Book Review – Disciple of Vengeance

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

Betrayed and left for dead, the only thing keeping Janis alive is rage. Rage at the enemies who slaughtered his family, at the wizard who sold them out, but most of all at himself for letting it happen.

Now it’s too late.

His body spasms. His memories leak away. In his final moments, a presence approaches him. It’s alien but powerful, driven by a hunger he’s never known. “Give me life within you,” the nameless one offers, “and I will give you your vengeance.”

Janis will go from prince assassin to fugitive sorcerer as he hunts the people who killed his family. He’ll battle mercenaries, cultists, gods and wizards in a magic devastated world to unravel a conspiracy that goes far beyond the treachery of one wizard.

He fuels his success with a diabolic power that will force him to ask what he sold his soul to, and to wonder what it really wants.

All he knows for sure is that there’s no going back.

Vengeance is only the beginning.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Janis is dead. But this doesn’t have to be the end of him. An alien presence approaches him and promises to give him the power for vengeance. The pact seems worthwhile but all things come at a cost. Upon awaking, Janis has no memory of who he is and a new kind of hunger is inside of him. Janis knows he wants revenge but he’s not sure at first on whom or why.

The story unfolds in a series of actions sequences and flashes of memories reminding Janis of who he is and what he has lost. He has a few friends and can tap into an incredible power but reaching his ultimate goal may be harder than he imagined.

The book comes in on the shorter side at around 40,000 words which leaves the reader wanting a bit more from the story. However, in the short time of the book a lot is accomplished. An interesting and complex magic system is established well and the world feels rather robust and lived in.

Because Janis starts the story with no memory of himself it was at times difficult to get full context of who he is and what the purpose of his actions were. Still, the story is ultimately satisfying and enjoyable. It’s well worth a read, it would just have been nice to have a little more background and a little more story altogether.

If you like series such as Elric of Melnibone by Micheal Moorcock and Bloodstone by Karl Edward Wagner you’ll enjoy Disciple of Vengeance.

Book Review – A Death Most Quiet

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

A Death Most Quiet details the riveting criminal investigations of Captain Edward McCuen as he leads the NYPD’s Crime Scene Unit on a relentless pursuit of three elusive serial killers.

With the help of his team, McCuen follows a trail of mysterious murders alongside an eccentric mathematician named Anselm Winterbottom, who McCuen has secretly leveraged as an investigatory consultant. The two men have a turbulent friendship, and it soon becomes clear that Winterbottom’s ultimate aim is far from altruistic. While their alliance is tested, a crime reporter seeks to uncover the true identity of the man who is helping McCuen.

As the hunters become the hunted, this three-part crime thriller delves into the dark corners of human nature, murder, and madness, staged amidst the landmarks of New York City, and the cultural treasures of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ed McCuen is a New York Detective who is willing to do whatever it takes to stop criminals from killing in his city, no matter the cost. He has solved his share of cases and seen his share of action but on occasion there are cases that pop up that even he can’t solve. In those situations he teams up with Anselm Winterbottom, an eccentric mathematician who has seen his own share of tragedy. Winterbottom’s mind works like no one else’s and he can find clues others miss. When McCuen asks for Winterbottom’s help on three unusual cases, secrets are revealed, lives are lost and saved and both McCuen and Winterbottom have to ask themselves what doing the right thing really means.

While this book is a murder mystery it would be more accurate to say it is three murder mysteries in one book. The mysteries are all inventive and leave the reader guessing as to who the perpetrator is and whether or not they will be caught.

At the same time, the book does a nice job taking the reader into the emotional journey of both McCuen and Winterbottom as the two of them come into inevitable conflict. While it would not be fair to give major plot points away in a review, I can say the answers in all three mysteries surprised me and had me guessing all the way until the end.

It could be argued that the character of the crime reporter was a bit underdeveloped but this is only a minor complaint. It was difficult to find plot holes in the mystery and the pages keep turning to find out the conclusion.

If you like Sherlock Holmes but with a modern spin or books by authors like Harlan Coben consider giving A Death Most Quiet a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Book Review – Aurelia And The Enemies Of Pity

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

Prepare yourself for a spectacular, page-turning, and mind-blowing fantasy fiction novel that will take you on a one-of-a-kind trip filled with intense fights, amusing and swift dialogues, and vividly graphic imagery – precisely the way good fantasy fiction novels should be.

