Monday, November 28, 2011

Kindle Daily Deal for Cyber Monday is Pretty Sweet

My favored price pint of $2.99 is on for a lot of books by authors whose work I've enjoyed but due to spacial constraints, have rid myself of. The e-formats, assuming Amazon doesn't freak out and die or some other weird bats from space attack, provides me a quick way of renewing my ownership of some Barbara Hambly and some Robert R. McCammon, including Swan Song, the book a lot of people recommend when someone says they enjoy Stephen King's The Stand.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of books on sale this Cyber Monday and hey, unlike a lot of sales on Black Friday, you don't have to wait in line, don't have to wait for a lightning deal that will probably sell out before you can click it, and don't have to get pepper sprayed in the face by a woman looking to score a cheap X-Box.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Art of Ray Harryhausen by Ray Harryhaussen and Tony Dalton

Half-Priced Books continues to be a gold mine for the imagination. The Art of Ray Harryhausen was $14.99 and I had a coupon so it's overall price was embarrassingly low. On Amazon the sucker goes for $50 but they have a decent discount. The thing is though, the book I have was a stack of 'em so that tells me these are overstock sales.

Anyway, the book is filled to the brim with goodness. There are pictures of the various models Ray created, black and white illustrations, full color paintings, movie panels, and all sorts of awesome within.

This includes images that Ray gained his own inspiration from so you can see and compare and contrast the art styles.

There is so much majestic stuff here, it's hard not to emphasis it.

For example, let's start with the cover. An arabian adventurer fighting a skeleton warrior atop a crumbling stair well admists ruins while the clouds blow behind him. How about a charcoal and pencil illustration of the Hall of Zeus where a massive status of Zeus is surrounded by vast pillars and huge braizers light the temple. All this atop a dias where people walk up and down and look up at their god.

How about something a little more action based as King Kong, in front of a wooded fenced in village, is beating the crap out of a pride of lions, using one of them as a club by the tail, crushing another in his hands, and snarling his defiance at them. No bear baiting here!

There are dozens of great illustrations as well as details about various other bits in the book. It's well worth having on the shelf and well worth doing some internet searching if you're never heard of him before.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

W. Barnard Faraday's Pendragon published by Green Knight

Having finished off Pendragon, I thought I would take a few moments on an actual day off, to post a few more thoughts on the book.

Even in a time when war with the Saxons and Pics if upon them, the land is not singularly united. This theme plays out in the book in several instances that would make for good role playing opportunities.

For one, Gwendaello, the actual Pendragon in this version, is not well loved. Her former leader was conspiring with the Saxons to take the lands and lords down in exchange for treasures and plunder. His plan didn't work out too well but did leave Gwen in charge of things. However, the other rulers are not pleased at this prospect and try to take away her lands and titles.

This results in a large meeting where diplomacy is at full bloom. The various lords and ladies vieing for attention and trying to determine who has the right of things. It works well in the novel, showcasing a deep amount of mistrust between the rulers as well as showing how things can quickly move from one assumed finale to another with the right placed bribes and blackmail.

3rd edition brought out a lot of rules, well, not a lot of rules, but some rules, to try and bring these role playing elements to the table top with dice rolls and for some, they work. Others, used to having to actually speak and interact with the other participants around the table, are able to talk a fantastic game. 4th edition brought this more into the game with skill challenges that allow different characters to bring different things to the game.

For example, a skill challenge here might involve some of the more obvious candidates like intimidation and diplomacy, but a GM who has players that know the setting and details of it, and have the appropriate skills like ancient history, should be allowed to persuade people through speaking of the land and its past and how those ancient lores may be effecting the here and now. Others may speak using their religion skill to detail how the gods will be angered or pleased by the path being taken here.

I can agree with this because it helps get people who might not have any will or desire to roleplaying, or worse, who have no skill at it, to still contribute to the game with a dice roll and some idea to me how they're trying to achieve their goals.

