Day 25: Favorite RPG No One Else Wants to Play

DAY TWENTY-FIVE: FAVORITE RPG NO ONE ELSE WANTS TO PLAY

I’ll go a bit odd here because, thankfully, today’s topic is a mite vague.  My live group has played this RPG extensively but may never play it again.  Typically it is reviled about the net and in game conversations worldwide, and I never really understood the vitriol.  It may not be my favorite game of all time but I do really like it.  Ok… I’ll stop teasing. The game I’m referencing is 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.

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I just erased a large collection of text that could have been titled “Why I think all the Haters are Wrong About 4e” and I’m more than willing to hold a lengthy conversation with someone if they wanted to hear me rant about it, but that’s not what today is about.  Instead I’m going to tell you about my concern that I may never get to play this fun little game again, and why that makes me sad.

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I LIKED all those cards and stuff, I made my own of course, but I liked em’!

I’ve always maintained that the rule system and concept behind 4th edition only made one mistake when it rolled out, and that’s being attached to the Dungeons and Dragons name.  Had an independent company introduced us to this style of game we would have been floored by how innovative it’s style really was.  I’ve never played an RPG with more balance infused into its core and the combat system handles as well as any tactical tabletop skirmishes game.  So while 4th isn’t my favorite version of Dungeons and Dragons (5th edition fits that mold now) it was a refreshing change from 3.5 that contained all the same lengthy battles and none of the balance.

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I’ve made mention of my love for the Monster Builder, only truly GREAT thing from the Digital Tools. Encounter building & customization was easy due to balance again.

My concern though seems similar to that annoying “First World Problems” meme, 5th edition D&D is so good even the people I played with who liked 4th likely won’t ever want to play it again!.  I mean, it fell apart at Paragon level and above, the mystery surrounding magic weapons was diluted extensively, and the wizard class just felt odd, but I ran some of my best games through 4th edition D&D and had some of the best Roleplay my table has ever seen.  It holds a special place in my heart, and I’m afraid it may just fade out of style.  Maybe I can play it at a Con or something.

 

OH! Lastly, some of the best written Eberron guides & supplements ever made were done within the 4th Edition era, and I love me some Eberron!

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-Melvs

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Competing D&D Documentaries: Continuing Coverage

*As noted in my previous blog post I am not a lawyer and none of this is to be considered legal advice in any form.*

Short post today but hopefully informative.  Looks like things are heating up in the Lawsuit between the two competing, or non-competing if you feel there’s plenty of room for two, Dungeons and Dragons Documentaries.

First, here’s a boiled down refresher of the situation if you missed my last post on this:

  • In late summer/early fall 2012 a Kickstarter for a Documentary regarding the history of D&D ran, the film is titled “Dungeons and Dragons: A Documentary”.  It funded on September 17, 2012.
  • I wrote a blog piece about it on September 3, 2012.
  • There were two primary groups tied to the project. Iconoscope Films and Westpaw Films
  • A falling out occurred at some point during the making of the film and the primary groups formalized an agreement through the courts that dealt with remaining ownerships and duties to the film so that it could still be made to satisfy the investors (we Kickstarter Backers etc.). This Settlement Agreement was signed December 5, 2013.
  • This Summer another Documentary purporting to be a “true tale of the rise and fall of the creators Dungeons & Dragons” thus a film also concerning at least a portion of the history of D&D appeared on Kickstarter under the title “The Great Kingdom”
  • “The Great Kingdom” is helmed in part by individuals who were involved, and still are to an extent, with “Dungeons and Dragons: A Documentary” as Iconoscope Films.
  • On or about June 20, 2014 Westpaw films filed a Complaint with the intent to keep “The Great Kingdom” from being made, rescind the original Settlement, and other forms of relief (some monetary) to be extracted from the defendants.
  • “The Great Kingdom” funded on July 20, 2014

Well that ended up being more verbose than I intended but does the job nicely.

