Monday, May 2, 2011

Kingdom of Shadow by Richard A. Knaak

One of the things that prevents me from busting out with a Kindle or other e-reader, is the prices of the books. Some of them range from $7.99 to $9.99 or higher. To me, that's just a stupid pricing point that says, "Not for you."

There are benefits to the e-reader. Instant accessibility, accessibility to material out of print, and perhaps to me, most importantly, no physical book. There are huge drawbacks though. Is that technology going to be around for one, among others.

When I can go into Half-Priced books and wander through the dollar spinner rack and pick up a novel by one of several New York Times best sellers, like Richard A. Knaak, I'm not buying a Kindle to pay $7.99 for the same book. But that's just me.

Anyway, Kingdom of Shadow would make a pretty good D&D module with a few adjustments. There will be no directly call outs below, but expect spoilers. You have been warned.

The main characters are hunting down a jungle ruin that is empty, it's real presence only felt on the world once every X amount of years. The players are there just in time to view the city emerge into the world and manage to make it into the city and begin to interact with the ghosts and shades of this city, seeking to learn its mysteries.

The biggest problem in terms of the book, are a few, in terms of riffing ideas from it. One, while the book isn't short, the difference between game play and reading is huge. A story that takes four hundred pages, especially if it's a fairly straight forward tale like this, in terms of gaming, might be a night or two. Maybe three if you really padded it out.

Next, the core characters are stupid. Well, I shouldnt' say that. The author makes them stupid. It's not that they are unbelievably stupid mind you. I've spoken before of internal character conflict. Of putting something the players want in front of the characters and seeing how they react. However, its done here so ham fistedly, any players who did indeed fall for the lure wouldn't be able to overcome the lure as the fictional characters do.

Positive aspects?

The book keeps things moving.

The book keeps playing with base assumptions. This allows the players to hunt down the 'real' information and try and push aside numerous red herrings.

The book provides some nice snippets of world view through interaction with the characters. By talking about how the world sees necromancers, how they've developed their abilities in response to this, etc..., it allows a snippet of the setting to shine through.

The action is fast and flowing. One of the thing I dislike about some books, even by writers I really enjoy, is that hundreds of pages can move by with detailed backgrounds and side plots and other bits moving back and forth. Here, the combat is fast and furious ranging from natives of the jungle like 'tentacle beasts' and gargoyles, to various denizens of the undead world itself.

Kingdom of Shadow is a quick read that can be the foundation for a ruin exploration for GMs looking to snag some quick encounters and ideas.