both the original and the remake)
  • The Hunger Games
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

WAIT, IS THERE ARCHERY IN THIS BOOK?

Yes, towards the end of the book Yasmeena starts to learn archery.

Her father is also depicted as wearing a green hoodie in the first book, so my plan for book two is that she will end up wearing her father's green hoodie and thus book two will be "The Girl in the Green Hoodie".

You can expect more archery in the second book as she starts to get better at it, but still lots of boxing too. She needs time to get better at archery, as it is a skill that takes years to develop and learn properly.

WHERE CAN WE BUY THE BOOK?

You can order it from your local bookstore using the ISBN number: 979-8456052865

Or you can order it via:

In Canada: Amazon.ca via amazon.ca/gp/product/B09F1CV814/

In the USA: Amazon.com via amazon.com/gp/product/B09F1CV814/

Happy Reading!


Swords in Korovia

A character riding a giant raven
while carrying an arming sword
By Charles Moffat

Historical realism.

I am one of those people who gets upset when a movie or a book portrays a historical weapon in a false manner.

And while I don't start foaming at the mouth and shouting obscenities when it happens, it still bothers me and I know other authors / readers who feel the same way.

Thus when I am writing a book or a short story my preference is to portray weapons accurately to their historical counterparts... And keep in mind I am an archery instructor, and we are known to be perfectionists.

Thus I spend a good amount of time writing historically accurate combat scenes for archery, but also for swords, axes, and other weapons.

Today I want to talk about the type of swords which appear in my Korovia books. Namely:

  • Short Sword
  • Sabre
  • Arming Sword
  • Bastard Sword
  • Longsword
  • The Grosseklinge (Greatsword)

The Short Sword

Sometimes spelled shortsword, this is a sword with a double-edged blade measuring typically 14 to 24 inches long. The handle is meant to be used by one hand only. Some shortswords are so small they could possibly be considered to be daggers.

The Sabre

A sword with a curved blade, with the single edged blade length being roughly 32 to 35 inches long. The handle is meant to be used by one hand only, and sometimes has a basket hilt or a handguard to protect the user's hands.

Note - There are also similar weapons like the cutlass, the scimitar, and the falchion. The falchion for example was roughly 38 inches long, and could be considered to be something similar to the bastard sword further below.

The Arming Sword

A standard sized sword (mistakenly called a "Longsword" in Dungeons & Dragons) with a straight double-edged blade about 28 to 38 inches long that tapers towards the end. Obviously there is a lot of variability in blade length with the arming sword, with the length of blade varying by as much as ten inches. It was possible to wield an arming sword with two hands (by gripping the pommel), but doing so meant the swordsman didn't really have proper leverage when swinging it.

Note - Historically there was no strict length of specific swords, so a lot of swords of varying lengths are classified as being arming swords. Most swords that appear in my Korovia stories, unless otherwise stated, are arming swords. So for example the elf Gyburn from "The Demon's Sacrifice" wields an arming sword called "Bonecleaver".

The Bastard Sword

A longer sword with a straight double-edged blade (sometimes called a 'hand-and-a-half sword') with a blade 40 to 48 inches long, but with a larger handle that typically measures 10 to 15 inches. The extra large handle means there is space for a second hand on the handle, and enough space that swinging the sword allowed to put extra force into the swing using leverage.

Note - So what happens if you find a sword that has a blade 39 inches long? Well, is it an arming sword or a bastard sword? Honestly, it depends on the handle. Does it have an arming sword handle, or a bastard sword handle? Not everything is perfectly cut and dried when it comes to swords, their lengths and their classifications.

The Longsword

This is the classic two-handed sword, similar to a claymore, with a straight double-edged blade about 49 to 65 inches long. The handle was meant for two-handed use, typically being 15 to 20 inches long, with the longer handle allowing the swordsman to put a lot more leverage into their swings.

Note - Like the arming sword there is a lot of variability in how long the blade can be and still count as a longsword. In Dungeons & Dragons this type of sword is often mistakenly called a "Greatsword", but this is inaccurate. The proper term is Longsword, and as you can see further below they should not be confused.

The Grosseklinge / Greatsword

This is the biggest of all swords (ignoring those wielded by ogres or giants, etc) available in Korovia, and historically. With an average blade length of 6 feet (72 inches), these swords had blades anywhere from 66 inches long to possibly 7 feet (84 inches). They were also so big that normal men couldn't wield them properly, requiring the swordsman to usually be at least six feet tall just to wield the smallest of Greatswords. Anyone too short would be prone to scraping or bumping the sword against the ground, damaging it.

