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Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Night Gwen Stacy Died


In June 1973 one of the most important comic book arcs of all time came to a shocking conclusion with the death of Gwen Stacy at the hands of the Green Goblin, or perhaps at the hands of Spiderman himself. I was only 4 months old when this happened and would not read the arc until many, many years later while raiding my brother's comic book collection. I didn't really resonate with me at about 8 and it wasn't until I got the Spiderman DVD collection with it in PDF form a few years back and re-read it that it hit home. The second reading was powerful and made a lasting impression. Hurled from one of the towers of the George Washington Bridge and into comic book immortality.

For those not in the know Gwen Stacey was Peter Parker's girlfriend and many contend Peter's true love, not Mary Jane Watson, not Flecia Hardy, not Betty Brant, no it was Gwen. Peter and Gwen met early (The Amazing Spiderman #33) and continued in an on again off again fashion until her death in the story arc "The Night Gwen Stacy died" in ASM #121-122 and its aftermath. The death of Gwen ranks with the Dark Phoenix saga in X-men some 7 years later as one of the greatest story arcs of all time in comics. In short, they just don't make um like they used to. Nothing I've read in the realm of comics would have that much of a cultural impact, even if most people don't know about it. Ins short Ms. Stacy's death in 1973 would set in motion many of the tropes, cliches and over used anti heroes we know today, but more on that later.

Peter would be haunted by her death even more so then the death of his beloved Uncle Ben. With Uncle Ben it was his inaction that caused his death. With Gwen it was his actions that killed her. Uncle Ben's death happened so fast and in Amazing Fantasy #15 that we never had a chance to really care about him to any degree. He was introduced and by the end of that very first comic he was dead. We knew as a reader that he was important to Peter, but he quickly became a deep background figure rather then one of the cast like Gwen. In short Gwen's death impacted the readership in a way that it was impossible for Uncle Ben's to do.

Now its true that the Goblin hurled her from the top of the bridge, not Spiderman. But it was Spiderman's webbing that snapped her neck. This very point became a bone of contention amongst fans for decades until was revealed in the letters to the Editors that there was no way to save her. Even that didn't quell the uproar. At the time the writers said they were surprised by the response (I'm not buying that one bit) so much so, that the original Clone Saga came about due to reader backlash. This in fact became one of the very first, if not the first (and unfortunately not the last) retro-cons in Spiderman's history. Simply put they had to back peddle and still left the reader with an unsatisfactory ending: Peter and Gwen got to say goodbye, but it was bittersweet. But hey the writers could then clear the way and move Mary Jane to the fore.

The importance of this one act cannot be understated as it is considered by many as the end of the Silver Age of Comics heralding the grittier and some would sat more realistic Bronze Age of comics.  I tend to agree with this as never before had a hero failed and failed so spectacularly. In a sense it was controversial then as it is now. Its part of what makes it great: the hero failed. In a sense it is no different then the end of the movie Castaway; we want Chuck to get the girl, but in the end by not going for the Hollywood ending the movie fits better, it feels right its more emotional because of the denial of ones senses of right and wrong. This is the case with Gwen Stacy.

Its also refreshing because in an age of the trench coated, sun-glass wearing at 3 AM hero with major stubble, major attitude problems and a cliched dislike of authority (you know, basically Wolverine) its refreshing to go back to a by-gone age when the hero was actually, you know... likeable. It's laughable that the anti-hero is as much now a cliche as the never fail hero he replaced, but with very few redeeming qualities. But back on point as mentioned: this very incident its what lead to the death of the Silver Age and its attendant likable hero and the start of the much more gritty and realistic Bronze Age. This in turn led to any number of anti-heroes in any number of ant-hero-cliche movies. Many of the directors of these movies have said as much that the Night Gwen Stacy died had a major impact on their writing and directing. Gwen stands as a testament to when the world began to change, at least in comics.

Gwen had and continues to have the the quintessential appeal. The all American girl next door while Mary Jane has always seemed trampy in comparison. Gwen was smart (Chemistry major), a looker (former Beauty Queen of Standard High), fun loving (and who really gained depth in the critical acclaimed (Spiderman Blue Series),  Plus Stan wanted her to be "a lady." Stand wrote her and fully intended for her to marry Peter, he said as much. Thus was born the dresses, the boots and the ubiquitous blackhead band. But by dying young and never being brought back (in any meaningful way) other then flashbacks in the comics she is forever frozen in time. Forever as we remember her without being sullied (The god-awful Sins Past was retro-conned shortly after it came out so I discount it fully; I did when I read it ). There never was the chance for her's and Peter's love to ever suffer the trials and tribulations that Mary Jane's did. Sure they had their ups and downs, but nothing like Peter and Mary Jane later. Her and Peter would forever remain green in the minds of the reader. It's also important to note that before Peter and Mary Jane marry it's the thoughts of Gwen that plague him as if seeking her approval.

Now over the years there has been some lame attempts at resurrecting Gwen and in every alternative history or even in the normal continuity she always gets killed off (the original Kenny McCormick perhaps?) But in the main story line/continuity she forever remains dead, forever a dream, an ethereal one.  That is part of the legend of it: Peter and Gwen were perfect for each other and because she could never been brought back it adds to the anguish of it. I don't think there ever was a more profound shock then her death, not on Peter or on the reader or the comic book community as a whole. And lets be honest here, the story is told through Peter's eyes and the reader puts himself in the place of Peter.

The thing that I find the most ironic about the whole tale of Gwen Stacy is Mary Jane Watson. It's interesting that in the 80's Marvel finally decided to have Gwen, errr... Mary Jane settle down with Peter by finally saying "Yes" after he asked her numerous times. The ironic thing is that the editors basically turned Mary Jane into Gwen... and one has to wonder if that was the case why not go for the real thing rather then Mary Jane? The reasoning was easy. Prior to morphing Mary Jane into Gwen, Mary Jane was the party girl, not the one you marry, you know the bad girl. But in order to have her believable as marriage material they had to change her.  Then there is mash-up that is the first three Spiderman movies, again I ask why make Mary Jane into Gwen? Fortunately things are looking up for the reboot of the Spiderman movies and looky looky, no Mary Jane in sight, but a very capable Emma Stone... playing Gwen Stacy! (Hey guys where is the black head-band! even Straczynski got that one right (acck did I just right that?) 

So where does that leave us? Well the comics have morphed so many times into muddled mess that its impossible to tell. With the reboot of the movies they have a golden opportunity to tell a classic tale of love and heart wrenching loss. In the reboot, Emma Stone played Gwen is to be the love interest and they mirror the comics closer they have a chance at cinematic gold, a moment as powerful as Tom Hanks leaving Kelly's house in Castaway. If they tell this story her death at the top of the bridge will have more impact then the half-hearted attempt in Spiderman I.

Do that and you can pick up your Oscars folks.

And as much as we love her, want her back... in sense its not right if its any other way then for her to be dead. If the story line hadn't happened the way it did the whole thing would have been cheapened. If the movies don't go for the same thing and do a rehash of the first movie then what is the point? Somehow Gwen's death wouldn't mean as much, its precisely the ache, the fact that she died that makes the  great. The fact that we know she was perfect. Time may go by but the angst, the pain and the beautiful picture that is Gwen Stacy will never subside. As long as comic book geeks are around there will be ones that remember her, count me as one.