I also allow role playing 'stunting' for those who get into it. I'll allow them to make a speech and detail what they have in mind and why they think it'll work and provide a bonus to the roll. Now if there are things that the characters don't know, like their speech is hostile to the locals around them, or that they've gotten several things wrong, or if they just flub it, I'll give them a penalty. Of course, the natural 1 always rolls around as well so perhaps while they were talking, they choked on a chicken bone or something of that nature.

For those who don't enjoy such politics though, and are more action based, what about assassination? In this instance, Artorious learns of an attempt on Gwen's life. Of course he does! He's the main character of the book. This is the same deal players can expect for their characters when the DM wants the characters to be able to effect the game. While hearing about an assassination is powerful stuff because it potentially reminds everyone at the table that they are mortal, being the ones to stop such an event carries with it the promise not only of stopping a murder, but the thanks of whatever lord they saved. Finding out who did the deed and what to do about it then become further adventure seeds.

Another issue that arises when the land is in turmoil, is bandits. Artorius notes during his journey, that by travelling alone, if necessary, he can usually hide from such bandits, but a small group is easy pickings as the bandits ten to travel in groups of ten to one hundred. Seeing this in print makes me smile because I don't feel bad when I do it to the players. I'm sure the AngryGM would love having that quote above his DM Screen so that he could point out the 'semi-historical' accuracy of a hundred man bandit attack.

Despite some of the problems in these times though, people do tend to pull together and the rulers must respect those that do so. While talking about the problems with bandits, he recounts how a well liked merchant sought justice for the loss of his goods to bandits and had to pay a legal fee, that was provided by his fellow merchants who wanted to see justice done. When nothing was done and the fee not returned, social unrest sprouted up.

In Usagi Yojimbo, there is an instance where a Samurai tests his sword on a beggar, killing the man instantly. The surviving beggar, the father of the slain one, goes to his guild and they pool their funds together and hire an assassin who kills the son of the samurai.

In short, just because one person is not a problem, does not mean that one person lacks the means to become a problem, even if they themselves are never wielding a sword or casting a spell.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pendragon by W. Barnard Faraday

I love me some Arthurian fiction. It can take a wide variety of shapes and styles. It can be written in a deep dark gritty style or as a take on modern events. This version tends to feel more historical in nature and brings some differences to the table.

I'll be laying into the spoilers fairly quickly here and note, I haven't finished reading it, so there may be some more random thoughts shot out on another post soon.

King Arthur is replaced here by Artorius. His lady love is now Gwendaello, and we have a druid bard known as Merddin. The little changes in name give it a more archaic feel, more ancient, more fitting perhaps to some of the themes within.

One of the interesting things is that here, Gwendaello is not some princess to be rescued. She meets Artorius, who is a general at this point, after she has escaped capture by killing those who sought to despoil her. Artorius is a bit unsure of her, perhaps because she's already tried to kill him at this point!

She's brash and bold and has a love for the Island of the Mighty and sees in Artorius, someone who will do all he can to save the people of that island, even if they themselves are not going to do all they can. She is a battle queen here, and it's a role that fits her well.

Another interesting bit was reading on what were accepted common courtesies of the time. For example, when stopping at someones home. The thing that struck me was the author mentioning that people were welcome in such instances not only because of manners, but because there were hungry for gossip, for news, for things outside of the norm. This was their chance for entertainment.

In an era where there are no phones and no Internet, human interaction and communication becomes vital. The going door to door, as the bards do here, to raise spirits and showcase confidence, are of great importance as well as providing that touch of entertainment that people long for.

While there is no G4 network, there is still paper.  Artorius is written to by Princess Gwendaello and she wishes him luck in his efforts to preserve the Isle of the Mighty even as she explains to him that forces she herself will be leading. Letters are an excellent way to do some 'Blue Booking'.

