James Bowman (jeb1981) wrote,
James Bowman

Books I read in June 2016

Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur's Gate, by Jim Zub, 4/5 (B+)
A fun little D&D adventure, with a solid cast of characters, plus the greatness of Minsc. (Granted, I never played more than a few minutes of the Baldur's Gate games, but I'm still aware of him.) Looking forward to further adventures for this team!

Designers & Dragons: The '80s, by Shannon Appelcline, 4.5/5 (A)
The second volume in the series, this covers the golden age of the RPG industry: the 1980s. The histories of a lot of really big companies are in this volume, including Steve Jackson Games, FASA, and West End Games, plus many others of note.

A lot of the histories from this era seem to follow the same trajectory - a rise to prominence on the backs of one or more major products (with several butting heads, or worse, with TSR); a decline in the 1990s during the CCG boom; and attempts at survival or revival after the turn of the century. Of course, there are plenty of interesting specific details, but it's sad to see company after company suffering similar fates. (For bonus points, you also get to read about the decline of the wargaming industry, with histories of major players like SPI and Avalon Hill.) All in all, this volume makes you long for the days when RPGs were at their peak.

This has both the strengths and weaknesses of the '70s volume - well-researched, very strong on the industry side of things, and good at pointing out the major influential games... but weaker on major personalities and the gamer culture of the era. If you don't already care about the subject, I'm not sure this will change your mind. (Although I think it's a little better than the '70s on covering people, especially in the last few histories.) Overall, however, I enjoyed this even more than the first volume. It's a must for anyone with an interest in the industry's history.

(One minor note - I feel like the author could have been more critical of Palladium Books. But perhaps that was the price of getting Siembieda as a fact-checker...)

Better Mousetrap, by Steven Trustrum, 4/5 (B+)
An interesting third-party sourcebook for Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Edition, with a lot of new ideas for the game. The book is mainly aimed at options for supervillains, including expanded rules for minions and building headquarters, but there's also some neat general options as well. Some of the new rules are much more detailed than I think I'd use in a typical game, but it's still useful to have them available.

Annihilators, by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, 4/5 (B)
There are two stories in this trade:
- The main one, featuring the title team, is OK. As an old-school fan, it was neat to see stuff from Rom referenced so heavy, but otherwise it's just fine. Admittedly, it can be pretty hard to write a team this powerful...
- The other story features Rocket Raccoon and Groot, and it's much better. Rocket seems a little less edgy than normal, but it's still a fun read. Honestly, this is what made the trade worth reading.
Tags: books, reviews

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