swan_tower: (ouroboros)

I doubt they’ll ever make the Wheel of Time into a TV series — but it’s an interesting mental exercise, thinking about how they would do it. (I do this sort of thing a lot, because it makes me think differently about story structure and how to create the appropriate shape.)

Up front: no way in hell would they just film it the way they’ve done with Martin’s books, (roughly) one book per season; that would make for fourteen seasons of TV, and even in a hypothetical scenario nobody’s going to do that. Even allowing for reductions based on things like “you don’t have to describe clothing when you can just show it” and “we’ll go straight to the meeting between these characters, rather than spending an entire chapter setting it up,” you’ve still got too much. Even if you go further and cut out a lot of the side viewpoints. You have to make it smaller. We’ll give them seven seasons to play with: that should be enough.

The next thing is that you have to restructure it. You can’t just condense the material and then film it straight through, because you’ve got to make sure the beats fall where they should. The end of every season needs to have something significant happening with the protagonist. I said in my discussion of writing long fantasy series that you need to hammer in some pegs for major events, and then navigate a path between them; in this case that means deciding what’s happening with Rand at the end of every season, and then shifting everything else to form a good shape around that. Theoretically the same should have been true of the books, but — well. Because of the way the structure got out of control, there are several books where the actual climax of the book is in somebody else’s plot strand.

Going through the series, what are his big events at the end of each book?

Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (ouroboros)
It took three years and two months rather than the two years I initially planned, but I have, at very long last, finished the Wheel of Time re-read and analysis. And as I promised quite some time ago, we’ll end with what I’ve learned.

This post, unlike the others, is not WoT-specific. I’ll be referencing the series, because it’s the primary source of my thoughts on this topic, but the point here is to talk about the specific challenges of writing a long epic fantasy series -- here defining “long” as “more than a trilogy, and telling one ongoing story.” (So something like Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books wouldn’t count, since they’re a conglomeration of multiple trilogies.) My points probably also apply to non-fantasy series, but other genres are much less likely to attempt multi-volume epics on this scale, so I’m mostly speaking to my fellow fantasists.

I do not pretend this is in any way, shape, or form a recipe for commercial success with an epic fantasy series. After all, most of this is a checklist of errors I feel Jordan made, and you could paper the walls of Tor’s offices in fifty-dollar bills with the cash he made for them. Nor am I claiming artistic failure awaits if you fail to heed this advice; you might squeak through on luck, or just really good storytelling instinct. But I do feel that bearing these points in mind can help the would-be writer of an epic series avoid falling off some of the more common and perilous cliffs.

With all of that intro material out of the way, let’s get to it.

Read more... )

There are many other things I could say about the flaws in the Wheel of Time, or in other long series. But these are the main points, the ones I think are universally applicable, rather than specific to a particular narrative -- along with, of course, the basic lessons of good writing, like not using twenty words where five will do. A story’s quality depends heavily on its shape, on the timing of various twists and revelations, the pacing of its arcs and the rate at which the characters grow; and good shape rarely happens by accident, especially on a large scale. Ergo, I firmly believe that you need some fixed points by which to navigate during your journey. Know how many books you’re going to write, hammer in a couple of pegs to say that certain events will happen at certain points, and then hold to your course. If you stray from the path, you may never find your way out of the woods.

Rumor has it, of course, that Jordan was asked to stretch the series out, because it was making so much money. I have no idea if that’s true. But as I said at the start, my concern here is not the commercial success of a series; I’m addressing the story itself.

I’m speaking, mind you, as someone who has yet to write a series longer than four books (and those structured almost entirely as stand-alones). This is all based on my observations of other people’s efforts, not my own experience. But as I said to Tom Simon in the comments to “Zeno’s Mountains,” there’s not enough time in life to screw it up yourself for a dozen books, and then to do better afterward. If you want to write a long series and not have it collapse in the middle like a badly-made souffle, you have to learn from other people’s mistakes.
swan_tower: (ouroboros)
[This is part of a series analyzing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time novels. Previous installments can be found under the tag. Comments on old posts are welcome.]

I pretty much covered my reactions to this book with the two liveblog posts. So now it's time to set aside the straight-up "Oh my god I can't believe this series is finally done I've been waiting for this for more than half my life"> stream of consciousness, and talk about this in a more sensible fashion.