I’m not going to pass judgment here, as I’ve stated before.  I simply mean to pass along some details to those interested.  Firstly, “The Great Kingdom” has funded so apparently the lawsuit did not detract people from contributing.  This says to me that the lawsuit likely won’t go away as simply as it might have if the second film hadn’t funded.  This is pure conjecture but I think settlement would have been far more possible if there was no Kickstarted second film.  Now though, we certainly have two projects vying for existence here so it may mean that we might see a decision via Summary Judgment or even a full blown trial if there’s an issue of fact.  Things may get really interesting.

Honestly, I know too much about lawsuits to wish this situation on anyone.  There’s going to be a lot of difficult times ahead for both parties and I can only hope they come to a peaceful resolution where no one really comes out a villain here, but that can be hard to achieve.

Well, I need to wrap this up with the real reason I sat down to write this post.  I wanted to provide my readers with the information regarding how to follow along with this suit via the publicly available court documents.

  • Step One: Visit the New York State Unified Court System website Link
  • Step Two: Click “Search as Guest”
  • Step Three: Do the CAPTCHA
  • Step Four: Do a Name search for “Westpaw”

There you have it.  That will lead you to where you may peruse the court docs and make your own decisions.  A good thing to remember when going over these documents is that everything you read is merely an Allegation.  Even the Affidavits, which amount to sworn testimony, are to be considered “truths” as to the person swearing to them.  I know the situation isn’t really all that fun but it is nice to be able to keep up with it.  I’ll try to post anything remarkable I discover throughout folks.  Good day and good gaming!

UPDATE: 10-06-2014: There have been some fairly heavy developments so I’m updating rather than adding an entirely new post.

  • Since July the court case has proceeded.  Both sides presented their story before the court during the month of July.
  • In Early August an injunction was Ordered against the Defendants (those behind The Great Kingdom) that essentially shut them down completely.  They are restrained from “taking any action in futherance of the creration, production, manufacture, etc. for any documentary film about the fantasy role-playing game “Dungeons & Dragons”.
  • Oddly enough (in my opinion) the Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint around that same time despite the Injunction Order. (I say oddly because that Injunction Order seems fairly telling re the opinion of the court.  This is only my inferred feeling though, not anything concrete.)
  • The Defendants have file an Appeal of the Injunction
  • The descision on the Motion to Dismiss has been adjourned to October 29, 2014 marking the date for the Plaintiff to respond to it for October 22, 2014.

UPDATE: 05-22-2015

Some shocking news to relay on this matter. Seems the Defendants have concurrently had their counsel withdraw and have filed an Answer to the Complaint (presumably Pro-Se) stating that they “deny all of the substantive allegations in the Complaint”. This move is far removed from where I thought this was headed if I’m to be honest, I had really put my hopes into settlement. This has the potential to really draw things out for this litigation. The Answer to a Complaint is really early in the litigious process were this to go all the way to some sort of Jury/Non-Jury outcomes. Not looking good for a quick resolution anymore sadly.

UPDATE 09-15-2015

At this time it appears an Order has been issued after a Preliminary Conference detailing further Discovery (Interrogatories & Document Production) to be handled by the end of November. Chances are good we see some continuances but at least things are moving along.

UPDATE 08-17-2016

Here we are almost a year after my last update and it seems things are moving again. At least, looking at the court documents it appears so. Let’s see what is out there and what it may mean for seeing this come to a resolution.

There was an Order for Mediation issued by the court back in January 2016 to be held in April. While I have no insight as to what was discussed withing that Settlement Conference I can say that it appears no resolution was reached.

A new Judge has taken over the case and we are now deep into Discovery and Depositions. For those unfamiliar it means that each side is now presenting paperwork and verbal testimony in an effort to prove up their end of things. A Deposition works just like giving testimony on a witness stand in a trial but it is handled outside the courtroom and the whole thing is recorded by a stenographer, sometimes it is also recorded by audio or video tape as well.

What this means is we are gearing up for one of two things. Either this case will be decided “Dispositively” meaning the judge will review all the Discovery and Testimony and then render a verdict if the judge feels enough information is available to comfortably do so or some or none of it is decided Dispositively and it goes to trial.

