Dear Diary…Battle-o-rama

So much for a quiet afternoon.

We holed up in the guards’ bunk-rooms to let our wounded companions recover. But only a few hours had passed before I heard something in the corridor outside…munching.

Summoning Mikael and Kelsier for backup, I peeked out the door.

In the darkness and shadows, a giant lizard was chewing on one of the guards’ bodies. Well, that’s unsanitary and disrespectful, and I decided to interfere.

Maybe the torchlight confused it (or the guard was really tasty) because it didn’t react to us right away.

The beam of light from the door threw some weird shadows, so my first arrow went high. After that, Kelsier and I both nailed the creature, and it leapt forward to engage.

Mikael helped us take it down, and though it took a bite out of my cloak, none of us got hurt.

To prevent more nonsense like that, we dragged the dead bodies into an unused guardroom. Besides, we had some time to burn while we waited for Ezekiel and Raven to heal up a bit.

Not too long after we’d locked ourselves in again, someone came down the passage and pounded on the door across the way.

He shouted some things like, “Open up, you fools! No time for stupid jokes. I’m getting Jarvis!”

Then he went away.

Within minutes, Ezekiel and Lancell knocked on our door.

“We have company coming! Let us in, so we can ambush them from this room.”

So our whole party crowded into one room, and our lead fighters readied themselves behind the door. Raven was still snickering; apparently he asked the man for a password or something.

Footsteps came down the corridor, then the opposite door echoed with pounding.

“Open up. You’re in big trouble; She won’t be happy to hear you’re neglecting your duty!”

Lancell threw open the door and charged out with the magically shining shield on his arm. A man in scale mail stood there with two fighters at his back. They stared, open-mouthed, while we swung our weapons.

We had the poor guys outnumbered, but they still put up a worthy fight. They seemed to still have their memories, their names, their thinking abilities…but their loyalties were totally invested in Her. Which made them our devoted enemies.

Poor guys. Still, they had some nice loot.

Once everything was over, Mikael cast Detect Magic to examine one of their short swords, that had a design on the blade.

Turns out, that short sword is magic (somehow), so Kelsier traded up for it. The Enemy Commander’s shield was also magic, so Ezekiel snapped it up. We also looted the commander’s long sword for a spare, and Ezekiel insisted I use a shield, since we now had so many spares of that (since the enemies all had shields).

I tried to tell him that I’m already carrying a bow, a long sword, and a torch (and how many arms does he think I have?!) but he says I need to learn so that I’ll have a better Armor Class.

So now I have a shield hanging on my back. Well, whatever keeps me alive, I guess.

We decided that we weren’t getting any rest anyway, so we should explore some more of the tunnels.

Found a storeroom with food and a weapons rack, and Raven cleaned them out of daggers (he does have a history of losing them, I guess). Come to think of it, Raven has collected a lot of things lately…from their turnips and their wine to their daggers.

Hope this won’t cause problems for us later.

We didn’t meet any more “enemies” except for one thing…I was rear-guard, and heard something skittering up behind us.

When I turned…well, it was the biggest weasel I had ever seen.

As I launched an arrow at it, Kelsier beside me said, “That’s a big weasel.”

Weasels can move really fast. And when they’re that enormous, they move comparatively faster! It charged and made a swipe at me with its teeth, forcing me to switch to my sword.

Raven, who was next in the line, said, “Now that is a big weasel.”

Kelsier nailed it with an arrow. As Raven landed some kind of monk-strike on it, Kelsier muttered, “I’ve never seen a weasel that size.”

We killed it, but not before it took a big chomp out of me. Weasels have wicked sharp teeth, too! I mean, the small ones can be pretty vicious if you’re not careful, but when it’s just that freaking huge…!

While I leaned against the wall and Kelsier tried to make me stop bleeding, Ramne shuffled back to us and handed me a flask.

No idea what was in that stuff, but Wow! it packs a punch. One swig, and I felt much better. He said he only had one more dose, but it put me back on my feet, and that’s what matters for now.

Whew. Burned all the way down, though.

Well, us rear guard caught up with the others, and we started down a corridor we had passed by earlier.

“There’s a mud patch, and a door beyond it,” said Lancell from the front.

“I’ll check it for traps,” said Raven, and dashed forward.

I don’t know what happened (since I’m way in the back) but everybody up front started exclaiming or shouting.

“Don’t touch it,” yelled Ramne.

“It burns,” cried Raven.

“We need some help, here,” shouted Ezekiel. “What do we do?”

Raven came back into view, stumbling, with green goo covering his boots.

“Don’t touch it,” cried Ramne.

Lancell drew his sword and scraped the slime off Raven’s feet. Raven uncorked one of his looted bottles of wine, and doused his feet.

Ezekiel borrowed my torch and ran the flame along Lancell’s sword. The sticky something – whatever it was – bubbled and left a dark, ugly stain behind on the sword.

Good thing we just looted another long sword. Lancell put down the damaged one in disgust, and we retreated from the evil mud puddle.

It was evening out in the lands were the sun shines, so we returned to the guard rooms and bedded down.

This time, we’ll just mind our own business and hope nothing tries to invade us.


To start at the beginning, click here.

Find the previous entry here.

Find the next entry here.

“The Blackwell Epiphany”

"The Blackwell Epiphany" — Kimia Wood

The Blackwell games are point-and-click puzzle adventures in the paranormal detective genre.

The premise: Rosangela Blackwell (and her aunt Lauren Blackwell) are “mediums” who seek out troubled spirits, help them realize their death, and send them to “the light” of the next world. Joey Mallone is their snarky “spirit guide” who bridges the gap between spirit world and living world.

The first four games blended humor and creepy with some excellent writing, then ended on a little bit of a cliffhanger (especially if you knew there was a sequel).

Blackwell Epiphany is that sequel. While it’s not all I might wish it to be, it ends the series on a high note of emotional story-telling and professional game design. Continue reading

Dear Diary…The Dank, Dark Dungeon of Death

By the time the sun reached the horizon, we had come to the end of the swamp path…and our presumed destination.

Sheltered by a circular dyke, a staircase led down into a hole in the ground. It didn’t look as much like a “cave” as I had expected, but you didn’t have to be a genius to assume we had arrived.

Settling down in the relatively drier area inside the dyke, we arranged watches and prepared to rest through the night.

Tomorrow, well-rested, uninjured, and with prepared spells, we will descend into the Dungeon!

****

What a busy morning!

Right after breakfast, we headed down the staircase – Lancell and Ezekiel first. Master Ramne cast a Light spell on the shield for our leading man, so it would shine out in front – and Raven and I would carry torches in the back.

The wooden steps were very muddy and wet…and Ezekiel lost his footing and took Lancell down to the bottom – bump, bump, bump!

We could hear Ezekiel yell, “Hey, guys!” as he descended into darkness.

Ramne, Mikael, and Jill rolled their eyes and started down – only to lose their footing and join our leaders on their backsides.

Raven and Kelsier (no surprise) kept their footing as they followed, and I stopped laughing long enough to also not make a fool of myself.

As we took our time down the creaking stairs, we could hear the clangs and shouts of combat. By the time the three of us in the back had reached the bottom (about sixty steps later), our companions had killed four guards armed with spears.

The guards had nothing on their persons. Jill commented that they never tried to run away, even when Lancell leveled one with a single stroke.