REVIEW

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Aurelia is an Akkadian which means she has powers that help her to reshape the very environment around her at will. She is thrown into a war that rages all around her and must learn to control her power without destroying everything around her. She is aided by her friend Nadia and several mentors.

While the book has potential and the plot could lead to some interesting places, the technical issues in the writing make it difficult to follow. The reader’s head spins a bit from the amount of head hopping and abrupt changes in past or present tense, sometimes right in the middle of a paragraph.

The world built here is intriguing and the mix of magic with some more modern weaponry can be exciting. However, the plot was difficult to follow and understand and it would have been nice if some more background had been given to both the characters and what was causing the war. It was not always clear who was fighting whom or why they were fighting in the first place.

While the book overall was not for me, I did think Aurelia was a memorable character and she has the potential to have an interesting series. It would be nice to see a bit more background and context in the next books and to have a little less confusion about what is happening and who we are supposed to be focusing on in each scene.

Marvel 616 Comic Book Review: Fantastic Four #6

Fantastic Four issue #6 Photo Credit: Marvel

By the sixth issue of The Fantastic Four they were a certified hit in the comics publishing industry. The books actually were flying off the shelves and although many of these issues still end up tossed in the trash once they have been read, there are some collectors out there who realize it might be more fun to hang on to these comics.

Because the book was such a hit, the action has to ramp up as much as possible every issue. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had already introduced to incredibly strong and sophisticated villains, Namor, who pre-dates the 616 universe and Dr. Doom who is the first of the greatest original villains in 616. So what could be more exciting than having those villains work together? The first real villain team up that matters happens in this issue and it is a formula for success.

At the start of the issue we see bystanders observing Johnny Storm and debating about whether or not The Fantastic Four are real. The bystanders are shocked to find out Invisible Girl was in their midst the whole time as she suddenly appears.

We follow along as she goes into the Baxter building and passes through some security measures devised by Reed Richards to keep others out. We even get a neat little diagram of the building. This will be something featured several times in these comics and as a comics reader, it’s always aa little fun to be let in on the secrets.

The family is worried because Dr. Doom has not been seen since last issue and surely he is up to no good. But before the issue gets down to business, we see Reed Richards stretch his way over to a hospital to talk to a fan. There he gives an explanation to why his costume stretches with him. “…it is woven from chemical fibers containing unstable molecules that shift in structure when I affect the change!” This must have been a good enough explanation for most folks because they stick with that for a long time.

Meanwhile, The Thing gets a letter from the Yancy Street Gang calling him out to fight. I think this is the first mention of them but they become a huge part of Ben Grimm’s life so the letter is significant in Marvel 616 history.

Out in the ocean, Sub-Mariner is frolicking with a group of porpoise and Dr. Doom is flying above the waters, on the search for aa worthy partner. He knows the FF and Sub-Mariner have fought before and he seems like an ideal partner but of course it’s all destined to go wrong.

As the two talk we get to see a little more of the background of Namor and why he hates the surface world so much. His home city of Atlantis was destroyed when an H-bomb test hit while Namor was away. In other words, he has justifiable reason to hate humans. Stan Lee was very good at humanizing certain villains and Sub-Mariner may be the best example of that. We also learn that Namor has feelings for Sue Storm and we see that Sue has a picture of Namor hidden away so there is some mutual attraction there.

Soon Doom explains his plan which involves a gadget that can use magnetism to life incredibly heavy objects. Namor is on board with plan and off and running (or i should say swimming) to New York City. There, a crowd is amazed to see him and we have bystanders referencing stories they have read about Namor, once again establishing Marvel comics as a thing in the Marvel 616 universe.

Namor easily barges into the Baxter building to have a chat with the FF but of course they don’t want to listen. Except for Sue Storm that is. While they are checking out his story, the whole Baxter building gets lifted into the air by Dr. Doom.

Namor was promised Sue Storm wouldn’t be hurt but when the building rockets toward space, he realizes Doom has betrayed him. The villain team up is now over and Namor is going to have to help the Fantastic Four. Namor is consistently a great frenemy of the group who will do the right thing but only at the last moment or at the behest of Sue Storm.

