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Thread: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

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    Default The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    The Editor Speaks
    Hello and welcome to Issue 32 of the Quill. We have come a long way since our humble beginnings in the AAR forum almost three years ago, and I feel proud to have a such an award-winning (yes... check out their medals) crew of talented writers at my command.

    This time we have a little, well actually quite a lot, of everything. The MAARC and TotW competitions are thriving, there are five solid AAR reviews, an unprecedented pair of interviews with TWC luminaries, and two perceptive articles: on AAR writing and on themes in Lord of the Rings AARs. And finally to cap it all, Absalom, Absalom! has brought a touch of the high-brow to our vulger publication with his analysis of the poem "You" by Aonghus G. Friedhold.

    There are riches below for you to enjoy, so don't let me delay you further.

    Juvenal (Editor)

    Table of Contents

    Monthly AAR Competition Section

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Another MAARC has concluded (Winners Announcement here) and another batch of freshly minted victors have ascended the dais of fame. But this doesn't have to be just a spectator sport, MAARC XXXV is taking nominations so why not take a punt with some of your own work?

    [RS2.1 AAR] Kingdom of Ionia - A Roman reinterpretation of the Crusades by chaplain118

    This is a long running story about a beleaguered Roman colony in Anatolia. It has many of the attributes of an historical novel and after 10 months of hard work, chaplain118 has created a very impressive piece of work indeed.

    Reviewed here by Boustrophedon last June, although undoubtedly much has transpired since then.

    [SS6.3 AAR] Primus Inter Pares - The Kievan Rus by Radzeer

    This masterpiece, from our very own Radzeer, has been slowly growing since November 2010 and has now finally concluded. It is a visual and literary feast, best enjoyed after careful preparation (phone off, comfy chair deployed, wine near at hand and no pressing engagements).

    Let our review by Thokran from last February serve as something akin to a Hollywood trailer for the reading pleasure to come.

    [TWS2 AAR] Takeda - A Shogun 2 AAR by robinzx

    We are lucky indeed at the Quill to have the services of such good writers. In just five months, robinzx has created a sweeping epic, decorated with the superb graphics of Shogun 2. What's more, we have an up-to-date review from Radzeer in the previous issue. I challenge you to read this without feeling a powerful urge to embark upon a Shogun 2 campaign yourself!

    Coverage by Juvenal

    Tale of the Week Section

    Tale of the Week: Jan/Feb News
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Greetings; here I bring you the latest happenings of the now fastest rising popular contest...

    *drum roll*

    Tale of the Week! Call it the Mega-effect (for lo' he has returned after a long absence), or perhaps the invigorating effect of the new rules format. Whatever the reason, TotW is now the hottest thing in town... well TWC at least.

    In the last issue of the Quill, the storyboard TotW 122 had gone to vote, but much has happened since then.

    TotW 122: One to Rule them all This was truly a contest worth its title as seven entries "of mortal men" struggled for mastery. In the end there could be only one victor...

    Imrahil's Finest
    Quote Originally Posted by Nazgûl Killer
    The gleaming moon arrayed the miserable city with strokes of silver lighting, its surroundings grim and gloomy...
    The terrifying night monsters roaring about, their cries echoing throughout the city...
    Coaxed by my own determination, I had twisted the reins of my steed and spurred it onward...
    I felt miserable and frightened to see the city of my youth surrounded by death and fire...
    But I felt compelled to do something about it.
    'I'm a Swan Knight' I uttered under my breath.
    "Form up, move out! Form up, move out!" Imrahil screamed, and my fellow knights formed a neat line around me.
    'I'm a Swan Knight. I shall fear no evil' I uttered again, a bit louder.
    The knight to my right looked at me; "We are Swan Knights. We fear no evil. Evil fears us!" He screamed, the knights roared.
    We trotted down the streets of my beloved City of Kings...
    We heard a scream... Followed by another... And then a crack and the sound of hundreds of falling shards.
    "CHARGE!" Imrahil screamed with a bone-chilling cry.
    I felt agitated. How dare they?
    I'm a Swan Knight!
    How dare they attack my city? How dare they breach my gates? I was shocked by their audacity.
    I would teach them a lesson.
    I'm a Swan Knight!
    In the horizon to my left I saw orderly-fashioned lines of horsemen, holding their spears and screaming "Death!"
    Who were these madmen, I did not know.
    Horns sounded. Wild horns coming from the West...
    And that's when I saw them. My foe flooding the courtyard with their grotesque appearances.
    Hate boiled inside me. How dare those creatures defile my city? I'm a Swan Knight!
    I was determined to show them that I will never let up. My fear turned to anger.
    My anger turned to courage.
    My courage turned to ferocity. I was fearless.
    I'm a Swan Knight.
    I shall fear no evil. For evil, fears me.
    wowbanger's musings
    Submission 4
    This original tale written for us by Asterix provided a nice little change from the majority of the tales entered in this week’s competition, and for that I praise the writer for using his creativity; variety is the spice of life, after all. Overall, a cleverly thought out and well written tale.

    Submission 6
    A very good tale by 1st time entrant Nebulon telling of Gondor’s struggle against the darkness of Mordor. Good use of imagery and action make for a good read and I look forward to seeing what else this new writer can produce.

    TotW 123: The Architect of Defeat
    Well, what can I say? This was one epic contest! Out of twelve entries, it was Dark Storm who became the architect not of defeat, but of victory!

    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Storm
    I yearn for love, for peace and pleasure
    To while away my time in leisure
    In lands of green, of warmth and sun
    My faith renewed, my life begun

    Upon my heart, this weight I bear
    How will France, my country fair?
    I need no girl to bring me home
    The thought of Paris, is enough alone

    I carry wounds upon my back
    And weariness, I’ll never lack
    Yet my love will wait for me
    Between Toulon and Normandy

    This howling gale, cuts through my soul
    The endless winter takes its toll
    Yet beat on, my heart still does
    A cadenced march to La Marseillaise

    I know not the makers plan
    Shall I die upon this land?
    Before my dreams come to be
    Will I lie here for eternity?

    The wine of life warms my bones
    I no longer stand alone
    My brothers battle side by side
    And with them, I duly ride

    I lead them on, through land of ice
    And with death, they daily dice
    But still their courage keeps them strong
    And valour takes them further on

    I feel my body begin to fail
    By now I know, I will not prevail
    Now left am I, with no chance of retreat
    I, the architect of my own defeat
    wowbanger's musings
    Submission 1
    I really liked this tale by HeirofAlexander. I think the use of short sentences and lines really succeeded in offering the reader an insight into the mind of the narrator, creating a story that is a delight to read.

    Submission 10
    And finally, Byzantus has provided us with a great little tale about a boy trying to regain some of his family's lost honour. A well crafted tale offering a little variety in a competition focused mainly upon Napoleon.

    TotW 124: A Game of Shadows
    A tie for first place prompted a tie-breaker vote. But this was tied as well, resulting in an unprecedented second tie-breaker vote! It seems to me that it would be unfair not to treat you to both of these incredible entries so you can make your own decision.

    A Dream Unattainable
    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Storm
    I sit here. In a moment of clarity, eyes to the night. A thousand stars bewitch my forlorn gaze, a flame of desire alights within me, oh, what I would give to be there. What I would give to be weightless, without thoughts, worries, weighing me down. Up above the atmosphere within the shadows of space, confined only by the furthest reaches of my imagination. I dream of the day when I can touch the very depths of the sky, and embrace the constellations as equals. For I will have done what they have done, I will have attained joy. They laugh at me, they mock me, cruel games played on an unsuspecting child. What do they know? Those cowards, they have never felt the mad rush of happiness, brought forth by the joy of love. Love of a longing. I love the stars, the facets of light set in a pitch black ceiling. How I desire to be there. Yet how can it be, I am no bird that flits so seamlessly through the sky. I am no cloud that scuds across a summers morn, I am a boy. I cannot even begin to believe I can achieve what my heart is set on. I have arms not wings. Skin not feathers. So here I must sit, my eyes reaching to where I can not, and, for the moment, I am content I suppose.
    Quote Originally Posted by Darkan
    The two men stood at a table, the young one looking at his cup of wine, as if some answer was to be found in the foamy red liquid. The older one looked straight at him with what seemed to be tears in his eyes.

    You say it was your fault that we lost the battle but let me tell you how kings are made and cast down.

    The young man looked up and met his father’s gaze, though he lowered his eyes once more, lest the shame he felt would be seen by his old father.

    I once had a dream to restore the ancient power of our kingdom and bring peace and prosperity to our people. For me, for us, it was a matter of honour, of justice and truth, but I soon understood there were other powers that worked in the shadows against me.

    The young man stood up and went to the balcony, where the night breeze cooled him down. His father joined him soon after, stopping by his side, putting an arm on his son’s shoulder.

    Look up my boy, look up and tell me what you see.

    The night sky was beautiful, almost too beautiful to be real. The full moon had emerged from behind one of the few clouds and its light was spreading everywhere. The stars sparkled against the black canvass that was the sky, as if an unseen painter had sprinkled them. The balcony overlooked the harbour of the small town, with the few merchant ships that traded in these waters and the lone long ship that had brought the survivors here.

    I don’t know if I want to see something. All I can think of is how I failed you that day, how I failed the kingdom and how I failed the men.

    That was not your doing, the old king said. It was Vaander’s doing, him and his banker friends. They plotted against us with the enemy and they paid the officers and commanders of the troops that rebelled mid-battle. To them it was nothing but a game and they are excellent players.

    Somehow I will manage to get back home and I will fall upon them like fire falls from the sky, I will burn everything in my path and the flames of my vengeance shall consume them and those that stand with them.

    Wars are not won with soldiers, kings can be made and unmade with the stroke of a quill upon a parchment.

    Then what is the way father?

    We must fight them with their own weapons, we must lurk in the shadows and cut their ties all the while strengthening ours.

    TotW 125: The Sun Sets on an Age
    HeirofAlexander triumphs over a field of ten entries with this musing upon the character of an extraordinary man.

    Quote Originally Posted by HeirofAlexander
    Wilhelm had devoted his life to this, this constant pursuit of happiness. As a warrior monk in the Teutonic Order he spent his life trying to see behind the mist in his own mind as well as dealing with the fog of war. Wilhelm knew no other life, it was all devoted to two things. Two things so twistingly different from each other, God and war. He was required to be able to both delve into the depths of the beautiful Psalms of David and the next day, slay a Pagan who indeed was his next. Wilhelm had never felt love, he was not meant to have feelings, he was a killing machine, whom at the same time was the most holy human. Wilhelm had problems with being able to keep his two lives away from each other, to not let out the misery and uncertainty he felt inside. Not to scream out in rage when he was saying his morning prayer and not to be uncertain when the man he was standing in front of would kill him at the spot. Ahhh… So much intrige inside one man, so much hate in a man, so much love in a man. Wilhelm had a tough life.

