Sunday, January 8, 2012

Blood For The Blood God by C. L. Werner

I have the omnibus edition of House of Serpents by Lisa Smedman and had started on Venom's Taste. I don't know why, but it wasn't grabbing me. So I put it down to pick up a stand alone book by an author whose work I've enjoyed in the past; Blood For The Blood God by C. L. Werner.

I'll be pinging some spoilers from the book below. For those who want a brief review, this is a stand alone book where the warriors of chaos find themselves hard pressed to battle a legendary entity known as the Skulltaker. It's very pulpy sword and sorcery fare and if this is the type of material you enjoy, then this book is for you.

Now onto the spoilers.

One, if you ever wonder how to run an evil campaign, this book might provide some solid foundations. There are no heroes here, nor even anti-heroes. There are barbarous murderers who fight among each other for survival and each tribe has its own tricks. The threat of an outside menace is what brings a few of these tribesmen together so that they can attempt to cheat destiny.

By providing an outside force for players to gather against, the GM can provide some reason for such players to travel together. This may not solve all of the problems of an evil campaign, but it does take care of at least the first issue; why should they trust each other.

The next thing, is use the setting elements. C. L. Werner, no stranger to the Warhammer setting, provides us with characters who often suffer the mutating touch of chaos with some of the protagonist having a tentacle for an arm or iron nodes poking through their skin.

Werner unleashes not only flesh hounds, but also blood letters. The weapons that many of the characters use, are demonic in nature and destroy both body and soul. These are standards in the world of Warhammer and by not shying away from them, Werner firmly places his tale of carnage into the setting.

Don't be afraid of the one shot. At the end of the story, the realm that the 'heroes' fought to save is destroyed. Everyone the main character knows is dead. Khorne has had his vengeance. But there is still war to be waged and battles to be fought and the book ends as another epic duel is about to begin.

Perhaps you don't want to run an entire evil campaign. Perhaps you just want to test out Dark Sun and see how those rules mesh with 4e. Perhaps you only want to dip your toe into Savage Worlds. A one shot allows you to up the stakes and push the characters to and past their limits as you are only running a one shot and the fate of worlds can be up for grabs. And if you enjoyed the game, you can run a separate game at a latter time.

My only issue with the book is the name of the villain of the piece; Skulltaker. For those who don't play the tabletop, this is skulltaker;

That massive figure above? He's not at all what is described in the book and the editors should have axed that name right away. When your game setting has dozens of slogans and mottos and you mix the material up, it does the reader and the fan no benefit. Keep the material clean, seperated, and easy to understand. It would be like having a new Forgotten Realms novel feature Elminster, a heroic blade troll who hunts down rogue tornadoes. It might be a great story, but anyone looking for Elminster is not going to be happy.