Game Review: The Paizo ‘Ultimates’ both Combat and Magic

Saturday, November 26th, 2011 | Posted by Scott Taylor


Ultimate… by Websters the definition [d] reads: the best or most extreme of its kind. Thus, Paizo entails that two of its creations for 2011 are the very pinnacle of gaming mechanics gold.

After spending two years in the Pathfinder universe and plumbing the depths of the system with the Pathfinder Core Rulebook and then the Advanced Player’s Guide, I wasn’t convinced that there was an obvious need for any further bulk supplementation of the system.

You see, this is the crux of ‘old gamers’, a belief that what they’ve pre-built into their own world is ‘enough’ and they can just coast on their own imagination thereafter. Now I’d never say this is a false statement, but with many Grognards, they fail to take into account that the more information you have, the better your personal worlds and systems will be.

Do you need to implement every detail of every supplement ever written? Absolutely not, but the opportunities involved in finding different wrinkles, classes, items, etc can only help to make a world richer for both players and game-masters alike.

This brings me to Paizo’s two Ultimates, those being Magic and Combat. Now make no mistake, when Paizo chose the word Ultimate they weren’t kidding around. These books are chocked full of the kind of stuff that truly needs unearthing.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Hand of Fu Manchu, Part Three – “Golden Pomegranates”

Friday, November 25th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

book1untitled2“Golden Pomegranates” was the third installment of Sax Rohmer’s The Si-Fan Mysteries. The story was first published in Collier’s on June 24, 1916 and was later expanded to comprise Chapters 10 – 14 of the third Fu-Manchu novel, The Si-Fan Mysteries first published in 1917 by Cassell in the UK and by McBride & Nast in the US under the variant title, The Hand of Fu Manchu. The US book title marks the first time that the hyphen was dropped from the character’s name, although it was retained within the text.

“Golden Pomegranates” opens with two colorful characters, Meyerstein and Lewison appraising the Si-Fan’s sealed treasure chest in Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie’s apartment at the New Louvre Hotel. They identify the chest as a rare Tulun-Nur design dating from the sixteenth century or earlier and explain that such chests are secured using a complicated system of knobs being pressed or turned rather than relying upon a traditional lock and key. Smith refuses to allow them to attempt opening the chest and turns down Mr. Meyerstein’s offer to purchase the chest and pay Smith a percentage on its unknown contents. After the appraisers depart, Smith confides in Petrie that he has recently received a premonition not to open the chest.

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The Walking Dead Season 2: Stop and Smell the Dessicated Roses

Friday, November 25th, 2011 | Posted by Brian Murphy

the-walking-dead-season-2Warning: Some spoilers follow

Season 2 of AMC’s The Walking Dead is nearing its midseason point, and apparently it sucks, at least according to a vocal minority of viewers. Why? Too much talking and not enough action. With a name like The Walking Dead, each episode should be wall-to-wall flesh munching zombies and humans gunning down undead with head shots on the wing. Or so the detractors say.

Me? I’ve been enjoying the heck out of the series, and think it’s pretty darned perfect as far as serialized television goes. The Walking Dead isn’t just about zombies. It’s also a human drama, and I’m hooked.

But I guess characterization and engagement with philosophical and moral questions aren’t what the zombie diehards want. Here’s a real sampling of some of the comments I’ve found:

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Black Gate Interviews James L. Sutter, Part Two

Thursday, November 24th, 2011 | Posted by Bill Ward

city-of-strangers-sutterLast week we were just getting started in our conversation with writer James L. Sutter; this week we talk more about James’ role at Paizo, the balance between editing and writing, and his early history as a writer and gamer.

Tell us a bit about your role at Paizo — not only are you shepherding the fiction line, but, as you mentioned, you’re the guy that makes sure the world stays consistent.

I’ve been at Paizo for about 7 years now, so I’ve worn a lot of different hats. At the moment, I’m the Fiction Editor, which means I’m the guy in charge of finding authors, commissioning stories and novels, developing them, solving any continuity issues, and doing much of the editing (though I’m backstopped by several other excellent editors). In addition to that, however, I still do a ton of development for the game products, usually as they relate to the world and continuity–I had the good fortune to already be on the creative team when we started Pathfinder, so while the company’s grown since then, there are a few of us who have followed and shaped the world’s expansion since the beginning.