The room was dirt, about ten feet high, shored up with wooden beams that didn’t look too healthy. Given the option, I wouldn’t trust my head to this place, but what choice do we have? We have to get to the bottom of this.

Three corridors led off from the room. Ezekiel picked the western corridors and hustled us into marching order, bustling Lancell into the front with him.

(Probably he’s just excited to finally be in action, close to solving this thing, but he doesn’t have to act like everybody’s big brother. I mean, come on, we know how to do our jobs, Ezie.)

At the end of the passage stood a wooden door. It was hard to see from way in the back (and having the front of Lancell’s shield shining with light throws weird shadows) but I could hear the two leaders breaking it down.

The people in front shouted in surprise. Frogs!

Lancell, Ezekiel, and Mikael killed them, but they whacked Ezekiel with a tongue before they went down.

The group moved forward so Raven could examine the room with his torch, letting me get a look at the frogs. They were bigger than Kelsier, and lived in a pool that filled the room beyond.

Raven waded into the pool, and found it about waist-high. He reached a muddy ledge over to the left, and called, “There’s a door here, but it’s hard to tell if it goes anywhere.”

Kelsier (obviously) wasn’t excited about traveling through the pool, and neither was I. Who knows what’s in there? After all, where did the frogs come from? Who keeps a pool of giant frogs around?!

We returned to the entryway and took the east corridor.

Four wooden doors opened off this passage, and Lancell listened at the first one. He and Ezekiel whispered and gestured dramatically, and then Lancell eased the door opened and rushed into the room.

At the thumps and clangs of combat, Raven followed the leading duo into the room, while Kelsier and I kept our eyes on the rest of the passageway and the two magic users stood against the wall and talked about some brainy thing I didn’t understand.

“Intruders! Intruders!” yelled a woman’s voice from the room, while the thumps and cries continued.

Two of the doors farther down the passageway burst open, and men charged into the corridor, gripping short spears.

While I shoved my torch upright into the mud of the floor and readied my bow, Kelsier let loose an arrow and felled the first man with a single shot.

The corridor quickly crowded with people. There were eight men altogether, and they pressed forward while Kelsier and I riddled them with arrows.

Mikael backed away from the door where our companions were, and Raven emerged, bleeding.

While the two of them fell back and made mud balls, Lancell and Ezekiel charged out of the room and engaged the spearmen.

Maybe the frog spit did something to Ezekiel’s head. The whole thing would have been over quicker if he didn’t keep almost dropping his mace, or missing his opponent and smacking Lancell’s shield.

Of course, Lancell also missed a blow and cut Ezekiel pretty badly. Remind me to stay in the archery division.

Mikael and Raven lobbed their mud balls at the enemy. Raven nailed Lancell in the back of the head (maybe that’s why Lancell accidentally slashed Ezekiel?). Mikael wasn’t so unfortunate, but neither of them hurt the actual enemy, so they fell back to watch with the magic users.

Well, it takes a long time to describe, but the whole thing was over in a matter of moments. All eight spearmen lay sprawled before us in a muddy mess…not even when they saw their companions decapitated with a single stroke did they try to flee, or parlay.

Raven and Ezekiel were our only injured. While Lancell “laid hands” on Ezekiel, and Ramne supervised the first aid, Mikael and I searched our fallen enemies.

The first room had been occupied by four young women with spears…all dead. All twelve were all dressed very simply, and none of them had any personal effects or something to identify them to their relatives.

I’m not a nobleman warrior like Lancell, and I’m not a former man-at-arms like Ezekiel. The smell of human blood and brains does something to me. We have to stop this Evil Explictika Deflias character. Who knows how many deaths are at her door by now? How many villages has she plundered and bewitched?

I can’t wait to get out of this sticky death-trap, but we have to hole up for now. Raven and Ezekiel need to recover strength.

We barricaded ourselves in two of the barracks rooms. Ramne has the wounded and Lancell with him across the way. When Ezekiel mentioned barricading the door, Ramne looked a little smug, and I heard him mutter some strange words after he shut it.

I’m not a wizard, so I’ll lock our door the best I can.

We’ll have some lunch, and ponder out our next move. Taking out eighteen enemies without losing anyone to unconsciousness is pretty good (especially considering our record), but we’re kidding ourselves if we think it’ll all be this easy.

We will end this snake-lady witch if we die for it.

May Ehlonna protect me…protect us all.


To start at the beginning, click here.

Find the previous entry here.

Author Newsletters–A Survey

Author Newsletters–A Survey — Kimia Wood

Blank stares do not equal book sales…

Marketing gurus will advise you to have an author newsletter. This keeps your fans engaged with your brand, updated on your latest works, and excited about your books.

Supposedly. But does it actually work?

I have no experience being a successful newsletter author. But I am a pretty experienced newsletter reader. So I thought I would go through the many newsletters I myself am subscribed to, and consider the elements of each.

What makes me more engaged with an author and their books? What turns me off? Well, fortunately I never delete my emails, because I was able to wade through several years’ worth of other authors’ newsletters, and draw some conclusions about my own habits.

This is obviously very personalized, but I think we can draw a couple broad lessons from this research:

TL;DR: Three Lessons to Keep in Mind

1) Giving away free stuff is an awesome pull to make people sign up, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to sales.

For years, I’ve been told that giving away a free book to people who sign up for your list is one of the best tricks in the business, and “the number one way to build your subscriber list”. But is this true?

I was pretty convicted by something Barb Drozdowich said in a recent #BookMarketingChat (on Twitter):


I know this is true, because it’s true of me. If you offer me free food, free t-shirt, free books, I’ll love it…but I get angry when people charge more that four or five dollars for an ebook. (Seriously…some people charge as much as ten dollars for an ebook novel. What insanity is that?!)

So, while you/we might get lots of “numbers” on our list with a strategy of bribery, are we attracting the clientele that will want to buy? Or do we have a strategy to convert the freebie-seekers into devoted, paying customers?

2) Personal rapport can make or break a brand.

Kristen Lamb can tell you that your “brand” is just how people view you and your product – or, the emotional reaction they have when they see your name.

McDonalds. Steven King. Doctor Strange.

I bet just those simple words communicate a lot, and you have some kind of emotional reaction to each one.

When you go on social media, your blog, your website, etc., people watch you. Maybe one day you snap at someone on Facebook…People see that. Even if you were stressed out that day, and aren’t normally rude like that, and the guy totally deserved it anyway – that single instance might form a large percentage of someone’s perception of you.

You’ll see below that I subscribed to some of these author lists because I “met” the author in some other context, liked who I perceived them to be, and wanted to give them that support (and stay in the loop about their projects).

For a couple other authors, their personality or their writing are so far from my cup of tea that I will never give them my business.

Not anybody’s fault, really. We just “aren’t made for each other.”

3) Connection is potential.

The ideal, of course, is a passionate fan who will buy all your books in hard copies (the better to treasure), tell all their friends about your books, and pounce on every newsletter hoping it contains good news about a new thing to read.

Compared to that, a lurker who sometimes, maybe opens the email and skims for pretty cover images isn’t that impressive.

But it’s a foot in the door.

You’ll notice that some of the authors below don’t send out consistent emails, or I wonder why I don’t unsubscribe because we really don’t have that much in common.

But as long as I’m still subscribed, we have a connection. It’s really depressing when only one or two people open your newsletters (and it’s your parents!) but at least there’s a chance.

