We’re trying something a little different with this post — the first in what might become a (highly irregular) series, Tomes of the Gnomes. It’s kinda, sorta, maybe in a roundabout way related to GMing, and we thought you might enjoy it.
Have you ever met a GM who isn’t also a reader — and probably a pretty voracious one, at that? I don’t think I have. And I don’t know about you, but I love giving and getting book recommendations.
That’s what Tomes of the Gnomes articles are all about: Hearing about what the gnomes are reading, maybe getting some inspiration for your campaign, and sharing what you’re reading with other folks who dig this site.
Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
Fool Moon is the second book in Jim Butcher’s “The Dresden Files” series. This time Harry Dresden must investigate a series of bizarre murders that seem to have been committed by werewolves. But which kind of werewolf? Harry discovers of at least four different types, and each type could be responsible for the crimes. As if things weren’t bad enough Harry also has to deal with injured relationships between himself and what few friends that he has, the reputation that he is in a mob boss’ pocket due to rumors, and the FBI demanding that the werewolf investigation be left in their jurisdiction. Oh, and that the werewolves are trying to kill him as well once he gets involved with the case.
Fool Moon is a nice follow-up to Storm Front, the first book of “The Dresden Files”. Butcher improves with his second novel while still retaining what made the first novel a fun read. The mystery is a more complex, the action is a bit more intense, but the characters are still likable and interesting. Like a chef perfecting a recipe, Butcher did not alter what worked before but instead expanded upon what was best in the first book with a few new ingredients. If you liked Storm Front then Fool Moon will not disappoint you.
I most recently reread The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende. It’s high fantasy– a quest through a world stitched together from myth and flights of fancy. It’s somewhat more than that, though– it’s also the tale of Bastian Balthazar Bux, an nonathletic kid who steals a book and hides out in the attic of the school to read it, shrinking away from the problems swamping his life. As he reads on, he notices strange things mentioned in the book, things that don’t fit the book but reflect his life…
I noticed several new things this time. The first is that many people recognized it– I was reading it at lunch and a worker taking a break from plastering the building next door stuck up a conversation– he fondly remembered seeing the movie. The reminded me that the movie covers only the first half of the book– and that the second half is where Bastian really blooms as a character. I missed the hardback version with the green and red text; the paperback I read used italics, which was clear but not as cool. I also finally noticed this time that each of the twenty six chapters begins with a full page illuminated capital– each letter in the alphabet in order.
I’ve just begun rereading the Fionavar Trilogy by Guy Gavriel Kay. I had forgotten how quickly he created such distinct, driven characters. I note that I’m enjoying Dave’s story the most this time… which is interesting, because I vaguely remember thinking that his side story was an annoying distraction last time. I recently finished reading through the 4e DMG; I say reading, but I found myself skimming through the advice– even though appreciated the advice that I did read. Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley alternated with the DMG; I enjoyed it, which surprised me given my dislike of Grapes of Wrath (which I’d been forced to read in high school.) I also reread the AT-43 core rulebook before a battle last week– it was good to have the rules fresh in my mind. The first time I’d had to hang on my opponent’s interpretations and recollection– it was nice to be able to coherently discuss the rules this time.
I just wrapped up Storm Front by Jim Butcher. I couldn’t put it down and ripped through it in half a day. It’s about a hard-boiled detective, who just happens to be a wizard. Think Harry Potter meets Mike Hammer. It hits a lot of the hard-boiled tropes but with a nice magical twist. It’s not deep stuff, but it is fun, and there’s several more books in the series.
I’m re-reading Watchmen by Alan Moore. The movie is coming out soon, so I wanted to get my head around it properly before the movie version messed it all up. This may just be one of the deepest graphic novels ever made. It’s less of a superhero comic than you’d expect and more about the characters. The Watchmen aren’t just glossy shallow superheroes – they are people, with real mental, emotional and moral problems. Watchmen is the only graphic novel to win a Hugo. The art and some of the references may seem dated, but it’s very much worth it. I suspect it will be readily available in book stores again soon, in time for the movie.