Read more... )

There will, of course, be one more post. I set out to do this not just to document my trip down the nostalgia lane of my high school fandom, not just to get the ending of the story, but to learn something about writing a long epic fantasy series. This project has taught me a great deal on that front, and you'll get the results soon.
swan_tower: (ouroboros)
Today I continue reading A Memory of Light, and subjecting you all to my stream-of-consciousness reactions as I go. (Where by "all" I mean "those of you who click on the cut tag," which is probably not a lot, since at this point 95% of my audience probably falls into two groups: those who don't care, and those who do care but haven't read the book yet themselves and don't want spoilers.)

First part is here, for those few who care and have read the book/don't mind spoilers.

Read more... )

And --

-- that's it. I have finished reading The Wheel of Time. Stay tuned for more thoughts eventually, I guess; I'll certainly do an analysis post, which will probably fold in the reactions you didn't get in these play-by-play entries. And then one to talk about what I've learned from this project.

But the series itself is done.

oh, why not

Jan. 8th, 2013 03:11 pm
swan_tower: (ouroboros)
Herewith my liveblog of reading A Memory of Light. (Which may replace the "reactions post" in its entirety; we'll see.)

Read more... )

And that concludes our live-blogging for the evening. I'm 450 pages in, out of 909; I would keep reading, but I have a book of my own to write. Tune in tomorrow for the thrilling continuation and possibly conclusion of this read!
swan_tower: (ouroboros)
As soon as I'm fed and dressed, I'll be wandering down to the bookstore to pick up A Memory of Light, whereupon I will finish what I started in the summer of 1995: the story of the Wheel of Time.

It will take me a few days to read and post about the book, but to mark the occasion itself, I figured I would step back and talk briefly about "The Strike at Shayol Ghul".

Read more... )
swan_tower: (snowflake)
A Happy New Year to all. I spent mine with my brother and sister-in-law, just having a quiet evening, which was about my speed this year. I hope yours was pleasant and enjoyable, too.

Since authors on the Yuletide stories have been revealed now, herewith the list of what I wrote:

Nobody guessed right this year, though one person guessed directly wrong! )
swan_tower: (ouroboros)
I'm putting this together now rather than after I'm done with the whole shebang because people (myself included) may want to look back at some of the previous entries before the last ones appear.

I will, of course, update it with the final links as they happen. So if you want something to bookmark, this is one to keep.

swan_tower: (ouroboros)
[This is part of a series analyzing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time novels. Previous installments can be found under the tag. Comments on old posts are welcome.]

Side note first: the poll results thus far are coming down pretty firmly on people saying that yes, I should read the Prologue to AMoL, and yes, I should blog about it when I do. I must admit, I’m curious why those of you who voted “no” chose that option. Anyway, decisions on that soon. For now, ToM, and the analysis thereof.

For most of the time I’ve been writing these posts, I’ve been analyzing each volume in the context of the rest of the story: the books that precede it, the books I had previously read that follow it, speculation about the books that were out but I hadn’t read them yet. As we round this final corner, though, I find Towers of Midnight almost more interesting in the context of absence: the unknown events of A Memory of Light, and the void that will follow it, the end of the series.

Of course, we may (probably will) get other books. I’ve heard they’re talking about a companion book -- something more canonical than the White Book of Lies -- and it’s entirely possible that Jordan’s estate will farm out the property the way we’ve seen with Dune. But as far as the series proper is concerned, ToM is the point at which I start thinking, not only about what has happened, but what may never happen.

The list could fill an ordinary trilogy. )

And with this, we enter the final stretch. I don’t know yet how I want to handle AMoL -- whether I will do the Prologue, whether I will split it into two posts again, etc. I’d say the odds of both are decent, though the former depends pretty heavily on my spare time in the next few weeks. I do know that I’m going to do a wrap-up post when it’s all over with, discussing what this has taught me about writing such a long and sprawling series -- that one should make for some interesting discussion.
swan_tower: (ouroboros)
Tor has a long-standing habit of releasing the Prologue to the next Wheel of Time book in advance of the book's actual pub date, as a teaser for what's to come. I read those from (I think) A Crown of Swords through Crossroads of Twilight, then stopped because I wasn't going to touch the series until the end was in sight. And when I came back, I just read the books themselves; no need to play teaser games with the Prologues.