Gwen Stacey, all kinds of amazing indeed.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stoneskin not quite as badass in 2nd Edition or is it?

Ahhh Stoneskin... I've thought I had this spell down pat over the years then looked at others interpretations of it and thought they were right and then went back to the source and wondered if there is no clear cut definition on the perhaps the most abused spell in 2nd edition AD&D.

I must admit I've played 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons for years and thought I knew this spell inside and out. But much like the 2nd amendment to the Constitution it's a bit puzzling in its phrasing.  There is one pertinent part is unclear or at least hinges on how its interpreted. By this I mean consider the following

4th level Mage spell (page 163 in the 2nd Edition Players Handbook)
Range: Touch
Componnents: V, S M
Duration: Special
Casting Time: 1
Area of Effect: 1 creature
Saving Throw: None

When this spell is cast, the affected creature gains virtual immunity to any attack by cut, blow, projectile or the like. even a sword of sharpness cannot affect a creature protected by stoneskin, nor can a rock hurled by a giant, a snake's strike, etc. However, magical attacks from such spells as fireball. magic missile, lightning bolt, and so forth have their normal effects. The spell blocks 1d4 attacks, plus one attack per two levels of of experience of the caster has achieved. This limit apples regardless of attack rolls and regardless of whether the attack was physical or magical. For example, a stoneskin  spell cast by a 9th-level wizard would protect against five and eight attacks. An attacking griffon would reduce the protection by three each round; four magic missiles would count as four attacks in addition to inflicting their normal damage.

The material components of the spell are granite and diamond dust sprinkled on the recipient's skin.

Now I'm no rules lawyer, but the section that says "This limit apples regardless of attack rolls and regardless of whether the attack was physical or magical."

Now you can interpret it to say: Attack rolls whether the hit or not remove one "skin" from the spell.
Or you could say it doesn't much like where the commas are in the 2nd Amendment its a bit maddening...

So what did Sage Advice have to say about it?
Stoneskin: This spell is subject to considerable abuse by player characters. Multiple stoneskins placed on a single creature are not cumulative. If two or more stoneskin spells are cast on the same creature, roll normally for the number of attacks each spell protects against. If a new spell protects against more attacks than the present spell does, the recipient gets the benefit of the increased protection; otherwise there is no effect. The caster does not necessarily know how many attacks the spell can shield him from.

Stoneskin protects only against blows, cuts, pokes, and slashes directed at the recipient. It does not protect against falls, magical attacks, touch‑delivered special attacks (such as touch‑delivered spells, energy draining, green slime, etc.), or nonmagical attacks that do not involve blows (such as flaming oil, ingested or inhaled poisons, acid, constriction, and suffocation). Stoneskin lasts for 24 hours or until the spell has absorbed its allotment of attacks.

Well this helps, but only a little.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Greatest Warriors of the Westeros- Those who didn't make the Top 10 List

I realize that any list put forth is going to be tough and not everyone will agree, but as I stated with my first post in this series about Brynden Tully: that's the fun! There are so many warriors here that I shuffled around my list a number of times before deciding on who I did. So without further delay: warriors #11-20.

#11- Victarion Greyjoy. I actually had him listed in the Top 10, but he didn't survive the final cut-down to 10. He is certainly the most deadly warrior of the Iron Islands. One can easily make the case of Victarion being somewhere between #6 and 10 in the Top Ten. Every time I've read the series I've gotten the feeling that there are not to many people that would want to cross swords with him. He is surprisingly a thinking warrior and not a hulking brute like The Mountain calm off the battlefield and deadly on it.

#12- Ser Garlan Tyrell- Unfortunately I can't place him higher. He is widely acknowledged as one of the finest swordsmen living in the Seven Kingdoms, but we have nothing more to go on. Even his brother, Loras (in talking to Sansa) admits that Garlan is the better swordsman.

#13- Prince Rhaegar Targaryen- Admittedly I had a hard time with him. Prince Rhaegar was apparently a splendid jouster, but when he took the field against Robert on the Trident it was Robert that prevailed; to me looking at this point there is nothing wrong in that combat: Robert in his prime was just that good. Rhaegar represents the unfulfilled promise of many characters in the book (least of all his own) from Cersei, to Lynna Stark to his younger brother Viserys. He is the sum of all of those characters "what might have beens."

#14- The Knight of Flowers-  Probably controversial being placed this low, but here's why: if the list was for best jouster and showman then he vaults to the top of the list bar none. But it's not. Loras plays at war and his Grandmother the Queen of Thorns says as much. Despite his bezerk fury at Renly's death Loras can't really be placed higher in my honest opinion. He has flashes of brilliance, but interestingly enough when it comes time to lead in battle he utterly fails a the Siege at Dragonstone.

#15- Qhorin Halfhand- he leads off the "bottle-neck" of northerns on my list. He is probably the best warrior living north of the Neck. Certainly he is the greatest warrior the Black Watch. GRRM loves to parallel characters and stories in the book so it will be interesting to see if Jaime's switch to his opposite hand parallels Qhorin's.

#16- Greatjon Umber- every time I think of Greatjon Umber I get the impression of bezerk fury! At the Red Wedding it takes 8 men to subdue him!

#17- Eddard Stark- Eddard never engages in combat in the series, but he somehow managed to walk out of the Tower of Joy alive one of only two men to do so out of 10 in that epic battle.  However, until the details of that fateful encounter are fully known then he's in limbo. He also falls further because GRRM has stated that his brother Brandon was the better warrior.

#18- Brienne of Tarth- well, the warrior maiden is massive and bigger then Jaime, but not quite as large as Ser Gregor. At over 6 feet tall she is worthy of a spot on this list as she has taken out a few bad guys in the series. She does fight Jaime, but then again Jaime wasn't really trying to hurt her either. She almost gets killed  by Biter of all characters... that actually hurts her standing in my opinion.

#19- Jon Snow. Like Robb we get the sense that he is good, but we are never sure just how good, at least not yet... Obviously he has outstanding leadership qualities and if this list were for that alone he would be in the top 10. He leads the Black Watch ably, but he is one of those characters that there is more to come namely in A Dance of Dragons.

#20- Robb Stark. We never get a sense of just how good of a warrior he is with a sword, but it's obvious that he is an outstanding leader on the battlefield, too bad his promise is cut short.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Greatest Warriors of the Westeros- #1 Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning

We've made it from #10 down to #1 on the list of Greatest Warriors of the Westeros countdown and only one warrior remains. And that one warrior is only told as recollections via the main characters and interestingly enough by two of the main antagonists. But, as a movie once said, in the end "there can only be one" and that choice is Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning.

The Sword of the Morning is by consensus the greatest knight that ever lived. Its not just one person saying this, its everyone in the whole damn series. The main problem is that as of now we know precious little about him. So how can he be number one? Easy, read on.

#1- Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning
Ser Arthur was a member of the Kingsguard and is widely considered one of the greatest knights of that order. Now that is saying something when you consider some of the men that have worn the white: Gerold Hightower, Duncan the Tall, (read the Dunk and Egg stories for more info), Ser Ryam Redwyne, Ser Serwyn of the Mirror Shield amongst others. When one can mention the Sword of Morning in the same breath as these legendary fighters... you know you are talking about someone special.