Note - The hero Wrathgar (from my novel series The Adventures of Wrathgar) wields a traditional Grosseklinge sword from his tribe, the Baarstammderstark. He wields the sword in addition to a bearded axe and a longbow in the following books:

You can learn more about my books by visiting amazon.com/author/moffat or by visiting fiction.charlesmoffat.com.

You can learn more about historical swords by watching the video below.



Why I Dislike Using Orcs In My Fantasy Worlds

By Charles Moffat

I have orcs in some of my fantasy worlds, but not all of them. Furthermore, I don't like using orcs except in very specific circumstances where I portray them in a certain way (similar to how orcs are portrayed in Skyrim is my preference, spliced with Tolkien-esque orcs).

Writers and artists in the 21st century, in my opinion, have a responsibility to avoid using racist stereotypes - especially when portraying fantasy races like orcs. Or if they do use a stereotype, they also have an obligation to subvert it so that the meaning is changed.

J. R. R. Tolkien popularized orcs in fantasy fiction, but he was using them as a metaphor to represent the Nazis and to be representational of the horrors of war.

Since then however many critics of Tolkien's work have pushed the idea that his orcs represent people of colour or so-called "primitive cultures". This portrayal of orcs as something loaded with racism and cultural superiority is something I actively want to avoid, and thus even in my settings where orcs do exist (eg. Korovia) they primarily live in Loqland, in the city of Molloch (which is itself a reference to the film "Metropolis").

Thus my orcs are essentially a mixture of the workers of Metropolis who serve their evil overlords, the warfare themed orcs of Tolkien, and also like the orcs of Skyrim, where they are more technologically advanced and intelligent. So smart orcs, still brimming with the thirst for war, but serving their evil overlords in the factory city of Molloch... But not necessarily evil themselves and some of them do break away or flee from Molloch. (But that is another story...)

So yes, they exist, but I am deliberately avoiding using them except in the right circumstances. Eg. There are some time traveling orcs that appear in one short story: "A Hound Named Hunter", which I admit doesn't sound like a time travel story, but you have to read it to understand.

The other problem with orcs is that they are so tied to Tolkien's work that if you use them too much then it draws comparisons to his books.

But if I use a different kind of humanoid race, like minotaurs, then I don't really have that same problem. This is why when I create Korovia in 1999 I made minotaurs to be one of major races of the region. (That and I really like minotaurs, having previously used minotaurs in 3 novels I wrote during the 1990s.)

And again, my minotaurs are an intelligent and technologically advanced race... Plus in Korovia they're usually vegans, pacifists, spiritual and practice martial arts. Eg. Check out the four minotaurs that appear in my novel "The Coven's Wolves".

Are all minotaurs in Korovia pacifists and vegans? Nope. There are those who 'break from tradition', so to speak, like one such minotaur in my upcoming book "The Exorcist's Dagger" who forsakes his vows as an Ironskin and becomes a prizefighter.

How we portray races in our books is important. Even the races we normally wouldn't think about as being potentially racist.

Eg. Elves and halflings.

In my book "The Demon's Sacrifice" the elf Gyburn and the halfling Kaeto don't get along, with both characters being racist against the other. What happens to the two characters during the novel is meaningful in my opinion. No spoilers here. You will have to buy the book to see what happens.

Civilization versus 'perceived barbarism' is an ongoing theme within the Adventures of Wrathgar, wherein the main character is a so-called barbarian from the Snowfell Mountains and he is traveling through the civilized regions of Korovia looking for his missing father. People often see him as a dumb barbarian and treat him as such, despite his intelligence and skills. Wrathgar, to his credit, doesn't lose his temper when dealing with such people. Despite his name, he rarely ever loses his temper. (But when he does it is spectacular...)

As a writer I feel my work has meaning, and while I use fantasy as the method to convey that meaning, I could just as easily be writing science fiction or westerns to convey the same meaning. The setting doesn't matter so much as the message I am trying to get across to the reader.

 

Writers and artists in the 21st century, in my opinion, have a responsibility to avoid using racist stereotypes - especially when portraying fantasy races like orcs.


 

If you want to learn more about my books I recommend visiting the following sites:

amazon.com/author/moffat
fiction.charlesmoffat.com

You can also follow me via:

twitter.com/charlesmoffat
instagram.com/charles.moffat
facebook.com/charlesmoffat.fans
youtube.com/c/CharlesMoffatToronto

What is a Plot Masher?

 Hello!

 I have a confession to make. I am a "Plot Masher".

What is a Plot Masher?

Well, it means I am constantly hunting for stories that are different but similar, which have aspects of the story which overlap.

Take for example the following films...

Die Hard - A small army of thieves take over an office building in a plot to steal $640 million in bearer bonds from a vault, while the hero (John McClane) is trapped in the building along with hostages (and his wife) and he needs to rescue the hostages and beat up the bad guys.