I’m reading the second edition Fading Suns RPG core book right now. I don’t usually read gaming books cover to cover, but this one is exactly what I’m in the mood for: dramatic, White Wolf-style space opera with plenty of roleplaying-friendly cliches and just enough new ideas (like the fading suns themselves) to keep it interesting. I’m lukewarm on the system so far, but I’m not that far into it yet; the setting is great.
Before that, I read Jeanne DuPrau’s The City of Ember, a young adult book about post-apocalyptic earth (and the inhabitants of a city who believe their city IS the world), which was slightly too young-reader oriented but still enjoyable; The Night of the Gun, the memoir of a crackhead who turned his life around and raised two daughters as a single dad, which was fantastic (and unlike the best-known example of the genre, James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, not made up crap — the author, David Carr, is a reporter); and Matt Ruff’s Bad Monkeys, which I blazed through — it’s about a web of secret government agencies, the titular one of which is “Bad Monkeys,” the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons; it’s pretty trippy.
Kurt “Telas” Schneider:
With a baby, I don’t have much reading time, but these are on the nightstand:
The Republic of Pirates , Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down – This should be perfect campaign material for a Pirates of the Spanish Main campaign. Or maybe it’s just a good read.
The Collected What If?  Eminent Historians Imagining What Might Have Been – I’ve had this idea for a “Temporal Troubleshooters” game, in which the characters are given the task of ensuring that the “close calls” in history actually happen the way they are supposed to. Or (again), maybe it’s just a good read.
I should add that I was wandering in a used book store while getting new tires, and picked up Legacy of Gird, the prequel to Deed of Paksennarion by Elizabeth Moon. Paks is most excellent; Gird is solid so far.
I’m focused on reading gaming specific materials lately, so not much
Kobold Quarterly 6. The latest issue of Wolfgang Baur’s magazine
dedicated to 3.5 gaming is packed, and I mean packed, with gaming
goodies. If you want to know (the truth) about tieflings, then who
better to learn from than their creator, David “Zeb” Cook? There are
book reviews, clockworks fun from the free city of Zobeck (a favorite
department of mine), an interview with Monte Cook, and an interesting
backdrop article on an alchemist’s lair by Darrin Drader and Sean
MacDonald. I think the article I’m looking forward to the most is
reading Richard Pett’s piece on realistic paladin codes. I really want
to take my time to read this issue at a leisurely pace.
Winter’s Heart, by Robert Jordan. This is a re-read, primarily to
get insights for a possible Wheel of Time rpg mini-campaign I’m
planning for the end of the year. This is not one of Jordan’s best
efforts, but he gives flavor to his world that is impossible to
ignore. I’m reading this with every intention of mining the best parts
for my game.
Serpent Kingdoms, by Ed Greenwood, Eric L. Boyd and Darrin Drader.
In my effort to bone up on the Forgotten Realms, I’m working my way
through some of the supplements that I recently acquired. I’m less
interested in the mechanical stuff (prestige classes, spells and
feats) as I am new monsters and the geography section. Of course it
all works together, but seeing how the authors approach making
serpents worthy villains has been really educational. I think the
Deifiled Temple of the World Serpent is an excellent example of a
I just finished the D&D 4e Players Handbook. I am preparing for playing in a new 4e campaign this fall. I thought the book was a good read, with some amazing artwork. The examples in the book are sound, and I was able to easily grasp the material. The book construction is solid, and I have to say, after a shelf full of 3.x books, I really like the clean white background for the pages.
Before that I read Thirteen by Richard Morgan. Morgan is becoming one of my favorite new Sci Fi authors. His first trilogy of books: Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies were outstanding. His newest book Thirteen breaks from the world he created his first Trilogy. Thirteen is an excellent story, with a well crafted exploration into the issues of genetics and racism. Don’t let the topic of racism put you off. Morgan handles it in a very mature and responsible way, and at the same time does not shy away from a number of tough topics. If you enjoy action, I find Morgan’s writing of actions scenes to be very engaging and exciting.
What with the holiday weekend, how fast some of us read and how many of us there are, this first edition of Tomes of the Gnomes isn’t exactly an accurate snapshot of what we’re reading right this hot minute — most of us have moved on a book or two (or more!).
We figured we’d give it a shot anyway — love it or hate it, let us know what you think in the comments, and tell us what you’re reading!