Ser Arthur was instrumental in defeating the Kingswood Brotherhood as well as slaying the Smiling Knight. While fighting the Smiling Knight, the same's sword broke. Ever the chivalrous knight Ser Arthur let him get another before recommencing with combat. Jaime Lannister was made a knight at that point and was impressed by Ser Arthur. So is it simple hero worship on Jaime's part? Doubtful. It was Ser Arthur who brought the grievances of the smallfolk to Aerys II during the time of the Kingswood Brotherhood. Because of this he became beloved by the smallfolk and they turned their support away from the brotherhood. Couple this with his actions against the Smiling Knight. Would anyone let The Mountain that Rides get another sword if he broke it? Again, doubtful. In short Ser Arthur was the real deal when it came to living and breathing what a knight should do and be. Martin loves contrast so he uses Ser Arthur a the epitome of knighthood then casts this against the events of the books. With the Kingswood Brotherhood, Ser Arthur gets bonus points for leading men in combat.

Now from here it takes a bit of reading and then deductive reasoning on the part of, well everyone everywhere. Look at the list so far: Is there anyone on the list that Ser Arthur couldn't beat? Ser Arthur is one of those warriors that comes along once every 1,000 years. He is designed to be legend, the fact that he is one in his own time just makes everything add up. There is no one that he is even breaking a sweat against listed so far. think about those that I haven't listed, is there anyone there beating him? No I say!

If for no other reason Ser Arthur Dayne gets the top spot when you consider the words from from none other then the Kingslayer himself when he says this to Ser Loras Tyrell about Ser Arthur in A Feast for Crows:

"I served with Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, who could have slain the six of you with his left hand while taking a piss with his right".

Now Jaime is no slouch himself when it comes to a blade (He was #3 on this list) and this is pretty high praise from someone who is about as arrogant as they come prior to his sword hand being lopped off. It would be off putting from just Jaime, but once again Eddard Stark saves the day by backing Jaime up when taking about Ser Arthur on a different occasion: "He was the finest knight I've ever seen and he would have killed me if it were not for Howland Reed." Strong stuff and coming from Eddard and it's hardly open to interpretation. Think about who Eddard has seen in his lifetime: Ser Barristan Selmy, Bronze Yohn Royce, Robert Baratheon, Prince Rhegar and many more. Yet Eddard gives him the compliment that he does. A way to honor a foe who is insanely heroic? A trick of sorts? Highly unlikely as it's Eddard saying this, a man famous throughout the kingdom for his honor.

Another unusual thing about Ser Arthur is that he is the only character in the series having a mighty blade, but one that is wholly unique: it's not Valyrian steel. Now, this could just be an odd coincidence, but GRRM rarely does things for happenstance in the series. Ser Arthur's sword, Dawn is actually made from the metal of a fallen meteor and is featured in the house's coat of arms as a result. Again this may mean nothing, but then again it could be an interesting angle considering the whole "Prince who was promised" prophecy (although the leading candidate is Daenerys. More interesting is the fact that after the Tower of Joy (see below) Ned brings his sword to Ser Arthur's heir. This heir is Edric Dayne, who is wet-nursed along with Jon Snow  That's interesting, very interesting....  Why would Eddard bring Jon Snow to a family to be wet-nursed when said family is one that he just killed it's most famous scion? In short you don't, at least not without a reason you don't. Even Eddard is not going to do something like this for no reason. It could be Eddard's famous honor, but I'm doubting that is the reason. In short Ser Arthur's story is not done yet I'm guessing and it is very much tied up in Jon Snow and Eddard.

Another point is that the statement by Ned about Ser Arthur begs the question: What exactly happened in the Tower of Joy in Dorne? We know or are pretty certain that Jon Snow is the son of Lyanna Stark and Prince Rhaegar. Why else would three of the Kingsguard (including its Lord Commander Gerold Hightower) be guarding it and Lyanna while a war for the crown of the Seven Kingdoms was being waged? Either way its apparent that you don't send your best warriors and their commander to the end of the kingdom for no reason. So again just what happened there? One gets the feeling that it wasn't your average sword fight. It could turn out that it's nothing like we expected: Howland Reed poisoned Ser Arthur or any other possible explanations. Apparently it was Eddard that killed Ser Arthur Dayne but to me that seems a bit too tidy. We do know that it was seven against 3. Ten men in the fight and only two walked out alive with neither ever talking about what happened. With the only one being now left alive now:  Howland Reed...

So unless some new characters get introduced in the series it's Ser Arthur Dayne that stands as the Greatest Warrior of the Seven Kingdoms. That's right, we know little about him and none of it directly. But from what we do know, we know this: the Sword of the Morning stands head and shoulders above the rest. How is this so? Two of the main characters of the book Jaime and Eddard have the same opinion, that alone is saying something...

Ser Arthur is a mystery with some holes poked through the shroud of his character. He is not a deep, deep history character and his exploits are well known to the Seven Kingdoms, just not to the reader as of yet.

And there it is. I don't expect that people will totally agree with my selections but as I stated, that's the fun. Something like this makes it impossible to ever reach consensus. I wanted to get this done before A Dance of Dragons is out and I made it with 8 days to spare.

My next post will contain my list of warriors #11-20, i.e. those that didn't make the top 10. It was tough to get to 10 so there are some excellent warriors that have nothing to be ashamed about being where they are.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Greatest Warriors of the Westros- #2, Oberyn Martell- The Red Viper of Dorne

Yeah! When you look up bad-ass in the dictionary there is Oberyn Martel, the Red Viper of Dorne starring back at you, and kicking your ass from the page at the same time. Prince Oberyn is just that hardcore. If he met up with Chuck Norris... I'm not so sure Chuck would win.

The mercenary, screw everything that walks, kill it all, balls to the wall Red Viper stands head and shoulders above almost everyone else in the books and rightly takes his place as #2 of the Greatest Warriors of the Westeros.

#2- Oberyn Martel, the Red Viper of Dorne
Right before he dies (in perhaps the ultimate combat of the books) who does the Red Viper slay? None other then the Mountain that Rides, that's who. That's right the largest warrior to walk the Seven Kingdoms falls to the Red Viper's spear.

While a Prince (its assumed that he is a knight) he eschews the traditional weaponry of knights: the sword and prefers to fight with a spear. While his climatic opponent uses massive plate armor, he is armored lighty, dancing around the Mountain taunting him, One get the sense that The Red Viper can kill him at any time, but wants to draw it out after the murder of his sister Elia of Drone after the Sack of King's Landing during the culmination of Robert's Rebellion. The epic duel of Oberyn and Gregor is one of the, if not the best duels in the entire series thus far. I'll get to that epic duel later but first...

Before he fought The Mountain that Rides, he was in a  duel when he was just 16. Apparently he was found bedding the paramour of Lord Yronwood. Due to his age, a duel to first blood was arranged. Well Oberyn won said duel drawing first blood as proscribed by the rules. Problem was that Lord Yronwood's wound festered and he died from but a scratch. It was rumored that Oberyn poisoned his spear and thus the legend of the Red Viper was borne.

Oberyn Martell's actions also are responsible for the enmity between House Martell and House Tyrell. At a joust Willas Tyrell had his leg managed in a freak accident. Oberyn was blamed. Interestingly enough there is no bad blood between Oberyn and Willas over this incident. Oberyn even sent his maester to tend to Willas.

Adding to his fame is the fact that he served as a mercenary leader, studied at the Citadel and even forged six links to his chain before becoming bored as well as serving in the Free Cities. And it was not "just" in the Free Cities, but the Disputed Lands where warfare is a constant serving with the Second Sons. So he scores extra points in this countdown for being leader of men.

