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BASHing Dragons!

Using Basic Action Super Heroes in a Dungeons & Dragons game

Hero vs Dragon

Crossing over Super Heroes and Fantasy is an old idea; there been have comic stories where modern-day supers get somehow displaced to magical worlds. Similarly RPG adventure modules based on the same concept have been occasionally produced over the years. So I thought, why not write an article for a possible BASH/D&D crossover?

The Situation

For whatever reason -Dimensional Teleportation, a Cosmic Being etc.- the Heroes (and possibly some Villains) are transported to one of the Prime Material Plane worlds, such as The Realms.

They will of course, immediately stick out like sore thumbs, what with their bizarre skintight clothing. If they use their powers in public, they will be assumed to be spellcasters of some sort (real spellcasters will notice they are not using spell components though.) For their part, the new arrivals will assume that they have been transported to the Middle Ages, until they spot a nonhuman race such as an elf (and it will definitely be obvious when they run into monsters!)

If they don’t want to attract much attention, they will need local clothing (their modern clothes will not cut it). These can of course be bought… except Earth money will be worthless here. At best they might pass off pennies as copper coins. They will have to find jobs or go adventuring for treasure. (Smart players will figure out they can use their powers as street performers, earning a few coins and explaining their costumes in the process.) Villains of course, either won’t care or will just steal anything they need.

Once properly equipped, the next step is finding where they are and how to get home. Just ask around. NPCs will likely tell them to go ask a sage. The sage, after they find one, will instruct them about planar travel and that they need a spell, a magic item or help from a wish-granting being. This will be the other half of the quest. (Villains might just decide this ‘primitive’ world is easier to plunder or conquer than Earth and remain there. Heroes aware of their presence must collect them first.)

Conversion

Superhumans should use the rules for monsters rather than those for Player Characters, first because of their superhuman abilities, and second because they (usually) do not advance in level. The GM can use them for an encounter (as friends or foes) or even allow them to be playable for a short campaign while they get back home.

SUPERHUMAN

Size: Medium, unless they have the Size (Large) Power (these are Large at Level 1, Huge at Level 2, and Gargantuan at 3 or Higher). Those with the Size (Small) Power are Small at size -1, anything less is Tiny.

Type: Humanoid (though other Tags might apply on an individual basis)

Alignment: Any. Heroes will Always be Good. Conversely, only the truly cruel villains are Evil; Most are Neutral, as are all Anti-Heroes. The Mental Malfunction can suggest more details such as whether they are Lawful or Chaotic.

Armor Class: 10 + DEX bonus + any Armor worn (note that the Armor Power provides no bonus, but Deflect does)

Hit Points: use Hits.

Speed: 30’. Super Movement Powers allow additional movement modes. Speed is 5’ per Square.

Ability Scores: Brawn is Strength and Constitution; Agility is Dexterity; and Mind is Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. A 0 is 5, 1 is 10, 2 is 15, 3 is 20, 4 is 25 and 5 is 30.

Saving Throws: Any Power or Advantage that provides a Stat Check bonus for resisting a Power’s effects also provides the equivalent Saving Throw bonus.

Skills: All BASH skills are retained, though some (Pilot, Computer, Technology) are useless. Use the Skill Multiplier as the skill bonus.

Vulnerabilities, Resistances and Immunities: These are all retained. Note that some Weaknesses might no longer matter (or become crippling) for the duration, depending on whether their “trigger” exists in the campaign; for example, a Hero who is weak to radiation does not have anything to worry about, but one who must recharge his powers with radiation will soon lose them!

Senses: All supersenses still work, though their targets might not exist. Range and Area is the same (expressed as 5’ per square where needed). Those that require Mind Checks use Perception Rolls. Keen Senses get a +3 bonus.

Armor, Weapon, and Tool Proficiences: Assume a Superhuman is proficient with any equipment they normally carry. They will suffer penalties from anything else they pick up.

Languages: It’s best to assume that the characters’ Native Language is the same as Common for convenience. The Omni-Linguist Power will also allow communication in unfamiliar languages (to read them they will also need Omni-Reader). Telepathy 3 can also be used.