    Now that you've seen the kind of work that is being produced, why not try your own hand at Tale of the Week? The rules are simple and fame may be just a click away

    Coverage by m_1512 and Juvenal (with some reviews from wowbanger)

    Interview Section

    An Interview with SeniorBatavianHorse
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Inspired by the enigmatic introduction to our interviewee’s celebrated AAR, for this edition of the Quill I decided to attempt the less flamboyant but equally disapproved style of the journalist. It is therefore a great honour to bring you one of the old masters of AAR-dom. Author of the classic The Nowhere Legion, SeniorBatavianHorse has brought us blood, sweat, and much Roman epic-ness over the years. Join me as I celebrate the genius of his works, while attempting to uncover, just a little, the man behind the moving narratives.

    Easy questions first – when and how did you come across the TW series and TWC?

    I first became aware of RTW via the TV series which immediately grabbed my attention. I have always loved war gaming and I remember my jaw dropping when I saw the quality of the visuals and the nature of the gameplay. I was also gutted because I am an avid Applemac user and had never owned a PC. I did a bit of research online and discovered the TW community and the mods being released then for the RTW – especially RTR and EB. This really got my juices going so I maxed out what was left of my credit card and bought a PC just so I could play RTW. Once online, I joined the TW site and really began delving into all the mods like a kid in a sweet shop!

    You’ve written several AARs of varying lengths. What inspired you to start writing your own AARs in the beginning?

    I never knew such a genre existed, you see. So when I found the Late Roman mod Invasio Barbarorum and began playing it non-stop, I realised that people were writing up their gameplay experiences in the form of these AARs. Now I have always written since a child and suddenly I was given a wonderful opportunity to both play this amazing mod and also write it up as a sort of ongoing novel. I leapt at the chance to flex my old writing muscles but remember being very nervous with the first AAR updates – I am not that good a campaign player, you see, and always seem to blunder into defeat so I was worried that I would be making a fool of myself . . .

    Your AARs seem to take a writing-first-game-second approach. Given this, how much importance do you place on campaign progress when writing your AAR? Do you play ahead or do you write as you go?

    I write as I go and always allow the campaign to influence what I write but not to the level of dictating it. This for me is hugely important. I tend to think AARs fall into two broad categories: the documentary approach and the film approach. The first is where the AAR is primarily a record of what is happening in the player’s campaign although heavily fictionalised. The second is where the campaign is used to develop and illustrate an ongoing story which is independent to the campaign I may actually be playing. I tend to think of these approaches as more of a sliding scale to be honest than a true difference of approach - but in essence it means that in my current AAR for example while I am playing a campaign in the background it is so distant from the actual AAR events that in effect I am ‘filming’ a different story deep inside the campaign.

    Have there been instances where the campaign has forced, or inspired you to rip up a plotline and continue in a considerably different direction?

    Yes, very. In the last major AAR – The End Of The Line – I had set up this epic clash deep in the Assyrian deserts between Julian’s Roman armies and the Sassanids armies. I had spent ages playing the campaign to set-up all the pieces on the board, as it were. The heart of the AAR was these two disparate Roman legions which were being forced to serve together as punishment and the subsequent bond they would develop out of respect – one was an elite palatine legion and the other a poorly-disciplined border legion. The climax of this part of the AAR was these two legions mustering alone before the combined Sassanid armies with no hope of survival. I would then play the battle - and Julian’s elite Roman armies would crash in and save them all – that in effect Julian had used these two legions as bait. It was going to be a perfect AAR climax. And then the damned AI Sassanid commander simply upped and left the field of battle once Julian’s forces approached. I played it again and again and every time the AI army just got up and walked away. The whole AAR collapsed dramatically and I was so disheartened that I ended it . . .

    Your writing has drawn widespread acclaim from the readers on TWC. What's your experience with real life writing prior to AARs? Do you have any plans to become a full-fledged author in the future?

    I write mainly as a playwright – 8 plays in the last 3 years for example. It is tough going and to be honest the plays I write do not appeal to the theatre guardians here in Scotland. They are too obscure and ‘intellectual’, I think. So it has been rejection after rejection but it is good discipline. Nothing makes you toughen up as a writer more than to receive a nicely worded rejection letter from someone who clearly hasn’t understood what you are trying to do! It drives you back to the writing desk. I hope to break into the theatre world eventually but to be honest enjoy writing these AARs so much that I could not imagine not writing here also!

    Journo's note: You can find a selection of SeniorBatavianHorse(aka. Francis Hagan)'s published plays here at Smashwords.

    On your current AAR, the Nowhere Legion, it has received an enormous amount of views and won the MAARC XXX. What was your inspiration for it? What sets it apart from the others from your perspective? Is it your favourite piece?

    I am enormously gratified that readers enjoy the story so much. It still makes me nervous with each update because I don’t want to disappoint those expectations. My inspiration came from reading an article in Ancient Warfare magazine about the Fifth Macedonian Legion and the fact that it was the longest serving legion that we have records for. There was a story there – and something in me wanted to tell a part of it. I think it works because it has a larger narrative to it which starts at the end of the legion and then whisks a reader back in time to when this legion was still caught up in glory and honour. There is an elegiac quality to it as a result of this which I enjoy writing. It is my favourite piece, yes, but only really because it is still ongoing – and the end which will be coming is so sad that part of me doesn’t want to get there and write it.

    The narrative method of using Professor Escher is nothing short of epic, and links nicely to your previous writing. What was your inspiration for these two characters?

    As a writer I like using a distancing mechanism like a narrator or a framing device. Early on with The Lost Expedition I had the idea of using archaeological characters to lead the reader in to a different time period. Holbein and Escher emerged from that set-up but in fact I borrowed them from an earlier novella I had written called The Cartographia which is a series of Late Roman short stories set across the Empire. Both Holbein and Escher existed in that work as two previous translators of this work and whom I ‘disagreed’ with in terms of their different translations. I incorporated then into the AAR writing and developed them into a team. By killing off Holbein, I was able to infuse The Nowhere Legion with a certain sense of loss that thematically tied into the overall themes I am playing with.

    What do you consider the greatest joys and challenges you face in your writing? Any particularly memorable anecdotes you could share with us?

    I write on the fly, as it were, which means I have a series of ‘beats’ that I want to get to – a cavalry charge, the overnight camp, an argument, things like that, which I can frame with the odd picture or two. The challenge is to tell these beats effectively within the AAR format in such a way that the reader will come back for more later on. I find that enormously challenging – and is similar in a way to writing a play in that you are working in short scenes. Each AAR update is like a scene with a number of minor beats and ending on what we call ‘top-spin’ – that is an ending which propels the reader into wanting to come back. As I write other ideas pop into my head and the challenge is not to get too distracted. Something that immediately springs to mind is the afternoon I was writing about the old Fifth marching out into the desert to rebuild and fortify an abandoned legion castra. I scouted around online for some research using Google-map and other resources – and found this amazing site deep in the Harra which was almost custom built for my story. I spent an afternoon researching it and what I found gave me so much material for the AAR that I am still in a daze really. It was almost as if the gods were gifting me this place. It is times like that when writing becomes a discovery of something much larger and it really lifts you as a writer out of your world.

    When you start an AAR, do you have a finite goal or epic ending in mind or do you devise the plot as the game evolves? Where do you see the Nowhere Legion going in the coming weeks and months? A little spoiler for our readers, if you will.

    I start with a simple idea – a hook, if you will. Really, the simpler the better. Something for the readers to get their teeth into. What would happen if I took a single legion and followed its story down into oblivion? That simple idea has no real flesh on it but it does have a certain poetic quality to it. In case of this AAR I had an image in my head of the fate of the last officer of the last legion – and what I wanted to do was both tell his story – Zeno in the fort of Oescus – and also the story of those forgotten men whose footsteps led to his own last steps by the Danube. The AAR will lift soon into a more epic playing field – the battle at the moment is not what it seems and a shock is coming which will change everything. A man who is alive will seem dead and one who appears alive is already dead.

    Who do you think is your favourite character from your writing? Are there any that you relate to on a personal level or were written to be "like" you? Do you have a favourite scene you particularly enjoyed?

    My current favourite is Holbein oddly enough – even though he is dead. His exuberance is infectious when I write and makes a wonderful tonic to the elegiac and bloody scenes I write. That is why I am using him sparingly at the moment. I don’t want to overwrite him and lose that smile he gives me when he apologises again and again to Escher about his sloppy writing and romantic idealism. As for a scene? Hmm, tricky – I suppose at the moment, my favourite is that awful afternoon when the Fifth had to lay down their old standards and pick up the new Christian ones. That was a moment when an old world faded and an untested new world emerged – and for the Fifth it was like a betrayal.

    Your work has mostly been set in the RTW universe. Do you have any plans to write another one concurrent to, or after the Nowhere Legion? Perhaps you’ve considered writing for a medieval setting – Scotland maybe? Or even one of the newer games?

    I wrote an short English Civil War AAR for the FKOC Mod and enjoyed it but my PC crashed and I lost the save game. My passion is always the Late Roman period though so no I can’t see myself writing outside it at the moment. I would flounder I expect in an unknown period and lose touch with what motivates me as a writer!

    Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you get through it and start writing again? What do you think is the reason so many AARs go unfinished?

    Writer’s Block is an overused phrase – it is mostly either nerves or laziness in the end. Nothing helps your writing more than simply writing! The more you write the better you get and that is the hard blunt truth of it. Trust me – I did 3 years of Creative Writing at University. Only two things were hammered into you then – write and edit. That was it. Anyone can write but a Writer re-writes! I think many AARs go unfinished because the writers lose heart or inspiration and they fall away from the routine. It is amazingly easy to fall out of the habit of updating – twice on this AAR I have almost abandoned it due to work issues or something else which came along. The lack of immediate response is another issue. Those AARists who start and do not get feedback in the first few updates must then face that that awful dilemma of wondering whether to carry on or not. I would always advise that carrying on is always worth it. The AAR reading community is very supportive and encouraging but also bides it time a little I think to see if the AAR is really going to continue.
    Keep writing and soon those feedbacks will start sprouting after every update – and that is when your AAR will really take off!

    Do you have any pieces of advice you could share with budding AARtists? What would you say to AARtists looking for inspiration to start?