For even more badass: the fact that he has 8 bastard daughters known as the Sand Snakes. Lord Walder Frey might be able to fill an army with his fruits of his loins, but I'd take the Red Viper's progeny any day of the week, twice on Sundays.

This bring us to the fight, and I mean the fight. When Joffrey finally bites the dust in A Storm of Swords everyone except Cersei is rejoicing. I mean really, is there anyone who actually liked the annoying, mini-male version of Cersei? However the King being killed is naturally going to cause some accusations to fly and it's Tyrion who gets blamed. When it becomes apparent that he will not get justice he demands trial by combat and to which Cersei gleefully calls for Ser Gregor Clegane to be her champion. Everyone figures that Tyrion is now dead as who is going to fight the Mountain that Rides, let alone for the Imp? Calmly and cooly Oberyn Martell tells the court that he will stand for Tyrion, not for Tyrion's sake mind you, but for his thirst for revenge on Gregor for what he did to his sister Elia of Dorne. Tyrion's defense merely provides the excuse.

It's readily apparent that like Bronn vs. Ser Vardis in the Vale that Oberyn has sized up his opponent quite well. He knows how to kill him. Also on his side is the fact that unlike everyone else he is not frightened by Ser Gregor's size. Elaria Sand his paramour remarks "You're going to fight that?" to which The Red Viper dryly replies "No, I'm going to kill that." How about that for hardcore? Most knights would be turning in their Ser's or pissing in their armor and The Red Viper is ready to kill the most massive warrior in the Seven Kingdoms and is looking forward to it.

Right off the bat it's apparent what the Red Viper's strategy is: wear down the massive Gregor and taunt him. In this Bronn approves as it's the same basic strategy he used in the Vale. Oberyn jabs and thrusts and most importantly stays out of Ser Gregor's massive reach. Simultaneously he taunts the massive Gregor knowing this will add to his frustration and open him up to a well places strike. Ser Gregor who is not the most patient under the best of circumstances falls for this shouting for him to shut up.

The strategy works as Oberyn continues to strike, eventually wounding Ser Gregor. All the while the taunting continues: "You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children!" Over and over The Red Viper speaks this (something akin to Inigo Montoya, but I digress) to wring as much vengeance from the fight as possible. You can feel this scene ooze with tension as well as a deep connection to the back story of the Seven kingdoms.

Finally the Red Viper moves in and after a running vault pins the Mountain to the ground with his poisoned spear rammed through the Mountain's gut. And with that the Mountain is defeated as Oberyn reaches for the Mountain's sword to finish him off he continues to taunt him and drops his guard. In coming too close to the dying giant (something he avoided doing all fight) the Mountain is able to grab ahold of him and thrust his hands into Oberyn's eyes and bash his skull with his massive fists shouting "You mean like this and this?!" in reply to the Red Viper's taunting. At such close range the Prince is slain, but the Mountain is now succumbing to the poisons effect; not even a man as massive as Ser Gregor can shake it off.

So while he is slain because of his own zeal and thirst for revenge, ultimately it's Prince Oberyn that triumphs as the poison used causes the Mountain to die a slow, agonizing death in incredible pain. His sister is avenged and his place in the halls of badassery is assured.

Say what you want, but to me the Red Viper of Dorne is as bad ass as they come and one the best characters in the books hands down. It's unfortunate that he only appears in A Storm of Swords and is gone within a few chapters. But, as far as hardcore, kick-ass, warriors go: there is only one ahead of him in the Song of Ice and Fire. Stay tuned.

Also I'd like to point out the excellent work at The Wiki of Ice and Fire, as well as the Tower of the Hand keep up the great work guys!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Greatest Warriors of the Westros- #3 The Kingslayer

Every good book series needs a villain right? Well, in the first few books it looks as if Ser Jaime Lannister is just that guy, that is until the end of a Storm of Swords and into A Feast for Crows. From there the reader's view of Jamie changes drastically. With that said its the Kingslayer himself, Jaime Lannister that makes my list as the #3 Greatest Warrior of the Westeros.

#3 -Ser Jaime Lannister, The Kingslayer
The Kingslayer is a tricky character. Like every character Martin writes there is more then meets the eye. Certainly at first glance we see a shallow, cruel man (throwing Bran out the window anyone?) But by book #3, A Storm of Swords we see a much more complex character.

Jaime is in every sense the golden boy, just look at him! He has everything and oh yeah he gets the hottest girl in the kingdom, too bad it's his sister Cersei. See that's where he goes really wrong in the character department, the things he does for love, namely pushing Bran out the window in Winterfell.

First off let start with his nickname: The Kingslayer. He earned this moniker when he slew the Mad King Aerys II during the sack of King's Landing when Aerys tried to destroy the city with the help of wildfire. For this act Jaime thought people would love him for saving the city, but they were in fact recoiled by him. He remarked about this fact saying that he wanted to be Ser Arthur Dayne, but became the Smiling Knight, referring to the previous generation's monster, i.e. the predecessor to Ser Gregor Clegane.

Despite this Jaime is brave, so brave that as a squire for Sumner Crakehall he saved his life when he stopped Big Belly ben, another member of the infamous Kingswood Brotherhood along with the Smiling Knight. It was after this that he was knighted by Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning himself.

Further intrigues involving his sister led him to become a member of the Kingsguard as a means to be able to stay close to his sister as well as void marring Lysa Tully. Knighted by the Lord Commander, Gerold Hightower, Jaime took the white, much to the displeasure of his father Lord Tywin. It's also important to note that at 17, he became the youngest member ever to serve in the Kingsguard.

In combat Jaime is a master with the blade; he can make his sword do whatever he wants it to. His sword abilities make him one of the deadliest warriors in the Seven Kingdoms. He is one of the younger characters to make the list and represents the generation of Ser Loras Tyrell, and his brother Garlan. In the lance he is quite skilled as well having won tourneys that he reflects upon when he becomes Lord Commander.

In battle he is fierce as befits the words of House Lannister: "Hear me roar!" He defeats Ser Edmure Tully at the Goodtooth and then leads his host onwards towards the Riverlands. He is only bested by Robb Stark at the Battle of the Camps through superior numbers in which he is captured. In the process of trying to get to the Young Wolf he slays several men including the Karstarks. from there he is taken prisoner and finally only released by Catelyn Stark. So for that he gets bonus points for not only being a  great warrior, but a leader of men as well.

Jaime's only real blindside is his devotion to his sister. Their relationship is so lopsided that he is at a handicap, until their falling out in A Feast for Crows that is. It is also in a Feast for Crows and after his sword hand is cut off that Jaime becomes a different man. Vargo Hoat does this in order to drive a wedge between the Lannisters and Roose Bolton, but this ploy fails. His hand being severed is nothing more then a gambit in the Game of Thrones and achived none of the aims it was intended to convey. Jaime's whole life is wrapped up in how good he is at arms. It's when he can't swing a sword he drops into a depression and only emerges after he saves the life of Brienne of Tarth.

Jaime's reputation is as such that he is able to get Ser Boros Blount (when Jaime can hardly swing a sword on his return to King's Landing) to acquiesce to his commands. Such is his reputation that he is able to humble him with a member of the Kingsguard with words alone, knowing full well that people know of the reputation of the Kingslayer not as he is now.