But now, at last, I'm caught up, and the final book hasn't yet come out. So I put it to you, my blog readership:

[Poll #1883074]
swan_tower: (ouroboros)
[This is part of a series analyzing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time novels. Previous installments can be found under the tag. Comments on old posts are welcome.]

The question of how to divide up these posts has always been a thorny one, since (as I said for The Gathering Storm) it’s impossible to keep all analysis out of my reactions, and all reactions out of my analysis. It might be fairer to say that this is the post about the characters, and the next one will be the post about plot and how Towers of Midnight fits into the bigger picture. Fair warning, though; that means this post is really long. There are a lot of characters, and a lot of them get to do noteworthy things in this book.

So, having said that, first things first:

!!!!!!!!!!!eleventy-one!!! )

OOF. That, my friends, is nearly four thousand words there.

I’ll have more, of course, when I come back with the analysis post, in which we will discuss things like pov switching, non-concurrent timing of plot threads, and why exactly Perrin got 87% of this book devoted to him. Until then, have at it in the comments -- let me know which bits of this book you liked, and which ones you didn’t.
swan_tower: (academia)
I should totally have a "Piano Pieces Played" list to explain where the rest of my month went, except that it would get really boring as I listed "Solfeggietto" and "Roslin and Adama" over and over and overandoverandover again. (I've been practicing.)

Blackwood, Gwenda Bond. Picked this one up on the basis of her "Big Idea" feature on Scalzi's blog. Roanoke disappearances! History tying into the present! Alchemy! John Dee! It had so many elements I love . . . but it turns out the problem with that is, I have Opinions on the elements, and get increasingly ticked off when I think they're being used badly. I don't want to spoil this for anybody who'd prefer to avoid spoilers, so I'll rot13 my rant:

Wbua Qrr vf gur ivyynva. V pbhyq cbgragvnyyl pbcr jvgu gung, ohg hasbeghangryl, uvf ivyynval nyfb vaibyirf uvz npgvat ZNFFVIRYL BHG BS PUNENPGRE. Gur Ebnabxr pbybal nccneragyl pbafvfgrq bs n ohapu bs nypurzvpny phygvfgf naq jnf Qrr'f fpurzr gb znxr uvzfrys vzzbegny, naq ur jnagrq gb qb guvf fb gung ur pbhyq bireguebj Ryvmnorgu (hu, juhg) naq gnxr bire gur jbeyq be fbzrguvat. Vg snvyrq orpnhfr ur tbg orgenlrq, juvpu erfhygrq va uvf phygvfgf orvat guebja vagb fbzr xvaq bs nygreangr cynar, naq abj gurl'er onpx naq cbffrffvat crbcyr ba Ebnabxr vfynaq gb svavfu gurve arsnevbhf fpurzr, juvpu vf nyfb xvyyvat nyy gur jvyqyvsr va beqre gb znvagnva Qrr'f haangheny yvsr.

V pbhyq unir tbar nybat jvgu guvf vs Qrr jrer abg n) zrtnybznavnpnyyl cybggvat gb gnxr bire Ratynaq naq o) fubjrq erzbefr bire gur pbfg bs uvf npgvbaf; vg pbhyq unir orra cerfragrq nf uvz oryvrivat gung vzzbegnyvgl jbhyq or fb tbbq sbe gur jbeyq, gur pbfg (gubhtu erterggnoyr) vf jbegu vg. Hasbeghangryl, vg srryf yvxr Obaq, be znlor ure ntrag be rqvgbe, qrpvqvat gur nagntbavfg arrqrq gb or chapurq hc gb jbeyq-guerngravat fgnghf. Gur fgbel jbhyq unir orra orggre jvgubhg gung.

Right. Disappointing. I finished the book, but only through sheer bloody-mindedness (it's a quick read). There were other flaws, too, but I've ranted for long enough, so I'll leave it at that.

