Friday, January 31, 2014

Kickstarter: Februrary Edition

So when it comes to the Kickstarters, I've tried to cut back on posting on them. I think I've been pretty successful. It's been a busy month with a lot of different posts.

But hey, it's almost February so let's look at where we're at.

Tectonic Craft Studios continues to flounder. I can appreciate the promises of "shipping in the next seven days" but since that was like a month ago, again the founder has bitten off way more than he can chew. I strongly suspect that if he is a sponsor at Adepticon in 2014, I'll be talking to him directly to get my stuff. I let it slide last year and at Gen Con but this is nonsense.

Dwimmermount: Remember my talks of nonsense? The guy tried very hard at first but life with twins has kicked his ass. I don't want to say I've 'written' it off as I suspect he's not doing it out of any sense of 'screw you!' as opposed to 'life is kicking my ass!'.

Steampunk Musha: Well, we've heard some stuff and it's been quite for a few weeks but it's still well past a year late.

Imbrian Arts Miniatures: I highlighted this one because partial delivery! Good deal. Fantastic stuff. His work can stand toe to toe with the best of the Confrontation minis when they were good.

Assimilation Alien Host: Man, I was excited when these were announced. I was like, "Yeah, Blasters and Bulkheads!" or something. That game has come out with a second edition already while I have no miniatures.

Relic Knights: Yeah, so unimpressed that these figures better knock me out right from the get go.

Cthulhu Mythos Foundry Style: Man, you see someone with vision and talent and you're like, "Hey, this looks awesome." And then basically months of nothing. Never preback another thing this guy does again but if I'm happy with the final product will buy at retail.

Drake is also highlighted but unlike Imbrian, these miniatures did nothing for me. Could just be that there are a ton of components, a lot of flash and some pieces that just don't look good or it could be that everything still isn't ready. M'eh. Maybe when the rulebook hits I'll be a bit more inspired.

Fractured Dimensions: Still waiting on those exclusive figures. The end should be near though.

Tablescapes: Rolling Fields aren't done yet and it's not really late for me but it's on the spreadsheet.

Domains At War: Remember when I mentioned that Dwimmermount guy with the twins? Who knew it could effect ALL of your projects? Like Tavis but never backing another thing he does. This will be three out of four I've backed and all of them late.

Dungeon Crawler: Relic Knights got hit by the China celebration. So did these guys. I didn't spend a ton of cash here but enough that I'm... annoyed at the delays.

Kingdom Death: M'eh? I initially overspent on this one to begin with and my board gaming hasn't been great lately but it looks great, the creator is heavily involved and things look to be moving quickly.

I suppose Cthulhu Wars are way later then I am keeping track of here and I should add it to the list.

I see that others have slowed down their backing of Kickstarters as well. It's hard to maintain enthusasim when cash is lacking and hundreds (or more) of dollars are already out waiting for product.

This doesn't count some that have essentially failed or big delays announced in other projects, including Robotech. Heck, it had Palladium's name associated with it. Who didn't know that was going to be late? Who?

As time goes on, are you backing more kickstarters or fewer? Do you keep track of it in Excel or another spreadsheet program? Still finding lots of new stuff to enjoy?

Project Name Due Date Date Late Days Late Months
Tectonic Craft Studios 6/1/2012 2/1/2014 -610 -20
Dwimmermount 8/1/2012 2/1/2014 -549 -18
Steampunk Musha 10/1/2012 2/1/2014 -488 -16
Imbrian Arts Miniatures 3/1/2013 2/1/2014 -337 -11
Assimilation Alien Host 5/1/2013 2/1/2014 -276 -9
Relic Knights 5/1/2013 2/1/2014 -276 -9
Cthulhu Mythos Foundy Style 7/1/2013 2/1/2014 -215 -7
Drake The Dragon Wargame 7/1/2013 2/1/2014 -215 -7
Fractured Dimensions 8/1/2013 2/1/2014 -184 -6
Tablescapes 10/1/2013 2/1/2014 -123 -4
Domains At War 10/1/2013 2/1/2014 -123 -4
Dungeon Crawler 11/1/2013 2/1/2014 -92 -3
Kingdom Death 11/1/2013 2/1/2014 -92 -3

