Wait, let me recheck the title. 2312 is not this year's round-up of what I played but a book title. I've not read lots of books this year, snacking rarely between mealtimes. However this was probably the one that stuck with me. There's an amusing divergence between books and games. If I said I hadn't finished a book and tried to review it, I'd be laughed out of town. Yet some games are downright unfinishable, with bugs out to here or gameplay that loops round like Finnegan's Wake(which I promise to review as soon as I finish it). Anyway, no more digressions. It's time for the review.
The Age of Heroes was ending. Metal screamed across a twisted landscape. Spirits fluttered in their lantern cages as Edward sped along the highway. Overgrown fields passed him by. Scorched battlefields, Collapsed buildings and places fouler still were background to his quest. Born of steel, his steed spat fire as its wheels devoured the ancient road. Edward patted the arcane beast’s flank, looking ahead to the past. Skeletal spires split the mauve sky. Englitch had forged their cities from black steel, though never so black as their hearts. The beams of ancient searchlights roved the skyline. They had for a thousand years, as they would for a thousand more. Their infernal contractors bound in perpetuity. This was more than some demon haunted ruin. This was home. No wonder Edward wasn’t happy about it.
Not my first but probably my most successful D&D campaign, Planescapin began back in 2013 and ran until July 2016. It finished successfully, albeit slightly rushed due to growing player fatigue. For a Planescape campaign it was surprisingly Prime focused, through my fault rather than intention. The group never really got involved in faction politics or the great conflicts of the setting, with the planes becoming exotic locales for them to visit in between wrestling with plot. What follows is my own retrospective of what happened, what worked and what didn't.
The simplest Surrealist act consists of dashing down the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd. --André Breton
Space was important. there’d never been space in Vienna. Space provided room for ideas to grow.
Charlie unlocked the door, slipping the key back into his pocket. It was the ornate one Sable had given him the morning they’d met.
”You look like someone who needs space.”
He’d followed her, the little tramp and his darling. He’d sketched her across the street, up the stairs into the empty room above the pottery store. They’d talked about the war, about Manchuria, about her cafe. They’d gotten closer and closer. And then she’d left.
“Don’t worry, just drop the key back when you’re done.”
No one went thirsty in Pascolo. A throat going dry had only to open its mouth. Not that this fact was appreciated. Travellers crowded under the overhangs outside the city wall, edging each other out for the dry spots. Labourers rubbed shoulders with traders, heroes with vagabonds, though few could tell the difference. There was a begrudging acceptance among the crowd, everyone hated the weather. Beggars were the only ones that dared the rain, going from group to group in search of a stray crust or a pitying noble too much coin. A pair of them walked along the edges, rain running through the holes in their caps, bare feet slapping off wet stone.
“Scuse me. Can you spare a bite?”
The old man looked up from a bowl of rice, leaving down his fork. He sniffed loudly.
“Why don’t ye get a job and earn it.”
Rin Melior waited. The lights above him blinked and sparked out of the air. There were demons in the castle. He didn't see them, but had expected them now for years. His warnings to Baron Parva were not listenend to and now it was too late. Far too late for now, anyway.
Rin was a honourable samurai for fourteen years. When he was young he watched the bushi and he said to dad "I want to be on the banners daddy."
Dad said "No! You will BE KILL BY DEMONS"
There was a time when he believed him. Then as he got oldered he stopped. But now in the alternate demi-plane of the castle he knew there were demons.
"This is Parva" the sending crackered. "You must fight the demons!"
So Rin gotted his celestial blade of the heavens and blew up the wall.
"HE GOING TO KILL US" said the demons "I will shoot at him" said the demogorgon and he fired the magic missiles. Rin path of warred at him and tried to blew him up. But then the ceiling fell and they were trapped and not able to kill.
"No! I must kill the demons" he shouted The sending said "No, Rin. You are the demons"
And then Rin was a kitsune.
Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man. - Romans 1:22-23
Night was still waking. A golden halo merged with the orange lamps of the city. The city itself did not mind. Basking in the late summer heat it lived and loved as it had always done. Couples strolled beneath the lamps. Revellers chased one another across car wide streets. Only the alley behind block C was unlit, a pool of shadow amidst an orange land. It hid a lonely pair of eyes gazing up at the apartments.
Daniel was busy designing the new customer engagement system when it happened. To be fair it was his own fault. He’d accepted the invite on the basis that while Steve droned on about optimizing paradigms Daniel could get the work done. And so he’d packed himself into a room with about seven managers and stole a scrap of tablespace. He knew none of them, which meant they were too senior to be important. Unfortunately he hadn’t gambled on it happening. He didn’t even notice until Steve said “Dan?”
