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Midnight, Second Edition

I think I might be able to catch up a bit on writing about the books I’ve been reading. The problems with my blog meant I fell behind, and then I was busy with work. However, today is a public holiday here (Spring Equinox), so I have no students, and my other work went well this morning, so I’m finished very early.

So: Midnight, Second Edition. This is a setting for d20 (Dungeons and Dragons, basically) that can be summed up in two words: “Sauron won”. It is a hundred years after the Dark Lord won the final battle against the forces of good, and you get to play the resistance.

The setting is Tolkienesque, as it really has to be to work. The basic idea, after all, is that the thing you can absolutely rely on in Tolkienesque fantasy didn’t happen. The elves are perhaps the most reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings, bringing Galadriel and Lothlorien irresistably to mind. The dwarfs are also a lot like Tolkien’s. The humans and other races, however, are rather different. The Dark Lord (called Izrador) is served by armies of orcs, but also has human priests.

Characters themselves are made rather more powerful than they are in standard d20 games, unless they are spellcasters, in which case they are weaker, particularly at high levels. In addition, there are few magic items, and treasure means food or tools, not gold or gems. This makes the basic experience very different from standard D&D, and, probably not accidentally, rather more like The Lord of the Rings.

And that brings me to the only real weakness with the setting book: it is not quite clear enough how you should run adventures in the setting. Overthrowing Izrador is explicitly beyond the scope of the game, reasonably enough. In the setting, holding the line against him is the best that has ever been achieved. The book is not clear on what could be achieved, however. Could the PCs reasonably hope to liberate a city and hold it against the armies of the Dark God? Unite the dwarfs? Destroy the great tower of Theros Obsidia, the fortress where Izrador’s presence manifests? Kill one of the Night Kings, the four dread lieutenants of Izrador? The guidelines do say that it is important to keep hope alive, but don’t make it clear what the designers envisage you hoping for.

I have the first edition as well, and the second edition does spend more time on this topic, but it still isn’t enough, in my opinion.

Of course, I can make my own decisions. Personally, I’d let a group of player characters achieve any of the things on the list above, although I probably wouldn’t let one group achieve all of them. The setting does provide lots of places where adventure can happen, and in that respect it’s an excellent piece of work. It also covers a wide range of possible styles of play; it’s even possible to get away from the constant threat of Izrador and play more “classic” adventures, although doing that all the time would rather miss the point.

Overall, then, I can recommend this book. It does what it sets out to do very well, and the only flaw is one that any competent GM can easily rectify.

Walking to Shibuya

Yesterday I walked to Shibuya.

All told, it took me about four hours, but that included popping into a couple of shrines I passed on the way, and a shop, and getting a bit lost around the Tama river, and eating lunch just as I arrived in Shibuya. Looking at the map, it’s about ten miles from here to there, so three hours for the actual walking bit is probably about right. I definitely noticed that I had to slow down a bit after an hour and a half, as my legs were starting to ache.

Now, the obvious question would be “why?”, given that there’s a perfectly good train service to Shibuya, and it isn’t even that expensive. Basically, I felt like going for a longer walk than normal, the weather was good, and going to Shibuya meant that I could eat at the other end and get the train back. It was also a good way to get a feeling for the geography of Kawasaki and Tokyo along a route I use a lot. I did notice that, when it’s just me, it doesn’t actually take me much longer to walk to Mizonokuchi station than it takes to get the bus, once you figure in time spent waiting, so I may do that more often in future. Walking to Shibuya, however, is likely to be just this once. The walk was fun, but I think I’ll head in different directions if I do it again.

I didn’t see any terribly exciting things on the way; I was following a main road, rather than get lost down back streets that didn’t link up, so there were a lot of shops, a large park left over from the Tokyo Olympics, a few shrines and temples, and quite a lot of residential areas. But then, it was just nice to walk through Tokyo, on a pleasant day.

I did get the train back, however.

Word Choice

From the book on childhood neurological development I’m reading at the moment:

“Obviously, Timothy’s auditory system did not develop in a vacuum.”

More Baby Pictures

So, one of things I couldn’t write about while my access to my blog was broken was our visit to the Ob/Gyn clinic for a check-up on Saturday. I just got to sit there and nod and smile, but Yuriko seems to appreciate me doing that.

We had ultrasound scans done again. The first was a standard 2D ultrasound, but then the doctor did a 3D ultrasound scan. 2D scans are all very well, but they are fuzzy patches of white on a black field. With the aid of the doctor, it is not too hard to work out which bit is which. On the other hand, if the doctor said “This is a radar image of the surface of Titan. Look, you can see the methane lakes”, I might believe him. (“Why is your ultrasound machine connected to Cassini?” would probably come to mind as a question, however.)

The 3D ultrasound scan, however, looks like a baby. It really is a baby picture. We can see Yudetamago’s arms, legs, head, and see how they are positioned. It’s quite remarkable, and looks a lot like the pictures in Watch Me Grow, the book that my Mum bought us. Except, of course, that this is our baby. Yudetamago is not a very distinct individual yet, but by next time we might well be able to see the face properly. (That also depends on the relative positions of baby and camera, however.)

Yudetamago, by the way, is our nickname for the baby. “Yu” is the first character of Yuriko’s name, “de” (the “e” is pronounced) is the first character of mine, and “tamago” means “egg”. “Yudetamago” is also the Japanese for “boiled egg”.

Anyway, the check-up and blood test did not turn up any problems, so we’ll be going back in about a month for the next routine check-up. In the meantime, I’m reading more books about child-rearing.