Pendragon has a lot of historical richness in its veins and that material can come through in any setting should the GM focus on it. For example, when looking at the spot where two rivers meet, Artorius notes that people will always go to such locations regardless of how many times they are destroyed or occupied because of the utility of such a boon. Towns build on rivers or bodies of water are a staple of fantasy games because they are all over the place in history. Survival becomes much more achievable when water ways become involved not only for trade and transportation, but food and well, water.

If you're looking for a Pendragon with a bit more weight in its heft, Pendragon by W. Barnard Faraday is for you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

e-book Free Battles!

I was listening to NPR, National Public Radio, and a musician was discussing the difficulty of getting the brand name and brand awareness out there and while he admitted that he wasn't sure what the financals of it all would be, some bands would be lucky if people would even bother to steal their music given how much material is out there in the 'wilds' of the internet.

When looking through the top one-hundred free science-fiction books on Amazon for their kindle format, I noticed that At the Queen's Command, while in the top ten, is still being beaten out by two authors I have no idea who they are or what they write, and one by H.G. Wells, his novel, The Time Machine. This is a man whose been dead since 1946. If at free, with a great cover and a brand new book in the series, you can't make the first place or beat out a dead man, this is some serious thought to be given to how expensive your book is not only in comparission to other authors, some of them whose popularity allows them to essentially charge whatever the market will bear in whatever format, but to the dead authors who have been classics before you were even born.

Now to go download the Time Machine...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Haunting of Dragons Cliff: Arron of the Black Forest

I try to keep my price point of ebooks fairly low. Even when there is an author you enjoy, there's no guarantee that you'll enjoy every book they make. In addition, thanks to living in Chicago, I can often find books very inexpensive at Half Price or at various book fairs. But when I see something like The Haunting for $2.99, I'm willing to take a chance on it.

I'll be discussing one of the elements from the novel below, so if you want to avoid spoilers, read no further.

Alright, the thing to steal from this book is how they set up a haunted house. Dragon's Cliff is the name of the manor where an old captain went to die after failing to finish off some great sea wyrm. The manor is haunted by various retainers of the captain who want the captain's funds that he supposedly saved away.

But while those details are important to the novel, they're not important to the set up of the haunted house itself.

When the main character, Arron of the Black Forest, gets himself into this location, it's not a typical exploration of a house. If you or I go to a house to do a tour, we know where everything is, or at least, we can do the tour and find it.

Not so here.

Every time Arron opens a door to try and escape from the house, he discovers another room, without rhyme or reason. In a role playing game, this would be the perfect opportunity to make a haunted house entirely out of randomly rolled rooms. This would make preparation very quick and easy and could be something that you could use in several different styles of haunted house.

You could assemble common cards of each of the standard type of rooms if you wanted to lay down maps for example, and each time the characters open a door, take out a new room tile to showcase what the room is.

You might have a few keyed encounters for specific rooms, like perhaps a certain haunt runs in that room and if the players defeat it, that room is no longer encountered. You could do this until they defeated the 'end boss' at which point the house becomes normal.

Hell, that would almost make for a good random board game. Someone get on that right away.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Season of the Witch

Season of the Witch falls into one of those rare movie spots for me. As a 'regular' movie, I'm not that impressed with it. As a gaming movie, I don't want to say its pure gold, but I could easily see a GM stealing everything from the movie itself.

I'm going to be hitting the spoilers for the movie below so if you wish to avoid such for the movie, read no more!

The plot of Season of the Witch is relatively simple. A young woman that is accused of being a witch that has brought the plague to the lands must be taken to a specific temple so that the priest there may use a special book of exorcism to break the back of the plague.

That's pretty simple no? It's a get someone from here to there bit.

Now the characters add a little something to the story mind you, but not overly. We have Nicolas Cage and his friend, two templars that have left the holy war. We get a third knight whose lost many to the plague. We get a priest whose a little shall we say, zealous in his work, and another priest who wishes to become a knight. And of course, the witch herself.

Now mind you, in almost any game I've run or seen, if the players were trying to keep things running smoothly, unless they were paid, or quested, or on their word of honor or other really pushing it factor, the witch would not have lived to see the light of day because the witch here is obviously an actual witch. Or at least she appears to be.