Tam Lin, Pamela Dean. Re-read, as a treat to myself on the publication of Lies and Prophecy (which, as I've mentioned before, was partially inspired by this book). I hadn't read it in a number of years, so it was interesting going back through it this time: I noticed so many details that had slipped past me before, like why Nick's and Robin's accents shift when they recite. This is very much a comfort book for me, so I'm not sure what I can say about it to people who don't already know and love it, but short form is: my favorite ballad, retold in the context of a 1970s Minnesota liberal arts college. With lots of excessively literate and well-spoken characters, and some phrases that have stayed with me for near on twenty years now.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print, Renni Browne and Dave King. [livejournal.com profile] maratai offered this free to the first person who asked for it a while ago, so I asked. I was sad when her marginal comments petered out, because those were entertaining me. :-) As for the book itself, it's trying to be a 200-level-ish "how to write" type thing -- going beyond the basic platitudes of writing books and into things like proportion (paying attention to, and trying to appropriately scale, how much attention you devote to certain things) or breaks (sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters). That part is good; the part where the authors seem to think absolutely everything should be done via dialogue was less so. (They are rather anti-description, anti-dialogue tags, anti-"beats" -- by which they mean descriptions of movement used to break up dialogue -- etc.) And then I got to the chapter on "voice" and ranted on Twitter about the meaninglessness of that word the way most writing books, this one included, tend to use it. Augh nonsensical platitudes aaaaaaaaugh.

So, very much a mixed bag.

The Gathering Storm, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. Discussed elsewhere and else-elsewhere.

Towers of Midnight, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. Yeah, I went ahead and read this one, even though I won't be blogging about it until November and December. I wanted to be able to read things like the wiki and Leigh Butler's recaps without hitting spoilers, and I was having a bad week where I really just wanted a GIANT BOOK I could trust to entertain me without requiring much from my brain. (That part kicks in when I do the analysis, later.) Also? I really just wanted to know what happens next. Which is a good feeling to have, going into the end of the series. Anyway, commentary will come later. [Edited to add: commentary is now here.]
swan_tower: (ouroboros)
[This is part of a series analyzing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time novels. Previous installments can be found under the tag. Comments on old posts are welcome, but please, no spoilers for books after this one.]

And now we talk about structure.

I don't envy Sanderson the challenge he faced, picking up the end of this series and trying to wrangle it into something like order. Jordan may have insisted that by god it was going to be ONE MORE BOOK, but I don't see any way in hell that could have ever worked -- and I say that without even having read Towers of Midnight yet, let alone A Memory of Light. There's enough here in this book that unless both of those are Crossroads of Twilight-level bogs of plotlessness (which I very much doubt), a single volume would have read like the Cliff Notes version of the finale.

But Sanderson didn't have a terribly good foundation to build on, structurally speaking, as he went into the final stretch. Card-weaving would make an ideal metaphor to describe the situation here, but since very few of you know how that works, we'll go with architecture instead: he, as the construction manager, inherited a building with four good, solid stories at the bottom, three or so dodgy levels above that, three ramshackle levels held together with increasing quantities of baling wire and duct tape, and then one that makes a valiant attempt at being structurally sound. Atop this mess, he had to build one (eventually three) final levels, and make them as habitable and pleasant as possible.

Spoiler-cut time, as I start dissecting this book to see what makes it tick. )

In terms of analysis, that's all that leaps to mind. If there's anything I've mentioned in earlier posts that I ought to follow up on, or things you guys would like to hear me opine on, let me know. ToM commentary will probably come in late November and early December, and then in January . . . A Memory of Light.
swan_tower: (ouroboros)
[This is part of a series analyzing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time novels. Previous installments can be found under the tag. Comments on old posts are welcome, but please, no spoilers for books after this one.]

I'll be doing two posts apiece for the final three books, the ones written by Sanderson -- not because Sanderson wrote them, but because the story in them is actually new to me. (I should have also done this for Knife of Dreams, on the same grounds, but I'm not going to backtrack that far now.)

In order to keep my remarks something like organized, I'm splitting them into my reactions as a reader, and my analysis as a writer. Of course, it won't really be possible to keep those two things entirely separate: my reader-reactions will inevitably include some analytical comments, and my structural analysis will perforce be colored by my feelings as a reader. But this will at least allow me to have two lengthy posts, rather than one unreadably long monstrosity.

Reactions first. And these are as spoilery as spoilers get, so let's go behind the cut.

Read more... )

I think that's most of what I have to say that's primarily about how I reacted to the book, rather than what I think of it. The analytical post will follow before long, in which I will look at structural matters and the payoff of various narrative strands.

And in the meanwhile, I will try to convince myself not to read Towers of Midnight just yet. But it's a testament to how enjoyable The Gathering Storm was that I'm actively interested in getting the rest of the story, and soon.
swan_tower: (ouroboros)
[This is part of a series analyzing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time novels. Previous installments can be found under the tag. Comments on old posts are welcome.]