Last but not least, I also get to do a fair bit of straight-up design work for Paizo: not just editing and developing freelancer content, but writing books and articles as a freelancer myself, which gives me a wonderful chance to create sections of our world out of whole cloth. Probably my favorite books that I’ve worked on are the two that I’ve done solo, a book called City of Strangers, which was essentially a travel guide to an anarchic, Mos Eisley cantina-style city that I invented, and Distant Worlds, which comes out in February and details the other planets in our world’s solar system. (The latter was a nice chance for me to kick back and indulge my blatant love of science fiction within the bounds of our fantasy setting.)

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Worth 1000 Words: An Interview with “Comic Critiquer” John Bonner

Thursday, November 24th, 2011 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney


Click Through For LARGER IMAGE!

I don’t remember who first directed to me to John Bonner’s Comic Critique of Gene Wolfe’s latest novel Home Fires.

I think maybe I saw it on Facebook.

Partly because I adore Gene, partly because I thought the medium was so clever, I immediately contacted Bonner to beg for an interview.

He was receptive. I procrastinated. After a not-so-brief hiatus, I actually sent him my questions. He answered.

Eventually, months after it all began, now that the, uh, stars are in alignment and the entrails of my oracular pig have disported themselves with a measure of amiability, I have the interview for your reading enjoyment here.

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Howard Andrew Jones on The Roots of Arabian Fantasy

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

The Adventures of Amir Hamza, translated by Musharraf Ali Farooqi

The Adventures of Amir Hamza, translated by Musharraf Ali Farooqi

Black Gate Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones, author of The Desert of Souls, knows a thing our two about Arabian fantasy — and excellent storytelling.

He was recently invited to be a guest blogger by our friends at SF Signal. The result is a fascinating post on the origins of Arabian Fantasy, the influence of Indian folklore, puzzle box stories, Aesop’s Fables, Persian myth, and more more.

Anyone looking for pointers on excellent non-Western fantasy will find the entire article richly rewarding, including this fascinating tidbit:

The fantastic tales of Arabia might, sort of, begin with the 1001 Nights, but they certainly don’t end there. Less well known in the west is The Adventures of Amir Hamza. This immense work was written by Ghalib Lakhnavi in 1871 — though that’s not when it was created. Lakhnavi was just setting to paper the result of some thousand years of oral stories concerning the fictitious exploits of the Uncle of the prophet Mohammad — though that should in no way diminish what was a mammoth undertaking. Like the 1001 Nights, The Adventures of Amir Hamza brim with fantastic monsters, magic, and mayhem and romance. Within them, though, is a more obvious strain of Indian influence. It is currently available in one volume from Modern Library, painstakingly and lovingly translated/assembled by Musharraf Ali Farooqi.

The complete post is here.

Art of the Genre: I.C.E.’s Middle-Earth Roleplaying Part One, Gail B McIntosh

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 | Posted by Scott Taylor


Yes indeed, I bring you another tale of art before you attempt to burst the buttons off your jeans with a hearty Thanksgiving feast. All winter holidays are something strange here in L.A., and it’s hard to think about turkey, snow, and roasting anything when the sun is bright and ocean breeze carries the promise of white-tipped surf and meditative tranquility.

Art, however, never takes a holiday [nor do we here at Black Gate L.A. since John O’Neill thinks days off are a grand waste of time]. That being said, I began a project some time ago that is very dear to my heart, so much so that Ryan Harvey doesn’t even argue with me about it which is saying something.

Below, I’ll lay the groundwork for my argument in case you who read this would like to contradict me, but I warn you, my passion is unmatched, and without vacations I’ll simply outlast you. Today, then, begins Part One of a small series dedicated to this topic, and I hope you’ll take the time to read them and educate yourself.

Part One:

I would argue that the prettiest role-playing game ever produced was Iron Crown Enterprises the Middle-Earth Role-Playing. Certainly the game’s popularity in the RPG boom decade of the 1980s was only rivaled by the gorilla in the room of TSR’s AD&D, statistics from the time indicating MERP was second in sales totals for the decade behind the RPG giant.

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Anne McCaffrey, April 1, 1926 – November 21, 2011

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

weyr-searchAnne McCaffrey, one of the most loved SF and fantasy writers of the 20th Century, died yesterday at her home in Ireland.

McCaffrey is probably best known for her Dragonriders of Pern novels, which began with the novella “Weyr Search” in Analog in October, 1967.

“Weyr Search” won the Hugo Award for Best Novella; its sequel “Dragonrider” (published in two parts in Analog in December 1967 and January 1968) was awarded the Nebula.  The two stories were collected as the first Pern novel Dragonflight, first published by Ballantine Books in July, 1968.

