The Gift of Hadrborg

TBSW

Today marks the launch of the Banner Saga: Warbands Kickstarter! Based on the hit game created by Stoic Studio, the board game continues combining tactical skirmishes with long term resource management to survive. And the even more incredible news is that, within about 30 minutes, the KickStarter has already been entirely funded.

Of interest to readers out there is that my first novel, The Gift of Hadrborg, is an add-on available to anyone who joins the funding. Inspired by The Banner Saga: Factions, the story takes place before the events of the first game and tells the tale of Eirik and the woes of a city suffering from crime and strife.

The Gift of Hadrborg

In the troubled city of Strand, the City Watch and Governor’s Guard struggle to fend off the criminal empires who rule their streets. Between the corruption, smuggling, underground slaving, mass larceny and a rebellious group attempting to usurp the throne, Guardsman Eirik’s life shows no signs of getting any easier.

Yet the arrival of group seeking a stolen artifact heralds a coming disaster for the already rotten city. Uncertain if he can trust his own people, Eirik has little choice but to throw in his lot with two enigmatic varl and a country boy. Toss in a conman seeking vengeance and a slave-turned-bodyguard with an elusive agenda, and Eirik has his work cut out for him.

But even if his questionable allies and the hordes of eager thugs don’t kill him, the plot they discover threatens to rip Strand apart. And may destroy the fragile varl-human alliance that maintains the peace with their giant neighbors in the north…

The Gift of Hadrborg is an action-packed prequel novel to Stoic Studio’s critically acclaimed The Banner Saga Part 1, which was funded through Kickstarter to wild success.

A viking-fantasy meets crime thriller, The Gift of Hadrborg will help satiate story-lovers whether or not they’re salivating for the next installment of The Banner Saga series! But no matter what, check out the KickStarter. Whether you love great games or stories (or both), Stoic Studio, VS Evil and Megacon Games have got you covered!

Working Myself to Death

Banner Saga HorsebornMy need to finish this novel exploded this weekend due to a certain announcement. Truth be told, I had been slowly tinkering my way at a 1,000 words a day on the ninth chapter when news source began to report on it. The result has been a kind of personal kick in the arse.

And by late Sunday night, the total word count in the last five days stands at 12,840 words that make up three chapters. Chapters are roughly 2.5k to 4k in length apiece. I try to keep it even, but I think it’s more important to end on a high note that keeps the pages turning.

With the previous quarter of the book done and two chapters on top of that, I’m at 50% complete.

I want, almost need, to get this novel finished by early January. I have to start clearing the writing schedule since my projects are expanding in not only value but importance and time considerations. A pitch window is coming up for another book I have in mind, whom both my other writing friends and my beta readers think is very promising.

Which… brings me to another issue.

It has been a very, very, long time since the Black Library has been open to story submissions. But as of today and until just after Christmas,they are accepting pitches. The timing is quite disruptive to my schedule. Yet I feel some tug to try, given my garnered experience and publications over the last three years.

Unless the Black Library’s next submission window happens to be themed around another short story I have in the pipe (in which case, why not send it?), this could very well be the last year I ever submit to them. Oh, I’ve got ideas a plenty and I would love to spin a yarn about Space Marines. But there is just so much going on, so many other projects which are beginning to see fruition. It’s getting harder and harder to justify hours spent in the pursuit of developing Warhammer 40,000 fiction.

Tonight, I may chug coffee and attempt a double chapter. And figure out who will get my efforts later.

Culture Absorption

Books: My bread and butter. As of late, I’m half way through A Feast of Crows. I understand people’s dissatisfaction with the heavy novel, given that almost all the main characters from the previous three installments get no chapters of their own until the next book. Barely Jon Snow, no Tyrion Lannister and no Daenerys Targaryen.

Instead, we get an assortment of supporting characters with their own chapters. Samwell Tarly, Brienne of Tarth, and a handful of characters in Dorne to speak of events down there. Cersei gets her own chapters, finally gives some insight into her attitude. One has to be willing to accept some slow down of the story in order to enjoy a more robust tale I suppose. I keep trying to slow down since the sixth book is going to be a while, but I’ll probably crumble and just read A Dance with Dragons after this.

I’ve also been picking up and putting down Thus Spake Zarathustra. The reading itself is slow, but the resulting discussions with the book’s owner about Nietzche’s philosophy are stimulating and interesting.

Television: I’ve been slacking on my television. Between the ending of Breaking Bad and the wait for the new seasons of Mad Men and The Americans, I have a period of time to try and catch up on The Walking Dead or polish off Battlestar Galactica or The Wire. I should probably get on with that.

If there was ever a reason to be disappointed with reality television, it has to be the direction that Top Chef has gone. The winner of the New Orleans season was made to appear as a some what conniving, foul tempered fellow whom the show seemed ready to dump several times. And the fact that he was instead the winner was nothing less than aggravating. I feel the show has let something wrong guide it. Even if ‘reality’ television can’t convince you it isn’t fake, it should be entertaining. As of late, Top Chef has failed to do both.

I have however, gotten back into watching Golgo 13. The strange thing about this show is that it’s effectively nothing but episodic flash fiction starring a sniper protagonist. The plus side is that the show is easy to pick up and put down. You miss nothing, there is no ongoing story or events that change anything. Every episode is open and close, making it great for working out too. The downside is that the writers struggle to make the main character interesting. Thus, every two episodes are crap but the third one often has some great ideas in it.

