Monday, October 10, 2016

Let's Read: Stormdancer Ch 3&4

Busting up a sake house is a great way to make friends. Not really, but it is a good way to introduce an interesting game. I've actually re-read it, trying to figure out the rules. Apparently it's a little like Texas Hold 'Em in that the cards on the table influence the cards in your hand but it's a lot more flexible than that. For instance Masura taps a "field" and has a card added. Three cherry blossoms are mentioned, but Jay doesn't specify if that's a card or a total of three cards. Masura's friend Akihito counsels him against "Letting the Dragon steer the ship", but he gambles and wins nonetheless.

The Yakuza are less than amused- his win means that all of the other card players win and gangs that run gambling houses don't really like to lose that much money. Again we have a bit of an allusion to Japanese culture- the Yakuza are a fairly infamous Japanese gang IRL.

Thankfully Masura is hauled out of trouble by his daughter, Yukiko, and the fact that they all work for the Imperial house. His luck is out for everything else though- something reflected in the gambling scene. She's carrying an imperial writ that dictates they're supposed to chase down and capture a Thundertiger- a mythical beast that doesn't exist (which certainly explains Chapter 1!). They leave for a ship to take them to the last wilderness, without much hope for their mission.

On the way we get a better look at the city of Kigen. A dangerous and polluted place, the different Houses are short of war but definitely represent political factions. The newest Lotus Guild is extremely powerful (they seem to sell most of the lotus drugs to the affected population and to be responsible for the industrial boom polluting the city), but not necessarily respected. The Purifiers may or may not be aligned with the Guild, but a frightening scene on the way to the harbor proves they are certainly not people you would want to cross.

Questions: We had previously mentioned that building a book on top of a culture, and modifying it might cause problems. There is a poster for the army advertising that one should "Join the Bushido". The Bushido was a warrior class in ancient Japan who believed that their souls were damned to hell for the violence they committed. As castes go, this placed them fairly high up. Would the poster appear crass, or is the modern day twist acceptable? Also, while scrappy Yukiko is presented as strong, the Purifiers go after a girl, and it seems that is normal practice. Are women considered equal in this world?

Pet Peeves: Besides the Bushido hiccup, I have a little problem with the amount of damage caused to the gambling establishment. I don't know how big Masura's winnings were but it seems that the dealer should have just payed out. Not paying up will also get you a bad rap. There tends to be an "Honor among Thieves" theme to most undergrounds, I'm surprised they deviated. Also they skip the part where two of the main characters face mask up to go outside, as well as every other mention of that- and Masura is smoking, so odds are he isn't wearing one.

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