Maybe one day they’ll be weeding through their inbox and say, “Oh, what is this? Maybe I’ll read it and find out…”

Or, even if an author’s normal genre isn’t for me, maybe they’ll branch out into [sci fi spy/murder mysteries with something-about-a-long-lost-brother] (fill in your own blank), and I’ll go hmmm…oooohh.

The EvidenceAuthor Newsletters–A Survey — Kimia Wood

In the following survey, I have included how I subscribed to the list, a brief summary of their brand and my relationship to them, and other details like where they host their email (hosting email on your official author domain is more professional than a free email address, just as having an official author website is more professional than just an Amazon Author Page, for example; another thing to keep in mind as we evaluate authors’ brands).

And now, if you really care to wade through the raw data…my case studies: Continue reading

Dear Diary…action at last…?!

Well, our adventure with the blacksmith didn’t teach us a whole lot more than we already knew.

Explictika Defilas or whatever she calls herself is charming people in the swamp, and Abramo has been kidnapping people to take to her.

Master Ramne says that if Abramo was charmed (enchanted) into doing things against his alignment, that would explain the mental strain that could have resulted in all the mad scribbling we found in his room in the temple.

Anyway, we (the party) and Ramne went to the Mayor to discuss our options.

After a lot of talking, and trying to decide what we could do against what we might be up against, we thought that:

1) a party should head into the swamp, tracking the lizardmen who were apparently involved in this cult (y’know, the lizardmen we killed in the cellar). They would have left a distinctive odor trail, such that Ramne’s weasel could follow.

2) whatever innocents remaining in the town should prepare themselves to defend each other against further kidnapping (especially since facing opposition might make the cultists more brazen).

3) someone (or someones) should go to Hochoch, to summon help for the village.

When Ezekiel asked the Mayor if he knew anyone who would be our messenger, he said “no”.

That’s when I blurted out that Alan might do it. I didn’t know much about him, but he was Ramne’s friend, and Ramne seemed willing to help us. (He volunteered the use of his weasel, after all.)

Well, Ramne and I went to talk to Alan. He said it was a two or three week journey to Hochoch, his family needs him, there’s no guarantee that anyone in Hochoch would be willing to help us even if we got there, and besides his adventuring days are over.

But at least now he knows what’s been going on, and can help Olwin at the Slumbering Serpent to look out for any no-good happenings.

With nothing else to do, our party settled down to heal up for our journey to the swamp. Raven, of course, just got leveled by a blacksmith-hammer and Kelsier and I still had wounds (probably from the goblins but really it’s been so long I don’t remember).

Feels good to have something definite to do. It’s true we can’t afford to wait for help from Hochoch…Abramo and his followers can wait us out easily, and there are still innocent people who haven’t been pulled into this who are at risk.

Besides, we have no evidence that Orlane is the only village Explicty D. is exploiting. Striking at the root of this thing is the only way to finish it once and for all.

So, I’m leaving my journal in our chest of loot at the inn. If we never make it back from the swamp, Olwin and his wife shall inherit the chest.

I, Elwyn, being of sound-ish mind do deed my share of the treasure to them, since really that’s the only thing I have to leave. (And my big brother Bartholomew can’t have my bow not even if he says he’s sorry for the thing with the slugs.)

Elwyn

Speaking of the treasure chest, though, Lancell, Raven, and Ezekiel pooled their shares of the gold to buy Ezie a decent shield, since he’s going to be in front protecting the rest of us, and that will benefit the whole party.

Olwin helped us buy it, so we didn’t antagonize the blacksmith any more than necessary.

****

A few days of rest have put us back on our feet. No word on what Abramo and his people have been up to in the meantime, but we have to trust the Mayor and Alan and Olwin to take care of themselves.

Setting out, now. If you’re an adventurer reading this, it’s up to you, now!

****

Ezie is mocking me for packing a spare journal, but it was a good idea!

The first few days out of Orlane were pretty boring, with Whiskers the Weasel leading the way, and Master Ramne shuffling along with us.

(Yes, he joined our party! After all, it’s his weasel, and we’ll probably need all the help we can get fighting Her.)

To reach the Rushmoors Marsh, we had to go through the forest. This forest seemed wrong on so many levels…no animals, no birds, no undergrowth. I can’t tell if that’s “normal” for this part of the world, but it didn’t feel normal to me.

Mikael looked uncomfortable, too. Obed-Hai might not always see eye-to-eye with Ehlonna, but we can all agree forests weren’t meant to be so dreary. The moss hangs down, and the light never makes it all the way through the trees…

Well, finally we left the moss and gloom for the MUD. The Rushmoor swamp is all mud and slime and water, almost up to Kelsier’s chest. Of course the little trooper doesn’t complain (and he’s probably better off on his own feet than with one of us carrying him…I know I would drop him, I just would), but it slows us all down.

Well, we hadn’t gone far before we were ATTACKED in the swamp.

Three ugly bugs that looked like fat bats merged with mosquitos dove toward us, needle-noses first.

Lancell swung his sword, and sliced the first one in half with one chop – splat!

Raven whipped out the dagger he looted off the Assassin, and danced forward to a gap in the battle formation. He flung the dagger at one of the creatures, but it missed and dropped with a plunk into the water.

We archers launched arrows, but I could tell it was hard for Kelsier to draw his bow when his arms were almost in the water, and he only nicked one of the creatures.

I, though, finally acquitted myself like I should. I nailed that sucker right through the body, letting Lancell finish off the last one.

Three giant insect things defeated, and not a one of us were injured!

This is definitely a win.

But I’m getting mud on my journal.


Click here to start at the beginning.

Find the previous entry here.

Magnum, PI, Another Again

Lots of people Magnum, PI, Another Again — Kimia Woodhave talked about the repetitive, unimaginative products Hollywood has been offering us lately…and with much more analysis and detail than I could.

I just want to make a brief comment about a recent reboot that high-lights just how desperate and irrational this phobia of original concepts is.

Magnum, PI

Dad introduced us to this show as part of “pop culture” class. I also watched some episodes on my own, and enjoyed the mystery, the adventure, the detective work, and the charm of Tom Selleck.

Here’s the premise, in my own words:

Thomas Magnum, a Vietnam veteran, now works as a private investigator in Hawaii. He ostensibly works for the reclusive author Robin Masters, whose estate he lives at, and has a strained relationship with Masters’ estate caretaker, Higgins.

Higgins is an older man, a veteran of the First World War, and a straight-laced counterpoint to Magnum’s Hawaiian-shirt-wearing energy.

There. Lots of room for plot, as episodes explored Magnum’s war experiences (his two best friends served alongside him), enjoyed the tropical setting, and pitted the mirthless, proper Higgins against Magnum’s fun-loving demeanor and eclectic working schedule.

The Reboot

CBS has brought the show back – well, as an updated, readjusted form of itself.

Thomas Magnum is now a Hispanic veteran of Afghanistan. This is great. Hispanics can be good-looking, there’s no reason a Hispanic veteran wouldn’t live in Hawaii (and decide to be a PI), and the casting openly acknowledges that you can’t re-create Tom Selleck, so why try?

Just do your own thing, and do it well.

The bigger problem is that “Jonathan” Higgins has been turned into “Juliet” Higgins. As Laura Finch in WORLD Magazine put it, “I think we all know how that story ends.”

And that’s the problem.

This is “supposed” to be Magnum, PI. Part of the whole dynamic there is the conflict between Higgins and Magnum…the old man and the young man…the Brit and the American…the class act and the bend-the-rules…the suit and the Hawaiian shirt…the straight-faced professional and the emotionally-invested professional.