Enter the Dragon - Martial arts instructor Lee infiltrates a dangerous martial arts tournament and fights a small army of bad guys, all in an attempt to prove the organizer of the tournament is in charge of drug smuggling and prostitution.

Now if you're familiar with both of these classic movies then you know they have the following similarities:

1. They both have a small army of baddies.

2. They're both action films.

3. The gritty hero of the story gets beat up a lot, but survives.

4. The main villain is intelligent (but also cowardly).

And there are other aspects which also overlap.

What a plot masher does is look at the basic plot of multiple stories, looks for the things that hold the plot together that are similar, and then mashes the plots together to make a story which is more complex, compelling, but likely still feels familiar to the audience/reader. Thus it is a plot that has combined elements of various other stories to create something which is both new and different.

For example, earlier this year I released my new novel "The Coven's Wolves"...

The plot of the novel is basically a cross between:

  1. Clue (the board game)
  2. Jaws (the Steven Spielberg film)
  3. Hotel California (the song)

So how are these three things similar?

Well, the plot of the Clue board game happens within a large building and the people there cannot leave until they find the murderer. The plot of the song Hotel California is about people trapped in a hotel and they cannot leave because there is a monster that won't let them leave. The plot of the film Jaws is that residents of a small tourist town cannot go swimming because a giant shark is killing everyone who goes in the water.

See the similarities? The characters in the story are trapped and they need to kill the monster / find the murderer.

Thus "The Coven's Wolves" is similar to all three because it is a murder mystery taking place in an inn/hot springs, and there are evil Xarsian wolves with glowing red eyes outside the inn which wants to kill them... But are the Xarsian wolves killing the inn's guests, or is there a second threat in the form of a werewolf?

And thrust into the middle of this is our hero Wrathgar, who is not a sleuth, but the inn is running low on food and they need someone to go out into the snow and hunt for food so that the guests at the inn don't starve to death during the winter.

Below are 5 of the paperbacks from the Adventures of Wrathgar book series:


The books are:

The Assassin's Trail

The Blizzard's Daughter

The Coven's Wolves

The Demon's Sacrifice

+

The Sunken Castle (a short story that takes place between Books I and II)

 

All of the books are available via amazon.com/author/moffat


So is Plot Mashing cheating?

Nope.

Think about it.

There is no such thing as an original plot any more. There are just variations of the same basic "hero vs villain plot", or "hero vs nature", or "hero vs monster", or "hero vs themselves", etc. There has to be a protagonist (or multiple protagonists).

All authors engage is some level of plot mashing or borrowing aspects of other stories. "Jaws" for example is based on a real story about a shark that attacks the Jersey shore back in 1916. It is a "hero vs monster" story.

The film "Dante's Peak" changes the basic plot of Jaws to a volcano, so it becomes "hero vs volcano", but other aspects of the film have a number of similarities to Jaws (and the film even references this because the hero takes the family 'shark fishing' at the end of the film).

At which point anyone watching the film should slap their forehead and go "Oh!!!! This is just Jaws, but they replace the shark with a volcano!!!"

Yep. The writer(s) just mashed together Jaws with various other films/books about volcanoes. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

So don't worry about it. If you're a writer you probably already engage in some level of Plot Mashing, but you just weren't conscious of it.

There is a subtle difference however.

A confessed Plot Masher like myself makes a conscious effort of designing the plot of the book by dumping aspects of their influences that they don't like, and keeping the aspects that they do like. We don't need everything from the source material.

A Plot Masher will also deliberately play with symbolism or by reversing the reader's expectations by doing things that are unexpected. (What if the shark was the hero?)

Or what if the hero was a bandit/thief (the classic Robin Hood role)? There is a reason why Robin Hood is such an endearing character that many people enjoy. We usually think of bandits as being baddies, but Robin Hood reverses this and makes the villain the Sheriff of Nottingham (and his cronies).

So for example, let's say I wanted to write a post apocalyptic book (similar to Mad Max / Fury Road with the cars/desertification of the planet), but I wanted the plot to be more like Robin Hood (the Kevin Costner version with all the awesome archery), but also to have aspects of Red Dawn (wherein the country has been invaded by communists).

So...

The USA's economy has fallen apart due to desertification and they have been invaded by communists who install themselves as warlords. Guns and bullets have become scarce, so people have resorted to shooting at each other with arrows instead while fighting out road rage across the desert, and meanwhile the communists (run by a Sheriff of Nottingham type villain) have guns and access to an oil refinery... and they keep robbing the poor Americans just trying to grow food in the desert, so the Robin Hood/Mad Max character starts killing the communists and ends up building up a group of bandits who try to take on the communist army.