The best result for backers of Dungeons and Dragons a Documentary would be for the judge to rule in favor of the Plaintiff (Westpaw Films, Inc.) on the Dispositive Motion, which is returnable in December (barring further extensions surrounding Discovery, etc.) This would finally free them up to finish the film and get it out the door. I’m not familiar enough with this type of suit to know how long it might take to rule on a Dispositive motion here but…I don’t hold out hope of it being quick.

Hey, there’s always the chance they finally work out some kind of settlement.

-Melvs

Certified Nerdified Rants with Melvin Smif – Today’s Topic: The Hunger Games

*Originally posted on the Monkey in the Cage Website on September 26, 2012

A segment where Kevin Smith goes on and on about a subject he seemingly takes way too seriously that no one else likely cares about or has given any consideration. Likely unnecessary but SPOILERS AHEAD!

Today’s Issue: The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Hunger Games is an odd trilogy to me.  When I read the first novel, The Hunger Games, I was impressed.  Sure the concept had been done before in many forms, but ultimately it was well written for a YA book, which is refreshing, and had all the right bits and pieces to form a cohesive plot.  Then I read Catching Fire which seemed to have a lot of the same enjoyable action from the first book but at the expense of introducing some way too convenient plot wrangling to do so.  Then came the final installment, Mockingjay.  Mockingjay did things that seemed so backward to how one would expect its protagonists to act at this point that I was just baffled.  Many would say that this represents growth, or a hardening of the characters but I disagree as I lay out below.

As usual, SPOILERS AHEAD dear reader!

 

 BOOK 1: The Hunger Games:

Loved the book, enjoyed the movie.  The biggest flaw one could really give this book is that its premise is not new.  The concept’s been done with Battle Royale, The Most Dangerous Game, The Running Man, etc.  I’m not really one of those people.  I’ve always been of the mindset that if an idea is good enough please revisit it as many times as you want.  It’s no skin off my back; I’ll ignore your stuff if I don’t like it!

In this book we are even introduced to Stephanie Collin’s rapid fire style of writing, which really works well for the entire series (even when her ideas and story direction didn’t do it for me).  By keeping the pace set on fast forward at all times we are rarely given a chance to feel safe setting the book down, I found I was often reading far beyond the time period I’d allotted myself, and did not lament the excess loss of hours.

So in essence, not much to rant about here but, just for the sake of meta conversation, here is my biggest complaint.  I feel that Katniss was protected by the way Collins shaped the story from ever having to actually take the life of an innocent.  Let’s look at the individuals she played a role in killing –

  • Glimmer and the girl from District 4 – No actual attack but instead as a result of dropping a beehive (or Tracker Jacker) nest on the girls
  • Marvel – Actually kills him with an arrow but only after he kills Rue safely painting him as a villain before Katniss must take action.
  • “Foxface” – The red haired girl who typically stayed out of the way, therefore not a villain.  She was only killed by a berry mishap, and mostly it was Peeta’s doing.
  • Cato – He gets chewed on by some “mutts” so when Katniss kills him she not only kills an outright villainous type, but also gets to play the pity executioner.

It’s my thought that if you intend to paint how horrible these games can be, and how horrible the things you are made to do are, you can’t then protect your protagonist from doing such things unless you wish them to allow their own death as a display of moral fortitude.  Granted this was going to happen with the choice made by Peeta and Katniss to both swallow the berries, in fact I think it would have been a better ending leaving this a one book story.

 BOOK 2: Catching Fire:

This was an odd book, and an example of utter Deus ex Machina.  The first parts of the book are frankly pretty boring, Collins introduces the tired “love triangle” concept en force now and we are subjected to Katniss’ inner pains over it.  Meanwhile she is desperate to fade into the background and out of the spotlight and let people stop their uprisings that were now occurring because of her.  This is typical of her character as she has always seemed to dislike the concept of others being hurt or dying for her sake, keep this idea in mind for later when my biggest issue with the trilogy arises. We all knew at the end of book one that things weren’t over for Katniss but I certainly didn’t see the Quarter Quell concept coming at all.  The book does end in an interesting way though, I had my ideas that the Quarter Quell would end in a different fashion but I was surprised by the reveal.