One by one each member of the FF tries to stop the rocket but to no avail. Well, to be fair, Sue Storm didn’t try anything because, well, Stan Lee was not exactly great at giving equal time for female heroics. And the Thing does realize his strength isn’t going to stop a rocket so he just tries to bash Namor.

Conveniently there is a water tower in the building so Namor can power himself up enough to stop Doom. This also establishes the fact that Doom mentions earlier in the issue, Namor is one of the few people who could put a stop to Doom’s desires of global domination.

This confrontation ends with Doom launched onto a meteor but we all know he is coming back at some point.

It’s hard to overstate the complexities that early issues like these set up not just for the FF but for all of Marvel. The way that villains are multifaceted and complex makes for great reads even in comic books and they still work in modern culture. I think it’s why the MCU is such a successful franchise. We can relate to everyone, even the villains.

Next up on the reading list we’re getting micro once again as we go back to Tales to Astonish #35 and check in on Ant-Man!

Marvel 616 Comic Book Review: The Incredible Hulk #3

The Incredible Hulk #3 Photo Credit: Marvel

For two issues we have seen how the Hulk can be a major threat to the population. He is a big, unstoppable, rage machine. On the other hand, mild mannered Bruce Banner is well aware of what he becomes and knows he needs to take precautions to keep the innocent safe. To this end, Bruce has built a nearly indestructible bunker under the sea to keep the monster in at night. But we all know, nearly indestructible is not actually indestructible.

Rick Jones is the only one Bruce trusts enough to make sure Hulk stays in all night and will be there to let Bruce out in the morning. One thing Bruce perhaps didn’t consider was how close to a military base his reinforced bunker was.

General Ross, who is going to be an antagonist of Bruce’s for the whole series, has sent his men to find Rick. It’s well known that Rick and Hulk have a connection and Rick is just the bait Ross needs.

Ross appeals to Rick by telling him Hulk is the only one who can test a rocket for the government. In the days this issue was written, comics writers were not allowed by the Comics Code Authority of America to write anything that might be considered “unpatriotic”. So of course, Rick brings the Hulk along. But not until after Hulk has smashed out of his unbreakable bunker and pounded his way through a group of tanks.

Hulk ends up in the rocket and is launched into space. This is not the first time he was launched into the stars but this does mark the first time he was tricked and sent there to get rid of him. What do you do with a big, unstoppable, rage machine who can break through a bunker made to withstand an atomic blast? Send him to space. This solution will be tried over and over in Marvel 616. It never works for long.

While the ship is in space it gets close enough to the sun that it’s like daylight which brings out Bruce Banner. Then he is immediately hit with rays of radiation. As a story device, this was so it did not have to be night for Hulk to come out. It also loosely ties in to the events of Fantastic Four #1 as these could be the very same rays Reed Richards and company collided with.

In addition, these rays psychically link Rick Jones and Hulk when Rick touches a control to bring the ship back. This is very convenient for the Ringmaster part of the issue later but does come off as fairly silly.

Once Hulk is back he smashes his way through the army and nearly kills Rick. Lucky for Rick he figures out the whole psychic link thing and is able to command the Hulk to go back to his bunker. Why the army isn’t waiting there, since earlier in the issue the said they had the area under surveillance, is beyond me.

The next part of the issue gives us the third telling of the origin of the Hulk. We get to see a tiny bit more of why Rick was there but it’s pretty much the same story from the first two issues. There was a bomb test, Rick was there, Bruce saved his life but the gamma rays created the Hulk.

We are next introduced to The Ringmaster. This is a character that actually shows up in a lot of Marvel 616 books but his first appearance was in this issue. He’s capable of hypnotizing large crowds to be immobile at which point he and his crew of circus performers simply rob the town of all its goods.

Hypnotism was like magic in the 60’s comics and pulp fiction stories. Basically it could make anyone do anything and it was an easy story device.

Well, the Ringmaster comes to the wrong town because this time Rick Jones is in the crowd and he can control a big, unstoppable, rage monster named the Hulk. It’s no match between these circus clowns (pun absolutely intended) and the Hulk. Still, it seems Ringmaster and his crew can hold up a little longer than the army does against the Hulk.