Next month I'm going to dive into the final stretch of the Wheel of Time analysis. But before I do that, I'd like to talk about prophecy.

I thought about waiting a while longer. See, the major example I want to use for illustration is a plot that hasn't actually paid off yet, as of the books I've read. This means that, while I can talk about where I think it's going to go, I don't actually know yet if I'm right. (Possibly some of you do, as I suspect the resolution is in The Towers of Midnight. But I dunno; maybe it's in A Memory of Light. If it's in ToM, though, don't give any spoilers in the comments. I want to find out on my own how much of this is accurate.) In some ways, though, I think it's more interesting to do it like this: to say what I think right now, without the hindsight warping it. So here we go.

The reason I wanted to discuss prophecy is that I think it's one of the things Jordan does really, really well. In fact, if there's one thing I would point at as the reason for my fannishness in high school -- the thing that made me engage so enthusiastically with this series -- prophecy would probably be it. On a metaphysical level, I'm not so fond of the trope: it puts the characters on a railroad track, taking away their agency and making their choices less meaningful. And that's kind of true here, too, though Jordan sometimes goes the additional step required to make that interesting, which is to have the characters grapple with what it means to have their actions predestined. On the whole, though, it isn't the existence of prophecy that I like.

It's the way Jordan handles it. He strikes, I think, a very good (and delicate) balance of foreshadowing, giving enough information to be interesting, not so much as to spoil the entire plot. More to the point, he does this the right way: not through vagueness (which is what way too many fantasy authors try), but through breaking the information up and scattering it in a dozen different places.

It isn't just the official Prophecies of the Dragon, with their pompous, pseudo-epic verse. It's Egwene's dreams, and those of the other Dreamers. It's Elaida's Foretellings, and Nicola's, and Gitara Moroso's. Min's viewings. Aelfinn and Eelfinn tricks. Aiel prophecies and Sea Folk prophecies and things that aren't even prophecy of any sort; they're just little details of culture and history, stray lines characters speak here and there, tiny pieces you have to glue together to see that they have any significance at all.

Sure, some of it is vague. (Hi, Karaethon Cycle; how ya doin'?) But some of it is very specific, very clear . . . so long as you put it together right. And that's why I think it works: if you're the sort of reader who doesn't want to know where the story is going, you don't have to. Just read along, notice the obvious stuff, and let the rest surprise you when it comes. If, however, you're the sort of person who likes to put together narrative jigsaw puzzles -- which I am -- then you can have a great deal of fun playing chase-the-clue through the books.

Having made the general statement, we'll now go behind the spoiler cut for a specific example to show what I mean.

Read more... )

Apart from the textual fun of playing with this stuff -- seriously, I'm not kidding when I say that arguing this kind of thing on CompuServe's Wheel of Time forum is how I learned close reading, and to hell with my English classes -- it's kind of a neat trick to use when your readers are having to wait years between books. Just as the fans of Lost entertained themselves from episode to episode by trying to guess where the metaplot was going, Wheel of Time fans could (and did) spend endless amounts of time combing the books for hints about future plot. (What else could we do? If Jordan wouldn't deliver, we would, by way of endless speculation.)

I also think it helps the author have his cake and eat it, too, when it comes to the role this trope plays in fantasy. Yes, the path is laid out for Our Heroes, in a fashion compatible with the notion that they are all important enough to be Destined. But by fragmenting it and disguising it, he adds a layer of mystery that helps make their actions and choices seem less wholly pre-determined. And, as I said, Jordan at least sometimes goes the extra step of considering what that pre-determination means, at least from the perspective of the characters. Mat is told he's destined to marry the Daughter of the Nine Moons, and so the interesting part isn't the surprise that it happens, but rather the question of how he reacts when he meets her. Egwene gets hints from her dreams, and faces the choice of what to say and do as a result. Rand has known since the second book that he has to fight the Dark One, and he thinks he knows what the price of that will be . . . and so the driving issue for him has been what freedom he has within that constraint. Can he choose how that moment comes? Can he avoid dying? Can he make sure there will be something left that's worth preserving?

I'd like to read a fantasy series that hits those questions head-on. Like it or not, prophecy is part of the basic furniture of the fantasy genre, and for all its flaws we aren't just going to chuck it out the window. The interesting question, both inside of the story and out, is what you do with it.
swan_tower: (ouroboros)
[This is part of a series analyzing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time novels. Previous installments can be found under the tag. Comments on old posts are welcome.]

