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Thread: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

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    Default The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    The Editor Speaks
    Hello and welcome to Issue 27 of the Quill. It has been a while owing to the Exam Season but now we are back, and what an Issue we have for you!

    This month we have news from the MAARC, from Tale of the Week (a joint effort by Mega Tortas and wowbanger), and from the inaugural round of the Battle Report competition, the BAARC! To celebrate this new contest we have reviewed all seven entries. Hopefully you will be inspired to enter your own work because BAARC II has already entered the nominations phase.

    In a fit of incredible productivity, Boustrophedon has practically written a whole Issue of the Quill all by himself; five(!!!) reviews and an article about the role of the narrator in stories. I go weak at the knees just thinking about it. The rest of the Quill crew have been busy too, we have three pieces from Radzeer, two from la coupe est pleine and one from Skantarios. As a result the Quill again won't fit into a single post.

    Finally let me welcome two new writers from the TWC Community: m_1512 and esaciar. Please join me in applauding their enthusiasm and industry.

    Juvenal (Editor)

    Table of Contents

    Monthly AAR Competition Section

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    [Kingdoms-BFTB-SS AAR] The Baltic Terror by Thokran

    This is the story of the efforts of the Teutonic Order to bring the Baltic region under its control. It is a tale full of intrigue and betrayal (and of course battles), where religious zeal for expansion is matched only by the lust for power within the ranks of the Order.

    Reviewed by Radzeer in its early days here, but it has come a long way since then (including a place amongst the winners in MAARC XXIV).

    [RTW IB:SAI AAR] The Nowhere Legion by SeniorBatavianHorse

    I am very pleased to see this gem of a story receive its due recognition from the TWC readership. SBH is an accomplished author with a deep knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, the Late Roman Period. Do give this latest work of his a try. Luxuriate in the sheer breadth of his vision... you can almost taste the dust of the forlorn outpost to which the Nowhere Legion had been banished for all these years.

    But you needn't just take my word for it, because Skantarios has written a review in this very issue here.

    [FKoC AAR] A Generall Historie of the English Rebellion by Maximinus Thrax

    Curses! We still haven't got around to reviewing this excellent story. However there is at least a review of his BAARC I entry here chronicling a recent battle from the AAR.

    This is a first-person account of the English Civil War by Sir William Cromford, a Colonel in the service of the King. It is impeccably presented, the polite formality of the text enhanced with beautiful images taken from portraits and pamphlets and also, in some cases, from movies.

    There is much coverage of politics, and of the personal dealings of Sir William. When the campaign itself finally begins to intrude upon the narrative, it feels like a perfectly natural part of the story, this effect being enhanced by Sir William's penchant for describing (with some relish) the flaws and peccadilloes of each commander.

    Battles are given the full treatment, each lavishly illustrated, with the reader left in no doubt as to their pivotal importance to the outcome of the war as a whole.

    Coverage by Juvenal

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    This is a new competition for Battle Reports. They could be a battle episodes from an AAR, or one-off battle descriptions written in the heat of the moment after a particularly intense or crucial action. Whatever the inspiration, a Battle Report must be able to stand alone as a complete story in itself so that it can be savoured and then rated by the discerning TWC readership.

    Radzeer is the originator and administrator of the BAARC, check out his splendid (and eloquent) BAARC I Winner's Announcement.

    The Battle of Athens by SonOfAlexander
    This was the first submission ever at the BAARC, so this story deserves some congratulations for opening a new era of fabulous battle tales.

    The author of the story is no less than SonOfAlexander, a famous AAR writer, and everyone could expect a masterpiece, without any doubts.

    Indeed it is. Ready to learn what it is about? Yes? Ok let’s go to the battlefield…

    We are directly thrown in the antique Europe. The Mediterranean Sea is about to be entirely conquered by the great Carthaginian Empire.

    However, there are still some enemies. The Greeks are amongst those to be destroyed. Cheiron the Conqueror, the fantastic Carthaginian leader, is in the place, planning the last battle.

    Indeed, the last but not least Greek Army just provoked him outside Athens.
    It is time to sally. It is time to fight. It is time to eliminate once for all those Greek bugs…

    Then, it is time to witness a fabulous battle. We are going to follow Cheiron, but also two other Carthaginans, Kitaus and Anak. Kitaus and Anak are two cavalry officers from the “Sacred Band”.
    The fates of those three are linked, and this battle is going to be either their tomb or supreme achievement.

    As an appetizer, let’s taste and smell one of the preliminary chapters of the battle.
    The hoplites clashed shield to shield with their near identical counterparts, the dark paint of the Cyrenians staining, grinding off on and mingling with the cream yellow of the enemy hoplitai. Spears were lofted over shoulders, over shields, into soft faces in agony. Men blew horns to rally their troops, and at the last moment, the Poeni phalanx caught their opponent off guard. They dropped their sarissae to the ground, before drawing their Greek xiphos swords and charging in. The mass of men was so tightly packed that only the few at the front could lift their arms to swing their swords.
    The pictures of that battle are nicely cropped. They accurately fit with the storyline, and they are beautiful.
    In other words, they are perfect. The only little critic that could be made would be the banners, which could be removed, for a better immersion.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The good point is that we feel the pictures. We feel the pain; we feel the fury of the soldiers. There is some movement in it, and it perfectly gives life to the writing.

    This BAAR can be congratulated thanks to the following points...
    • Scenario: The scenario has clearly been well-thought, with three different characters that have different fates through the battle. It is just a fight report, but we have the time to understand their personality, to feel their lives and their passions. They are real.
    • Writing: Without any exaggeration, SonOfAlexander’s writing is one of the most elaborated here. I loved to read the complex words, mixing together as in good poetry.
      They stood motionless, only moving to cheer as flaming rocks tore a bloody scar in the sky, before impacting and leaving their smudges of impersonal death scattered on the hillside.
    • Layout: The layout is a good one, with some italic block capitals, that fits well with the story. It is easily readable and adds a touch of antiquity.
    • Pictures: The pictures are great. They fit with the story, and have some dynamic.

    It was my favorite battle story. Mostly because of the high quality writing and the sensation of epic fight.
    I could really believe this battle to have happened in the past.

    Cheers SonOfAlexander…

    Review by la coupe est pleine

    Libyan resistance by Boustrophedon
    Boustrophedon, a fellow AAR writer, was second to enter the BAARC. The story came from his Ptolemaic AAR, called “A New Reign”.

    We hardly had begun the story that we are thrown in the battlefield. The sun is strong and the boiling sand is everywhere, surrounding the warriors, drying the exhausted bodies.

    Hermeias is the Ptolemaic General and is leading an expedition against the evil Carthaginians.

    Boustrophedon gave us a detailed report of the different phases of the battle, and some thoughts Hermeias experienced during the battle. Therefore, the tone of the story is mostly objective, but sometimes, there are some subjective points of view, all from Hermeias side.

    It is a clear story and you are going to learn some tactical advices, along with the outcome of the battle. Will Hermeias become a Ptolemaic Hero, or just another skeleton, lost in the desert…?

    The pictures of that battle are cropped and focused on the action, on the different battle phases. They fit with the storyline, and some of them offer the reader the fighting feeling.

    There is a mix between close and distant pictures. The distant ones are used to underline and detail the battle strategies, when the close ones catch the reader into the melee and the battle harshness.

    Don’t you feel the fear of the close fight when watching this one?
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The reader is part of the battle, which is an essential point.

    Even if I enjoyed the read of this story, I’m sure that some points could be improved, in order to bear Boustrophedon's tales to the top of the podium.

    • Feelings: I’m convinced that this story would have improved dramatically with some more feelings. The reader need to shiver with the hero. The reader need to identify with one side, with some fighters. We miss it there. I unfortunately didn’t succeed to assimilate myself with Hermeias.
    • Subjectivity: I would have loved to read a story where the writer had already chosen his friends and foes. Here, we don’t know exactly who to support. One side (The Ptolemaic) is described from the inside, when the other (The Carthaginians) is described from the outside, but there are not enough subjectivity to make us prefer Hermeias and his army.

    Then, the writing is a good one, with sufficient description to make us understand every part of the battle. It is what we can call “Clear precise writing”.
    Jubilant the marines ran after them, stabbing them in the back and necks and finishing off those who were unfortunate enough to stumble and fall. Not many left the field alive that day.
    The Libyan resistance is a battle that needs to be read.

    Will you use the same tactics than Hermeias when fighting the Carthagenians?

    Review by la coupe est pleine

    Dwarves reclaim Mount Gundabad - 2973 of the Third Age by aurther
    Author aurther has chosen the dwarves as his faction of choice and managed to develop a neat little scenario for his BAARC submission. We follow Dain and King Thorin as they battle a massive army of twice their size, consisting of goblins and trolls. The battle takes place at night and an epic struggle ensues as the goblins advance under cover of darkness. The narrator switches between an omniscient one called simply "narrator" and Thorin and Dain, who are either issuing orders or sharing their thoughts with us readers. The main characters are also developed very well in this battle, something which is harder to accomplish than in a regular HF or AAR. The action sequences where Thorin is fighting are very well written as well, we can feel his pain and exhaustion!

    Most of the pictures are taken during battle with little editing done (as far as I can tell) and although they are taken from good angles, it's very hard to discern the units and the reader can't really follow what's going on in the battles. Although the nightly conflict lends a touch of mystery the reader will likely have difficulties following the storyline. On the other hand, not being able to fully understand what's going on enhances the feeling of confusion and chaos that usually accompanies battle.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    I particularly liked this shot below. The tiny dwarves have to survive the terrifying blows of the cave trolls who are three to four times their size.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Final Remarks

    1. Night battles are good for atmosphere but visibility is often so poor that readers can't follow what's going on.
    2. Excellent choice of faction/units. The tiny dwarves vs. massive cave trolls was a nice touch.
    3. Good use of narrators.
    4. And of course epic victory! Very nice k/d ratio

    Review by Boustrophedon

    Naval Action off the Coast of Sardinia, 16th April 1715 by Tim1988
    This submission is part of an ETW AAR and it really shows. Author Tim1988 has put much effort in explaining the history behind the battle and the goal of the ships involved, making this a narration worthy of the BAARC. Such details add immersion value and makes it known to the readers who to support, in this case the big ship commanded by general Vasari.

    The tactic used by Vasari is a fairly simple one and it's over before you know it but Tim1988 goes into great detail concerning the attack and the adversaries so in the end you almost feel sorry for the buggers for being blown to pieces by a broadside.

    The final paragraph deals with the bigger picture of the battle, namely capturing an island. The protagonist is also shown to be capable of acts of great cruelty as well as great leniency when he discovers the slaves chained to the rowing benches.

