Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Good Reviews!

It has been a very good week.  Sales are doing well, and I've officially made all the money back that I've paid the editor.  And then some!  Gentle Readers, you're wonderful.

I have gotten two great reviews, and I'd like to repost them here:

From Matthew Capps:

"How to Play a Character is now required reading for my RPG group. Though primarily concerned with the game of Dungeons and Dragons, How to Play a Character contains sound advice for breathing life into the characters of any RPG. It does not bother itself to tell you the things you have heard in the front pages of every RPG you've ever read. Alexis does not bother to explain to you what an RPG is. He doesn't tell you how to affect a funny voice, or to dress up like your character, or to only say things your character would say.

"He also doesn't spend time talking about the best way to maximize stats, or to tweak a character for its optimal mechanical potential. The advice in the How to Play A Character essay concerns your character's needs, where your character keeps his things, the habits your character forms, and the way you can keep these things in mind to impress and motivate your DM, as well as make for a more fulfilling game.

"Along with How to Play a Character are a series of other essays that offer insights into the game. "Opening Module" is a wonderful way to start the book, as well as a wonderful way to start any sandbox style campaign. 'Wild Magic,' 'Breaking Camp,' and 'Full of Holes,' serve to inspire thought about how an RPG world compares to our real world, and how the former can perhaps be made more like the latter. All of these essays are well thought out, and well written. There are no empty words or meaningless passages. 

"These essays are put together in a nice, pocket-sized booklet. The size is just right for slipping to a player on their break, or in a moment of downtime. The book is small enough to be read in a single concentrated sitting, organized enough to support reading in small, disconnected spurts, and worth enough to inspire several re-readings.

"My only complaint about How to Play a Character is that I wish there was more of it. How to Play a Character was put together by Alexis Smolensk to raise funds to better publicize his upcoming book 'How to Run: an Advanced Guide to Managing Role-playing Games.' How to Play a Character & Other Essays is the perfect appetizer for anyone anticipating his work."

Great comments, Matt.  It's good to know I'm communicating clearly with my target audience.

From Luke Warring:

"I learned of this book from Mr. Smolensk's blog: On his blog, Mr. Smolensk is able to clearly propose, explain, juxtapose, debate, and reconcile complex concepts within the role playing genre. It reads well, his writing is polished and reads easier than the masses of amateur bloggers. This book diverges a bit from his blog. The book's writing is elevated, worked over, and streamlined.

"On his blog, Mr. Smolensk's voice flows through a river delta. His voice twists and turns with raw drafts, tributaries of comments from blog readers, and bubbly and choppy debates of opposing currents. At times, I can be exhausted by the thoroughness in which role playing is debated. After all, I just want to play a better game-not write a treatises about role playing. To my delight the book's voice flows through a spigot. Crisp, clear, and refreshing. The coarseness of the blog was gone, and I did not miss it.

"For me, the meat of the book is in the first half. Every DM and player should read the first two chapters of this book. It is exactly what I needed to read. I enjoyed the second half too, which is a collection of essays - some creative writings. I will buy his next book. 4.5/5 - my main critique is that I wanted more pages of 'How to Play,' though it is covered thoroughly in the book. I await his next book."

Yes, it's true.  I use a different voice on this blog than I do in the book, because here I am speaking directly to my audience.  In the book, I'm speaking directly to the content.

By all means, keep these reviews coming!  I could happily wake up every morning to this.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad others have beat me to the punch in reviewing the book. I'll be adding my own soon, but its encouraging that my endorsement will be just one among many of people getting it. It's all well-deserved... I hope this helps you down this last stretch of completing the "big book".

Matt said...

Happy to leave the good review. I'm glad that you took the time to read it, and post it here.

Barrow said...

A rewrite may be in order, because I of course enjoy your blog entries. I don't feel my second paragraph reflects that.

Perhaps tutelage would have been a better word to use than 'voice.'


Alexis Smolensk said...


Speaking as a Russian, who grew up with a family that drank vodka in beer glasses, like beer, I don't consider it a 'racist' issue at all - because Russians, Spaniards, Egyptians, Hindi and Chinese are not 'races' - they are ethnic groups. These ethnic groups exist within races, and share common racial characteristics, but they themselves are not races, and I am often off-put by being told I am of the Russian 'race.'

Prior to the 20th century, ethnic characteristics were celebrated as a great and wonderful thing by the ethnic groups themselves. Having been closely attached to several ethnic organizations, I am sometimes at a loss why we have groups promoting ethnocentricity being opposed by other groups who want us all to be the same. My Russian and German parentage on the one side, and my Scots heritage on the other (Highland Scots, Ross by clan) are VERY vocal about their cultures, very proud of them, and vociferous in saying so.

We can't laud the importance of cultural heritage on the one hand and then condemn it on the other (as 'racist' or some other epithet) without sounding terribly hypocritical.

Perhaps 'bear-fighting' wasn't the best choice, except that in the medieval period Russian warriors often participated in bear-wrestling just as several native American groups participated in alligator-wrestling. Why shouldn't we offer a +1 bonus for these things as a respect and cheerfulness about these peoples making the best entertainment they could with their peculiar circumstances, rather than kowtow to the rather ridiculous invented social standard based on Canadian-Russians or American-Russians who don't want to be identified as vodka-swilling, bear-wrestling snow-swimming bastards, simply because they feel a great need to 'fit in' with a manufactured wal-mart social culture that did not exist before last week?

LOL. We have certainly learned how to have silly problems, haven't we?

Barrow said...

I rewrote my review with a few less analogies and a smaller scope. Your vision of D&D and how it should play make a lot of sense to me and excite me to expand my campaign. I guess my original review, that you posted, was a poor attempt at saying: I really like your blog entries, however, your book was so streamlined and satisfying, that I wish you had more content in the bound medium. It is not your voice I was writing about, but your message. (eh maybe one more analogy) On the blog I get daily bite sizes of your thoughts (which I like), and they are mixed with others on the blog (like me). I enjoyed getting the whole plate in the book. Unfortunately that never materialized in my review. It does not pertain to your book anyway. Better editing would help, I suppose. Cheers

Alexis Smolensk said...

I'm certain that's how I took your original review, Barrow, exactly as you meant it.

Of course the book is streamlined. The blog posts are written on the fly, in one draft, pretty much making it up as I go along. Often I get to the end of them and pull the conclusion around to the opening by the skin of my teeth. The book was two more drafts, written (not just fixed) from scratch, then once more edited on a read through (out loud) and then pushed past an editor, Jes the Red, who slapped me around as needed.

That's time to think, consider, toss out stuff that doesn't work, smooth the writing, be clearer, add details that occur, research stuff and fret out the context and content.

People who think they can judge my writing by what they see on the blog have very little understanding about writing. But it's flattering, because people read the blog and say I write well, and this is just me slumming, more or less.