Mar. 16th, 2010

I thought these might be interesting to look at, especially the first round, to serve as a bellwether for the first round of the presidential elections of 2012, when Sarkozy will be running for a second term. Of course, that's quite early, but the precedent is 2004, where the Parti Socialiste won a massive victory, leaving only two régions under the control of the ruling UMP of Jacques Chirac.1 The régions in question were Corsica and the Alsace, quite peripheral to France as a whole.2

With as big a swing as that, you'd expect a return to the mean for these elections. The UMP is quite unpopular in France, though, especially because of the soaring unemployment. On the other hand, the PS is in no position to capitalize on this, so we're seeing low turnout and a lot of protest votes, away from the traditional big bruisers. On the left, the big winner is Europe Écologie, on the right, the Front National. In mainland France,3 though, this movement results in a lot of second rounds with these four parties still competing.4 In the 2004 election, the second round was usually UMP-PS-FN, and with FN voters sticking to their own party, the Left cruised to some easy victories with the support of Green voters. The big question here is whether they're likely to push for a Left or a specifically Green victory.

In a really rough estimate, splitting the votes of the parties that didn't make the cut evenly between the parties that share some of their ideology,5 the UMP is projected to retain control of the Alsace and gain control of Guyane and Rhône-Alpes. The great unknown factor here is the splintered left. It's become more and more fractious in the last ten years, and with nine of the constituencies, including Corsica, coming down to less than 5% of the vote — five less than 1%! — I'm finding it really hard to draw conclusions.

In Auvergne, for example, the UMP racked up 28% of the vote, the PS 28% as well, the Left Front 14% and the Greens 10%. The FN stranded outside of the second round with 9% — but if the left sticks to its guns, the FN voters will pile in and hand the UMP the victory, even though the three leftist parties just got 52% of the vote!

It seems that these regional elections haven't just confirmed what was already known, they're also turning into a test for the Left electorate, and whether it'll choose being able to set a policy over ideological purity. Since so many of the régions are already in PS hands, though, I assume there'll be relatively little crossover voting. Still, in the worst-case scenario the left hangs on to 14 régions, compared to the UMP's 12.

Footnotes. )
So, psionics. They started showing up in AD&D, made little to no sense there, and have been tagging along, messin' up my campaign feels for ages as players inevitably decided they felt like playing someone psi-active. We've had the blissful transitional period of the first two PHBs of 4e, but now the wretched pointsbuy third wheel has caught up with us.

And I have to say... This could be a lot worse. The classes have a distinct psionic flavour, though not all of them are based on psi. Runepriests, for example, combine the power of their runic lore with divine inspiration, and the bows of Seekers fire bolts of pure primal energy to confound the foe. But we're here for the psionics.

The Ardent, Battlemind and Psion gain three at-will powers instead of encounter powers, which they can swap out for higher-level ones when appropriate, and has a pool of psionic points to boost those. Bit of extra accounting, but not a bad trade-off if you want to try something new. I like the idea of the Ardent's feelings of elation being so strong that they radiate out to her friends and inspire them. The Battlemind looks solid, like a tank should, though I'm not so sure I like them being described them as 'arrogant'. It feels like WotC just introduced a ton of obnoxious kids to rules lawyering. ("But it says so in the book!")

I suppose that's just small fry next to one of the lines the Psion has, though —
Q: If a god can reshape the world and you can enthrall a god, what does that make you?
A: More arrogant than the Battlemind? I dunno, just a thought.
In fact, she gets to become invisible to a single foe as a standard action by reaching into his brain and ripping out his perception of her. At 19th level, you can do the Darth Vader choke thing, and at 23rd you can just step in and mindcontrol him. Pretty hardcore, right? And with the Uncarnate Paragon Path, you can add a dash of transhumanism to your sexy fantasy Sith Lord. I've always been intrigued by mental processes and how they shape the world for every one of us, and the idea of a hero who reaches in there and rearranges them to please her... Well, that seems more villainous than heroic, and it intrigues me more than the lot of the new classes from PHB2.

Most of the new classes seem okay to good; if I had to pick one to try out, I'd go for a Runepriest or a Psion. The Runepriest is like a house, and the Psion can get quite amazingly powerful and creative. Stuff I can't wrap my mind 'round: the Monk and the Seeker. The Seeker just seems gimmicky, and the Monk is a striker that's supposed to hit-and-run. It's the fourth psionic class, but doesn't get the augment thing, which is a little disappointing. Apart from that, it's got a 'supernatural martial arts' flavor that seems more at home in wuxia than LotR with the serial numbers filed off. It's able to swap out a move action for something more awesome, which is nice, but it seems like the most unusual of the psionic classes, and I'd much rather it were a purely physical striker.

The races are very much a mixed bag. It was perhaps inevitable that the githzerai was coming — they're an oldschool fan favorite, they've got tons of quirks and a backstory worthy of Marvel Comics, they were featured in a CRPG recently... They're also psionics and great monks, so they're here. The problem is that, during worldbuilding, I never want to use them. That would mean dragging the whole cosmology in and mixing it up, and that's just not worth it. Next up's the minotaur. Finally, 19 years later, I actually can play one! The have a Goring Charge class special, which is just as it should be, but they're apparently tragic and 'given to dark urges', which makes me picture them dark-haired and with septum piercings. Their only issue is that they're kind of narrowly defined, much like Goliaths were.

The other two are the Shardmind and the Warden, who are... Weird, in a boring way. Wardens are spiked creatures of fey nature, and a sturdier playable than the eladrin, more obviously infused with leafy verdance. To strengthen the link, they've got a racial that reminds me of Warhammer Fantasy Battle treekin. The shardminds are merely puzzling, because they're thoughts given shape or fragments of a crystal gate to a realm of insanity or... I don't know. What I do know is that for being crystal, they have a bizarre amount of sexual dimorphism. Worse, they have an ancient culture, but we're not told what this might be, and they're portrayed as emotional naifs. I'll need to do some hammering here, just to make these guys make sense.

The rest of the material in the book is just good. You have the requisite feats to let the Runepriests and the psios work, of course, but an added and excellent bonus are the skill powers. They're a really simple, clean idea that puts a little more weight on skills that might go unused — if your skill's high enough, you can swap out a class power for a skill power. That's it. A brief skim shows that they're all useful and usable, too! No obvious duds.

In brief, though I grouse about the succession of handbooks and editions, I actually really like this. Thanks, [profile] aekiy!

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Julianna Lacroix

July 2010

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