This is a companion book to the series, released after A Crown of Swords, in 1997. According to Wikipedia, it's considered to be "broadly canonical" -- which is to say that it (unlike the RPG) was developed with Jordan's input, but that any new information it introduced was eligible to be contradicted later on. (Whether or not that happened, I don't know; I didn't see anything in my read-through that struck me as being off.)

Interestingly, the reason the book can exist in that nebulous middle zone of accuracy is because it's treated like an in-world document, written by some unnamed scholar living in the time of the series. This is not done as well as it could be: the scholar is left completely undefined, in terms of who they are and why they're writing. I know it would have introduced difficulties if they became a person in a specified position -- then you'd start wondering how they got that information -- but it would have added a degree of flavor that I, personally, would have enjoyed. (As it stands, about all you can conclude is that the writer isn't Aes Sedai, because the book talks about how the Tower probably has records they don't let outsiders see.) And it does fall down in a few places; the section on the Age of Legends discusses their achievements with terms like "molecule" and "anti-gravity" and "genetics" that are not, I think, generally known to Third Age inhabitants (nor are they presented as half-forgotten terms from the past). But overall I think the approach works fairly well.

Though in some places more than others. )

Conclusion? As companion books go, it's decent, though some parts are definitely more fresh and engaging than others. There's also new art, by Todd Cameron Hamilton; on the one hand it looks pretty amateurish (especially the faces), but on the other hand it isn't Darrell K. Sweet, so it has that going for it. Mainly, though, I'm reminded of what I said in my post on the roleplaying game: this, not the RPG book, is what I would hand to any player who hasn't read the series. Pair it with the system hack of your choice, and you can run a Wheel of Time game just fine.

Separate cut for this, because it's a thorough-going digression. )

In other news, Sanderson's work meter recently jumped from "2nd Draft -- 100% done" to "4th draft -- 79% done," so he seems to be making good progress. If no delays get announced there, I will post about "The Strike at Shayol Ghul" in August, then dive back into the actual book analysis in September. See you all then!
swan_tower: (ouroboros)
[This is part of a series analyzing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time novels. Previous installments can be found under the tag. Comments on old posts are welcome.]

To fill the time between now and the final spate of WOT analysis (which is currently scheduled to begin in September, but that's assuming the January pub date for A Memory of Light stays put), I bring you: the Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game!

(Core book only. I did not pick up Prophecies of the Dragon, the sole expansion published before they dropped the line, though I have read a summary of it. The material in it is considered non-canonical anyway.)

Ground info first: this is a d20 game, published in 2001 (between Winter's Heart and Crossroads of Twilight) meaning it dates back to the brief heyday of third edition D&D -- third edition, not 3.5. Since WOTRPG has its own world-specific set of classes, the revisions made to the class system between editions don't much matter, but the skill system is the old mess, lacking not only the simplifications introduced by Pathfinder, but even the improvements of 3.5. ("Intuit Direction" is a skill!)

Before I dig into the grotty details of the system, though, I should talk about the presentation of the book itself. As is usually the case with merchandising of this sort, it doesn't appear to be entirely certain whether it's trying to market itself to fans of the books -- who already know the world, and are itching to imagine themselves as the Dragon Reborn or whatever -- or to lure in outsiders who might then become enamored of the world and go pick up the series. Frankly, I'm always dubious of the latter approach: did anybody really say "oh look, another generic-looking d20 epic fantasy supplement!" and rush to play it? Everybody I know who bought or played it (which isn't very many people) was already a fan -- the sort of people for whom the "fast-track character creation" makes sense, because they already know what an "Aes Sedai Accepted" or "Runaway from the Stedding" is, or for whom it's interesting to see Rand et al. get statted. And yet, there are little one-page potted descriptions of the Aiel and so on, and a worldbuilding section that explains all the countries of Randland, rehashing information fans already know.

Those are the same people for whom the art is going to be infuriating. Instead of the familiar map, we get a less sophisticated redraw -- I guess they weren't able to license the rights to the old one? -- featuring place names like "Tamen Head." Um, yeah. And the character images . . . well, let me just show you the Wise One apprentice:

Don't you love her dark skirt, white blouse, and dark shawl? Or how about the Cairhienin noblewoman, with her striped skirt?

