Friday, February 1, 2013

Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology

Milton J. Davis and Charles Saunders assemble a variety of material here that reminds me of some of the older anthologies in that, for me, it's a lot of names I didn't recognize and a lot of different writing styles with some good, some bad, and some great stuff. I initially didn't realize that there was an Imaro story in the book itself until I got to the end.

I'll be discussing specific spoilers below so if you'd rather avoid those, know that for the low price, it's worth looking into.

Among my favorites are the following:

Skin Magic by P. Djeli Clark. It has a few elements I enjoy in a story. A different style of magic, in this case, a cursed thief who can summon monstrous creatures from inside himself. In some ways, this ability reminded me of Corum's early ability in the first trilogy where can can summon monstrous creatures that are undefeatable. It's also got the 'young' hero going on where the character is still learning of his abilities and learning how to work this curse into an actual ability. The character is still very vulnerable at this point. Very much like a low level character.

The Three Faced One by Charles Saunders. In terms of role playing games, I think the concept of a high level character, as Imaro is here, looking for rest and recuperation, but most importantly, anonymity from his previous heroism, is an interesting twist on a hero's rise to power. Imaro did all that in the last of the series and paid a heavy price for it. Now he needs time to heal and recuperate. It's not that he's all the sudden in a boring situation, for after all, what fun would that be, but that he is no burdened with the weight of all his previous expectations.

In a role playing game, as the players gain more and more levels and powers and toys, the weight of those background elements can weight heavily on them. One of the fun thing about Spelljammer, Ravenloft, and Planescape, is the ability to quickly move the campaign to fresh territory. Big hero in country X? You're nothing in country Y. This leaves the opportunity to revisit older material in future stories while also expanding the campaign setting.

In The Wake of Mists and The Generals Daughter, the former by Kirk A. Johnson and the later by Anthony Nana Kwamu show some interesting choices that can be put into a RPG. In the former, the main character is essentially whisked away from a battle to go through a quest to gain power. The readers keep getting hints that there is a price for this power. In the General's Daughter, the main character's daughter dies and he is given the opportunity to save her, but at the cost of many others who would suffer from his actions.

In the Wake of Mists has enough naming conventions and ideas in it to mine for a small adventure in and of itself. In between encounters the character, Sangara, is healed of his wounds so that he may approach each challenge at full strength. Almost like having a cleric that.

Characters, no matter how powerful, may encounter situations where sacrifice may be called for. There may be an attack on multiple fronts that they can't handle all at once. Characters may also be called on to make tough choices. Do you save your friend, or a city? Do you save your wife, or a world?