Thursday, January 30, 2014

THe Desert Spear by Peter V Brett: Book 2 of the Demon Cycle

I enjoyed the Warded Man so much, that I jumped onto The Desert Spear with no hesitation. The book is longer and adds more characters and more magic to the Demon Cycle. But in the hands of a skilled story teller like Peter V Brett, this is a good thing.

The book breaks us into the world of Jadir, the man who in the previous novel, betrayed Arlen, leading that Messenger to become the Warded Man. He did so with regrets as he considered Arlen his friend, and near equal.

The focus on Jadis feels a little like the retelling of one of the old Eternal Champion stories by Michael Moorcock as events we've already seen happen again from a different viewpoint. Mind you, this only happens in a handful of places and the shift in point of view is welcome.

The bad news, is that even though Jadir himself has trama and a disturbing background, his likeability suffers quite a bit due to his role as semi-antagonist. I say semi because if readers don't see an eventually alliance between those of the Desert and those of the North against the demons, we'll, we've all been lied to in how these sorts of stories work out.

Using Jadir as a view point character provides the reader with a lot of insight into his people's culture. The need and desire to fight against the demons isn't just for survival, but for religious reasons. Those who do fight gain great honor but die young. This tends to make the culture warrior based with the warriors gaining essentially supreme power over all other caste save for the religious and a few specialists, like the woman who becomes Jadir's wife.

By bringing Jadir's life, who is probably the oldest protagonist in the series, we see a little more of the magic of the south. Unlike the Greenlanders, the wise women of the south are not herbalist, but they do have knowledge. That knowledge though, takes the form of carving demon bones with wards and using other parts of demons for different effects including telling the future.

In addition to Jadir, we also get Renna. This young woman, like Jadir, was introduced in the previous novel and her presence here feels a little like Rojer who I feel still has a ways to go before he gets up to the Warded man's importance or enjoyability. Renna, like almost every character here, suffers some horrific setbacks in her life but by allying herself directly with Arlan, the Warded Man, she starts to take after him and begins to ward herself and learn his ways.

The original trio of characters are here and continue their story arcs, continuing to grow in knowledge and experience. It's a great set up and provides a lot of tense moments as the characters learn that many of the demons they've been fighting, and humanity as a collective whole has been losing against, are not the worst that the 'core' has to throw at them.

I'm going to hunt through Half Priced Books for the next volume, but if they don't have it, it'll be a quick trip to the Barnes & Nobles for me as Peter V Brett's writing continues to engage.

On a separate note, just because I found it entertaining, Peter V Brett has a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet on his website. In addition, his bio talks about his enjoyment of the game. His books have also been optioned for movies. Keep an eye on this guy peeps!

Below I'm going to talk a little about role playing game applications and their potential.

1. Rival Cultures: I read Raymond Feist's Magician when I was a young man. It featured a clash of cultures. This is not the only time such has happened but it does set a nice precedent of cultures with different ethos, weapons, styles, and technology levels meeting and battling.

2. Special Abilities with Limits: Initially Arlen's special training and abilities lead him to be a great demon slayer. But when his friend betrayed him, well, he learned that those special abilities had a limit. In role playing games like Hero, abilities can be bought with limitation like Range Killing Attack, Only Works Vs Demons. This allows the characters to shine against demons and other monsters, like arrows of dragon slaying, but still not rise above every fight and every encounter.