The bickering of two men who didn’t see eye-to-eye, and the grudging respect they gain for each other through long seasons of working together (and saving each other’s lives) was a profound and unique dynamic.

Now…there’s Magnum and Juliet.

As soon as it’s a man and a woman, you have sexual tension. That’s just how it works. A male and female can’t have the same platonic working relationship that two people of the same gender can.

The writer in WORLD already spelled it out. We can all smell where this story is heading. Even if the writers decide to toy with our expectations, and these two don’t get together, the fact that there’s this possibility turns all their interactions on their heads.

Now, a “grudging respect” might be “flirty bickering”. Juliet complaining about Magnum’s methods might be a romantic rebuttal, or an emotionally confused statement (she’s attracted, but doesn’t want to be, so it taints her professional decision-making…or vice versa) – rather than a plain statement about their different working mentalities.

(The new writers also want her to be a “strong female”, with MI6 experience and the skills to defend herself, thank you very much. Whatever, people.)

Another, Again…Except Not

Could a story about a man and a woman in antagonistic professional circumstances be compelling? Could the tale of how they bond over shared adventures and intrigue (both pulling their weight – in a masculine sense – ala Mr. Incredible and the kick-butt ElastaGirl) be entertaining and meaningful?

Sure. But it’s not the story of the original Magnum, PI.

I enjoyed the original. I enjoyed how Higgins and Magnum didn’t really like each other, thought the other one was much too ____, but still had each other’s backs in every sticky situation. It was a uniquely male dynamic, and refreshingly so.

In private, Magnum would troll Higgins, and Higgins would scold Magnum. But when bad stuff hit the fan, they put their personal relationship in the back seat, and worked together to win.

Turning one of these characters into a woman automatically makes the personal relationship a key issue. Women are much more “personal relationship” oriented than men are…and men forming relationships with women have a much harder time not making those relationships “personal” (think of the deep, innate urge to save the princess – even if she’s a jerk).

Even if Magnum and Juliet are both mature, rational adults, you can’t put a man and a woman in a room and not have tension. Further, they’re going to approach whatever problems they face from a male or a female perspective – regardless of whatever cultural, demographic, religious, philosophical, and experiential differences they might have with each other.

To pretend this new show is Magnum, PI, but to change this foundational element, is both disappointing and confusing.

I probably wouldn’t watch the new show either way, because we don’t have a television. (And my brother got more exercised about the gender-swap than I did.) But I really wanted to connect this new show to the issue I started with…the regurgitation of media.

Just do your own thing, and do it well!

What if, once upon a time, a writer had a new premise idea for a great TV show:

Tomas Colt is a Hispanic former SEAL turned private investigator, using his combat skills in the private sector. He lives on the estate of a reclusive author, and has a tense relationship with the estate’s caretaker Juliet, who doesn’t approve of his professional methods and standards.

Little does he suspect she is former MI6, and critiques his detecting and problem-solving techniques because of her own experience in the field…

Well? Why didn’t they do that?

Why did they say, “This is that exact same show you used to love, except with younger actors and good graphics…and also diversity”?

Instead of, “If you loved Magnum, PI, you’ll also love this new show that has some similar elements, but is exploring its own themes for a modern audience! Please tune in to Colt, PI!”

Why? Right when writing coaches and analysts around the internet are bemoaning the lack of originality and risk-taking in modern media…why would they take an old show, change one of its foundational tenants, and try to feed us the same old thing only more diverse?

Just do your own thing, and do it well!

I just watched a YouTube video about how the live-action Beauty and the Beast did the same thing…”fixed” non-existent problems of sexism and bigotry, and created new problems of character motivation, plot inconsistency, irrational bigotry, and emotional impact. (language cautions)

And in case you think I’m a cynic who just hates all female characters, try this YouTube video that explains we just want good female characters…and to not have the writers’ virtue-signaling meta-agenda shoved down our throats.

Sure, let’s make new stories. But let’s make new stories. And let’s be intentional about the dynamics, character motivations and interactions, and thematic assumptions that go into our stories.

Do your own thing…just do it well.


Header picture is from WORLD Magazine.

Magnum, PI, Another Again — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates of her latest reading and writing adventures.

Dear Diary…the mystery of our monster head collection

Woke up this morning in the torture chamber on the second floor of the temple. Our prisoner was still secure on the rack (not tightened, of course, just restrained).

Spending the night tied up seemed to have improved his mood. He actually started to answer some questions, starting with his name: Derrick.

Still a little wary, but he told us some useful information. He was taken to the “snake thing” by Abramo, and “she” wrapped herself around him and told him he was hers.

That’s how it works, apparently. Abramo and his servants would decide on a victim, and that family would be kidnapped and taken to the “snake thing” – in a cave in the Rushmoor swamp. Then, they would give Her their possessions willingly…they were snared, just like Abramo.

Except Derrick somehow wasn’t charmed – but he played along, and sometimes got paid for helping kidnap or shake down people. Sometimes they would even work on travelers passing through.

He didn’t remember our gnome, Neeblebluer (spl?). He’d only been to the swamp once, so couldn’t give us better directions.

The only other useful things he told us were these: Abramo sent him into the temple last night, to scout and “maybe some of us wouldn’t wake up in the morning”.

He also gave us the names of some of the people on the other side. We already knew the blacksmith and militia constable were with Abramo, but “the widow” was “on the list” to be changed…and so were “everyone at the Slumbering Serpent”, and a couple guys who lived by the mayor, and the farmer who lived near the inn.

We seemed to have pumped him dry, and he was pretty badly beat up, so we had a group huddle to decide what to do with him.

We finally voted to let him go (he wouldn’t have a lot of incentive to go back to Abramo, and he’s not in a condition to fight anyway), and we’d escort him to the edge of town for safety.

Fierce discussion, but we finally decided to keep the key we got off him. He says it’s to his stuff in the Golden Grain, the second inn of the town. We’re not going to loot it (not only does that seem like overkill, but he got a gleam in his eye when he told us that made us think the Golden Grain wasn’t a good place to go), but as Lancell pointed out, this way he’ll have even less incentive to stick around here.

While I got the prisoner off the rack, Lancell and Ezekiel beheaded some of the goblins lying around on the floor (we’ve got to be tidier in future) and loaded them into one of the coffins in the chamber (why are there fresh, new coffins lying around? I wish I knew).

We let Derrick out at the gate, and went to collect more monster heads from the basement (plus some skeleton heads from the skeletons we fought).

Raven made a detour on the second floor. One of the rooms up there is a library, and when we cleared the temple one of the times, we found a book in there – a holy book to Merikka…defaced with ugly pictures and soiled.

He says he wants to get the illuminations repaired. I think it’ll also be another piece of evidence that the caretakers of Merikka’s house have abused their duties.

Lugging the coffin full of monster heads, we sallied out into the town (Raven barred the gate behind us and climbed the wall to rejoin us).

As we descended the hill of the temple in loose formation, one of the farmers who lives at the crossroads came onto his porch with a crossbow.

Perfect opportunity to panic, but we kept our cool and smiled and waved as we just walked on past down the road. He seemed relieved when we left; can’t blame him, can you? It’s not every day you see a band of weird strangers taking their coffin for an outing.

We got to the inn (Slumbering Serpent) without further problems, and I confided in Olwin, the innkeeper (he seemed to take to me earlier, which I’ll certainly be grateful for).

