Sunday, April 19, 2009

Clone Wars by Karen Traviss

Star Wars already has a long history of movie-to-book adaptions, starting with the very first trilogy. You can read more about them in an earlier blog post.

This trend continued with the Prequel trilogy, and now with a book adaption of The Clone Wars.

This is of course something that I call genre fiction. Although the definition more accurately describes a specific genre (see here for an explanation), however it can be more specifically applied, within a specific genre (like here, science fiction) of a shared setting or in this case a movie spin-off novel line. Genre fiction is rarely high fiction, but tends to be escapist and (for me) entertaining. And there is nothing wrong with this, since sometimes being entertained is more important than some new insight in the human condition.

Karen Travess is fast becoming my favorite Star Wars writer. Her books tend to be lucid and eventful, without wallowing in the action ("war porn" for lack of a better term). Furthermore, the detail she gives to the characters really allows one, in my opinion, to empathize or at least better understand the motivations.

I heard a few bad things about the Clone Wars movie, so I chose not to watch it. I have been enjoying, on the other hand, the Clone Wars TV series. The novel then is a happy medium. And it was pretty decent.

It's not terribly long (around 250pgs) which felt just about right to encapsule the events of the movie (which in the end read more like an extended Clone Wars episode...and perhaps that was the point). Furthermore, the characterization of Ahsoka (no, not the Indian Emperor Ahsoka the Great...) made her less of my fears of a teen-age girl and more along the lines of what a Padawan should be. Furthermore, some of the little details helping to define her based on her Togrutan ancestry were nice details.

If you haven't seen the movie, and like Star Wars, pick it up. If you saw the movie and disliked it, pick it up since you might like this more...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

4e Paragon Playtest

We playtested 4e last night with paragon level characters (i.e. 16th level) using paragon paths, or otherwise paragon multiclassing.

The biggest impression I got from the game is that it was a real grind. Combats lasted too long and besides never really having the feeling of being in danger, for the most part the game has too many hit points and not nearly enough damage. I also felt very straight-jacketed by the "roles" (I played a wizard/blood mage so therefore I was a "controller"), and IMHO really detracted from my enjoyment of the game (in previous editions, wizards/mages could in fact be either "controllers" or "strikers," a flexibility 4e lacks IMHO). While there were a few interesting abilities for the Blood Mage paragon path, it felt very watered down with not a whole lot to really make the paragon path stand out and be unique. Furthermore, all the abilities really started feeling the same, since it was more often than not a variation on a theme. There were a few really good ones (prismatic beams), but many were very decidedly "meh."

Also, while 4e really streamlined the core rules, it tossed any sort of idea of combat streamlining by piling on the special effects, ongoing effects, instant interrupt effects, etc. The amount of added in stuff was IMHO astounding, and I really can't see how combats in this game could be faster than 3e combat. Perhaps part of it was our character builds, but I couldn't really see any builds that made things simpler. I think the most telling aspect here was from the DM, who pushed for and organized this playtest. After the game he outright declared he is "done" DMing 4e.

And I think I'm done playing 4e too.