    The pictures are of good quality. They do the job of telling the battle so that the author needs few words to waste on narrating every move he makes. Although little to no editing is done (cropping etc) the pictures are powerful in the sense that they quickly and thoroughly inform the reader of what is unfolding.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The full carnage and chaos of this cataclysmic encounter is portrayed extremely well with action/death scenes such as the one below.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Final remarks

    1. Good introduction and storyline
    2. Excellent use of pictures
    3. Perhaps too easy a battle? Not much loss of life and a swift and relatively easy victory.
    4. Good example of an AAR battle converted into a standalone battle

    Review by Boustrophedon

    RUNNER-UP: Cirech’s Swan Song by Juvenal
    Colonia Agrippina was the capital of the Franks, relatively safe during the years of war until a large Pict army arrived, led by the legendary general Lord Cirech. Defending the city was King Chlodio, but as we learned, Cirech’s real enemy is High King Drest, the supreme leader of the Picts. Before that plot can be resolved, Cirech has an epic battle to fight against a larger Frank army defending Colonia Agrippina.

    This is the context of the campaign battle from Juvenal’s AAR masterpiece: Severus the God. The story of the siege is told in third person, using the perspective of Drostan, the soldier turned courier. The narrative is in present tense, which has the advantage of putting the reader right into the action, but requires solid skills to use for less action-dominated scenes. In this particular case, it does not pose any problems, as there is enough action provided for more than one battle and Juvenal is a veteran writer who has proven his skills many times before. The battle narrative is easy to follow, and the fact that we see it from Drostan’s eyes, for whom Cirech is a living legend, makes it more personal and enjoyable.

    The pictures are nicely selected to both provide the context and illustrate the battle. The “satellite” map of the city is particularly well crafted. In fact, since the pictures have subtitles, they can be used to navigate through the battle narrative. It is clear that a lot of work went into editing the pictures to maximize the immersion and the informative content. I also liked the added battlefield minimaps that are very helpful in orienting the reader. One minor point of criticism, based on my personal preferences, could be the occasional lighthearted pun among the picture subtitles that do not always fit with the more epic tone of the text.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The final test of every battle report made from ongoing AARs is to see how much the battle can be followed without knowing the background campaign. This battle was nicely set up, albeit a bit more so for the context than the characters for whom it definitely helps if one is familiar with the AAR. And regarding the swan song, I strongly recommend reading Severus the God with Cirech’s future adventures, including the showdown with his own king who apparently failed to arrange his doom on the once peaceful streets of Colonia Agrippina.

    Review by Radzeer

    RUNNER-UP: A good heretic… by la coupe est pleine
    “Sunday. The day of the battle.” Thus starts the battle of a good heretic of which little background information is known except that this was where “Philippe fought the swine Alexander.” Soon, however, the battle preparations reveal that the “swine Alexander” is no other but the pope, armed to the teeth facing a French army which fields crusaders against him. So somebody is clearly a heretic here, and as it has often happened in those turbulent times of the middle ages, both sides accused the other of being that.

    La coupe est pleine’s story is a battle from his AAR An Eastern Jewel in a Western World!!! Chronicles of a French Miserable, told in first person by the protagonist Philippe. First person narratives are usually very immersive, and create rich context in which the battle unfolds. We read the events from the general’s perspective with frequent references to his own thoughts and feelings. The narrative style uses short sentences a lot, which contributes to the emotional undertone (which is expected if one sets out to kill the pope). The description of the battle is clear, the reader can follow the events easily, and I particularly liked how the protagonist storyteller reflected on faith, another appropriate theme in this battle.

    The pictures are edited, using the oil paint effect, a signature style of the AAR. This effect creates dramatic tones for both when masses of soldiers fight and when there are only a few characters on the picture. (It is less useful for birds eye shots though as it mashes the troops together from a great distance.) The pictures are well selected with nice angles and careful cropping, albeit with varying width.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    “Rome was mine,” says the protagonist at the end of the battle, which tends to happen if one defeats the pope. The narrative ends as suddenly as it has started, and without reading la coupe’s impressive AAR, not much is revealed about the main character or the campaign in which the battle took place. But la coupe used only a few characters in the battle, which puts the focus on the fight and not on the plot. Now the only remaining question is whether the good heretic and the French miserable are the same person, but to find that out I suggest taking the epic journey through the original AAR.

    Review by Radzeer

    WINNER: The Judgement and Demise of Oliver Cromwell by Maximinus Thrax
    I congratulate Maximinus Thrax for this win. It is a Battle AAR about the English civil war. The title is self-explanatory, the capture and execution of Oliver Cromwell. This promises to be an interesting piece.

    The start is formidable, a quote from Oliver Cromwell.
    "These persons would shout as much if you and I were going to be hanged" - Oliver Cromwell to John Lambert, as they were cheered by a crowd.

    The picture does credit to the quote. Moreover, it brings about a classic atmosphere. This beginning stimulated my interest very much, and I knew this would be a good story.

    The story is narrated as a person’s perspective of that particular event. Revealed at the end, the person is William Cromford, who fought at that battle as colonel of foot.

    Reading on, I was impressed by this point.
    year of our Lord 1642
    Good observation, as the common practice in England at that time was the usage of Year of the Lord as opposed to anno domini.

    The story then tells of recent affairs, the adversaries, and of recent victories. There is one thing to note,
    the treasonous Parliamentarian faction, a menacing hydra obeying two of its most monstrous heads, John Pym (known as “King Pym”, to illustrate his influence) and the Earl of Essex, a traitor like his father, executed only forty years earlier
    John Pym, we all would have studied in history at school. But the other mystery person had me thinking for quite some time, as I am no expert in history of the English civil war. Although, I would have preferred that person revealed.

    The story then takes on a twist. Despite the victories, the King’s mind is troubled. This is revealed when he summons his officers and confesses his misgivings. An extract,
    “Gentlemen, I have summoned you today in my tent to speak about a certain thought which is pestering me for several weeks. Until now I have avoided to discuss such nonsense that I am about to refer to. You all know too well that I even refused to acknowledge Wiliam Lilly’s prophecy about the ominous apparition of the three suns over London, last year, on my very birthday. I am fully against such things but this dream has been haunted me enough and I grow weary of it. It could very well be a prophetical dream. But who knows, since the mysterious paths of this world are tangled up and occulted…”
    A very good addition as the tale unfolds. You would find yourself to be compelled to keep reading.

    From the above extract, I’d loved some more information about this, since we all love a mystery unfolding.
    Wiliam Lilly’s prophecy about the ominous apparition of the three suns
    Overall, this mystery in the story makes this a classic, which otherwise would have been just an account about a battle.

    The battle unfolds. The battle is narrated in a good manner which makes it quite a romantic tale. The per-battle tension mounts, with soldiers getting scared, tensed, anxious, and officers eager to go at the enemy.

    As the title itself acts like a spoiler, Oliver Cromwell is captured and brought before the King, finally bested and his brave soldiers either fallen or deserted. I found one reference to mythology rather enjoyable.
    Three judges, reminiscent of the three judges of the dead from the Greek mythology, were examining the prisoner with infinite patience, eager to pronounce the verdict.
    The story ends as Cromwell utters his last words. That particular piece is well-written and dramatic, not unlike as in a movie.

    I would not spoil it for you here by quoting it here. My advice being, go ahead and read it right away. You will enjoy it, I’ll wager.


    • Characters: Overall good, narration as the perspective of William Cromford, a participant of the event. Apt mention of the chief adversaries, but the “Earl of Essex” mystery could have been cleared. Characters of the King and Cromwell are well developed and depicted.
    • Plot: Definitely compelling. Some explanations would have been really appreciated in some places.
    • Delivery: Good narrative, would keep your interest to read the complete story. The story has been written with a view to entertain, not just list off events or a history lecture.
    • Pictures: Adequate and sufficiently edited.
    • Presentation: Just a small typo error,
      Wiliam Lilly’s prophecy
      Pictures are not an absolute necessity to understand the story, for the story itself is picturesque. They would be like a cherry to the cake.

    Review by m_1512

    Tale of the Week Section

    Tale of the Week: April/May News
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    TotW Proximo

    Haphazardly, as though weighed down by anguish, the caravan rumbles into the oasis. Emaciated camels being spurred on by the shreiking of desperate drivers, with the hopes of life saving rejuvenation offered by it's crystal clear water, cooled, and sheltered by the massive date palms that align it's banks. Brow beaten and over-heated from the blazing sun, weary travelers dismount and stumble into into an open-aired tent and collapse on to oversized floor pillows. Soon the expected shouting commenced signaling the attendants to expediantly begin serving meals and various beverages of choice...

    With his capative, unsuspecting, victims clients settled in, Proximo was once again assured of doubling his profits for the season...


    Popes laurentius de voltolina 001

    Well...It's good to have you back with us and a lot has happened since we last spoke. The winds of change have blown in our direction and with that, luck and good fortune has brought us an aspiring young writer to review the Stories of TotW...

    Ladies & Gents it is my pleasure to announce that wowbanger will now be joining us for all our little get togethers. He will add a Critic's eye and perspective to the mix.

    We invite you'all to look in on, and partake in the current TotW & Writer's Study activities...

    Tale of the Week 111a: "The Last Stand"
    Winner: TotW 110a - The Sands of Time and Incomprehensible Decisions

    TotW Winners Story Archive
    THE TALE PROJECT: Writer Story Gallery listing
    TotW Story Index

    Monthly AAR Competition
    Battle After Action Report Competiton (BAARC) information and rules

    If you do get a chance, drop by and cast a vote, throw down your own spur-of-the-moment story, or just drop by the Tale Project/MAARC and spend some time looking through the different galleries. If you feel it, a kind word here and there and a little Rep goes a long way with the writers. They don't get out much...

    Well then, now that we have dispensed with the mandated pleasantries of the day, let us dive into this sessions TotW coverage...

    TotW 107a: In a brutal slugfest that required an overtime vote to settle, Russian Gondor just manged to keep newcomer Darkan from seizing the day.

    TotW 107a: The Winning Picture

    TotW 107a: The Winning Story

    Under Moonlit Skies
    It was a clear and starry night, the dazzling stars reaching out with their points, lighting the sky in thousands of bright dots. Despite such a beautiful night, the stars were not enough to brighten the unhappy men. They were forced by their general to leave the comfort of their warm and safe tents, to march out and fight the enemy. And to further “brighten” their night, they were to be marching across rocky, steep hills, where breaking a leg or arm was of ease. The thousands strong army marched through the cold, desolate night. Nothing could be heard, except the dull thud of the men’s boots, and an occasional grumble or upset as someone had lost their footing. The tired and sleepy men were suddenly roused awake from their hypnotizing march, as the general barked for them to stop. To their surprise, when they looked up the hill, a row of bright torches glowed, only to be welcomed with the loud taunt of the enemy. Quickly, the men charged up their muskets and gathered in formation, getting ready to fight their enemy. The two massive forces stood, dead silent. Not a noise other than the light whistle of the wind was heard until the trumpet rang loud. To welcome the trumpets loud ring, both forces fired… A thunderous roar echoed throughout the hills as both forces fired, only to be followed up by blood-curling yells of pain and the loud echoes of the wolves; as men were wounded or killed. Such a pity, that so much blood should have been spilled, on such a glorious and beautiful night.