Challenge: Mystery Men are CR 4; Street Level Heroes are CR 11; World Class Heroes are CR 18; and Cosmic Beings are CR 25. Minions are CR 0 to ½ depending on Hits and Powers.

Special Traits

Powers are treated as Innate Spellcasting. They still work as in BASH except as follows:

*Range and Area are 5’ per square.

*Powers that require a Defense Check use an Attack roll to hit.

*Other effects require a Saving Throw (GM decides which) DC is equal to the Power’s Intensity Level x 4.

*Damage is the same amount (including multiplier) Type is whatever is closest to the Power’s Special Effect.

*For effects with no duration given, assume it is 3 rounds.

Spellcasting: Treat characters with the Grimoire Advantage (or the Wizardry Power) as Sorcerers for purposes of casting spells. Level is equal to their Occultism Multiplier.

Psionics: All Mental Powers should have this Tag.

Advantages: All are retained, with the exception of Social ones such as Celebrity or Resources.

Disadvantages: Similarly Disadvantages still apply except Social ones. In Particular, neither Secret nor Public Identities can be used- the character better come up with a new name for the duration!

Actions: As for PCs. Certain Intense Training Powers allow Multiattacks.

Limitations on number of uses for a Power still apply.

Characters with Martial Arts Mastery (Grappling Style) should be given the Grappler Feat (if Feats are used in the campaign)

Equipment: Modern Equipment like phones will either be useless, or soon run out of charges, bullets etc. For more simple things like Armor, Hand To Hand Weapons and Utilities use the closest equivalent’s game stats. Powers with the Gadget Limitation should be treated as Magic Items.

Legendary Actions: The Quick-Thinking Advantage (and the Valiant Defender Power) qualify.

Regional Effects: Use of high Levels of the X-Mastery Power may cause these.

Conversion Test

American Wonder

Medium Humanoid, Lawful Good

Armor Class 17

Hit Points 100

Speed 30 ft., Jump 450 ft.

STR 20 (+5) AGL 20 (+5) CON 20 (+5) INT 20 (+5) Wis 20 (+5) CHA 20 (+5)

Skills: Athletics, Acrobatics, Persuasion

Vulnerability to Radiation (not applicable )

Senses: Danger Sense (+2 to AC (already figured in) It also reduces penalties when fighting blind or fighting an invisible foe by half, rounded down)

Languages Common

Challenge 11

Leadership: This provides 5 points that can be used to positively modify the rolls of allies, but only if acknowledged as their leader. Once spent they are gone until the next session.

Never Surrender: Once per session, if unconscious, paralyzed, charmed or stunned, he can snap out of it. His hit points are also restored to 20 (if they were below that).

Actions:

Star Bolt. Power: range 150 ft., one target. Hit: 2d6 x 6 Radiant damage.

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Familiars of Terra quickstart review

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Familiars of Terra is a fantasy role-playing game that will soon be available on kickstarter. A free quickstart is already available so I decided to check it out. This is my review of it.

Setting: The world of Terra seems to be a hodgepodge of genres- its like modern Earth, except everyone has a Familiar -and yes, that’s very similar to the premise of The Golden Compass. However it also has unique features such as The Badlands, their equivalent of mutant-filled post-apocalyptic wastelands!

Character Creation: Each player creates two characters: a human (known as a Seeker) and its Familiar, which is a normal animal with unusual features and powers. Both have typical RPG Attributes such as Strength and Wits, but also make use of descriptive words that both define the character and provide in-game bonuses. For example, all Seekers have a Calling, which is the thing they seek to achieve; meeting these goals earns experience points. Meanwhile their Familiars have a Legacy, which is their equivalent of a Calling.

Game Mechanics: Here is where the game turns really unusual. For no given reason, it uses playing cards (regular ones) for combat, as opposed to dice. This is not the first RPG to do this, I just wonder why (maybe it is explained in the full rules?) It doesn’t bother me though- I’ve played Yugioh and this is kind of like it.

Adventure Seeds: There are two playable scenarios provided, along with several pre-generated characters to choose from.