My biggest issue with the book is actually the laziness in which we see the concept of the Quarter Quell concept introduced purely for the chance to have yet another Katniss and Peeta involved Hunger Games.  Collins had an opportunity to do something truly unique here, she could have instead had Katniss and Peeta join Haymitch in the training and lobbying for a new Tribute.  We could have gotten a glimpse of Katniss trying to learn the political side of things in the Capital but instead we seen Book 1 round 2.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some neat aspects of getting to meet older tributes, but that could have been done in the way I described as well.  Perhaps Peeta and Haymitch enter the fray and Katniss has to assist from beyond the games, I love that idea.

The love triangle is of course a trying thing, it would have been better to have gone against our predispositions and have either Katniss lose interest in one of the boys or to have one of them lose interest in her altogether, I loath the “Team” concept.  Collins did surprise me a bit (until I remembered Katniss’ attitude regarding not wanting to ever cause pain to beloved others) in having Katniss inwardly choose that she would rather live alone, without having to choose Gale or Peeta.  It was an indicator of a thinking individual, if maybe a slightly masochistic one, that is rarely seen in a YA novel these days.

Still enjoyable though for all its faults, if I hadn’t liked it I would have never moved on to Mockingjay.

 BOOK 3: Mockingjay

By far the weakest in the series, slow in the beginning and the entire concept of Katniss as a figurehead for the rebellion just didn’t work for me.  Her character changed so much in this book I had whiplash.  She fought against everyone, often times for no discernable reason, and suddenly became selfish in a way that has never been displayed before.  Sure her demands to rescue Peeta and the other tributes had merit, but could she not see how that would put so many other loved ones in danger?  Peeta being brainwashed was kind of a tiring affair but it worked for the book, and had a smack of A Clockwork Orange to it me droogs, so I went with it.  Finally though we reach the last quarter of the novel where Katniss just becomes unrecognizable to me and loses any sense of redeemable qualities as far as I’m concerned.

I’m just going to jump right into it.  There comes a point in this book where Katniss and a group of her fellow Tributes are in the Capital with a group commander, namely as a token “hero” group.  They are in what is deemed a “Safe Zone” when things go wrong and the commander of the group is killed.  At this point Katniss makes the decision to pretend she received orders to take his mantle of command and through this she puts her many friends in the group in danger in order to satisfy her own selfish bloodlust of being the one to kill President Snow.

Many of her friends die because of this decision, and though she is obviously saddened by this it never seems to dawn on her that had she forgone her own selfish desires, they might still be alive.  There was no merit to her decision, she wasn’t making a tough choice to put her and her friends in danger for some noble cause, and it was for revenge pure and simple.  President Snow would have been killed; it was fairly obvious at that point that the rebels were winning the day.  It is here that I did a double take and tried to figure out when Katniss lost the one quality that had remained constant throughout the trilogy, her desire to protect her loved ones.  Needless to say I was baffled.

Lastly I found the ending rushed and very unsatisfying.  Katniss agrees to the Hunger Games penalty for the children of the most powerful people in the capital, being the deciding vote.  Presumably to make a show of playing along with President Coin, but I still found it distasteful.  Then she kills President Coin instead of President Snow because of the fact that she finally realized that President Coin ordered the bombing that claimed her sister’s life, not Snow.  That was a good moment for Katniss, I will admit.  Once that happens though we are treated to Katniss being jailed for a chapter while a trial is apparently held, an entirely interesting storyline I think would have been a great item to be included, and then a fast forward to Katniss choosing Peeta and then straight into an epilogue where we discover she is still damaged by the events though she has a family I guess.