    TotW 107a: The Vote

    VOTE: TotW 107a: "Under Moonlit Skies"

    TotW 107a Vote Reviews
    Tale of the Week 107 - “Under Moonlit Skies”

    Submission 2
    So then, first to face the reviewer’s wrath is this emotional and thought provoking tale by Darkan. Telling of a wounded soldier reminiscing on his life, this is a very well written story that really lets the reader visualise the thoughts going through the dying man’s mind. Its good use of language, nice pace and good structure all combine to make this a superb tale, quite deservingly finishing joint top of the vote.

    TotW 108a: Aodh Mor drew thunder bolts from the sky to stave off wowbanger's furious charge to claim his first TotW victory.

    TotW 108a: The Winning Picture

    TotW 108a: The Winning Story

    Rain harassed my eyes, dripping from the long hairs that hung across age crevasses down through my thin, worried eyebrows. An angry crowd were jostling by, bristling with the accutrements of upheavel. They were probably shouting, I couldn't see in the darkness, and the blaring in my earphones drowned out all sound. Reality was strangely caged inside an insidious wall of music. The world didn't seem to be touching my body, seen through this musical windowpane.My arms wrestled with four feet of leather, as the heavy coat was gripped and dragged about by the revolving wind. This impromptu sail dragged my feet around behind it, turning my determined march into a drunken stumble. The long, square street stretched tentatively into the pulsating heart of this metropolis.

    A great, bright flash erupted out of the storming darkness above. Battering my vision with a sickly, painful white light. The stark, cold buildings seared their sad faces onto my retinae. I could hear the walls weeping in the music, leading me to wonder which had come first, the depression in my eyes or my ears. To test, I changed the song.

    It was absurd. A whispy, high male voice called out "Somewhere, over the rainbow" as the rain fell in pins of darkness, completely obstructing vision. The further on the song went, though, the more the guitar just repeated again, again, again, again and again, the more the sound seemed to suit the city. The sadness of those buildings was crawling through those wires into the sound, I could see the music weeping in the walls. The darkness made a parody of the lyrics, the colours of the rainbow a meltdown of grey, the broken shard of forgotten windows a dejected replacement for blue.

    The light down the end began to stretch and take shape, focusing even through the droplets that covered my eyes. People began to appear out of the dark, and more could be seen by the absence of light they blocked. A cacophony was welling up, assailing even the roaring music plugged directly into my head. A shapeless mass of turbulence, sound from a number that vast reverts back to the sound of one. A great host of angry sheep, milling and waving flags, pictures, pickets and effigy torches and bathed their faces in a yellow light, making them seem like young gods parading their victory of titans, instating a new order. Flames reflected in eyes that bounced a fire back from deeper within.

    Doctors shout and scream beside factory workers, police with their arms around teachers - they had created this furious utopia, bringing even governments crashing down around them. An anarchic paradise was forged in torrential downpour - how much worse of an omen can you imagine?

    I stood away on my own, my dejected heart calling out to those around me, but too sceptical to reach out physically or intellectually. I just stood their wistfully, alone. This great horde splayed out in front of me, framed by the husks of collapsing building, burning against he water, mocking nature. Another great flash froze the scene, showing every facet of the chaos in that diseased illumination. I was fighting their emotions, erecting walls around myself.

    Around us six centuries were burning, destroyed by only a few hours and gasoline. The wondrous power of fire. They celebrated this, apparently the end of society as we know. Timocratic Democracy was gone, the loudspeaker prophets had been declaring all day, and into the dark of night they still shouted.This was not Tienanmen square, yet it would change nothing as time passed.

    Tomorrow. Tommorow these people would still have families to feed, tomorrow they would still need to cook food - tomorrow someone would need to give them that food, tomorrow those atoms would need careful tending. I stood there, alone in my pessimism, as reality came hurtling through the dark.

    Dreams can never survive Tomorrow.

    TotW 108a: The Vote

    VOTE: TotW 108a: "Thunder in Paradise"

    TotW 108a Vote Reviews
    Tale of the Week 108 – “Thunder in Paradise”

    Submission 5
    E.K’s account of battle in the Napoleonic Wars is next in the firing line. A nice story about a British redcoat fighting for his life against the unstoppable French infantry columns. While having a good plot and being well written, I felt this tale lacked the action and drama that would see this tale really challenging for the win.

    TotW 109a: In an unprecedented, unparalleled, and unexpected manifestation, 15 writers shattered the TotW record-books by descending on TotW 109a like a world-altering plague of locusts. The carnage that they left behind was mind boggling. Mega by some miracle*, managed wrangle a tie which forced the issue into overtime. In the final showdown, Skantarios crushed Mega without mercy even though he was initially down 2-0 in the vote. Mega was so overwhelmed by the ordeal, that he collapsed on the spot, and was sent to Belleview Hospital for a three week refresher course/psych-evaluation. All ended well because Mega's old room had been kept on reserve, {at Sr. Content Staff insistence} and plus they served banana nut pudding & black tea out in the east wing's garden shortly after he settled back in.

    * A henchman's vote rigging is rumoured. Nail-biting, whimpering, and incoherent appeals towards heaven are a given though.

    TotW 109a: The Winning Picture

    TotW 109a:The Winning Story

    A Heart of Darkness

    “Sir, what shall we do with the prisoners?”

    This was a question I knew was coming; the final act in our little play of battle: What shall we do with the prisoners?

    I look upon the now-helpless prisoners. We’ve taken several hundred of them, maybe even a thousand, though none of us can be bothered to make an accurate count. For all their number, they don’t cut a very impressive picture now that they are disarmed and kneeling on the ground. They’re nothing but boys, really. In all those faces, I see none older than 17 or 18. A few look as young as 12. All have the look of terror about them. Some even squat in the pools of piss or vomit they’ve made in anticipation of what comes next.

    They don’t even wear a proper uniform. They are clothed in the same rags as when they were lifted from their farms or the streets of the city by the press gangs. Is this what our “glorious and righteous” war has come to? Is this the best that the Enemy can throw against us?

    What shall we do with the prisoners?

    What can we do? If I were to release them, they would just come back again. Maybe in the next battle, they would be luckier. Maybe next time, this lot would be the difference between us and victory. Maybe next time, they would kill more of my men, and how would I come to account for that?

    Ransom them? Another cruel joke. If by some miracle the Enemy would pay, they would never agree to terms that would preclude these boys from fighting again. If the Enemy did agree, they would just break their word and send them right back to war. They have no honor but, then again, neither do we. I would do the same thing and they know it.

    What shall we do with the prisoners?

    This campaign had been long and our losses great. Still, in the grand scheme of our endless war with the Enemy, it is but one minor chapter. How long ago it had started, even I could not say and I was an old man – nearly 40 now. Though we had not always been fighting, I could no longer remember a time when we were not at war. My father, when he was still alive, told me that it was the Enemy who struck the first blow. But did that even matter anymore? The old men who had started the war were long dead. Their reasons dead with them. Their only legacy was this war and all that came with it.

    The why of it all no longer mattered. Now, all that mattered was winning.

    What shall we do with the prisoners?

    Both sides have fought to exhaustion. We go on now because there is simply nothing else for us to do. Not a man amongst us knows any other trade but death. Not a man remembers the gentle caress of a woman or the laughter of children. Our ears only know the screams of agony or the cries of pain; our hands only the feel of cold steel or the sticky warmth of blood. That is what this war has done to us. That is what we are.

    Tens of thousands killed on both sides. Numbers far beyond counting. With all that death, is it any wonder that we have become monsters in our own right? There have been terrible atrocities committed by both sides as we each plumb the depths of depravity in the hope it will give us the edge to final victory. The sad fact of the matter is: it hasn’t. For all the things we’ve done and all that we’ve suffered, the outcome is as uncertain as ever. The only sure thing is that none of us will see Heaven. Our souls were sacrificed long ago to the mistress of Victory.

    With all those thousands of dead, did it matter one bit if I added a few hundred more to the tally?

    What shall we do with the prisoners?

    My mother, before she was raped and killed by soldiers of the Enemy, once said that when you did not know what to do, search inside your heart for the answer. Well, I have looked into my heart and all I found was hate for the Enemy. I have piled upon these men all the loathing and disgust I feel for their entire, wretched country and what they've done in service to it and what they've forced me to do in service to mine.

    What shall we do with the prisoners?

    I know the answer. It is the same as it has always been.

    “Kill them. Kill them all.”

    My men simply nod in agreement and move off with grim determination to see to this final deed of the day.

    As the screams of the dying prisoners echo in my ears, I look inside my heart once more and find…nothing.

    Nothing but darkness.

    TotW109a: Review
    So what can I say about the tale that eventually emerged triumphant from this historic contest. Really there is only one thing I can say; EPIC. Skantarios' masterful use of the english language and brilliant story line combine to create this stunning tale of a general faced with that difficult dilemma 'What shall we do with the prisoners?' I can only hope that Skantarios follows through with his threat to retire from TotW, else us mere mortals may never stand a chance in the competition.

    TotW 109a: The Historic vote

    VOTE: TotW 109a: "The Heart of Darkness"

    TotW 109a Vote Reviews
    Tale of the Week 109 – “Heart of Darkness”

    To celebrate the record breaking 15 story entry that greeted Radzeer’s incredible storyboard I decided to focus most of my reviews this month on some of these tales.

    Submission 4
    The first of these tales that I will briefly review is a nice little piece by Murphy 25 about the dark heart of nature. This tale was the one that was the most in keeping with the wonderful picture provided by Radzeer, however, it was perhaps missing the powerful visualisation that some of the other tales in this highly competitive competition had. For instance, where he described the tree as the “most beautiful tree you have ever seen,” it could have done more description as to why it was so beautiful.

    Submission 10
    Next up we have a truly chilling tale told from the point of view of an evil serial killer written by Boustrophedon. Now I am probably not the best person to review this story, as I don’t enjoy either crime or horror genres, but to my untrained eye this was a well written tale that really deserved more than the one vote it received.

    Submission 13
    Moving on we have this interesting tale by Constable MacGregor. I found this tale more difficult to comprehend and I will admit, it took a few reads through before I began to piece together an understanding of the meaning behind it (I'm still not sure I fully understand). I felt that this tale started well with a strong and well written opening paragraph but that it tailed off towards the end leaving me with a sense of disappointment of what might have been.

    Submission 12
    And finally from this record breaking entry, we have this great tale from the quill of the bossman himself, Mega Tortas de Bodemloze. Written in Mega's unique style, this delightful piece is able to skilfully portray the darkness of alcoholism in a light hearted and amusing way. One of my favourite tales this week (no mean feat given the size and quality of the competition), this tale, quite deservingly in my opinion made it to the vote off, where it was unfortunately beaten by Skantarios' epic tale.