Tada!

There you go. A classic action movie that I would enjoy watching.

Ever heard the phrase "Movie Plots are a Dime a Dozen"?

Same goes with books. Nothing is original these days.

The real difference is the WRITER. Can they write it well and make it enjoyable? You could give 100 writers the exact same plot and you would end up with 100 different stories which have very similar plots, but out of those 100 stories there will be a few gems that are really enjoyable because the characters, the interplay of the characters with the plot, and how the audience feels about the characters really captures the imagination of the readers.

So there is nothing bad or shameful about being a Plot Masher. You would be hard pressed to find a fiction writer who doesn't do some form of plot mashing.

Film script writers are especially guilty of this, especially if the film is based on a book. They will often change aspects of what was in the book and mash the plot together with something else that is more familiar to the audience, possibly creating a sub plot that wasn't in the original book. Or making it very different from the original.

Example

The 1982 "Conan the Barbarian" film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger only borrows bits and pieces from the original short stories by Robert E. Howard, mashes those stories together, plus adds in aspects of Beowulf and various traditional viking stories.

Thus even if a film is based on a book or books, it is often a bastardized version of the book(s) and has been mashed together with other sources.

However just because a writer is conscious that they are borrowing/stealing aspects of other stories to write their own, that doesn't mean that they are a bad writer. Rather it means they are a good writer, possibly even a great writer, and that they are in the process of collecting stories.

That is really how I see it myself. I "collect stories" and then I mix those stories together like I am making a tasty cake to create something that is new and different.

Think of a story, any story, and ask yourself what other stories is it similar to? Chances are likely it is based on the mashed together plots of stories that came before it. Even true stories being retold are based on something else, the actual events. So even a true story isn't original.

 



What should James Bond look like???

Using computer software (specifically the website ArtBreeder) it is not possible to create a computer generated image of what James Bond / 007 should look like using previous James Bond actors to create an amalgam version of what James Bond should in theory look like.

Note

Unfortunately ArtBreeder only had an action figure version of Roger Moore to choose from and no images of George Lazenby, but whatever. I did what I could with the resources available on the website to create the following images.

First up, crossbreeding Sean Connery with Pierce Brosnan to create the following amalgamation... Sean-Pierce.

Next we crossbreed the Roger Moore action figure with Daniel Craig... to create Roger-Daniel.

Next it gets a bit more complicated... Have to blend together the Sean-Pierce amalgam with Timothy Dalton (because there was no image available of George Lazenby), but I want to do it so that it is pretty much a 33% split between the three actors. The end result is the Timothy-Sean-Pierce amalgam.

Next we take Roger-Daniel and mix him half and half with the Timothy-Sean-Pierce... creating an amalgam which is roughly...

  • 25% Daniel Craig
  • 25% Roger Moore action figure
  • 16.66% Timothy Dalton
  • 16.66% Sean Connery
  • 16.66% Pierce Brosnan

So is the final product a perfect amalgamation of the actors? Obviously not. It is not a perfect blend of them evenly, and obviously George Lazenby is missing from the mix. So it is imperfect. But looking at the composite image below reminds me of a certain actor that was recently touted as a possible new James Bond...



I am speaking of course of Charlie Cox.

You may recognize him as the actor who played Matt Murdock in the Netflix version of Daredevil.

So he certainly looks like the composite James Bond, and he has a good background in doing both dramatic roles and a lot of action sequences. He is also the right age that he could play James Bond for the next 4 or 5 films.

Now if you're paying attention you may notice that not all James Bond actors get to play the character for an equal number of films.

Connery and Moore got to play the character 7 times each. George Lazenby once. Timothy Dalton twice. Pierce Brosnan four times. Daniel Craig 5 times (counting the newest film "No Time To Die").

So in theory the best we can expect these days is for the actor to play James Bond for roughly 5 films over a 14 year period (which is what Daniel Craig managed to do between 2006 and 2020).

Some actors being touted as being the "Next James Bond" aren't really the right age because they'd only be able to make 2 or 3 films before they are too old to play the action hero.

They don't want to make the mistake they made with Timothy Dalton who did the first film with a full set of hair, but by film 2 was balding.

And honestly I don't think the world is ready for a bald James Bond.

The Bogatyr and the Cursed Inn

"The Bogatyr and the Cursed Inn" is a 5 minute flash fiction / short story set in Charles Moffat's "Korovia". A story of ghosts, fire, and time paradoxes in a slavic setting. 

The short story is available on Amazon for $0.99.

Want more? 

