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The Bookish Owl – War of the Spark: Ravnica by Greg Weisman

War of the Spark: Ravnica by Greg Weisman

Next up is War of the Spark: Ravnica by Greg Weisman.

As the name might suggest, this is a Magic: The Gathering tie-in novel. I have not played the trading card game, but lots of my friends are obsessed with it and some of them invited me to join a Dungeons & Dragons campaign set in the MTG world Ravnica.

Do you know how hard it is to make a good character backstory when you know nothing about the world said character lives in?

It’s pretty damn hard.

So I went into research mode after the first session. But the info dumps I got from watching YouTubers talk lore were a bit hard to keep straight in my head. But luckily for a bookworm like me, there’s also Magic: The Gathering novels! And it turns out that they (or at least the one I have read at the moment of writing this) are even quite good.

It was a bit hard to keep track of the large cast of characters in War of the Spark: Ravnica, but it’s written in such a way that even Magic noobs like myself can easily follow the story. And when I played D&D last Saturday, I recognized a name mentioned in passing by an NPC (Kaya, who had failed the mission we were about to be given) and immediately knew what that meant. Even better,  I got to explain character lore to one of my fellow players who plays a lot of MTG.

Yes, I’m a smug bastard when I suddenly know things.

Long story short: This is a good book, and I now know who all the people trying to kill me in my D&D campaign are.


War of the Spark: Ravnica
by Greg Weisman

Teyo Verada wants nothing more than to be a shieldmage, wielding arcane energies to protect his people from his world’s vicious diamondstorms. When he’s buried alive in the aftermath of his first real tempest, the young mage’s life is about to end before it can truly begin—until it doesn’t. In a flash, a power he didn’t know he had whisks him away from his home, to a world of stone, glass, and wonder: Ravnica. Teyo is a Planeswalker, one of many to be called to the world-spanning city—all lured by Nicol Bolas, the Elder Dragon. Bolas lays siege to the city of Ravnica, hungry for the ultimate prize: godhood itself. His unparalleled magic and unstoppable army appear poised to bring the city to utter ruin.

Among those who stand in the way of Bolas’s terrifying machinations are the Gatewatch, Planeswalkers sworn to defeat evil, no matter where it’s found. But as they work to unite the other mages and mount a defense of the city and its people, the terrifying truth of Bolas’s plan becomes clear. The Elder Dragon has prepared a trap to ensnare the most powerful mages from across the Multiverse—and it’s too late to escape.

As forces great and small converge on the city and the battle rages, the stakes could not be higher. If the Gatewatch falters and the Planeswalkers fail, the curtain will fall on the age of heroes—and rise on the infinite reign of Nicol Bolas.


War of the Spark: Ravnica by Greg Weisman

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The Bookish Owl – Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne by David Gaider

Dragon Age The Stolen Throne

Here be dragons! Just in case the ‘dragon’ in Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne by David Gaider didn’t clue you in…

The Stolen Throne is the prequel to Dragon Age: Origins, the first game in one of my all-time favorite video game franchises. And it follows Prince Maric, the father of my all-time favorite character Alistair, during his rebellion against the Orlesian usurper of the Fereldan throne. You also get to see a lot of Loghain, Jackass Supreme in Origins, but very nearly likable in this book.

Though still a jackass.

While The Stolen Throne is a good and well-written book, I think I had expected a bit more from something written by David Gaider, who was the lead writer for Dragon Age: Origins. The thing about the Dragon Age games is that they have characters you can’t help falling in love with, but the characters in this book didn’t make much of an impact on me. Don’t get me wrong, I liked them well enough and I enjoyed the book… but it just didn’t have that special something I get from the games.


If you’re a fan of the Dragon Age games as well, check out my rambling post on my favorite DA companions! Or wait around for my future Bookish Owl post on Hard in Hightown by Varric Tethras…


Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne
by David Gaider

After his mother, the beloved Rebel Queen, is betrayed and murdered by her own faithless lords, young Maric becomes the leader of a rebel army attempting to free his nation from the control of a foreign tyrant.

