Friday, December 21, 2012

Den of Thieves: The Ancient Blades Trilogy I

When I ordered the Riyria Revelations from the Science Fiction Book Club, I also ordered the Ancient Blades Trilogy. Or at least two of the three books. See, when I first looked around, the ebook from Amazon was less expensive then the physical hardcover so I bought that from Amazon. It's since gone up in price but still probably less expensive then the hardcover unless you get a good deal, which the Science Fiction Book Club has more than it's fair share.

Anyway, Den of Thieves is Book One of the Ancient Blades Trilogy by David Chandler. It touches on a few points I enjoy. A 'free' city in a medieval style setting. Dwarves on the decline, but still in high demand for their high quality. Thieves. Knights. Magic swords with unique backgrounds. Broad over arching themes that tie into the current story. It does fall into my 'popcorn' reading bucket mind you, but I don't have a problem with such material.

I'll be discussing spoilers from the book below so if you have no interest in such, read no further. Know that Den of Thieves is a fun ride but not the 'serious' stuff of Wheel of Time or A Game of Thrones. Anyway...

In terms of city setting, much of the book takes place in the Free City of Ness, a place that while part of the 'dark ages' styling so common to fantasy, has its own freedoms. The city has a bit of personality tied into magic. In the long ago past, a powerful sorcerer used his magic to take the mind of one of the rulers and put it in a crown. This intelligent crown then takes control of the heirs and essentially makes them imbeciles who couldn't run the city without it. The idea of an eternal ruler passed down from heir to heir, each one becoming more and more stupid and less capable is an interesting one and could easily by yanked for a campaign.

The city also has it's own thieves guild run by one Cutbill. It is he who first brings in one of the heroes, Malden, and puts a heavy burden on the young man. The thieves guild doesn't get a lot of attention in terms of its characters, and I'm sure if A Gallery of Rogues gets funded and gets actually completed, it will be more useful in terms of gaming, but there are several thieves that come out named with their own personalities and traits. There is also an interesting use of children as beggar lookouts. Children as lookouts I'm used to but beggar children ready to swarm their enemies is a bit different.

For magic items, the series title itself, Ancient Blades, comes home. There are seven magic swords that are crafted to destroy demons. Turns out that many moons ago, sorcerers would summon a lot of demons. In some ways, it evokes imagery of how I'd imagine the price to be paid for sorcery in Dungeon Crawl Classics might work. Powerful stuff but not good for the caster. Regardless, these seven swords have long histories, are passed down, and each do a specific thing. In that aspect, they reminded me of Fed Saberhagen's Book of Swords.  I remember reading those as a teenager and thinking, "Damn, some of these are awesome." Ditto here although these swords aren't as powerful.

Den of Thieves also features a lot of traps, both mundane and magical. Reading through it should give any GM a few ideas on things that can be added to dungeons including illusions and floor traps among others.

In the end, the strongest thing I can say about Den of Thieves, in terms of gaming, is that David Chandler wrote a game that features characters in scenarios with items that wouldn't seem that out of place in an OSR game.