    TotW 109a: The Titanic VOTE OFF

    VOTE OFF: TotW 109a: "The Heart of Darkness"

    TotW 110a: In a match decided by an enchanted whisper, 'Gunny's passion prevailed over newcomer Magicman2051 admirable The Sands of Time and Incomprehensible Decisions.

    TotW 110a: The Winning Picture

    TotW 110a: The Winning Story

    Her blonde hair sets neatly on her shoulders as I admire her from afar. She crinkles her nose as she laughs at a friends joke. As the friend leaves she catches my eye and smiles at me. A flurry of emotion rockets through my body as I turn away; for what reason I don't know, shame perhaps? Or can I not yet handle the feelings she causes to well up within me? For whatever reason, I turn away and continue to walk, my head abuzz with promises to speak to her one day, some day.

    as another grain of time is lost...

    A short while later she stops me in the hall. My heart skips a few beats as she shyly smiles and asks me a question about an upcoming test. I manage to stammer out a response and quickly move away saying that I need to 'get to class' and that I will talk to her later

    Oh, what a fool, another grain of time is lost...

    The days pass by, and I can still not muster my courage. But there is plenty of time I think to myself; after all, it is merely High School. Prom is fast approaching, I feel this will be my only chance: my one shot at love in life. But I don't.

    And another grain of time is lost...

    Here I am, skimming through my friends pictures of the big dance when I spot her with another man. A mixture of jealous rage and supreme sadness flood through my body as I see her there with another. My adolescent brain does not know how to handle this and I am sent into a depression for the rest of the day. I had waited too long and by doing so I have lost her.

    But the lesson is learned. Seize the Day, and live life to its fullest. You must live today, and not promise for tomorrow. The old adages have truth to them, for the sands of time will not stop for you to make your move, in any facet of life.

    TotW 110a: Vote:

    VOTE: TotW 110a - "The Sands of Time and Incomprehensible Decisions"

    TotW TotW 110a: The Winning Story Review
    Tale of the Week 110 - "The Sands of Time and Incomprehensible Decisions"

    Submission 1
    Here we have a beautifully written tale by 'Gunny. This is a story I'm sure many of us can relate to, a tale of young love and missed opportunities as the sands of time drain away. As I said it is beautifully written, well structured and was a well deserved winner of this week's competition, moving 'Gunny one step closer to the Bronze Medal.

    Now then, before you go wandering off, I'd like to recognize the new faces around TotW. Radzeer & Skantarios will be rotating shopkeep duties with me, and wowbanger will be critiquing our TotW tales as the divine winds dictate. So please extend a warm welcome to them if you see them around the forum...

    Well that's about all for now, so this is Mega Tortas & wowbanger for the Critic's Quill, wishing you good fortune and safe journey.

    imb39 my daddy!
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    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    AAR Review Section

    Home to Midgard
    An M2TW TATW AAR by Maltacus
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    1. Introduction
    Home to Midgard is the first AAR by Maltacus though it is a splendid story worthy of a veteran AARtist! At the time of this review it was already seven chapters long and growing steadily. It is a rather unique AAR because of the focus not on a general or campaign but on two agents, a spy and a diplomat, who travel around Middle Earth and have to deal with all the silly behaviour that is apparently rife in the Third Age. Anybody looking for a good laugh and gorgeous picture eye candy should definitely check out this wonderful AAR. This is what the author wished to divulge as to the how and why of his AAR:
    How did you come up with the idea for your AAR?
    I first came up with some of the jokes of one chapter (not yet published). If I remember correctly, I thought of the idea of two dwarfs travelling around shortly after. I had started to write on a Stainless Steel AAR about Norway with plans to release it during summer since it required extensive modding before being ready to go. It was, or rather will be, about the long pillaging raid of a Norwegian general (not called Norski by the way, but in fact called Halfdane). Anyway, the point is that I chose to center the story around just one general to keep it limited as I am new to writing AAR:s. Then I came up with the idea of making it even easier by centering the story on just an agent or two. Am I lazy or what...This seemed like an appropriate scale for my first story. I really like the comedy AAR:s, and I thought that it should be an easier genre to start with than more dramatic stories. The masterpieces of notenome and Musthavename have been very inspiring.

    What do you think is the strength and weakness of your writing?
    Most obvious, I write well enough in English to make myself understood. Not the most interesting thing to read about in a review but language can be a big issue when you are not a native speaker of it. Too much bad grammar can ruin even the best of plots and ideas. I have (so far) no shortage of ideas and a clear picture of what should happen to my dwarfs for a very long time ahead. I have also come to like the protagonists so I don't think there's a danger of me losing interest in writing the AAR. And then there are all the friendly comments. Many thanks to all that have commented on my tale.
    I think it is a strength that I have included relatively many pics from outside the game, illustrating the nature mostly. It has been met with enthusiasm from the readers so far. This may however become a weakness as well if it leads to the story not getting anywhere and just turning into a display of nature pictures. I think I have a tendency to overlook the game-element of the story. By this I mean that I forget about showing how the protagonists move around in-game, which may be confusing for some readers. My skills with pictures are mediocre at best. The picture management is definitely my weak part and takes a disproportionately long time when I make a chapter.

    Why did you choose that particular mod/timeframe?
    The ideas I had were about Third Age factions and characters, so the mod wasn't much of a question. We aren't exactly drowned in LOTR mods. When it comes to timeframe, well, my story is unaffected by the lore-bound timed events in Tolkiens world so I saw no reason to change it.
    I chose the dwarfs because I think they are cool and leave room for much customization. In most stories they are short, bearded and broad as well as obsessed with treasure. So, you can have them be very nice or nasty and have all kinds of other traits. Being a fantasy race also lets the writer have them invent all kinds of funny things and schemes unavailable to humans. This also contributed to me picking the Third Age mod in order to get access to these creatures. An added bonus is that Tolkien mentioned very little about the lands far south and east in Middle-Earth. Thanks to that, I can conjure up whatever I wish in those places, if I feel that the mods factions are not enough
    Halvdan and Runar, both 24 years old and dear friends, have big plans for the future. In their capacity as spy and diplomat they set out for a journey which will lead them to the mythical realm of Midgard, home to mechanical boars! They meet some hilarious characters along the way and sometimes completely forget that they have urgent business to do.

    2. Writing
    Although the author is not a native speaker of English, he makes few errors and they don't distract the reader from the tale. This AAR has two great strengths: one being the humour and the other being the great graphical elements. Nothing worse than somebody explaining jokes so I will merely present a few of the terrific comic examples that are widespread in this AAR:
    The named dwarfs in question lived in the unquestionably mountainous, but questionably lonely, Lonely Mountain where king Dain ruled wisely.
    He had already signed some trade agreements, but they were relatively trivial. Once, for example, he agreed to trade some sausages for a keg of beer.
    -…He marked out the trail to Mirkwood by planting a tree beside it.
    So you, err…change your ways to fight each week? - Naturally, one has to stay fashionable.
    We can go play with my lego.
    I have the most lego of everyone here I think. People sometimes call me the “lego-lass” because I play so much with them
    we do of course chose the most vile of typing (=the one most associated with Microsoft Word) - Times New Roman
    Dwarves have many skills:Mining, smithing, construction…masonry, brewing and of course: skiing.
    Relations: “Coming, honey, just have to go berserk a little” “But you went berserk just before lunch?” “Yeah, just need to work on my enraged howl a bit”.
    There must be dozens of jokes in this AAR and they are quite funny! In my opinion comedy is the hardest of any genre to pull off successfully. You can pretend to be serious but you can't pretend to be funny. Maltacus does a tremendous job of setting a light mood, even during the battle scene. Never before have I read an AAR battle report that made me smile and suppress giggles. Readers looking for a heavy plot or deep characters might be disappointed. A diplomat and a spy are limited characters in the total war world so I'm eager to find out how the author will keep things interesting as the story progresses.

    What you can expect: lots of fun, many references to things outside the AAR, great characters and a steady flow of the story.
    What you can't expect: an epic campaign or many "conventional" battles, a true purpose (no empire-building), loyalty to the lore of Middle Earth.

    3. Graphical elements
    In my opinion the greatest strength of this AAR lies in the pictures. I'd say that nearly all of them are edited to suit the comic effect or the AAR storyline. On top of that the reader is rewarded with beautiful nature photography shots that blend in very well with the story. There is hardly anything to criticize in this area and Maltacus seems to go the extra mile to make his pictures a strength from start to finish. I don't want to spoil the AAR for future readers but I will include my favourite shots here:
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    4. Conclusion
    Maltacus has clearly found a niche in the AAR sector. Who could have thought that the honourable Thranduil was such a effeminate ruler? Honestly though I recommend this AAR to anyone in for a laugh. I'm only slightly worried that the quality of the subtle humour will diminish in time. So far the author has managed to keep things lofty and silly but like any story it needs a decent plot to keep readers interested. It's up to Maltacus to maintain the bar that he has raised so high. There aren't that many comic AAR's out there but this one is on my subscribed list for sure!

    Review by Boustrophedon

    World in Flames, Germany 1936
    A Hearts of Iron AAR by threealls
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    1. Introduction
    Novice AARtist threealls has tackled the daunting task of writing an AAR with great skill and enthusiasm. His AAR World in Flames has gained quite some views recently, despite its location in a scarcely visited part of the AAR forums.

    I didn't know the game he was writing his AAR about but after some quick researching I discovered that it is a bit like the Total War games we all know. It features a campaign map and resources as well as armies and politics but it is not turn-based nor does it have real-time battles. One could best compare it to Empire Earth but with much better graphics and a truly epic scope. The game can be paused at any time, granting a good opportunity for screenshots.

    This particular game was released somewhere early April and a few weeks later Threealls was writing his AAR. After reading through his AAR I can understand why: it's perfect for roleplaying and taking on the task of a mastermind strategist.

    Information on this game HOI and the mod DH can be found here, here, here and here.

    Here's what the author had to say about his AAR:
    How did you come up with the idea for your AAR?
    By making a World War 2 AAR, I wanted to recreate the atmosphere of WW2 and possibly to change the course of history. Germany was the best choice for this. Think about Germany’s position; a lot of strong enemies, very few and weak friends, bad strategic position and highly ambitious strategic aims. So, I wanted to reflect the WW2 from the side of Hitler’s Germany and now trying to change its ultimate fate. I am aiming to create good atmosphere in my AAR.

    What do you think is the strength and weakness of your writing?
    There are screenshots showing the development of gameplay and storyline added in compatible with the gameplay. I am adding videos to add historical immersion. But they are also completely in coherence with the developments in the game. For example, when 1 of my u-boat is attacked by enemy destroyers, you may see depth-charge attack scene from Das Boot or you may see Hitler’s speech following a specific event in the AAR.
    Main weakness of my AAR is my bad english. There a lot of grammar mistakes. Furthermore, my AAR may be hard to understand for people who are not familiar with HOI2. In my AAR, people will see the Atlantic War, Pacific Campaign, Barbarossa, Atomic bombings and many more things just like reading a WW2 history book.

