Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Player's Handbook (D&D Fifth Edition)

Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons, 5th Edition)Player's Handbook by James Wyatt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven't played D&D since they brought out 3.5 edition way too soon after 3.0 and said piss on it. I've been eyeing this book from afar for a couple years and jumped on it when it got marked down to around 16 bucks for Black Friday.

I don't know when I'll ever get to use this with no gaming group and an autistic three year old running around but I enjoyed thumbing through it. Obviously, it's an RPG manual so I didn't read EVERY page but I read enough to digest the mechanics.

The book was organized fairly well, although explanation of advantage/disadvantage before they were repeatedly mentioned would have been nice instead of saving it for the abilities chapter. The art pretty good but not anything I feel compelled to get tattooed on my back. There's even a nice appendix of recommended reading material in the back.

Everything about this edition seems to be geared toward simplifying things and spending less time making characters and more time playing, which I love. So many hours of potential gaming have been lost when somebody can't decide what skills to take, etc.

There aren't as many skills and feats are optional so character creation is sped up quite a bit. I like that race, class, and background all contribute to a character's skills, languages, starting equipment, etc. I thought 3.0 had too many choices and this reins things in a bit. Hell, there's even a quick build if you really don't want to put much thought into character creation.

I was skeptical about the new Warlock class but it's different enough to be interesting now, a spellcaster who gets their powers from a pact with an extradimensional creature is right up my alley. The monk feels more like the 1st edition monk than anything else but also has some cool features as you advance. While I'm on the subject, the way characters have ability choices as they advance is pretty cool. Wizards and Sorcerors now have a d6 hit die instead of a d4 and rogues are now d8s. That should make for fewer deaths at low levels.

I'm not crazy about what Tieflings have become since 2nd edition but I guess it's not that big of a deal. The new Dragonborn race has potential for abuse but seems interesting enough. I'm sure there are more optional races and classes than you can shake a yew wand at in later supplements but I'll have to wait until those drop into my cheapness zone.

Four out of five stars.

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Monday, November 28, 2022

Don't Call Me Chico

Don't Call Me ChicoDon't Call Me Chico by Tito Santana
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Don't Call Me Chico is the biography of WWF wrestler Tito Santana.

One of my early wrestling memories is Randy Savage cheating to win the Intercontinental belt from Tito Santana so I had to snap this up.

Tito seems like a class act so you'd think his story wouldn't be that interesting but not so. Tito, aka Merced Solis, grew up the son of migrant workers and became a wrestler after his would-be football career hit the rocks. He knew Tully Blanchard from college and Tully was his foot in the door.

Tito is pretty humble when it comes to telling his story but has a good sense of humor so the book is pretty engaging. It talks about Tito's stints in George, Texas, the Bill Watts territory, Japan, the AWA, and finally the WWF. Tito wasn't a big partier with a wife and kids at home but there are still some great road stories in here.

Did anyone like working for Ole Anderson? I thought it was interesting that one of Tito's early names was Richard Blood, the real name of Ricky Steamboat, given to him as a way to connect him to Steamboat after he left the territory. I also thought it was interesting that when Jimmy Snuka had some legal woes, Santana got tapped to replace him high on the card on house shows before he was even a regular in the WWF. Tito also gives his account of backstage events such as Danny Spivey handing Adrian Adonis' ass to him and various ribs.

It gets a little sad after the Strike Force run when the WWF was running out of things to do with him. The Matador gimmick is covered. It's interesting to think about the WWF pushing into Mexico instead of Canada and pushing Tito Santana instead of Bret Hart.

The end has a silver lining, though. Tito got out of the business before it destroyed his life and left with enough money to start a new life as a teacher that also owns a hair salon.

Like all wrestling books, there's stuff that wasn't mentioned that I wouldn't have minded hearing about, like Tito teaming with Pedro Morales or Tito teaming with Danny Spivey. There were a good amount of road stories but I'd always read more. I really liked that the pre-wrestling chapters were interesting and not Tito patting himself on the back, though he doesn't seem like the type to do that anyway.

Four out of five stars.

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Friday, November 25, 2022

On the Savage Side

On the Savage SideOn the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Born into a hell of addiction and prostitution, can twins Arcade and Daffodil Doggs escape their fates and live a normal life?

I loved Tiffany McDaniel's previous two works, The Summer That Melted Everything and Betty, so I dropped everything when this showed up in my mailbox.

On the Savage Side contains everything I expected: characters with odd names, flowery prose, and soul crushing despair. Arc and Daffy meander through a hell created long before they were born, soon becoming mirror images of their drug addicted prostitute mother and Aunt Clover.

Born out of the unsolved murders of the Chillicothe Six, On the Savage Side is a statement both about the power of women and their place in a world made by men. Arc and Daffy are caught in a whirlwind spawned long before they were born, disposable women in a factor town. There's an undercurrent of hopelessness and powerlessness to the story. Poor Arc and Daffy never had a chance.

Even though I started reading this the night before Thanksgiving, I was finished before breakfast on Black Friday morning. The plight of the Chillicothe street girls was a gripping read. As they were pulled out of the river one by one, I wondered if any of them would be alive at the end.

Speaking of the ending, it's not cut and dry and I could see that disappointing people. However, this isn't one of those airport thrillers so anything goes. There's no unnecessary romantic subplot and no one gets carted off to jail. There's only grim finality. I'm reminded of Jim Thompson and Flannery O'Connor once again, both in the prose and the final fate of some of the characters.

Four out of five stars.

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