Not the happiest of endings but that would have been fine if I had a reason anymore to care whether she was happy or not.  She is unrecognizable to me by this point, not from a slow change over the books but by a sudden, jolting change that occurs 3/4 of the way through the last book!  I get the impression that Collins was trying to say that War is Hell and it changes and damages us, but she just too heavy handed in my opinion.

Over all I enjoyed the series, despite the let down I felt by how it ended.  I know I skimmed over a lot here but I was mainly wanting to zone in on my trouble spots.  Unlike The Twilight Saga I would recommend The Hunger Games to others, though I’m fully up front that I didn’t care too much for the last book.  Suzanne Collins has a way of grabbing someone’s attention with her writing that I haven’t been exposed to a lot.  It can be simplistic at times but that’s the point of it, no-nonsense, little fluff, just straight to the meat of what’s going on.  So if you’ve for some reason read this spoiler laced review and not the books, give them a go.  You probably don’t analyze things as deeply as I do and will enjoy them even more than I did.

-Melvs

City of Heroes Final Free Update: The End?

*Originally posted on the Monkey in the Cage Website on September 13, 2012

*Sadly, City of Heroes did indeed shut down.  I miss it terribly.

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In April of 2004 I was on the precipice of graduation from High School. I still lived at home, naturally, and I was once again mentally ranting about the fact that my country upbringing ensured that I had only dial up internet. The reason for my venom? I had just learned of the release of a Massive Multiplayer Online Game by the name of City of Heroes. Thinking back on it now I still wish I’d been able to jump on board at the launch of the game. I did eventually join my friends in this incredible game world, with the release of City of Villains in October of 2005, and have loved the game ever since. With the recent news of its pending shut down I wanted to pay a little homage to this game that played a huge role in my young adult life while in college.

 

That’s right my friends, apparently NC Soft has decided to shut down Paragon Studios, with the current date of November 30th, 2012, thus ending the nearly 9 year old MMO that I feel was truly unique and apart from the world of Everquest Clones. It really does sadden me. Though I’ve not played with nearly the fervor I use to lately, I can’t begin to count the hours I’ve put into the characters out there on the Virtue Server. It was always nice to know that I could log in again and run about pummeling baddies (and goodies) with some old friends. I developed lasting friendships with people I’ve never met in real life that I only interact with in game. I may not have spoken with some of them in a few years but I know if I logged on now and they were playing we would immediately fall into a cadence of inside jokes and fun, just like the old days.

When City of Heroes launched on April 27, 2004 it was really a unique entry into the MMO world at that point. This was not Sword and Sorcery, this was a comic book brought to life. They even had a cast of supers who were there to guide your young hero all the while having adventures themselves as online comics depicted. Instead of updates you paid for once every 2-3 years they had a free one roughly every 3-4 months (later the time between updates lengthened but the updates came with far more content). Every update came with new content, mostly focusing on increasing player options.

While the game’s characters fit the archetypes of any MMO, Striker, Defender, Tanker, Controller, etc, there were always a myriad of ways you could approach those styles of play based off of a Primary and Secondary choice of powers with 5-10 choices for each. At any time there are an incredible number of options one could choose for their character. As your characters continued to grow you’d vary from others even more as you chose separate paths within you’re already varied power sets. At level 15 you could even decide whether your character could fly, run at super speeds, or jump startlingly far distances to cross miles. The variations were seemingly so endless that starting a new character became commonplace and “starting a new dude” was a frequent call to action. In the hundreds to thousands of hours I played the game I never played the same power set twice, I didn’t need to, it was all balanced well and you were nearly always an asset to any group.

I recall my first level 50 character, a Super Strength\Invulnerability Brute named Ruined Prism, a villain. I had an extensive back-story regarding the “prism” of his soul being shattered blah blah blah, it was actually pretty bad but he was so much fun to play. During the time I finally got him to level fifty we were in the midst of update number 10 aptly named “Invasion” as the game world was under siege by the Rikti, an evil alien threat to all. I can still remember fighting off the random Rikti mini invasions that would affect a zone and teams would immediately form of various strangers grouping to fight off the waves. Later I would hit the Rikti War Zone where Heroes and Villains could team up to attack the mother ship or to join the “Strike Force” mission to cull the Rikti major villain, a really nifty plot twist if you paid attention to the game’s background story. In fact it was in that Strike Force when I finally hit 50. It was a big deal because unless you knew of a power leveling group, it takes quite a bit of in game play. After that I had 3 more level fifty characters and a plethora of characters still stuck in the 30’s and 40’s but I’ll always remember my first.

