In June of 2008, Wizards of the Coast launched the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons with considerable fanfare. While there was a lot of initial interest — and solid early sales — it never truly caught on.
Personally, I enjoyed lot of the supplemental material like the updated Dark Sun setting and the excellent Shadowfell boxed set, but by 2011 I noticed new releases had slowed to a trickle. Eventually, they stopped entirely.
This was bad news for RPG fans. When sales of the world’s most popular role playing game collapse scarcely three years after the launch of a new edition, the entire industry suffers. Was this the end of the most famous game franchise in the adventure game hobby?
Fortunately, it was not. Wizards of the Coast made a major commitment to re-launch D&D, and in January 2012 it announced what was then known as D&D Next. The game had a few names changes over the next two years (it was Fifth Edition for a while, until WotC eventually settled on just Dungeons & Dragons), but for much of that time WotC maintained an open beta on the rules, and kept players involved and informed.
It paid off. The buzz surrounding the game has been building nicely. On Tuesday of this week the first of the three core volumes, the highly anticipated Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook, finally shipped (click on the image at left to see it in its high-res glory). And according to io9, it was the number one selling book — of any kind — at Amazon on the day of its release.
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Quintessence is a story of the Age of Exploration, as it might have unfolded on a literally flat Earth where some of the wilder alchemists’ ideas were right. Here there be dragons. If you list all the cool stuff in this book, it looks like a sure bet for most fantasy readers: voyages at sea (doomed and desperate), houses of solid diamond, heresy, plucky young people changing the world, and monsters. Lots and lots of monsters.
In attitude, character, and pacing, however, the book feels more like science fiction in the tradition of John W. Campbell. I grew up reading that stuff — odds are that you did, too — so I found a great deal to enjoy in Quintessence. Just not quite the things I came to the book hoping to enjoy.
David Walton’s bestiary is worth the price of admission. The man knows how to fill a fanciful ecosystem, and if he had found some comic artist to collaborate with and had published a volume of the characters’ field notes, it would have been its own weird hit.
Perhaps if the creatures had been less gloriously inventive, the characters would have felt more vivid. As the book stands, the characterization falls far enough behind the worldbuilding for the characters to feel at times like types out of Commedia Dell’Arte. That is, if Commedia Dell’Arte had been invented by John W. Campbell.
We have our earnest scientist and our mad one. We have our plucky maiden and her plucky suitor, both brilliant engineers whose talents for tinkering had gone unnoticed back in England. We have a sort of Greek chorus of thinking men whom the earnest scientific hero forms into a discussion society for brainstorming and peer review. For villains, we have a smarmy politician and a religious fanatic, who care nothing for science.
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Here in the underground offices of Goth Chick News, the only thing we appreciate more than a blended, adult beverage is an independent film; more specifically, an independent horror film.
So guys like Wyatt Weed from Pirate Pictures and Roze (who like all icons goes by one name only) are serious heroes around here. And though the whole Pirate Pictures crew have been Black Gate regulars for some time, Roze wasn’t slated to make an appearance until early next year.
If you aren’t familiar with his work, Roze is an Arizona-based writer/director with a passion for the macabre. Roze and his wife Candace co-founded the independent production company Gas Mask Films, which made its debut in 2006 with Denial, a short film screened at the Cannes Film Market Short Film Corner. In 2008, the feature-length film Deadfall Trail was shot and produced entirely in Arizona for less than $80,000. After the success of Deadfall Trail, Gas Mask Films went on to produce the feature horror film, Speak No Evil, slated for wide release by Lions Gate in 2015.
And 2015 is when we expected to tell you about Roze — that is until he floated over an idea that was just too perfect not to pass along.
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(Image courtesy of Duart Castle)
Today a wind blusters off the North Sea, gnawing away at the Scottish summer and I’m a tank.
Arms serving as sponson-mounted guns, I trundle up the path waiting for the ambush. The boys have vanished into the bracken ahead and I’m going to spot them before they get behind me…
“Bang bang bang bang!” Long hair as wild as wood-elf’s, Morgenstern, my 6-year old daughter, explodes out of the greenery, pink boots crushing the foliage. “Got you, Daddy!”