Daniel glanced up from his rapid response complaints system at two rows of quizzical faces. “Sure, it’s doable.”
Steve smiled “And with the new 666 link, we should have the hard copy before lunchtime.”
The managers nodded to each other knowingly.
Daniel’s office honed instincts flared “Sorry Steven, could you restate that in laymen’s terms?”
Steve swelled with pride at the thought of being too technical for someone “We agreed we need the hard copy of the previous version’s project plan so we’re going to send you over to archives to retrieve it.”
Amelia was making coffee when she heard the scream. Round the corner she found security holding onto Daniel. A group of managers filed past, whispering to each other. Steve came last “Same time tomorrow, we’ll do a full review of today’s minutes!”
Daniel struggled to break free “Not again! Please not again!”
“Did something happen?” she asked, sipping coffee.
Steve noticed her “Don’t worry, it’s a perfectly normal reaction.”
“He’s going up to Archives tomorrow,” Steve winked “It’s on the northside.”
“My family is from Swords.”
Steve never let a bad joke slow him down “Fancy an all-expenses paid company trip?”
Amelia considered his sharklike grin. It had to be better than making coffee..
I went browsing for an old book I own online, Orvis by H.M. Hoover. It turns out the reprint from 2002 looks like this.
Naturally I was outraged. How dare they change things! But seriously, I can't help but think of the book as with the original cover my copy has
How 70s sci-fi is that? I'm amazed the pilot's helmet isn't ten times bigger.
But what about the book within? Orvis is one of my childhood memories, from when the future seemed so bright and hoverboards were only a few years away. It's about Toby and Thaddeus, two schoolkids from the colonies who don't fit in on earth. Toby meets Orvis, an old, abandoned robot who is both highly intelligent and extremely refined. Toby feels surplus to requirements and seeing Orvis left to rust resolves to get him to a safe home, to her great-grandmother. Unfortunately things don't quite work out as along the way the transport they're on is hijacked. She and Thaddeus are stranded in the Empty and forced to rely on Orvis to survive. But Orvis is free now, why risk it all to help two fragile humans?
The restraints tightened as the man on the bed stretched forward. “Let me tell you a story.”
There sat in a far off place a lamp post, the only one of its kind. Underneath it gathered three characters. They hailed from different worlds. A scholar, of proud bearing and rich dress, came from the highlands to the north. A farrier travelled up from the south, he reeked of iron and dung. Last, to round out the cast, was a bonepicker. Where she came from nobody knew. They gathered beneath a burning gaslight on a warm summer night. They gathered to tell each other stories, of truth, of fiction and between. For just as one was honest so was the next a liar. The farrier always went first. He told his tale thusly.
The city was the desert. Yllen understood that now. She sat in ruins of a bazaar, its walls collapsed by time. The midday sun burned in the sky and forced all travel to a standstill. Except for the hiss of sand, there was no sound. This fact refused to make sense. People were noisy. Especially her people. She should have heard Krud’s bellows or Gundrea’s girlish scream. She should have heard boots striking the earth. Hell, she would have given anything for the bandits to attack again. Anything for a reminder of human contact.
She swallowed, tongue sticking to the roof of her mouth and let her eyes close stretching the edges of awareness. There beneath the sand’s hiss, she heard a chirrup. Her eyes opened slightly and she crawled toward the sound. She caught a glimpse of a dark body almost three inches long, its legs rubbed together, producing another chirrup. Yllen exhaled slowly. She pounced on the cicada. The insect slipped from her sweaty palms, flitting toward the shade. Yllen chased after it, catching it on the second stride. This time she ripped the wings off, hanging onto it as her stomach girded itself. It didn’t taste that bad.
It seems we are at a fork in a country road by a tree.
I stand there restless. You sit down to think.
But you can’t think, not without something old and blue.
And when I find one it fits naturally.
Then all at once memories pour forth.
You tell me of times before, of dinners in Rome and fruit-picking in Virginia.
Of busy city streets and quiet country roads.
Like this road on which we wait, not knowing where to go.
You tell me not to worry, big things are coming.
It seems we’ve been here forever, never more than a day..
But I know tomorrow will be different.
Another day. Yesterday. I asked what you wanted.
You said you didn’t know. A bag, a suit, something borrowed and new.
I wonder how did we come here, does it make sense to those looking in.
I’m never quite sure are you happy, are we happy.
Just two people on the country road, not knowing where to go.
I ask again about those other times, of times yet to come.
Of numbers to be counted and voices to be heard.
This can’t be all I say and to my surprise you agree.
You get down on one knee.
It’s time to leave this mess behind, will you marry me?
We take the fork. We’re leaving not waiting, together.