    Have a good idea! A single through-line – or something like that. Think down at the local level and try not to overload a reader with the entire campaign. Filter that campaign through the local – and it will become more dramatic as a result. Be emotionally involved too! If you don’t care about your characters and what is happening to them, neither will your reader. Finally, the AAR genre is a wonderfully flexible medium – use it to try something new out also. Look at Knonfoda’s work, for example and the way he incorporates embedded music and video – what I half-jokingly call VIDAARs. Be creative and dangerous. You never know, that AAR idea you have might be the next big MAARC winner!

    SeniorBatavianHorse’s AARs:
    [IB SAI AAR] - The Nowhere Legion
    [IJ3 AAR] - The End Of The Line
    [IB AAR] - The Lost Expedition
    [IB AAR] - At The Limes
    [IB AAR] - The Last of the Romans
    [FKOC AAR] - A Little Winter Love in a Darke Corner - A Royalist AAR

    Francis Hagan the playwright:
    Published plays on Smashwords
    Francis' blog on WordPress

    Interview conducted by robinzx

    An Interview with MasterOfNone
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Right, so before we begin the first question is obviously; What are you wearing? Personally I'm rocking the shirtless trilby look. Standard interview fare and what not.

    As of writing this, I am wearing a suit. I have just got back from a Christmas devotional. I'm not too keen on suits, even though I wear them a lot. I think some casual tweed would better fit an author, wouldn't you say?

    Tweed is always good but Suits are always cool. Now, not everyone is aware of your vast legacy within the Total War Center, would you like to provide a brief outline as to why you are the eminent figure that you are within our community?

    (nor are many aware how well I pay interviewers ). Well, it's all basically in my retirement thread (my "legacy", not how well I pay those who interview me!). But to sum it up: I joined the modding community on SCC in 2004 soon after Rome was released, hooking up with the Fourth Age Total War team in a minor role. Very soon I found myself digging into the code and realizing lots of ways it could be used to do things not currently in vanilla or any other mods. Although I initially became the mapping manager, I soon went on to become the coding manager and, a little later, the lead developer.

    I stepped back from that with the release of The New Shadow, and worked on a lot of smaller projects: Gods & Fighting Men, the modfoldering of Europa Barbarorum 1.0, Title of Liberty, Viking Invasion II/Dominion of Britannica, Norman Invasion and a number of smaller variations and minimods, such as the Multi-Mod Sampler. I think, for me, the most exciting times were near the beginning when research and discovery were hot topics, especially at the Org.

    As TWC became more modder-focused I gradually spent more time here. I am the author of several seminal guides on modding, and started a bit of a trend with "The Complete Guide to..." prefix It really all started when I wanted the Fourth Age team to get the regional borders accurate on their map - you do have to be careful when you step out of your door and put your feet on that path. You never know where it might lead...

    So it's fairly clear that you've made quite an impression within these forums at least! But we aren't discussing your incredible contributions to the site. Rather we are having a bit of a chinwag about your Novel The Serpent in the Glass.

    Obviously it's a reason for celebration here as you have given the community so much. But on a more personal note given that you've self published (a remarkable challenge in itself) how do you feel now that it's finally available to the public?

    A number of emotions, ranging from relief to excitement. To be honest, I'm one of those people who prefers to see what I've made - be it a mod or a book - in the limelight rather than me. I've played around with the manuscript for years. With my modding days fizzling out (I still do a small amount of work on the Fourth Age to support the new team), I took the opportunity to publish the thing. I'm a bit of a perfectionist (seems to be a characteristic of Fourth Age managers ), so I had to make the decision to get the book "out there" or else tweak it for eternity.

    So, yes, relief. And yet excitement when a friend, or a friend's child, asks for a signed copy and their eyes light up! That's a nice feeling. But it's not really about how I feel - it's about how readers will feel when they read the book. I hope they can go somewhere magical in a world that can often seem dreary. Who knows, some of them may even laugh at my strange sense of humour

    With a labour of love the only result is perfection, something I can agree and relate to; However you bring up an interesting point. Before I grill you regarding your journey as a writer. What influenced your choice to publish in Electronic format first?

    I wanted to make it cheaply available to a few readers in order to get some feedback. The paperback is all the better for it. Self-published authors, from what I hear, always make more sales on the digital platform - so the Kindle was and is a must. The current version of the book should be almost entirely free of mistakes. Having said that, the process of preparing a manuscript for Kindle is far from swift and simple!

    I didn't know about the increase in sales for Self Published Authors over the electronic medium, I always assumed the lack of a team for lack of a better word would have resulted in lower sales across the board.

    So let's start at the beginning of your journey, I did my homework and can see that you've quite a varied list of inspirational writers. Ranging from the Wheel of Time, all the way to Harry Potter (which even I admit is badass). Also you've been developing ideas since you were 12 as well which is a considerable feat. Have there been any themes or ideas that have stuck with you since those early days, or near enough those early days?

    If so how have they shaped your writing in the past even if they didn't make it into the final edit?

    That's a deep question. I think we read novels for different reasons, some inspire but some are just fun. I think the common element is that they take you somewhere you feel to be better than the humdrum of daily life. Personally, I like books that have happy endings, that promote courage, honour, etc. I'm not really into horrors or romance (though there may, of course, be a romantic or scary element to a book I do read).

    I have lots of ideas in my head, but I tend to find an "anchor" to them, something that fixes them into the real world. I have an interest in Irish mythology - and to some extent in Norse - and I use ideas from that mythos in my works (as do many fantasy writers - though you might not know that unless you're familiar with those myths). Fantasy books based on pure fabrication, with no anchor to the real world - or to our ancestral memory - hold little interest for me. It's why I'm a fan of Tolkien's fiction, but dislike the cliché fantasy that removes those anchors and paints the creatures, characters and places with the brush of ungrounded mock creation. I think I would bear this all in mind whatever genre I wrote. And, in time, I would like to try different genres.

    On a personal note, I can relate at least partially for that. I tend to look for novels that have a well developed wide cast of well developed characters in an equally well developed lore. Take Robin Hobb's work, sheer brilliance in itself. Not quite the Epic that Robert Jordan brought, but close enough.

    But onwards! I am a slap dash writer of sorts, I enjoy writing; be it academia or simple little bits here and there. I'm sure that a number of our readers have similar hobbies. But how did you approach the writing of Serpent in the Glass? Was it something you dedicated your spare time to, or did you make it a full time job and have working hours?

    I started in in 1997, left it for a few years, and then got seriously back to it a year or so ago. As is said elsewhere, might have been done a lot quicker if not for modding I like to write whenever I can, but I find I need no distractions - and that is difficult these days. On the other hand, another novel I started in March 2010 had 30,000 words written within 3 months. I've yet to get back to that one. But there must be some discipline in order to finish a book of any kind.

    Thats a considerable time investment, I'm sure that everyone will echo our praise that everything came together for you.

    It's clear that you have a love of fantasy material, however for me the really interesting theme is that you've brought it to a more modern setting. What were the challenges in bringing two contrasting themes (Fantasy and Modern) together, especially given that it's aimed at the younger readers?

    Modding is a considerable time investment too, actually more than writing if you're talking about large full-conversion mods.

    Fantasy is a broad subject: "The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things…" as J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote (On Fairy-Stories, Tree and Leaf, p. 9). I like the Dark Ages/early Medieval period in Europe, especially in the British Isles, but "The Serpent in the Glass" was something I wanted to write from a more modern viewpoint. Originally I set the story just a couple of decades earlier than the Chronicles of Narnia, but I later chose to update it. In that I was influenced by JK Rowling, whose books I started reading around 2001.

    I think the contrast is good, but you do have to avoid some things. You mustn't date the writing by referencing specific technologies or brands, and you need to keep a buffer with the real-world - a bit like how Rowling does by making mention of a Muggle Prime Minister, but never mentioning a name. Of course, no modern setting in any work of fiction is really the exact same setting of our world. It's a clever copy so that you can relate to it enough to believe it's real.

    Book categories are a bit indistinct. Perhaps this is unavoidable in the sense that children can have very different reading abilities at a young age. Young Adult is usually taken to mean the 12-18 age group, but that is very broad indeed. My book would probably be called a children's book, though crossover/kidult might also fit it. I think it would appeal to anyone aged 11 or older, including young-minded adults. I think I like this category (whatever we call it) because it has such a universal appeal. I'd like to think that if I wrote a historical fiction for adults it would also appeal to young teens.

    I also dislike "dumbing down" language for younger readers. I'm not talking about coarse language (which I hate in books anyway - especially historical fiction that uses modern expletives and thus break the spell of immersion), but just the general vocabulary. There's no reason to change that for a younger reader, in my view, though you might slightly adapt the way it's presented.

    Obviously things have changed significantly from when you were within the age bracket your writing for, even for someone my age, who is from a generation after you to a state which I am slightly alarmed by. When I was growing up and I admit I was one of the more bookwormy sterotypes but I was getting into deep Novels, Farseer Trilogy, Piers Anthonys work and yet today its a more accurate reflection of the time. Everything needs to be fast and stimulating.

    However in this day and age of information over exposure, I say this as a bit of a rebel for my generation. I personally hope that proper books never die (I refuse to own a kindle out of principle) do you think that the act of breaking into Print will end up costing more then its worth by the end of the coming decade. With Electronic media becoming the dominant choice for many readers. Also what advice would you offer to any younger authors who are more likely to be affected by this?

    If a generation is twenty years, then I am just one year shy of being the one that came before you

    I tend toward books with more description than the "fast and stimulating". I like Tolkien, Jordan, Eddings, etc. However, variety is nice and the book I'm working on at the moment is set at a much faster pace.

    I, too, do not own a Kindle. However, the technology does seem to have brought more people into the world of reading a novel digitally. I must admit, as I think many people still do (including teens), I find it hard to see how a nice, light paperback could ever be replaced. But, as you hint at, there is a lot of debate going on. I think that digital sales will increase, but I think that if people really like a book (even if they read it on Kindle, etc., first), they will buy the physical (and no doubt more expensive) product.

    As for advice - well, publish on every platform! will convert a single manuscript into just about every digital version for you; though you may wish to manually edit to get it perfect. Personally I have a separate file for the Kindle version of "The Serpent in the Glass". I know some self-published authors don't have tangible books (most sales are digital), but there are always those who want the paperback (or hardback). And, if you go digital only, how are you going to do book signings? Even if it it's just friends and family...

    As our time together ebbs towards it's rather anti climactic conclusion (a first for me) I would to offer my congratulations to you for your fantastic work and release of Second Editions. I would like to offer my personal thanks for taking the time to converse with me. it has been a wonderful insight into the industry.

