Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Midnight's Mask: The Erevis Cale Trilogy Book III

I'll be talking about Midnight's Mask and what a Game Master or player might draw from it. One thing to warn of though is that this is a spoiler filled review. Lots of discussion about various parts of the book.

"His girls were gentle creatures- he had no idea why--but he did know that gentleness was not rewarded on the street. He had learned that lesson often in his youth. But somehow his girls had managed to survive without becoming vicious"..."Friends," he said softly, and pondered (p.86-87).

In almost any game and any setting, there will be those players who insist on playing the loner. They will want to be the Wolverine of the X-Men. They will want to be the Punisher of the Marvel Universe. They will want to be the Assassin in the group of paladins. If the players can work among themselves how this will work in the actual game, that's great. The Game Master should try to foster enjoyment of the game for everyone and if one of the players must be the lone one eyed assassin, ask that player why on earth the other characters would travel with them. In some cases, the answer may indeed be as simple as friendship. In long term campaigns, this can be more problematic as opposed to one shot games where the length of the game may determine that a good reason for adventuring once is no longer valid.

"What he saw froze him. His numb hand fell from Jak's shirt....A virtual mountain of flesh was squirming itself loose from the ruble. Cale had never seen a creature so large. He recalled the size of the shadow dragon they had encountered on the Plane of Shadow. This creature was easily several times that size." (p. 224).

One of the great things about games like Dungeons and Dragons, is that the Game Master can throw some larger than live elements into the mix. As a Game Master, not only may you benefit from having a huge library of books, but having a great imagination. When possible, always try to impress upon the players the fantastic of what they are encountering. Always try to keep the wonder alive. Always try to make the players wonder what it is they're encountering. Good description can go a long way in this avenue.

"The slaadi began to change. As before, when Riven had watched the Sojourner transformed them from green slaadi to gray, now they were transforming before his eyes into something even greater." (P. 252)

When playing in a long term game where the players may be meeting the same foes numerous times, try to insure that the enemies don't fall behind them on the power curve. If the players gain numerous new abilities and powers as a result of their adventurers and those long term enemies remain the same strength, the end meeting will result in the quick destruction of the villains.

There will be some stories and some themes where that's perfectly fine. If the party is continously pushing the envelope and the GM is showcasing the bad guys perfectly at contentment with the status quo, then have them remain the same. If the villains were numerous levels ahead of the players, have them stay the same.

But whne the last fight needs to be one where the heavens shake? Make sure that the players know that these foes they face are not the same as they initially encountered. Make sure to showcase the new abilities.

"She's waiting for you. She and your father. Your grandmother too. Even your younger brother Cob. Do you remember him?"

"Remember him? Of Course!" Jak could hardly believe his ears. He had not seen any of these people for years, not since they all had...

Not since they all had died. (p.275)

To all good things an ending. When characters fall and the player wishes to move on, if appropriate and time allows, give that fallen hero a send off. Explain what the afterlife looks like to that character. How does his deity approach him? What is the sky like? How good does it feel?

It's also a good event to use for downtime. Do the other players bury the character? Is there a funeral for the character where NPC's who know him can come and speak? Do the players enact any rituals? Do they enjoy that fallen character's meal as a salute to him? Do they return the items to the character's family? Do they use the items themselves in that character's name? Do they take a page from Yellowjacket and take on the name of the fallen? Do any of the other characters take on new traits?
"Men always ask why, as if there must be some overarching reason for events. Not this time, priest. There is no such reason. Thousands will die to satisfy my whim." (p. 295)
In three books, the main character has hunted down a wizard of immense power who put into play an event to change the face of the setting. The wizard did this because it reminded him of a childhood memory and he wanted to experience that event again under his own power. In doing so, many died. There was nothing personal to the wizard in regards to the hero. What if the characters in the game aren't even on the radar of the main bad guy as nothing more than an obstacle to a desire that in essence, makes no sense to anyone outside of the villain? It's not the accumulation of further arcane power. It's not the creation of a new empire. It's not the birth of a new monster. It's something the NPC does simply for the sake of doing it that makes sense in the context of the NPC's background. If the Game Master can bring that type of indifference to the main villain and at the same time, make it personal to the players, he will have created a villain that players will talk of for months to come.
There are other bits in the book that could be used as a reminder to a Game Master. For example, that massive beast that Cale sees? They don't fight it. A good example of there always being something bigger than yourself. In that same sequence there is some action on the magical plane that doesn't take effect in this book, but is strongly hinted at having greater repercussions. If the Game Master can sow the seeds of future events, especially off of things that the players are currently doing, it's all the better. The players will see that their actions have a direct impact on the world and at the same time, provide the game with some focus that can take the campaign in directions the Game Master never would have thought of.