Sunday, November 25, 2012

Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan

The Riyria Revelations conclude in this final omnibus edition, Heir of Novron. This volume includes the two novels, Wintertide and Percepliquis.  Again, Micahel J. Sullivan's writing does not fail to impress as he weaves together numerous plot points from previous novels and ties them up.

I'll be discussing specifics from the book including spoilers so for those who want to avoid such things, read no further.

1. Elves. I mentioned previously that the elves of the setting were different. Well, the real trick is that the elves are such supreme entities that the only reason mankind wasn't wiped out was that one elf lord challenged another for control of the empire. It was a 'civilized' way of handling conflict so that many elves didn't have to fight and die. See, elf life is precious and there was no reason to do things the uncivilized way. On the other hand, the elves are so unstoppable that when it comes time to renew the challenge, they are able to take out civilization almost without trying. The music that accompanies their army for example, is so binding to humans that unless they stop their eats up, they cannot fight back. They control monsters that can only be killed with specific blades designed for that deed.

2. Deception. Sometimes those who befriend you don't really have you best interest at heart. Royce had a long time mentor who betrays him in the worst way possible because he doesn't believe Royce is worthy of a specific that was going his way. Suffice it to say that this betrayal leads to some 'bad behavior' on Royce's part as well but the whole point of someone being willing to do whatever it takes to thwart a player's designs, even if that might mean their own death, should be something that GM has in place for at least a Non-Player Character or two. Imagine a player who is about to rescue a princess when his old friend grabs her and provides a quick soliloquy that while he loves the player like a brother, this is one time he can't stand back and dives with the princess of the cliff into a volcano or something dramatic in that vein.

Sometimes the action may come as a complete surprise. Sometimes the player will have to find out from third party sources why this happened. It should always tie into the campaign. For better or worse it should be built out of the characters background stories, or better yet, out of events that happened in the campaign.

3. False History. While I appreciate how Michael J. Sullivan handles the twist here, that the savior of the empire that has enslaved elves is actually an elf himself and that the history of the whole land has been twisted to fit one madman's desires and wishes, it can be a tricky bit to handle in an established campaign setting. Pulling the veil back and telling the players, in essence, "Got You." with the background can be great fun, especially in a home brewed setting or one that the players are not intimately familiar with, but doing something like that on their own background on in an established setting with playing with setting purists can be a little more difficult. Know your audience if you're going to pull a big reveal where much of what the players know is false.

4. The Future! When the mage with no hands is killed, his cloak passes on. The wearer of the cloak starts to experience all sorts of visions and past life scenarios. Others have the ability to read the future through an individuals life line. Often times the answers aren't bold and in front but are a good method to add more information, especially if the players are stuck on something. In terms of life line reading, its also dangerous to do with elves as they tend to have very long lives and this is something that can actually lead to death if done on an elf with a very long life ahead of him.

5. The Gods! One of the father of the gods committed an unspeakable crime for which he strives to attain atonement through good deeds. Every time he does one and the act is deemed acceptable, he gains a white feather. This is something that's been mentioned several times in the series. At the end, we find out that Royce was given his special dagger and essentially his freedom from an inescapable prison because Royce would one day be very important and would have to redeem himself from his own actions. The whole theme of redemption and the very gentle hands of the god are good themes here as it doesn't put the deity as the forefront of the action and rather, act as a stepping stone to setting the characters on their own path. Good stuff.

Heir of Novron is a quick paced novel that will bring characters up and cast others down and provides a lot of inspiration for a fantasy campaign.