Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Solomon Kane: The Castle of The Devil

I tend to read a lot of comics. Well, not as much as I used to, but nontheless, I still managed to dip my toe into the illustrated word. Part of this is simply that I'm a visual person. I like seeing things illustrated.

For Solomon Kane, I've been aware of the character for decades. I've read many a tale of the pilgrim but didn't recall this one by Dark Horse Comics. I picked it up a while ago and have enjoyed it's tale.

So after seeing a blog on it by Phil Reed, whose done some great d20 work back in the day, I decided I too would blog on it. After all, it's been a few days since my last blog post, I'm still reading The Religion, still reading The Monks of War, and have a few other bits and pieces.

First, the writer gets Solomon Kane. He truly comes across as a man not only out of time, but one who takes his various duties with all of the seriousness of an avenging angel.

"I am Solomon Kane-- a wanderer on the face of the Earth with no destination."

"It has fallen upon me, now and again in my sojourns through the world, to ease various evil men of their lives."

And when others inquire of Kane?

"No, not Kane. he is what he seems to be- an honest man."

"He offered you the book? He must knot have know you at all, Solomon Kane. Not at all."

The things that works for Kane in this story, is that he gets to bounce around a little. In terms of 'adventure' if you will we have some of the following:

An oppressive forest. Setting is important in a story at all times. It can help convey the tone and the atmosphere more than the monsters and weapons when given the right description.

Bandits. Every game needs its fall guys. If you're playing something like Warhammer Fantasy, while you have a wide plethora of villains to use, good old human bandits still have a special place in this pantheon. After all, with all that's going on in the world, man still turns on man and in and of itself, that's part of the 'evil' if you will of a setting like Warhammer.

An omnimus castle with its own history and its an old one. This ties into the forest. The age and depth and scope of the castle make it more than just some petty lords dwelling place.

Religious overtones and supernatural entities. Kane is a man of God. He has dealt death to many a fiend in his travels. But his faith remains unshaken. Playing such characters can be enjoyable in that often they tend to be the rock of the party in terms of what they must do. However, if it's not a vanilla alignment based system, don't be surprised if sometimes they do something that a lawful good paladin wouldn't do.

Friends who have their own motives. Here we meet Silent John, a man who quickly takes to Kane. In some ways he's like the roguish henchmen, more concerned with the worldly loot than the main hero. His virtue isn't as pure, but in some ways, that makes him more interesting because you really don't know what he'll do at any one time. In many ways, a good model for using henchemen in an OSR game or even using the modern rules for 4th ed.

Enemies trying to use those friends for those own motives in turn. Actions have consequences. More importantly, your friends have their own minds and wills. Just because you're all travelling along the same path doesn't mean you'll all take the same way there. This can create conflict, and in a role playing game, conflict is good. Just try to keep it from spilling out into actual combat.

Guards that do as their lord commands. Much like the bandits, human guards are always a nice change of pace. After all, some of them are probably only doing their duty. Others may be trying to advance their position with their lord. Others may be waiting for the right moment to forward their own goals. When using guards, having a list of names or attributes to give them quick visuals and quirks to help them stand out in the players mind will go a long way.

An encounter with a ghost for clarification of ancient events. Getting information to the players without having to always rely on the roll of the dice in terms of intimidate or bluff or gather information checks is a nice thing. Having an event in the game that relays information can be a useful tool in the hands of the Game Master. This doesn't necessarily always have to be a ghost. Dreams are another method that can be used.

The minion of that supernatural horror that in its own way is more threatening, more visceral and teresterial in its menace. Sometimes when you see a villain and his own minions, the minions make things more interesting by having their own apperance, methods of attack, and personality. Orcs have various ranks, but some fear the fanatics among the goblins or the giants, who may not rule, but can just as surely crush you.

The interior art by Mario Guevara is colored in subtle tones that have a lot of color, but aren't too bright and done so in a fashion that fits the story by Dave Stewart. Many of the images, especially in the sketchbook, would make for great visual aids for a Warhammer fantasy game which has a Witch Hunter styling to it as well as the guns and castles and other elements of horror.

The Castle of the Devil does a nice job of telling a tell that's based on a mere fragment from Robert E. Howard and has a ton of inspiring material to it that game masters should be able to use for at least several encounters.