His countrymen live in fear; his commanders consider him untested; and his only allies are Loghain, a brash young outlaw who saved his life, and Rowan, the beautiful warrior maiden promised to him since birth. Surrounded by spies and traitors, Maric must find a way to not only survive but achieve his ultimate destiny: Ferelden’s freedom and the return of his line to the stolen throne. 


Dragon Age The Stolen Throne

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To Bard or Not to Bard

Dungeons and Dragons BardI recently got invited to a new Dungeons & Dragons group and I was eager to make a character that would be useful with their existing group dynamic. I was told they could use frontliners and a healer, so – since I already play a Cleric in my other D&D group – I decided to go with a paladin.

However, after a quick chat with their DM, I discovered that a paladin would find it rather difficult to fit in with this group of, as the DM called them, ‘murder hobos’.

The campaign is set in Ravnica, the cityscape from Magic: The Gathering, a world I have absolutely no knowledge of. So what do you do when you need a character with a limited sense of right and wrong, in a world where you don’t know the various factions?

You make a conwoman Bard and tell the DM to decide which guilds she has pissed off by swindling them out of their money.

Kindra Sinclair – likely a fake name – is my first Bard character, but all my characters across races, classes, and even tabletop systems, tend to end up with a tendency to cheat at card games, so when I noticed the Charlatan background in the Player’s Handbook, I figured I might as well write it into the character from the beginning. I picked College of Lore to get a few handy healing spells and then I padded my spell list with spells that would allow me to cheat, charm and swindle everyone in my path.

I have a feeling this character might not survive for long…

I also went with a rapier and a dagger with the intention of being a melee attacker, but I spent most of the first session casting Vicious Mockery, hurling insults at the enemies, before hurriedly running away from them. It was low on grace, but since the bard is the one to compose the stories after the battle, I’ll be the brave hero in the retelling.

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Favorite Companions in Dragon Age

Dragon Age Keep

You might not have noticed because of all the Witcher stuff I post, but I have a deep-seated obsession with Dragon Age. And not just because of the dragons.

(Though you can never have too many dragons.)

Since I haven’t been seeing a lot of my real life friends, I have abandoned any hope of productivity to revisit some of my virtual friends in Dragon Age: Inquistion. I have also been fighting dragons and yelling, “Take that, you flapping bastard!” with my windows opened and my neighbors might now think I’m beating up Artemis…

Anyway, I wanted to talk about some of my favorite companions across the Dragon Age games. It certainly wasn’t easy to limit the list to a manageable size, because all the characters in these games are amazing

(Except for Carver. He’s a little bitch. Oh, and Sera. Who is just… weird. And not the good kind of weird.)

Eh, warning: This post turned out more gay than I intended. Obviously it’s very hard to be both a Dragon Age fan and a homophobe, so you’re probably good, but I honestly hadn’t intended to go Full Lesbian while writing this.


Dragon Age Inquisition Grey Warden Alistair

Alistair

Even two games and many years later, Alistair still tops every Dragon Age list I’ll ever make. I remember confiding in a friend when I first started playing Origins that this game was turning me straight, and her reply was, “Pfft, even my fiance is in love with Alistair!”

It might say something about the sad state of my love life, but I can honestly say that I was more upset by Alistair dumping my mage Warden than I have ever been by a real life break-up, and I immediately went back to an earlier save instead of just accepting it.

But really, can you blame me? Alistair is just the most adorable bundle of awkwardness. He somehow manages to be so cheesy that he comes out on the other side as sweet.

Alistair: So… let me get this straight. You were a cloistered sister?
Leliana: You must have been a brother before you became a templar, no?
Alistair: I never actually became a templar. I was recruited into the Grey Wardens before I took my final vows.
Leliana: Do you ever regret leaving the Chantry?
Alistair: No, never. Do you?
Leliana: Yes. You may not believe it, but I found peace there. The kind of peace I’ve never known.
Alistair: It used to get so quiet at the monastery that I would start screaming until one of the brothers came running. I would tell them that I was just checking. You never know, right?
Leliana: I… no, I never did anything like that. I enjoyed the quiet.
Alistair: Suit yourself. The look on their face was always priceless.


