Blog Posts

Better World Books Closing Goshen Store


My daughter, my mother, and I sorting books for the kids section at Better World Books first Goshen location

On Tuesday, March 12th 2019, during our commute home, I learned from a carpool buddy that Better World Books was closing its Goshen Indiana retail spot. The news stunned me and my local community.

Eleven years ago my children, my mother, and I were one of several volunteers helping get the store ready; Everyone chipping in some labour to help nurture a much needed bookstore.

Better World Books quick departure leaves a noticeable and aching hole in my community. The store manager sponsored my 2013 Goshen Game Day. The staff provided space for me to run several Dungeon Crawl Classic sessions. The store was a pillar of our community as noted by the Elkhart Truth:

Locally, Better World Books served the community not only by selling used and new books but by offering special activities such as board game nights, youth activities, and artistry and music during First Fridays celebrations.

Below is Better World Book’s public statement about closing their store in downtown Goshen:

Better World Books is thankful to have been part of the Goshen community for the past ten years. After careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to close our sole retail location on or before March 30, 2019 in order to focus on serving our customers via our growing e-commerce business. We sincerely appreciate our devoted fans and customers who love to shop at our Goshen location for their local book purchases. While our store is closing, BWB continues to grow, and we are reinvesting in the customer experience at www.betterworldbooks.com, where you will find a great selection of over 8 million new and used books and great prices (with fast, free shipping) on all of your orders. Best of all, your purchases will continue to support literacy, libraries and educational causes locally and around the world. Thank you for your loyalty to Better World Books, and please join us this Saturday from noon to 6pm for the first of a series of Clearance Sales, where you will find store-wide bargains on all inventory in the store (while supplies last).

Facebook page for “Better World Books - Goshen”

I love the bookstore experience. On vacations, we make it a matter of practice to visit local bookstores. A local bookstore represents the soul of the community in which it resides. The books that are shelved reflect the kinds of books that the community buys and trades amongst themselves.

We had a good run and I am thankful for what my community had.

Finding Cartographic Inspiration

A matte-white painted tin ceiling tile
One of the painted tin ceiling tiles at Soapy Gnome

Earlier, I was working in the upstairs loft at Soapy Gnome, my spouse’s retail store. In a moment of contemplation, I looked up and saw the above tile. My first thought was Now that would be a cool campaign map!

With mind adrift, I surveyed the other tiles within line of sight. Seafaring adventures, ports of call, land of lakes, the pocked crater, commerce, and trade. Small river craft and nimble vessels connecting the archipelagos. A diaspora of language.

I’m looking at coast lines. No real consideration, yet, of rivers nor mountains.

Let's Read “Codex of the Black Sun” - Seeds of Stranger Fruit


A part of my Let’s Read “Codex of the Black Sun” series. Go grab your copy of Codex of the Black Sun and join in.

Codex of the Black Sun’s second chapter, Seeds of Stranger Fruit, shambles through a history and meta-physical explanation of magic as though a scientific paper in which the author had to hit a specific word count. Mercifully, the short chapter is both optional and positioned (via call out texts) as one possible explanation for magic.

The chapter introduces the concept of Shadows; beings summoned from another reality by sorcerers.

At the end of the chapter are two pages of random tables to frame the origins of and current attitudes towards magic.

Using those random tables, I generated the following origins of magic in this sector:

  • Who First Used Magic on a Large Scale? A rebel group that gained power via magic
  • Why Did They Take Up Magic? An implement of vengeance against a foe
  • What Was Their Greatest Achievement? An extended golden age of peace
  • When Was Magic Developed? Some time in the early Mandate era
  • What Was Their Downfall or Problems? Their magic was toxic over the long term
  • What Relics of Old Magic Persist? Particular structures once used by them

I then rolled up the current attitudes towards magic:

  • How Open is Magical Training? Any semi-decent pupil can find a teacher
  • What’s the Public Attitude? Respect and honor towards magic
  • What do Governments Think? Magic is a tool of our political opponents
  • How Prevalent are Mages? As common as any other very skilled trade
  • Who Are the Most Well-Known Mages? Dedicated mage-artists of new media
  • Popular Beliefs About Magic and Mages Mages all make pacts with Shadow patrons

Let's Read “Codex of the Black Sun” - Black Stars Uncounted


A part of my Let’s Read “Codex of the Black Sun” series. Go grab your copy of Codex of the Black Sun and join in.

Codex of the Black Sun’s first chapter, Black Stars Uncounted, discusses mixing sorcery into sci-fi. The opening paragraph frames the entire conversation of the book: What are the considerations for adding sorcery to your Stars without Number’s campaign?