    However, before we close and I continue to seethe with minor jealously that someone other then myself has the patience to stick with their ideas. (I jest)

    Do you have any closing remarks, insights of wisdom, general advice, or to quote the late Albus Dumbledore would you like to offer four words instead?

    Thank you for the interview. Thanks to TWC for putting up the book. Thanks to Aradan for taking over FATW so I could write. Thanks to Eorl for designing the wonderful cover image! (that's four 'thank yous' rather than four words ). You can find out more about the book at

    Interview conducted by StealthEvo

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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    AAR Review Section

    Manifest Destiny!
    A Civ V AAR by The Holy Pilgrim
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

    -The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America
    Greetings dear readers. This month I am back to mostly writing reviews, so forgive my wee bit over-enthusiastic manner. But anyway, this is an AAR I have only just stumbled across in the non-TW forums. Sadly it died uncompleted, but I still think it is worth reading. Maybe the author will even be persuaded to continue it.

    We all hopefully know about Civilization V, the hot new Sid Meier game. Well, this is an AAR for it. But first, let me remind you about the game. The Civ franchise, as it is popularly known, is a turn based game concerning the progression of multiple competing civilizations from the stone age to the present and beyond. A very interesting game, if you have a liking for Empire-building games. This game has it all, much like our TW series. City building, battles, and diplomacy. These elements are essential as they enrich the material for writing an AAR. If you need more info, you will find it right here.

    To introduce the plot I'll quote him in his own words:
    I am the American Civilization lead by the famous George Washington, the 1st General and President of the United States of America. I will be facing off against all other civilizations, including the exclusive Babylonians from the deluxe edition. Also along for the ride will be many city-states, all neutral in the beginning, but they are all bound to pick a side, whether it be under my boot or alongside me in arms against our numerous foes.
    Hmm.. Not very historical, but very entertaining nonetheless. After all who wouldn't want to pit the USA against the Babylonians? But where was I? Ah.. Let us begin the review.

    Here my friends, I refer not to the stylish persona of the author, but that of his writing. There were three chapters completed as I wrote this, plus a bonus chapter. Ah.. I was already anticipating many more bonuses, greedy me, until I realised that the AAR stopped 15 months ago . Well, coming back to the point, the writing is in diary form, the moves being recorded and displayed as entries in a journal. I do not know if this is a popular format, but I like it. The first person references bring more feeling into the story.

    The story begins in 4000 BC; that's right, 4000 BC! A time when our forefathers had just begin to grasp the benefits of living together as a society. The story revolves, as stated in the introduction, upon George Washington the leader of a tribe. A fancy name indeed for the stone age, but then anything's possible in Civ, as I would soon find out.

    The Americans encounter various ruins, "charts" (which the protagonist decides to call maps), and other civilizations. Their leaders all have well known names such as: Queen Elisabeth, Darius the Great, Otto Von Bismarck etc. The author also puts some humor in the tale.
    Another man, the height of a small boy, rode up to both of us on some sort of deer-like beast called a "horse" boasting that he was the great Napoleon of France. We both looked at each other and laughed. He did not seem to happy. But what can I say? He looks like an Oompa-Loompa. It's hard to take him seriously.
    Thus ends the first chapter.

    The next chapter continues the story of George Washington. There is exploration, and discovery of new lands and peoples and, as with every republic, politics. But I won't be revealing the entire story here, this was just a teaser merely to whet your appetites. For the rest of the story you will have to read the AAR.

    Much work was done on this AAR while it was active, in one instance two chapters in a day! That's really fast writing. The journal style is clear, simple to understand and straight to the point. I noticed no spelling mistakes or bad grammar.

    The only downside of the journal style is that you may long for substantial paragraphs and dialogue. It makes such a good bedtime read but alas each chapter is over just as we start enjoying it.

    The graphics are good, newish game and all, so the screenshots are great eye candy. Also, every journal entry is followed by a picture in spoiler, so you can always see what you are reading about. The downside is that the pictures are very large, requiring much horizontal scrolling when you could have used your free hand for popcorn! Good thing for the spoilers, or the text would have spilled off the right edge of the screen. On balance I think the pictures would have been much better resized to fit the average screen, but other than this they are fine.

    The Good
    1. Interesting plot. No, better one, A Unique plot.
    2. Good deal of effort given to screenshots. With all saving and uploading and posting.
    3. A must read for Civ fans, and also people looking for an different kind of AAR.

    The Bad
    1. Shorter lines per journal entry. Would have loved paragraphs.
    2. Large pictures. So, give it some time to load.
    3. The AAR was never finished. It would have been wonderful to see the late-game and its clash-of-the-dinosaurs face off between the major civilizations. Oh well...

    So, Ladies and Gentlemen, click here for a unique experience of seeing history made.

    Review by m_1512

    The Russian Republic
    An SS6.4 AAR for M2TW by nine-o
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The Russian Republic (Россия Республика)

    This is an AAR about the medieval republic of Novgorod, or to be precise the Novgorod Republic (Novgorodskaya Zemlja). Despite the name, it was more of a republic of nobles rather than of citizens... well, back to the AAR.

    Game Setting
    The AAR is based on Medieval Novgorod as portrayed in Stainless Steel 6.4. It is an excellent mod with lot of features, and allows for in-depth story and much role-play.

    The Plot
    The story follows a young general, Izyaslav. He bears the title of Knayzhich, which indicates that is he is the heir presumptive to "Lord Novgorod the Great" (as the republic is referred to by its people). It also chronicles his not so effective relations with his wise father, the Prince (and ruler) of Novgorod. The story starts off with war already in progress, the small town of Moscow having just capitulated to our young protagonist. But the campaign is cut short with Izyaslav's recall by the Prince for what turns out to be diplomatic considerations. This nicely sets up the tension that will drive the story arc for the young prince, and the AAR continues mostly with him as protagonist, plus some sub-plots to make things interesting around the corners.

    But I shall reveal no more... the story is much better to read with its twists and surprises intact.

    Moving on to the writing, nine-o's style is measured and detailed, reminding me slightly of Tolkien. It feels like he has taken a lot of trouble to get things just right. Sometimes I even fancied I felt the atmosphere of chilly Russia creeping up my back... or maybe it's just cold at night here in my place. Regardless, the detail is commendable, as you get the opportunity to relate to the story in quite a few ways. The icing on this cake is provided by the sub-plots, adding richness to the story and creating space for the unexpected.

    Although the AAR is in its infancy or growth period, much has been accomplished, especially given the level of detail the author puts in. There are 5 chapters as I write this, including the prologue, and nine-o is working industriously on more. Given the promise shown by the story so far, he really deserves some encouragement from you, my fellow AAR connoisseurs, to help him get more chapters finished.

    The technique the author has used is quite different from the usual run of blitz campaigns you get to see so often on these boards. He gives the AI time to build up, to establish a character of its own, nay. That way the AI is not only a real challenge, but it also gives us such great material for the story. Here are some quotes from his readers:
    Quote Originally Posted by King of the Fairies
    Interesting game-play.
    It makes a nice change to the blitz/steamroll campaigns far too often publicized.
    Keep up the good work !
    Quote Originally Posted by The RomanRuler
    Russian republic Thats something new...
    Quote Originally Posted by Scottish King
    Nicely written! I liked the way you wrote the spy's role and the undertaker. These minor characters added a lot to the story! + rep
    Quote Originally Posted by Radzeer
    Nice updates! I also think it's more fun to let the AI build up. Keep up the good work!
    Quote Originally Posted by knin
    I enjoy the background, political-intrigue/plotting/non-campaign stuff like your last chapter, so I'd say keep ones like that coming. All in all, a very enjoyable read so far
    Nice, isn't it? But now to work, I am afraid I must get to the professional side of my job here; criticism.
    • Fonts: Nothing wrong with it as of now. But, an alternative and more attractive font would have added some beauty to the text. Maybe it's just me, but the Verdana font just looks drab, and even sometimes reduces the feel of the story.
    • Formatting: Just one word of advice to the author. You might consider using new paragraphs or Italics for dialogues and direct speech. It makes the text more distinct from the regular story.

    Actually I couldn't find anything else to criticize, his spelling and grammar seems to be pretty good. So, moving on.

    If you are into the Ooohs and Aaahs of spectacular pictures then you will be slightly disappointed.
    Quote Originally Posted by nine-o
    Also, I suck at screenshots, and due to my schedule I mostly play on my laptop at low unit detail, so don't expect the dazzling screenshots of, say, a Radzeer in this version of Russia
    But it's not that bad either. The author has made up for the low resolution with proper editing. As someone who loathes to have to scroll horizontally, I was glad to see properly sized images. And that's not all, they are also well chosen for relevance to the story.

    This is also a unique AAR by the fact that there aren't many Russian ones out there. Also, I'll conclude with my signature piece; the Good and the Bad section.

    The Good
    1. Uniqueness factor -> Russian faction.
    2. In-depth story, with sub-plots.
    3. Interesting story, not a stream rolled campaign.
    4. Adequately sized images.
    5. No typos that would usually make you wince.

    The Bad
    1. Text formatting requires more work.
    2. Low resolution images, but come on, that doesn't spoil all the fun.
    3. I Would have liked more intrigue and suspense in the story.

    Like some premium vodka? Right this way, please.

    Review by m_1512

    Julian, The Savior Of Rome?
    An IB:SAI AAR for RTW:BI by Knonfoda
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Sona si Latine loqueris.
    Honk if you speak Latin.

    The latest Winner of the prestigious (although i've never even come close to winning it and i'm plenty prestigious) Monthly After Action Report Competition (MAARC) comes from a chap called Knonfoda, who has created an AAR that rivals my own masterpieces.

    For those of you who have not heard of the Invasio Barbarorum series of Modifications I would strongly suggest that you emerge from the cave from which you must have dwelt. Go and buy a computer of some kind, install the required connection to the powergrid to run the thing, discover the Internet Porn and download the mod. Then come back.

    Done, great!

    Invasio Barbarorum has been hailed as what Barbarian Invasion (that's Rome's expansion pack to those of you who havn't heard of it) should have been. Armed with the Historical prowess of the order of the Europa Barbarorum crew and a fantastic team the Series now has four separate Mods under its belt that deal with the Roman Demise, a period equally turbulent to that of their rise. So it should be expected that any AAR from this series is AwesomeTM. I stand corrected. Julian, The Savior of Rome? Far exceeds even my extremely high expectations.