“Ha!” I say. “You’re making machine gun sounds. That won’t do anything against a tank.”
Morgenstern grins and explains as if to an idiot: “No, Daddy, I’m using a plasma gun from Halo*.”
*Geek Parenting Tip: Most games are age appropriate if you hold your finger over the “1″ when showing the PEGI rating to older relatives.
I want to tell her that plasma guns are off topic, but then I look to my right and grin. We’re playing around the rocky base of Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull, seat of the Macleans since the mid 14th century.
You know the castles you read about in Fantasy epics? Where the family history is woven into the fabric? Where the rooms are wrapped in story? That’s Duart.
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Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle includes only two volumes so far — The Name of the Wind, reviewed for us by Robert Rhodes, and the Gemmel Award winner The Wise Man’s Fear — which doesn’t make it much of a chronicle by fantasy standards, really. But it has already vaulted into the front rank of modern fantasy, with great critical acclaim and a growing body of fans. Expectations are high for the third volume.
Now comes word that Rothfuss’s next book, featuring a character from the previous novels, is not the long-awaited third volume in The Kingkiller Chronicle. Instead it’s a novella featuring Auri, former student at The University, titled The Slow Regard of Silent Things.
This is the second of three novellas set in Temerant (known as the Four Corners of Civilization in the novels) that Rothfuss reportedly has planned. The first, ”The Lightning Tree,” was centered on Bast and was recently published in Rogues, the massive heroic fantasy anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. The third, a very lengthy (100,000-120,000 words) volume featuring Laniel Young-Again, has not yet been officially announced.
The upcoming third volume in The Kingkiller Chronicle, The Doors of Stone, has a title but no firm release date.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things will be released as a standalone hardcover by DAW this October. Here’s the book description.
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You guys are going to love for me for this. So very much. Someone, somewhere might have mentioned this already, but whatever, now it’s my turn.
All of the Kane books, both the novels and short story collections, have been released on Kindle for four or five bucks each, which is a mere three pounds if you live in England. It’s kind of bittersweet actually, because it means all that time I spent rummaging around in the musty corners of used bookshops looking for Bloodstone (which I reviewed, by the way) has kind of gone to waste, and anyone that spent around 100 bucks for a copy of Gods in Darkness or Midnight Sun is going to want to curl up in a big ball over there in the corner and have a little cry. So whilst you do that, I’m going to get on with the review, if you don’t mind.
Dark Crusade revolves around the rise of the dark Cult of Sataki, its meteoritic domination of the kingdom of Shapeki, the brutal regime it establishes and its enigmatic and mysterious prophet Orted something or other. When Orted’s fanatical cult of peasants try to seize the southern kingdoms, they are swiftly and brutally quelled by a superior military force, and that’s when Kane, a mercenary, steps in to help.
Kane really is the star of the show here, as anyone familiar with the series will tell you, but for anyone not in the know, Kane is a prince cursed with immortality who has wandered the world for eternity, plumbing its secrets, learning grim and interdicted sorceries, seeking out mysteries and conflicts and battle and war, and just generally trying to entertain himself during the course of his unending life.
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Last weekend in London was LonCon 3, this year’s Worldcon. The convention, which has been held in various cities around the world since 1939, is where the Hugo Awards are given out and where fans from all over the globe meet up.
It was my first Worldcon, and while I’ve been to large conventions before such as World Fantasy and Eastercon, not to mention several local conventions such as Tuscon, I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I got was five fun days of events, conversation, and camaraderie.
The Loncon staff did a fine job making everything run smoothly. A handy pocket guide steered me around the huge convention center without a hitch, and twice-daily newssheets kept me up-to-date on any changes.
There were only a couple of small minuses. First off, the dining options at the ExCel Centre were overpriced and generally substandard. Not that this is unusual for a convention center, so I don’t blame LonCon for this!
Also, the ExCel is huge and has all the ambiance of a shopping mall. But as Robert Silverberg pointed out, “Cons aren’t about venues, they’re about people.”