3. Power With A Price: Arlen has warded himself so much and absorbed so much energy from demons, that he feels himself slipping away from the world and literally being called to the 'Core' where the demons come from. In exchange for great physical power, Arlen is perhaps going to die a horrific death. In role playing games, this can be difficult to achieve. Not impossible mind you. In some games like Legends of the Five Rings, it would be a high point disadvantage that the GM could call in when he wanted to. In most cases though, it's probably best to have a player who can role playing such a character to fit the mood. If the GM and players both initially talk about a doomed champions ala Elric and the player winds up running around in a completely different fashion, the sheer power of such a character can be unbalancing at best and campaign wrecking at worse.

4. Gifts: One of the problems a lot of gamers have, is when they don't have to fight tooth and nail for their treasures. They feel 'cheated' or that they didn't earn them. Most characters in fiction don't necessarily go through fighting to gain their special weapons. Elric and King Arthur for example, have to be in the right place at the right time. The hero from the Horselords tale, is gifted his sword, the Widowmaker. The same happens here as the Warded Man passes out weapons with purpose to those who can best wield them.

5. Time Flies: One of the things I think Peter V Brett does great here, is keeping things moving. The book starts in 305 and ends in 333. But it doesn't feel like those years have flown by. It feels like things have happened but that the author has keep them moving at a great clip and pace.

6. Character Motivation: What drives a character. Each of the characters here have different things that drive them, that they are part of. For Leesha, she would rather never kill a human being, even if it means that she herself with suffer. For Jadir, it's leading the world down the path of the righteousness in the holy war as its deliverer. For Arlen, it's fighting for people that will fight for themselves. When designing your character, as you write down stats and statistics, think about why he does what he does. Why did she decide to become a mage? Why did you decide on making a half orc?

Peter V Brett's writing provides a lot of potential hooks and plot lines for those delving into fantasy settings.

The Desert Spear is available from Amazon as an e-book for $5.99 or as a mass market paperback for $7.19

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Warded Man by Peter V Brett

I'm one of those people that's got the sale syndrome. You know, if its a good sale and something I might be interested in later, I'll pick it up.

So it was with The Warded Man and the Desert Spear, both by Peter V. Brett, whose website can be visited here. I'd never heard of the author or either book before and was in no hurry to read them, but see, this was during the time period that Borders Bookstores were closing and were essentially throwing stuff at the customers begging them to take it off their hands. Sadly enough, these are only two of the books I bought that in the interval I still haven't read.

At least that's no longer true for the Warded Man! Apparently Peter did this overseas as the Painted Man, with the cover image I've put up top. It's a solid cover and in my opinion far better than the one used in America even though I do prefer the name The Warded Man. Hell, if you have the chance, look at the one in Japan. Hell with it, I'll snag it here.

That's a damn great cover in my opinion and the red cape makes it pop for me.

Anyway...Peter V. Brett does a great job of bringing a 'small' fantasy world to life. It's a heavy character focused setting with enough unique bits and pieces in terms of magic and monsters to keep me interested. The world is plagued by demons that rise up every night from the core to kill, well, everything.

This has a few effects on the people. In the north, a generic 'dark ages' if you will, the people hide behind 'wards' or runes that are inscribed on walls and posts and other surfaces. These wards prevent the demons from attacking. But they don't always work. Time erodes them, the posts break, a demon the ward isn't meant for shows up, natural fires happen, and other things of that nature.

The people in the north believe the best way to deal with the horror is to live their life the best they can and stay behind the wards and hope for a better tomorrow.

The people of the south? They fight. They use the wards to entrap the demons who cannot stand the light of day and die in it. The downside of this is that their population is shrinking.

Peter V Brett's novel The warded Man, brings us three main characters. The first of these I'll mention is Arlen. He admires the Messengers, specially trained individuals who move from city to city and hamlet to village in order to bring news and information. He admires them because they dare to travel, they dare to go into the night even when the demons are out and about.

Arlen's skill set and mentality make him an ideal agent of change. It is his ability to trust his fellow man, even when sometimes they have not earned it, that makes him more than just another Messenger, and eventually turns him into the Warded Man.