The entire Adventures of the Bogatyr series is being released on Amazon, and you can buy other books set in the fictional kingdom of Korovia from amazon.com/author/moffat

If you enjoy the story don't forget to share it with friends who also like fantasy stories, slavic fantasy, or sword & sorcery stories.

 



Do Random Story Generators Work?

In a nutshell...

NO.

It really isn't possible to create a random story generator because there are too many moving parts to create such a thing and then have the plot and characters make sense.

I was contacted a few years ago by an idealistic young man who apparently thought it was possible to create a random story generator which would spew out stories based upon filling in a few blanks in a form.

He was forgetting that such a form would need to be capable of mixing and matching various descriptions of characters, of surroundings, and of any action sequences. It needed to be capable of using symbolism, foreshadowing, writing unique and compelling dialogue, etc.

So when I said "spew" out earlier what I really meant was vomit, because that is what it would be like to read such stories. It would be literary vomit.

Unreadable trash.

A complete waste of time.

Writing is too much of an art form to have an algorithm or a form that can simply be filled out and then the story is spewed out. It requires the human touch to create something artistic worth reading.

Even the most sophisticated AI (artificial intelligence) currently available is only capable of writing basic sentences, and even then when you converse with such AIs you can often trip them up and spot grammar and sentence problems with how they talk.

For example below is a brief conversation with Cleverbot. As you can tell Cleverbot managed to tell a very short story (too short to even be considered to be flash fiction)... But the story doesn't really make sense. He ended with "he took everyone." Huh?


But this is what you would expect to see from a robotic AI that is trying to make a story. There will be something wrong with it, even if the story is very short. Expecting an AI to make up a novel... Well, that just isn't going to work at all. Novels are too complicated.

A person could spend 50 years of their life trying to create a Random Story Generator with an AI that creates stories that makes sense, but they would never succeed.

It is like the Voight Kampff test scene in the film "Bladerunner". Eventually the AI will trip up and make a mistake, a mistake that a human would never make. A mistake that reveals the AI doesn't really understand how to tell a story and is just following its programming.

 

Advantage Vs Disadvantage in 5E: Part Deux!

Before reading this you should read my previous post at:

Advantage vs Disadvantage in 5th Edition Dungeon and Dragons

Ahem...

And to continue that previous post let us first look at the following Probability Charts for Advantage and Disadvantage. As you can see having Advantage multiples your chances of rolling a Natural 20 from 1 in 20 to... 39 in 400. So it is a 9.75% chance of getting a critical hit.

Advantage Roll of 2d20

Disadvantage Roll of 2d20

However that same benefit is inverted for Disadvantage. That chances of rolling a Natural 1 are now 9.75%.

Having Advantage or Disadvantage on a roll basically equates to having a plus or minus 6.333 on the roll. It is a sizable mathematical bonus for improving a person's odds.

Also when you consider when compared to stat bonuses, in which you need a +2 to a Stat just to get a +1 to hit, that means you need +12 to a stat just to get a +6 to hit. Obviously getting a +12 to a single stat just doesn't happen either. Within the rules and not using any magical items it would be very difficult to get +12 to a stat.

What it makes you realize is that any feats in 5th Edition that give you more Advantages (or "Super Advantage" in the case of the "Lucky" feat being used to counteract Disadvantage rolls) are worth far more than having higher stats.

Likewise any feat that negates Disadvantage is also very useful.

Take the Sharpshooter Feat for example... It allows an archer to shoot at opponents (or objects) from vast distances away - even with 90% cover, with no Disadvantage. But there is a flaw in the rules that says if a target is prone that they get Disadvantage, even if the target is prone a mere 10 feet away.


However if the PC takes both the Sharpshooter and the Lucky feats then it solves this problem. Any time they encounter a prone target they can use a Luck point to give themselves Super-Advantage.

At which point prone targets are basically like shootings ducks in a barrel. The Natural 20 chance rises to a 14.3% chance of getting a Critical Hit too.

Why are Critical Hit Chances only 9.7% and 14.3% on Advantage and Super Advantage?

The problem is that there is a chance you roll two Natural 20s during the roll. (Or 2 or 3 in the case of Super Advantage.)

You would think the base chance should be 10% and 15%, but that isn't actually the case when it comes to probability math. The chance of getting two or more 20s at once means there is actually slightly less than 10% and 15%.

It is the reason why in the above charts that there are only thirty-nine 20s and thirty-nine 1s in each of the respective charts.

The Lucky Feat Times Two!

You may have noticed that the Lucky feat can be taken multiple times. In theory character could take it many times, making it the only feat they ever take. Being able to turn every Disadvantage roll into a Super Advantage roll would be a huge benefit, far outweighing the benefits of higher stats.