Still later in a A Feast for Crows, Jaime begins the oft-painful process of sparring with Ilyn Payne in order to learn to swing a sword with his left hand.

Prior to his sword hand being cut off the Kingslayer is one of the deadliest warriors and as such merits his inclusion on this list. It's well earned and only time will tell if Jaime is as good with his left hand as was with his right.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Greatest Warriors of the Westeros- #4 Ser Barristan Selmy

The venerable Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Barristan Selmy makes my list as the #4 Greatest Warrior of the Westeros. Advanced in age for a warrior, but showing no signs of slowing down Ser Barristan certainly lives up to his moniker of "The Bold".

#4-Ser Barristan Selmy
Ser Barristan is revered, nay beloved by the highborn and smallfolk of the Seven kingdoms alike. He is the type of knight that fits the rommance, the ones that Sansa dreams about. At the time of the War of the Five Kings he is the Lord Commander for King Robert Baratheon and had served under the Mad King Aerys, presumably as a knight rather then Lord Commander. I say this because at the time of the Tower of Joy, the Lord Commander was Gerold Hightower. Gerold was actually at the Tower and was slain so it's unclear when Barristan became Lord Commander. He was pardoned by Robert after the Trident, so it's possible that there was a gap between Gerold and Barristan.

After the pardon he serves Robert as Lord Commander until dismissed by Cersei after Robert's death. This has a profound effect of him, denouncing the Baratheon heir (actually Lannister heir when you look at it) and setting out on the road of seeking Daenerys. The best part of his dismissal is his frank appraisal of Joffery and the fact that he takes crap from no one over it. When the pathetic Gold Cloaks of the City Watch of King's Landing (aka "Red Shirts") arrive to arrest him, he dispatches them and disappears until turning up in A Feast for Crows.

Ser Barristan has been a member of the Kingsguard for ages it seems as he joined when he was 23  He earned his nickname by taking part in a joust at the age of 10 when he was still a squire after acruring some armor.

He defeated Prince Rhaegar at the Tourney at Strom's End and even The Hound in another joust so his skill is not to be doubted. And on top of all of this he was knighted at 16. He is most likely a prodigy as a knight by any sense of the definition.

Much like some of the other characters in the book we get a sense of his prowess only through the past. But like other mighty warriors he is seen as outstanding example of knighthood and a great warrior. Slaying Maelys the Monstrous probably doesnt hurt your knight cred either. Barristan is not one of those "deep history" characters but from a generation prior, a generation prior to Robert/Ned's generation. But it's important to note that everyone who talks about his prowess is united in their praise.

The interesting part is that he is not caught in the "crossfire" of having served The Mad King, which was responsible for Robert's Rebellion through his actions. Presumably the Kingsguard do just that: guard the king, not judge him. This is alluded to by Jaime when he talks about slaying Aerys. Perhaps Ser Barristan's fame is beyond reproach.

We do not however get a sense as to what kind of leader of men he is. Being a member of the Kingsguard presumably precludes a lot of this as his primary role is the protection of the king. The fact however that he survived the Trident when many didn't is important to note.

As an aside one gets the sense that Barristan is set in the mold of William Marshal. He is a renowned tourney fighter like Marshal and a warrior par excellence. Given Martin's perchance for "borrowing/being inspired by"  history I think this is quite the case. Ser Barristan is a noted jouster and successful having fought in the War of the Ninepenny Kings. Again echoes to William Marshal: successful in war and tourney. Having fought in the Ninepenny War one wonders how familiar he is with Brynden Tully (at #10 on this countdown).

I feel comfortable with where Ser Barristan is here: beloved by the high and low in the Seven Kingdoms and with the prowess to back it up, even at the age of 57. He is one of the finest blades of the realm and fitting that he appears at #4.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Greatest Warriors of the Westeros- #5 Sandor Clegane

I'm now up to #5 on the list of Greatest Warriors of the Westeros and its getting tougher and tougher to rank them as I go. It's with some trepidation that I place this next warrior at #5. But, when you consider who is on the list at spots from #1-4 you'll see why Sandor Clegane is here.

The Hound, or simply Dog as Joffrey refers to him is Sandor Clegane. Sandor is the younger brother of the Mountain that Rides. Has there ever been a family with such cool nicknames? The problem is that the Cleganes are far from a happy family. Sandor was burned horrifically by his older brother Gregor for playing with a unused toy of Gregor's. The result was that Sandor's face was burned, lost an ear and has no hair on the section of scalp where he was burned. With his innocence shattered Sandor grew to despise knights (which he has previously idolized) and harbor a great rage for his brother.

#5-Sandor Clegane
As warrior the Hound is one of the finest fighters in the Seven Kingdoms. His fearsome size and  abilities make him a intimidating foe. He has no real fear other then fire, which given the circumstances of his childhood are understandable. Despite this he does distinguish himself at the Battle of Blackwater during the War of Five Kings.

Sandor as noted has a contempt for knights and it is rather amusing that he is apponted to the Kingsguard without being one. He simply refuses to become a knight as his goals in life surround one thing: slaying his brother Gregor.

At the Battle of the Blackwater he fights valiantly and cuts through Renly's host. we also have reports of his prowess before and after but would have been a tad bit to young to have fought in Robert's Rebellion.

Other reports of his prowess are that he killed his first man at 12 and was able to slay Beric Dondarrion in single comabt after the assault on King's Landing. In short, crossing swords with Sandor is a risky proposition for an opponent and one that is likely to be fatal.

For all of his gruff exterior and claim of dislike of the hypocrisy of knights (as he sees it) he does have some curious "soft spots". First off as member of the Kingsguard he is often called on to guard Sansa when she is betrothed to Joffrey. While the other members of the Kingsguard obey Joffrey and hit her without question, the Hound doesn't. He deflects and shields her from his wrath. After the Battle of Blackwater he comes to Sansa in her room and could have had his way with her, but he doesn't. For all his mocking attitudes towards her the show of affection is there. Perhaps he sees her as he once was.

Secondly. Sandor saves the life of the Knight of Flowers during the tourney at King's Landing. Now whether he does this because of desire to get to grips with Gregor we might never know, but its clear that he didn't have to act. No one else did.

Another act revolving around Sansa is the riot that happens in A Clash of Kings. When Joffrey incites the mob to the noble party bolts for the Red Keep. Confusion reigns and several members of the party are dragged off to be killed or in the case of Lollys raped. Sansa is missing initially as is the Hound. Keep in mind that its unarmed smallfolk but where Ser Preston Greenfield, Ser Aron Santagar and others are slain, its the Hound comes through saving Sansa's life or at least from being violated.

He is tough as well. After taking some wounds that became infected he was able to cross some distances before his fate became unknown in A Storm of Swords. It's important to note that he was fighting three men at the same time, no small feat for anyone. 

Sandor is implied to lead forces at the Battle of Black Water and he at least survived so that is saying something, but we do not get any other indication of his abilities at leading a force. In this list I'm giving extra points for excellence in leading men in battle so he gets middling marks here. Rather its his downright impressive warrior skills that make up for it.

In closing Sandor is one of the best warriors of his generation and the only thing that is missing is for him to slay Gregor. But given Gregor's demise when he crosses paths with the Red Viper of Dorne... Well "Frankengregor" is always a possibility. He is also despite his claims a warrior with something of a conscience. Make no mistake he has his flaws like everyone else (killing Mycah for instance), but there is more then meets the eye when one considers the Hound.

