Categories
Books Comics

The Marvel Encyclopedia is awesome

As a kid, I used to spend hours poring over any sort of “superheroes A-Z” content I could find. I had some that came in issues of comics, and the long-running Marvel-phile column in Dragon, and probably other sources I’ve forgotten about.

When I started playing TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes, I traced hero silhouettes from those articles (Captain Britain was a favorite) and used them as the basis for drawing all of my characters.

Fast forward from the late ’80s/early ’90s to now, and I’m kicking myself because it wasn’t until a few days ago that it occurred to me that of course this is still a thing, and it’s probably gotten even easier to acquire big volumes of it.

It has! Enter the Marvel Encyclopedia (paid link) which — although it’s a bit squirrely about its author credits — is at least partly written by Matt Forbeck, and which is utterly fabulous.

This book is titanic. It’s a coffee table book, hardcover, and over 400 pages. Full color, of course. (It had a dust jacket, too, which I find less than useless on books this size.) And it’s $22 shipped with Prime.

It covers more than 1,200 characters, both heroes and villains, with origins, pictures, background info, and other fun tidbits. It also covers crossover events, famous hero/villain groups, and more. It’s exactly the kind of big, splashy, high-production-values book I’d expect from DK and Marvel.

This is the kind of non-gaming RPG sourcebook that I love. Need on-the-spot inspiration for an NPC? Flip through this beast. Stuck for hero ideas for your next character? Lose yourself in over 1,200 of them. Can’t remember who Obscure Hero X is? They’re probably in here.

This book is so cool.

Categories
Books Tabletop RPGs Traveller

Traveller’s literary sources

Thanks to the inimitable Alex Schroeder, I followed a link to this excellent 2005 essay by Michael Andre-Driussi: Deciphering the Text Foundations of Traveller.

Here’s Driussi’s thesis:

The creators of CT wanted the anarchic, amoral, and violent adventure of fantasy role playing translated into a science fiction setting. They also wanted a kind of science fiction that used more “hard SF” than even Niven’s work. They categorically rejected New Wave SF, which made them allied to the Old Wave, except that GDW wanted a gritty, noir setting (where the Old Wave is characterized as upbeat and moral).

Traveller as noir is something I’d never considered, but it makes perfect sense. There’s a lot more to unpack, even in just that excerpt — the whole essay is a damned fine read.

Here’s another concise snippet:

What the creators of CT were after was science fiction adventure, featuring freelance “adventurers” (with all the connotations of gold hunters, mercenaries, and trail blazers that this term implies) who could live or die in the course of pick-up games.

One of the sources Driussi cites is the Dumarest Saga, by E.C. Tubb (which I’d never heard of, but boy does it sound like it’d fit right into Appendix N). Here’s the skinny:

E. C. Tubb’s Dumarest of Terra series (1967 onward) portrays its titular hero as a far future Odysseus trying to find his way home across a galaxy that has forgotten Earth completely. Each novel is slim and action-packed: Earl Dumarest arrives penniless at a new planet where he must use his wits and his reflexes, not only to survive but also to make enough money for passage to the next planet. From this series, already 17 books long in 1977, CT got such details as: low passage (a deadly hibernation system); mesh armor; the drugs fast, slow, medical slow, and combat (i.e., two-thirds of the drugs in CT); the weapon “blade”” and perhaps the psionics.

I could quote this puppy all day. It’s so good!

Driussi’s essay gave me a new perspective on, and a deeper understanding of, Classic Traveller. It’s fascinating to see what shaped the nature and quirks of Traveller’s premise and presentation.

Categories
Books

Uprooted is a fantastic look at a fairy-tale reality

I’ve rounded the horn on 2016 Hugo Awards finalist novels, wrapping up Naomi Novik‘s Uprooted (paid link) on Sunday night. Seveneves (paid link) was a 5/5 that roared through my brain, and The Fifth Season (paid link) was a 5/5 that took a bit of time to get rolling, so I was curious to see if Uprooted would keep the streak alive.

Like Jemisin, Novik was new to me; the blurb suggested that Uprooted had a fairy-tale thing going, which didn’t sound awesome . . . but the first few pages grabbed me hard, and I bought it on the spot. I blazed through the book in just a few days, because Uprooted was awesome — a rich, textured yarn set in a world where fairy-tale logic and magic is real, which fully explores just what that would mean for its people.