He agreed that lizardmen and goblins had no rightful business in the Temple of Merikka, and suggested we hide our coffin in his winery while he fetched the Mayor to come listen to our case.

Having nothing better to do, we had a late breakfast while we waited.

When the Mayor arrived, we showed him our evidence. If the pile of monster heads hadn’t been enough to convince him, the innkeeper’s wife brought in Cirilli, the poor girl Abramo kept in a cage. He agreed that this was terrible, and should be dealt with.

What we should do about it, though, was another question.

Being back at the inn meant we could reunite with Jill our magic-user (looking none the worse for not being in combat the last few days), and we asked her what might possibly have been cast on Abramo and the others to “change” them.

Could we fix them? Would they never be “themselves” again, and we’d have to kill them?

Obviously, the Mayor was not happy about slaughtering half his town (especially when we weren’t sure who was on which side). It didn’t seem like the best idea to us, either, but I don’t know if we would stand a chance against this “snake lady thing” in the marsh, or if confronting her would free the townspeople, or even what the possibilities were!

While the Mayor and Lancell went to visit “the widow” and advise her to seek safety at the Slumbering Serpent (better than living alone, after all), the rest of us headed to talk to the mysterious hermit behind the inn.

Ezekiel has a “feeling” about this hermit that he can somehow help us.

I said, “Oh, Ezie, you and your prophetic feelings.”

He said, “This isn’t one of those, but I still think we should seek his help!”

Well, I think he’s right there. Jill isn’t high enough level to advise us, much less combat this thing, and the Mayor didn’t have anybody else he could think of who could be our ally.

The hermit lives in a shack of sorts, off in the trees behind the inn, right on the west edge of town.

He was noncommittal when we first showed up, but showing him our monster head collection (and talking about our planning with the Mayor) seemed to break the ice a bit.

We left our coffin in hiding by his house, while he agreed to accompany us to the blacksmith.

The Plan was for Ezekiel to be the distraction and pretend to shop for a shield, while Ramne (the hermit guy) observed the blacksmith from a distance and tried to see what kind of effect was on him. Charm spell? Racial domination spell (from some strange snake/reptile race that Ezekiel had heard of)? Could we counter-act it, and free the people from this bondage?

Well, we set off, trying to keep pace with the shuffling steps of the…er…old gentleman. (He might be reading over my shoulder, you know!)

We passed the house that’s just north of the SS, and the man on the porch greeted Ramne. They seemed to be friends.

The guy was doing something with his hand.

And that’s when I remembered my training, from way back in the village with my Ranger Master.

“It’s like being in a secret club of cool people,” he told me. “This is the Ranger sign. If they make this sign, then they’re a Ranger, too. You’d be surprised where you discover a brother ranger, out there in the wilds of the world.”

The man beckoned me over to talk.

Ezekiel didn’t want me to (probably worried the guy was a fake, or something) but sometimes you have to live dangerously. I told Ezie and Kelsier I’d catch up with them.

When they moved out of earshot, Alan (that’s the man’s name) asked, “What do you want with old Ramne?”

I said, “It’s a long story, but we’re hoping he can help us, and the Mayor.”

He nodded. “I trust him. Good luck.”

I said, “Thanks,” and I warned him not to trust Abramo.

This was probably the “farmer” on the list of potential victims (that we got from Derrick this morning).

Anyway, if Alan’s a Ranger, then he’s a Good guy. That doesn’t mean he’ll trust us (at least not right away) but he’s another potential ally.

As our group approached the smithy, Ramne “the old guy” hung back in the shelter of the building, while Ezekiel and the others advanced.

The blacksmith and his two boys (presumably his sons) were hard at work.

Ezie hadn’t even gotten a word out when the smith exploded in curses and yells, trying to rush him (his sons held him back).

Ezekiel and Kelsier and Mikael all tried to be reasonable and calm him down, but he just got more and more worked up.

I tried to keep an eye on how Ramne was doing, but it’s hard when you don’t know how this magic stuff works. Plus he has a naturally un-flapped face, so I wasn’t sure if he’d figured out what the spell was or not.

“Please,” said Ezekiel. “I only wanted to see your merchandise. I don’t think we’ve even met before.”

The sons lost their grip on their father’s arms…hard to see from where I stood, but it looked like they were surprised by something.

The blacksmith rushed forward, and swung his hammer. Raven was the first one standing in his path, and smashed to the ground in a dramatic sprawl.

I barely registered Ramne’s look of surprise before I raced forward, not even sure what I was going to do.

Ezekiel charged in and body-blocked Raven. Kelsier whipped out his bow and launched an arrow, catching the smith and dropping him to the ground with an ugly wound.

While he was growling and trying to rise, suddenly he crumbled to the ground, snoring gently.

By the time I recovered from my shock, I had reached the others. The two sons were still standing in the shop, staring in perplexity.

“I’m bandaging him,” I told them, approaching carefully. “Here are my hands. Here are my bandages. It’s going to be okay; I’m going to bandage him.”

So I patched up the blacksmith, and then we tried talking to his sons.

Their names are Ben and Josh. They seemed confused, and maybe scared.

“Father hasn’t been the same since…”

Since what? They didn’t say. Josh ran inside quickly, and Ben kept repeating, “Was that real?”

They had all been taken to the “snake thing”. Ben says his father has always had a temper, but he’s been acting…he’s always had a temper…was that real?

That kind of thing. It mostly just confirmed what we had already known.

When Ben went inside to take care of Josh, we bundled the blacksmith onto his smithy porch and dragged Raven behind the privacy of the corner of the building.

Lancell lay hands on Raven, and Raven recovered himself a bit. Still, that was quite a nasty crunch from that smithing hammer.

Apparently, Ramne “the old guy” figured out how to remove whatever charm is on these people, but he says they won’t necessarily be themselves again…or, “fixing” it won’t necessarily have the effect we hoped.

Plus, even he can’t fling magic around willy-nilly, and de-charming all the cultists (without them figuring out what we’re up to and escalating the confrontation) might not be an option.

Gotta remember, there are a lot of innocent folks who just live here, and aren’t involved at all (yet).

We have some more people to interview (like those two guys who live by the Mayor) and we have to take the findings of our experiment to the Mayor and query him for advice.

This Evil monkey-business (whatever we call it) is not going to be dismantled in one day.


Click here to start at the beginning.

Find the previous entry here.

Find the next entry here.

Dear Diary…Bar the gates!

Ezekiel still convinced Ao wants him to bar the gates. So we’ve reached a compromise.

Cirilli is not safe here (and she’s not keen to camp out in the place where she was caged, anyway). So Raven and Kelsier (who are both more likely to be able to climb the wall) will escort her to the Slumbering Serpent Inn. Kelsier is also our best fighter, and the most likely to fend for himself should Raven turn Evil (Monk of Merikka so-called!).

Olwin struck me as a decent guy — he didn’t “smell” like one of these wack-a-doodle cultists. So the girl should be safe with him until we can sort this business out.

The rest of us are going to make hay while the sun shines and sweep the cellars, since last time we were down there we were too busy killing lizard men. (Did I mention that part? Probably concussion or what-d’you-call-it…most of that day is fuzzy or blank.)

****

Investigated the rest of the temple. Nothing to report, except that the bodies of the Evil Cleric lady and our late companion Lefty are gone.

