Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson part 1

Brandon Sanderson's sophmore novel of the Mistborn picks up one year after the end of the original book, The Final Empire.

This break provides an interesting contrast to many adventure paths, especially those in the former print Dungeon magazine. Several of those adventurers almost ran right into one another.

By providing the readers with a pause, you give some space to allow things to have happened and pick up the pace again.

The main character, Vin, continues to master her Mistborn powers. Like Rand from Wheel of Time, or Pug from Magician, the reader gets to see that those with power, especially in a setting that lacks weapons like guns, are essentially super heroes.

There are several scenes where Vin cuts lose with such power and martial authority, that those she faces are little more than sheep.

When running the game, think about how you want the players to fit into the campaign setting. Vin's power level gives her a reputation. Her training at the hands of Kel, gives her a reputation. Her continued exploration of the world about her and the powers of Mistborn in general, continue to push her reputation.

In some games, the Game Master wants the players to be in fear for their life. Every combat is a grim and gritty affair where a lucky kobold or lowly goblin may finish them off.
It's not absolutely necessary to run low powered campaigns for such threats however. For example, in this book, one of Vin's arch enemy is Zane, who is also a Mistborn. The Mistborn 'burn' metals and there is one metal that provides its user the ability to see the future actions of his enemy. Vin has run out of this metal and Zane hasn't. This gives their fight a sense of grim and gritty without making it a brawl in the sewers fighting over a crust of bread.

In terms of world building, when looking at a book and looking at a fantasy campaign, beware the differences and enjoy them at the same time. Here, one of the threats to Vin's home is a race of humanoids, the koloss are brought to the forefront. The koloss continue to grow but their blue skin does not. It rips and tears. They are savage and brutal, probably similiar to Fomorians in good old Dungeons and Dragons.

Because larger koloss are stronger koloss, they can represent a variety of threats. This is a solid way to present an enemy. However, it's still just one type of enemy. Most campaigns, indeed, most adventures, will use many more types of adversaries than that. Don't ignore the potential of culture building and trying to make the races unique and interesting in and of themselves, but if the players are biting to fight some undead or demons, don't foster your own favorites on them time after time.
The Well of Ascension continues the path started by the Final Empire and I'll ahve more to say of it in a future posting of Appendix N!