(Apart from mentioning what’s in the blurb or within the first few pages, and a quote from around 16% of the way in, this post is spoiler-free.)

From a simple foundation

There’s an evil woods.

There’s a mysterious wizard who lives in a tower, and who demands one village girl every decade in tribute.

There’s a witch.

Bored yet? On the face of it, those things sound pretty dull.

But that’s the fairy-tale thing at work: Uprooted is built on a deceptively simple foundation. None of those ideas are new — but what Novik does with them is both novel and delightful.

An exploration

What does it mean when a forest is evil? Not just dark and dreary and full of monsters, but actively — proactively — evil? And why would ordinary folks lives within a stone’s throw of its edge?

Given the prevalence of Forests of DoomTM in fantasy literature, I wouldn’t have expected there to be many interesting answers to those questions left unplumbed, but Novik does just that — and more.

The forest — the Wood — is truly creepy. It reminds me a lot of the Zone in Roadside Picnic (paid link): a place that operates on its own rules, unrelated to humanity’s, and which is incredibly dangerous.

Here’s one of my favorite examples, a throwaway bit from early on in the book:

Two years ago, an easterly wind had caught our friend Trina on the riverbank while she was doing some washing. She came back stumbling and sick, the clothing in her basket coated with a silver-grey pollen.

Because it’s the Wood, that breeze wasn’t errant or random, and because it’s the Wood, even just the fucking pollen is enough to wreck your shit.

Everything about Uprooted, from its remarkable protagonist and her allies to the way fairy-tale logic comes to make sense in the context of its setting, is that good. Novik delves deeply into each element, spinning things out and unfurling surprises as she goes.

The ending felt a bit rushed, but only a bit, and apart from that I loved everything about Uprooted (paid link). It’s a 5/5 for me — three for three among the Hugo finalist novels I’ve read so far. Uprooted is high on my list of favorite standalone, no-previous-experience-necessary fantasy novels.

Moar Hugos plz

Up next in my Hugo finalist reading, I think, will be The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass (paid link). I’m tired of steampunk, but I sampled it last night and was hooked inside the first few pages — much like Uprooted. As a Butcher fan, I expect this one to be a fun ride.

Categories
Books Tabletop RPGs

Steam locomotives powered by burning mummies

My kiddo checked Claire Llewellyn’s The Big Book of Mummies (paid link) out of the library this week, and we’ve been reading it at bedtime.

Apart from being interesting in its own right, I was thrilled to find that it contained four fantastically gameable ideas — beyond the obvious, that is (mummies are cool, pyramids were full of traps, etc.).

Breeding animals to mummify

Ancient Egyptians mummified a shitload of animals:

Sacred animals were mummified on an almost unimaginable scale; in fact, some were bred specifically for mummification. Thousands upon thousands of corpses […] were buried in special animal cemeteries, located in sacred sites. […] A single cemetery in Egypt was found to contain more than a million embalmed ibises (birds), each in its individual pot.

My mind fixated first on “bred specifically for mummification,” which is creepy in a very Antiviral sort of way, and second on those million ibises.

Can you imagine a cemetery with a million bird-graves? What would happen if something brought them all back to life? What might it mean if they all went missing?

The Valley of the Golden Mummies

Indiana Jones and the Valley of the Golden Mummies:

Early investigation suggests the cemetery holds up to 10,000 mummies, many of them covered with golden masks. […] These mummies have lain untouched for over 2,000 years.

I know what the average party of murderhoboes would do with that information[1], and as a GM I think Barrowmaze would be the tip of the iceberg in terms of what horrors might await them there.

The walls have mummies

Catacombs are creepy enough, but bodies and bones stacked in little niches have nothing on this:

(Photo by Christopher Cormack)

What’s going on in that photo? This:

Underneath a church in Palermo, Sicily, is an underground cemetery containing about 6,000 mummies. The cemetery is a catacomb — a series of passages that are not only stacked with coffins and tombs, but where mummies hang from the walls.

Generations of monks have been interred there, along with doctors, lawyers, and other folks who were jazzed about getting preserved, dressed in their finest, and hung from the walls — and people used to bring their kids down there for picnics. Love it!

Mummy-powered locomotives

There’s a whole campaign in these two sentences:

During the 19th Century, the great stock of mummies in Egypt was used for fuel for the steam boilers of railway engines on the Cairo-Khartoum line! The ancient resins used as a coating on the mummies meant they burned extremely well.