Dragon Age Companions Morrigan

Morrigan

See, these games might be turning me straight, but I’ll argue that it’s only because Bioware makes characters like Morrigan straight in-game. My type has always been:

a. Bitchy women
b. Women who are no good for me
c. Women who look like they could beat the crap out of me

…and more often than not: d. All of the above.

(See sections ‘Vivienne’, ‘Cassandra’, ‘Isabela’.)

I’m getting sidetracked.

I have cosplayed as Morrigan many times and for years my text ringtone was her first voice line in Origins: “My, my, what have we here?”

Scared the crap out of my grandmother once I left my phone in the room with her while I was fixing her PC…

But really, Morrigan is the Bitch Witch Queen and not even Madame Vivienne de Fer can push her off her throne. As much as I adore Alistair, I will never tire of hearing the party dialogue between him and Morrigan, because our swamp witch is brutal in her mockery.

Alistair: So tell me, was the Tower of Magi everything you thought it would be?
Morrigan: Abominations running rampant? Templars ready to slaughter every mage in sight? Yes, it rather met all my expectations.
Alistair: You don’t think you might have been better off getting your training there? Instead of whatever your mother taught you?
Morrigan: You’re right. My mother didn’t nearly have as many abominations running about. That certainly would have improved my education.
Alistair: Hmm. I’ll give you that one.
Morrigan: I’m so relieved.


Dorian Pavus Dragon Age Inquisition

Dorian

Everyone’s favorite Tevinter moustache mage very nearly beat Morrigan for the second spot on this list. I imagine the battle was fierce and filled with devastating snipes.

Dorian is everything I want in a friend: Sassy, intelligent and completely and utterly gay. I am even willing to accept that he’s much prettier than me.

He’s also the only character to ever pull off that moustache.

Dorian: Varric, I want a new nickname.
Varric: What’s wrong with sparkler? Not colorful enough for you?
Dorian: You must know me better now. Or does the moniker you gave me five minutes after we met still apply?
Varric: I have the eyes of a story teller. It’s a gift.
Dorian: So, I’m a bit of light you stick in a window sill to impress passersby? All flash, no heat? Hmm… that’s actually pretty clever.
Varric: See? Embrace your place in the universe, Sparkler.


Isabela Dragon Age II

Isabela

“Pirates like booty. Both kinds!”

Isabela is our favorite inappropiate pirate. Also the best lesbian romance option across all the games, in my humble gay opinion. Josephine is a sweetheart, but she keeps friendzoning herself, and the rest are just not doing it for me. Isabela is so aggressive that I started a romance with her by accident. I thought we were just having a normal conversation and suddenly daggers were flying everywhere…

My favorite thing about Isabela is the totally inappropiate party dialogue you get when you bring her along. And Aveline and Isabela throwing insults back and forth is a display of the truest kind of friendship I can think of.

Aveline: I had trouble with another one of your women, Isabela. She stole from a… distracted client. You’re lucky she wasn’t jailed.
Isabela: My women? I am but a shepherd. And what free enterprise are you oppressing now?
Aveline: Theft is not enterprise.
Isabela: Opportunities insufficiently guarded. Victimless crimes.
Aveline: Except for all the victims.
Isabela: Details. Victimless details.


Sebastian Vael Dragon Age 2

Sebastian

I know this choice is controversal, but hear me out.

Whatever you say about Sebastian, you can’t deny that his introduction scene is badass. When the Grand Cleric tries to remove his notice looking for mercenaries to kill his family’s murderers from the board and he turns around and shoots an arrow through it?

That’s style.

Besides, if you ignore the stuff he actually says, and just listen to his very pleasant voice with the Scottish accent, he’s very enjoyable to have in the party. And it’s also rather funny to hear the other companions make fun of him.

Varric: So, Choir Boy, this usurper of yours is… twenty feet tall?
Sebastian: Not even close, no.
Varric: But he has claws for hands, right?
Sebastian: Fingers. Perfectly normal ones. If a little fat, perhaps.
Varric: He eats babies, though. And farts fire.
Sebastian: You’re not serious, I hope.
Varric: You can’t even pretend to be interesting, can you?


Cassandra Dragon Age Inquisition

Cassandra

Oh, Cassandra Allegra Portia Calogera Filomena Pentaghast – The sharp-tongued Seeker who secretly loves horrible romance novels.