“The Sacred Heart” is about reuniting the soul of a deceased Familiar with its (now reincarnated) Seeker. (Yes, she already has a new Familiar, but conveniently its soul feels “incomplete”) Note that some of the opponents here are dangerous- the game warns that the PCs might die! The point being that running away or asking for help are also valid options.

“Veins Run Deep” is about a city that actually makes a living by allowing others to dump their garbage there! Which they then proceed to scavenge for recyclables. But lately they have been hit by tremors. If you think this is your classic “nature rebelling against pollution” scenario, you’re kind of right, but it has some surprising twists as well.

Art: Personally I don’t feel art matters much for an RPG- you’re supposed to use your imagination after all. But it cannot be denied that it helps sales. Here, I found the cover a little bland. Its just a girl Seeker playing with her winged catkin while two more fly nearby. Sounds like it should be cool, but it looks kind of crude. Not the worst I’ve seen, but a book like this begs for something better.

The interior art, while sparse and only in shades of gray, is much better. It reminds me of Teenage/Young Adult novel covers whose readers are (probably) the game’s main target audience. Why the cover is not this good is a mystery. Hopefully they will do a better one later.

Conclusion: Judging from the quickstart, Familiars of Terra is a setting I’d love to explore, and even my peeves about cards and art would not stop me from trying it. Expect a full review when I get my hands on the complete game.

Recommended for: Fans of Sci/Fantasy, of any age (the preview says there are rules in the full book to adjust the tone for different audiences) especially animal lovers.

 

 


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Plant Control: What good is it for?

Plant Growth

OK, I admit that this is an unusual topic: the use of a specific superpower in the role-playing game Tri-Stat DX. The reason for it is that I haven’t written anything in a long while and I realized it’s because I tend to obsesses on finding something meaningful to talk about, instead of just writing what I like at the moment. Sure, the results might not always be of high quality, but as someone famous once pointed out, “the only way to improve your writing skills is to write constantly”.

With that said: this is a topic I just happened to see on a role-playing forum the other day. Tri-Stat is a free, multigenre game so of course people would discuss if it is worth using. And it’s easy to see why more than one person would be disappointed with this power: in fiction, plant-controllers usually summon plant monsters out of the ground to attack, typically with crushing tendrils. This power does not allow you to do that; it explicitly says that to emulate such attacks you must buy the Special Attack attribute instead.

So what good is TSDX Plant Control for? Let’s look at the description:

*It has no required or optional PMVs (Power Modifier Values, that is, Range, Area, Targets or Duration.) So it cannot be easily customized.

*It uses the Fast Progression Chart, starting at 10 cm. So it does have an area of effect, just one determined by level instead of being bought separately. 10 cm is like, a potted plant, though. Not sure if its necessary, but just in case I’d buy a level whose area is large enough for existing trees to fit in- 10 meters should do.

*When a power has no Range, the area is normally assumed to be centered around the character- you’d expect him or her to be caught in the expanding flora as well, but since as described, “this Attribute can control the growth and movement of all plants in the surrounding area” I assume the user can choose which plants within this area are affected.

“But wait- plants can’t move! Does this power animate them?” you might ask. I do not believe so, or it would state it more explicitly. Besides, plants do move- when they grow. So I assume the Power allows you to control in which direction the plants grow- not just up but also sideways or even down. And anyone who has seen a sidewalk broken by tree roots can appreciate the force plants exert while growing. For game purposes, I would treat an enlarged plant as a creature of the same size (except that it doesn’t move, of course.) Use the table under the Grow attribute to find out how much damage it does while growing (which presumably it does in one round, regardless of final size). Similarly, the plants could be used as improvised log walls for defense.

* After the Duration PMV Rank has expired (oh, so you can buy Duration after all- that must have been an error) the plants will return to their normal state and size before the control.” Well that’s convenient. 🙂 So how long should the plants remain changed? If you only plan to use them for combat, Duration 2 (5 rounds) should be enough. But to make use of the full range of tricks listed below, take Duration 5 (1 hour) That way, if for example, you use a tree as a makeshift ladder, it will still be there when you need to get down. Besides, you can always determine a shorter duration with each use.