What if mummies were the only thing that could power steam engines — the infrastructure of the world’s commerce? And what if they were running out?

Alternately, isn’t “You’re aboard a train that runs on mummies . . .” a delightful opener for a Call of Cthulhu (paid link) scenario?

Update: Over on G+. Jeff Sparks noted that mummy-powered trains were apparently not a real thing, dating back to Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad. He also noted, and I completely agree, that this in no way diminishes its appeal as a plot hook. Thanks, Jeff!

I’m sure there are bigger, better books about mummies out there with even more juicy, gameable stuff in them, but I was excited to turn up four complete surprises in The Big Book of Mummies (paid link).

[1] Set phasers to “loot.”

Categories
Books

The Fifth Season’s recurrent apocalypse

I wrapped up my second 2016 Hugo Awards finalist novel, N.K. Jemisin‘s The Fifth Season (paid link), yesterday, and it was awesome.

The Fifth Season is post-apocalyptic fantasy, which is unusual enough to pique my interest, but it’s doubly unusual: Its setting, The Stillness, experiences recurring apocalypses — Seasons — that can be decades or centuries apart. Which means its inhabitants are fucked about eight different ways.

(This post is spoiler-free.)

On the heels of Seveneves

After Seveneves (paid link), which blew my mind (here’s that post, and all of my 2016 Hugo Awards posts), I figured a shift to fantasy would be a good idea. I’d never heard of N.K. Jemisin, and I was excited to check out her work.

The fact that The Fifth Season wasn’t on the Rabid Puppies slate — arriving on the list of finalists solely based on merit, rather than vote-fuckery[1] — and that the Rabid-in-Chief called Jemisin, an African-American woman, a “half-savage,” only made me more interested, because fuck the Rabid agenda.

But I also worried about following up Seveneves with anything; it wasn’t going to be an easy act to follow. And for the first 25% of The Fifth Season, I wasn’t feeling it.

There was too much “worldbuilding through terminology” (introducing made-up words and not fully explaining them, at least initially), and I wasn’t sold on the opening character or the use of second-person narrative . . . but there was something about it that kept me reading.

Cue the fireworks at 26%

At 26%[2], though, it took off like a rocket. I devoured the balance of the book in a mad rush, reading at times when — and in places where — I don’t normally read.

It plays with form. The second-person narrative, which is only for one viewpoint character, grew on me. (It plays with form in other ways, too, but I won’t veer into spoilers.)

The worldbuilding gathers steam, too, and the more I learned about The Stillness, the more I liked it. Jemisin fully explores just how weird a world with a reset button for human progress and civilization would be, and it’s marvelous. If you’d told me to design a world where apocalypses happen all the time, it wouldn’t look anything like The Stillness — and I love that.

It’s not all apocalypses, all the time, either. There are living statues (and, until I read TFS, I’d never stopped to consider how fucking creepy those would actually be), giant floating obelisks, seismic “superpowers” — all sorts of cool stuff. It builds a big, broad foundation for the rest of the trilogy, while also delivering a gripping story in its own right.

With the benefit of hindsight, I wouldn’t label it squarely as fantasy — or sci-fi. It’s got both, though not in equal measure; the balance goes to fantasy, for me. It’s a unique mix.

A big middle finger to bigots everywhere

It’s also unique in its treatment of LGBT folks, sexuality, and skin color.

One of the secondary main characters is a trans woman, and that’s no big deal in The Stillness — which is awesome in a social justice sense, but also in a worldbuilding sense. There’s also a prominent three-party relationship, the dynamics of which are interesting, and two equally prominent bisexual characters.

The Stillness is a muddle of ethnicities and skin colors, and the three main characters all have brown skin. They’re not defined by it, and thinking back I can’t recall any racism in the setting. (There’s plenty of bigotry, though: The main characters are all hated and feared, just not for the color of their skin.)

We need more fiction like this. It’s not preachy, and it doesn’t put message ahead of quality. It’s a great read that also happens to be a great example of why racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of bigotry and hatred are fucked, as ideologies go.

It’s a testament to how much I enjoyed The Fifth Season (paid link) that, rather than racing on to my next Hugo-finalist novel (so much to read! so little time!), I went to see if the second book of this trilogy was available. It’s called The Obelisk Gate (paid link), and it doesn’t come out until August 2016. I know what I’ll be doing in August!