    Right from the start Knonfoda explains that he is a fan of Decimus Milo, whom as most people are aware; Is the Era's apparent equivalent of Coupe... whoever his name is. However, Knonfoda's writing style is, at least in my opinion, more emotive and more personal. This aspect is gradually introduced and is used more in the later chapters of this AAR, as the stage expands out to accommodate a much larger supporting cast. The deeper characterizations add more to the personal experience. The settings combined with the slower than standard progression of the Campaign lend themselves to this style of AAR where characters can be fleshed out as the years roll by.

    However. There are moments where the fourth wall is shamelessly assimilated. Particularly in the earlier chapters where the narrative seems to be a mix of admiration over the features of the Mod and disembodied commentary on how the Campaign was progressing as a whole. But in all honesty this method that Knonfoda's chosen is perfect for an AAR, a lot of pictures to keep those who favour such things happy and content, a short narrative for those who crave that. And to top it all off, he's using a popular medium.

    So what makes this one so special? Especially when compared to its inspiration?

    Its consistency!

    In the prologue, Knonfoda gives us a very detailed description of what he wants to do and achieve. Which already puts it ahead story wise, due to lack of having to invent a script.
    Quote Originally Posted by Knonfoda
    "I will act in a way which I believe mirrors that of the Roman Empire at the time. However, obviously by trying to alter its decline I shall attempt to re-write history. But I will do this by trying to act 'historically' so to speak, eg not attacking nonsensical targets, doing a campaign at a time, etc. I will indeed attempt to re-instate paganism as the mainstream religion, as my in-game character, Julian, is mistrustful of monotheistic religions, not to mention very conservative and backwards looking, full of nostalgia of the past glory of Rome, and full of plans on how to bring that glory back. And so it will be. "
    And thus he does. Early on this adventure (but not early enough to be popular enough to conform to his own rules for the sake of it mind) he makes a mention of destroying several unique. Yes Unique buildings all which provide a natural bonus as they are special. All in the name of remaining consistent with his house rules. To me, this is a bigger deal than losing and then reporting that you've lost in an AAR (which would be shocking enough as the number of AARs chronicling defeat is vanishingly small).

    Another key point to this whole historical recreation AAR is the blood, or since CA didn't have blood back Rome Days, the battles! A first (in my experience) is the use of soundtracks for the battles. I personally can vouch for the effectiveness of such mechanics, it really sets the emotional tone. Coupled with albeit vanilla screenshots the action captured seems to have a frantic edge to it.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    As progress continues and taking a much later screenshot as a comparison. The presentation is sharpened up considerably and cropped to provide a much more focussed glimpse of what's happening over the screenshot. Thankfully the emotive element is still very much present.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    It's clear that Knonfoda has cracked the code for the quintessential After Action Report, bringing in a variety of different factors on an already establish Paradigm. Personally I applaud him for his efforts. It's the consistency in writing and play that really make this AAR shine out so clearly, and to many others. As it brought home a strong victory against some much more noted and reviewed Authors.

    However. Constructively. I would make a point of trying to establish a direct narrative, rather than having a hybrid format like Decimus Milo. Whilst there is no denying that it works. Establishing a fully fleshed out narrative from a Protagonists point of view combined with the already emotive nature of the AAR would make it a far more seamless and enjoyable experience. Not only for the readers. But for the writer as well.

    Expanding the narrative as well. Detail is always the key, whilst a picture may provide one thousand words. They might not be nearly as good as what you can develop yourself.

    So in conclusion. What makes Julian, The saviour of Rome? different from its established mainstream origins?
    • Well its writing is subtle, emotive, smooth. Much like a Jaguar XF, which we all know is one of the better modern day luxury sports cars.
    • The setting is uncommon. So it invites readers to explore with the story teller, rather then thinking: "It's been done before, how well can X do it".

    In the loosely paraphrased words of Tolkien, It's a tale that grew with time, which it has - and then some, like a well matured Cave Cheddar. Strong yet suave.

    Review by StealthEvo

    Filii Martis
    An RTW AAR by LegolasGreenleaf
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Opening statement
    I believe an introduction is in order. I am Marcus Aulus Julius, son of Decius Julius and grandson of Vibius Julius, leader of The Julii, and Conqueror of The World. Under my rule, the Roman Empire has been brought to its height. Countless victories have gained the Julii the rightful title of The Supreme Lords. All of Europa rests at our feet. They call me Filius Martis, the Son of Mars. The Gods favoured us over the centuries, blessing us with good fortune.

    Until they killed me.

    We Romans never liked the Germans, those barbarians. They were filth, lowly creatures, who deserved to live in the sewers, too low to be called men, too low to even deserve to die by our swords.

    We hunted them down, killed them in their own homes, burned their villages, killed their families, and sold their women and children as slaves. They didn’t take too kindly to that, unfortunately, and they returned the favour.

    This is the story of my family, the story of how it grew, the story of how it rose to its highest.

    And of how it fell.
    With those ominous words the author launches into his work proper. A story based on the Julii, this RTW AAR is a wonderfully written piece that exudes much promise. The narrative follows that of Flavius, son of Aulus Lucius Julius, general and founder of the Julii. In the opening chapter we are presented with the untimely demise of Flavius’ father at the hands of mysterious men. We then follow Flavius as the youthful Roman slowly transforms into a manly soldier, following in his father’s footsteps in his quest for redemption and revenge.

    Writing and presentation
    The story is presented in the third person and follows Flavius closely as he evolves from grieving child to the leader of an army. The writing is smooth and carries a fluid tone, with very high technical quality. Descriptions of the internal feelings of the characters were particularly well written, and the dialogue between characters – so often the hardest to get right – is expertly done. Meanwhile the addition of a love interest for Flavius spices things up a little, adding to the intrigue. Thanks to these elements and the promising plotline of vengeance, this AAR makes for a captivating read.

    “Flavius,” he gasped again. “Keep your mother safe. I knew this would happen, yet I did not keep myself safe. Do not make the same mistake, my son.”

    “No Father, don’t say that, you’ll be alright!” Flavius said, tears rolling down his cheeks.

    “Be brave, my son, be brave.” He said, slowly falling back. His hand went limp, and Flavius knew, his Father was no more.

    “Father! Father! Don’t leave me Father, please!” cried Flavius, breaking into sobs, clasping his arms around his father’s body. He felt a hand on his shoulder, pulling him away, but he shoved it off. More hands came and pulled him away from Aulus. As Flavius was dragged away, he saw his father’s body once more, and he knew, that without his father, life meant nothing to him anymore.

    Flavius woke up early. He could not sleep. He quietly walked out of bed, and went to the balcony. Darkness covered the streets of Roma, which only a few hours ago were bustling with activity, but now were silent.
    “You couldn’t sleep, could you?” said a voice from behind, startling Flavius. Turning around, he saw Vibius. “I couldn’t either. I thought of coming out here for some fresh air.”

    “A good idea. Join me.” Said Flavius absent mindedly. Vibius frowned. “Is everything alright?”

    “Isn’t it obvious?” sighed Flavius. “My life has changed so much in so little time. Father is no more, I’m being attacked wherever I go, and tomorrow I have to speak to the Senate. I’m not ready for this, Vibius. I don’t think I ever will be.” He turned away, looking out to the streets again. “Why me, Vibius? Why not someone else? What if something goes wrong? I’m not ready.”
    The AAR is mostly textual, with a single picture of Roman origin setting the scene. The text is generously spaced and written in a nice serif font in Garamond, which makes the text easy on the eye.

    This AAR is a delight to read, with excellent writing style and a cast of characters. Some suggestions I would make:
    • Perhaps more background on Flavius’ childhood and his relationship with the father? A more intimate knowledge of why the pair were close could do well to embellish the vengeance plotline
    • Despite the generally authentic writing style, some honorifics were misused. One that particularly irked me was “my liege”, which carries more of a medieval English tone
    • I have a penchant for using pictures to frame the narrative, and hopefully as the action picks up there will be some good action shots of battle, but this is a stylistic choice and the AAR functions well with them
    • Sometimes multiple line breaks are used consecutively to create long breaks in the text. This helps to break up walls of text but big gaps are best avoided in my view
    • Some words are inappropriately capitalised – nothing that couldn’t be cleaned up with a quick read through though
    • Have a table of contents – it’s a bit of work but makes the AAR far easier to navigate
    • Have a list of characters. At present it’s not an issue with a limited number of characters, but as more personas are brought into the plotline it may become confusing especially for new readers

    Started in November, this highly promising AAR currently has eight chapters. The author has taken a slight hiatus but has reassured his readership that more is on the way. If you haven’t read this particular tale then you’d do well to give it a go. Perhaps a bit of encouragement will persuade the author where his priorities should lie!

    Review by robinzx

    Fire and Blood in Francia
    A Chivalry II - SV3.3 AAR for M2TW by Latin Knight
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Latin Knight’s attention to fine detail and historical accuracy are but a few of the many things that make his AAR, Fire and Blood in Francia, such a welcome surprise and stand out hit among recent AARs. Using the venerable Sicilian Vespers mod as a vehicle, Latin Knight presents a story-driven AAR that delivers in engaging fashion and has readers hungry for more. Let us take a deeper look into Fire and Blood in Francia, and see what makes it such an enjoyable AAR.

    Before delving into the nitty gritty of the story, I find it important to point out the setting in which the story takes place. The AAR takes place in late 9th-early 10th century France and Italy. Latin Knight portrays this time period by playing the Dark Ages Custom Campaign in Sicilian Vespers, which starts the game off in 888 AD. This under-represented time period provides Latin Knight with the opportunity to create an interesting story in a period that many aren’t accustomed to. When I learned that this AAR took place in the Early Middle Ages, it immediately piqued my interest, as I was eager to learn more about the characters who lived during that time.

    And Latin Knight does not disappoint; he has definitely done his homework on the setting of his story. He has done extensive research to make sure that the characters in the story play out their role as they would have historically done, adding an extra sense of believability and authenticity to his character. In keeping with trying to stay true to the time period, Latin Knight uses many Latin translations for the names of characters.

    For example, King Odo of France in the story would be regarded as Rex Eudes of Regnum Francorum Occidentalis. Latin Knight makes a great effort to create a very authentic historical setting marked by the spread of Christianity and post-Carolingian political intrigue. The end result leaves me as the reader generally believing the way in which the author portrays the interplay between religion and political intrigue as the way in which it would have likely proceeded in history, thus making for an enhanced enjoyable read.

    The story itself is nothing short of astounding. Once you are immersed by the setting, you are immediately drawn in by the intricate web of plotting and scheming that emerges as the story plays out. Each character has their set role, and Latin Knight plays out those roles to perfection, whether that be spreading the word of God or maintaining a hidden agenda, making every major character the reader is introduced to important to the overall arc of the story so far.