Part of what made character creation so great, beyond tons of power set options, was the sheer innumerable options available to someone in the look department. Your character was truly yours. I don’t think I have ever seen two characters that looked exactly the same unless it was meant to be that way. They never stopped adding options either, every update came with new suits, gear, and other options to change up that look. To this day I’ve not met a better character creation system when it comes to options and variability. In fact I would say that the most endearing aspect of the entire game is based around options and choices. You really can make your own Super Hero\Villain. One of my favorite things to do was to check out the various Costume Contests that happened at Atlas Park. A Super Group would be looking for new talent so they invite people to strut their creative stuff, awarding “cash” prizes for the victors (heck I won a few contests myself).

There are so many things I feel like I’m leaving out when I try and recall what I love about this game. Holiday events, not deleting inactive accounts, awards for paid time, the eventual switch to free play, Double XP Weekends!!!! etc. etc. etc. There really are so many things to love, I get that other MMO’s have many of these things but something about how City put it all together just clicked with me. The little time I spent on other MMO’s always left me shrugging my shoulders and wondering at the popularity, and I’m a Sword and Sorcery guy. I love Dungeons and Dragons and anything else out there fantasy based but I never got into them the way I did with CoH. One major reason for this was that everyone is just more pleasant in CoH. It really is a team focused game, and though PvP somewhat suffers for this it makes working together on missions very fun. I’ve never met the same kind of welcoming attitude in other MMO’s that I receive when I play CoH, even when I was brand new I never got the cold shoulder that some other MMO’s give their “Newbs”. Maybe I was unlucky in those games, but I’m not the first person I know who has commented this way.

Should I be furious at NC Soft right now for shutting down a game I paid hundreds of dollars to in order to play it over the years? From everything I’ve read, Hell I even read their Quarterly Earnings Report, the decision to close down City of Heroes stems from a “change in company direction” not because City had anything to do with their recent profit loss. That loss seems to have come from having to pay out a large amount of Severance pay to recently let go employees. I’m not sure, but for some reason I only feel saddened and let down. Sure when the gates close, everything I’ve spent time on will disappear. Countless hours of work, albeit enjoyable work, will essentially drop away like it was never there. That’s the constant threat of a digital game for you. You always have to know in the back of your mind that one day it could be all gone. You really don’t own anything you paid for, you’ve basically been renting your fun for all these years. I for one would do it all over again, even if I knew the inevitable outcome. It was a blast. I regret nothing about the time I spent forging friendships and super powered characters over hours of game play that I rented from NC Soft (well maybe the fact that it played a role in my slipping to a B average my junior year of college).

I’ll end with a plea to NC Soft that they reconsider, give us an early Christmas gift this November. Of course I think that Paragon Studios has already been let go, adding some more severance pay maybe, so the feasibility of this seems slim. There is always the chance they allow someone else to run the game on private servers, though I’m not familiar enough with how that would work to really comment on it. There are many out there that have some very personal attachments to this game. In fact I’ve even heard of in game protests on the stairs of Atlas Park, it warms my heart. If you log into the game and head to Atlas Park 33 you can even join the constant “Candlelight” vigil taking place, as I did the other night using one of my beloved heroes Melvin Maddock. Throngs of heroes stand constant with torches held high, it really is a moving sight.

I and a few other friends were anxiously awaiting the chance to play again with a buddy of mine after he returned from his lengthy stint sailing with the Navy sometime in the fall. He might get back in time for one more go at patrolling the streets of Paragon City, maybe not. It is my hope and prayer that the servers are up and running when he arrives. To the folks at Cryptic and Paragon Studios, thank you for your efforts and dedication. Games can be very important to people, I think in writing this I’ve rediscovered the itch and will be playing again very soon, maybe I’ll see a few old friends and we can have some laughs before the final curtain falls.

