Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dai-San by Eric Van Lustbader

I bough Dai-San from Half-Priced Books for the royal sum of $1.00. Despite the fact that it's the third in a series, and unlike today's mammoth telling, is actually the end of a standard trilogy, I didn't have a problem following what was going on for the most part. There were a few times when the sparse descriptive writing of Eric left me wondering what exactly I was supposed to be 'seeing', but for the most part, not a problem. Eric's writing style in other aspects of the book was meaty and good for those who are playing fighters or other martial types in describing the physical attributes of the act of combat, such as taking deep breaths to oxygenate the body or adrenaline coursing through the veins and other bits.

For gaming purposes, there were a few things I'll try to remember.

As characters gain levels, they become more powerful in many ways. Here, Ronin, the Sunset Warrior, undergoes a physical transformation. In 3rd edition D&D, I recall an adventure where the characters, at 20th level, can enter a pool that provides them with abilities and opens the door for the new then epic rules.

In 4th edition, the characters are broken into three tiers; heroic, paragon and epic.

What if when the characters reach these new levels they actually undergo a physical change? That hair, eye, even physical frame, all change. In earlier editions character's stats didn't change through level advancement, usually only magic, especially a wish spell, could do such wonders. In later editions though, stat modifications, while not an every level thing, were possible. What if the characters physically change to showcase those new traits?

In other aspects, when Ronin meets a monstrous creature that he's fought in the past with great difficulty in just surviving, he's not on more than equal terms. Allow players to encounter old enemies that would've resulted in a TPK and allow them to glory in their new found powers and abilities.

On the same vein though, don't be afraid to throw advanced versions of those already powerful creatures at the players. In this case, Ronin manages to overcome these old foes but then learns that there are more powerful versions of these monsters out there. It allows him to have his moment of glory and revel in his new found power, while still reminding him that he is not invulnerable.

For the big boss, while I felt the book had too much of a 'easy' victory, the method of introducing the final villain struck me as something that 4e could easily do. In this instance, Ronin is fighting the Salamander, an ancient being who has sold out mankind and is the author of much of the misery in Ronin's life. When Ronin kills this adversary, the final adversary emerges forth from the corpse. In 4e, this might be a change of monstrous abilities when the creature reaches it's 'bloody' state or half its hit points. This would allow the GM to essentially use two completely different monster stats for one encounter.

Other staples are present. For example, Ronin or the Sunset Warrior as he becomes, uses a named katana. This is a blue green blade. His armor is also of a unique nature with things like a red jade helmet. This naming of things, of providing them with a unique description, customizes the characters and setting. It doesn't take much but makes the characters stand out a bit more.

If Eric Van Lustbader ever puts the Sunset Warrior Trilogy out in an affordable ebook format, I'm down for the first two.