    Why did you choose that particular mod/timeframe?
    In the year 1936 Hitler’s rearmament program began and when Hitler started the serious of European crises with the remilitarization of the Rhineland. For the game, Darkest Hour is the latest HOI2 based game. It has new map, much improved AI and many more things. Its gameplay is incredible.
    Basically the author takes us on a journey throughout the Second World War, playing as the Nazi Empire or Third Reich and we follow his campaigns across Europe as he fights for dominance on the mainland as well as on the seas. Much of the action takes place on the Eastern front against the Soviets but other significant confrontations are told as well. We see many historical events as well as political decisions in-game such as giving newly-conquered regions to your allies.

    2. Writing
    Not that much writing is actually done. Occasionally the author mentions events not seen in screenshots but more often he explains what is unfolding in the pictures. This is one of those AARs that tells the story through pictures rather than words, like the terrific AAR "And all around is desert" by Decimus Milo.

    What you can expect: simple but clear explanations of what is unfolding
    What you can't expect: a plot (the author follows history), characters or battle reports (no real-time battles).

    3. Graphical elements
    Nearly the entire story is told through multimedia and after 40 chapters their worth has not diminished. I will split this into three categories: screenshots, historical pictures and historical videos.

    The author uses many screenshots from his campaign that tell us about the deployment of his forces, his political situation, his confrontations and all the different elements of the game. I will include a selection to give the readers an idea of how the game looks like and what they can expect from the AAR.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    And this last one as a teaser to the epic scope you can expect from this game. This is taken on the eve of Operation Barbarossa.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Historical pictures:
    The author uses many of these and they add immense value to his AAR in terms of realism. Propaganda posters, pictures of invasions or troops, pictures of prominent leaders...he covers it all! I always appreciate authors who try and go the extra mile to spice up their work. Some just do it to get more readers (you know who you are!...) but most include them out of interest for their story or the history of their tale. Threealls hasn't lessened his use of outside-game material as the AAR progresses and every chapter has at least one historical photograph. Personally I find that these in combination with the historical videos provide the greatest asset to this AAR. They go a long way in dragging the reader into the time setting. Some examples:
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    As you can tell from these examples, the historical pictures in this AAR are very diverse and lend an air of historical value.

    Historical videos:
    Another aspect of this very much graphics-based AAR is the videos of historical events or speeches that the author includes. They are never just random and always relate to the story and chapter at hand, again adding lots of immersion value to his story. I won't include examples but head over to the AAR and watch the goodies for yourself. You will not be disappointed.

    4. Conclusion
    All readers looking for a historically justified AAR should visit this piece of writing. Not only is the immersion value very high, it will be something you've not seen before in more traditional AARs. To the author I would recommend advancing with the story as he is currently doing, but also spend more time on the literary aspect. Instead of writing "I am ready to invade Poland", try to use more elaborate phrases that include your motivation and your grand strategy like this:

    "With the full resources of our mighty state available at last, we can begin the invasion of the weak state of Poland. Soon the Anschluss will begin and our Reich can grow at last."

    This will enrich your tale while preserving the feeling of loyalty to the historical events. It will also add depth to your narrator (yourself). On the other hand, this AAR is doing great under the distant and unemotional narrator so perhaps experimenting will be nefarious to the tone of the story.

    Review by Boustrophedon

    The Nowhere Legion
    An RTW IB:SAI AAR by SeniorBatavianHorse
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Story and Introduction
    There are AARs based on specific campaigns, characters, events, etc. This is an AAR based on a specific unit - the Fifth Macedonia of the Imperial Roman Army and its journey through history.
    The highest pinnacle, the loftiest achievement, the glory beyond all others – that is the Fifth, our Legion. And where does such a legion go from that point? Nowhere – for anywhere else is merely to step back into ignominy and oblivion.
    Veteran writer, SeniorBatavianHorse has come up with a pretty unique slant on an AAR. He is using the RTW Mod: Invasio Barbarorum: Somnium Apostate Iuliani (better written as the: INVASIO BARBARORVM : SOMNIVM APOSTATAE IVLIANI). The story begins in the late 500's A.D. during the reign of Justinian, arguably the greatest Eastern Roman / Byzantine emperor ever. Well, that's sort of where it begins (see notes under Writing Style). The story really begins at its end when an imperial official arrives to formally disband the legion after centuries of service. the month of July, an imperial envoy from the consistorium of Justinian himself arrived at Oescus with sealed orders to dissolve the legion which none had remembered and whom all had forgot.
    The "author" in this case is a modern writer publishing a manuscript from a modern (but now dead) professor who was inspired by a series of scrolls found in the desert of Egypt but originally kept in a fort on the Danube. Confused? I was, too, at first. Luckily, SeniorBatavianHorse explains it pretty well and the confusion is only temporary.

    This AAR is not a typical one following the progressive growth of an Empire. There are no campaign map screen shots or other such normal devices showing the progression of the game. This is a story-based AAR and I suspect that all of the battles were done in "Custom Battle" mode and set to specifically highlight certain parts of the story.

    The timeline of the AAR is already confused on the face of it. To top it off, this AAR seems to be running in reverse. As noted earlier, the first part of the AAR is to show when the Fifth is being disbanded. The author then speaks of the unit being lauded eight times in total. In subsequent updates, the author marks the story in time by having the unit recite that they are X times lauded ("X" being a number between 1 and 8). I suspect that in future updates, the unit will show they are six, five, four, etc. until the reverse progression gets back to when the unit was originally founded by Augustus in the very late Republican era. The author does take care to also mark the specific time period in a specific update with the name of the current Emperor. For instance, "it was two years ago that Emperor Julian was lost to us." That helps give a specific date (which is most appreciated by us amateur historians).

    Like I said earlier, this AAR jumps around a bit but it only keeps up the interest of the reader and allows for some excellent "cliff hangers" and foreshadowing.

    Writing Style and Wording
    The text is written mostly in the first person with a good deal of third person narrative thrown in. Each update usually includes a few random notes from the now-dead professor that add some flavor to the story. The "notes" done by Professor Holbein (the supposed author of this semi-fictional piece) are nice little asides to the story. They add some humor and humanity to the work and are done in a way that, I must confess, is awfully clever.

    The main character in the early updates is a court official sent by Justinian to formally disband the 5th Legion. As the updates move on and we examine some of the scrolls loving kept by the scribes of the Fifth, we shift to the first-person perspective of the writer of that particular scroll. So, we are treated to a series of period characters who have some connection with the Fifth during different periods in their history.

    There are very few spelling or usage errors and it was only on a very rare occasion where I thought I might write this or that particular passage/sentence differently. The narration flows very well which is no mean feat given the shifting perspectives and times. It is also a deceptively easy read. Each update is not overly long (but not short either) and usually sets up the next update very well.

    Overall, the writing is very well done. The author has done his research and uses the Latin forms of words and places as well as an extensive vocabulary of military terms and units to give a great period feel. The first-person descriptions have great detail and give an excellent sense and feel for the setting. The author also adds lots of literary flourishes and embellishments like the smell of the Oescus fort - vinegar - calling it the "wine of Oescus." Lovely.
    Magnus, that Ducenarius we all call ‘the wolf’ for his habit of snarling no matter what mood he was in
    The battle descriptions can best be described by the word: lavish. Although the author has written only one battle to date, it was done in superb fashion and showed his enormous attention to detail some very nice prose.
    The agmen quadratem. The hollow square. That last redoubt of an army which raises its standards to say no further, not one foot more, or to fall in ruin and death before the onset of the enemy – a bulwark, a breaker, a tomb of defiance.
    The author spares almost no detail when describing the action. He talks about the actions of individuals, the strain of combat, the sound of battle, the rush of excitement, and the tragedy of loss. Individual acts of valor are commented on as well as such details like equipment, locale, temperature, terrain, etc. In fact, he gives such attention to detail that a single battle will span multiple updates!

    Images and Visual Aids
    The images don't play much part in the early chapters of the story. In fact, you are about five updates into the AAR before you see any in-game content. He does cut in a map or two to help us with the geography, though. When you do get some in-game shots, you are well rewarded for your patience. The pictures that SBH uses are uniformly well-done. He has clearly put in the effort and is going for quality over quantity.
    Spoiler for Images from AAR

    As you can see from the above pictures, SBH has taken all the usual steps in removing the game interface and ensuring that none of the units are glowing green. However, he has also taken the step of putting in nice borders and blurring our the edges of the images. Good editing, indeed.

    I like the overall feel of the pictures. They compliment the action well and the blurred edges give it a perspective as though you were seeing into the memory of the writer rather than seeing it with your own eyes. The one draw back, if you can call it that, is that there are too few of them. I think that this is a deliberate choice from the author as this is definitely an AAR that draws most of it visuals from the words and not the pictures.

    Critique and Summary
    I have seen a lot of AARs in my time here at TWC and, specifically, as part of the Quill. I have to say in all that time, this is one of the more unique and well-written pieces I have read. The author has seized on an idea for both a perspective and a unit and has a seemingly well thought out idea on how to present it and where to go with it. As anyone who has written one can tell you, this is very nearly half the battle.

    The unique perspective commented on earlier is both the good and the bad of this AAR. On one hand, this fresh take can really draw in a reader. On the other hand, it may be off-putting for some. The author jumps around in perspective and time frequently, especially in the beginning, and that can get some confusing as there are no clear breaks (such as different fonts or line breaks) to announce when the story is shifting. Usually, it is just a set of parenthesis.

    Also, the story-heavy first parts of the AAR might put off the typical reader who likes their action early and often. I have seen quite a few AARs and can appreciate his effort. However, the casual reader might get a bit fatigued before he gets to the "good" parts.

    As noted earlier, since the author is most likely using all custom battles, the pictures are used to simply capture a moment in the scripted battle. They are not done to show how he fared in any particular engagement or to show his tactics or other acts of generalship. This is not a bad thing necessarily but the casual reader of AARs probably expects more along those lines than what they will find in the AAR. Also, since we already know what ultimately happens to the legion, the main point of suspense is removed. We are only left wondering how they got there.

    Given the lavish battle descriptions (the only one so far stretched over several updates), I think having even seven more of these will be taxing for the author and, if he succeeds in running this to the end, will make for a truly grand and extended story. To that point, the AAR has slowed down of late. The last update was nearly two weeks ago. Still, this does not mean it is over by any stretch. Just look at our esteemed editor and his long running AAR as proof that good things come to those who wait.

    If SeniorBatavianHorse can maintain this AAR through to the climax/beginning of the Fifth Macedonia Legion with the same attention to detain and superb story-telling, I think we may have a very special AAR indeed.