All in all, it’s a fairly standard Hulk issue but it does do a few important things. It shows that Ross is not going to stop hunting the Hulk and he is willing to use dirty tricks to do it. Rick is one of the few people Hulk might actually take orders from, even when not hypnotized. And, we get to see that the Hulk can’t quite fly, but he can leap so far, it’s pretty close to the same thing.

Next on the reading list, we’re going back to ol’ stretcho himself, Reed Richards to check in on the family in Fantastic Four #6.

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Book Review – Olwen and Eisa

Olwen and Eisa by C.S. Watts

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

Volume 3 in the saga of The Ravenstones, introduces the reader to our protagonists’ enemies, the big cats of Aeronbed. The courageous lioness, Olwen and the insightful panther, Eisa must chart a dangerous path through life. Olwen, has received the gift of a prophecy, but she must figure out its meaning and learn how to benefit from that knowledge. Eisa, cut loose from his kin and comrades, comes to her aid.

Eirwen, the polar bear, has accepted the charge to lead the bears of Heimborn in revolt against their oppressors. His road to victory will require every ounce of patience, cunning and ingenuity he can muster. Although he must confront a determined and vicious enemy, often it’s his own side presenting the greatest obstacle to success.

Fridis, the Eider duck, left behind in Vigmar’s capital has set herself lofty goals, ones that require a trip to the southern reaches of the empire. While the trip opens her eyes to the mysteries of the magic Ravenstones, it also brings threatening and heart-wrenching news. The reach of her enemies may be strong and ruthless, but she will not be denied.

REVIEW

The third volume in the Saga of the Ravenstones series introduces us to new characters and gives the reader a peek into what has been going on with the enemies of Eirwen and Fridis, the main characters from the first two books. We get to see how the big cats of Aeronbed see the conflict and there are some unlikely allies made.

The book does still continue the story of Eirwen and Fridis but it allows the reader to see the whole picture and it sheds light on some of the events from the first two books in the series.

The big cats of Aeronbed (lions, panthers, and the like) have been at war for about as long as anyone can remember. The panthers have been oppressing the bears of Heimborn and don’t consider them to be a true threat. What they don’t realize yet is that a certain polar bear has come along to change the situation. Some of the panthers want to take extreme measures against both the bears and those who rule in Aeronbed.

This military maneuvering and political intrigue make unlikely allies out of Olwen, a lion and Eisa, a panther. They must depend upon one another for survival and to prevent utter disaster on all fronts of the war.

Meanwhile, Fridis has been exiled and is learning more than she thought possible about the magic stones she and Eirwen discovered. She may have been kept away from Vigmar but she is not without allies.

Don’t let the fact that this series has talking animals in it fool you. This story is every bit as complex, intriguing and interesting as some of the best fantasy series around. In fact, the plot twists and turns are downright Shakespearian at times. The story will keep you guessing and continues to surprise and delight.

If you love sweeping epic fantasy series like Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time or The Shannara series you will get a thrill out of The Ravenstone Saga. This is not a series where you can skip around though, so make sure you read the first two in order to get the fullest picture of the series.

Book Review – Calamity

Calamity by Sam Winter

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

When society collapses, who will you choose to save?

The United States, reeling from an infectious disease, has reached a tipping point. Society’s collapse is imminent. The rabies variant virus is decimating the southern states and the National Guard can no longer contain it. In response, the heavy hand of the government initiates extreme and violent measures to quarantine half the nation.

SWAT Officer Derrick Hart and his best friend, Army Ranger Brandon Armstrong, are at the tip of the spear trying to keep it all together as society loots, riots, and revolts against the government. Hundreds of miles lay between them and their family as another city falls to the vicious infected hordes. These two brothers in arms must choose between their duty and the ones they love.

When the country they once served becomes the oppressive force that now threatens their lives, Derrick and Brandon must fight together if their loved ones stand a chance at survival.

When the country collapses, who will you let die?

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

There is a virus let loose in the southern part of the United States. Those who are infected become mindless, violent killing machines and spread the infection to others who come into contact with them. As the country tries to keep the contagion in check, extreme measures are taken to stem the tide of the so-called “rabid”. Borders are put in place along with military and police check points and only the privileged few are allowed to escape to the safer parts of the country in the north.