The second character is Rojer, an entertainer who finds himself on the road often. His own childhood one of great suffering but one that put him on a path that others have never enjoyed. He finds that his ability with music gives him power over the demons.

The last is Leesha, a healer whose mentor hints at secrets of the old world. This includes the ability to craft a 'demonfire' of sorts that is similar to alchemist fire and capable of killing wood demons. Turns out the 'wise women' were given their own set of secrets and things to carry forward until the time was right to use them in saving mankind.

Peter does a great job of bringing these characters together through the years of each of their individual lives until their lives intersect in a great battle that sets the course of future conflict with the demons.

The writing was a bit more 'on' that I'd consider most books that I'd call 'popcorn'. It was enthralling and made me want to read further. There were some bits that are a bit old hat. After all, three young people each having their coming of age isn't anything new but it's always been about how well told the tale is for me.

I'll be discussing some specifics below so if you don't want any spoilers, read no further.

1. World Building: As I mentioned up thread, the world seems small. There are essentially two cultures and one magic system that has a lot of room to expand as more is discovered about it. This narrow focus though, allows the author to focus on the characters as opposed to dragging analogs of dozens of real world historical archetypes into the setting.  When designing your own setting, put the focus where you want it at the start and build from there. If it's a Viking focused world, throwing too many other elements into the stew may ruin the flavor.

2. Character Abilities: The three main characters of this book all have special knowledge or abilities that set them outside of others. Not only that, but they have different ways of approaching things. For example, Arlen wants to kill demons. He wants to kill them so much, that when he discovers that some of the wards that were common among his town folk aren't known in the city, he decides that in order to increase everyone's knowledge, instead of selling them, they'll only be available for trade. Sounds like a wizard in a D&D campaign to me. Players are notorious for finding the 'weak' points in a game wither that's the knowledge base that they can draw from or stupid assumptions of the setting. Their own goals and ambitions may be so different that they could potentially break the setting. Run with it and see where it goes.

3. Unique words: Demon is a pretty standard word, but because they come from 'the core', the word 'core' gets used for all manner of meanings ranging from hell, to being killed by demons or cored. Having a few unique words to set the stage can be a useful thing. The old TSR/WoTC setting Planescape was notorious for it's 'chant and Thieves Tongue and pirate speak are all 'languages' that have flavor to them that can increase the mood or theme of a campaign.

The Warded Man is a solid book and I've already started The Desert Spear and am enjoying it. There's no doubt I'll be looking for the third book in the series.

The Warded Man is available from Amazon in paperback for $7.19 in mass market paperback, prime eligible, or in kindle format for $5.99.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Skull Kickers

Over on Comixology, the Image fantasy comic series Skull Kickers is on sale. What is Skull Kickers? From the site, "In Skullkickers, two hard-headed mercenaries kill monsters and cause havoc in their search for money, fame and adventure. Along the way, they'll gore goblins, smash skeletons, punch plant people and whomp werewolves. This gorgeous oversized edition, loaded with extras and rarities, follows the SKULLKICKERS through the first 12 issues of their cult hit comic series. MTV Geek names SKULLKICKERS one of their Top 10 'Best Series of 2011', Ain't It Cool News raves that 'Everyone who loves comics should buy SKULLKICKERS' and Bleeding Cool calls SKULLKICKERS 'the next CHEW.'"

I admit to being unhip with comics these days. My capacity to physically own comics is way down and I don't buy many, with the exception of say Usagi Yojimbo in trades and a few others, and rely on digital media like Comixology and Dark Horse to buy graphic novels and individual issues when they go on sale.

But Twitter was pepped about it including the artist/author of IAMARG, a webcomic I enjoy (which is running its own Kickstarter at this moment).

So I plunked down the funds for the two collected editions.

Well worth the money.

The art is fairly nice, lots of bright colors in the palette there making it remind me of Battle Chasers for some reason.

Storylines aren't bad and are quick reads for the most part following the dreaded pattern of meant for collection but broken up with some 'tavern tales' where there are multiple short stories between the longer arcs. As a comic, its a lot of fun.

