Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book Reveiw: All That Glitters by Elizabeth McCoy

I really cannot get enough of Cymelia. As previously discussed I like my fantasy “gritty” or balls-to-the-wall ballistic. Ditto on how magic is portrayed. I want it unknown or “on the rise” or fully worked into whatever society the fiction is portraying (as long as it is consistent). Anyway, enough of my tastes. To the book at hand! All That Glitters by Elizabeth McCoy is insanely good, a fun race through the streets of a cityscape as seen through the eyes of a “roof rat” (think Oliver Twist if he were a Lost Boy from Neverland; just not restricted to boys). The plot is pretty straightforward with a few twists and turns, but that’s not what makes the book awesome. The dialogue is a-fucking-mazing.

Okay, look, what I want you to do is to first think of your favorite foreign accent or dialect. Since this is my blog, I’ll just toss mine up here: Irish. Something about the way the words roll of the tongue just appeals to me. In the past I’ve read books that have featured fictional dialects, badly written Cockney accents, or badly constructed languages. Add this to stilted dialogue and what you have is a book that could have been good…but quickly turns into a shit pile. What’s even worse is accented dialogue that you just can’t decipher. An tha’s th way et is. See? That’s a simple sentence and it’s screwed from the start. All That Glitters not only avoids that trap – it somehow makes the dialogue the center of an already good book. Add that to a dynamic plot that is chock full of intrigue and deception and you have a really good read. Only part of the book I disliked was how the relationship between the two main characters turned out. It was kind of sad, but perfect for the story. Just my opinion there. I really can’t wait for the next Alchemy’s Heirs book. :-)

I give All That Glitters 5 out of 5 pennies. Seriously. Go buy the damn book. It’ll be the best $4 you ever spent.

For more reviews from books from the Cymelia/Alchemist Lord universe see here, here, and here. Additionally, for all you gamers out there, I did a few posts on Cymelia for GURPS.

Book Reveiw: The Legend of The Morning Star by Elizabeth McCoy

Quick review. The Legend of The Morning Star is another Cymelia book, but it’s dreadfully short. Though it does make up for it with content. It’s even narrated by your favorite priest, Ches. The story itself is about one of the deities of Cymelia, one of his servants, and a beautiful girl. Not much else to say other than it’s worth your time (it's free!) and goes quite well with the rest of the Lord Alchemist series.

I give The Legend of The Morning Star 4 out of 5 pennies. It’s great, but too damn short. Probably should have been included in a larger book with similar stories.

For more reviews from books from the Cymelia/Alchemist Lord universe see here, here, here, and here. Additionally, for all you gamers out there, I did a few posts on Cymelia for GURPS. Oh yeah, it's FREE. Go get it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Melee Academy - Someone Took My Lucky Charms! Now What...?



The  GURPS Monster Hunters line provides a highly flexible, highly customizable magic system: Ritual Path Magic. The main user of it, the witch, is often used as a blunt instrument. Even though the witch is capable of casting massive damage dealing rituals, he’s actually better off acting as a support character for the other members of the party.  Let’s first assume that the following is a “typical” damage-dealing spell. Lets also assume that for the sake of argument, the witch either cannot access or has already expended all of his charms, conditional spells, potions and so on.

Firebolt
Spell Effects: Greater Create Energy.
Inherent Modifiers: Damage, External Burning (Incendiary)
Greater Effects: 1 (x3).

This spell conjures a “bolt” of fire that the caster can hurl at a target. It does 6d-6 burning damage and treats the flammability class (Making Things Burn, p. B433) of the target as one step lower than it actually is. This means this spell automatically sets flesh ablaze if it does at least 10 points of damage.
Typical Casting: Greater Create Energy (6) + Damage, External Burning 6d-6 (Incendiary, +10%) (5). 33 energy (11x3).

Since the witch starts with one Path skill at 17 and another at 16, let’s also assume that this particular witch has a Path of Energy at 17 and a Path of Body at 16. This means that rolling average (10.5) on 3d would allow the witch to cast this spell every twenty-five seconds without the use of their mana reserve and without taking a penalty.Or, taking the maximum -4 penalty for haste, the witch could cast this spell in fourteen seconds without using their mana reserve. Or if both are done, the witch could get off one Firebolt in eight seconds.