    Review by Skantarios

    Kingdom of Ionia - A Roman reinterpretation of the Crusades
    An RTW RS2.1 AAR by chaplain118
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    1. Introduction
    Chaplain118 has come up with a rather unique concept of AARtistry. His previous attempts at starting an AAR have unfortunately stalled but his Ionia AAR looks like it might turn out to become one of the more interesting AARs around. The AAR had been delayed because of personal problems but despite those the author has started work again with renewed energy and interest. Here's what he had to say about his work so far:

    How did you come up with the idea for your AAR?
    I came up with the idea for the AAR after playing on one of the saves for You Are the Senate, where one of my generals conquered all of Greece. At one point I decided to just make it into my own campaign and personally developed it. I managed to conquer the areas in Asia Minor that belonged to the historical Attalid Kingdom. When the Marian reforms kicked in, my recruiting abilities basically went to nil (since I was playing semi-historically, granting citizenship to only select cities) and left the situation very desperate in the East. After crippling losses that had me lose all of my cities in the East save for Ephesos and a term paper on the Crusades, I thought "Well, the Romans did attach significant religious importance to Troy, or at least they would've during the reign of Augustus through the Aeneid. What if a situation similar to the Crusades rose up?" And well, from there, I got the idea of basically recreating the Crusades, but through the Romans.

    What do you think is the strength and weakness of your writing?
    If I had to really judge it, I'd say that my strengths in the writing lies in the fact that I delve a bit more into the characters than an AAR normally would. Most people tend to just report a battle and its aftermath with very little thought that goes into a character, or go with an Empire-spanning narrative about all the cities and people. I feel that with a core focus on the characters of a story makes it more prominent. That being said, I don't ever feel like my prose is very effective at times, especially when I go back to read it and I absolutely hate some of the lines that I wrote because they're either over the top, clichéd, or some other mean words that would make my mother blush.

    Why did you choose that particular mod/timeframe?
    As for the mod, I was associated with the RS2 dev team and was the preview writer for the Roman Pre-Marian factions. I've always loved RS, it being the most popular mod on the TWC (though some would contest that ). As for the time frame, being a Classical Civilization major kind of pushed me into that position.
    The AAR focuses on a small patch of land in Asia Minor known as Ionia. A kingdom was established there and we follow the story of several men as they try to protect it from enemies both from within and from outside the realm. This is no ordinary kingdom but a holy land, sacred to many people and they are summoned to defend it from the hordes of Greeks who wish to sow destruction. Can they hold the land together or will it fall?

    2. Writing
    If I would have to describe his choice of words and phrasing it would be "grand" or "epic" in the meaning of writing an epic tale with heroes and villains. The author spends much time and words on details in his story, e.g.
    The entire Army waited in anticipation from the other towers, a sign that the enemy sieging capacity has been repelled. But the third banner never rose, and their hearts sank. The Greek sappers continued their work unmolested.
    It's also remarkable how he succeeds in portraying the Coward King as a hero of sorts, while the other characters view those same events as signs of cowardice. The charge in the first chapter is good example of this. The King seemingly rides away from battle while in fact he's only circling the enemy to take them in their rears. We can sympathise with the Coward King as he tries to clear his name but the prejudice of the others stands in the way of it. SPOILER! I really felt sorry for the Coward King as he tried to clear his name once and for all and then dying in a heroic charge. The character development is very strong in this AAR and the author manages to stay away from falling in the trap of good versus bad stories. There are no bad characters really, only people interested in the preservation of the Kingdom. They just have different ways of achieving that.

    One criticism I have in regards to writing is that the Crusades element in the story doesn't come off strong enough. We hear characters refer to the pontifex maximus as "his Holiness" and people need to be "absolved" as well as characters praying to God. Yet despite all that I don't feel the crusades as a reinterpretation is used to its full potential. Perhaps introducing a religious fanatic would spice things up in this area? I would advise the author to put more emphasis on the holy task of his characters. It might create a sort of religious fervor in his story and perhaps characters can argue about their faith with very strict believers lined up against the more relaxed.

    3. Graphical elements
    I have nothing but praise in this area of the AAR. Chaplain knows how to capture a good image and what's more, he knows how to use it to spice up his story. His pictures usually accompany the text perfectly, something that is more difficult than it seems. A few examples:
    But he cannot die. Not now, not yet. He struggled to get up and his hand found the fallen body of Teucer.
    The blood on the sword and the soldier on the ground with the horsemen standing by. A perfect shot and it goes very well with the flow of the story.

    Clearly chaplain118 knows what he's doing and I can think of little to no aspects that could be improved. He uses several other techniques as well which indicate that he might be using custom battles every now and again to get a better shot.

    This one for example is a very simple picture but it does the job of describing the siege and the efforts of the invaders to breach the city. No fancy editing, just a decent picture accompanied by a suitable text.

    The panoramic shots are also highly successful in my opinion. It doesn't always have to be epic battle pictures.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    I could list several other examples but I will leave it up to you readers to judge for yourselves. For the author I have no complaints or grievances. The graphical aspect is a cut above what we usually get served in AARs.

    4. Conclusion
    This AAR has great potential as well as a unique scope. As the story progresses I hope the author will use his concept of the crusades to full effect and I'm sure the readers will keep following this as loyally as before. As previously stated the graphical elements need no real improvement and they are generally of good quality. However I will reiterate my previous statement that the whole crusades viewpoint could use more depth and perhaps a new character or an evolution of existing characters will accomplish this.

    Review by Boustrophedon

    Article Section

    The Narrator
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    1. Introduction
    In literature it would be hard to underestimate the importance of the narrator and the effect it has on the narration. Every type of literature usually (but not always) has its own sort of narrator because of the nature of the narration. A diary will almost never be told from the viewpoint of an omniscient narrator but from the personal and limited viewpoint of the subject telling his/her story. A novel will often feature the omniscient narrator who is privy to the inner feelings of all the characters without being part of the story. I will attempt to shed light on the different types of narrators in this article. I will use several sources here but most of it will be from my university courses.

    2. What is a narrator?
    According to Wikipedia:
    A narrator is, within any story (literary work, movie, play, verbal account, etc.), the person who tells the story to the audience.[...] The narrator is one of three entities responsible for story-telling of any kind. The others are the author and the audience; the latter called the "reader" when referring specifically to literature.

    According to The Free Dictionary:
    To tell (a story, for example) in speech or writing or by means of images.
    To give an account of (events, for example)
    According to
    A person who tells a story; in literature, the voice that an author takes on to tell a story. This voice can have a personality quite different from the author's.
    3. How to define a narrator in a specific story?
    A narrator has two different "levels" that define him. To find out what narrator you are dealing with, there are two questions you need to ask yourselves:
    • Is the narrator also a character in the story he is telling?
    • Is the narrator a character in a different story, told by a "higher" narrator?

    - Is the narrator also a character in the story he is telling?

    Yes => the narrator is homodiegetic which means the narrator has at some point participated in the story. This narrator usually uses first-person sentences.

    "Jill and the group were going to the river but I told them it was dangerous."

    No => the narrator is heterodiegetic which means that he has never been present or participated in the world of his narration. This narrator usually uses third-person sentences and will never use a first-person viewpoint since this would indicate that he was present at the events, thus making him homodiegetic.

    "They went to the old mill where the evidence of the murder was still visible. The older children weren't scared but the young ones were."
    - Is the narrator a character in a different story, told by a "higher" narrator?

    Yes => the narrator is intradiegetic which means that he is a character in a different story on a higher level which is told by a different narrator.

    No => the narrator is extradiegetic which means that he is not told by a different narrator. In most cases this is how a story is built since two different narrators can be very confusing for the reader if it is not done well.
    Please note that it not possible to have a intradiegetic narrator without an extradiegetic narrator. If there is a "lower" narrator present in then you obviously need the "higher" narrator as well.

    I know this may sound very technical and difficult so I made this little schematic representation. You need to combine one element from the left side with one element from the right side and you are free to combine however you like. I hope this clarifies things a little.

    4. The four possibilities
    - homodiegetic and extradiegetic

    There is no other narrator and the narrator describes events he/she has experienced. For a specific example I refer you to the short story "Cathedral" by Raymond Carver which I mentioned here in the previous edition of the Quill.
    - homodiegetic and intradiegetic

    There is a "higher" narrator and he uses the "lower" narrator to tell a story which the lower narrator has participated in. A specific example of this narrator is the Pardoner in the Pardoner's Tale of the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.
    - heterodiegetic and extradiegetic

    The classical narrator which is the most commonly used in literature. He looms over the story without participating in it but with knowledge of all the events, thoughts and inner feelings of characters. This is why he is called the "omniscient narrator" even though it is not a literary term. This narrator knows how the story will end and usually employs the third-person narrative but it is possible that he sometimes speaks about himself in the first-person. A specific example would be the narrator in Tom Jones by Henry Fielding.
    - heterodiegetic and intradiegetic

    There is a "higher" narrator and he uses the "lower" narrator to tell a story which the lower narrator has NOT participated in. This is a relatively rare form of narrator and most common in a collection of short stories or moral tales. A specific example is Sheherazade in A Thousand and One Nights where she tells a thousand tales in which she never participates. The story of Sheherazade is in turn told by a "higher" narrator.
    5. Difficulties
    The process of defining a narrator can be a nightmare in stories of great complexity. However, the effort is certainly worth it because of the great importance of having a consistent narrator. In rare cases the same character can be two different forms of a narrator. An example:

    Yesterday I went to the park and I met a woman whom I told the story of Little Red Riding Hood. I said: "Once upon a time..."
    The "I"-narrator who went to the park is extradiegetic and homodiegetic while the "I"-narrator who tells the story of Little Red Riding Hood is intradiegetic because of the higher "I"-narrator who went to the park and heterodiegetic because she never participated in the tale of Little Red Riding Hood.

    6. The Athenian Murders
    Anybody interested should read The Athenian Murders by José Carlos Somoza because it is a masterpiece of narrators. I wish I had the time to expand on this specific example but I'm afraid you will have read the book yourselves.

    All of the narrators are featured in this novel and the extreme complexity of narrators who overlap each other and sometimes even interfere with the story (one of the narrators kidnaps a lower level narrator!) is impressive. I really urge you to read this work of beauty if you want to see all the narrators in action and you will appreciate how difficult it is to pull it off when you reach the final page.

    This book explained so much to me in regards to narrators and their truly limitless possibilities. I've read hundreds maybe thousands of books but this one still impresses me after nearly a decade since I first read it as a child. I guess Somoza should be paying me for this promotion tour I'm doing for him but I really advise you to read this if you want to see the different narrators come together in one novel.

    7. Conclusion
    Obviously narrators can be a pain to sort out but anybody interested in literature might find satisfaction now in recognizing different narrators when they are reading a story. I sincerely hope that I have taught you readers something about narrators and perhaps in the future your own writings will improve because of it. On this note I end my third article for the Critic's Quill and next month's Quill will feature another article on a technical aspect of literature though I have not yet decided its subject.