Because this is where the movie makes for a perfectly good Warhammer of Dark Ages Call of Cthulhu mix because of the switch. You see, at climax of the movie, if you will, when they arrive at the church, and find that place already decimated by plague, they discover that all of the priests there were making copies of that one sacred text. The witch? Turns out she's actually a demon that, for some reason, needed to be taken to the church so that she could destroy this last full copy of the sacred texts as it's actually one of the few things that can banish demons.

This leads to a battle against the animated corpses of the priests and the demon itself. It also only leaves one survivor and the young woman whose soul is saved from demonic possession. But the plague is broken and the world itself saved.

That little switch made the whole movie for me in terms of role playing elements because to be honest, I didn't see it coming. It just seemed to be a kinda m'eh movie, a no-brainer or sorts, and that took it to another level.

In terms of gaming, as I mentioned upthread, Dark Ages Cthulhu or a similar variant would be good for a one shot. The 'witch' is able to summon wolves and use illusions. She knows things that she's not supposed to but never lets out exactly how much more she knows until the end. She displays great strength as well as stamina and is able to shake off the effects of sedative drugs as well as hold a man above a yawning chasm with one arm.

The ending of the movie, also showcases that in true Cthulhu fashion, not everyone needs to survive for the mission itself to be a success.

In terms of game mechanics, the possessed priest at the end showcase something I've done with minions and one hit wonders in the past. I stat up the creature as a regular creature with a weakness and when the players discover the weakness, I break then down to minion status. If you've ever read an X-Man comic book, there are enemies they battle, like the Brood or Sentinels, where the initial one is almost a match for the whole team, but then when they fight groups of them, they mow through them. That's how I try to model it. Not easy but...

In terms of the exorcism itself, I think you could run that a few ways. You might have the players making some type of skill check and have to hit so many numbers, or that they have to hit a certain level of success or that they have to actually be reading it for so many rounds. Something that can't just be a single dice roll has to be initiated to represent the time needed for the ritual.

Season of the Witch is available for instant viewing on Netflix and if you're a gamer who wants a quick steal of a movie, this might do it for you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What D&D Character Am I?

On one of the blogs I regularly follow, I saw this test so had to take it.

warning, it is long.

As far as character...

I Am A: True Neutral Dwarf Bard/Wizard (2nd/1st Level)

Ability Scores:







True Neutral A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.

Dwarves are known for their skill in warfare, their ability to withstand physical and magical punishment, their hard work, and their capacity for drinking ale. Dwarves are slow to jest and suspicious of strangers, but they are generous to those who earn their trust. They stand just 4 to 4.5 feet tall, but are broad and compactly built, almost as wide as they are tall. Dwarven men value their beards highly.

Primary Class:
Bards often serve as negotiators, messengers, scouts, and spies. They love to accompany heroes (and villains) to witness heroic (or villainous) deeds firsthand, since a bard who can tell a story from personal experience earns renown among his fellows. A bard casts arcane spells without any advance preparation, much like a sorcerer. Bards also share some specialized skills with rogues, and their knowledge of item lore is nearly unmatched. A high Charisma score allows a bard to cast high-level spells.

Secondary Class:
Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

At the Queen's Command for Free At Amazon

While I will be purchasing books in physical format for some time to come, due to great deals at various markets or through Half-Priced books, or simply when the format is not available in another format, I'm always pleased when e-books provide readers with reasons to check them out. In this casse, At the Queen's Command: The First Book of the Crown Colonies, by Michael A. Stackpole is available in Kindle format for the princely sum of zero.

I find these types of bargains, where the first book in a series is reduced or even free, or the first book by a new author, to be an excellent way to provide new readers to that authors work with an introduction to the work without fear of investment. Well, outside of time.

I hope to see more authors doing this and seeing older works continue to go down and more variety in sales as Amazon and it's new Fire tablet continue to work the market.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Joe Abercrombie's The Heroes For $1.99!

