Sunday, September 4, 2011

Robert V. S. Redick's The Red Wolf Conspiracy

Sorry for the lack of posts, but like the end of every month, it was time to take my beating at work. Then to add the awesome to the sauce, they gave me a week off without pay to help bolster company profits for the 3rd quarter. Ah well, there is neither here nor there but just a warning to the readers that I may have a bit more free time to post and assault the internets with my thoughts this week.

One of the things I mentioned about Robert V.S. Redick's book is that he introduces a race of savage Littles. Tiny humanoids with their own origin story and own purpose and own deeds that intermix with the, ahem, excuse me, larger action going on around them.

But Robert wasn't happy just leaving things alone there. Indeed, he also added awakened animals. These are various animals that discover how to talk and reason. When it happens to a rat, the revelation of thinking, of the greater world, of how things work, is almost too much for him. Another rat it happens to, does indeed turn him mad. The animals can still communicate with their own kind, but when you're a rat, the conversational skills of the other rats aren't quite up there and well, the only others you're size, the murderous littles, aren't too keen on making friends with a carnivore such as yourself.

It's another example of taking a standard of a fantasy setting, and putting it on its side. While I've seen the magical companions done up in such a fashion before, I get the feeling that Robert is going to be taking these characters a little further. In a point based game, you might be hard preseed to use everything in a manner that didn't make you a super rat unless it was a very low point buy game, but in a game like D&D or other level based game... unless it's something like Rifts, the GM would have to do a lot of handwaving.

When designing your races, you don't necessary have to design just for the players side of things. To me, this is part of where 3rd and 4th edition took a nosedive into their own kool-aid. When the dark elves became nothing more than just common player races, where was the mystery? It's must the same as I've noted on the Archon in Dungeon Siege III, limited playable attributes and lack of background information can make for an interesting unique character. Turning everything into something everyone can play? Not so much.

In short, unlike the yes motto of third and fourth edition, don't be afraid to design some really weird races and cultures and explicitly tell the players, "this is not for you."

Another thing I'd like to hit here, is the ship that is almost another character in and of itself. From the inside cover, "The Imperial Merchant Ship Chathrand is the last of her kind. Six hundred years old, the secrets of her construction long forgotten, the massive vessel dwarfs every other sailing craft in the world. It is a palace with a sails, a floating outpost of the Empire of Arqual."

That whole bit sounds awesome to me. while Dragonlance did bring us the floating citadels, a fortress ship sounds pretty plausible too. As a matter of fact, it reminds me a little of the old carton, Pirates of the Dark Waters, where there was a huge vessel.

By making such a ship, and making it the last of its kind, and hinting that the details of how to make these ships were lost to intra-guild warfare and greed, it showcases a destination that few can claim to have travelled and sets up the stage for elements to come further down the road.

By being so huge, much like the Macross from the Robotech saga, it allows the author to throw in dozens of characters that won't push the boundries of "how many damn people are on this boat.".

When looking at the military might of your setting, or when looking to how trade works, don't forget the ships. For example, the miniature company Forge World, has a massive land ship that is perfect for soldiers of the Warhammer setting army, The Empire.

Much like the war wagons used in Earth's own history, a little unique elements go a long way.