However depending upon how much combat is actually happening during each game session it might not be necessary to take the feat more than twice. Other feats might actually make more sense in such scenarios so that a character is more flexible and able to do other things.

Eg. If I was running an archer character I would be very tempted to take Lucky twice and then the Sharpshooter feat.

Depending upon my needs at higher levels it might make sense to either take Lucky again, or to take other feats instead. Really depends upon what my goals are for the character.

If my goal was to make a Legolas (almost always hits) kind of character then certain feats or abilities that improve his archery skills, chances to hit, increases damage/etc would make sense. Including perhaps taking a level in Rogue to get extra damage etc.

A Case In Point...

Back in 2017 I was playing a human ranger during a number of Adventurers League games. At the time I took Sharpshooter and several other options, and I eventually ceased playing that character and going to AL games because my wife and I welcomed the birth of my son. I took a break from playing afterwards. But if I had continued playing I was planning to take Lucky to offset the times when I got Disadvantage to my attack rolls... And because I was running out of feats to potentially take that made sense for the character.

Due to the range of choices, spells and magical items my human ranger (with a splash of rogue) had gained over time he had the ability to sneak during a move action and roll a Stealth check with Advantage and a large number of bonuses. A certain spell allowed him to roll Stealth checks in plain sight, which meant he go into sneak mode every round when he moved, and could basically attack with Advantage every round.

Furthermore because he was in sneak mode so often it meant that enemies had to first see him before they could potentially attack him, and in order to see him they needed super high rolls because he was walking around with massive bonuses to his stealth rolls. So he was practically invisible 90% of the time.

Those abilities PLUS the Lucky feat... Wow. He would have been unstoppable.

He could potentially shoot, immediately sneak after shooting (effectively becoming invisible) and then wait until the next round to repeat those actions. All while having Advantage against any opponents who cannot see him.

Combo Abilities, Feats and Super Advantage!

Imagine using an action or an ability that unfortunately gives you Disadvantage, but then you use a Luck point to give the character Super Advantage.

DMs might even be avoiding giving a PC Disadvantage because they know that whenever they do so the PC just spends a Luck point and gets Super Advantage. They could just try to give disadvantages as often as possible so the PC runs out of Luck points constantly, but that would get boring quickly.

Plus if you're playing a module you can't really do that. Eg. AL games for example.

Consequently a player in AL games could just use the Lucky feat and various other combos to give themselves Super Advantage on a regular basis and there isn't much a DM can do about it except sit back and enjoy the show.

For the DMs...

Giving your monsters Advantage in various ways makes a lot of sense. Any reasonably intelligent creatures will often want to use ambushes, attack from higher ground, using 90% cover, fog or smoke or steam, and other options which will either give themselves Advantage and their enemies Disadvantage.

The good news is that most players don't actually see the usefulness of the Lucky feat and thus don't take it that often. This is shortsighted on their part because being able to turn Disadvantages into Super Advantages is a very useful ability.

As a DM myself I am very liberal with how often I give out Advantage and Disadvantage. Just being horseback or higher ground is enough for a PC or NPC to get Advantage in my opinion.

Likewise trying to shoot a fast moving target on a horseback is grounds for Disadvantage. Or if the enemy is on higher ground.

This works out largely to benefit of the players because they quickly realize how they can gain Advantage more often by making use of my liberal use of Advantage/Disadvantage.

DMing Alternative: A House Rule

One thing I have seen other DMs do is to go back to the older system you see in 2nd and 3rd editions of D&D, by applying pluses and negatives to rolls instead of just rolling multiple d20s.

Both systems have their pros and cons. Having a +/- 2 or 4 or 8 to a roll is certainly more predictable but also flexible than rolling 2d20 which is effectively like having a +/- 6.333 to the roll.

Not allowing Advantage/Disadvantage and replacing it with pluses and minuses is certainly an old school way of doing things. (Also makes sense if you only have one d20 die in the first place.)

There are other ways to make 5th Edition D&D feel more like an old school game too, but that is a topic for another day.


When is Season Two of the Witcher Coming?

 Coming

AUGUST 17TH 2021


That is the official release date of season 2 of The Witcher.

So if you've been waiting patiently (or impatiently) now at least you know how long you have to wait.

Sooner would have been nice, but with the Coronavirus going on everything has been delayed significantly.

Also if you haven't read the books yet... I definitely recommend reading the Witcher book series.





Why the 2022 Dungeons and Dragons film will be a flop.

Having big stars only increases the financial damages of making a Dungeons and Dragons film. So far the cast for the upcoming 2022 D&D film includes:

  • RegĂ©-Jean Page
  • Chris Pine
  • Michelle Rodriguez
  • Justice Smith


Now immediately you will realize that Chis and Michelle aren't cheap. Big stars may help to get people to take the film more seriously, but the financial risks are greater because they are also more expensive.