That was followed by an incredible 22 novels and two collections of short stories (some co-written with her son Todd), including The White Dragon (1978), the first hardcover SF novel to become a New York Times bestseller.

McCaffrey was a very prolific writer, with more than 100 books to her credit. Her first novel was Restoree (1967), and she had a real talent for series — including the Crystal Singer series, Freedom, Doona, Dinosaur PlanetBrain & Brawn Ship, Acorna, and many others. [I know — crazy, right? The only comparable modern author I can think of who has nearly this many popular series  is L. E. Modesitt.]

I recently bought a collection of vintage Analog magazines, and came across the one above, with the “Weyr Search” cover by John Schoenherr. It reminded me that those were the days when genre magazines could catapult you to the very peak of the profession, something far more rare today. McCaffrey had published only a handful of stories and her first novel (barely) when “Weyr Search” appeared… within a year she had won both the Hugo and Nebula, and published the first novel of a series that would make her a bestselling writer.

In addition to stellar sales, Anne McCaffrey was highly honored by fans and her fellow writers. She won the Robert A. Heinlein Award in 2007, became a SFWA Grand Master in 2005, and was inducted into the SF Hall of Fame in 2006.

Ten Questions for Daniel Abraham

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 | Posted by Emily Mah

Daniel Abraham

Daniel Abraham

Daniel Abraham and I met at the Millenium PhilCon, my first ever WorldCon. I noted that he had “Albuquerque, New Mexico” under his name on his badge, so I let him know that I was from Los Alamos, and then a few caffeine fueled day/night cycles later, I found myself invited to join his writers group. I’m very glad I did. Like me, Daniel is a Clarion West graduate, though we attended different years. He is the only person, that I know of, who has had his wedding picture in Locus with a toilet prominently displayed in the foreground. That was a gift from said writers group.

I still remember the email Daniel sent when he landed his first novel deal, a four book series with Tor. I was there when he workshopped his first Jayne Heller book, for which he adopted the pen name MLN Hanover, and I was the person he and Ty Franck, the other half of the duo who writes as James SA Corey, knew in common. Ty came to New Mexico for a visit and inevitably met the rest of the writers group, which he would later join.

In the following email interview, I got a chance to catch up with Daniel and revisit some of the stories he’s told me over the years.

An Interview with Daniel Abraham, aka M.L.N. Hanover, aka James S.A. Corey

Conducted and Edited by Emily Mah, November, 2011

Emily Mah: I always think of the story of how you became a writer as beginning pre-natally, when your mother dreamed of you becoming an architect. Care to share what followed from this?

Daniel Abraham: Well the short form of the story is that my mother wanted to be an architect from the time that she was 12, only this was the 60s.  When she got pregnant with yours truly, her first thought was “Oh well, maybe I’ll have a son and he’ll be an architect.”  Her second thought was something like “Ohmigod, did I just think that?”  What followed from that was that I spent my gentle formative years with my Spanish-fluent hippie English major father while my mother got her architectural degree.  He read to me a lot all through my childhood, and apparently some of it stuck.

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My Three-Year, 150th Post Anniversary . . . vs. The Giant Robots

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

godzilla-against-mechagodzillaThree years ago this week I posted my fist official article on the new Black Gate blog. I was one the original seven bloggers who answered John O’Neill’s call to make Black Gate online a place people wanted to visit again and again.

Yes, seriously: there were only seven bloggers at the start, one for each day. At one point, we may have dipped down to three. Those were strange days.

And I’m still here after all those years, at the Tuesday spot. And not only is it my three-year anniversary this week, but this post is my one hundred and fiftieth. No, I didn’t plan these two anniversaries to coincide. In fact, if you do the math, this means that over the past three years I failed to meet the weekly Tuesday post five times. I’m sorry, but some things just happen — like giant monster attacks. (Well, I wish; I tried that as an excuse at my old day job, but it didn’t work.)

I wasn’t a newcomer to Black Gate’s website when I started the weekly spot. Before the site became a blog with a rotating team, I wrote a few articles on request for John O’Neill. I finished a series on Clark Ashton Smith that I started on another website, and those articles still get good hits: (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.) I also penned a long analysis of the two version of Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword, a piece I’m still proud of.

But it was my 25 November 2008 review of Conan the Raider that marked my first “Tuesday Blog Post.” This apparently unambitious start was actually a tip of the hat to the series that got me noticed as a blogger in the first place: reviews of Conan pastiches.

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