I have a few posts where I discuss some of Joe Abercrombie's work and well, if you are interested in getting his latest in e-format, Amazon has The Heroes for $1.99. It's not my favorite of his works but there was enough in there for me to post a few things about it and well, it's the price of a cup of coffee at Star Bucks.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

When Art Attacks

I'm certainly not saying that the two have any relation to each other, the one being a Frank piece and the other a more recent artist, but the pose certainly seems iconic in and of itself.

Lawrence Watt-Evans The Sword of Bheleu

I have finished The Sword of Bheleu, a relic from the dark era known as the 80's or that specific time known as the early 80's. The books are still available in both print and in electronic format so those interested in some old fashioned sword and sorcery books might want to check them out. This volume at least, was well worth the read.

Below I'll be discussing some of the bits in the book that I enjoyed and how I might try and bring some of those elements to my game, as well as somethings that I would try to be aware of before bringing them to my game.

First, when looking at material like the Sword of Bheleu, it's important to keep in mind the different purposes between fiction and gaming material. Much like Elric and his famous sword, Stormbringer, or King Arthur and his blade, Excalibur, these characters and events are not written with anything resembling 'balance' or 'realism' in mind. There are ways and methods to overcome these individuals and they are not invincible, but the needs of fiction pit them against a few select enemies while a standard dungeon crawl might pit players against dozens who would be powerless against such might.

And if that's what your game is going for, a throw the game balance out the window thing, that's fine. Because in such situations, it often works both ways.

For example, Elric's sword, as awesome as it is, has a whole host of enemies that its ineffective against that Elric rarely meets. A player on the other hand with a soul sucking blade might find himself fighting a lot more constructs and elements and traps. Garth the Overman, finds he's got two choices in this book. The first is to accept that he is indeed the avatar of the god of destruction and will rain death on the world for thirty years, or give in to the King in Yellow. Neither one appeals to him, but he hopes he'll be able to work out something to his satisfaction with the King in Yellow. In a standard role playing game, if Garth decided to just keep on his marry way, he'd probably become an NPC.

Interestingly enough, I recently picked up a PDF copy of something called Fourthcore Alphabet. The whole idea of Fourthcore seems a bit supported in this in that there are high risks and high rewards that go beyond the standard balanced encounters and in many ways, remind me of the older editions of the game where one, at a fairly low to mid level, might encounter a weapon like Black Razor in an adventure as opposed to 3rd and 4th editions where most items are good in what they do, but rarely bring the awe to the game that earlier editions did. Game balance in this instance is great in terms of easily designing scenarios and encounters but terrible an encompassing some of the non-tangible elements of game play.

Another interesting thing Lawrence Watt-Evans does here, is provide the viewpoint of Garth's enemies, a council of mages. It's interesting because in previous adventures that have been recaptured here quickly, the council is catching up to events from an outsider's viewpoint. While some might be upset at what could be perceived as a waste of pages telling us things from a different perspective, I found it interesting and as a Game Master, a reminder that the world is not one big vast network where everyone knows everything that goes on.

In some instances, this should be a boon for players when they are at the center of events. If players see a king, baron, or other noble taken down and have first hand information on how things actually went down, they may be able to husband this information into deals behind the scenes latter. If they are actually the cause of some news, they may have a limited time to work things out before their adventurers become well known. While many campaign settings do have some magical means of communication, in default sword and sorcery settings, or settings like 4th edition's Points of Light, communication is dangerous and takes time. This should give the players time to engage in other acts.

Am I saying that players should be able to do anything they want with never fear of repercussion? No. But without things like telephones, the internet, or some other method of world wide communication and perhaps more importantly, visual recording, players would probably have a lot more leeway than the Game Master might initially think about. Even in a large fantasy city broken down by wards, the people in a rich ward might know nothing of the murder of the Beggar King in a lower ward by a group of vagrant adventurers.