Movies: I saw American Hustle a few weeks ago. I enjoyed it, but I get how people might not have liked it. Some felt the story was too predictable (it was based on true events). Others were probably ill at ease with the story’s themes of infidelity. But I was very entertained by it.

Aside from that, I saw Danny Boyle’s Trance and Prisoners with Jake Gyllenhaal. I was disappointed with the former. Boyle tried too hard to create Inception and while it wasn’t bad, it was filled with needless sexuality and a little over the top with the violence. Prisoners was an all around good movie but just didn’t ring my bells. I can’t complain about it- it was very well done, just not to my taste for some reason.

Looking forward to the new Robocop. Critics be damned.

Games: Still chugging through Red Dead Redemption. Getting lost in the side quests and challenges has slowed me up, so I end up doing one or two tasks, then doing regular story missions. So far, I’m sixty percent through the game. 

Big thing of note is that I finished The Banner Saga: Part 1 for the second time. I kept failing on the last battle, so I decided to go ahead and reduce the difficulty to Easy from Hard and just wrap up the game, collecting a couple of achievements but not everything I wanted. A play through takes about 12 hours, so I can try it a couple of times, then replay it when part 2 nearly comes out.

The thing about the game is that losing a battle isn’t game over. It just grinds on, though you do get thoroughly punished for it. You get less renown (a character building currency), some side characters may die, and then there are injuries. Injury is interesting, as it decreases your characters strength drastically. It doesn’t just happen when you lose, but whenever a character is harmed badly or knocked out. Thus there are Pyrrhic victories, and when you start losing, it becomes increasingly harder to stop. I’ll replay the game on hard later, but I do need to totally rethink my strategies to be more forward thinking.

Thoughts on “The Banner Saga”

That is a +1 mustache of gaming approval.

That is a +1 mustache of gaming approval.

Full disclosure: I have been working with Stoic Studios to do some writing for them, mostly to polish my craft as possible tie-in author in the future. While I still freely voice my opinion, I cannot claim that I’m impartial. So take it with a grain of salt. And pepper. And some delicious smoked paprika…

Last night I finally found some time to really, really dive into The Banner Saga. I thought I would just nibble a bit before bed. And before I knew it, three chapters and the night were gone.

I find myself eager to play, even now. The Banner Saga is a tall glass of tactical RPG we’ve sorely needed after the decade long feast of gorgeous-but-mundane AAA titles.

Once I started, it was difficult to put down. The multi-player Banner Saga: Factions prepared me well for the combat, as I’ve yet to lose a battle. But there were plenty of surprises left in store for me. The enemy AI isn’t a slouch foe- not perfect but far from terrible. And I found myself perplexed and intrigued that every fight was effectively a tactical puzzle, complete with surprises and depth. I might be carving my way through weak thugs, then suddenly realize that there’s a wolf amongst the sheep. Or find myself surrounded, trying to manage foes to one side as swiftly as I can before dealing with the other half.

There were new unit types to figure out, both on my side and against me. I found particular use for the spearman, a class whose extra ranged weapon pairs well in the corners when surrounded by varl or raiders, and I was really glad I pre-ordered the game and got my hands on crazy Tryggvi, a simple but valuable bonus.

Stoic borrowed the shifting POV chapter approach of Game of Thrones or rather A Song of Ice and Fire. But unlike George R.R. Martin, the chapter only ever shifts just as it’s situation begins to heat up. We’re chugging along on chapter 1 and my attention is all over the place until a certain character has died (death, the ultimate attention getter). But before that is followed up, we shifted over to Rook and his daughter Alette, whose village was escaping a dredge attack. But just as they’re out of the frying pan and into the fire, we switch back to the varls of chapter 1, leaving me anxious to know what happens next to the father-daughter duo and their allies.

The game is a true “page turner” if such a phrase could be applied to a game.

"Oh come on, ref! He's totally LeBroning!"

“Oh come on, ref! He’s totally LeBroning!”

Stoic’s approach to the adventuring and travel aspects is an intriguing and wondrous mess. As I marched along the road to my next destination, we occasionally run into problems. Sometimes it’s combat, which can be avoided or engaged. A risk in that one can gain promotions, items and reputation, but also lose men and expend supplies to recover post-battle.

Other times its issues in the camp, such as dealing with the damage inflicted by a drunk, or people wanting to leave to warn passing farms of the coming dredge. These short but simple events are reminiscent of The Sims and I am curious of the underlying mechanics of if or how they effect the overall story. Rewards and losses vary from more reputation (the game’s currency), men or supplies or even items useful for your heroes.

I don’t know yet how much of this is scripted or just random events that occur. These days, I have actively turned off reading wikis in order to be surprised and enjoy the simple delights of discovery. It always keeps me on my toes.

Funny thing is, I can’t tell how I feel about the lack of voice acting during the game’s narration. Part of me almost prefers it, being able to read the story at my own leisure. But that’s the reader in me coming out. Voice acting would have given another layer of polish that most gamers would prefer.

I’m hungry for more. But I must temper this with a reminder that The Banner Saga is merely part one and there’s part 2 and 3 to come. For all the great work they’ve done, I hope the developers keep this old viking proverb to heart:

“Praise not the day until evening has come;
a woman until she is burnt*;
a sword until it is tried;
a maiden until she is married;
ice until it has been crossed;
beer until it has been drunk.”

(*-I’m pretty sure this is referencing burial. If not, then those poor viking women…)