Saturday, November 26, 2005

Greatest geek books of all time

The Guardian has recently had a poll for best geek novels of all time (from 1932, which rules out some potential authors in Verne, H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle - yes I'd class Sherlock Holmes as being definite geek books). This made me think, not least the fact I'd read almost everything in it, apart from Consider Phlebas, American Gods and the Illuminatus trilogy. I have read other books and comics by Iain Banks and Neil Gaiman, but it's a bit surprising considering that I've played the Illumniatii games from Steve Jackson Games many times that I haven't read the trilogy. Fnord.

I found that the discusssion was interesting - and pointed me towards certian authors I've neglected (John Brunner, for example). The genre of 'geek novels' spans both SF, fantasy, 'literature' and other genres. For example I'd argue that Thomas Harris' novels like The Silence of the Lambs is pretty geeky for the ways that research is dropped into the text in a similar fashion to Neal Stephenson's later novels. Microserfs by Douglas Coupland is a novel about geeks, rather than necessarily being about the usual geek obessions. Though coding does feature as a part of the characters professional lives, but the main Coupland themes of the Generation X lifestyle are the novel's main features.

I'd be hard pressed to name a top 20 quickly and will return to this at some point in the near future.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

On the work of reviewing

This is my fairly random thoughts about writing reviews, in particular reviews of RPG products. A common falacy seems to exist that reviews of products purchased by the reviewer will be fairer than ones done where the publisher has provided a complementary copy of the product. I find this to be a fallacy for a number of reasons.

Firstly the purchaser of a product can be prone to self justify their purchase, which would lead to giving a higher rating than a more balanced reviewer. Conversely if a purchaser is disappointed in a product they will be prone to ignore useful or good content because of their anger at wasting money.

For assessing value for money it's hard to see why a purchasing reviewer will have a clearer view than a reviewer recieving complementary product as the price of anything which is not completely unique can be compared to similar products.

The big advantage for a paid reviewer or a reviewer recieving complementary product is that they are less limited by personal finances in the production of reviews. Although a paid reviewer like those working for newspapers, etc may need to rush reviews to match deadlines and to get enough produced to give them an adequate income.

In truth a good reviewer will produce a fair and balanced review usually regardless of whether they have recieved the product free or been paid for producing the review (unless paid directly by the publisher).

Saturday, November 05, 2005

On-going campaigns

Well this weekend sees us reaching the 18th session of the Lost City of Barakus camnaign, which is the longest running 3e campaign I've played in, though the first 3.0 campaign that I restarted D&D with in 2003 is only on hold rather than definitely finished for good. Warning, this post will contain a lot of spoilers for the LCoB, so I would not advise players expecting to be adventuring in it to read this. Campaign website here.

So far there have only been two survivors all the way through, both as characters and players. My cleric Cambyses of the Holy Flame and Ravi's Loren Silverleaf, an elven wizard. So far we've seen another four players and their characters leave and had another three join with the latest only coming in this weekend. The other long running PCs have been Kiru, the fighter/ranger; Khai Ningnoon, monk; Armando Gallant, fighter/rogue and Nip Mylan, rogue.

Generally the Rogue and Fighter characters have been shortest lived with the toll of NPC followers/associated killed now totalling seven, due to use of fate points no PC has been killed, but several have been left for dead, with Cambyses having has this happen to him three times, most recently on encountering a Blue Slaad. Generally I think that fate points do help and am houseruling them into my D&D campaign, as I prefer to run at lower levels and with low magic and treasure so less healing is available and this makes it possible for a character to survive the occasional -10 hit point experience.

The ability to keep the campaign going has been down to a number of things, such as being able to cope with occasional player absences on some weekends, using what is more likely to be a free day with Sundays, only having a couple of sessions per month, but always having the sessions. I've had other campaigns fall down with cancelled sessions being a common cause as the enthusiasm gets lost and the players lose track of the game. That's always hard to manage when as with the last campaign I gm'd half the players lived a long way away (2 hours + journey time). I've not yet had enough experience of play by post or play by email games to see how those pan out over the long term.