Saturday, December 21, 2013

Vampire Warlords by Andy Remic.

Vampire Warlords is book three in the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles. Written by Andy Remic, it follows the adventures of Kell, an old axeman who fights against a summoned trio of vampires whose true power eclipses the clockwork vampires or vacine, who conquered his homelands. Like the previous books in the series, I found the characters wandering all over the place in terms of temperament and personality but it was a quick action filled ride so I'll forgot those inconsistencies. The fact that I picked it up at Half Priced books for $3.99 doesn't hurt.

Having said that, there are a few things I took from the book. Those who want to avoid spoilers, read no further.

1. Dead Plot Lines: There's the old saying about the gun in scene one being used in scene six. One of the characters, Kell's grand daughter, Nienna, speaks to Kell's unique axe. It hints at big things to come for her. Then she gets killed by that axe and nothing happens. She doesn't inhabit it. She doesn't haunt Kell. It's just a gruesome death. Now mind you, Andy has mentioned that he may wind up doing another two trilogies but the impact of the axe talking to Nienna and telling her things is going to be lost in a new trilogy because the reader hasn't spent three books with the character. Even with exceptional flashback use, Nienna will at best be a secondary character in those novels and her impact on the axe also minimal.

2. Endgame: We are introduced to three vampire warlords. Kell defeats two of them and when going to defeat the third is told, "No, it's cool. We got that." Ugh. When putting  villains in the setting that are supposed to be the big bad endgame, do not take it out of the character's hands. "Well, I'm glad you guys managed to get to level 20 and all that but Ocrus kills Demogorgon so you guys don't have to worry about it." That would be a massively unsatisfying game.

3. Changing Origins: In previous books, we've seen Kell's axe gain it's bond with him. In this one, it goes "super sayian" and becomes even more powerful. In this case, it's not necessarily a terrible thing but it feels heavy handed. Working with the players when trying to update or incorporate their background elements can be difficult or easy depending on the nature of the campaign. In a high fantasy epic campaign or a silver age super hero one? No problem. In a historical fantasy or gothic? Might be a little more difficult.

4. The Set up. We learn that the vacinee or clockwork vampire civilization sacrificed to release the Vampire Warlords are merely the tip of the clockwork vampire society. This leads to a potential encounter further down the road. Kell, long poisoned, is feeling it more and more and is preparing to seek out a cure. This cure will lead him to another land where it's strongly hinted that werewolves or other wolf style creatures are waiting. When Kell's axe get's it's make over, it's hinted that Kell will have at least three issues, the vampires, the wolves, and even dragons. These things allow the setting to be expanded without forcing the issues to be dealt with at that very second.

5. Description versus game mechanics. Kell's advanced age is only there to give the writer something to talk about. When it comes to combat, heart attack, easily succumbing to disease, etc... Kell shrugs off such nonsense. When it comes to simple walking or eating though? Well, the aches and groans and moans come out. In a role playing game, those could be useful bits and catch phrases for a  character who wanted to play an older individual but doesn't want the mechanical penalties of such.

Vampire Warlords has a lot of rousing action scenes that are impaired a bit by the wanderings of the characters from one mood to the next.