Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

So I finished off The First Law series. An interesting trilogy with hardly a hero to be found. Interesting characters aplenty mind you with lots of shads of gray and lots of things to thing about but heroes? If that's what your looking for, wrong series.

So what did I bring out of the old brain after reading it?

"I'm here to make a challenge!" he bellowed, and the sound of it echoed back from the damp, dark walls and died a slow death in the misty air. pg. 324

"No, what we need for this task is a small man, but with great big fruits on him. No doubt we do, and the moon knows it. A man with a talent for creeping about, sharp-eyed and sure-footed. We need someone with a quick hand and a quick mind." pg. 328

Finding things that the characters excel at and giving them opportunities to use those abilities is a big part of what being the game master is all about. Killing players is a relatively easy deal. Its easy to overwhelm them if you desire ot to cast them down from the mountain. However, to give them an opportunity to shine, one in which they may or may not make it out alive depending on how well the dice roll? That's another opportunity in and of itself.

What do the players do that only they can do? Are they specilaists? Are they generalist? Are there things that only they know? Only they can do?

"The name was like a knife in the ear. No name could've been less expected, or less welcome.

"No chance it's some different Glustrod than the one came close to destroying half the world?" pg. 330

When building up enemies for the players to fight, think of them as 'named' men. Build them up before hand. Provide clues to their abilities. Leave witnessess, both living and dead, to testify to their power. Many gamers know the power of Orcus and Demongorgon among others and its hard to recreate this type of fear for someone that the Game Master has invented whole cloth, but when done properly and the players learn to respect those entities that the GM has added to his campaign? It's a wonderful thing.

"You look surprised. Not as surprised as I was, when instead of taking me in your arms you threw me down from the roof, eh my love? And why? So that you could keep your secrets? So that you could seem noble?" pg. 421

History is written by the winners. This is a something easy to verify in many fields. Pick up a paper and review the contents therin. Compare it to what you personally know about the subject. Often times, the reality of a situation and the published word, the history of a thing, may not necessarily be the same. You see, in this series, Bayaz, the First among the Magi, continuously points out that it was Tolomei's father, The Maker, who hurled her from the tower in his thirst for vengance as opposed to what actually happened.

These revelations can be great devices to move a campaign forward, but at the same time, should be taken with care. Too many reversals and flips of history will leave a party essentially uninterested in anything they learn as everything is subject to being turned into something else. Why research a thing and seek to uncover its secrets if its only going to turn out to be the opposite of what you, the GM, the characters eyes and ears, are in essence, lying to them?


To All Things an ending...

No, unfortunatley for the readers, the blog is not ending. Rather, I speak of the ending of the First Law series. Here's the thing. No everyone is going to like every ending. I devoured the books rather quickly. I made several notes of the characters, names, and some of the more interesting ideas I found.

But I thought the ending was piss poor. I thought it left the whole thing way up in the air and if there isn't another series contuining directly from where this one goes, as opposed to the other book in the same setting, it's a damn shame.

But you know what? That's the way it rolls sometimes. If you have six players in the campaign and five of them had a great time, are you going to change your whole campaign and Game Mastering style to please the one player who may have other issues that prevented him from enjoying the game?

I'm not saying ignore that player. I'm not saying tell her to leave the game. But after you speak with her and see if there's anything you might be able to add to the campaign, the pacing, the encounters and the treasures, if there's nothing there and they don't like it but aren't causing any problems with the rest of the crew? Why make an issue out if it? We can't control everyone's reactions to our game style.

The First Law contains all sorts of interesting characters and events and interweaves them well enough that a Game Master could pick up quite a few hints about running multiple sets of characters in different parts of the world while providing them reasons to all intertwine at different points.