Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

wpid-20150808_123909.jpgIn 2013 I made my first visit to Los Angeles, It was a good trip for many reasons,  My first trip to Disneyland, lots of amazing vegan eats, and on a trip to Vroman’s bookstore I stumbled on my new favorite series: Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

Ex-Heroes is a Zombie and Superheroes mash-up set in the ruins of Los Angeles. Unlike other Zombie Supers mash ups (I’m looking at you Marvel Zombies) this is amazing and fun from beginning to end. At the moment there are four books out, with the fifth due out early in 2016.

The zombies in universe are referred to as Exes, or Ex-humans, and they are legion by the present of the books. The Exs are Romero type shamblers, but they are not moaners, their teeth chatter and clack in a cacophony of terror.

The heroes are not globe trotters, or world shakers, they are city level heroes.  Think Batman Year One, Daredevil, Spiderman and the like. Most of them fit a classic super hero archetype. Stealth is The Cowl, St George The Cape, Zzzap who is a bit like and electric Human Torch that goes to eleven.

wpid-img_20150808_123823.jpgThe Chapters are divided into THEN and NOW. I really enjoyed this set-up allowing for a good deal of world building, origin stories and how the heroes were un able to stop the undead plague despite their best efforts, as well as telling the story of the present pickle, usually with something in the past informing the current situation.

The books tread into areas familiar to readers of Powers, and a few other comics that address the effects on ordinary people in a world of super beings. How do you cope when you fear your protectors can up and leave, or inadvertently destroy your infrastructure in a super powered fist fight. Clines plays with conventions, and tropes of both superhero and zombie genres involved, making the story feel very fresh.

Don’t let those bigger questions fool you the books are fast paced, and Clines write’s superhero fights better than anyone. All while conveying a definite sense of place, the land scape of LA to me felt like a character unto itself, to the point I knew where I was when traveling around LA from remembering passages in the text.

So any way, you know you love superheroes, and you know you love zombies, why note dive in!

The books:

Ex-Heroes

Ex-Patiots

Ex-Communication

Ex-Purgatory

And coming soon…

Ex-Isle

Important locations are fodder for the city creation process for the Dresden Files RPG. So here are the first batch of  locations that have made appearances in the games so far. Where appropriate I will link to the home pages or Wikipedia entries of the places in question.

NAME:Summit Avenue

DESCRIPTION:Old money and big housesgriggs house

THEME (OR) THREAT:Theme

THE IDEA:The home of old families of the Twin Cities, and all the baggage that implies

THE ASPECT: Old money and dark secrets

THE FACE: Martha Griggs – Protector of reputations and tradition.

NAME: Dinkytowndinky1

DESCRIPTION: A borough of Minneapolis surrounding the University of Minnesotacampus, populated predominantly by college students and townies.

THEME (OR) THREAT: Theme

THE IDEA: The muggle origins of the name “Dinkytown” are unknown, but to the supernatural world, it is a central hub for pixies, brownies, dwarves, elves, sprites, and their related changelings, all of whom maintain a bustling Dinkytown Overcity of tiny homes and businesses atop the muggle-sized homes and businesses. The Dinkytown Overcity is, believe it or not, the center of supernatural commerce in the Twin Cities.

THE ASPECT: Fragglesque goblin-a-rific market.

THE FACE: Squeentyn McFarklerface III, the pixie mayor of Dinkytown Overcity, who is commonly seen to riding a massive rat that he insists is a mouse that he has named Lieutenant Bunderplum.

NAME: The Blue Door

bluedoor

DESCRIPTION: An upscale jazz bar owned and operated by supernatural creatures, for supernatural creatures, located in downtown St. Paul. Muggles need not apply.

THEME (OR) THREAT: Theme

THE IDEA: The Blue Door is Accorded neutral territory and one of the only agreed upon safe havens in the Twin Cities. Owned, operated, managed, and staffed entirely by supernatural creatures, it is a true nexus where the disparate supernatural powers truly play nice.

THE ASPECT: Peace enforced by threat of gratuitous violence.

THE FACE: Valentine, the owner, manager, and primary vocal entertainer for the Blue Door, is a mysterious figure of unknown nature and origin. She is beautiful and dangerous, with honey-colored skin, striking violet eyes, and is rumored to be one of the oldest denizens of the Americas, and possibly the world.