[1] Or vote-fuckery AND merit (e.g., Seveneves).

[2] One of my favorite unexpected benefits of reading on my Kindle (paid link) is how easy it makes it to think about books, and their rhythms, in terms of percentages. It’s a handy tool.

Categories
Books

2016 Hugo Awards: “So join. Read. Vote.”

I’ve been reading fantasy and sci-fi for as long as I can remember[1], but this is the first time I’ve ever become a member of the Hugo Awards voting pool. (A voting membership costs $50, and members also get to make nominations for the 2017 Hugo Awards.)

My faithful Kindle Paperwhite (paid link) is already getting a good workout, with plenty more to come!

I wish I had 10 heads and 20 hands

I’m a voracious reader, but rarely a focused reader. I usually have at least a dozen books — a mix of fiction, gaming, comics, and sometimes non-fiction — in various states of “on the go” at any given time. Right now I’m reading (all paid links) Seveneves, GURPS Time Travel, Playing at the World, The Colossal Conan, Stormbringer, Blood Rites, Thuvia, Maid of Mars, Blood Meridian, The Burning Land, and the Bible, and rereading Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four.[2]

Right now, that means Seveneves and GURPS Time Travel. But I’ve got a bookmark, be it physical or virtual, in all of the titles on that list — although in some cases, I’ve been “in the middle of” them for a couple years or more.

This makes becoming an informed Hugo voter a task that’s both exciting, because I love fantasy and SF, and daunting, because holy shit there’s a lot of reading that has to happen before the July 31 deadline.

Just the novels, ma’am

Considering only the five nominees for Best Novel, which are (all paid links):

. . . and using only the rough metric of “how many pages Amazon lists for the edition I looked at,” that’s 2,864 pages of reading I need to do. Granted, Best Novel is the category I expect to involve the most reading, but there are oodles of other categories in addition to this one.

The only category for which I rode in fully prepared is Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form, because I’ve already watched all of the nominated films. (Choosing one, though? That’s going to be tough!)

Still, no complaints here. “Oh no, I have to read a bunch of interesting books!” doesn’t carry a lot of water, as complaints go. I’ve ready plenty of Butcher and Stephenson, but Leckie, Jemisin, and Novik are all new to me. I’m excited to read their work — and many other nominated works, as well.

Time, horseshit, and Rabid Puppies

Will I be able to read 100% of the Hugo nominees? Realistically, probably not. I’ll do my best in the time I have, though.

I vote in the ENnie Awards every year, and I don’t even attempt to read/play every nominated work — doing so would entail giving up too much of my time. Instead, I play/read the stuff that interests me, and vote for stuff I feel familiar with. Unlike the Hugos, the ENnies don’t offer up a voter packet, but I make a point of visiting nominated blogs and checking out nominated free products.

I also don’t feel obligated to read every Hugo-nominated work, because fuck the Rabid Puppy agenda. I have a horseshit filter, and you know what? It didn’t stop working when I became a Hugo voter.

If a nominated work stands on its own merits, like Seveneves does, I don’t care if it also appears on the Rabid slate. If a slated work doesn’t stand on its own, or if it advances or supports Rabid Puppy horseshit, it’s going below No Award on my ballot.

I like, and agree with, John Scalzi‘s take on this topic:

If you vote your own conscience, there is no wrong way to vote for the Hugos. There is, simply, your vote. It’s your own choice. Think about it, take your vote seriously — and then vote. No one can or should ask you to do anything otherwise.

I have no stake in how anyone else votes; I’ll be voting my interests and conscience.

The bigger picture

I’ve learned a lot by reading different takes on slates, Puppies, Hugo voting, and all things Hugo-related over the past couple of months.

File 770‘s list cross-referencing nominees with the Rabid Puppy slate is going to come in handy, and the site’s ongoing Hugo commentary and links have been a great read. Gay dinosaur erotica-author Chuck Tingle, nominated by the Rabid Puppies to troll the awards, is a fucking national treasure, and he’s doing a delightful job of trolling them right back.

At least one other “troll nominee,” My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, is an excellent nominee in its own right, and I’ll be fascinated to see how it does. Chuck Wendig said some excellent things about last year’s Hugo mess that are pertinent this year, too. Ditto Brandon Sanderson, in his post about this year’s awards.

“So join. Read. Vote.”

The quote in the title of this post is George R.R. Martin‘s advice to potential Hugo voters, drawn from an excellent blog post he made after the nominations were announced, The Puppy Wars Resume.