The author also has some fun with it. The last few issues are all number ones and all spoofs of well loved covers and they are funny as all out. Its good to see a medium where the author 'gorks' it so to speak.

I was going to post about the Warded Man by Peter V Brett but as Skull Kickers is still on sale, though I'd point this one out first.

Heck, in terms of Appendix N, in one issue the writer talks about his enjoyment of Dungeons and Dragons and how he liked to be the guy who made everyone else around the table laugh and have a good time.

But below will be some specifics from the book and spoilers will be forthcoming so read no further if you would wish to avoid spoilers.

1. Things Don't Always Work as Planned: Early on in the series, the group encounters a necromancer controlling legions of undead with a gem. The two guys think, "Hey, destroy the gem!" and for a second, the undead drop as if their strings were cut. But then they come back stronger then before under no one's control.

2. Funny Works: In a game that is directed at 'funny', allow it to work. In one of the tales in the second volume, an ancient eldrich horror calls forth assistance that comes in the form of a kraken, because you know, they both have tentacles. But the heroes pick up the unconscious eldrich horror and bluff the kraken out in a scene that could have come from family guy so blatantly obvious is it that the horror is not the one doing the actual talking, but it works because its funny. This may require you to give the characters something like hero points or beenies that they can only use to cash in for automatic successes on funny bits.

3. Some villains are incompetent. Along the early travels, the duo encounter a caravan under attack by goblins and come to its aid but only because the goblins were doing what the duo were going to do in the first place. As a reward, the duo take a horse and some provisions. Turns out the people they saved were poisoners but not very good ones. This causes the dwarf to experience a 'bad trip' so to speak which leads to some interesting visions for the dwarf who apparently has something of a naked rampage through the night.

4. Change of Costume: One of the things I enjoy about the series is while the characters are pretty unique in their looks, their 'costumes' change. In the second collected arc for example, they are dressed up as nobles in very fine suits and the big guy gets a wig that looks hilarious. Fitting into place may mean temporarily leaving behind your own weapons and toys, but make sure you look good while you do it.

5. The Frame Job: During that time when dining with nobles, the duo are framed for murder thanks to their own quick reactions against an almost unseen enemy who is busy assassinating the nobles right in front of the duo. When the party thinks things are going to well, set up 'em and knock 'em down.

6. Strange Gifts: While fighting to prevent a city from being devoured by an ancient plant sucks blood, the big bald guy gets the ability to speak with spirits and animals and discovers this with a squirrel who he has a furious argument about which no one else understands. The ability to speak to different species has its uses later on but its initial application, such as when hearing fish taken out of water and suffocating has its draw backs as well.

I could go on and on and perhaps at a later point I'll talk some more about Skull Kickers but while it's on sale, I wanted to point it out.

For those who have the space though and want the hardcovers, oversized editions even that collect numerous graphic novels, you might want to check out where Treasure Trove 1 is $24.08 and prime eligible and Treasure Trove 2 is $22.98 and also prime eligible. If I had the space, that would've been my preference but the digital editions will do for now.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Kindle Sales redux or Amazon please stop putting stuff on sale

Sorry to spam my blog again with sales, but for some reason, has been putting a lot of kindle stuff on sale and while I'm not going too pop $8 or $10 bones down for most electronic books, when they go on sale, hey, it's go time. This time around though it's not a monthly thing or special sale, just the Gold Box Deal of the Day so act quick or they'll be gone.

The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann is one I'll pick up for the madre and take a look at it when she's done. She has a Kindle and I have a Toshiba Thrive so it's not a big deal. Historical with a touch of this and that in 18th century Sweden with a lot of high reviews for $1.99? Done.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is another one that gets a lot of praise. I've read the Odyssey and the Iliad several times so this looks like a variant on it for $1.99.

The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land I've read some material on the Crusades and have some Osprey books to work on in the subject so for $1.99 I'll take some more reference work.

