Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A last look at Robert E. Howard's Almuric

Almuric is a rather short book by today's standards of mega multi-volume epics but it gets it done in one while leaving the setting open enough that further adventurers could have been written in the vein. Like a good campaign ending at that.
But now for some specifics and what I thought of in regards to role playing as I read this tome. Page references are from the Paizo edition.
"On the remnants of flesh were the marks of fangs, and some of the bones had been broken, apparently to get the marrow." (p.83)
The characters are not the only inhabitants of the world. They should see signs of other live on the setting all around them. On the road there should be shrines and way markers with richer countries having way stations and havens for travellers. In dungeons there should be evidence that the things that live there, unless undead or animated objects, are eating and doing their business. Make the players realize that they are moving through a world and not a passive setting.
"By Thak, it is he! Do you not remember me, Tharn Swordswinger, whose life you saved in the Hills?" (p.133)
4th edition, perhaps more so than any other edition, does not have a huge implicit love for the good factors of the game. Unaligned, not neutral or chaotic neutral or some other hinged alignment, is fairly sellf expalanatory. However, this should't necessarily be license for the players to run wild.
When they do deeds for no reward, when they help those who can't at the time help themselves, insure that these strangers mark the players as potential allies and possibly even potential friends. Have the players hear of those they've helped. Have the players develop a reputation. In a typical fantasy setting, it'll take time for players to have a reputation that goes far and wide, but make sure it's one they've earned. If played with a little heart, they'll have allies and friends in many corners of the setting as well as the enemies they've earned by helping those who could not help themselves.
"Runners were sent to the cities, to give word of what went forward. Southward we marched, four thousand men of Koth, five thousand of Khor. We moved in separate columns, for I deemed it wise to keep the tribes apart until the sigh of their oppressors should again drown tribal feelings." (p.139)
The old saying is the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I've seen this used in various pieces from the animated series Robotech with threat of alien attack to the same plot in the Watchmen graphic novel. If you have an enemy but at least know that enemy, it's better to ally with that enemy against the unknown enemy who overpowers all of you individually. In some ways it's even a good motivation to keep a party together. The members are not friendly towards one another but because of the recent changes in the campaign, they've been thrown together and have to make the best of it least they all fall.
Almuric is a quick moving book and Game Masters who want to learn from Robert E. Howard need to keep their own campaigns moving foward.