*I would advice against taking the option of rising your power level in exchange of specializing in certain types of plants. Unless your character lives in the wild, it’s hard enough already to find useful ones. Fortunately, there’s a very easy solution to that: seeds.

Controlled plants can grow to a maximum size of 5 times their normal mature state.” That means you don’t need fully-grown plants- just bring your own seeds, toss them anywhere within your area and turn them into their fully-mature forms in one round! Even better, since the plants return to normal after Duration ends, you can simply pick up the seeds up again!

Examples of plants whose seeds you could carry include:

-cacti

-poison ivy

-kudzu

-trees (for REALLY big ones, try sequoias)

-any edible plant

-medicinal plants

-poisonous plants like belladonna

If the Game Master feels that some of these seeds are too rare or powerful, he might require the player to buy them as Gadgets (treat each seed as a Minor Gadget in this case.)

*I also would not make use of the “larger than five times” growth option; that’s sufficient for most plants- grass becomes bushes, saplings become trees etc. This option also provides smaller areas of effect in exchange for the larger plant sizes.

In conclusion, while Plant control is not a flashy power, it’s still and interesting and useful ability if you know how to use it right. And it helps round out a plant-themed Super- one with Telekinesis: Wood, for example.



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BAFF! Basic Action Final Fantasy

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Those who follow my blog know that I love crossovers and conversions- and have in fact already converted concepts such as Pokemon and the Steven Universe characters to the BASH (Basic Action Super Heroes) role-playing system. And given that Final Fantasy is one of the greatest science fantasy franchises ever -which incidentally is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary- the time seems right to try a BASH conversion of it as well.

Of course, given that nearly every FF game, series or movie takes place on a different world, it is impossible to describe all of them here. But we can discuss the themes that keep recurring; you can go from there. You’ll of course need a copy of BASH Ultimate Edition as well.

The Elements

These are forces or substances that provide powers to certain monsters, characters or items. There’s always at least four- Earth, Wind, Water and Fire– and often Ice, Lightning, Holy and Dark. Sometimes Poison is considered an Element as well. In BASH terms these are considered damage types. Powers or attacks that do not use any of these are referred as Non-Elemental.

Affinities

Creatures and objects often have Elemental Affinities, so that they take less (or more) damage from certain Elements. This is usually based on which elements are “opposed” in the setting. See a typical list of opposites below:

Earth vs Wind

Water vs Lightning

Fire vs Ice

Holy vs Dark

Poison has no opposed element, but its damage may still be resisted or increased by certain abilities.

The affinities, and their corresponding BASH traits, are:

Absorb – Absorption Power

Immunity – Immunity Power

Resistance – Resistance Power

Vulnerable – Damaging Weakness* (double damage)

Weakness – Devastating Weakness (triple damage)

* = not the BASH Vulnerability Weakness

The Summons

Known by many different names -Espers, Eidolons etc.- most Final Fantasies include these- creatures of enormous power from a far realm that can be summoned for help in combat. In some versions, they just appear, deliver a magical effect, and vanish- making them no more than a vision that takes place during an otherwise-normal spell. But in some settings, they actually materialize and take part in the battle. To simulate this, use the Summoning Power with the Limitation: Summons Only. All Summons are creatures with 60 Hits and at least one Power that fits their “theme”. For example, Shiva The Ice Goddess always has Diamond Dust, a Special Attack that does ice-based damage. The basic form of this Power gets you a specific Summon; for 1 extra character point you can call three of them, and for 2 extra points you can summon any of them. Note that Summoning often requires Magic Points to use (that is, it has the Energy Cost Limitation.)

Limit Breaks

Most main FF characters can use these: abilities that can exceed their personal limits, usually in dire circumstances. Typically they are attacks, but they can be any Power, even Healing. A Limit Break must be high in Level -at least 4 or higher- and always has the <Situational> Limitation (Usually, Only when Hits are below 25% maximum).

Spells: As in most classic Fantasy, FF spells always have the Limitations <Casting> and <Energy Cost>.

Spell names: traditionally, level 2 spells have the suffix “a”; 3-level spells have the suffix “ga” and 4th level spells have the suffix “ra”. Example: Fire, Fira, Firaga, Firara. 5th Levels spells have unique names.

