Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Trail of Bohu by Charles R. Saunders

In the start of volume three, Imaro, the hero of Trail of Bohu in the third book in the series, is no longer the roaming adventurer he was of previous novels. Upon suffering a terrible loss, he embarks on a question for vengance! Now this is an old tried and true troupe of the genre, heck, of story telling, but there are some who feel that such plays are over used. 

But what else can one draw from this third book?

"Never did we guess that they would have their own equivalent of you." (pg 43)

Imaro is a great warrior in the first two books but now his fate appears to be evolving into something much more. And in a twist, the villains also have their own choosen one. Something done before and again, but usually such an enemy isn't the 'choosen' one like the main character, but rather the big bad. Here, Bohu is Imaro's nemesis in many ways without being the big bad of the series.

When named, Bohu is not just Bohu, he is the Disrupter and the Bringer of Sorrow. Giving things names, especially multiple names, gives the players an idea of their importance in the rank of things. By naming Bohu in such a fashion, the author has assured the reader that this isn't some nameless minion fit only to walk on stage and be slain by a thrown spear.

Imaro takes another voyage over the water and guess what? Yup, another sea attack, this time by the undead. The undead make good warriors to use at sea. You can fold them up for ease of conveyance and launch them at the enemy. Or as in the case here, they can cling to the underside of a ship and attack at night when those who live no longer have the advantage of sight.

Remember that as you set up the adventurers and if the players take their lead and provide their own, keep things in the background moving. While Imaro is the star of the series, things across the whole land are moving towards a conflict between good and evil which Imaro has a staring role to play. Having all of the generals and kings line up and prepare the way for the main character allows the players to feel their importance in a conflict even as the rest of the world continues to move without their direct presence.

As the players wander the world, remember not only is the world large, but unless your running a high epic fantasy campaign iwth lots of methods of near instant communication, news travels slowly or not at all. Imaro, despite his heroic and unheroic deeds of the past, isn't known everywhere and Imaro himself, doesn't know everything.

This leaves to some give and take. While Imaro initially sets out on a journey of vengance, some of the questions of his own heritage are solved. Here the book takes a huge step towards high fantasy as opposed to the more humble sword and sorcery origins where Imaro was strong and different than his fellows but was essentially still human. Here Imaro's heritage is traced to the Cloud Striders, a race of 'good' outsider deities that fight against the demon gods who seek to upset the balance of Imaro's home. In learning of his background, Imaro is able to close some of those gaps in his own details and is able to end some long standing mysteries. This can be an important element in a role playing campaign but can be hard to time. Does the player learn about the secret of his sword this session or next or ever?

In looking at the deities of the setting, there are three types; native, the earth bound entities, and outer, broken into the Cloud Striders and the Demon Gods. Of these native gods, each tribe tends to have their own specific beliefs and their own specific afterlife. When building your campaign or allowing players to wander wild and free, it couldn't hurt to have some basic roots of what each region they travel in does for the dead, how marriage works, what role the gods play, etc...

The Trail of Bohu sets the tone of the series in a different pace and may not be for everyone but the anticipation of seeing Imaro and Bohu's clash is set and leaves the reader eager for the next volume.