Montsegur 1244 is a freeform story-game that came out about a decade ago. I read through it once in 2012, but gave it another, closer look earlier this week, and thought I’d say a few things about it now.
I’m somewhat familiar with the Gumshoe RPG system: I’ve played a short campaign of Trail of Cthulhu, and skimmed several core rulebooks using the system—Trail of Cthulhu, Nights Black Agents, Ashen Stars, and Cthulhu Confidential, all of which I own copies—but I haven’t had a chance to read any of those rulebooks in full or run a Gumshoe system game.
In fact, until recently the only Gumshoe gamebook I’d actually read in full was Gareth Ryder Hanrahan’s Lorefinder book, which essentially is an extended Gumshoe hack designed to be bolted onto Pathfinder (and other D&D-styled traditional RPGs), in order to enable running investigative scenarios.
But not long ago, a couple of friends and I agreed to try start up an informal gaming testlab sort of group, dedicated to trying out systems that we’re interested in, and own, but haven’t had a chance to play. One of the suggestions made by a few of us was that we try a Gumshoe system, and we both, specifically, suggested The Gaean Reach. I was wager to try it since it’s a shorter and more concise ruleset, has a few unusual innovations (like the tagline system from Skullduggery/The Dying Earth Revivification Folio and the randomized, card-based character generation system), and because it looks like fun.
So I decided to read The Gaean Reach, along with The Gaean Reach Gazetteer supplement—which together total fewer than 200 pages—and see what I think of them. And, further, I figured that I’d take some notes along the way so that I would remember those thoughts when it eventually comes time to prepare for running this game.
So this is going to be short: it’s just three books. The first is Powers of Darkness, which, yes, is that “Icelandic Dracula” translation that was in the media last year—and yeah, it’s very different from our Dracula—and the others are old Penguin editions of a Icelandic texts titled Eyrbyggja Saga, and an Icelandic murder-mystery titled Snowblind: A Thriller by Ragnar Jónasson (translated by Quentin Bates). The Icelandic Dracula and the murder mystery are from the library, while the two sagas are books I’ve had on the shelf for literally decades and never read, but finally decided to check out.
A word of warning: though this post is titled “The Middle Passage,” it’s not about African slave transportation routes. It’s titled after the book it discusses, which is a psychologist’s account of midlife crisis. Just in case someone thought it would be something else.
When the Incomparable Mrs. Jiwaku talked about James Hollis’ The Middle Passage—she’d been reading a Korean translation of the book—she was quite passionate about it, but I found myself skeptical: a self-help book about the midlife crisis, by a Jungian psychologist?
Three sets of alarm sirens went off in my head, which you can guess from the emphases above. I’m not going through that, I thought to myself. No desire to buy a sports car, or run off with someone younger, or get enmeshed in some kind of affair. I’m not that sort of person…
Besides, the author’s Jungian focus… well, artists love Jung, but the man did believe in some kooky things. Where one ought to stand on the more extravagant criticisms of Jung, like those of Richard Noll, I’m not sure: some accuse Noll of sensationalism, others of merely wanting to get out facts that Jungians seem eager to keep quiet. Still, I know more than enough about Jung to be uncomfortable with some of the more parapsychological and occult nonsense he embraced, literally as well as—supposedly—metaphorically; sure, people didn’t know it was clearly nonsense at the time, but we don’t take Paracelsus’ theories all that seriously today, just the same.)
Plus, you know… it’s a self-help book, right? I tend to avoid those generally, even though a few have been useful to me along the way, because the vast majority of such books are about as useful as the latest diet book.
Still, what she said about the book made it sound like it was possibly worth looking into, so when I found that it was easy to get a copy, I did so. It’s a month later, give or take a few days, and I’ve just finished the book, and… well, it was fascinating. Hollis was a working therapist when he wrote the book, and he (pseudonymously) talks about some of the cases of people who came to him in the throes of midlife crisis.
And what do you know? I think I found in it some useful insights, in the style of “reminders of things we all know, but often forget.” Continue reading
Here are some of the books I’ve read recently. (That is, the fiction: nonfiction books got their own post, and RPG books will getting their own too; I’ve read a lot of those, but I don’t want to mix them all together.) For those who’re wondering what this post includes, have a look at the tags: the authors and book titles are listed among them.
Beyond that, I’ll note two things:
First, some of these books were loaners from my buddy Justin Howe, who sent me a box of great books to check out. I’m still working my way through them, and more will be showing up in the next post of readings, to be sure. I’m noting that here so that I don’t need to keep mentioning him throughout this post. A couple of others were from the local library (the Sejong National Library in South Korea), which is pretty surprising: I was amazed there was a collection of English books at all, let alone English books I’d want to read.
Second, I’ve been on an Edgar Rice Burroughs kick, but I gave the three books I recently read from his Pellucidar series their own post, since I’m thinking about organizing the Burroughs readings into a kind of series here on the blog.
Third, this post contains pretty much everything else I’ve read all the way through (outside RPG books) in 2018 since my last update, early in the year. If it seems like a short list, well… I also finished drafting two books (and a somewhat involved freelance RPG-writing project) on top of a full time job and having a kid to take care of. Time’s been kind of short this year, in other words, but I am reading somewhat more than I did last year!