Sunday, January 9, 2011

Witch Hunter by C. L. Werner

It's been busy around here. At work we're moving almost a thousand parts from downstairs to the second floor and this requires someone to do the moves in the system while someone else physically does the moves. Thankfully I'm one of the few left who knows how to do the system stuff so the slave labor went to others. On the other hand, it means I've already started working on the weekends again so my reading, painting, gaming and most importantly, drinking, have all suffered.

Nontheless, I have managed to finish the first book in the Witch Hunter trilogy of Mathias Thulman by C. L. Werner. If you're looking for a good read that's set in the Warhammer setting and is loyal to the setting with some strong character archetypes, it fits the bill.

For gaming, I didn't write down as much this time for a few reasons, the first being that I lost my stupid transparent bookmarkers. Argh. Anyway, quotes are taken from the trade trilogy edition.

Character Knowledge Default

While on a wagon, the witch hunter, his hencman, and others are taken to a ruin of Slyvania. For those who are familiar with the Warhammer setting, this is a vampire kingdom plagued by the undead. Mathias, the start of the series, knows what it is.

Sometimes GMs are so intent on focusing on making everything new and wonderful and unique for the players, that they forget some of them are experienced old hands or more importantly, that their characters are and common knowledge and lore, even uncommon bits of information, may already be in their possession. When possible, allow the players to take the lead in sharing that information with the other players so that it showcases the breath and depth of those characters. Not everyone is a farmer that can only shoot big rats with impressive accuracy. Some are already seasoned knights.

Resource Management

During their encounters with ghouls in the ruins of the dead, one of the characters Mathias has met, a dwarf, reveals that he has explosives in the wagon they've left behind. Not explicitly mentioned earlier, it reminded me of a game I played, which I believe is Trail of Cthulhu, where you can make resource rolls to see if you have specific equipment need to overcome challenges as they crop up. Instead of following all recommended guidelines in the game in terms of magic items and abilities, think about allowing the players to pull out extras in exchange for giving up parcel drops. It will add a lot more random elements and creativity to the game then allowing them to pay for bonus fortune cards.

Signature Items

Mathias has a slver blade blessed by the highest source of religious power in the land. This blade serves him well in many instances. However, he didn't get it from an ancient tome. He didn't travel the planes to prevent someone else from getting it. He didn't pull it from a stone. It's part and parcel of his job essentially. Not every weapon has to be Stormbringer or Caliburn to be potent. Sometimes having friends in the right places and times can make all the difference.

Change it Up

If there was an annoyance with reading the first book, it was that every time Mathias spoke, the author described it as silky. Pay attention to how you talk and how you describe things. If you find yourself going over and over the same material time and time again, get a thesaurus. Try out different catch phrases. Watch different movies. Do something to shake yourself out of repeating yourself over and over again.

Family Matters

In the first novel, Mathias is charged with finding out about varous murders in a land ruled by a retired Witch Hunter. C. L. Werner introduces the retired witch hunter, his wife, two sons, and the history of witch hunting that spans some odd five hundred years. The characters in the faimly are different and unique in their ways and this helps the exploration of Mathias into the history complelling and drives the reader forward. If the GM can showcase that the settings are populated by people, he can try to engage the characters with these people for both good and bad consquences. The more rich and diverse the cast of NPCs are, the larger their list of contacts are, the more the characters will feel that they are engaging a real setting as opposed to a point and click event.

C. L. Werner does a good job of brining Mathias to life and those looking to expand their lore of Witch Hunters in the Warhammer setting should pick up the omnibus.