In the middle of all this are two friends, one an Army Ranger, the other a Police SWAT Officer. They’ve made a pact to always look out for one another and they know they can rely on each other to survive the worst catastrophe imaginable. But even Brandon Armstrong and Derrick Hart could not have predicted how bad things were about to get. In order to get those they care about to safety, they are going to have to risk everything.

The book is fast paced with plenty of action and leaves the reading wanting to turn the next page. There are shocking and surprising moments in the book. However, it does read like many zombie books that have come before it. That’s not necessarily a criticism, the parts of the book that make it good are the parts that make all zombie stories of this type good.

One thing the author does notably well is highlight what a likely government response on both a local and national level might actually look like in this type of scenario. In addition the author takes into account what some fringe elements of society might do in reaction to those actions and overall, this gives the book a well thought out and realistic dynamic.

On occasion it can feel like the author is slightly overreaching with the amount of characters juggled here but in the end it all balances out nicely. The end comes together in a natural fashion and has an excellent set up for the sequel in the series.

If you like zombie stories like World War Z, The Walking Dead or Slow Burn: Zero Day, you’ll be sure to find something you enjoy in Calamity. Better news is that this is a series so if you do enjoy Calamity there is more story to find. I’m looking forward to reading the next one.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday – #MovieReview

Happy Friday the 13th everybody! Slick Dungeon here to review yet another in the Friday the 13th film series.

Jason has been through a lot at this point in the film series. He’s been drowned, shot, stabbed, burnt, thrown through several windows and endured the dance stylings of Crispin Glover. He’s also killed tons of people but there is one thing he has never done. Gone to Hell.

The title of this film is Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. Huge spoiler here – it’s not the final Friday at all.

Anyway, I sat down and watched this one and while it is not the best in the series it isn’t the worst either. There will be actual spoilers in the review below so if you haven’t seen this and really care about that sort of thing watch the movie first.

The film starts in classic Crystal Lake fashion. There is a woman who is alone in a cabin and getting ready to take a bath. Guess who shows up? Yep, Jason himself is back. He goes in for the kill but the woman escapes and runs out into the woods where… a whole task force of FBI agents shoot him with all the firepower they have and then blow him up just to finish the job.

Waiting in the woods observing all this is a bounty hunter named Creighton Duke. He knows this won’t be the end of Jason but he seems to know how to stop the guy.

Jason’s body (what is left of it) is taken to the morgue for an autopsy. But his still beating heart seems to hypnotize and possess the guy doing the autopsy. And Jason is out in a new body free to kill again. Not only that, he can actually switch bodies through a gross version of CPR.

Back in Crystal Lake, there is a waitress who we find out is Jason’s sister. She has a daughter who also has a daughter meaning Jason has three living relatives.

Well, you can probably guess what happens. Jason hops from body to body killing everyone who gets in his way, including his sister. But his niece and her daughter are still alive and the remainder of the movie is about protecting them.

It plays out like most of these movies do where there are tons of chances for Jason to get all murder-y, for people to run around in the woods, for the police department to mess up yet again, and in the end for Jason to be seemingly killed.

Most horror fans like this one for the very last scene of the film. After Jason has sunk down into the earth, presumably where Hell is geographically located, an iconic glove with blades on the fingers comes out to grab the hockey mask. Yep, Freddy has the mask now and Jason is in Hell with him. Do I smell a crossover coming? Yes. Yes I do.

Now that you have the plot there, I had a few questions and comments about this one.