I know this is probably stock art purchased on a budget, but sheesh.

Actually, the art is a good lead-in to my main point, which is that d20 is an abysmal system for running a WOT game. It is, in fact, the stock art of the gaming world: cheap and easy to get, but bearing at best a vague resemblance to what it's supposed to describe.

First: general mechanics neepery. )

Channeling neepery! )

Story neepery! )

Ultimately, the only thing of value I really see in the WOTRPG is the weave stats, and that solely because I could use them as a guideline for designing my own house rules (which Elements are involved, how hard is this supposed to be, etc). I don't think it's a great introduction to the world for a player who isn't already familiar with it, though I might toss the setting info their way if for some reason we couldn't get hold of a copy of The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time (the companion book). It's a complete failure as a foundation for a campaign. And I think it's a terrible system for the story: you would be better off grabbing your favorite generic fantasy mechanics and winging the specifics. d20 has its uses -- as I've said before, I would probably use it for Dragon Age -- but this, my friends, is not one of them.

The pity is, a better effort could have been pretty cool. This is a big world, with lots of room in it for cool adventures; sadly, the game is too rigid to let you go explore.
swan_tower: (ouroboros)
In the wake of Rush Limbaugh's disgusting attacks on Sandra Fluke -- and when I've been reading articles like this one on funding cuts in the UK for domestic violence shelters -- it seems an opportune time to remind everybody about the random little fundraiser I'm doing.

More details at that link, but the short form is that, as a part of my ongoing analysis, if you donate to a women's charity -- you choose which one; it could be a shelter or rape counseling or pro-choice or anti-discrimination or whatever -- and send me the info, I will buy used copies of various bits of Wheel of Time merchandise, and blog about them for your entertainment.

Because I'm really tired of feeling like we're backsliding on women's rights, like the Overton window has shifted to the point where we've got a major presidential candidate speaking out against all forms of birth control, and people cheering him for it. So I hope this encourages some of you to donate to a worthy cause.
swan_tower: (ouroboros)
Okay, so after some reflection, here's the plan.

I'm going to delay posting about the novels until later this year -- probably starting in September, with two posts each for The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight. The first post will be pure reader reaction (as pure as I can make it, anyway), and the second will be analysis.

In between now and then, I will post about related WoT things. Which ones? Well, that depends on you.

There is a companion book, a short story (which I think is in the companion book), a role-playing game, a video game, and some comic books. I own the first (and therefore possibly the second), but none of the rest, and unlike the usual novels, I can't obtain them from libraries. Ergo, investigating these things would require me to shell out money as well as time. But, on the other hand, I don't actually want to solicit money from you guys for what amounts to a random hobby project.

Stick a pin in that for a second, and follow me down a divergent thread, which is that I am deeply furious with the retrograde stuff going on right now in the United States with regard to gender and reproduction. I won't get into specifics, because I don't want to turn this into a political thread -- but that collided in my head with some of the complaints I've made about gender in this series, and lo, an idea was born.

It goes like this: donate to a charity that supports women and/or their right to control their own bodies, and I will subject myself to assorted bits of Wheel of Time merchandising for your entertainment.

It looks like it'll cost me about $25 a pop to obtain the RPG book and the video game [edited to add: used copies of both], so let's set those as our minima: if you guys raise twenty-five dollars, I'll read and report back on the RPG, and if you raise fifty, I'll do the same for the video game. Seventy-five gets you a more fully-baked version of my homebrew hack for a Wheel of Time RPG, and a hundred gets you a solemn promise that I'll play the entire video game, come hell, high water, or my complete suckitude at first-person shooters. And if you raise $150 or more, I'll even hunt down the comic books -- which are a rehash of New Spring and The Eye of the World, rather than new material, which is why I'm putting them last.

Donate to a suitable charity -- you pick which one -- and e-mail me a copy of the receipt at marie[dot]brennan[at]gmail[dot]com. I'll keep a running tally. There's no immediate deadline; this part of the project is intended to occupy me through August, so you can donate at any point before then. But do feel free -- nay, encouraged -- to signal-boost. At a time like this, when a congressional representative can think it's even remotely excusable to convene a panel on the topic of birth control and stock it entirely with men, I'd like to see women's rights get a bit of support.


swan_tower: (Default)

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