There are something like 80 books there and the rest of them look like they cover a wide range of topics. Does anyone have any recommendations based on the Gold Box Deal of the Day or should those three cover it?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Storage 24

So with the death of the Legends of the Five Rings game, I'm doing some reading on my own. I like Lorefinder for the Pathfinder game engine (essentially 3.5+) but I'm so pressed for time these days, I know that the chances of me actually running something straight out of the mind are slim to none. I need some prewritten adventurers to at least germinate and steal maps and other good stuff from.

Now mind you, I may still never run anything but...

I recalled the Grey Citadel, an old Necromancer Games adventure that had some mystery, some urban exploration, and some dungeon crawling. The author put a lot of stuff in there that I enjoyed, and the old Dark Loch website still has a lot of fun free stuff on it.

While reading through the Grey Citadel and thinking of how I'd 'convert' it or add some of that Lorefinder stuff to it, I decided to flip on Netflix and watch Storage 24, Wikipedia link here. It's essentially one of those alien hunting people through dark and twisted corridor type deals. You know, like Alien, Aliens, Creature, Abyss, Leviathan, and I'm sure a ton of other movies that I'm missing.

I was surprised in that it wasn't terrible. I was expecting something to just listen to in the background while I took some campaign notes but there were a few things that that I noted that are used time and time again in horror films so thought I'd point a few of them out in case you're wanting to run some horror scenarios or at least some 'bug hunt' style games.

1. Visibility is terrible. This can range from visibility being cut off by there being no light, to visibility being blocked because there are obstacles, like say spider webs or other opaque yet light objects in the way.

2. Previous Victims: The party should find previous victims of the creature. The wounds they suffered shouldn't be noticible at first. For example, the party approaches the victim from the side or from behind and when they tap them on the shoulder, the victim falls over dead or the party member pulls a blood soaked hand back. Sometimes these victims are hidden in say, the vents or closets or some feeding area that the party may find later. The victims conditions might provide the party an idea of how large a creature their facing, how it's bite is (mandibles versus fangs for example) as well as if the creature has talons like a bear or claws like a crab.

3. Extra Characters: If it's a bug hunt, be sure to put a few munchable NPCs in the mix. Give them a little personality so that when the beast eats them, the party members are motivated to stop the creature more than they might normally be.

4. Red Herring Characters: When the party first comes across the situation, perhaps they are completely unaware that there are monsters at all and think that the murders are being caused by a madman. This can lead to some interesting scenarios and potentially the party killing an innocent person.

5.Sound Effects: Many monsters, like say Godzilla, have their own unique roar. You know when you hear the enormous roar of Godzillia well before he's seen on the screen that he's around. Have some special sound effect you can use when the players are deciding their next course of action just to let them know that the monster isn't waiting for them.

6.Larger Implications. In the movie Storage 24, even as the characters inside are fighting for their lives, there are hints of something much larger going on in the background. When the plane carrying the alien first fails, there are special agents on the scene. There are a lot of military on the scene. When the characters catch news of the plane crash, they see that the city is filled with military and more is incoming. When the movie finally ends? The city is under attack by aliens in spaceships. Yeah, the movie went there. But in other movies, like Alien or Aliens, there are other things afoot that the characters may not initially realize. After all, Ripley didn't know about the Corporate uses for the alien until later, after the android on the ship almost killed her, and of course in the sequel when she's betrayed again to the corporation's needs.

7. Creature abilities. One of the reasons why you want to throw the lights out on the characters is that often, the creature has much better senses than those it hunts. It may see in the dark, it may not have eyes at all. It may have movement abilities that make it so that it can easily outrun any person or even car.

8. The Roof! In many of these style movies, the first thing that happens is someone is looking down at some blood dripping from... somewhere and then they get it into their heads to look up and wham! That sucker can stick to the walls and move through the vents like they were going out of style.  Giving the creature movement abilities means more than just making it faster than the characters.