Got a feeling we’ll meet them again as skeletons, y’know what I mean?

Also found some “cells” or small chambers in the cellars that lent credence to Cirilli’s story. She said she and her family were held down there before visiting “Her.” Looks like we found the place.

Convinced there were no secret doors, we returned to the second floor and Abramo’s suite, since is was the most defensible spot in the temple.

Good thing, too. Just a bit ago, a huge party came to the front gate. At least ten people – including someone who looked like the blacksmith (who was one of the folks Olwin told me has “changed”).

Happily, they were disturbed by the gate being barred, and went off again.

Still no sign of Raven and Kelsier. Regretting sending off our best fighter now, but we’ll hope for the best.

****

We were resting in the upstairs room when Raven arrived – without Kelsier.

He didn’t seem worried about it (said Kelsier was perfectly able to take care of himself), but Ezekiel rousted all of us, and marched the party downstairs to look for him – while I stayed upstairs where I would have an advantage shooting my bow through the arrow slits.

It was getting dark by now. I saw my companions in the courtyard below because they carried torches.

Another crowd had gathered outside the gate. Ezekiel challenged.

Someone claiming to be Abramo challenged us and demanded that we give their temple back, in the name of Merikka.

Ezekiel asked, “Don’t you mean Explictica Defilas?”

Well, that ruffled some feathers. Over the wall, I could just see the crowd of people and mysterious dark shapes. If Kelsier was out there, his best bet was to stay low.

More shouting outside. From what I could see and hear, it seemed to be the mayor of the town – asking what all the fuss was about.

Ezekiel tried to explain – but when the temple’s priest (and the constable of the militia) were both part of the conspiracy, what hope would we have of convincing the mayor something is very wrong? Especially when he hadn’t brought any men with him, looked like.

At any rate, the mayor was talked down, and left Abramo to handle the “invaders.”

I wasn’t eager for such a battle, but it also made me realize this wouldn’t be solved as easily as we might think. We hadn’t found any artifact in the temple we could “turn off” and everybody would magically revert to normal…and if half the town is “changed” by this cult, we can’t just slaughter them all to clear the air, can we?

Well, while I was panicking and worrying, Raven climbed the wall to scope out the scene.

He remembered he was holding a torch when a crossbow bolt flew past his head — so he threw down his torch and went off to scan the perimeter and look for any sign of Kelsier.

The band outside seemed to have given up trying to knock the gates down. My party milled around some more, and rejoined me upstairs.

Raven held out an arrow. “I found Kelsier,” he said. “Or rather, I was investigating the north-west corner beyond the wall, and dodged this arrow. It’s like the ones that Kelsier uses.”

We all agreed that if Kelsier was shooting arrows, he must be unharmed, and in a position to take care of himself, so we settled down on the second floor to get what rest we could.

****

Ezekiel took first watch, guarding the door of the “creepy room” that was down the twisty hallway from Abramo’s private chamber.

Not sure how long we’d been sleeping, but I woke to voices. Ezekiel and Lancell were muttering in the far room.

Raven had heard them, too, so we lit a torch and Raven went to check that the secret room with the cage was still secure. (We had dragged the cage over to cover the trapdoor. Don’t want anyone sneaking up on us.)

I joined Ezekiel behind the door. He thought he had heard something in the next room (the torture chamber).

That’s when I heard someone bump something. (Ezekiel didn’t hear it, but I know I did!)

I told him to stand guard while I fetched the others. Something bad was going down!

While I was running through the twisty hallways, someone in the torture room yelped.

Ezekiel called out, “Kelsier! Why didn’t you say something?” and I heard the door crash open.

Ezie. Always assuming people are on our side, never imagining it’s an elaborate trap to murder us in the night.

I grabbed the other two and raced back to the doorway, bow in hand.

Ezekiel and Lancell both carried torches, and were trying to hit a shadowy figure who was attacking Kelsier (yes, the actual Kelsier).

I fanned out into the room as well, eyes open for a shot – and nailed that mysterious sucker right in the voonerables! (Yes! Finally landed an arrow in something!)

That’s when our lone invader turned and ran. I shouted for us to not let him escape, but I think Ezekiel had the same idea and flying-tackled him – full body slam – Pow!

The stranger had a stiletto sheathed at the nape of his neck, so it’s clear he’s one of these sneaky types. Probably Assassin – and therefore Evil.

But he was totally knocked down by Ezekiel – heh heh.

(Raven has taken the dagger.)

We trussed the stranger to the rack, cheered at having Kelsier back, and settled down for the rest of the night. The morning will bring plenty of new worries and decisions.

About the prisoner

We can’t trust him; so we can’t leave him unattended.

We can’t expect to bribe him; and even if we did bribe him to help us, we can’t expect him to not stab us in the back (see #1).

We can’t leave him unattended to escape, and there’s not a good place to stash him.

Can we get him to talk? Will he know about what’s going on? Would his testimony be any good if we could bludgeon him into talking?

Possible actions: 1) leave him tied up (waiting to escape and kill us)…2) take him with us (waiting to kill us)…3) kill him, after we went to the trouble of capturing him…4) take him to the mayor for justice (assuming we can get to the mayor, the mayor doesn’t lock us up, etc.)…5) take him to the Slumbering Serpent and let Olwin the Innkeeper – what? Bribe him with food?

It was largely my idea to capture the guy in the first place (dead men give no answers) but now we’re faced with no good choices of what to do with him.

The world is nasty sometimes. Just feel that, since it was my idea to capture him, I should say a piece in his defense before we “assassinate” him.

To Do

  • Question prisoner. Hopefully get something useful out of him.
  • Go behead the lizard people in the basement as evidence of Evilness for the mayor.
  • Take evidence to Slumbering Serpent and ask for Olwin’s help. This is his hometown; he knows these people. How can we get to the bottom of it and stop this Evil?!
  • (Remember the hermit Olwin sent us to before. Seemed suspicious of us – but then, we’re kind of weird characters. Might he be some help, also?)

Ha! Time for Lancell’s watch, now! I will get some more sleep, and stop scribbling.

Ezie thinks I’m a goof. But if we die tragically, I want the next adventurers to have a record of just where we went wrong…


Click here to start at the beginning.

Find the previous entry here.

Find the next entry here.

“Myst IV: Revelation”

"Myst IV: Revelation" — Kimia Wood I fell in love with the Myst games a long time ago. The photo-realistic worlds and the tantalizing hints of deeper things always left me wanting more.

Until now. Myst IV: Revelation has…finished Myst for me. It is concluded…I am satisfied. And for once, I don’t need to weep at the parting. (Well, maybe just a little.)

The World

The central premise of Myst is that a civilization called the D’ni could create worlds by writing books, and then visit those worlds physically by linking through the books. (A person must bring a return Linking Book with him when he goes exploring, and any book you link through doesn’t come with you – it stays in the first world.)

From a first-person perspective, we point and click our way through these “Ages” to unlock doors, uncover passwords, power machines, and solve puzzles. And, of course, soak in breath-taking landscapes, vistas, and architecture."Myst IV: Revelation" — Kimia Wood

Whatever else I can say, the world is still incredible. Hydraulic locks, levers and buttons, rotating bridges and elevators…it’s like an engineer’s playground. These real-world mechanics mix, of course, with magic crystals, strange animals, bizarre cultures, and the Age-writing Art of the D’ni.