It’s good advice, and I’m taking it.

I wish it didn’t cost $50 to take, though. $50 is a lot depending on one’s circumstances, and I bet there are plenty of folks interested in the Hugos for whom that $50 is a barrier to entry. But the sentiment is sound.

I’m still reading, listening, and finding my feet as a Hugo Awards voter, but it’s a responsibility I take seriously — and no matter what happens, I’ll get to read some good books, and the awards themselves will be interesting.

[1] The two earliest fantasy and SF books that I read were, respectively, The Hobbit (paid link) in second grade and Tunnel in the Sky (paid link) in fourth grade. I might be forgetting something earlier in either case (or both), but I have “time stamps” for those two.

[2] My to-read stack, physical and virtual, is hovering around 130-150 books, and has for at least the past five years. I try to spread my unread books across multiple shelves so that they can’t gang up on me.

Categories
Books

Seveneves is roaring through my brain

I’m currently reading Neal Stephenson‘s Seveneves (paid link), and it’s blowing my mind.

(This post is spoiler-free.)

The larch

Stephenson is one of my favorite authors, and Cryptnomicon (paid link) is both my favorite Stephenson book and one of my favorite books period. Quite apart from “just” being fucking amazing in every way, it sparked my interest in cryptography, convinced me I could learn enough HTML and CSS to be dangerous, and deepened my interest in WWII history.

When Crypto came out, I was already fully aboard the Stephenson train — at that point, I’d buy whatever he wrote, sight and reviews unseen. But Quicksilver (paid link) brought me to a screeching halt. I made it a little ways in and gave up, which was rare for me a decade ago.[1]

The rest of the Baroque Cycle looked like more of the same, so I figured Stephenson had stopped writing books I liked, and hey, no worries. More power to him for following his heart.

But then Reamde (paid link) came along, and it looked different. I sampled it, and it was different. I read it, and dug it, and although I didn’t love it as much as Crypto — a high standard! — but it was a fun ride.

Seveneves, though? It looked overlong and overly complex — like another Quicksilver — and I passed on it. Until a few days ago, when a friend recommended it to me.

I mentioned hating Quicksilver, and my friend said he’d hated it too — but that Seveneves wasn’t anything like the Baroque Cycle. He knows I hate spoilers, but he dropped an intriguing hint that put some of the bad press I’d heard about the book in perspective. I put a lot of stock in his recommendations, so I picked it up.

And now for something completely different

Seveneves is amazing.

If, like me, you took an extended “Stephenson break,” come back for this one.

It does more in the first 50 pages than lesser books do in their entirety. It’s teaching me all sorts of stuff about space and orbital mechanics, and at every turn it’s surprising me. I love being surprised, particularly by books.

Seveneves reminds me a lot of Cryptonomicon. Different, obviously, but there’s a common spark. It’s written from one geek to another, but accessibly enough that my fuzzy memories of physics and childhood dream of being an astronaut are getting a workout and a fresh coat of paint. It’s full of big ideas, expressed adroitly, and even when I can see something coming it doesn’t arrive in the way I expected.

It’s got me in its grip, and it’s not letting go. I’m not done reading it yet, but I’m so excited about it that I wanted to share that excitement here. Give Seveneves (paid link) a look, especially if you haven’t read any Stephenson in a while.

Update: all finished now

I finished Seveneves today (May 29), and holy shit. I heard mixed things about the second “portion,” including advice to stop before that point. I couldn’t disagree more.

Staying well clear of spoilers, Seveneves stayed 100% gob-smackingly awesome the whole way through for me. If I read no other Hugo nominees, I’d vote for it in a heartbeat.

So good.

[1] It’s less rare now, but Kindle samples make it easier for me to avoid stuff that I might likely stop reading, so it probably balances out. Life’s too short to read books I don’t enjoy.

Categories
Books Tabletop RPGs

The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is great gaming fuel

My wife, Alysia, got me The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (paid link) for my birthday, and it’s a fabulous book.

(The rest of this post contains spoilers for the film.)

I enjoy these sorts of books as a fan, but I also dig them as a gamer. I’ve written about using non-RPG books as gaming resources and creating campaigns based on art books on Gnome Stew, and it’s a topic that’s near to my heart — like Star Wars itself.

As a gaming resource, what I like most about The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the concept art that didn’t get used directly in the movie, which occupies most of the book. (The further along you get in the book, the more things start to look like the movie.)