Cassandra is one of my favorites because she’s badass, but still relatable. She has a horrible temper, but she is one of those rare people who will admit when she’s wrong and apologize for it.

I also need her to be gay so badly.

Cassandra’s is one of the few romances in Dragon Age that I have never tried out because I fear she might be reduced to some blushing damsel, and when I think of ‘Cassandra’ and ‘damsel’ in the same scenario… it’s always Cassandra rescuing some damsel in a tower by shield-bashing a dragon in the face.

Dorian: Tell me, Cassandra: did your family throw suitors at you?
Cassandra: My uncle did, waves of them – until I broke one’s arm. Then there were fewer.
Dorian: I must admit I never tried that.
Cassandra: It was an accident. Well… mostly an accident.


Varric Tethras Dragon Age Inquisition

Varric

I would be crucified by half the internet and at least two of my friends if I didn’t include our dear story-telling dwarf.

But really, he’s a writer with a crossbow; basically all I aspire to be, minus the chest hair.

Anders: What?
Varric: Just wondering if the feathered pauldrons are an essential part of the moody rebel mage persona.
Anders: What are you talking about?
Varric: I’m working on an epic poem about a hopelessly romantic apostate waging an epic struggle against forces he can’t possibly defeat.
Anders: What do you mean, “can’t possibly defeat?”
Varric: Well, it’s not a good story unless the hero dies.


Vivienne Dragon Age Inquisition

Vivienne

Madame de Fer makes the list because few appreciate her bitchiness and because she’s hella stylish.

What can I say? I got a thing for bitchy mages.

Blackwall: You must miss the comforts of your mansions, traveling with us as you do.
Vivienne: I miss them. I do not require them.
Vivienne: But please, continue to imagine me a pampered lady, if it makes you feel superior.


I think that’s all for now. Throw me a comment with which Dragon Age companion is your favorite, because I badly need excuses to geek out over these games with you.

And remember, kids: Swooping is bad.

(All screenshots shamelessly stolen from the Dragon Age Wiki)

 

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Confessions of a D&D Dice Hoarder

Dungeons and Dragons Player Book and Dice

You know what sucks about this whole social distancing thing?

(I mean, except for people dying, the economy collapsing, people losing their jobs, etc…)

My D&D groups have to cancel all gaming sessions.

Dungeons and Dragons Player Book and Dice

I don’t even have any online groups going at the moment, and even if I did, the convenience provided by Roll20 eliminates the need for one of my favorite things… Dice.

I looove dice sets. I don’t know why. It’s not like any of us ever used to obsess over the six-sided die in the family’s Monopoly set, but as soon as you start playing Dungeons & Dragons, there’s some switch in your brain that gets flicked and you suddenly need an incredibly fancy set of dice for each of your characters, each with a backup set in case the first one gets jinxed and you start rolling fail after fail.

I don’t know if all tabletop gamers get like this, or if I just mainly play with girls, and girl gamers need something to replace normal women’s obsession with shoes…

But I’m not the one among my friends spending the most on new dice I don’t need. I’m just the only one who will impulse-buy three cheap sets on eBay in her lunch break at work and now own the most SETS of dice. Luckily I’m too cheap to purchase any of those beautiful amethyst dice sets I see on Twitter. I just follow the maker’s account and drool over the photos.

But some of the cheap sets I have are rather lovely. And a fellow player informed me that they were well-balanced in the sort of mansplainy voice that makes me think he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I should probably do the water test on them, but as long as they are reliably one-shotting enemies and almost getting me killed in the same session, I chose to trust them.

Ruby red dice set White dice set

So, that’s where I’m at. Just spreading my 68 favorite dice (yes, those are just my favorites) across my living room table and staring longingly at them, remembering better times, and then deciding I can’t be assed to clean up the mess I just made.

But honestly, 2020 was supposed to be the year for the geeks. We were all so excited for our dice-themed New Years photos, so 2020…?

What about giving the players just a few crits?

Dice 2020 D&D


Have you written any posts showcasing your dice? Today, I’m giving you full permission to plug your blog by posting links to them in the comments!
Go on… Feed my dice craving.