Aiden Croft acts as chief enforcer and bouncer at the Blue Door. Tall, broad, muscular and strikingly Teutonic, he makes no secret that he is, in fact, a werewolf. His dominance is sufficient that he could easily take alphaship of any werewolf pack in and around the Twin Cities area, but he instead chooses a solitary life as a lone wolf. It is believed that he and Valentine were lovers once, but now their relationship seems strictly professional.

NAME: St. Thomas Universityust2

DESCRIPTION: A parochial university located on Summit Avenue in St. Paul.

THEME (OR) THREAT: Theme

THE IDEA: Higher education with a very special library

THE ASPECT: Knowledge is a double edged sword.

THE FACE: Monsignor O’Malley – The Good Shepherd

NAME: First Avenue / 7th Street Entrance1stave

DESCRIPTION: Aging music venue barely holding its market share. The walls have an amazing history of acts of all genres, home of the Twin Cities Sound.

THEME (OR) THREAT: Theme

THE IDEA: Don’t like the music, come back tomorrow, really please, come back.

THE ASPECT: The Twin Cities sound… of desperation.

THE FACE: Steve McClellan – club owner at the end of his rope.

NAME: Magus Books

magus

DESCRIPTION: Dinkytown’s finest magic bookstore.

THEME (OR) THREAT: Theme

THE IDEA: The place to go for bits and baubles of a magical variety

THE ASPECT: A glimpse behind the veil

THE FACE: Derius DeWitt – the magic man.

NAME: Stardust Lanes

stardust

DESCRIPTION: South Mpls bowling alley with a sketchy reputation

THEME (OR) THREAT: Theme

THE IDEA: The seedy underbelly of Mpls

THE ASPECT: Good old fashioned corruption.

THE FACE: Leo Marcone – Hungry crime boss

NAME: The Basilica of St Mary and St. Paul’s Cathedral

basilica

DESCRIPTION: Center of Catholic Faith in the Twin Cities

THEME (OR) THREAT: Theme

THE IDEA: The archdiocese of these two great institutions form the heart of Catholic worship in the entire

Twin Cities Metro Area. Behind the scenes, however,  the leaders of the church are reassembling a gnostic group that looks strikingly like the Templars. Whether or not this is done with the blessing of the Vatican remains to be seen.

THE ASPECT: Psalm 23:4 (Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.)

THE FACE:  Father Benedicte Christos, Peaceful Warrior

NAME: Saint Paul City Hall

Saint_Paul_City_Hall

DESCRIPTION: The police on the east side of the river

THEME (OR) THREAT: Threat

THE IDEA: Minneapolis has its trouble with mundane corruption, the SP-PD has more supernatural troubles.

THE ASPECT: Saintly halos are beginning to tarnish

THE FACE: Detective Cameron Baker – Remarkably savvy peace officer.

Zombies, two ways!

Posted: April 6, 2011 in Books

I love zombies, I love them in what ever format I can find them: books, film, TV etc. As long as they are not there in the form of a ravenous horde trying to pound down the doors of my apartment building I am there. This winter I finished two zombie genre mash-ups.  The first was BONESHAKER by Cherie Priest and the second was STAR WARS: DEATH TROOPERS by Joe Schreiber. The books were both fairly different, but both also gave me a good zombie fix.

BONESHAKER is a Steampunk zombie mash-up, and the first book in Cherie Priests Clockwork Century set in an alternative history where the civil war languishes on for decades and Zeppelins  driven by steam are a major part of the war effort on both sides.  Add into this the loss of Seattle due to a catastrophe with a steam powered drilling machine, the titular Boneshaker rampages across downtown Seattle opening up several bank vaults as well as a deposit of something called Blight Gas.  Blight Gas is a nasty substance that is horribly toxic with the nasty side-effect of reanimating you into a very nasty, very hungry zombie, that are called rotters by the populace.  There was a mass exodus and a wall built around the city to keep the gas and the bad things it birthed inside the city limits.