The problem with making a D&D film is that they keep starting with a blank slate in terms of plot.

They never based the films on the books...

Eg. They could very easily make live action films based on the following book series:

  • The Icewind Dale Trilogy
  • The Dragonlance Chronicles

Those two book series are very popular. Either one of them, with a decent budget, would make a very good trilogy of films and could lead into a whole franchise of fantasy films similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But instead they're going to repeat what they did in 2000, 2005 and 2012. Movies with very little plot, lackluster characters, and sloppy storytelling.

Now it is possible, I should note, to base a film on a book or book series and then completely ruin it.

Case in point:

John Carter of Mars

Having read the books (and seen the Disney version of the first book) I can tell you several things: The scriptwriters ignored the source material for the most part, only loosely based the film on "A Princess of Mars", and what they presented was a cobbled together mess.

To be fair "A Princess of Mars" is an okay book. Four stars out of five. But books 2 and 3 basically just repeat the plot from book 1. Books 4 and 5? Oh look. Same thing. Rescue the princess. You get the picture.

And this is why it is important to choose a book series that changes over time, but has a larger arc for the characters... And why you pick a book series that has consistently favourable reviews.

And then all you have to do is not muck it up.

Hence why I foresee this new 2022 D&D film be a huge financial flop. Unless they're secretly making the first book adaptation then I foresee they will be going into this with a shoddily put together plot, very expensive actors, and studio/producer interference with the final product.

Remember the original version of Justice League?

That's what you get when you get studio/producer interference and then the director quits and you replace the good director with a subpar director.

Seriously. It is going to be a train wreck.

The Horror & Boredom of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

Many years ago, 2008 in fact, I decided to give 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons a shot.

I had been playing 2nd Edition and 3rd Edition for many years so why not try something new and different?

How bad could it be after all?

Well...

It can be pretty bad.

And worse, pretty boring.

Roleplaying in 4th edition works pretty much the same as any other edition of Dungeons and Dragons. You just role-play your character and adlib what you want the character to do. Essentially making it up as you go like an interactive storytelling system.

The problem with 4th Edition D&D was the combat system, which, let's be fair, is arguably the most important part because 90% of the books is really stuff related to combat. If there was no combat there would be almost no need for the books at all. People could just roleplay their characters, not do any combat, and most of the books wouldn't be needed.

Unfortunately it is called "Dungeons and Dragons"... Which implies that at some point you are going to want to stab a dragon, so combat is a necessity. Oh and there's dungeons, castles, inns, etc... Often with traps in there, so there's rules for that too, but disabling traps (or getting hit by traps) doesn't take much time.

No...

The combat system for 4E was the biggest issue and the biggest fault.

For 4th Edition players each "normal sized" combat will typically take 4 to 8 hours (or longer) just to complete. If combat is only 3 hours or less that is considered to be extraordinarily quick.

Furthermore when playing through the combat it is so bogged down with rules, powers, movement powers, movement actions, sliding, shifting, reactions, etc... Doing a single round of combat with a group of 4 players usually takes about 24-48 minutes, and you can expect the combat to last about 10 rounds (or longer)...

Furthermore even low level monsters in 4th Edition had abilities that basically allowed them to regenerate lost hit points - even though they technically did NOT have regeneration. They could still heal themselves mid combat for no good reason. (This incidentally is one of the things I don't like about 5th Edition either, the whole thing with Second Wind acting like an extra way for PCs to heal themselves. It really makes having a cleric in the group rather unnecessary.)

Now if you're not a D&D player let me go ahead and explain something...

In previous editions of Dungeons and Dragons it was considered normal to have 1 to 3 combats during a single session of roleplaying, but the combats were often relatively short. This meant more time for actual roleplaying, character development, plot development, storytelling, etc. It also meant that you actually more combat done, but that combat was done quickly and efficiently in a manner that did not distract from the enjoyment of the game.

Likewise healing in previous editions meant the party either rested for the night, or they relied upon the cleric (or druid or paladin) to heal the party.

4th Edition basically ignored all of that and said:

"Hey, let's have really long overly complicated combat that lasts 4 to 8 hours and bores players to death."

Because that is what 4th Edition combat was like. Just super long and boring. It was like watching other people playing Warhammer while you (one of the players) stared off into the distance because the combat was so slow you didn't really need to pay attention.

I suspect a lot of 4E DMs would notice their players staring at their phones, tablets or reading a book during the games back in 2008 when 4th Edition first came out.