  1. For most of the movies Jason was unstoppable but wasn’t really a supernatural demon or anything. I’m not sure this helps the movie so why change that? Just so we can acknowledge Jason belongs in hell? I think we knew that from (checks notes) all the killing he did.
  2. In the first scene Jason is easily caught by the FBI team. Now, I am not saying Jason is the smartest killer around but for decades he has been able to kill a group of people before they even figured out he started killing anyone. He hides the bodies in places that will throw them into shock and then strikes. So why in this one would he not have seen the FBI agents? It’s where Jason lives and kills best and with all the people and equipment they had there, there is no way Jason would not have noticed.
  3. The Jason movies have been fairly enjoyable slashers up to this point but this one becomes more of a body horror movie and seems to go for the gross out more than the jump in your seat sort of scare. Bad call filmmakers.
  4. Creighton Duke is set up as the guy who knows how to kill Jason and at the beginning you would be forgiven for thinking this movie would be about him. But what does this guy do? First he watches Jason not actually get killed. Then he does an interview where he says he knows how to kill Jason for a price. Then he goes to Crystal Lake, immediately gets himself put in prison and spends most of the movie there. We are never given his backstory as to why he knows how to kill Jason or why he might have it out for Jason in particular. (I mean other than just objecting to all the killing Jason does which is reason enough) So here is my question. Who is going to pay this guy for all that? He has to be like the worst bounty hunter of all time. He pretty much does nothing except give away a secret and hand someone a dagger. Other than that, no point to this guy.
  5. Also, the last time we saw Jason he had been changed into a child because of nuclear waste in a New York sewer. I realize we don’t get a lot of explanations in this series but uh, could you tell us how he came back?
  6. Since when did Jason have a sister? Perhaps somewhere in the last 8 movies that could have been mentioned. Or you know, the police could have gone to the sister and said, hey do you know your brother is a murder machine? Anything you could do to stop him would be great.
  7. There are a few scenes at the Voorhees home. This place is huge but it’s been empty and deserted for years. But from the outside it looks like it has been really well maintained. I really want to know, was someone paying for the landscaping of the yard for all these years or is someone just cutting that grass for free?
  8. Also, inside the house there is an unexplained book that looks like it’s some kind of magic book to call demons or something. Who exactly was reading that? It wasn’t Jason’s mom and I don’t think it was his sister or niece. My money is on the landscaper.
  9. It has been NINE movies now, NINE and they only tore down the cabins at Camp Crystal Lake recently. Like, this town is asking for it. Why does anyone live here???
  10. So Jason is supposed to go to Hell but we just see him sucked into the ground by a bunch of dirt hands. Couldn’t we have gotten at least one scene of him in Hell? This is worse than when Jason went to Manhattan and only spent like ten minutes there.
  11. The twist of Jason having a sister was pretty lazy writing and then using that to be how Jason had to be killed was also pretty lazy writing. I am starting to get the feeling people don’t watch these for the plot. Am I the only one thinking that here?
  12. Okay so Freddy grabbed the mask! Freddy grabbed the mask! We’re going to see Freddy and Jason fight each other right? Right? That’s the next movie right?
  13. The next one is Jason in space? But Freddy is there right? No? Oh man, Friday the 13th is not my lucky day.

I’ve only got a few of these left to review and I do actually think the series holds up pretty well after nine films, so that’s saying something. Remember if you are camping this weekend, they already tore down the cabins in Crystal Lake so you can’t stay there. Although, I do hear there is a landscaper who might have a place you can crash at.

Slashingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

RPG Review: Stealing Stories for the Devil Free Primer

Stealing Stories for the Devil by Monte Cook Games
Huge Discounts on your Favorite RPGs @ DriveThruRPG.com

Hello internet people, Slick Dungeon here. I came across a tabletop RPG title on DriveThruRPG.com that I wanted to review. I’ve read the free primer for the game which you can get here at the cost of absolutely free.

I’m going to give a review of the primer and let you know who this game is for and what the pros and cons of it are in my mind. Before I get into the review I want to make sure it is understood what exactly I am reviewing.

I will only be reviewing the free primer from DriveThruRPG. This game will be released via kickstarter and if you are interested in it you can learn more about it by watching the video below. I have no affiliation whatsoever with Monte Cook games or this product. I want to give a fair and objective review for what I can based on the primer.

I also have not had the opportunity to play in a game session yet but if I do, I will give a more full review of the overall game. But first I’ll need to find a group of liars to play with. (We’ll get into that more in a bit)

Stealing Stories for the Devil Kickstarter

If you don’t know, a tabletop role playing game, or RPG for short, is a game where you gather a group of friends and play through a scenario in a cooperative storytelling style. There are many of these games on the market, the most famous of which is Dungeons & Dragons. But there is a treasure trove of other RPG’s that can be just as fun to play.

Most of them have a rule set you use to help craft the narrative and typically there is one person who leads the story along, usually called a game master.

Stealing Stories for the Devil is similar in most aspects to these games but does have some stand out differences. Whether you enjoy these differences or not depends on what kind of player you are and how comfortable you are with a bit of improvisation.

What is it?

