Friday, February 12, 2010

The City of Ravens by Richard Baker

I'll be discussing the City of Ravens, written by long term Forgotten Realms author Richard Baker. Any page references used will be from the paperback.
"How do you intend to divide five gems, Jack? Four or six present no problem, of course, but five are difficult to split between two partners." (pg. 5)
One of the things that may not always be thought of before the group actually hits the road, is how to split the money. In most of the groups I've run and those that I've been a player in, for the most part, it wasn't a big issue. All coins were split evenly. Gems and jewelry or other art objects were sold. Magic items were given to the person who could use them best, or sold and the funds evenly split.
There were a few tense times when multiple people wanted an item that anyone could use. I'm sure those groups I was involved in during those terse times aren't alone. Having some sort of plan ahead of time might have smoothed out even those transactions.
"The Game of Masks?" Jack tried not to wince. The Game was a noble diversion, an ongoing series of play acting events wherein the participants took on various roles and tried to solve puzzles, stumble through a plot or play at great deeds." (pg. 38)
One of the reasons I tend to favor city based adventurers isn't that it's an escape from the dungeon. After all, there are often dungeons in the castle. The sewers under the streets can be considered dungeons. The maze like alley ways of the dock wards are another dungeon.
No, I tend to enjoy cities because there is often more to do for those whose interest do not rest soley on testing their powers in new and interesting ways against monsters of various caliber. In a city, you can do wine tasting contests, engagements of skill, and even things like the old Game of Masks.
"In the name of all the gods, why should I know who that was? He was your identical twin! Are you telling me that you have no idea why someone who looks exactly like you showed up at my doorstep, ushered me into the coach, and started pawning at me like a lovesick orc?" (p.148)
Individuals who make a name of themselves also make a face for themselves. Others might decide to put that face and reputation to their own use. In a gmae like Dungeons and Dragons, there are spells, monsters, magic items, and other methods of capturing an individual's likeness and then using that reptuation to perform various acts, all of which might not be what the original would have done. It can be quite a challenge to overcome a perception problem where everyone who believed the character to be one way, now have to ponder if the character was every truly that way.
"I... I think I'm all right," the mouse piped. "Oh thank you, Master! Thank _" And that was all, for at that moment the wheel of a passing cart rolled right over mouse and wizard's hand both, crushing each beyond hope of repair. (pg 98)
The hand of fate is often fickle. Try to make sure that the fickle nature of reality is helping the players as much as it is hindering them. There's no shame in allowing a few entertaining moments to happen and help the players out of a jam, especially if it's one that they couldn't avoid or one brought on soley by poor dice rolls. If it's organic and follows the rest of the campaign, the player's probably won't mind being saved in suc ha fashion.
The City of Ravens is another of what I call my 'popcorn' books. It's not a deep read, but it's a fun one and Richard Baker does a solid character whose a well intentioned rogue with a dash of magical ability. The Forgotten Realms setting, especially the city of Ravensbluff itself, gets some well deserved attention here and provides the reader with much to draw on ranging form the city's vast history, to various liquors, to the material I've quoted above.