Petition to Save City of Heroes

Save Our City of Heroes Flyer

“We are Heroes” Movement by Titan Network

Send Masks & Capes to NC Soft

Twitter – @SaveCoH, #SaveCoH

Certified Nerdified Rants with Melvin Smif – Today’s Topic: Twilight

*Originally posted to the Monkey in the Cage Website on August 29, 2012

A segment where Kevin Smith goes on and on about a subject he seemingly takes way too seriously that no one else likely cares about or has given any consideration.  Likely unnecessary but SPOILERS AHEAD!

Today’s Issue: The Twilight Saga

 

With K-Stew and R-Pat’s recent falling out and the final Twilight film coming out this November I thought it time to put fingers to keyboard on a major frustration of mine, The Twilight Saga. This rant is not likely going to be what you think it will, I’m not leaping atop a pedestal to proclaim why I loath Twilight, quite the opposite, I’m here to describe a seething love\hate relationship with the product. You see, I don’t outright hate these books. In fact there are tiny gems of highly intriguing lore peppered throughout the novels that draw me in just long enough for the attention to shift back to the core storyline I had little to no interest in.

Reading these books was highly frustrating for me, many times I had my interest peaked for just enough of a minutia, before ripping me away once again into the masochistic relationship at the story’s core, to keep me on board until the next interesting paragraph or page. In any event, today I’m going to discuss some of the items I wished Stephenie Meyer had spent a little more time on. Hell, she could have easily taken out about 50-60 paragraphs where Bella describes how much she adores Edward to make room. By the way, this may be unnecessary but SPOILERS AHEAD.

 

VAMPIRE POWERS:

I don’t know if I’m alone in this or not but I was always intrigued by the idea that the Meyer vampire might also come with a mutant ability. It is a fresh addition to the vampire idea that does not rankle, the way sparkly skin does, but instead adds a bit of personality to each vampire rather than the age old idea of only older vampires could have mysterious powers. In fact Meyer actually has a reason for why her vampire might have such an ability, being the enhancement of something the human form already had. Because of this every vampire you meet in the story becomes an immediate interest, I would wonder what power they might have.

VARIOUS VAMPIRE BACKSTORIES:

I’m a sucker for an origin story, so I loved any time the attention turned to the long lived vampires in these books. It was always too short, and though it often involved similar romantic undercurrent to the main storyline it was never nearly as heavy handed. Some of Ms. Meyer’s best work in the novels is found in these minor storylines, especially the backgrounds of the Cullens.

Carlisle Cullen was a monster hunter with his father, and once he was bitten he hid away utterly silent through the incredibly painful transformation and once changed has never drank the blood of a human for sustenance.

Esme Cullen was saved from her attempted suicide by Carlisle when he worked at a morgue in 1895’s Columbus Ohio.

Alice Cullen initially recalls nothing of her former human life but later discovers she was committed to an asylum for premonitions that eventually led to her ability to see the future now that she is a vampire.

Emmett Cullen was mauled by a bear and saved by his future wife Rosalie after she carried him over 100miles without succumbing to her thirst for human blood. It was initially very difficult for him to adjust to animal blood.

Rosalie Hale had a very abusive beginning that ended in a revenge scenario involving the torture and death of her previous abusers. She is an interesting case because she continues to envy humans for being allowed to have the humanity that she never fully enjoyed

Edward Cullen even old Eddy boy has a pretty good story. He even spent time feeding on humans, albeit mostly the scum of society as it would not do for Edward to have ever been all that bad.

Jasper Hale Okay, his story is so awesome it needs its own post.

