Saturday, October 26, 2013

Tainted Blood by Nathan Long: The Blackhearts Omnibus book 3

Nathan Long brings the conclusion to the Blackhearts trilogy with all the flavor you'd come to expect from a good popcorn read. We have dark elves, skaven, and other vile creatures doing their best to take out the anti-heroes known as the Blackhearts whose interest isn't necessarily in saving the Empire so much as in saving their own skin.

It has a good flow for the most part and is an easy read and brings the series to a nice conclusion while at the same time leaving it open for future volumes. This novel even has the appearance of a certain high elf mage from the pages of the Warhammer tabletop version which is always a nice touch. If you're a fan of the Warhammer setting, this will be a nice novel to read over while prepping to wipe out your players.

Onward to spoilers!

One of the things I've mentioned before, is that if you're using a specific setting that has its own things that are famous and familiar to those who enjoy the setting either through video games, board games, or table top games, is that you should check the waters and see if the players enjoy it when you bring in those iconic elements.

Tainted Blood not only has the character meet the Skaven again, but learn of their lust for the dreaded Warpstone and that they are willing to try and 'fix' things when it is to their advantage. We have multiple groups of chaos worshippers trying to trust one another but due to their intrinsic nature, are easy to manipulate into fighting one another. We have Telcis, one of the most powerful magic users of the setting here.

The good news is that since this isn't a book about Telcis, but rather, one about the Blackhearts, the author does what any good author should and takes that character out of the action immediately. This allows the Blackhearts to have to strive even harder because hey, if this guy could take out that guy, what's he going to do to us?

The solution is great though in that it's one the author set up earlier in the novel with one of the thieves/assassins talking about a set up he performed where it looked like he murdered his target, but rather just had the appearance of murder and not actual death. This comes back in later and allows the characters to have a friendly ace in the hole later on and works quite well. It goes back to my thing of if the players have a great idea, let them run with it. Let their inventiveness provide success when possible. It'll make them know that you're rewarding them for it.

The other big thing? The Blackhearts are freed of their service. This does have the odd thing of "what now" though as at the end, the character don't necessarily know what their going to do with their lives and wonder if they can go back to their old profession but without the coercion this time. It's an important thing to have an end game in mind if the characters are starting out with some type of limitation.

I'm not saying the campaign has to end or anything like that mind you. But if the whole campaign revolves around killing X, if the players kill X, what then? It can be as easy as kill Y or as complex as moving onto a new campaign with new characters and new genres. Try to have an end game in mind when you start if you're putting those things in place at the start of the campaign.

Blackhearts is a nice omnibus and I haven't mentioned the two short stories included in the book which augments it's value and provides more insights into the characters and the dire situation they find themselves in as agents of the Empire. If you want to run a Dirty Dozen or Inglorious Bastards style campaign, Blackhearts by Nathan Long provides a lot of fodder for the fire.