    That’s not to say that the story is without its bevy of minor characters either, all of which also seem to play a nice role in promoting the ambience and setting of the story and time period. A good example of this is Brother Ioannis of Franconia, who despite only playing a minor role in one chapter, helps provide perspective on how Christianity is viewed by a certain group of people in a certain area, thus setting the mood for the rest of the chapter and how it is going to play out. The plot is thick and intriguing, making the reader eager to learn what happens next.

    The story is also told through the perspective of several different characters, which only helps broaden the overall image of the story taking place. Seeing how a priest or knight would see the same events differently than a noble or a King would shows a great dichotomy between class perspective. It adds to the overall value of the setting, which in turn only enhances the immersive appeal of the story. Latin Knight also makes great use of dialogue, which showcases how these very different characters react to one another. The dialogue also does a solid job highlighting certain issues in dispute, such as religion. The following excerpt shows one such discussion over religion between the priest Froderigus and the Norvegian King Gorm.

    “Why did you want me to follow you?” asked Froderigus the day after he was taken.
    “Some of my… concubines are Christians I've captured in Francia and Anglia, and I allowed one of your priests to make part of their own retinues, as a… how do you call it? Confessor?”
    “But that man is loathsome creature, spends the most part of the day screaming at my pagan servants and subjects that they must repent of their sins or they are doomed. I tried to get him once to explain the fundaments of the religion, but he annoyed me with his talk of being bathed…”
    “You mean, baptized”
    Gorm warned him with a quick look, ‘don’t do it again’. Kings hated to be interrupted when talking, especially if to be corrected.
    “Yes. My concubine seemed pleased by the presence of that despicable creature, but I couldn’t stand him close to me. Yet, i admit this curiosity remains. How can great kings worship such a weak god, that was nailed to wood and spoke of… of ‘offering the other cheek’ when your enemy assaults you?” He seemed disgusted at this thought.
    “It’s very simple, actually. The great kings have come to accept the truth of the Gospels and the message of the Apostles and saints. They are enlightened by the faith in the Lord.”
    “Haha, but that’s easy for you to say.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “You simply claim your religion is the right one, that your god is the only true one, only because the great kings adore him, for centuries. That doesn’t means that you, Christians are right, in the end, or that your religion is truly correct. That only means your faith is practiced by the majority of the peoples in the world, nothing more.”
    “How… how you can say that? Are you implying that every person who was told and obeyed the word of Jesus is wrong?”
    “I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I’m just questioning if you consider your faith is the 'true one' by the very fact it expanded so much.”
    “Our faith grew firstly in the heart of the very nation that crucified Christ, for its tyrants came to see the light of the Lord, and abandoned their false idols. Then this great realm collapse, and also the barbarians that caused its ruin came to embrace the correct religion, and thus resurrected the Imperium Romanum, under the auspices of the Holy Church. This could happen only if God wanted, and thus you have the proof that He is the true one.”
    “And what, if, in the end, you all are wrong? If there is indeed one god, that is not Christus, and he actually hates you for worshipping a ‘false idol’, as you like to call it. Then, just imagine: all thousands of Christians are going to burn in Hell for idolatry, for worshipping a nailed God!” upon seeing the absolutely terrified face of the priest he burst in laughter, in sheer amusement.
    This is a great example that showcases a discourse on two completely different outlooks on religion. Gorm ends up giving Froderigus a new perspective on how Christianity is viewed on the other side of the spectrum. Again, this only further attributes to the authenticity of the story. While the main plot is simply wonderful to read, my personal favorite part of Latin Knight’s writing style is his willingness to create side stories to augment the overall value of the story.

    This is also a sidenote, but I genuinely enjoy the Author’s Notes that Latin Knight leaves behind after every update; they provide a unique insight into his thought process in creating the story, and they also show how personable and engaging he is with his readers.

    Latin Knight makes spare use of images, although this may be because he is trying to focus more on the story. The lack of campaign images indicates that he’s not trying to use images as a form of play-by-play of his latest actions, but rather to provide visual aid to what is taking place in the story at that particular moment.

    These images become very useful throughout certain parts, particularly when Latin Knight describes campaigns in detail. Whether it be in Brittany or Provence, the maps become invaluable as they help readers see the who, what, where and how of the towns the author makes mention of in the text. The images themselves are properly cropped and taken at great angles to showcase up-close scenes of battle, which are always a delight.

    The story, like all other stories, is not without its own set of quirks. Though it may be considered personal preference, the lack of spacing between dialogue and description through lengthy bits of text can make it very easy for a reader to lose track of where they were. Also, it can become very easy to lose track of who is who, especially with all the Latin names being thrown about interchangeably with their English counterparts. Thankfully, Latin Knight has made a strong effort to provide clarification for the nomenclature, which I commend him for. Even so, these little quirks can at times make the AAR intimidating to read and difficult to be immersed into.

    Despite these minor quirks, Latin Knight dishes out a stellar story with Fire and Blood in Francia, one that you simply don’t want to let go of once you’ve been immersed into the gritty reality of 10th Century French politics. This is a wonderful AAR that has gotten off to a strong start, and I strongly recommend those who haven’t looked into it yet to definitely give it a look through; you won’t be sorry for it.

    Review by Thokran

    Work Critiques Section

    You [a poem]
    A story by Aonghus G. Friedhold
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    My Creative Writing selection for this issue is a poem titled ‘You’ by Aonghus G. Friedhold. As the author explains briefly in the small forward to his poem, the work revolves around the persona’s (poetic term for speaker in the poem) disenchantment with a friend once loved and explores the reasons for the closure of a formerly strong friendship. Though not at once emotional, it builds, and, as all good poetry does, proves to exhibit strong intensity of emotion – which is why I selected this poem to begin with – and serves to communicate a sense of purpose to the power of friendship.

    The poem starts off with the defamatory ‘You’, and this single word sets the tone of the entire poem. The persona, from stanza to stanza, rages against the one who caused him anguish, decrying “If you really want me in your life / What are you doing ruining mine / Like some parasite / Feeding on my happiness?” and “I somehow doubt these things occur to you / I doubt you realize what you’re doing / Because to realize would require you to think, / And you can hardly be expected to do that.” Though these lines clearly express anger, there undoubtedly lies within them a bitter and crushing lamentation that the friendship has reached its outermost limits and must collapse, like a neutron star, and it seems clear that the persona wishes he could have done something, though it appears not in his power, to preserve what he had. Thus, the tonal patterns of the poem read much like a coming-of-age work, with the persona tasting the sour and bitter grapes of truth behind his friend and wishing, somehow, it could have never been.

    One of the things I find most effective about the poem is the persona’s employment of the vernacular in lieu of symbolic language. This gives the poem a universally honest aspect and, as I believe was the intent, to give the persona a certain level of sympathy from the reader. I noticed some of the words in the poem were italicized like ‘emotion’ and ‘I’m’ and ‘Love’ and this really serves to uncover some of the persona’s complex feelings towards who the poem is directed at in the lines containing these words. I would also propagate that these particular words, taken in their emotional contexts, are what mean the most to the persona and signify what both he and his former friend have lost.

    The syntactical structures of poems are always somewhat interesting; and this was where I found the poem somewhat lacking. The pacing of the poem feels off – it moves too quickly between stanzas. I will use a previously quoted line to illustrate this:

    If you really want me in your life

    What are you doing ruining mine

    Like some parasite

    Feeding on my happiness?

    If the poem was read aloud, it would sound, I know we're limited here, something like this: “If you really want me in your life what are you doing ruining mine like some parasite feeding on my happiness?” with no breaks or pauses.

    If you really want me in your life

    What are you doing ruining mine,

    Like some parasite

    Feeding on my happiness.

    If you look at my changes, the poem merely slows down. Where you place your pauses is fundamentally important. Of course, you can construct your pauses with any grammatical device (dashes, semi-colons, colons, exclamation points, etc.) of your choosing.

    Also, in several places, you might be well served by enjambing the lines to bring focus to a particular idea, like how some words are italicized:

    With your lack of

    Care or love or emotion.


    With your lack of Care, or


    or emotion.

    Enjambment can really add depth, and change or heighten the meaning of a poem. If you look carefully, the fact that words are broken into three lines serves to heighten the poem’s effect, bring attention to an idea (love) that runs key in the work.

    Before I wrap up this review, prudence demands I address a few relatively minor issues that caught my attention while reading. First, I noticed some pretty obvious rhetorical clichés, for example, “When you can’t even look in the mirror / for five seconds” and “When was the last time / You took a step back / And took a good hard look / at yourself?” proved the most obvious, but certainly I saw more. The way to fix these, simply, is to writer stronger, more unique, metaphors that convey the same thing. In relation to the use of individual words, I think it would prove interesting if you were to capitalize certain words in the poem, like ‘present’ and ‘time’, because they seem important. Lastly, I’m not so sure how I feel about the last line of the poem. While not technically out of place, I think the poem would be stronger without it.

    To conclude, I would like to applaud you for writing a poem with emotional depth. Frankly, it’s the reason I chose the poem; and, other than aesthetic beauty, raw and passionate depth is what I seek in poems.

    Finally, I encourage all readers to check out the Scriptorium Writing Competition. Submissions began on February first and will last until the first of March, so you still have time. I await your entries!

    Review by Absalom, Absalom!

    Article Section

    AAR Writing – a Technical Study
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    No, this is not a shoe commercial.

    Just as the shoes on the right have been imparted with a generous polish, any good AAR deserves to be given that extra little bit of love and care. Readers like works that are polished and where the writer cares about his work, and a few minor tweaks could make a world of difference in that respect. A few simple elements can help to give an AAR that professional look.

    There is practical value too. By making it easier for your readers to navigate your writing you minimise the time they spend not reading your writing, and the more they are likely to enjoy it, give feedback, and so on. This article therefore aims to share some tricks of the trade – simple ways to improve the presentation of your masterpiece. Some of this will seem obvious, especially to more experienced writers, but hopefully some of this information will be useful for AAR writers at large.

    Not terribly important stuff, I hear you say. The truth is quite the contrary – a consistent, well formatted page is the first and most basic step towards a professional looking piece of writing:
    • Use a different font than the forum default. This really helps to make your writing stand out from the other posts
    • Use a consistent font, font size and colour throughout your piece. There is nothing more distracting than each new chapter having a different look. Instead of changing font simply use bold or italics for emphasis
    • Skip lines between paragraphs so there is extra empty space. Walls of text are daunting to read, and by adding adequate spacing you help the reader to pace himself while he works his way through your work

    Table of contents
    AARs usually tend to be updated using new posts in its thread. As the writing begins to increase in volume, and the thread becomes cluttered with more and more chapters however, there is a danger that the AAR becomes a serious challenge to navigate around should one wish to read a specific chapter, or to resume where one had left off. The solution is a simple and elegant one which requires minimal effort.