I feel comfortable placing him here as he is in some mighty company and technically he is probably the greatest warrior in the series who is not a knight.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Greatest Warriors of the Westeros- #6 Syrio Forel

Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water... Sorry, but I've been busy resurfacing the floor in my living roof, the roofers have been putting a new roof on and on top of all this I've been sick. To paraphrase Austin Powers "I mean honestly, who gets a cold in June?!?"

Anyways, I'm back and its time for pick #6 of the Greatest Warriors of the Westeros countdown. This time we turn to a rather mysterious figure: "Syrio Forel". I put that in parenthesis because does anyone believe that is his real name? No figure in all of the Song and Ice and Fire thus far has inspired perhaps as much speculation as Syrio Forel. To say that the First Sword of Bravos is a widely loved character would be a gross understatement.

#6-Syrio Forel
Syrio is hired to be a tutor of sorts for Arya. The mysterious swordsman from across the Narrow Sea is an enigma right from the start. In a land full of warriors encased in plate armor and proficient in the lance and sword, Syrio uses a light-fencing blade. It's never really explained in full why she is not lumped with Sansa doing girly things. There is some discussion in A Game of Thrones and it is established that she is the opposite of her older sister, but Ned seems to give her a great deal of latitude once they reach King's Landing. Even with being a Tom Boy it seems unlikely that the 2nd daughter of a important noble would be allowed to be anything other then a future bride to seal an alliance with another noble house in the Seven Kingdoms.

The First Sword of Braavos takes the young Arya under his wing and begins to train her. Train her to be an assassin basically that is. There is commentary of his prowess but at no time does the reader get the sense that he is what he appears to be.

One point to the negative for Syrio is that presumably he is not a leader in battle. However if he is indeed associated with the Faceless Men of Bravos then leading might take on a whole new meaning.

Maybe it’s a Boba Fett thing, but the fans seem to earnest like the character, prompting Martin to reply (paraphrasing here: "Why can't people accept he's dead? He's not invincible". Now that Martin has gone on record with saying this, I’m inclined to believe otherwise. Oftentimes Martin will seemingly change is mind when he gets annoyed with his fans... time will tell. Of course like the a fore mentioned bounty hunter in Star Wars, perhaps it’s the obscure, quasi anti-hero thing rearing its head. Syrio was after all facing down a group of Lannister guard as well as Ser Meryn Trant of the Kingsguard. Seems rather unnecessary to include him to a great degree, to instill initial training in Arya if he was going to be killed so “easily”. Ser Meryn Trant while a member of the Kingsguard is not mentioned as being a warrior par excellence so one wonders if more... 

Even if he was killed in the overthrow of Ned Stark in Kings Landing then that raises the question of just who is Arya's teacher in Braavos? I'm thinking and so are a lot of folks that it's Syrio. We all could be wrong as it would not be unlike Martin to change his mind but at same time he seems to be the most likely candidate, him or Jaqen H'ghar.

So there you go the "Dancing Master" *ahem*, *ahem* (cough*Ninja*cough) makes our list at #6. We really don’t get a sense of his fighting prowess per say but much like someone else who makes the list somewhere between 1-5 it’s the “off screen” implication of being a great fighter that makes all the difference.

(Also I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the awesome character portraits by Amok, this guy rocks and you can find his stuff here:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Greatest Warriors of the Westeros- #7 Gregor Clegane

Wait, what's this I hear you say? The Mountain that Rides is at #7 of the countdown of the greatest warriors of the Westeros? Preposterous, how can this be?

Well I'm glad you asked because when looked at from just the surface how could anyone beat out the Mountain? Well, if nothing else the Red Viper of Dorne might have some thoughts on the matter.

#7-Gregor Clegane
 For those not in the know the Mountain that Rides, aka Gregor Clegane is a massive, imposing man standing 7 feet tall and weighing in at 300 lbs. He's nasty, ill tempered and utterly ruthless; he's the type of ruthless that gives ruthless a bad name. Want an example? He raped Elia of Dorne after bashing her infant son against a wall. Further he burned his brother Sandor's face for simply playing with a unused toy of his. Further? It's rumored that he killed multiple members of his own family.

Encased in black armor and swinging a massive great sword there are few foes that can stand before him. And therein is his principal weapon: fear. His opponents know they are going to lose prior to fighting him. It's interesting to see just who is not intimidated by Gregor, namely Oberlyn Martell, the Red Viper or Dorne who casually remarks to his lover prior to fighting him "No, I'm going to kill that."

So when you strip away his advantages you are left with, reputedly the strongest man in the Westeros, a expert warrior, but also a lumbering one. The fact that the Red Viper uses to his advantage in slaying the Mountain.

Gregor should be noted that it's said he is without fear and also filled with nothing but rage. He is also so vengeful that he tries to kill the Knight of Flowers at the Tourney of the Hand in Kings Landing in A Game of Thrones for besting him in the joust. Only the intervention of his brother the Hound prevents this.

The Mountain also scores higher on the list as he has shown battlefield prowess in raiding the Riverlands and the Trident in A Clash of Kings during the War of Five Kings. The fact that it borders on extreme brigandage not withstanding. It could be argued he is only a tactician as the strategy comes from above, namely Tywin Lannister.

The Mountain serves a role in the books: that of a monster. His purpose is to be a unlikeable, un-killable machine devoid of and positive emotion. Even Tywin Lannister realizes that even noble lords have "need of a monster."

So there he is, the monster of the Westeros, The Mountain that Rides is #7 on the count down. Amazing stuff as the competition from here on out is getting tough to decide on. 

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Greatest Warriors of the Westeros- #8 Bronn

At #8 of the count down of the Ten Greatest Warriors of the Westeros we go from Robert Baratheon, the King at #9, to perhaps one of the most base-born characters in the books: Bronn. Before I get into it I know there is a huge faction who thinks he is the greatest warriors ever in the books. I don't agree with this, see below for why.  I think some of the appeal is the ant-hero vibe that is so prevalent today. Great, he's an anti-hero, doesn't mean he's "better". And as we go to through the list I don't think Bronn could win with the likes of #1-5, but more on them later.

The lean, mean, two-fisted warrior of the Westeros makes the list, cool. When we first meet him its during a Caetlyn chapter in A Game of Throne, when she hauls the Imp to the Aerie of the Vale. Being the smart sort Tyrion demands trial by combat and Bronn steps up against Ser Vardis Egen which he easily slays winning Tyrion's freedom. Getting their he helped repel an assault of the Mountain Men as well.

Bronn is  certainly not the strongest warrior and perhaps not even the quickest warrior in the books. What Bronn probably is: one of the, if not the smartest warriors in the books. Bronn above all else survives and he does this by knowing when and how to fight, but even more importantly when not to fight. Only he and the Red Viper are not intimidated by the Mountain that Rides (at least as far as we the readers know) and tells Tyrion how he could be defeated. It's also telling that he declines to champion Tyrion (a second time in fact) this time around against likes of Gregor rather then an over-matched Ser Vardis Egen; that's where the Red Viper steps in. Not that he's afraid mind you, it's there is nothing in it for him. That is probably Bronn's biggest strength: he fights for nothing, if nothing can be gained.

It's important to note that he is not above tricks and dirty ones at that. As a sellsword he is agile and fights with less armor then most. Sometimes he fights with two weapons so we can be pretty sure of his skill. Above all he is practical, formality means nothing to him. In that sense he's the exact opposite of The Knight of Flowers.