Another break against common fantasy elements, is that Garth, as an overman, is of a created race, and while that creation happened thousands of years ago, the creator is known and it's essentially an established fact. Most games hem and haw about race creation, pointing out to the very roots of time and the gods involved with such things. Not so here. Its a change of pace from the standard methods of showcasing how ancient and vast a race is.

The Sword of Bheleu, while the third in the series, and doesn't end in a spot I'm happy with as a reader, is fairly self contained and easy to get into. Those looking for magic items with outrageous powers and an author not afraid to chop up his setting should check it out.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Sword of Bheleu by Lawrence Watt-Evans

Written by Lawrence Watt-Evans, the Sword of Bheleu is apparently the third in a series. This is another one of those novels that I picked up for $1.00 at Half Priced books. Hell, maybe I had a coupon and picked it up for eighty cents or something.

The interesting thing is that at the time of its printing, it was $2.50. Yeah, inflation in a specific field gone wild again eh? More interesting to me, is that at Amazon, you can buy it in ebook format for $5.59 which to me is a little overpriced considering the original cover price but not horrible.

Knowing nothing of the series, the author, or what happens after, as I'm still reading it,  but I'm going to hit some spoilers below.

First off, the book is sword and sorcerer. Magic is fairly rare but those who have it tend to be powerful. Magic items are also fairly rare, and in this case, while we have a few of the standards, like the crystal ball, the Sword of Bheleu itself turns out to be a major artifact, effectively making the user a avatar of the god of destruction. This isn't a one way ticket though. Indeed, the sword often compels its user to destroy, to attack, to kill. this is often indicated by the massive ruby on the hilt of this two-handed bad boy glowing with an inner fire. A great visual cue but if you're playing the prototypical dumb fighter, all the visual cues in the world aren't going to help.

The sword is also a bit of old school in that it seems it can do many things. For example, when the wielder, Garth, is spied upon with a crystal ball, his connection to the got of destruction travels back on that feed and destroys the crystal ball. Garth can also use the weapon to set fire to buildings, to burn through stone itself. This doesn't count that others don't seem to be able to use the weapon without suffering massive burns and wind up dropping it.

By not pinning everything the sword does, the author provides himself some space in which to use the sword for different elements. One of the terrible things that third edition started, and fourth edition fully embraced and has been struggling to get back ever since, is removed the magic from magic items. I haven't played a lot of 4e lately and I know that some others, like the Fourthcore group, have also tried to bring some of the magic back to the magic so to speak. Damn shame that it ever got that far to begin with.


Another interesting aspect of the book is that Garth isn't human, he's what's called an overman, humanoid but physically better than a human. The problem is that the overmen lost the Racial Wars that happened some odd three hundred years ago. Turns out that like orcs and some other humanoids, while they may be great independent fighters, they are terrible fighters when it comes to war as they are not great social creatures, each too headstrong and independent to do any group warfare that doesn't involve a numerous commanders involved with many levels of the soldiers. Their home life structure isn't that great either, they essentially borrow the idea of marriage to provide some stability to their lives.

I like this factor because it provides the overmen some character and showcases why they are where they are when I read this book. It's not some nine hundred page beast that I feel compelled to read because it's trying to teach me history. Rather, it's a quick sword and sorcery romp that showcases  bad things happen and sometimes, more bad things happen. Heck, I think Rolemaster old versions may even have something similar to this guy. I know that they had High Men, which were essentially homages to Strider's people, but I think they had something even bigger and stronger and with even fewer background points in one of their series of companions.

In addition, it gives me some ideas as to why elves and dwarves and other long lived races don't rule the world. They're just not able to compete with humanity. It's not that elves aren't the best archers, rangers, or masters of magic. It's just that they're so tied up in their own thing they never think, "Man, these humans are going to take it all over." For the dwarves, they might have so much going on in their various book of grudges, that they don't necessarily care that humans are taking over until those humans get into the book of grudges themselves, and because humanity at least if often allied to dwarves, the dwarves are only worried about specific humans to hunt down. The decline of their race isn't something directly attributed to humans often, but rather to their many numerous other enemies ranging, at least in say, Warhammer, to goblins, trolls, orcs and Skaven, to even chaos dwarves. Humans may provide worthy foes, a few may even go into the book, but for the most part, allies and trade partners.

