Friday, April 20, 2012

Temple Hill by Drew Karpyshyn

Another standalone book in the Forgotten Realms series, The Cities. I managed to pick up this book from the Half Price book store for the princely sum of $1! Cheaper then most e-books I'll tell you. Speaking of e-books, a quick search of Amazon shows that nope, no ebook version over there. Anyway, Temple Hill does a lot of things that I felt the other book I read in the series failed to do.

First off, most of the action actually takes place in, below, and around the city. This involves throwing several organizations in there including organized religion, some of the famous factions of the setting like the Harpers, the Cult of the Dragon, and an guild of protectors that falls and rises again within these pages.

Next off, a lot of the material makes more sense in the context of the story here. While there are some moments where I wonder how things are justified in terms of how the action rolls off, those are the 'gamer dice' rolling in my head and don't interfere with my enjoyment of the story. The characters here are competent and knowledgeable, they 'fit' into their setting. More impressive is that Drew takes a female and male pair and doesn't have them fall in love at the end of the novel! Applause to you Drew Karpyshyn!

In terms of gaming, the male hero of the tales, Corin, has a patron in the form of the gnome that raised his half elf employer, Lhasha Moonsilver. This allows him access to goods that he might not normally be able to have access to. This also works out well in a city based campaign because many of the enemies a player may have to face in a city based campaign are human or humanoid and those huge cash reserves that players may be used to stumbling over in a dungeon probably won't be found here.

This isn't to say that precious gems, jewelry, objects of art, and other valuable bits like magic items, can't be found but if the party has a patron who can supply them with 'loot drops' at appropriate times, it can help to curb some of the more outrageous bits that may pop up and more importantly, it allows the party members some access to a 'small' magic shop that the GM controls with a pretty sturdy hand if he so chooses.

Drew makes sure to throw in a lot of elements that make Dungeons and Dragons what it is. This includes evil life draining swords, a strange fierce enemy for Corin to battle, several groups that have their own unique leaders, one with a powerful mage, another with a Beholder, and the use of another magical creature, in this case, a Medusa, almost as a weapon of mass destruction. The utility of these setting bits, not setting bits to the Forgotten Realms, but to Dungeons and Dragons, gives the book a homely feel. If you can bring the elements that mean Dungeons and Dragons to your group, and those will vary from group to group, then you're doing your job right.