Bronn so far has not really beaten anyone that could be called dangerous. Dangerous in the sense that he is really going to have a hard time dispatching them. Bronn is too smart for that; one could say however that he only fights foes he is sure that he can beat as well as if there is something in it for him.

Bronn is brave, but his survival instinct makes him a curious case. The interesting thing is that fact that he fought well at the Battle Blackwater. Clearly he could have slipped away, but there he was leading sorties along with the Hound.

Again, in closing: I personally have nothing against Bronn. Bronn is probably not the best warrior in the Westeros (hey he made the list), but he is probably #1 or 2 when it comes to smarts as a warrior. He has a critical eye to see the weakness of his foe and capitalize on them. That's why he is here, against some of the later that will appear on this list his smarts would probably not save him.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Greatest Warriors of the Westeros- #9 Robert Baratheon

Continuing from the last post it's time to list another warrior on the Top Ten countdown of the Greatest Warriors of the Westeros in the Song of Ice and Fire. At #9 is: Robert Baratheon: King, drunkard and warrior. Lets get something straight beforehand, it's obvious that Robert Baratheon is King Henry VIII of England turned up to 11, ok, with that out of the way onto Robert.

#9-Robert Baratheon
While other knights use sword and lance, Robert uses a hammer to absolutely smash his foes into submission. Presumably he's trained in the others, but he really doesn't need it. Want proof? Ask Rhegar on The Trident where Robert wrests the crown from the Targaryens if he's any good as a warrior. While others might shirk from danger, he tackles it head on to the point of rash foolishness.

Living up to his family's words "Ours is the Fury" is just part of his character; he's as tempestuous as they come as the Lord of Storm's End. Probably fitting that he should wed Cersei Lannister who is as volatile as he. Anyone who can stand up to that, uh woman... is pretty damn tough.

The series of books that Martin writes all hinge on The War of the Usurper or Robert's Rebellion as it is also known as. It's the focal point of before and after. It is the fact that many of the lords rise up in rebellion against the mad King Aerys after the mad king murders many of the leading noble lords and their sons (including Ned's father and brother Brandon) that sets the stage for the events of the current time line culminating with Robert slaying Prince Rhaegar on the Trident.

The fact that Robert is past his prime by the time of A Game of Thrones is doubly sad as we see him as the hollow shell of what he once was and greatly unhappy for it.  For him, striving for the crown was more of challenge and more rewarding. Actually governing bores him to he tells Ned that "that damned chair will rub your ass raw". Of all of the warriors in the book Robert has probably fallen the farthest from what he once was. When he fought Prince Rhaegar  he crushed his chest and armor; smashing the very ornamentation off of the Prince's armor as well. And by all accounts Prince Rhaegar was a stout warrior. By the time of A Game of Thrones instead, we get a worn and spent Robert.

Just like every character is Martin's pantheon Robert is flawed: His is a drunk and above all a womanizer sleeping with any women around so it seems. His bastards are numerous, his appetites legendary, but its clear that Robert was never cut out to be King. His character is such that he would have been better served drinking, fighting and wenching his way to oblivion across the Narrow Sea. He even laments this to Eddard. That was he first, best destiny, sadly it was not the story fate would have in store for him. It's Robert's death in A Game of Thrones that leads to the  War of the Five Kings.

Robert makes the list at #9 as a powerful warrior in his prime and for being such a catalyst to the overall story. Robert was relentless, his power faded to the shell that we see him in before his untimely death.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Greatest Warriors of the Westeros- #10 The Blackfish

Starting off, if you didn't know: I'm a huge fan of GRR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire (or ASOIAF as us fans call it.

Within the pages of the four books, soon to be five, there are awesome combats depicted and amazing, cunning and downright devious warriors.

So with this in mind I'm going to count down the 10 Best Warriors of A Song of Ice and Fire starting with #10. For criteria I selected only warriors from the time-frame of Robert's Rebellion going forward on the current timeline (generally speaking). I did this to avoid the comparisons to the "Great Knights" of lore in the deep history of the Westeros. Too much about them is Ipso-Facto as to how great, manly or fierce warriors they were. It's too tough to reliably and accurately gauge their prowess.

I should add that I'm also taking into account tactics on the battlefield as consideration. It's one thing to be great with a weapon individually or even with a unit. It's entirely another thing to be able to lead in tactics and strategies. Some few possess all of them. It's not the sole, overriding factor, but it does matter.

Bear in mind I don't think everyone will agree with my choices, but you'll have the opportunity to make your case here on the blog. So without further delay it's time to kick things off with warrior #10 on the list.

#10- Brynden Tully, "The Blackfish"

It seems that all of the cool warriors of Westeros have great nick-names and Brynden Tully is no different. Gaining his nickname for defying his family (namely is older brother Hoster Tully) he garners the name "Blackfish". Brynden takes this supposed insult and adopts the black fish as his personal emblem. Eventually "The Blackfish" leaves the Riverlands of his home and eventually by the time we first meet him in A Game of Thrones he is in the service of the Vale.

Brynden makes the list not just for his list of exploits in the book, but for perhaps one reason alone: When the forces of the Lannisters have Riverun under siege its the Blackfish that is guarding the place as his brother Lord Holster is dying in bed.

In A Feast for Crows, Jaime Lannister of whom I'm sure I'll write more about later rides to parley. The Blackfish rides out and coolly meets him and is largely unimpressed with the Kingslayer. Jaime engages in a fair bit of banter and all the while the Blackfish sits there and sizes up the Kingslayer with barely a concern. That right there puts you in the realm of bad-ass. The Kingslayer who is one of the finest swords in the realm and your not concerned in the slightest? And on top of that he inspired Jaime to be a knight in the first place after fighting in the War of the Ninepenny Kings. The Blackfish is even willing to let his nephew Edmure die by hanging thus calling the Lannisters bluff. In short the Blackfish doesn't bend a knee to anyone.

We do not get any scenes of the Blackfish in battle (at least not yet- here's to hoping that it happens in A Dance of Dragons), but everyone who talks about him all comes to the same conclusion that he is one of the better knights and warriors in the Seven Kingdoms. His actions speak loudly and people know of him in the same breath as Ser Barristan Selmy.

And if that were not enough he stubbornly refuses to give up the war even after Robb is killed at the Red Wedding. He still is ready to go to war and not bend even after there is no need to. If you looked up uncompromising in any dictionary there would be his face. When Riverrun is surrendered he swims out through the Water Gate rather then give up!

The Blackfish ranks at #10 and is perhaps the best well-rounded of any of the characters in the books, certainly the knights.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Icebiter Games Publications is now on Facebook

I'll still update the blog here as this is more my musings on things but Facebook has a tremendous amount of reach. So with that in mind you can now find information (its still pretty basic right now) on Facebook at: Icebiter Games Publciations

Help me get to 25-30 likes as this will really help the cause!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Dawn of Icebiter Games- Module W2 Assualt of the Hill Giant Raiders

I think I've mentioned it a few times on various websites, but I've been ever so slowly expanding my written modules for 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons modules. The ultimate goal of this is to get a number together for sale and make them available for print-on-demand at Lulu.