The game has an interesting premise. You are from the future. Somewhere around the 39th century. You boarded a ship where you expected to be put to sleep and woken up years later in another universe. Instead the ship with its preprogrammed artificial intelligence ended up on Earth in the 21st century.

Aboard the ship there were two types of people, sleepers and scions. Sleepers as the name implies slept as expected. Scions are actually the descendants of people who originally boarded the ship but for some reason did not go into stasis as expected.

There’s a lot more background to this in the primer but it boils down to this. Both sleepers and scions can affect reality, reshaping it to fit their own narratives. Sleepers do this through advanced technology while scions do this through natural ability.

When a Scion or Sleeper does this, they steal a little bit of the reality they are in and lie to the universe to make it do what they want. Therefore the player characters in this game are all called Liars.

There is a Game Master for this game who leads the narrative but unlike most other RPG’s there is a lot more freedom for the players to influence what happens in the game. After all, they are lying to reality so they get to say what should happen. The world is not without its obstacles though, as the GM must then think of ways to challenge the player characters to keep the story interesting.

How does this game work?

There are some similarities to most RPG’s. You get to choose some traits your character is good at and you have to choose some detriments your character has. Unlike most RPG’s the designers leave this extremely open ended and up to interpretation. While they give several examples of traits such as agile, fast, etc. they also encourage the group to come up with their own traits. This makes the game exceedingly flexible to fit a scenario you think would be fun.

In the primer there are three types of Liars. These are Planners, Plotters and Schemers. I won’t go into too much detail here on what those things mean but you can think of them like character subclasses. They add a bit of different flavor to your character and depending on what you think would be cool to play, you choose which type of Liar you want to be.

You also get a bit of starting equipment based on if you are a scion or sleeper.

Once you have your group of liars together and have a Game Master, you just need a quick read of the rules and you are ready to play. There is surprisingly little math involved in this game and even the defined terms are not necessarily absolute.

That doesn’t mean there is not structure, it just means the players really do get to star in the game.

DriveThruRPG.com

The game is about heisting reality so the players and Game Master come up with a scenario where something has gone wrong with reality and it is up to the players to fix it. There are three acts to each game session. Game sessions can be their own one shot adventures, can be a series of 12 sessions that aadd up to a “season” or an ongoing campaign that can last as long as the players and Game Master want it to.

Each session is broken up into three acts. In the first act, the players get a mission briefing and together map out a location where the players will be performing a heist on reality. The Game Master might say something like, you need to recover a key that unlocks a safe deposit box from a bank. The players then might say, the bank is in the center of the city and we are going to sneak in at night. Then the Game Master could reply, while no one is around at night there are security cameras everywhere and the police do tend to drive by on occasion. Play keeps going like that until the mission briefing is over.

Act two is where the bulk of the game play takes place. This is where the characters act out their actions and the Game Master gets to put obstacles in their way. There will also be twists and turns placed in the scenario by the Game Master. The action plays out until the GM decides the act is over and then the players head into act three.

Act three is the climax where the players ultimately find out if they succeed or fail in their mission.

Along the way the Game Master can ask for players to make dice rolls to see what direction the story takes.

Who is this game for?

If you love improvisation in your role playing, I cannot think of a more interesting type of game to play. You literally get to bend reality in this game as if you were in the movie Inception or The Matrix or something like that.

The game reminds me of elements of Cyberpunk and Shadowrun but with a far looser rule set. You won’t have to roll a lot of dice or do much math at all. It’s quick to read through the primer’s rules although I am sure there is a more robust rule set in the full game.

However, if you are the type of player who really relies on rules and having a bit more set structure on whether your character succeeds or fails, this is not the game for you. In other words, if you like your rules crunchy, skip this one.

Final thoughts

While I have not played this game yet, I really like the premise and I think it opens up huge possibilities for crafting epic stories. I do tend to like a bit more structure in my games but this is one where I think having fewer hard rules will benefit the game. It uses its own system and it is very flexible.

There are players out there who really do love the rules aspects of tabletop games and those players would do well to stay clear of this one.

I can’t speak to how well the twist and mission cards work in this game but I like the idea of some random elements being introduced outside of the player’s control.