    Step 1: once you have written a new update, press the quote button on the newly written post, and you will be presented with your writing in BBcode. At the start there will be something like this:
    [QUOTE = Juvenal;10887654]
    The eight digit number is the Post ID of your new chapter. Now to insert a link to this chapter you simply put the Post ID into the following line:
    [post = 10887654]Link here[/post]
    (for the sake of convenience I have linked the last edition of the Quill)

    Which looks something like this:

    Link here

    Alternatively, hover your mouse over the post number on the top right of your post, and in the hyperlink that shows up, take the digits after "#post".

    Updated for every chapter, the Table of Contents gives reader and writer alike a quick and easy way to access each chapter without the tedium of scrolling through page after page. I've posted a part of the TOC from my own AAR as an illustration:

    Supplemental information
    In a long AAR, especially story based ones, there generally tends to be a large cast of characters which help to flesh out the story and interaction between them can provide for intriguing subplots. The down side is that as the number of characters increases, it becomes increasingly hard for readers to keep track of everybody. This is where a clear list of characters could be of considerable help. This is especially true if you are writing about a culture that is not familiar to all – and given the diverse demographic of the internet the names of your characters will likely sound alien to some of your readership, even if they are called John, James and David.

    Along with names and simple details, short bios of the characters could be used to provide additional information not suited to the narrative itself. An excellent example of a character list is provided herein courtesy of Radzeer’s Primus Inter Pares. A wonderfully detailed description of the characters does wonders to help distinguish characters from each other, and provided at the top of each post they act as a quick reference for readers picking up the story.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The royal family Grand Prince Vladimir
    The first Grand Prince, leading the early expansion of the Rus, annexing several independent cities and fighting against both the Cumans and the Catholics. He has found the Holy Grail after taking Oleshe, and established the tradition in which the Grail is kept by the Prince to guide him. At the end of his life he retired and transferred the power to his oldest son and heir, Mstislav. He lived a long life and died peacefully in Kiev.
    Grand Prince Mstislav
    The second Grand Prince, and the oldest son of Vladimir. He held power for long as a Prince. He fought against the Cumans in the east, and conquered Smolensk in the north overthrowing the Novgorod-friendly council. He was a skilled politician and determined leader with a vision to expand toward the Baltic Sea. He established the Rus as a major power, although at the end of his reign he had difficulties with his brothers who wanted to have their separate ways. He died peacefully in Kiev.
    Grand Prince Gostislav
    The third Grand Prince, Mstislav's oldest son, the governor of Pereyaslav. Quite unremarkable as a child, he had a lot to prove. His decisions were not without controversy, but he did what he could to keep the Rus intact. He was somewhat successful with Yaropolk's sons in the west keeping at least their formal allegiance, but could not contain his other uncle, Yurii, who set up his own principality around Azaq. His rule was often compared to the rule of his father, in which comparison he did not fare well, especially about his foreign policy. He died shortly after a victory against Poland.
    Grand Prince Nikifor
    The fourth Grand Prince, Gostislav's first son. His marriage to a Venetian princess was supposed to build good connections to Catholics, but the alliance was short-lived. He is considered to be a talented leader and a capable general. He launched the long awaited war against Novgorod, which he carried out ruthlessly. After vassalizing Novgorod, he was caught in the conflict between the boyars and Prince Halstan. At the end of his rule he tried to reestablish the succession line of the Yaroslavich family, favoring his only son. He died in Kiev shortly before marching against Venice to retake Halych.
    Nikifor's only son. A talented military commander, but a man with a temper, similar to his uncle, Rostislav.

    Apokavkos Komnenos
    Member of the Roman royal family, who married Nikifor's second daughter.
    Khotimir Kievskii
    Kievan boyar who married Nikifor's youngest daughter.

    Another example – my own version inspired by Radzeer's. The main difference was the addition of unit portraits from the game. The intention was to put faces to each of the characters so readers can more easily relate to them as more than simply being a name.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Takeda Harunobu (born Takeda Katsuchiyo, renamed Takeda Shingen in 1559)
    Born 1521
    The eldest of the three brothers, the Takeda daimyo is known for his military genius but also a lack of patience. His personal Furinkazan banner is an inspiration to all Takeda men as they charge into battle.

    Takeda Nobushige
    Born 1525
    Younger brother of Takeda Harunobu and elder brother of Takeda Nobukado, Nobushige is the thinker among the Takeda brothers, with his capacity for military strategy surpassed only by Yamamoto Kansuke and his elder brother.

    Takeda Nobukado
    Born 1529
    The youngest of the Takeda brothers, Nobukado is fiercely loyal to his brothers and has established a fearsome reputation in battle.

    Takeda Yoshinobu (born Takeda Taro)
    Born 1536
    Eldest son of Harunobu and heir apparent to the Takeda clan, Yoshinobu has inherited the military prowess of his father, but also his short temper.

    Takeda Yoshinaga (born Takeda Jiro)
    Born 1547
    The second son of the Takeda daimyo has yet to come of age.

    Maps of campaign movements are similar in nature that they help to deepen your readers’ understanding of the geography of the story, especially if it’s set in exotic locales that aren’t immediately obvious. Meanwhile battle maps can help the reader visualise army movements during a battle that aren't immediately obvious from the narrative.

    Maps help to depict army movements during a campaign or battle

    There is a vast body of work by numerous authors were not a single image was used in entire stories, so this section becomes more or less applicable depending on your approach. Even in text heavy AARs though, pictures can be used as embellishment with great effect.

    The vast majority of AARs are an amalgamation of text and pictures. While it is important to avoid AARs becoming comic books, the value of using pictures to provide supporting imagery could not be emphasized enough. They help set the mood of the story, help readers to visualise background scenery, and help to bring the chaos of battle alive. While the same can be achieved with text alone, the use of pictures almost turns an AAR from a written story into a movie, with the pictures used acting as still frames from the action. In that sense well composed and edited photos are as central to the story as the narrative itself.

    Simple picture of a Roman arch used to introduce a story from the period

    1. Composition
    Decide what message you are trying to capture with the picture, and where it fits into the narrative. Wide angle shots are better for setting the scene, while close up shots tend to portray action, and are more suited to melee. Once you’ve taken your screenshot crop it so that only your subject matter remains – removing distractions such as the unit cards, battle timers and so on can only help to improve immersion.

    As for time of day and weather - it is not always easy to get the effect you want for your battle during the campaign, so don't be afraid to use custom battles to help give you the perfect imagery. Night shots and adverse weather can be used to portray emotion with great effect.

    Calm before the storm - wide angle shots of army compositions help to portray the magnitude of large battles

    The chaos of melee is best captured by close up shots of the action

    Shots from behind can be used to imply motion, especially if you have the intended victims in view as well. The vice versa can be used to demonstrate the solidity of defenders bracing for impact

    2. Size
    Pictures should be resized so that they are not too small or big. Posting pictures that are too small leave your audience straining their eyes to see the content, while enormous pictures would only serve to take the reader away from your story. A good range is perhaps 500 to little over 1,000 pixels wide, with a reasonable ratio of height to width. Panoramic photos are also a great choice for certain subjects.

    An example of panoramic shots used to present a scene

    3. Post production
    Post production isn’t necessary, but can be used to embellish your pictures further. Borders that reflect period art can help to add authenticity, while even the simplest black border can help to make them look more polished. Simple adjustments of saturation and brightness can be used portray different emotions. If you’re feeling more adventurous things like motion blur and bokeh can be used to emphasize motion, focus in on characters, and so on. It’s usually best to limit heavily edited photos to a small number – partly to save time and partly for the sake of emphasis.

    4. Real life imagery
    Real life photographs or other imagery can do wonders for an AAR, especially when you’re going for the movie shots approach to pictures. They help sculpt the scene for your characters, and can provide for imagery the games by their nature cannot.

    A chapter set in Athens is perfectly introduced with this image of the Parthenon.

    Death awaits in the shadows...

    Euphemism for lust and debauchery?

    5. A final word
    Make sure you deselect whatever unit you are using before you take the screenshot. There is nothing more immersion-breaking than a little green/yellow circle under the feet of your samurai/line infantry.

    Other tips
    Some other general tips for AAR writers:
    • Use spoiler tags sparingly. They are the equivalent of asking the reader to turn a page, so use it for information that is incidental to the main story
    • Including the last updated date in the opening post can help to inform your readership when there is new material to read
    • Proof read your writing! The rush to publish is understandable, but simple grammar and typing errors can hurt the overall reading quality of any piece of writing. Read your work and it will pay off
    • Put your AAR in your signature, use the advertising channels, partake in the competitions. These all help to get word of your AAR out to the masses on the forum, and feedback and interest is the nourishment ever AAR needs to survive and succeed

    So there you have it. It's ultimately up to the author how much effort he wants to put into an AAR, but such effort does make a difference, and is generally well appreciated. Good luck to all!

    Credits: Radzeer, Thokran, Nanny, LegolasGreenleaf for their pictures.

    By robinzx

    From the Shire across Lothlorien to the Westfold – recent TATW AARs

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Third Age Total War (TATW), the recreation of Tolkien's lore in the Total War universe has been giving fans cutting edge immersion for a long time. The superb playing experience, however is quite difficult to turn into AARs. After writing about these challenges a few Quills ago, I was pleased to see three TATW AARs that were started in the past weeks: Rohan, Land of the Horse Lords by Kosopporkat, The Rise of the Elves by The Norseman, and Arnor: An Empire reborn by Oxode.

    The Land of the Horse Lords is a campaign driven AAR for Rohan. It has a steady, descriptive narrative with informative campaign pictures. It has no plot, but offers a very nice reading in which Kosopporkat uses several immersive bits that contribute to the atmosphere. The pictures are small but appropriately cropped and edited. Maybe more battle pictures would be great to utilize the amazing textures and design of TATW.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The Rise of the Elves unfortunately lasted only for four chapters due to savegame problems. It started as a campaign narrative, written without any particular plot to follow. The only slightly confusing aspect of the writing was the occasional use of “we” or “us” in the narrative. Just like other TATW stories, this one has also offered excellent screenshots. Given the premature end of the AAR, pictures from the campaign were the majority, but the few battle shots gave us a good sample of the Norseman’s skills with visual aids.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    These two AARs are similar in their narrative choice which focuses on the campaign events as opposed to a character-centered plot. This choice may seem dull for some, but it is actually quite effective. Without a plot, the writer can avoid the most common traps of writing something which is not in sync with Tolkien’s lore. Plots require character development and lore-conforming narratives, while straightforward campaign AARs could offer entertainment to those readers too that are usually less moved by the Middle Earth universe.