Eventually I think I might include some 1st edition ones as well but well have to see where this takes me first. One idea for 1st edition I've been mulling over is a Tiamat inspired adventure. Plus as time and creatively allows I'm re-writing the Planar Webs of Lolth (in place of Queen of the Demon Web Pits). The Tiamat one could be sprawling and like the redo of the Webs is planar. Maybe I should key them as modules OP2, and OP3; after all I don't think there were any that I remember of after OP1...

As of right now I've got my first one W2- Assault of the Hill Giant Raiders well underway, but at the rate I'm going it still could be a while. The reason it's W2 and not W1 is that W1 is mammoth and is taking forever to write, what I need to do is focus and finish on something. W2 is the closest to being done as I ran in my 2nd Edition AD&D game a few months back.   I'm at the point where the layout is largely ready and its finally down to art being needed. And therein lies the tough part: As I've said at I'm willing to meet an artist(s) in terms of "talking turkey", but the costs I've heard so far are way up there. Bear in mind this is a old school hobby individual (me), not a major or even mid level publisher we are talking about. At a hypothetical budget of say $200 for art I've got to sell 28-30 @ a price of $7-10 each to break even on the costs of the art alone. I'd like to hear whose interested before I proceed further.

So I'd keep an eye out for Icebiter Games in the future, but just don't hold your breath for things being quick unless I see a high level of demand that is.


Friday, February 25, 2011

The Heirs to Old School AD&D?

Buckle up this one could get bumpy. I was thinking on the way to work the other day about succession and the natural order of things as it pertains to the editions of Dungeons and Dragons. By this I mean who are the heirs to the older version of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons? Just where does this cut off?

Before this can be answered consider the players of Basic or 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Largely these consist of players that are now in the 40’s and 50’s and the group that actually created these versions might be a bit older. In some cases some of them are no longer with us (Gary Gygax and Dave Arnseon come to mind). As time goes by there are less and less players that experienced these older versions of the game when these were the game that was actually shipping. Looking at it even in its last form 2nd edition AD&D is now 11 years old. Since then a lot has changed in the RPG industry and in just that relatively short timeframe.

Because of this the pool of people who were actually there at the dawn of the modern RPG age is ever smaller. And as each year passes, grows smaller still. Those older gamers that experienced RPGs without many/any preconceived notions are a likewise shrinking base. As I noted in my previous post about the “war” between 4th Edition AD&D and Pathfinder it’s near impossible to not be influenced either as a player or designer by modern RPGs. This is a natural thing to when you think about it as computer RPGs were in turn inspired by pen and paper RPGs. This started in the early 80s with games like Adventure on the Atari 2600 and have kept advancing. (Of course this begs the question of what is a RPG in the computer sense these days, as console gaming is where the major advancements are, but that’s something else entirely.) Some of the old school gamers were playing when the Altair was a “modern” computer!
Being 38 now, I experienced AD&D differently then the older school of gamers and had some notions of RPGs on the computer while learning about AD&D. Right from the very start of the modern PC age, computers like the Apple II had games that were RPG like. The difference between then and now is that concepts were there, but the execution compared to today was light years apart. Also being that I started late in terms of the older gamer group (I was 8 in 1981 when I got the Moldvay Basic set for Christmas) I fit into a gap: certainly not an old-schooler, but on the leading edge of those that grew up in the middle of the later wave of 1st edition AD&D products like the much maligned Unearthed Arcana, Wilderness Survival Guide, were part and parcel of our forays into 1st Edition AD&D. So with perspective I can remember playing Basic, Advanced and switching to 2nd edition all when they were new, or at least the current version of the game and in the case of 1st it alays existed in a form outside of the Core Books.  My notions will seem old school to anyone who grew up with games post 3rd edition D&D and downright radical to the purist, sort of like “middle child syndrome”.

So with this said is it possible that the 2nd Edition players like myself will be the last heirs to original origins of the game? Its entirely possible as we represent the last generation of gamers before the “Great Schism”, i.e the release of 3rd Edition D&D, which makes the 1st/2nd edition split look like a squabble over nomenclature (in reality it’s just that).  As time moves on there is going to be even less gamers like myself as if you look at it 2nd edition had about a 11 year run as the current edition of the game from 1989-2000. There are some gamers that their first introduction was through 2nd Edition and had never even played or seen anything early. It’s entirely possible that they never saw or played the Rules Cyclopedia, Mentzer’s B/E/C/M/I or Holmes or Moldvay for that matter. That’s also to say nothing about the influences that shaped the early generation of gamers (see below).

So when you take a step back and look at it the “Hybrid Players” like myself are truly the last roots to the older school movement. I know that will not sit well with some folsk and 1st editon purists will say that they are. I disagree. Like it or not that later wave was the last that grew up playing 1st edition AD&D. We were the last ones to grow up with Basic, 1st and what is diversely called 1.5. We mixed these versions and never thought anything wrong with doing so; I know I never saw a problem with it, neither did my gaming group at the time.  Sure there will be some players that will continue with 1st edition to the very end that never played anything but either Basic or 1st Edition, but those players are probably not even in the majority anymore. If I had to guess as there is no hard facts on this the bulk of “Old School” is probably these “Hybrid Players” those that were exposed to many different version of the game. I remain unconvinced that there are massive numbers of 1st or even 2nd edition players for that matter, at least those that are active today. Back in the day? Sure. Now? Not really.

So that brings me back to the basic premise and title to this post: Who are the heirs to old school? In a sense anyone who played or at least only plays something prior to 2000 could be considered old school. But even then the differention gets tricky: for instance on occasion my group plays d20 Star Wars, which is another beast entirely. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. So I’m not entirely sure that which edition of the game solely defines Old School or not. Surely age will have something to do with it, as I doubt someone could be called “Old School” if are as of today 8 years old ,and just started playing 1st Edition AD&D. Surely source materials and inspiration will have something to do with it. Some will argue that its the OSR (Old School Renaissance that has taken up the mantle).

But then again this gets even trickier: My first reads were books like the Sword of Shanara, the Hobbit rather then the Old Schoolers: Jack Vance's Dying Earth, Conan, Flash Gordon and the pulp stuff. Likewise art: I was exposed to different art along the way and again far different from what inspired the older generation.

Again this all goes back, where the point really gets made is the year 2000 with the dawn of 3rd Edition. As much as those that don’t like 2nd Edition don’t want to admit it, 2nd Edition really is the last of Old School. But much like anything even the later run added more that was like 3rd Edition the Player Options series comes to mind (not that I nor my group ever used it, then or now). So in a way 2nd Edition mirrored late 1st Edition with additions to the game that some people didn’t use.

So as I look back at this post I’m not sure I have any clearer of answer then when I started. The only thing I think we can agree on is that the real demarcation line isn’t 1989 when 2nd Edition launched it is 2000 with the start of 3rd Edition. The rest of it all tends to be a lot of static. And also looking at it the heirs to the old school movement are going to fall to us “Hybrid Players”, those like me. Those that were actually there for the early editions of the game that while not the original players, were close. Being younger also means that these players (just through the cruelties of aging) are going to likely be here longer. When us  ”Hybrid Players” have passed then the link to the older games are likewise going to be gone.

It’s an interesting position when one takes a step back and looks at it. All anyone can do is look at an event with their own biases and filters and that’s what I’ve done here. There is surely some overlap in each of the epochs I glossed over, but the fact remains that those that were on the tail end of 1st edition will be the last link to the old games and the wild and wholly 80’s of RPGs.