Status Effects: These effects are caused by certain abilities, spells and items. There are two types: “negative” statuses that hinder the target, and “positive” status that are beneficial. These are some of the most common:

Negative Statuses

Status – BASH equivalent

Berserk – Boost (Brawn, only while berserk) [Usable on Others] Linked to Mind Control <Only to cause the target to attack using only physical attacks>

Blind– Confusion

Charm– Mind Control

Confuse- Confusion [Friend from Foe]

Fear– Daze [repels enemies]

Transform- Shape Shifting [Usable on Others] <Only into a harmless animal such as a frog>

Petrify- Immobilization [Target Only] Linked to Increased Density 1 [Usable on Others]

Poison– Continual Damage (Poison)

Seal– Nullify

Sleep– Daze

Slow– Slow [Lethargic]

Stop– Immobilization [Target Only]

Stun– Daze <one Page only>

Zombie– Shape Shifting [Usable on Others] <Only into a zombie>

Positive Statuses

Status – BASH equivalent

Auto‐Life– Healing [Usable on Others] <Delay (only when target reaches 0 Hits)>

Flight– Flight [Usable on Others]

Haste– Super Speed [Usable on Others]

Invisible– Invisibility [Usable on Others]

Protect– Armor [Usable on Others] <Physical Attacks Only>

Reflect– Deflect [Double-Maker] <Spells only>

Regen– Healing [Usable on Others, Regenerative]

Shell– Resistance (Spells) [Usable on Others]

EquipmentWeapons, Armor, Shields, Accessories and other Items are considered Standard Equipment unless they have magical or technological properties- in that case they are Special Equipment, possibly boosted with Equipment Enhancements (see Awesome Powers #6.) Particularly powerful items might be Powers with the Gadget Limitation.

Leveling Up– If you are planning on running a FF campaign rather than just a few sessions, you should use the Optional Experience Points rules (UE, page 130) to allow the PCs to level up. Preferably, use Method 2 to simulate the games more closely.

Credits: My thanks to the Final Fantasy Wiki and the fan-made Final Fantasy D6 role-playing game for providing inspiration and ideas for this article!

Art by david-adhinarya-lojaya-combs.


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The Best of 2016

rs_600x600-161202140354-600-best-of-2016-mhTo many people -including myself- 2016 was a bad year. But nothing is absolute; there were good things as well. And since this is a science fiction/fantasy blog (and I don’t care to remember the bad things) I present you now my favorite series of 2016:

This was a surprisingly good year in animation. In addition to expected hits like Zootopia and Moana, we had films like Kubo and the Two Strings (stop-motion, but it counts) and even Storks and Sing were much better than I expected! On television, Steven Universe continues to reign with shocking revelations both personal and cosmic; and the return of DC’s heroes in Justice League Action was long awaited. And as a Latino, I appreciated Disney finally giving us our own Princess with Elena of Avalor.

As for Japanese animation, my favorite of the year was My Hero Academia– best American-style superhero show ever done in Japan ever (I also liked One Punch Man, which was also about superheroes, but was more of a deconstruction.) Funniest Anime of the year goes to Konosuba (God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World) which deconstructed fantasy role-playing games. On the other hand, I had a love/hate relationship with Re:Zero. For one thing, it was a show for sadists, as the main characters were killed or made to suffer over and over again- but at the same time, it had an intriguing premise that begged you to keep watching to see if the heroes would ever win. (I guess I understand why people watch The Walking Dead now.) Funny how deconstruction seems to be a theme these days eh?

In live action, I didn’t see that many movies. Deadpool was another surprise in that I hate the character but I enjoyed most the film well enough. Captain America: Civil War was thankfully excellent despite being based on a terribly comics storyline. Doctor Strange was OK but I wasn’t too happy with the changes they made (I  refer more to the SFX than the ethnicity of some characters). Arrival was probably the smartest film of the year (probably too smart for its own good.) Before you ask, no I didn’t see Rogue One yet (I’m not that big of a Star Wars fan, especially when I knew the ending ahead.) I’ll catch it in DVD and tell you my opinion then.