If you’re looking for quick visual inspiration for a Star Wars game, concept art is awesome.

Need a cool environment? Try this cantina on for size (larger version):

How about some characters for the PCs to meet?

Or cool ships plus a nifty set-piece location, like these vertically-oriented craft and the lightsaber-slashed Jedi statue “graveyard” (larger version):

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my favorite illustration from the book, which requires one from the preceding page to set it up. Here’s proto-Rey in an X-Wing, with the top popped, using her lightsaber to tear something apart:

And what’s she demolishing? A Star Destroyer, that’s what (larger version):

I hope that winds up in Episode VIII or IX! Just looking at that picture makes me want to dust off WEG Star Wars (paid link) and start up a campaign.

The whole book is that good, all the way through. If you like Star Wars gaming, give The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (paid link) a look.

Categories
Books Tabletop RPGs

All hail coil-bound gaming books

More RPGs and supplements should be coil-bound, or offer a coil-bound version. Coil-bound books lay flat and stay open, making them a joy to use at the gaming table.

Away from the table, I prefer perfect-bound (traditional softcover) or hardcover for reading, and hardcover for bigger table-use books (large-diameter coils suck, and a big hardcover will generally stay open pretty well). For modules, I prefer saddle-stitched binding, which lays flat but can also be held by the base of the spine to keep my players from seeing any spoilers (assuming a relatively short module, of course).

But for table use, for most books, coil binding is king.

Here’s my coil-bound copy of Savage Worlds (paid link), which sits next to me at every session. It gets far more use than my second copy, which is just a regular softcover.

Note that SW doesn’t come coil-bound, but for just a few bucks any office store with a printing/binding section will chop off the spine and coil-bind a book for you. Given that the core book for SW retails for under $9 shipped on Amazon, even coil-bound it’s cheaper than most gaming books.

I didn’t come up with this genius idea: Kurt Schneider, Gnome Stew emeritus and all around awesome dude, showed me his coil-bound SW rulebook a few years ago at Gen Con. I’m grateful to Kurt for turning me on to the beauty of coil binding.

One of the only publishers I’m aware of who consistently offers alternate binding options, including coil, is Chris Gonnerman. Check out his Lulu spotlight for Basic Fantasy RPG, and you’ll see coil and saddle-stiched versions of the books for which those bindings make sense. It’s awesome.

If you’ve never tried a coil-bound gaming book, give it a shot.

Categories
Books Tabletop RPGs

The Night Land seems ripe for gaming

I just started reading William Hope Hodgson‘s 1912 weird fiction work The Night Land (paid link ; also available as a free ebook). I’m interested in it in large part because the setting sounds fabulous — and rather well-suited to gaming.

I say “sounds” because I’m not that far into the book yet. It’s a strange animal: It’s almost 600 pages long, there’s no dialogue (and, based on reading about the book, there won’t be any later on, either), and the prose isn’t conducive to quick reading.

What piqued my interest was the snippets on Wikipedia, and tell me this doesn’t seem like it’d make a great setting:

The Sun has gone out and the Earth is lit only by the glow of residual vulcanism. The last few millions of the human race are gathered together in a gigantic metal pyramid, nearly eight miles high – the Last Redoubt, under siege from unknown forces and Powers outside in the dark. These are held back by a shield known as the “air clog”, powered from a subterranean energy source called the “Earth Current”. For millennia, vast living shapes—the Watchers—have waited in the darkness near the pyramid. It is thought they are waiting for the inevitable time when the Circle’s power finally weakens and dies. Other living things have been seen in the darkness beyond, some of unknown origins, and others that may once have been human.

Something about this reminds me of James MacGeorge’s Black Sun Deathcrawl, which is part of what made me want to dig deeper.

The Redoubt is basically a city-dungeon (composed of over 1,300 individual cities), or a Shadowrun arcology on a grand scale — eight miles tall, and five miles wide at the base. I have no idea how feasible it would be to try to model the whole Redoubt as a dungeon in-game, but I’d love to see it done.

As for the Watchers, check out this gallery of Stephen Fabian‘s Night Lands artwork. It’s great imagination-fuel, even if you ignore the Night Lands aspect entirely.

I don’t know if I’ll finish The Night Land, as it’s competing with a million less-dense things I could be reading, but I’m looking forward to getting to the weird bits.