Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Silver Call by Dennis L. McKiernan

Sometimes originality is overrated.

For all intents and purposes, the Silver Call by Dennis L. McKiernan is a sequel to Lord of the Rings.  The book was originally written as a single book but for publication broken up into two books, Trek To Kraggen-Cor and The Brega Path. Then republished as a single book. Strangely enough, The Silver Call is not available as a kindle book.

In Lord of the Rings, remember that old dwarf hold where they fought the balrog and ran from the kraken and it had magic doors? Yeah, turns out that sometime after the great battle where the enemy is killed the dwarves decide, you know, it's time to clean out the old dwarf home and end the goblin menace. And for the most part, it works.

Dennis uses a lot of description and a lot of backstory to fill in Mithgar. He uses a long overland trip to allow the characters to appreciate other bits of culture. Warrows, the Halfling substitute, for example, don't really appreciate the night sky and the stars contained within. The dwarves on the other hand... The dwarves also have a thing about a falling star representing fallen comrades. The culture building is good to crib notes for when designing your own bits and pieces for cultures.

Instead of halflings, we have warrows. Their kick is that they're a bit more fighty then halflings and have gem like eyes. Instead of the Shire, we have The Root. Instead of Sting, we get Bane. A lot of other similarities exist that I'm sure someone else has already documented but again, for the most part, if you ever wondered what would have happened...

And in terms of working with RPGs, that's often a good place to start. Have you ever seen a RPG that tried to reinvent the wheel? Sometimes you can get away with it like John Wick does with Wicked Fantasy and his 'heroic' take on Orks back in the day.

When looking at material that you drew the initial inspiration from, or even the rulebook, when the source showed X but what about Y? It's one of the reasons the Star Wars setting has so many variant settings as the authors explore different spots of the setting and bring different facets to live. Game Mastering can be much the same if you're working with source material that you want to expand beyond.

For example, in the revised Conan books from 'the hack', Conan winds up on a great last adventure where he sails beyond the mainland. What happened next? Who takes over the throne? Where did he go?

Even when looking at settings that appear new, crisp and original to new fans of the work, like Dark Sun, may have seemed to new players of 4th edition, when looking at some of the potential inspiration for it, like the various Planetary Romances, where can new threads be drawn from? What if there is some cosmic alignment and the various comings and goings from the different worlds are interrupted and the characters from different times and planets wind up on a new harsh world looking for heroes?