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Peter Watts is a fellow Canadian and that makes him cool.
Well, that and the fact that he writes intensely cool SF novels, like the Hugo-nominated Blindsight, which Charles Stross described as “a first contact with aliens story from the point of view of a zombie posthuman crewman aboard a starship captained by a vampire.” Any time you can get Charles Stross on record saying “zombie posthuman crewman,” you know you’re cool. Plus, Ken Levine, the Creative Director for the hit video game BioShock, credits Watts as a significant influence on his game. That’s coolness right there.
Watts’s latest novel Echopraxia, described as a “sidequel” relating events on Earth during Blindsight, arrives at the end of the month, and Tor Books has been kind enough to offer us a copy to use as a giveaway (Thanks, Tor! You guys are super-cool.)
How do you enter? Just send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the title “Echopraxia” and a one-sentence review of your favorite Tor science fiction novel. One winner will be drawn at random at the end of the month from all qualifying entries and we’ll publish the best reviews here on the Black Gate blog.
All entries become the property of New Epoch Press. No purchase necessary. Must be 12 or older. Decisions of the judges (capricious as they may be) are final. Not valid where prohibited by law, or outside the US and Canada.
Here’s the book description.
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I first met Rob (Robyn) Thurman at Dragon*Con back in 2010, when she had a booth right next to the chaotic and busy Black Gate booth in the Dealer’s Room. As Howard put it in his con report, hanging out with Rob was one of the highlights of the con for us — she was charming and funny, and told hilarious tales of cosplay misadventures in a knockout Deadpool costume.
Turns out Rob is also a terrific writer, as I discovered when I finally had a chance to pick up one of her popular Cal Leandros dark urban fantasy novels. The series began with Nightlife in 2006; since then she’s published one per year. The ninth and most recent, Downfall, arrived earlier this month. It’s not too late to discover this New York Times bestselling series — if you haven’t already.
I let it go — all of it. Everything I’d been saving up all my life, building and growing inside me, too much to hold in one half-human body. It pushed and fought to be free with a force that turned me into a bomb with a timer vibrating on zero. I was free.
But so was everything I’d fought so hard not to be….
Brothers Cal and Niko Leandros know trouble when they see it — and then proceed to wipe the floor with it. But now it seems their whole world is falling to pieces. Cal’s nightmarish monster side is growing ever stronger, changing Cal physically as well as mentally. Which is exactly what Grimm — Cal’s savage doppelgänger — wants. And when a covert supernatural organization decides that it’s time to put Cal down before he threatens pretty much everything else in existence, the brothers find themselves in a fight they actually might lose. But the dark temptations Cal has denied all his life may prove to be exactly what can save them.
Even if he must fall forever…
Downfall was published on August 5, 2014 by Roc Books. It is 338 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Chris McGrath.
Every year, one of the most enjoyable booths to attend at GenCon is the Paizo booth. And I’m certainly not alone in that belief. Last year, the massive rush at Paizo to get copies of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords base set (more on this later) resulted in a line that snaked its away across a massive section of the Exhibit Hall. This year, they had to actually have a line out in the hallway to even be admitted into the booth, to avoid cluttering up the Exhibit Hall itself with all the desperate Pathfinder fans. And there were certainly a lot of great products to inspire a spending frenzy this year.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
The flagship product coming from Paizo Publishing is the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Pathfinder always has a ton of great releases coming out on an extremely aggressive schedule – a range of adventure modules, player companion supplements, campaign setting supplements, and so on – but here are some main hardcover rulebooks slated for the next few months that are of particular interest to anyone who plays Pathfinder.
Advanced Class Guide (Amazon, Paizo)
This new book provides details on 10 new hybrid classes, which are designed to meld together traits from two of the core and base classes from previous supplements. For example, the hunter is a hybrid of the ranger and druid, a martial character who is able to channel animal powers and bond more closely with their animal companion, but still wield spells. The bloodrager mixes the combat features of the barbarian with the mystical bloodlines of the sorcerer. The brawler is a fighter who gains several of the unarmed combat benefits of the monk, but without the spiritual aspects.
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