Speaking of those bad things, in that war three hundred years ago, when the overmen lost, they got some bad terms. But interestingly enough, the garrison, the town, the fortress that provided them? Well, as Garth notes, humans have short memories and yesterday's heroes are today's useless dregs of society. The town that has its borders with the overmen is poor and feeble and easily overcome. Mind you this isn't necessarily a good thing because as I read its indicated that yeah, this was a wasting outpost but its just a part of a larger entity. Still, showcasing how decay can ease up onto these elements of society, especially those that might have been considered the most important at one part of a setting's history, are important.

The overmen have another advantage here in that they have warbeasts. These are essentially large, black massive hunting cats that, like like worgs, wargs, or dire wolves, are actually more dangerous than the overmen themselves. This makes fighting overmen even worse when they come prepared. Worse still, the beasts aren't too concerned with what they eat as at one point Garth is worried about the warbeast eating patrolling soldiers if they're not feed soon. Scary but entertaining stuff.

A third interesting factor, is the use of the King in Yellow. Now I'm not saying it's the exact character from the Mythos, but when you read a little on the author's page about the series, yeah, it's pretty much him. He comes off as a tragic character with a terrible destiny but also a little like the dude of Many Eyes and the Faceless mentors of the Twain from Fritz Lieber's various Swords Against series. Good stuff.

So, still reading, and may/may not get the ebook versions, but they're out there, the paperbacks are still out there, and there's even an omnibus edition. It's old school with a bit of a twist and well worth reading for those looking for a non-human hero with a kick ass magic weapon.
and come on, how can you not lover a cover where the guy in the middle of these enemies isn't looking like he's going, "What, you wanna piece of this?"

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Brunner: Equipment Evolution

One of the interesting things about Brunner, the bounty hunter from the Warhammer series of books, is that unlike a lot of fantasy characters, he tends to accumulate some toys along the way.

Don't misunderstand me, there's a lot of cash he's collected. Somehow we never see him spend it. I suspect that like the manga Lone Wolf and Cub, we'll see he's been saving these coins for a very special rainy day.

But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm not even talking about how he names his large serrated cutting knife because that's what he uses to lop the heads off his bounties or his horse or his pony that he carries various items. I'm not even talking about the 'standard' weapons he starts with, which include some expensive ones like a highly polished gun that works almost every time he needs it to.

Rather, I'm talking about loot!

In one of the stories, he 'liberates' a sword from a false noble. The blade is of a special magical  variety against those of chaos.

In another, he earns a repeating crossbow from an encounter with Skaven.

These items in and of their own, become a bit of a signature thing with Brunner.

This is something that happens in movies and books and comics all the time. A nifty weapon makes an appearance and then everyone wants one! Admit it, how long after the Phantom Menace came out and we saw Double Light Sabers did you see one at the game?

Signature weapons can be useful and fun if used correctly. In level based games like Rolemaster or Dungeons and Dragons, they can be a little more difficult to efficiently fit in the actual game as unless you allow the player to upgrade the item, no matter how signature the Blade of the Family Blood is, it's it's +1 +2 versus Undead and the character gets an opportunity to get a +3 weapon... well, we can all see that old blade hanging on the shelf right?

Another thing about signature weapons and items is that they may have history and significance that showcases some aspect of the character's own background. For example, some weapons may only work for individuals of a specific race or a specific family line. Others may take rites and rituals to activate. Others may just look so unique that they are known wherever they go. One of the fun things to do is allow these items to provide hooks into the game, but not dominate it.

Use and reward players with special items that fit into their own goals and background and don't forget to use them against them when the players are trying to sneak around. "The Dagger of St. McMac! No lowly acolyte would have that item! Arrest them!'

Good times.