The Progress of Technology

Myst was released in the dark ages of computing, when graphics cards were limited, the in-game animations were tiny and limited, and the curser was a 2D hand (that changed shape for different interactions).

Revelation seeks to take full advantage of the progress of computer technology, and offers a 360º, 3D-rendered environment to explore.

This means that the world around you doesn’t always look as photo-realistic as it did in Myst, or Riven. The camera also has a tendency to focus in on the foreground, or the background, depending on where your cursor is. I think this is to mimic the variable focus of the human eye, but it’s distracting.

As for the cursor, it’s a 3D, CGI hand. It waves vaguely wherever you point it; extends the fingers to indicate a direction you can move; whips out a magnifying glass if something can be examined more closely; and stretches the fingers subtly if you can unroll a map, pull a lever, or other similar action. This final characteristic can be easy to miss, and if it’s not obvious something is there to manipulate, you can easily miss some interactions.

Atrus’s Family

If you haven’t yet played Myst or Riven, SPOILER ALERT! (Also, go do that.)

Way back in Myst, we met two characters trapped in books that they had thought were Ages: Sirrus and Achenar. Their dad is Atrus, and he is a descendent of the fallen D’ni civilization and a writer of Ages.

If you played through Myst, explored the Ages that link from it, solved Atrus’ pretty un-secure password manager, and uncovered the truth about what happened…you’ll know that Sirrus and Achenar trapped their father without a Linking Book home, distracted their mother, burned most of Atrus’ library of Books, and used the special Books he had warned them never to touch.

Blam! The books trapped them. And once you free Atrus, he burns those books to keep them from ever escaping.

Until now.

Revelation!

Fast forward twenty years. Atrus invites you (his nameless, faceless, gender-less “friend”) to his new home, where he is attempting to spy on the Prison Ages and decide if his sons have repented of murdering the inhabitants of the Ages and are ready to be released.

Yes…we can see this ending well, eh?

"Myst IV: Revelation" — Kimia Wood

Image from Pixabay

Turns out, he and his wife have already written visiting capsules into the Prison Ages. That way, they can link into the capsule, have a visit through bars, and link away – leaving the Linking Book for their own home out of the reach of the prisoners.

The prisoners can’t possibly escape! Why would you worry about that? Atrus only built complex machinery and houses and scientific equipment by hand in his various Ages…what makes you think his sons could do the same thing from scratch?

Yeesha

Did I mention? Atrus also has a ten-year-old daughter now.

Maybe it’s her dialogue, or maybe it’s the delivery of the actress, but Yeesha is clearly supposed to capture our sympathies and feel like a dear friend (even though we’ve actually only just met). Y’know, one of those annoyingly perfect child-characters.

Especially as the “mysterious circumstances” start piling up, you really start to feel that Atrus is a clueless dupe who should have stuck to books, and not attempted children.

Puzzles

I should say something about the puzzles.

We have our classic Myst fare here, with locked doors; passwords in journals; machines that need power; etc.

It made me wonder if Atrus has a constellation-based color-combination lock on the bathroom…and then I realized that his house has no bathroom.

Also contains one or two pixel-hunts, although that might be due to the mechanics of the cursor-hand (see above).

Messin’ with Memory

Added to those familiar hurdles is a new mechanic. Yeesha has a magic necklace that shows memories."Myst IV: Revelation" — Kimia Wood

This, along with the journals that every member of Atrus’ family conveniently keeps, lets you piece together the motives of the various actors, solve some of the puzzles, and generally be the worst thing to happen to Sirrus and Achenar!

M’whahaha! If you wanted to forge an evil plot, you shouldn’t have invited the Stranger-from-the-Starry-Void!

Seriously, though, this mechanic gives you hints for solving the puzzles, plus valuable information at unraveling the sinister plot being woven.

Who is plotting what? Who is evil? And who should I trust?

Being able to view people’s secret memories is very handy for that…

A note on story tension

My family mocked me for this, but I’ll bring it up anyway.

Whenever you linked to new Age in Myst, you had to solve the Age’s puzzles and get things working again to unlock the Linking Book and return to Myst.

In Riven and Exile, you plunged into an unknown world without a ticket out, and had to solve your way forward to find any way to escape. (And in Riven especially, Atrus’ wife’s fate hangs on your success.)

In Revelation…your first task is to “oh, get the power back on, will you?” Your second task is, “Feel free to check out my Linking Books if you like…oh, and make sure Yeesha does her homework.” Ha ha.

Beyond that, though, every single place you visit has a Linking Book back to Atrus’ home right there at the beginning. You don’t need to venture into predator-infested jungles, or brave bottomless shafts in wind-swept fortresses…you can say, “Forget this,” and hop back home.

Obviously, I bought this game in order to play through the puzzles, and feel smart, and uncover the story through journals and clues. And my family helpfully pointed out that this gives the game a less linear structure. You can solve this Age, or that Age, or stay and futz around the first Age…or jump to this new Age…

Solve puzzles in whatever order you want. Travel when and where you want. Stop and go back to a place you especially liked if you really want.

True, this gives the player much more freedom in how they play and the order they play puzzles in (and the sequence in which they unravel the story).

However, it also saps some of the urgency from the story. You are not trapped, and hunting for an escape. Later on, you’re kind of searching for Yeesha, and trying to uncover what happened…but it’s not like there’s a rush. There’s plenty of time to ransack the Ages for anything marked PRIVATE DIARY. And, well, there’s not the same level of narrative tension.

(Perhaps if I hadn’t thought Yeesha was an annoying Mary Sue who was also try to kill me via collapsing bridge, I would have felt more invested in the rescue mission. But again, when I could back out at any time and return to Atrus’ house… “Hey, I’ll make some tea or whatever your culture drinks…Hope it all works out, Atrus! Maybe you should spend more time supervising your children than leaving them in the care of your ‘friend’ and dashing off for machine parts.”)

Serenia…or, the 1960s New Age-y Age

Revelation gives you four Ages to explore. The final one is Serenia.

"Myst IV: Revelation" — Kimia Wood

As if the rest of it wasn’t weird enough…

The outside of Serenia is beautiful — full of twisty, hard-to-map paths; flowing, conjoining streams of water; butterflies that look like organza pixies; and trees that release dandelion-poofs on the wind.

The inhabitants’ culture is based around giant mushrooms that store people’s memories when they die, so their loved ones can travel to a mental space called “Dream” and “visit” the dead ancestors again.

(As one of the female tenders of the mushroom says: if you don’t heal the “Memory Chamber”, “we may never be able to visit our loved ones again!” I bleed for you says the gal from a world where people stay dead…and we don’t have memory spheres to help hallucinate a spirit visit.)

Back to the culture, the “Protectors” have somehow seen your arrival prophesied (y’know, you – the protagonist) and help you find a spirit guide (from the air, fire, or water spirits that play in the forest) so you can travel to Dream and find out who kidnapped Yeesha.

They also wear a stripe of face-paint down their noses (and have creepy, African-esque masks). And the puzzle in Dream is like musical color-matching on evil steroids!

Atrus was always an apologetic, kinda nerdy guy…but lately he seems to just assume you’ll help dig him out of whatever hole he’s gotten himself in. And these all-knowing chicks in Serenia are even more pompous and touchy-feely.

Even if I hadn’t heard such dismal things about Myst V: End of Ages…this “New Age” spiritualism is enough of a departure from the original heart of Myst (nuts and bolts, analog passwords, and the science-based “magic” of the D’ni Art) to make Revelation my last Myst game.

