Monday, December 9, 2013

Soul Stealers by Andy Remic

One of the things I love about Half Priced books is that you never know what you’ll find there. For example, I ran across Kell’s Legend by Andy Remic in the dollar spinner rack. I’d never heard of Any Remic before and didn’t know if I’d enjoy it, but for $1 I was willing to take the chance.

 The potential problem with the spinner rack though, is that you never know what you’ll find. This means that if you find a book in a series you enjoy there is no guarantee that they will have all of the books in the series, and if they do have more than one, they may not have them all in order.

So months after I read Kell’s Legend, I was pleased to see they had the second block in The Clockwork Vampire Chronicles, Soul Stealers. And this too was on the dollar spinner rack. I was glad to pick it up because after reading The Whiskey Rebels, I needed something a little lighter and easier on the brain. Andy Remic did not fail to deliver. It is a quick browsing popcorn style action read.

I enjoyed it enough that when I saw The Clockwork Vampires Chrnoicles Three, The Vampire Warlords I bought it from the actual shelf, instead of waiting to buy from the dollar spinner rack. For that book I paid the princely sum of $3.99.

In terms of gaming there are few things the book would have me keep in mind. These are actually not good things and are behaviors I would try to avoid.

When introducing antagonist that are meant to relay how powerful and devastating the opposition is it helps if that antagonist is actually dangerous. In this instance, the characters on the cover of at least my version, twin vampire sisters who directly serve the vampire general Graal, are supposed to be the fiercest and most dangerous assassins at Graal’s disposal. What winds up happening is that when we first see them in combat is that they are either dispatched in a most gratuitous manner or simply scared off. If there competence is not meant to showcase the strength of the enemy, it should be there to showcase the strength of the heroes.

The second thing I would try to avoid is the introduction of what appeared to me to be nonsense characters that don't know where. We are introduced to some child taken in by poisonous spiders and given background of how the child was maimed and how he recovered in these weird circumstances. Another child was apparently murdered. This happens with a few characters where we get this build up of background information and then they're just casually slaughtered. It's not the type of death that happens in say The Walking Dead or A Game of Thrones because these characters have too much time spent building up their unique powers that never come to play. It would be like watching The Man of Steel and then Lex Luthor shoots him through the head with a Kryptonite bullet at the start of the next movie and it the movie was over.

In terms of things I would try to add or remember to bring into the campaign, is the use of intelligent weapons. Such weapons have a long history in the game and are common themes in use with Michael Moorcock’s The Eternal Champion series. There are numerous articles that discuss in detail the many ways such a weapon can be a certain type of character for the game master.

One use of a weapon that is intelligent is the delivery of information that the players might not normally have access to. This allows the game master to pit challenges and obstacles in front of the characters that they might not normally be able to overcome. One of the issues  in doing this is that the players need to know what subjects and fields that the intelligent weapon might know.

Another use of intelligent weapon is that it can play off of the other characters or players, in having a different viewpoint or outlook that contrast with their own. For example a human, dwarf, elf, or gnome might all be the same to an intelligent weapon. They are all things of the flesh and are all classified as such. In a setting with artificial characters, such as Eberron or Midguard, an intelligent weapon might seek to be used by those more of its liking.

Lastly, an intelligent weapon might have its own agenda. Depending on the power and strength of the weapon it might be able to take over servants, common household pets, and even semi-important characters such as henchmen or hirelings and maneuver them into doing its unique will against their own better judgment. Depending upon how clever such a weapon is, the weapon might not need to outright control the people as much as manipulate them with its own knowledge of things. It could try to get these characters to do things for their “own good” because it knows things that the players or their allies do not.

Other elements of the book that I enjoyed, where the characters having weakness. Outside of his advanced age, Kell is an alcoholic with a preference for good whiskey. Kell also believes himself to be a bad man. This belief colors is outlook and how he approaches every obstacle. His traveling companion has a weakness for all things of comfort: good clothes, wine, women, and shelter. He craves the easy city life of a pampered noble.

Soul Stealers may have wandered around from place to place and brought in characters and complications whose appearance based solely on this novel would seem frivolous but it is a quick furious read that quickly escalates from self survival to survival of the nation. Well worth reading if you can find it at the right price