There has always been a strain of sorcery in science fiction. Whether the thinly-veiled magic of space monks with laser swords, the once-serious belief in psychic powers and untapped human mental abilities, or the inevitable compromises with known physical reality necessary to allow faster-than-light space travel, there has always been a niche for the impossible. Only the most rigorous, diamond-hard sci-fi is entirely free of witchery, and that often for no longer than it takes for scientific discovery to leapfrog the text’s assumptions.

“Codex of the Black Sun: Interstellar Sorcery and Magic for Stars without Number” by Kevin Crawford p3

How to Use this Book

Codex of the Black Sun positions itself as a suite of optional components to add to your game. Kevin Crawford discusses creating a new campaign or adding to an existing campaign.

For new campaigns, consider how magic fits into the fabric of the sector. Think through the background: where is it learned? How pervasive is it? What are general perceptions? Then put it in motion: factions, root of conflict, and/or antagonist(s).

For existing campaigns, consider the task of folding sorcery into the sector. Some far and distant location, isolated, may have preserved the tradition and you can slowly incorporate sorcery into your game. Or, perhaps a retrofit; It has always been lingering just on the edges, and the players have stumbled onto those edges.

Regardless, Codex of the Black Sun encourages a conversation with the players to understand how they view sorcery in their sci-fi.

Eldritch Flavors

Codex of the Black Sun dives into 3 well traveled sci-sorcery genres:

  • Sword and Planet - pulp science fantasy (Barsoom)
  • Space Fantasy - conventional sci-fi with magic (Star Wars-ish)
  • Stree Magic - cybernetics and combat wizards (Shadowrun)

Throughout Codex of the Black Sun, Kevin Crawford discusses how each component might fit with these genres.

To get your thoughts flowing, Codex of the Black Sun provides random table sections for framing each genre. Let’s roll for each genre.

Table 1: Sword & Planet Campaign Framing
Topic Response
How do people relate to magic? It’s a curse borne by unwilling mages
Who most often employs magic? Defiant rebels against great powers
Why isn’t magic yet more widespread? Its rules keep subtly changing over time
How consistent is the tone? Total; every place has the pulp flavoring
Who rules the setting? Shadow entities of godlike hungers
Common tropes Personal loyalties are critically important
Table 2: Space Fantasy Campaign Framing
Topic Response
How do people relate to magic? It's a common tool, like any other tool
Who most often employs magic? Priests of a particular ancient faith
Why isn’t magic yet more widespread? Tech is more reliable and cheaper to use
How consistent is the tone? Universal; the whole galaxy is like this
Who rules the setting? There is no hegemonic power center
Common tropes There are good and wicked magic groups
Table 3: Stree Magic Campaign Framing
Topic Response
How do people relate to magic? Likely fatal to users, but a source of power
Who most often employs magic? Fixers who hire deniable sorcery assets
Why isn’t magic yet more widespread? The corps tame and contol most of it
How consistent is the tone? Most people live cyber-noir lives
Who rules the setting? Armies with vestigial states attached
Common tropes Powerful entities hire deniable agents

The first chapter of Codex of the Black Sun frames introducing sorcery into your Stars without Number game, providing context and commentary to get you started.

Next time, I’ll be reading the “Seeds of Stranger Fruit” chapter.

Let's Read “Codex of the Black Sun”


Go grab your copy of “Codex of the Black Sun” and join in.

Welcome to the inaugural post in a series of posts in which I read Codex of the Black Sun (or CotBS), a sorcery and magic supplement for Stars without Number.

This new series is a follow-on to my “Let’s Read Stars without Number” series.

Introduction

For those looking for magic in their space setting—Hello Spelljammer fans—this may be the supplement for you.

As someone that grew up reading fantasy or science fiction, but only until later the admixture, I want to further explore this space. In days prior, there was science fantasy but as the call for genres emerged, science fiction and fantasy separated.

In fantasy, you have magic, swords, elves, dwarves, and demons. In science fiction you have faster than light travel, telepaths, grey men, and wormholes. The arbitrary separation being “what is feasible with science or technobabble”.

Codex of the Black Sun explores the somewhat less traveled space of sci-fi with arcane traditions.

Dust off your mouldering tomes, grab a Babylon candle, and sit down for some eldritch reading.

Chapters

Codex of the Black Sun has the following table of contents:

  • Black Stars Uncounted: On the Use of this Book
  • Seeds of Strange Fruits: The Future History of Magic
  • The Science of Magic: Rules for Sorcery and Spellcasting
  • Arcane Character Classes: Wielders of Metadimensional Power
  • The Arcane Arts: Spells and Foci of the Eldritch
  • Sanctums: Places of Labor for the Arcane
  • On the Nature of Shadows: Shadows and Their Cults
  • Objects of Power: Implements of Sorcerous Might

I’ll link future posts of this series back to this page.