Obviously, this isn’t exactly efficient. Considering that the commando is going to have gotten of at least twenty-five (fourteen or eight) attacks with a firearm that do about the same amount of damage. So how do you differentiate a witch from the other template? By being a “Swiss-Army” caster. Witches can give their entire team bonuses with the right combination of spells, but even better, they can give their foes penalties. For example, for the same energy cost and time as the Firebolt, a caster could do the following:

Mass Quicken
Spell Effects: Lesser Strengthen Body x2.
Inherent Modifiers: Altered Traits, Basic Move + Area of Effect + Bestows a Bonus, Dodge rolls.
Greater Effects: 0 (x1).

This spell gives all subjects within a 3-yard area a +3 bonus to their Basic Move and Dodge scores for the next 10 minutes. The caster can exclude up to four targets in the area.
Typical Casting: Lesser Strengthen Body (3) + Lesser Strengthen Body (3) + Altered Traits, +3 Basic Move (15) + Area of Effect, 3 yards, excludes 4 targets (4) + Bestows a Bonus, +3 to Dodge Rolls (4) + Duration, 10 minutes (1) + Subject Weight, 300 lbs. (3). 33 energy (33x1).

Or even:

Mass Slow Down
Spell Effects: Lesser Destroy Body x2.
Inherent Modifiers: Altered Traits, Basic Move + Area of Effect + Bestows a Penalty, Dodge rolls.
Greater Effects: 0 (x1).

This spell gives all subjects within a 15-yard area a -3 bonus to their Basic Move and Dodge scores for the next 10 minutes. The caster can exclude up to four targets in the area.
Typical Casting: Lesser Destroy Body (5) + Lesser Destroy Body (5) + Altered Traits, -3 Basic Move (3) + Area of Effect, 15 yards, excludes 4 targets (12) + Bestows a Penalty, -3 to Dodge Rolls (4) + Duration, 10 minutes (1) + Subject Weight, 300 lbs. (3). 33 energy (33x1).

That’s three different rituals with three vastly different effects – all for the same amount of time and energy. Firebolt allows a witch to damage a single target, doing 15 points of burning damage plus 2.5 points of burning damage as the target is set on fire. This might be more effective depending on the target (e.g., vampires suffer double damage from fire). Mass Quicken allows you to affect any number of allies in a 3 yard area, while excluding up to four targets (which can be useful if your teammates and foes are mixed together), giving them a +3 bonus to Basic Move and a +3 Dodge rolls for 10 minutes. Mass Slow Down allows a witch to give any number of enemies in a 15-yard area, while excluding up to four allies, a -3 to Basic Move and a -3 to Dodge rolls. This assumes of course, you want to “buff” or “debuff” your party/enemies. Witches are also good at healing, even in the midst of combat. For example:

Mass Minor Mending
Spell Effects: Lesser Restore Body.
Inherent Modifiers: Altered Traits, Basic Move + Area of Effect + Bestows a Penalty, Dodge rolls.
Greater Effects: 0 (x1).

This spell heals all subjects within a 10-yard area 2d points of damage. The caster can exclude up to eight targets in the area.
Typical Casting: Lesser Restore Body (4) + Area of Effect, 10 yards, excludes 8 targets (12) + Healing 2d (4) + Subject Weight, 300 lbs. (3). 23 energy (23x1).

Assuming a skill of 16, this spell would take 4 seconds to cast, heal any number of allies in a 10-yard area, and exclude up to 8 enemies. While 2d doesn’t seem like a lot (averaging only 7 HP restored), it can stop bleeding wounds if the GM is using that optional rule, and doesn’t require the witch to actually be near the target to heal them.

Of course this doesn’t even take into account the sheer adaptability that witches have OUTSIDE of combat. Need to locate the local vampire nest? Toss together a Lesser Sense Undead ritual. Need silver weapons when you don’t have them? Greater Transform Matter does the trick. Out of fuel in the desert? Greater Create Matter is your best friend.

Players with witch characters should keep this in mind when playing their characters. They don’t just toss fireballs and cast the evil eye, they can do more.