I don’t watch much television these days -most comedies and dramas don’t do much for me- but I was hooked by two in particular: The Good Place and Designated Survivor. Both have surprisingly clever writing. And I’m quite amazed in how Good Place is effectively mocking the conventions of religion yet hasn’t gotten called in for it. As for survivor, you might wonder why its listed here. Well, since it obviously takes place in a different version of the present, I count it as Science Fiction. In any case, its a clever use of the designated survivor protocol as well as a great drama with lots of intrigue. And do I really need to say that Stranger Things is also on my list?

Finally, we had some great video games as well. Pokemon celebrated its 20th anniversary successfully with Pokemon Sun and Moon, which not only had a neat Polynesian setting (which in turn had great synergy with Moana’s) but also modernized the franchise in many ways. Final Fantasy also had a great year with both the fun World of Final Fantasy and the more traditional Final Fantasy XV. Note I don’t play shooters, so I can’t talk about Overwatch.

That’s all I can think of now, but there were plenty of other things both I (and I’m sure, you) enjoyed as well last year.


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Re: Zero- Deconstructing Rpgs. HARD.

re zeroDeconstructing role-playing game cliches seems to be in fashion on Japan. For example there was the recent Konosuba Anime series that I reviewed earlier in my blog. But Re: Zero adds a twist to the idea that is both intriguing- and terrifying.

Basically, the series takes the concept of “save-scumming” -the practice of starting over a video game from a progress saving point until you win- and shows us what it would be like if something like that happened in real life. The results range from humorous- to gruesome.

Subaru is your typical Japanese teenager who finds himself mysteriously transported to a magical medieval world. He assumes things would be just like in a game: that he would have great powers and a destiny to fulfill. Nope. But at least he does meet Emilia, a beautiful half-elf girl he falls for. While trying to help her recover a stolen item, both of them get killed!

And then he finds himself right back at the beginning, just as he if had “started the game over”. He does remember everything -including his dying agony- but no one else does.

There is no explanation -at least, not in the early episodes- for why this happens. And Subaru dies A LOT. In ways varying from peacefully in his bed to TORN TO BLOODY PIECES. Honestly, if the rest of the stuff in the series weren’t so good, I would have given up on it by now.

But it is good. The characters are interesting, if quirky -even the sadistic assassin introduced early on-; some are annoying yet have their tender sides. And the animation is top-notch. But above all, the thrill of “HOW is Subaru going to avoid dying again the next time?” just keeps pulling you in.

I’m convinced this show was at least partially written for sadists (and/or masochists who fantasize being in such plights) not just because of the carnage but also the emotional suffering of the characters. I suspect many fans must scream NOOO NOT HIM/HER!! while watching this show.

I’ve decided to continue watching the series, for now anyway. But I’m on the fence; it it never rises above being a “death-of-the-week” gimmick, I may quit before its run ends. And even if I watch it to the end, I’ll definitely evaluate if it was worth the stress.

I leave it to you to decide for yourself if you want to give it a chance.


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Men & Monsters of the Aegean: my review

 

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As the title indicates, Men & Monsters of the Aegean is a bestiary for the Sword of Kos setting in the BASH Fantasy game (a spin-off of Basic Action Super Heroes) . The fact that it describes creatures from Greek mythology makes it a great reference source for other games or even when writing fiction as well.

The book is divided in sections: it begins by describing those semi-human races that could be played as characters, then it handles the rest. In most cases, it does not reprint creatures already featured in the main books unless they are variants.

My favorite feature is the fact that the book makes it clear that most of these creatures are not necessarily malicious or unintelligent, and that violence is not the only answer when dealing with them. In fact every “monster” comes with an ‘Adventure Hook’ that shows how it can be used. Some of the hooks can be even be tied together for a longer adventure.

If I had a nit to pick, it would have to be the art. It ranges from crude drawings to full paintings. While I feel this is hardly important, some people might wonder at the inconsistency.

The final section of the book is a summary of all the new stuff (weapons, powers etc.) introduced, plus tables for random encounters.

Overall, I find M&MOTA to be a very well put-together sourcebook, much more than just a simple bestiary. Recommended for fans of Mythology and Fantasy.