Monday, April 8, 2013

Around the World in Eighty Days

On my most recent vacation I continue to indulge in reading old classics.  This is made quite easy via the free (expired copyright) books which are available on the Kindle.

Around the World in Eighty Days is unusual for a Jules Verne work, in that it is more in his now than predicting the future.  It does in some respects predict how the future will look with recent completions of travel venues the major travel venues: US transatlantic rail, India subcontinental rail, & Suez Canal.  Messier Verne does aptly see the coming new world of tourism on a whim.  

The hero of the story is Phileas Fogg.  He is a well to do proper English gentleman who lives an organized, highly structured, predicable daily life.  This repetitive existence includes his daily trip to the gentlemen's club.   To prove a point with his fellow club members Fogg undertakes a quest to circumnavigate the world in no more than 80 days using commercially available travel.  A rather wager is made to prove the seriousness of the adventure, and off he goes, taking with him his newly hired man's servant, Jean Passepartout.  To tell any more of the story is to spoil it, so I will leave it at that.

I find it interesting that Verne paints the two travelers as extreme caricatures of the English and French.  Both have exaggerated traits supposedly held by their countrymen, and both have redeeming qualities designed to make them endearing to the reader.  I might have expected the French Verne to favor the Frenchman in the story, but that is not the case.

As with most writing, this a book of its time.  The modern reader will find the exciting adventure bits a little weak.  There is even a section where Fogg goes off to save Passepartout and I suppose to raise tension, the exciting bits are done off screen.  Much of the book reads like a dry travelogue.  I imagine at the time since this kind of travel had been previously unimaginable the readers would have been fascinated with the little details which I found boring and tedious.  The surprise ending would not have been all that surprising to the modern traveler, but to the reader in the 1870s this would have been all new and amazing.

The adventurous portions are fun to read, and overall the book is a quaint reminder of a bygone era.  It was an easy read, not too long, and the language is readily understood by the modern reader.  It is a classic and if you are curious about classics, I give it a moderate recommendation.  I am glad I read it and did enjoy most of it.  If you want an edge of your seat thriller, then you should pass this by.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

4th Edition: After three sessions

As noted in previous post, I am not experiencing a lack of roleplaying.  Granted I am no newbie to roleplaying, and for new players there might be something which discourages roleplaying, but I am happily playing my character during encounters and between them.

I continue to experience a very tactical game, and cannot see playing without a grid.  I do not see that as a negative since I have been using grids since AD&D days as preference.  I also continue to find 1st level characters to be very powerful, much more than previous editions.  Sort of like starting at 2nd level or more in another edition.  Clearly in 4th you are already a hero, and the environment is more high magic and high fantasy.  This might not fit the setting you want to play, but where it fits the setting I am not finding it 'un-fun'.

Some rituals are often a little too vague and require some DM adjudication.  For example the Silent Image ritual did not give a range.  I had to query the DM if my use of it was going to work.  The Passwall ritual was fairly clear (you need to be able to touch the entry point of the passage) and the Silence ritual was not so vague that one could figure out you needed to be inside the area to be warded to use it - no casting from a distance.  I am finding the cost of ritual components to be a bit prohibitive at first level.  We will see as time goes on if that is really a control point for lower level and becomes inconsequential as my character advances.

In our last encounter our party druid was brought to zero hit points and tossed off a 40' high wall into murky harbor water.  No one was nearby to help him, and the first one get to the wall section where he went off could not see him (it was dusk and he had already sunk beneath the waves).  I now understand some comments I heard that 4E characters were hard to kill.  Even unconscious, he was burning through healing surges before he took drowning damage.  Wouldn't you know it on his second death saving throw he rolled a 20 to stabilize, and became conscious.  We thought him dead for sure... but it seems 4E characters are truly heroes.

I also learned that one of my jobs as the controller wizard is minion sweeping.  I say that humorously, because it is kind of cool to blow away a bunch of fodder and clear the decks for the others to attack the BBEG (big bad evil guy).  Some may turn up their nose at this, but hey, it makes me stand out from the others and gives me an opportunity to roleplay big ego and I annihilate a bunch of enemies.

It seems to me 4E has another thing in common with earlier editions: resource management.  Even though I have at will powers, I must manage encounter & daily powers, action points, healing surges, etc.

The litmus test so far as been passed.  I am having fun.  That may be more about the people with which I am gaming than the rule set.  Either way, I am a bit of a grognard and I can play this edition just fine.

The dice never lie (even though I rolled a statiscally improbable number of 1s in our last encounter).
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