Climax Catharsis

Yet I said I was satisfied. Why am I satisfied?

Well, without laying bare the resolution…the climax of Revelation hinges on you choosing to believe one of Atrus’ children over another. This choice is based on what you have learned by reading their journals, listening to their memories, and piecing together the Evil Plot (and who is probably responsible for it).

Got the right answer the first time. (Thank you, thank you, no need to clap.) And the conclusion that is spun from that –logically, inexorably – brings the plot-line to a perfect and reasonable end.

While the writers did a bit of ret-conning to bring Sirrus and Achenar back into the story, the way they handled the two of them (and Yeesha) was believable, appropriate, and entirely conclusive.

In a way, they un-did the ending of Myst…and yet, in another way, they built onto it so naturally and understandably that Revelation is really a good end for Myst – the game and the series.

My Last Myst Game

When I played through Myst again several years ago (in the updated and expanded RealMyst version), I loved the Ages and the visuals as much as I always had…and left hungry to play Riven.

"Myst IV: Revelation" — Kimia Wood

A secret journal? Must read!

I re-played through Riven: The Sequel to Myst, and I loved it even more than Myst (not only is it longer and more complex, but it feels like less of the history is buried or off-screen). It also left me longing to play Myst III: Exile.

I have not yet played through Exile a second time, but I know it left me eager to try Revelation.

And now…

Part of it is the bad reviews my brother tells me about from Myst V, and part of it is…the story is complete.

I have scratched my first-person point-and-click itch. Myst created a game type never before seen…and now Revelation has brought the story and the world full-circle.

The ending is bittersweet, poignant, and appropriate. It is also, I think, The End.

(Though I already bought Obduction, which is by the same developers/writers, but set in a different universe. We’ll see how that one pans out…)

As always, I highly recommend the Universal Hints System to give you just the help you need…and no more.

In Myst IV: Revelation, the next chapter in the greatest adventure saga of all time, you’ll travel through environments pulsing with life to unearth a treacherous scheme involving two of Myst’s most sinister villains.

Find the game on GoG.com (DRM-free!), Steam (which includes DRM in their software), and on Amazon if you really need a disk (though paying over three times the price for digital download sounds ridiculous).

Wish-list it on GoG to be emailed when it goes on sale!

Dear Diary…We might be out of our depth…

After we killed the goblins, we worked to get our fallen comrades back on their feet.

Lancell is a Paladin, so he can “Lay On Hands” once a day. It helps a little bit.

Snooping around, I also found a secret stash of potions under the rack. Ezekiel decided they were healing potions and promptly quaffed one. When he didn’t turn green, or die on the spot, or start trying to eat us, Raven drank one, too.

Because of course you want healing potions under your rack to heal the people you’re torturing to death. Blah! What is wrong with some people?

Explored the rest of the second floor. Found the room where the goblins lived – it reeked of the beasties, and had sleeping mats and table and chairs too small for normal humans.

Who has been hosting goblins in the Temple of Merikka?! (Raven claims he doesn’t know.)

Opened the last door in the torture room, and spotted a small, stone room beyond – covered with scratches and weird scribbles. Felt just…off. Can’t even describe it. It wasn’t even a stench of goblins, it was just…a bad place.

Lancell and Ezekiel went first, since one is a Paladin, and one used to be a man-at-arms (he’s still got his old armor and mace). Mikael went next, the better to benefit from Lancell’s “Protection from Evil” aura. Raven was with him, and our bowmen took up the rear.

At the far end, the creepy room turned a corner. As we rounded that, a narrow hallway opened up.

When Lancell and Ezekiel neared the next bend of the corridor, our boots stopped making noise. A coin spun through the air, and hit the ground without so much as a tinkle.

“This is not good!” shouted Ezekiel, but none of us could answer him.

It was especially not good, because it hit me that this was the exact same trick the Evil priestess had pulled. You know, the one we had killed downstairs. Which meant things were about to get higher level…

Someone, or something, started attacking Lancell from around the corner. Hard to tell what it was with all my party members in the way – but he actually landed a hit on Lancell, which is impressive with Lancell’s armor and protection aura!

“Are you Abramo, Cleric of Merikka?” yelled Ezekiel.

Raven grabbed at Mikael’s sleeve and gestured to Kelsier and me to move back down the hall.

Not bad for a Monk.

Bows drawn, the archers backed up to the wall, while Raven and Mikael ducked back into the “creepy room”. Lancell and Ezekiel started backing toward us, blocking blows from a man in the robes of Merikka.

“Abramo! We are not Evil. We want to find out who is abusing the temple of Merikka,” Ezekiel shouted.

I wanted to tell Ezie to get a clue – this guy was attacking us. But no sound came out when I tried to talk.

“Raven! Talk some sense into him. Tell him we’re not enemies,” said Ezekiel.

Raven stuck his head around the corner, and shouted something to his old master…but Abramo (if that was his name) made no response, and landed an attack on Lancell.

Kelsier took aim and let fly an arrow right through our two companions, and struck gold. I love that little guy!

Our party had just about reached the wider room, where we could all attack the cleric, when suddenly he was gone.

“He’s retreating!” said Lancell (since we were far enough away from the silence spell to be able to talk).

We reformed our battle line, and headed forward again – before the evil cleric could recover himself or escape.

We crept down the passage, around another twist, and finally into what seemed to be private chambers. There was a sleeping pallet on one wall, some comfortable chairs, and a fancy-ish desk.

Oh, also some chests. All locked.

Our attacking priest had seemingly vanished.

While searching the desk, I found ugly scratches and symbols marked in the wood. Some papers on top were written over with mumblings and crazy talk.

I don’t know what it means…but it’s one more piece of the whole. The caretakers of the temple have gone off their rockers.

Ezekiel came over and found a lever that opened a door behind the desk.

We advanced into the room, only to find that the enemy cleric wasn’t there either.

There was a collection of huge, ugly stone statues – and against the far wall stood a cage and a jade statue. In the cage was a young woman.

We fanned out into the room. Kelsier tried opening one of the two chests that stood against the wall, while Ezekiel, Mikael, and Raven went to talk to the girl.

Lancell and I hung back, watching our exit and checking for where our vanishing cleric might be hiding.

Girl’s name is Cirilli. Says her family was kidnapped from the village some time ago, and smuggled north under cover of darkness to a cave system where “She” was. (Gestured at the jade statue.)

This statue is like an enormous snake with a woman’s face. Apparently it’s the “goddess” Explictica Defilas (spel.?)…Makes my hair stand up just to think of it.

Cirilli says when her family saw “Her”, they were changed – but Cirilli wasn’t…so Abramo brought her back here and locked her up. She also told us that he had just come through here and gone through the secret trapdoor behind the statue.

We finally opened the cage and gave her some of our bread, but it took Kelsier to find the mechanism for opening the trap door.

That’s when Ezekiel started in on his “vision from Ao” again.

“When you see the face of the snake, bar the gate! We have to bar the gate now!” he told us.

He’s a Good guy and all, but I really don’t know where this is heading.

He and Lancell have run down through the trapdoor to lock the temple gates. I just don’t know what’s going on.

Gonna have a party huddle in the corner while the girl eats so we can make our battle plan. Frankly, if we have to fight that Cleric again – and if he brings friends next time! – I don’t know how we’ll survive…


Click here to start at the beginning.

Find the previous entry here.

Find the next entry here.