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Archive for August, 2016

While playing Flight Rising, I’ve encountered one of the conundrums of fantasy games. That is, discovering exotic critters, capturing them — and then taming them for some use, such as being a steed or fighting in an arena. Flight Rising has arena combat, which is what brings this topic to mind.

Having dragons or other magical creatures as some form of steed or pet has been present from the earliest days of gaming that was specifically Fantasy oriented. In the first edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, rules had to be written about when and how players could tame such beasts. Mostly, I think it has to do with the “Oh cool!” factor of imagining your hero flying on a griffin or dragon. Yet, these are allegedly sentient beings in many cases.

As fantasy games have grown apace, there’s now a lot of collecting around such creatures. I mean, isn’t the goal of any Pokemon game to “catch them all?” To its credit, the Pokemon franchise does put a lot of emphasis on building friendship and trust between trainers and pokemon. Those who aren’t such Poke-fans point out the irony of capturing animals and making them fight each other. After all, in the real world, most of us frown on “sports” such as dog-fighting.

What are your thoughts on the intersect between heroes and critters in fantasy games?

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In the online game Flight Rising (see my last post) one of your chores is to gather food for your dragon clan. Flight Rising provides four types of food — vegetation, insects, meat and seafood. You need to collect some of each, because every dragon breed likes different foods.

As I’ve clicked my way through this, various dragons from past stories* began to knock on the door to my brain. They’d say things like, “Vegetation. Really? What fool thinks a dragon could survive on vegetation?”

Out of respect for their opinions, here are five statements on what dragons eat.

Carnisha, from the Cragmaw Mountains, was blunt. “Dragons eat whatever we want. But not salad.”

According to Cazarluun, Spectral Guardian of Venge Hill, “Dragons are spiritual beings. As such, we may partake of food or drink for our own pleasure, but we do not actually have to eat.”

Lythiskar, Mystik of Yabble, agrees in part. “We dragons are learned creatures. Our taste in foods should be equally refined. This is why so many dragons prefer Virgins — no musty, gamy odors there. By the way, did you know a Virgin doesn’t have to be female? Many priests and the nerdier young men can be equally choice fare.”

From Shoredance Island, the sea dragon Tetheus said, “Whatever it is, it has to be big enough to satisfy a dragon’s appetite. Large sharks and whales are good. On land, there are horses, moose, water buffalo… I just don’t see insects as a substantial meal.”

Wrotha, the Great Wyrm of Hot Mountain, reported, “Whatever comes too close to my eggs, I eat it.”

*  Wrotha is a featured character in my middle-grade fantasy, Masters of Air & Fire. Carnisha appears in the anthology The Dragon’s Hoard. Tales of Cazarluun, Lythiskar, and Tetheus are as yet unpublished.

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Knowing my love for dragons and video games, my daughter brought this game to my attention. Of course I joined in — how often does your kid allow you to be part of her online life?

Flight Rising is a browser-based video game. That is, you play in your browser rather than through a console or PC. The setup is that you’re starting a clan of dragons, which is loyal to one of several elemental powers. Each Flight is led by a unique dragon of godlike powers. If you’re into world-building, there’s a very cool back story explaining the history of this world.

So what do you do with your dragon clan? You hunt and gather resources to keep them healthy. You breed them and see what cool new dragons result. You collect various breeds of dragons and take them into an arena to level up in combat. You play games to earn treasure, which you can spend in a marketplace or the auction house if you’re a bargain hunter. You dress up your dragons, buy them pets, and join your Flight in making plays for dominance.

I’ve only been involved for a few days, but so far I’m enjoying it. It’s fairly casual — you play the parts you like and ignore the rest. Best of all, my daughter approves of my hatchlings!

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Mt. Pilatus rises among the Swiss Alps, not far from the city of Lucerne. From ancient times, local people have believed this peak was an abode of dragons. Climbing it was forbidden, both for the dangerous climb and the fear of provoking an attack on the city below.

But one fall day, it is told, a young cooper* set out to collect wood for his trade. It was so beautiful on the slopes of Mr. Pilatus that he lost track of where he was. At dusk, he discovered to his dismay that he had climbed all the way to the summit! He turned to hurry down, but his heavy load made him stumble. Down, down, down he fell, thinking each moment would be his last, until suddenly he plunged into darkness.