Now I wasn't the only player who got very quickly bored of 4th Edition. Many other players did too. Some people boycotted 4th edition D&D after they tried it and realized that the combat was so slow that they became nostalgic for older roleplaying games.

Ah Nostalgia...

That is what happened to me.

In the wake of 3.5 D&D (don't get me started) I opted to ditch 3rd Edition and decided to join a 1st Edition group. I played 1st Edition for years and then later (starting in November 2011) I ran my own 1st Edition game for 6 years.

After that game ended in 2017 I started running a 2nd Edition campaign, which I plan to keep running until 2024 or so.

By 2025 I expect to be playing 3.0 and that should last me until 2030-2031.

Meanwhile some other players I know of similarly skipped 4th Edition and played Pathfinder instead, which was similar to 3.5, but felt more like 3.75. Still technically 3rd Edition.

Look at the chart below and it will give you an idea of just how bad 4th Edition was and how it led to Pathfinder becoming more popular.


4th Edition D&D was so bad that it resulted in 3.5 maintaining its popularity until 2011 when Pathfinder eventually overtook 3.5 in popularity.

The folks / manufacturers at Wizards of the Coast no doubt noticed that Pathfinder was now more popular and realized that they needed a 5th Edition, and they needed the new game to make combat exciting again, faster, and to incorporate elements from previous editions. 5th Edition was very much a reaction to just how much players hated 4th Edition.

However we're not going to talk about 5th Edition today. Save that for a future Nerdovore post...

So what do I remember about 4th Edition?

Before I got bored of playing 4th Edition and decided to boycott it I remember the very long and arduous combat sessions.

  • I don't remember my characters.
  • I don't remember their names.
  • I don't remember the names of other characters.
  • I vaguely remember the names of several players, mostly because I am still friends with a few on Facebook.
  • I don't remember the plots or anything to do with the stories.

I suspect it is entirely possible that I have blocked the memory of such things because the boredom and horror of 4th Edition was so bad that my brain decided to delete all associated memories of it and retaining specific memories as a reminder to never play 4th Edition ever again.

I remember going to several "Try 4th Edition" events being held at gaming stores in Toronto. I might have the character sheets from those games tucked away somewhere, but it is equally likely that I threw them out whenever I took the time to sort through old character sheets and saw them and realized: "Oh crud! This is 4th Edition?! That is definitely going in to the recycling!"

And then ripping them up for good measure.

So what about past and future editions?

1st, 2nd, 3.0 and 5th edition are all perfectly good games in my opinion. I had to tweak 5th edition when playing it to give it some house rules to make it better, but I do the same thing when playing 1st and 2nd.

I haven't played 3rd edition in about 13 years. I am starting to get nostalgic for it. However in theory I can just play Dungeons and Dragons Online, which is based on 3rd Edition - but on STEROIDS!!! If I start running 3.0 in 2025 I suspect I will also House Rule a bunch of stuff.

That is the hallmark of what makes a good edition of D&D. If you don't like something you can change it using House Rules to fix the problem. With 4th Edition no amount of House Rules was going to change the fact that it was a long-winded and very boring combat system.

I have also noticed - and this may just be me being superstitious - that prime numbers a good thing for D&D editions. 2, 3 and 5 particularly. 1st Edition is still good, but 2nd Edition was definitely better.

Thus I wouldn't be surprised if 6th Edition D&D ended up being really bad... and 7th Edition Dungeons and Dragons being really good.

Call it a prediction.

I predict that the following editions of D&D will all be really bad:

  • 6th Edition Dungeons and Dragons
  • 8th Edition Dungeons and Dragons
  • 9th Edition Dungeons and Dragons
  • 10th Edition Dungeons and Dragons

But 7th and 11th Edition Dungeons and Dragons will be good or at least "acceptably good".

I also wouldn't be surprised if after the series of debacles of 8th, 9th and 10th being flops that fans might buy the company back from WOTC and restart the old TSR brand.

While I am at it I also predict that any films using "Dungeons and Dragons" in the title will be financial flops. If they want to make films they should base them on the books, like the Icewind Dale Trilogy or the Dragonlance Chronicles Trilogy. Basing them on the books guarantees that the films at least have a good plot.

Basing a film on a board game or a video game is very hit and miss.

Want to learn more about why 4th Edition D&D was so bad?

Just watch the video below. In the video you will see new players reacting to playing a 3.5 hour long session of D&D and keep in mind the DM deliberately cut the hit points of all the monsters in HALF because he knew that if he did not then the combat would have lasted twice as long.

And even then... Even then the players discovered just how bad it still is despite the DM tweaking the rules.

The horror... The sheer horror of it.

 

Publishing a fantasy book? Make sure you get a professional fantasy book editor.

Study Archery in Toronto

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