    By Boustrophedon

    TATW AARtistry: One Does Not Simply Write Like Tolkien
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Third Age Total War (TATW) is one of the most popular mods for MTW2 Kingdoms. The recreation of Tolkien’s world from the books and the movie trilogy has been an enormous feat and is cutting edge in many ways, including the soon-to-be-implemented custom settlements. The factions are all built from scratch, the unit skins are beautiful, the game is fairly balanced and full of eye candy, and there are plenty of opportunities for epic campaigns and battles.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    by Finlander

    by Brego

    by MrExpendable

    Based on this, one would expect many AARs, yet the list is interestingly limited. While fan fiction seems to thrive, traditional AARs are in short supply, and completed ones are as rare as Ents outside of Fangorn. Therefore, either TATW players are less likely to be writers or it is more difficult to write a TATW AAR. Since there is no reason to assume that TATW players have less writing talent (although the fanbase may be more unique given the specific lore), there must be something with the theme itself.

    Let’s take a look at the most popular stories. This is fortunately an easy task as Inarus (also one of the most prolific writers in the genre) has compiled a fantastic index of fan fiction and AARs. A few differences stick out immediately. Around 50 AARs started since early 2009 when TATW came out, while ETW with a similar life course served as a base for close to 350 AARs. The TATW AAR section is under the mod directory as opposed to the general AAR section. This means that those who do not visit the TATW forums would miss TATW AARs, though some writers do publish their TATW stories in the main MTW2 AAR subforum. While the mod itself has many views, the AAR threads have fewer hits in comparison. To illustrate this, one only needs to rank the AAR threads for each game based on views, and look at the first page of each.

    The top MTW2 AAR has about 114,000 views (I am Skantarios!, the all time leader), while the last one on the first page has 18,000 views. The Eras’ scale is between 46,000 and 12,000, ETW is between 26,000 and 8,000, and NTW is between 95,000 (LuckyLewis’ Liberation, the second most visited tale) and 1,300. (Shogun 2 is still new, hence the omission). Compared to these, the top TATW AAR has only 19,000 views and the last thread on the first page has 2,600 views - and this page includes plenty of fan fiction projects.

    The most viewed TATW AAR is Dwarven Dominance by aurther, about an epic (surprise!) Dwarven campaign including the conquest of Khazad-Dum and Barad-Dur. This is also probably the best traditional AAR in this genre. Another popular tale was Gondor! Gondor, between the mountains and the sea!, interestingly written by two authors, sithlord447 and Coeur de Lion. Additional notable projects include Seven stars, seven stones and one white tree by Hallow; Arnor Arises! by hugorune; We won’t fade no more! by Aikanár; and Elrond’s kingdom by miniwally. These are all conventional AARs, in other words they fall into the epic/heroic genre, well fitting to Tolkien’s original narrative style. In addition, these are stories about “good” factions with which most writers seem to identify more easily. But apart from Dwarven Dominance, none of these AARs are finished. It seems that the LotR world not only provides but also requires an exceptional level of immersion, which may make sustained TATW writing, well, challenging.

    Apparently, one does not simply write like Tolkien.

    There are completed high quality fan fiction stories that resemble the master’s work, some even using the languages he invented. But fan fiction is not campaign based and thus it is free of all constraints of the game itself, giving greater flexibility to the writer. AARs have to follow the campaign to some extent and therein lies the challenge, as Gandalf would say. TATW campaigns tend to stick to the lore much more than MTW2 campaigns stick to medieval history. Portugal can rule the world, the Scots can move to Sicily, Denmark can take the Holy Land without anybody being bothered – but it is unlikely that Gondor will do anything else than fight the evil powers and help Rohan survive. Rhun will not migrate to the Misty Mountains, and Eriador will probably not take over the deserts of Harad unless the Shire Folk conquered everything else already.

    History can be told in various ways, but the lore is written in one way only. Tolkien has not only created a fantasy world, but also a particular flow and order for the main story. Of course it is not a requirement to write lore-conforming AARs, but it is exactly the stunningly immersive world of TATW which limits, though probably not consciously, the way how stories are written and most campaigns are played. This could also be the reason why most writers pick good factions (whereas players tend to play good and evil factions more evenly).

    There is an obvious response to this conceptual constraint: writing deliberately the opposite way. The best example for this is Sargon_of_Akkad’s The Grass is ALWAYS Greener: The Dark Tale of Mordor, started shortly after the release of TATW. This is a comedy AAR, probably the first written for this genre. It does have an original humor, depicted well in the first sentence:
    The Black Land, the Land of Shadow, the Land where Tourism is Not a Mainstay of the Local Economy.
    Written in brief dialogs and puns, it would be difficult to imagine anything less similar to Tolkien’s narrative.
    Witch-King: "[…] Get building some stuff, clear some land and lets get this place sorted out!"

    Ji Indur: "Well, clearing land didn't take long, since all we have is, well, barren land. I have absolutely no idea what you are planning to grow, as the ground is made of black rock and the sky is perpetually overcast, so that no sunlight ever reaches the ground."

    Witch-King: "Do I look like a *** farmer to you?"
    While unfinished like many others, this AAR is the second most viewed TATW tale. Another example for a comedy, albeit with a more subtle tone is Maltacus’ current Home to Midgard (reviewed by Boustrophedon elsewhere in this issue), featuring such blockbuster events as “The battle of not quite five armies” and unforgettable characters like Dobby the reformed snaga warrior. Less campaign driven than The Dark Tale of Mordor, hopefully it will entertain us for a long time. Another way to have distance from the traditional Tolkien narrative is tweaking the time period. Aurther does this in his new experimental AAR, Fourth Age focusing on a story which unfolds after Mordor was defeated.

    In summary, Tolkien has created an incredibly rich and detailed world as well as a dominant story which by and large determines the narrative field for TATW AARs. Lore is not like history because lore cannot be interpreted in multiple ways, therefore it allows less flexibility for story narratives. The more extensive the lore is the more constraints the writers face – and Tolkien’s lore is as extensive as it can possibly get. Restoring Arnor, taking the Black Gate or defending Minas Tirith against overwhelming odds is apparently easier on the battlefield than on paper. Yet, if one has already conquered Middle Earth many times over and is looking for the next challenge – the quill and the scroll are still there.

    The time has come. Send forth all legions.

    By Radzeer

    Literary Machiavellians
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    “The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way, necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous.”

    Such a sentiment, attributed to one Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, epitomises the guileful politic of this enigmatic and charismatic man. In a more contemporary parlance the equivalent would be reminiscent of the anecdotal proclivity that nice guys don’t get very far. It could be said that the catalytic impetus that contributed to the ruthless inclination of Machiavelli was no doubt that of his imprisonment, torture and subsequent expulsion from Florentine politics by the Medici family. As Machiavelli alludes to himself, “The more sand has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.” It is by such personal catharsis that many thus endured by those ruthless inclinations and guarded themselves from further ignominy by striking before they were themselves stricken. Some of the most captivating and provocative figures in history have been cast as Machiavellian in their motives - political, religious or otherwise; namely, Henry VIII, Charles V, Christina de’Medici, Elizabeth I and even the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

    At which point, dear reader, I shall indulge you in my motivation for writing such an article.

    Machiavellians make for truly great literary protagonists.

    The desire for an emotional investment in the literature that we read, or more specifically, the principal exponents of that literature, is a broadly encompassing expectation. We want to like the person we are reading about, or at the very least identify with them. In this regard, those characters of a Machiavellian disposition are – initially at least - rendered comparatively benign by their vulnerable humanity. We can thus identify with characters that have faults, failings and deep rooted flaws. Wherein, lies the crux of a Machiavellian protagonist’s greatest advantage; that is to say, their propensity to overcome. It is a benefit so few of us are afforded in truth, but that which so many of us would spoil for.

    As so many of us, myself included, turn our hands to increasingly character dominated AAR’s wherein the events inevitably act merely as a plot vehicle, greater attention is being paid to the formation of those protagonists. After all, we are the ones who are going to spend the vast majority of our time with them – we must find some concordance with them and, by virtue, so must our audience.

    The audience must identify with such characters by merit of their initial susceptibility to the influence of others. A Machiavellian character must bear the scars of past mistakes, indignities and inadequacies. They are therefore rendered human, vulnerable and imperfect – they are as are we. It is in this regard that the Machiavellian protagonist is presented with the occasion to overcome. The nature of these past aberrations hence dictates the severity of future contrivances; by simpler terms, the more one has suffered, the greater the suffering can be dealt out. It is therefore expedient for an author wanting to craft a Machiavellian advocate that they allow their creation to foremost suffer and survive by onerous means, thus establishing the sympathy of a reader and allowing for further scope in the impending rebellion against such exploitation.

    It is, in basic terms, why we are receptive to the anti-hero. If the guy has been pushed around enough, you don’t blame him for snapping.

    But therein lies the most fulfilling element of a Machiavellian character; namely, they don’t snap at their prey – they bewilder them, acclaim them, isolate them, flatter them, torment them and finally, but not always, crush them. Our moral compass, and most certainly that of the protagonist, is rendered unnecessary, even deemed an inconvenience – moral flexibility is far more desirable.

    Machiavellian characters are surrounded by intrigue, betrayal, passion, endurance, deceit and misdirection. Their stories are the sum of human emotions. The desire to overwhelm, subdue and vanquish a foe is a base human emotion, but it is one that is extremely powerful – and if validated by past experiences, it becomes a wholly untamed animal.

    Creating a Machiavellian character in your AAR gives you immense scope. The past, present and future are inextricably interwoven by the machinations of the human psyche and, as such, we all want to indulge in a little of that from time to time.

    In this regard, such a protagonist can afford both writer and audience an audacious and dauntless vehicle through whom we express our own insecurities, hidden desires and vengeful connivances, with one particular caveat – vindication. As such we can use them to live out such darker moods with any seditious activity condoned by the universally legitimate desire for personal retribution.

    Referring to the quote by which I began this article, Machiavelli was of the belief that if you weren’t going to stand up for yourself, you should prepare to be stood on. In defining this, Machiavelli demonstrates that we must be prepared for all eventualities and tend towards a pre-emptive, if not pre-meditated default disposition. By no means did the Florentine disapprove of virtue however, quite the contrary. He merely pointed out that you must be open to a many great tactics in dealing with the appropriate people in the appropriate way. There will be those that respect virtue, those that respect fear, those that respect authority, those that respect honour and those that respect power. It is your intention to gain the respect of all and to maintain it as such, thus maintain power.

    A Machiavellian protagonist must wear many faces and play many parts. They are the most fluid, diverse and dangerous of characters and their depth knows no bounds. Combine that with the vindication afforded to a protagonist wronged and therein lies a most beguiling, formidable and enriching character. They can be reinvented on a whim, for they are constantly reinventing themselves; they can be so many things to so many people yet as a writer you are aware of exactly who they are and what they are doing. It is deeply rewarding to have such scope for development and so deeply intriguing for an audience to unravel those layers.