I will say I don’t see a huge difference between scions and sleepers since they both change reality and I am not sure how it would matter which one you played. I do think the planner, plotter and schemer all have unique flavors and I think it would be pretty easy to decide which one you want to be. Personally, I really want to play a plotter because it sounded really cool to me.

The primer gives a decent look into the game, enough that giving it a read will let you know if you are interested in backing the game on Kickstarter. The full game comes with a whole lot more and I think it has real potential to be a fun game.

In my opinion if you like games full of improvisation and don’t want to take on a bunch of math in order to play, this is the game for you. Also, it helps if you enjoy heist movies.

If you have read the primer or played the game I would love to hear from you. How was it? Let me know in the comments.

Fictitiously yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Marvel 616 Comic Book Review: Journey Into Mystery #84

Journey Into Mystery #84 Photo Credit: Marvel

Journey into Mystery #83 introduced us to Dr. Donald Blake and his alter ego, the god of thunder himself, Thor. In that issue, Thor found himself fighting off an alien invasion just in time. The follow up is much more earth bound as he must fight against a would be world ruler who goes by the name The Executioner.

The story is only 14 pages long but it does manage to recap what happened last issue and then immediately shows us Don Blake in his capacity as the kind and caring doctor. We also get to know about his burning love for his nurse Jane Nelson. Jane feels the same toward Don. Donald Blake assumes Jane can’t feel anything for him because he is “lame” (the writer’s words not mine). The real reason Jane isn’t falling for Don though, is because he never shows anything other than a professional interest in Jane. This is a dynamic that will be set up for years to come in the pages of Journey. And because comic books are serialized and soap operatic in their plots, this dynamic is stretched out for far too long. This issue does keep it to a minimum though. Later on Jane’s last name will be changed to Foster and she is a character who is portrayed as a love interest for Thor in the MCU films.

Dr. Blake finds out that there is a pro-communist leader who is a ruthless warlord in the fictional area of San Diablo. He immediately volunteers to travel there to help any injured and do his part as a good doctor. Communists and communism were a significant threat in the minds of Americans in the early 1960’s so this plot fits in perfectly with the sentiment of the time. While it’s an over the top exaggeration, it’s pretty clear in this story that The Executioner is a stand in for Fidel Castro.

On the ship to San Diablo Don worries that Jane will be in danger once they get there. The whole damsel in distress plot was one that was overused in comics already at this point so it’s pretty obvious Jane will be in trouble and Thor will have to rescue her.

Before that happens the ship is attacked by airplanes. Don Blake is able to change into Thor and readily defeats them. I would say this is just an excuse to show off some of the amazing artwork Jack Kirby was capable of. I have no problem with that though, because the artwork is amazing and any excuse for it is fine.

To get back onto the boat Thor has to change back to Blake and be rescued. Just like Lois Lane falling in love with Superman, the first glimpse of Thor for Jane leads to instant attraction.

The next few panels sets up The Executioner as the villain by showing him send off his failed pilot commander to the firing squad.

Once on land, Blake and Jane are attacked again. This time Blake is able to defend by tapping his magic cane on the ground twice in order to call wind, rain, lightning and thunder. The rules of the cane that turn Blake into Thor are somewhat established here but those rules do tend to change as the series progresses.

The storm Blake calls only temporarily saves them and soon he has to turn into Thor to stop enemy tanks. He defeats most of the enemies and sets free the Americans who were under threat, except for Jane Nelson. Even Thor wouldn’t be fast enough to stop the enemies without allowing Jane to die so he hides and turns back into Blake.

Blake is captured and Jane agrees to marry the executioner in order to save Don. But Blake taunts the executioner enough that he is able to get his cane back and immediately changes back to Thor. With a couple of tricks using his hammer, Thor is able to save Jane and allow the army of the executioner to realize he is a coward only interested in money. His own army shoots him to death.

Interestingly, there will be a character called The Executioner who is an Asgardian but he has nothing at all to do with this executioner. Also, we never hear about San Diablo or the armies fighting there again in all of Marvel 616.

The end of the issue sees Jane fawning over Thor and his rescue while inwardly lamenting that Dr. Blake was not brave and adventurous in the moment. If this seems like a Superman and Lois Lane dynamic, that’s because it was intentionally set up that way. The formula may be old at this point, but it works.

Next on the reading list we go back to ol’ jade jaws himself in The Incredible Hulk #3.

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