When he regained his senses, the cooper had a huge lump on his head but otherwise he was unhurt. Alas, that was the extent of his good news. He had fallen into a deep cavern. Only a small patch of sky showed high above him. He was trapped!

Worse, he heard strange noises behind him. The cooper was horrified to find two great, scaly dragons sharing his prison. With fiery eyes and snorting sparks, they approached. Once again the cooper thought he must be doomed, but the dragons merely sniffed him over and turned away. Farther back, the cooper spied a vein of moonmilk** oozing from the cracks. The dragons lapped at it hungrily. Once they had eaten their fill, the cooper tried it himself. The moonmilk was soft, like cream cheese, and he ate to his heart’s content.

Days turned into weeks, and winter snows covered the cavern entrance. The cooper snuggled up with his tolerant dragon friends and passed a warm, comfortable winter. Eventually, spring sun melted the snows and bird songs echoed down into the dragons’ lair. The great beasts stirred and stretched their wings. One of them took off, soaring easily through the exit far above.

Then the cooper was afraid, for he still could not escape. But the second dragon nudged him and offered its tail. The cooper held on for dear life as the dragon carried him out of his prison. He whooped and laughed as they soared through the sky, until at last the dragon glided into a meadow of flowers. The cooper dropped off and the dragon flew on its way.

After he spent some time rolling in the grass and smelling the flowers, the cooper returned to the city of Lucerne. His family and friends were overjoyed, since he had been thought dead. Over and over, the cooper told the tale of his miraculous rescue by the dragons on Mt. Pilatus. Now the people knew the dragons were kindly rather than fierce. Seeing one became a mark of good luck. However, they still stayed off the mountain out of respect for their good deeds.

*A cooper is a barrel-maker.

**Moonmilk is a real thing found in caves. Since it’s mostly calcium, it probably wouldn’t be a nutritious food, but this is a folk story.

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This anthology caught my eye with its juxtaposition of modern (Steampunk) with ancient (folk tales). Traditional stories have a way of drawing new authors and artists to re-create and re-examine, so it’s no surprise an editor would give them a Steampunk twist. The combination could have been almost too cute, but these stories worked for me.

Of particular interest is David Lee Summers’ “The Steam-Powered Dragon,” which adapts one of the less known Grim Brothers stories, “The Devil and His Grandmother.” Summers brings the deserting soldiers to life with gently pointed humor, and succeeds in convincing us that even a steam-powered monstrosity can still love its Grandma.

I also enjoyed “From the Horse’s Mouth,” by Bernie Mojzes, which is based on “The Goose Girl,” and “The Clockwork Nightingale” by Jean-Marie Ward, inspired by Andersen’s “The Nightingale.”

If you like a good fairy tale and a swashbuckling Steampunk good time, you’ll enjoy Gaslight & Grimm.

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Here’s another reblog from July of 2012, when the London Summer Olympics were in full swing.

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Fantasy Olympics

Swept up in Olympic Fever, I here offer what the Olympics might be like if fantasy creatures were real.

Marksmanship would have two categories. Dragons and other fire-breathers would compete in the Heavy Weapons category, while magi with magic wands would make up the Light Weapons category.

Wizards and witches also would compete in transforming objects or themselves. Transforming other beings is not allowed.

Aerobatic events would include precision flying by dragon formations. Giant eagles would dominate aerial speed racing. Magic carpets and flying brooms would have their own category.

Gymnastics: Gnomes and fairies are heavy favorites, although flyers must somehow contain their wings to avoid having an unfair advantage.

Aquatics: Sea serpents would compete in swimming races and also have their own water polo team. Naiads and water hags would be heavily favored in swimming and diving events.

Equestrian events would be dominated by centaurs and would include physical combat.

Archery: Although humans try hard, elves own the field. It’s only a question whether dark, light or woodland elves take the medals.

Weight lifting is the pride of dwarves. However, they refuse to take part in boxing because nobody bleeds.

So tell me, friends, what fantasy Olympic events would you like to see?

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Here’s my newest dragon friend, Hafzilla.

Hafzilla

Hafzilla


Hafzilla is a foundling dragon. I was riding my bike and stopped to pick up a water bottle from the curb, when I noticed something bright green in a parking lot. Turns out it was part of a Godzilla toy. You know, the wind-up kind. It had been crushed by a car. What I salvaged was the largest piece.

Normally I hate litter, but who could resist poor little Hafzilla?

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