    Machiavelli always expressed a love of liberty. Liberty is none more so afforded to such characters as those of Machiavellian design.

    Nice Guys don’t get very far? Well, no more Mr. Nice Guy then...

    By esaciar

    From the Editor's Desk

    Wow! What an Issue! It's wonderful to see a dedicated group of people creating something worthwhile. And don't forget that it is all you writers out there on the TWC forums who provide us with our inspiration. You just carry on writing, and we'll keep reviewing.

    Please give a big hand to the Critic's Quill writing team: Skantarios, Radzeer, la coupe est pleine, Mega Tortas, wowbanger, m_1512, esaciar and last but definitely not least, Boustrophedon. If you liked their work, then send some rep their way.

    Well that's it for this month. Hopefully next time some of our absent regulars will return from their exam season rights-of-passage. In the meantime keep reading, and most importantly, keep writing! TWC is the perfect place to start writing stories. Don't deny yourself the pleasure of creating shared worlds for others to enjoy; start that masterpiece now!

    Finally, if you like what we do and feel like writing for the Quill yourself, just drop me a PM, I'd love to hear from you.


    By the way, there are lots of other TWC publications and/or creative forums. To try them out just click through the pictures!

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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2010

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    Curse the Exam Season for interfering with more important matters and issues...

    Thanks for your nice review Boustrophedon

    You are quite right about agents being limited characters, which as stated is the very reason I choose them. It is quite possible that I will one day come to regret this if I want to give one of them a greater role. But professions are not set in day a protagonist may wish to pursue another career.

    When it comes to empire-building I should inform that I have increased the movement of agents in order to get Runar and Halvdan through the world in a somewhat reasonable time. So my campaign has not developed that much at all even if the characters have moved a great distance. Later in the story (after the chapters the review is based on), some hints of the comings and goings of the rest of the kingdom begin to appear.
    I'm only slightly worried that the quality of the subtle humour will diminish in time. So far the author has managed to keep things lofty and silly but like any story it needs a decent plot to keep readers interested.
    Interesting. I would very much like you to elaborate this in the Home to Midgard thread. What should I do to keep the readers interest and how should the tale be improved? My AAR is lacking in reader suggestions about what people would want more of.
    Last edited by Maltacus; June 25, 2011 at 08:18 AM.

  4. #4
    Boustrophedon's Avatar Grote Smurf

    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Rome, Italy

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    I'm very excited about this 27th Issue being published despite exams and personal issues I've managed to produce quite some content for this issue of the CQ but as the saying goes: quality over quantity I hope the AARtists and readers will offer some critique on my reviews or the article.

    Congratulations to the rest of the very talented CQ team and our editor Juvenal naturally who keeps us all in line

    Quote Originally Posted by Maltacus View Post
    Curse the Exam Season for interfering with more important matters and issues...

    Thanks for your nice review Boustrophedon

    You are quite right about agents being limited characters, which as stated is the very reason I choose them. It is quite possible that I will one day come to regret this if I want to give one of them a greater role. But professions are not set in day a protagonist may wish to pursue another career.

    When it comes to empire-building I should inform that I have increased the movement of agents in order to get Runar and Halvdan through the world in a somewhat reasonable time. So my campaign has not developed that much at all even if the characters have moved a great distance. Later in the story (after the chapters the review is based on), some hints of the comings and goings of the rest of the kingdom begin to appear.
    Interesting. I would very much like you to elaborate this in the Home to Midgard thread. What should I do to keep the readers interest and how should the tale be improved? My AAR is lacking in reader suggestions about what people would want more of.
    I was glad to review it!

    You've updated the AAR with many new chapters since the review so my work is already a bit outdated, despite being only just published hehe. I will post some thoughts on your AAR in the thread after this weekend, but I suspect your loyal readers will have offered some thoughts of their own as well

    Lastly I wish to thank la coup est pleine for his honest and clear-cut review of my BAARC entry. His criticisms were very accurate and my next entry will be much better because of it!

    Cheers fellas and enjoy this issue!

  5. #5
    Radzeer's Avatar Rogue Bodemloze
    Moderator Emeritus Content Emeritus Administrator Emeritus

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    Aug 2010

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    Very strong issue and plenty of great content! Congratulations to Juvenal for herding all these material together, Boustrophedon for carrying most of the weight, and the rest of the writers for dong their own magic!
    Special thanks for your help around the BAARC! Hopefully many would participate in it in the future too.

  6. #6

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    Very good issue, and thanks to Boustrophedon for the review. +rep

    Historical fiction - Fifty Tales from Rome

    Can YOU dance like the Cookie Man?
    Improbe amor quid non mortalia pectora cogis? - The Aeneid
    I run an Asteroid mining website. Visit it before James Cameron takes it from me.

  7. #7
    m_1512's Avatar Quomodo vales?
    Content Emeritus Administrator Emeritus

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    Mar 2008
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    Thank you for giving me the chance for that review.
    +rep Juvenal.

  8. #8
    Tim1988's Avatar Vicarius
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    Dec 2009

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    Another great edition of the Quill, as always. Great work by everyone involved.

    Special thanks to Boustrophedon for reviewing my BAARC entry. +rep
    My Old AARs:
    Uniting a Kingdom - A M2TW:Kingdoms Britannia Campaign
    The Greatest Battles of General Sir Lionel Townshend - A DarthMod Empire Campaign
    Tales of an Old Soldier - A series of DMUC Battles
    My Image Gallery:

  9. #9
    Stívarðr Reynitré's Avatar Domesticus
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    Aug 2010
    Here and There

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    Thank you for the support and the early submission Juvenal!!

    I am deeply, deeply honoured to be a part of this team and will strive to provide as much input as I can for the foreseeable future.

    All the best to everyone and thanks again for this opportunity!!

  10. #10

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    Great edition you guys have here! Another job well done, with excellent contributions by everyone who took part in making it. Hopefully I too can help contribute in the next edition. Keep up the amazing work!

  11. #11
    Choki's Avatar Domesticus
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    Jan 2009

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    great edition, thanks a lot

  12. #12

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    Excellent work, guys! The team has delivered yet another outstanding edition! Big thanks to m_1512 for reviewing my stuff

    Quote Originally Posted by Radzeer View Post
    Boustrophedon for carrying most of the weight
    Boustrophedon deserves a lot of praises for his high quality articles, not to mention prolificacy.
    Last edited by Maximinus Thrax; June 26, 2011 at 01:18 AM.

  13. #13

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    amazing story's ive read them all. nice pictures to, though ive seen better ones.

  14. #14

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    Looks nice, I am looking for time to read it completely, but for now, thanks for calling my TotW entry "a nice little piece", I enjoyed writing it and I am looking for inspiration for this week's TotW!
    Joseph and Stafford, a medieval short story
    The life of Jack Stafford, a story in progress

    When you read a book or a short story, or a magazine article, your
    imagination really is making contact, one-to-one, with whoever wrote it.

    Frank P Ryan

  15. #15
    SonOfAlexander's Avatar I want his bass!

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    Telford, Shropshire... UK

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    I wish I could be back here writing at the CQ - you've all put out a terrific issue, thanks to all but especially boustrophedon and juvenal! A brilliant reviewer (and flattering... 'a famous aar writer' indeed, makes me shamed i'm not able to work on blood of zeus right now!) and an editor without whom the CQ would have whithered and died, and as always, with a turn of phrase which never ceases to amuse and impress
    Please come see the BAARC
    Proud Member of the Critic's Quill & ES content staff
    Under the benificient and omniscient patronage of Carl Von Döbeln
    Bono: "Let me tell you something. I've had enough of Irish Americans who haven't been back to their country in 20 or 30 years, and tell me about the 'Resistance', the 'Revolution' 'back home'. The 'glory' of the revolution, and the 'glory' of dying for the revolution. F *** THE REVOLUTION!!!"
    Ariovistus Maximus: "Google supplieth all."
    [Multi-AAR] Caelus Morsus Luminius

  16. #16
    Boustrophedon's Avatar Grote Smurf

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    Rome, Italy

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    Quote Originally Posted by Radzeer View Post
    Very strong issue and plenty of great content! Congratulations to Juvenal for herding all these material together, Boustrophedon for carrying most of the weight, and the rest of the writers for dong their own magic!
    Special thanks for your help around the BAARC! Hopefully many would participate in it in the future too.
    Thanks and I agree that this is a strong issue. We have a very diverse set of reviews, articles and whatnot

    Quote Originally Posted by chaplain118 View Post
    Very good issue, and thanks to Boustrophedon for the review. +rep
    My pleasure. Your AAR was certainly worth a review imo!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim1988 View Post
    Another great edition of the Quill, as always. Great work by everyone involved.

    Special thanks to Boustrophedon for reviewing my BAARC entry. +rep
    You're welcome. I really liked your battle and I think I maybe even voted for you hehe

    Quote Originally Posted by Maximinus Thrax View Post
    Excellent work, guys! The team has delivered yet another outstanding edition! Big thanks to m_1512 for reviewing my stuff
    Boustrophedon deserves a lot of praises for his high quality articles, not to mention prolificacy.
    Great to have you here reading this edition! You're one of the better AARtists out there so thank you very much for the praise. I wasn't 100% satisfied with the article because I couldn't give specific examples from that novel I mentioned due to time management issues and exams Once again thank for the far too generous praise and I will have another article ready for next month's edition!

    Quote Originally Posted by SonOfAlexander View Post
    I wish I could be back here writing at the CQ - you've all put out a terrific issue, thanks to all but especially boustrophedon and juvenal! A brilliant reviewer (and flattering... 'a famous aar writer' indeed, makes me shamed i'm not able to work on blood of zeus right now!) and an editor without whom the CQ would have whithered and died, and as always, with a turn of phrase which never ceases to amuse and impress
    Yes Juvenal is indeed a strong driving force in the making of the Quill and his efforts should not be underestimated! Compiling stuff is often a thankless job hehe So far though he still seems to like it! Let's hope he stays with us for quite some time to follow!

  17. #17

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    That was a pleasure to be part of this issue.
    I hope that reviewing each of the BAARC entry is going to motivate writers as much as us reviewers.

    Then, well done each reviewer, and especially Boustrophedon. We have a heroe.
    So many articles I loved that I won't give each of them a special shout. Eh eh...

    For the Quill, Montjoie Saint Denis...

  18. #18
    Junius's Avatar Domesticus

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    May 2008

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    Good edition, nice read. Keep it up.
    Proud to be under the patronage of Calvin.
    Patron of Lysimachus

  19. #19
    The Noble Lord's Avatar Holy Arab Nation
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    Peshawar, Pakistan - Kabul, Afghanistan

    Default Re: The Critic's Quill: Issue 27

    Nice work guys, so enjoyable to read it.
    أسد العراق Asad al-Iraq
    Under the proud patronage of the magnificent Tzar

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