The story proper focuses on Briar Wilkes and her son Zeke. Zeke’s father Leviticus Blue was an inventor, and is considered by everyone to be the cause of Seattle’s  fate as he invented the Boneshaker, and did all the damage on its first test drive.  Zeke for his part wants to learn if his father is the monster everyone thinks he is, he wants answers, and he is willing to go over the wall to get them and to perhaps clear his father’s name.  For her part Briar follows him into the city to try and rescue him. Briar also gets to face the consequences of her own actions after the city fell into chaos, and terror.  They both discover that the other side of the wall is not just about zombies, there are people living behind the wall and under the city eeking out a living, all with their own agendas for those that live inside the wall and expectations of both Briar and Zeke.

The book is thoughtful and all the characters feel well fleshed out, and well integrated into the world.  The action of the book is also a slow build as Priest takes the time to do a fair amount of world building, and the threat of the rotters is an equally slow build, creating a fair number of scares, and a growing feeling of dread.  I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more from the Clockwork Century, and really want to see more of the war in future books  in the setting.

DEATH TROOPERS is a STAR WARS novel that is set a few years before Episode IV, and is set on the Imperial Prison barge Purge that is trudging its way across hyperspace when there is a major malfunction in the drive system leaving the vessel stuck in the middle of no where, with no hope of rescue save for a Star Destroyer that appears abandoned and a drift in the same system.  The Purge is full of the worst criminals in the galaxy, rebel sympathizers and aliens many of whom were cleared out to make the galaxy more palatable for Palpatine’s human centric empire. We are quickly introduced to a large cast of characters including Kale and Trig  Longo, the sons of a griftermurdered in cold blood by the sadistic guard captain Jareth Sartoris  in the infirmiry of doctor Zahara Cody and the 2-1B medical droid nicknames “Waste.”

A work detail is sent to the Star Destroyer to scavenge parts to repair the prison barge, from there badness happens, and zombies soon follow.As well as a LOT of gore, much more than you would expect in a STAR WARS novel. If BONESHAKER is a slow build, DEATH TROOPERS is a roller-coaster ride pretty much start to finish. The scares are fast and furious and  mostly of the quick shock variety, at times the slow build is use.  A lot of the inherent creepiness in the book comes from the familiar star wars tropes being shown in a new light. Zombie Wookies, kind of scary!  Oh a couple of characters from the original trilogy do make an appearance in the last half of the book, but I wont spoil that bit of fun.

Final thoughts; this book is a lot of fun.  It is a fast read and its all about action and scares, no big messages or big character development, its blasters and gore!

It looks like February and Con of the North are a long ways off on paper, but it is time to start thinking about what games I will be running that far odd weekend. Especially since the pre-event program submissions are due… NEXT MONTH!!!!!! Fortunately I have been mulling a few ideas over in my head for a while now. OK, four ideas, and is running four games over the weekend a bit to much?

A Savage Worlds Steampunk game inspired by Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century world and maybe a bit of Wild Wild West.  I am thinking about Union  Airship Privateers attempting to thwart a Confederate plot to start a zombie threat in Union territory, perhaps along the Mason-Dixon Line. Zeppelins, steam-powered tanks and flesh-eating ghouls, whats not to love.  I am currently reading Priest’s book Boneshaker and it has given me a bug to try and run a bit of Steampunk

A Pathfinder game with perhaps more zombies,  with the PCs being conscripted to go out and find the source of the undead scourge that is plaguing a the city they find them selves in.  Are two zombie themed games really too much to run, I guess we we shall see, but I really want to try and run some Pathfinder what ever my scenario morphs into by the time the deadline hits.

Star Wars Saga Edition:  I think I will do a follow on to the Star Wars game I ran last year with the employees of Ssss’kp Tracers Bounty and Detection Service. I am thinking a Nobel hires the players to get him or some vaulable family heirloom off planet in the middle of a Mandalorian invasion.  It should afford some good opportunities for Star Wars style goodness, and maybe just a bit of space combat too, if I can get the pacing right.

I would also like to run some Cthulu-Tech. Although I am not exactly sure of the scenario. I did have fun last year with the players being in power armor, although I also ponder a straight up Mecha pilots on the battlefield scenario, although I am not sure how much role-playing that will encourage or if it will be a straight up monster mash.