    Oxode's Arnor AAR is quite different from these two. It has some emphasis on the campaign, but there are also various plot elements and Oxode puts the story into context by starting with the custom battle at Mount Doom to introduce Eriador. Technically, this AAR needs some work on both text formatting (separating paragraphs, dialogs, pictures) and grammar (mixed tenses, occasional typos). On the other hand, it has very nice pictures, and Oxode brings out the best of the opportunities created by the TATW design team.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The real challenge is in character and plot development, which takes us back to the original difficulty with TATW campaigns. Here the first few chapters focus on the exploits of Gandalf and Aragorn, the two main characters for the Eriador-Arnor campaign - and this is where writers need to be extra careful. Gandalf and Aragorn are central figures of the lore, therefore if they act even only slightly differently in the campaign the reader may get some uneasy feelings about the story. This is particularly the case when Gandalf is used as a regular general (a typical issue with Eriador campaigns). Oxode seemed aware of this when he noted that Gandalf "had evolved from a humble wizard to a Merciless Warbringer" and decided to leave him behind in later chapters of the story.

    Role-playing and character development in TATW games are not only constrained by Tolkien but by game mechanics as well. To conform the lore, the starting characters' life expectancy was greatly increased. While this works well for the general role-playing with immortal Elves, wizards and the almost immortal men of Numenor, it tends to push the second and third generations in the family tree under the radar. Furthermore, the ancestors are much better developed than the descendants in the lore, so chances are that a TATW player would find himself with famous main characters from the first generation blessed with long life and a large number of unknown offsprings from the subsequent generations.

    Oxode handled this dilemma by introducing houses of the royal offsprings in the last chapters. This brings back the focus on the later generations of family members, but it requires substantial effort in plot development since it works with completely made-up distinctions with no help from game scripting. The houses of royal offsprings is an excellent and creative solution because it builds on the least developed part of the lore which provides the greatest autonomy for the player.

    Another solution to handle plot development in the Arnor AAR was introducing comedy. Comedy TATW AARs, like Maltacus' excellent tale of the Dwarven search for Midgard, deliberately break the lore as one way to create artistic freedom. But mixing genres in the same AAR is always very dangerous as it can completely derail the existing narrative and character development. While the latest comedy chapter of Oxode's tale was well written, it did not really fit to the rest of the story despite offering some witty comments such as my favorite one about the allied AI army.

    Dwalin had miscalculated the size of the walls, he had therefore built two siege towers completely useless and there was no battlements, all he could use was his battering rams.
    In summary, the recent TATW AARs had various solutions to handle the lore challenge. The Norseman and Kosopporkat chose the descriptive campaign style, avoiding plot and character development and created smooth story progressions. Oxode's AAR was more like an experiment with various options as the story developed of which some worked better than others. But there is still a lot of room for development and completing the quest for artistic freedom in Middle Earth. The modders of TATW have set the bar very high, but I am optimistic that the writers of TATW can meet this challenge.

    By Radzeer

    From the Editor's Desk

    I have to say that I have really enjoyed editing this month's collection of pieces. Just as a reminder, you have been reading the contributions of Radzeer, Absalom, Absalom!, Thokran, wowbanger, m_1512, StealthEvo and robinzx. Please show your appreciation to them with some rep, and of course don't forget to visit some of the AARs we have reviewed and show your support for the authors who work so hard crafting stories for you.

    If you are an AAR writer yourself, then you will probably be looking for more publicity. As I wrote in the last issue, I intend to add a weekly post in this thread advertising active AARs. All I need is a PM from you with a sentence and a link to your new post. I am also going to farm the existing Advertising Board thread, so if you already post there I will reproduce your notice and you won't need to send me a PM as well.

    Well, that's it for another month. Now all we have to do is go away and do it all again! We do hope you enjoyed the issue. Whatever your reaction, the best way to share it with readers and writers alike is by posting your comments below.


    If you find yourself at a loose end, then why not consider sampling some of the TWC publications or creative forums. It's easy, just click through the picture!

    imb39 my daddy!
    See AARtistry in action: Spite of Severus and Severus the God

    Support the MAARC!
    Tale of the Week Needs You!

  3. #3
    Radzeer's Avatar Rogue Bodemloze
    Moderator Emeritus Content Emeritus

    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    Another excellent review with a nice showcase of what writers do on TWC! Great job, everybody.

  4. #4

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    Great issue! A large dollop of back-patting to all involved
    The Wings of Destiny - A FotS AAR (Chapter 12 - Updated Apr 24)
    Takeda - a Shogun 2 AAR (Completed) Reviewed by Radzeer

    My writing | My art | About me | Sekigahara Campaign - Developer

    ~~Under the proud patronage of Radzeer, Rogue Bodemloze. Patron of Noif de Bodemloze, Heiro de Bodemloze, and Hitai de Bodemloze~~

  5. #5
    StealthEvo's Avatar Falling Toward the Sky
    Join Date
    Jul 2010

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    I say I say I say. Wonderful work chaps and potential chapess...

  6. #6

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    I can't believe my AAR Is up there.

    Great work all. . Another great issue.
    WIP. Watch this space. It'll be epic.

    No, seriously.

  7. #7
    m_1512's Avatar Quomodo vales?

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    My AAR:
    Forgotten Tales of Germania

    Interested to join the Content staff?
    PM me and we can discuss about finding the right project for you!

  8. #8

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    Was pleasantly surprised to see my poem up. Really enjoyed the review, especially the structural critiques.
    I thought about writing something clever, but then I remembered I'm not clever enough.

  9. #9
    MasterOfNone's Avatar RTW Modder 2004-2015
    Join Date
    May 2005

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    Thank you for the interview - a little strange being interviewed chiefly about being an author rather than being a modder!
    "One of the most sophisticated Total War mods ever developed..."

  10. #10
    The Holy Pilgrim's Avatar In Memory of Blackomur

    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Someplace other than here

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    I thought my AAR drifted to the depths of the sea

    Too bad the save game was lost over a year ago.

    Anywho, congrats to everybody who's work has made this issue of "Critic's Quill"

    +rep to all

    EDIT: Curses! I've reached my rep limit I'll be sure to get those I missed when I can.
    Last edited by The Holy Pilgrim; February 24, 2012 at 05:36 PM.

  11. #11

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    This was a really good review and it must have taken a long time to consider and evaluate everything. Well done!

  12. #12
    Oxode's Avatar Tiro
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Mississauga,Ontario,Canada,North America,Atmosphere,Earth,Milky Way Galaxy

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    Ugh, If only I knew my AAR was going to be on the Critics Quill. Let me just say that there might be a slight possibility I might trash Arnor, I've kinda lost interest, especially after I started Fortune Favours the Bold
    Last edited by Oxode; February 24, 2012 at 08:59 PM.

  13. #13
    nine-o's Avatar Civis
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    From the east coast of Canada, the best damn part of North America!

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    Cool, thanks for the review! Always good to get some constructive criticism too, I want to keep doing this after my current aar and keeping some readers interested in my stuff is the main goal.
    Please read my current AAR, The Tale of the North!

    Also check out my previous AAR effort, The Russian Republic!

  14. #14
    Knonfoda's Avatar I came, I read, I wrote
    Join Date
    May 2008

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    Excellent piece as always, and +rep to all involved.

    It was nice to see my AAR reviewed too! I'm very glad that StealthEvo picked up that I try to add a bit more 'flavour' in the form of emotive and occasional (what I believe) are comical notes too, so it's not just dry descriptions of screenshots. And if you thought the fourth wall was shamelessly broken at the start, you should have seen if when I introduced my own character haha... you definitely got me with the consistency bit!

    My only gripe with the review is that it recommends I establish a narrative from the point of view of a protagonist, but this is what I have been doing for the past 20 episodes with Julian and his invasion of Persia. I have literally focused solely on him, his mission, the way it has and is affecting him, etc. Oh, that and no mention of a single one of my movies? I have more than six now!

    But I am nitpicking. It was very good to see my work finally reviewed, and what a glowing review it was! My thanks to StealthEvo for reviewing it, and to the rest of the team for putting together such a good edition of the Critics Quill!


  15. #15
    SeniorBatavianHorse's Avatar Tribunus Vacans
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Glasgow, Scotland

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    An excellent and thought-provoking edition of the Critic's Quill - congratulations to all the hard-working 'Quillites' who helped put this together. You all deserve a hearty slap on the back! (plus rep, of course - which I suppose is the same thing . . .)

  16. #16
    Inarus's Avatar In Laziness We Trust
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    Quote Originally Posted by The Holy Pilgrim View Post

    I thought my AAR drifted to the depths of the sea
    Nah, I catalogued the entire FF/AAR subforum

  17. #17
    StealthEvo's Avatar Falling Toward the Sky
    Join Date
    Jul 2010

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    Quote Originally Posted by Knonfoda View Post
    Excellent piece as always, and +rep to all involved.

    It was nice to see my AAR reviewed too! I'm very glad that StealthEvo picked up that I try to add a bit more 'flavour' in the form of emotive and occasional (what I believe) are comical notes too, so it's not just dry descriptions of screenshots. And if you thought the fourth wall was shamelessly broken at the start, you should have seen if when I introduced my own character haha... you definitely got me with the consistency bit!

    My only gripe with the review is that it recommends I establish a narrative from the point of view of a protagonist, but this is what I have been doing for the past 20 episodes with Julian and his invasion of Persia. I have literally focused solely on him, his mission, the way it has and is affecting him, etc. Oh, that and no mention of a single one of my movies? I have more than six now!

    But I am nitpicking. It was very good to see my work finally reviewed, and what a glowing review it was! My thanks to StealthEvo for reviewing it, and to the rest of the team for putting together such a good edition of the Critics Quill!

    Don't bite the hand that feeds I jest naturally.

  18. #18

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    wow, I am up there In the TOTW section

    Good work to everyone

    |Under the proud patronage of Robin de Bodemloze and the Bodemloze family|

  19. #19
    Ganbarenippon's Avatar Protector Domesticus
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    London, United Kingdom

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    Good work everyone. I was actually introduced to a few new AAR's from here this month, so thanks!

  20. #20
    Juvenal's Avatar love your noggin
    Content Emeritus

    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    The Home Counties

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 32

    You might be interested to know that the next issue has now been published.
    imb39 my daddy!
    See AARtistry in action: Spite of Severus and Severus the God

    Support the MAARC!
    Tale of the Week Needs You!

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