JASPER HALE:
In book three, Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer needed an explanation for why the Cullens should fear a “Newborn” army being created in the nearby city of Seattle and in order to set the stage for this we finally get to hear the most enticing vampire back-story yet, that of Confederate Soldier Jasper Hale. Apparently during the Civil War there was a constant vampire shadow war being waged using small armies of newborn vampires who stronger due to their leftover human blood that still coursed through their veins but more difficult to control (not to be confused with the Shadow War fought against Abraham Lincoln). America was a new land and vampires of the old European countries sought to make their claim. Once becoming a vampire Jasper had an ability to manipulate other’s emotions making him a perfect general for one of these small armies. To this day he carries countless crescent moon shaped scars from the bites of the newborns he trained and eventually killed when their place in the army was no longer needed.

This is so close to a “Weird West” style story that I found myself incredibly intrigued, and it was given almost an entire chapter’s worth of attention. To this day it is what I consider the best handled portion of the entire saga. Jasper is probably my favorite character in the series.

THE VOLTURI AND THE COVENS: or basically all of the other vampires
The Volturi are briefly touched upon in the worst book of the franchise, New Moon. Their impending part in the book is the only reason I picked it up again. I was done with the series, not even a third into “New Moon”, until a female friend told me about the ruling government of all the vampires and how they played a role in the final moments of the book. In hindsight, if I’d known how bad the remainder of New Moon was going to be I probably wouldn’t have pushed through it for the painfully short section on these interesting vampires, all with new abilities to ponder. Granted this has been done before, it has been done better before (Vampire: The Masquerade or Ann Rice’s work namely) but I always like getting to know the power structure in any vampire myth story.
Now with the Covens lies some of the worst frustration I’ve had with the saga. They are all interesting and all have reason to be fed up with The Volturi, laying down the framework for why they decide to side with the Cullens, Bella, and the wolf shape shifters in the final book Breaking Dawn. Problem is it is only lightly touched upon. Even worse a very interesting character is introduced, a dispossessed noble, an individual of mighty lore, someone by the freaking name Dracula!

FREAKING DRACULA:
Meyer introduces the concept of the ruling class before the Volturi took over, the Romanians. Only two Romanians remain some guy named Stefan (who cares) and then a dude by the name of Vladimir… he is obviously Dracula. DRACULA! I mentally scream, this is awesome! So worth reading up to this point! What sort of power will he have? What kind of stories will Meyer regale us with now that he is in the mix? He is going to be the flipping tits! No. NO! Wrong thought process Kevin, Dracula gets himself about two paragraphs and then is politely asked to stand over there and not get in the way… WHAT!? Ugh, hated when that happened and let’s just say if I hadn’t been so close to the end of the book I’d of stopped right there.

THE CHILDREN OF THE MOON:
A throw away line in “Breaking Dawn”, I forget who said it and I don’t feel like paging through the book to do so. One of the Vampires says something to the effect that they are surprised to see the wolves of the La Push pack working together, he says that normally the “Children of the Moon” are solitary beasts that do not work well with anyone and terrify vampires. We are given the impression that the “Children of the Moon” are even more powerful than the Shape-Shifters of the Quileute Tribe.

That’s right everyone, Jacob Black is not a Werewolf (which I ranted in my brain from the earliest meeting of their tribe) but instead a Shape-Shifter. In this throwaway portion of the book, real Werewolves are introduced… for about two sentences and then forgotten. Now I don’t know how Meyer could have truly incorporated The Children of the Moon into her story but she could have at least spent some time explaining them. Werewolves are a particular obsession of mine and it would have been a nice effort on her part to think of me :P.

I feel I’ve droned on far too long about these books, looking back over this you may find yourself wondering “Hmmm… maybe they are worth a read if there are little nuggets of interesting supernatural stuffs like that”, my answer would be meh. Knowing what I know now, I wish I would have read something else during that time. My article here probably spends more time on some of these topics that he books do, my advice read the Wikipedia synopsizes if you really want to catch some of this good stuff, the books are largely pretty awful for anyone who isn’t into the love story. That being said if the love story is your bag read on fellow nerd! Never let my, or anyone else’s words get in the way of your enjoyment of anything!

And now I present how you likely feel about my diatribe –