Thursday, 14 June 2007

Anime Stuff

Been watching a lot of anime recently. Most of it was stuff that I had seen before, although there have been a few new ones as well. I've rewatched Haruhi Suzimiya, Haibane Renmei and Now and then, here and there.

As for new series, I've watched Gunslinger Girl and DNAngel. GG is a fairly good series about psychologically brainwashed schoolgirl assassins, although it's a serious series, not a comedy. DNAngel is a sort of fantasy/drama/romance series. Both are fairly good, although I can't recommend them in the same way I could recommend any of the three series that I rewatched.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't watch them if you get the chance, but I wouldn't go out of your way to see them.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Blood Bowl

I spent a lot of today playing Blood Bowl. Basically someone looked at Warhammer, and thought to themselves 'what would it be like if these guys were playing American Football instead of fighting? And what if there were basically no rules, and players were free to kill, injure and maim each other?'

Well, it turns into a really fun game. It takes about five minutes to set up, and a game can last anywhere from 1 hour to 3 or so. There is a great strategical element, and also a great luck element, as all good games should have. What's more, if you are playing in a league, you keep your team throughout, and your team and players can get better, get more skills, and improve themselves, so you really start to care for your team.

So last week, my team, an undead team unimaginatively called Storge's Zombie All-stars played their first game, losing narrowly to the Spitberg Soulstealers, a Chaos team. This week I wa up against the league's top team, the Dark Elf Har Garrath Harpies, and I didn't really think I had a chance.

The game started well, and within three turns I had taken out four of his players. This allowed me to score a touch-down just before the first half ended. In the second half I was able to score again pretty quickly, and then sail to victory, although he did score a touchdown out of pride just before the game ended.

In fairness, I had a great deal of luck going for me, and the other guy kept rolling 1s, so I shouldn't really have won, but hey.

Play this game. You will love it.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Magic in fantasy

You'd be hard-pressed to find a fantasy setting that doesn't use magic. Indeed, it has pretty much come to be that magic defines fantasy. A fantasy setting is a fantasy setting because it has magic. Any yet, there are so many different variations on the same basic theme that it almost feels like there is no single thing called magic. However, in reality there only seem to be two variations on magic that I can really find. Within these two catagories there are innumerable sub-variations, but it seems like all magic belongs to these two. Most systems of magic that I have seen actually use some combination of the two, tending towards one of them. So what are these catagories, you ask?

Well I like to define them as 'artistic' and 'scientific' magic. The basic definition of scientfic magic is that of rules. In order to use magic, you need to say the right words, or use the right ingredients, or draw the right magic circle. Just about every video game uses scientific magic, the reasons for which will become apparent. Any system where you choose from a list of spells is scientific. Books can also be like this, the magic in Harry Potter, for example, requires the right codewords, and is therefore scientific. Alchemy from Fullmetal Alchemist is very scientific magic, in my opinion. You have to draw a transmutation circle, and re-combine the thing you are transmuting into something else.

Artistic magic, on the other hand, is about imagination. The magic does what you want it to, without reference to scientific laws. Note that this does not make the magic unlimited. A good example would be 'The Will and the Word' from David Edding's Belgariad. A wizard imagines the effect of his magic, wills it to be, and then speaks a word. If he required a specific word, it would be scientific. As it is, the word is merely a conduit, and any word will do. A wizard could imagine a house burning, will it to be, and shout 'turkey' and the house would catch fire. Artistic magic would be terrible in computer games, and even roleplaying games, as the player has to have something to define the magic by. It has now way to tell what he is imagining. I also find that many films use artistic magic, rather than scientific. In the recent LotR films, for example, what magic there was seemed to be based around what the Wizards wanted to happen. Books seem to use them both in roughly equal measure.

Note also that this doens't mean that scientific magic requires no imagination, or that artistic magic is lawless. This whole discussion has been about clearing my own mind on the subject, and is therefore rather disorganised. Artistic magic has laws to it also. There are limits. In the Belgariad, for example, the magic actually tires the wizard out and they can't use anything that is beyond their own mental strength. Similarly, I'm not saying that scientific magic systems have no imagination. Look at FMA for example, when Edward Elric transmutes stone into the shape of a door in order to escape from a building. There is not 'stone to door' circle that he could draw, it's more that he imagined the stone reshaping itself.

So most systems are a mix of the two. I know this has been a rather serious post, but fantasy is one of my favourite genres, and I wanted to clear my own mind about the magic.