Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kell's Legend by Andy Remic

Another victory from the dollar rack at Half Price Books. I'd never heard of Andy Remic before, or of the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles but on the other hand, I like the cover. Small wonder there, it's by Adrian Smith, an illustrator with a ton of talent whose own web page is here: On the dollar rack for a fairly large book with a great cover? I'll give it a whirl.

Mind you, that's one of the reasons I prefer to test out the lower priced ebooks when I buy them. There are more authors out there that I haven't heard of then I have. Those I have enjoyed, well, many of them are dead and won't be producing any more work. Those that are alive are producing work that is not often in the same vein as their earlier work. Much like music or any other type of art when the artist change and move on. Sometimes the fans of the earlier work enjoy it, sometimes they don't.

Speaking of ebooks, I was pleased to see that the kindle versions of this puppy are fairly reasonable in price, $2.99 for the first one, and was shocked that the omnibus collection was under $10. I'll probably be picking it up after I catch up on some of the other physical stuff I have around the apartment so that I can have some more free space.

Anyway, Kell's Legend is a bit too on the 'adult' side for some of my basic reader preferences. A bit too graphic in some of the details that Andy pops out there. Mind you, it didn't stop me from enjoying the book or anything like that. It's not a consistent thing either but Andy doesn't back away from any field in terms of the heroes wading through the shit, literally and figuratively so to speak.

The only thing I wasn't too keen on is the ending. I prefer my books, part of a series or not, to stand on their own. This book doesn't really do that. Much like a good gaming session, it ends right in the middle of a conflict. Just when the dice are getting ready to hit the table and the Game Master goes, "Oh gee, is it that late? We'll have to pick it up next week." I get why people do it, and as a Game Master, it's an effective tool at keeping the player engaged with the game as they now have a vested interest in getting back to the game.

I'll be prattling a bit about some specifics of the book below so if you'd rather avoid spoilers, read no further.

1. The Random Encounter: During a boat escape while Kell and his comrades are trying to make a getaway, they come under attack by a clanker. This is essentially a lion like man-machine warped by its failure to take its machinery. Anyway, as Kell dives into the water to save his comrade, they are saved by an outside encounter as a giant ell some fifty feet long decides it doesn't like the disturbance to its peace and takes care of the issue. When planning random encounters and show casing the dangers, mix it up a little by having two of the random encounters meet. Perhaps the players stumble upon a group of ogres but in turn the ogres become attacked by trolls. In the Paizo setting, this is actually fairly common as the two races don't get along.

2. Don't overuse it. While it was great to see an element of the unknown pop up in that one encounter, Andy then does it several more times so that after a while as a reader I was just like, uh, let's avoid having some weird crap come out of left field to save and or frighten the main characters? You can add some spice to the soup but too much ruins the soup.

3. Named Weapons. Yeah, it's an old cliche and all that mind you but even though Kell's weapon is magical and it does have purpose and it does communicate with him, that still makes it more interesting than pretty much every other weapon in the game. Intelligent weapons in particular though, can be daunting for some Game Masters to run because it is often like adding another NPC to the group and in many ways, that's exactly what it is. Such a character, if you will, can do things for the party outside of being a named weapon. They can be a source of information and a knowledge base that players may need to tap into.

4. Not everyone gets out alive. I've played in some games where the Game Master was determined not to kill any of the characters and would go out of the way to insure that they didn't die. Those games for me at least, weren't as fun as the ones where I knew as a player that there was a chance of having my character killed. It made playing intelligently more rewarding as those who did not were often cut down and died thanks to their stupidity. On the other hand, as a player, it also showcased that there were some players I just wouldn't play with because they would wind up putting the whole party in danger time and time again. It's one thing to die because the dice were against you, it's another to die because some members of your party drag a host of monsters back to your camp or aren't using their own abilities with anything resembling competence.

5. Keep it Moving. There is a brief pause in the action here as Kell and his comrades take a breather after escaping from a city that has fallen. Their rest doesn't last long as that town too comes under attack. The Game Master needs to be able to read the mood so to speak. If things are slowing down too much, keep things moving. This can be a random encounter, a planned encounter, or some other weirdness. Keep a deck of things that you use to keep the party moving.

Kell's Legend doesn't shy away from blood shed or from making things difficult for the heroes and in those veins, you can find rich ore to tap in a reading.