9. Limited Room to Maneuver. In some games, characters can become powerful very fast. In some situations though, your ability to navigate is negated by not being able to move. For example, if you have to crawl through sewer pipes or through air ducts or vents or narrow hallways. The standard might be limited the types of weapons the characters can use as well as giving them the same penalty they might suffer as if they were prone.

Storage 24 isn't going to win any movie awards but its not a bad movie and hits all of the 'standard' bug hunt features tackled above as well as some interpersonal drama that if you can't figure out in the first few moments of the movie, aren't really paying attention.

And Thus Dieth Legend of the Five RIngs

One of the things I've tried to do more in 2014 is play more.

My friends at the end of 2013 had just seen the movie 47 Ronin and loved the visuals, sound, action, and other bits.

This lead them to play Legend of the Five Rings.

I got in one game as a Scorpion Samurai and was promptly killed, but life is hard in the Empire so I took it in stride. In honor or a recently deceased director of the kung fu genre, I made my next character a Dragon Monk and was anxious to play again.

Then the weather turned against me after driving my mom all around the city so I didn't go that week.

Then my sister was in town and...

And then we had some more crappy weather in Chicago...

So long story short, I've missed three games and during that time +Tom Wright , the GM of the game decided that the awesome bits of 47 Ronin weren't translating well to the game.

Thankfully I only have the electronic version of Legend of the Five Rings as if I'd purchased the physical copy specifically for the game I'd be a little peeved. It's an expensive book after all and space at the old apartment is still at a premium.

Now they're going with a combo New World of Darkness bit. Sigh.

The perils of modern gaming.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Gathering Dark: Ice Age Cycle Book I by Jeff Grub

Another victory form Half Priced Books, The Gathering Dark is a Magic the Gathering Novel that kicks off the Ice Age Cycle and is written by Jeff Grub. This falls firmly into what I call the 'popcorn' novels. Note I do not say this with disdain. I've read many of the Magic the Gathering novels and enjoyed quite a few of them. Another factor in this book's favor, is it's Jeff Grubb.

Jeff Grubb should be familiar to you if you've played 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons. Heck, he should be familiar to you if you've played second edition Dungeons and Dragons. I believe he had more than a hand in writing for DC Comics doing an official Dungeons and Dragons comic with a great cast and crew. One of his oldest books I remember reading, and I want to say it was in high school which puts it in the 'dark ages' is Azure Bonds, which is still available in kindle format but no in any dead tree edition.

I am surprised to note though, that many of the Magic the Gathering novels, are out of print, as are many of the Forgotten Realms novels. Good news though if you have 'new' copies of those books is that they are apparently selling for a small fortune, or at least the Magic the Gathering novels are. Sell 'em if you got 'em!

Anyway, The Gathering Dark was purchased for the princely sum of $1 from the spinner rack at Half Priced Books and I've owned it for several years. As time moves on though and I look at my various piles of books and miscellanea, I'm trying to work my way through it and knew that this was probably going to be a quick and enjoyable read as many of Jeff's books are.

And I was right.

This is more or less a coming of age story for Jodah, who at first appears to be little more than a hedge mage with a hedge mage master.  Like many such tales, it includes its share of loss, exploration, character growth, and an open ending that leads to the next book. Note that the material is fairly self contained and Jeff does a good job explaining how the colors of Magic work as well as how mana is pulled. It even reminds me a little of D&D spellcasting in terms of 'losing' memories until they can charge up again.

Among the cast of characters we have those who fall into potential mentors and betrayers, those who are friends and allies, and those who Jodah meets and moves past as his time in certain chapters of his life is blissfully short.

If you're looking for a quick read, The Gathering Dark is well told and while done in one, leads to other books in the series.

Below I'll be talking about some spoilers so if you'd rather have none of that, read no further.

1. Organizations: The Church of Tal is a religious organization that persecutes those who practice the arts of magic. This organization is large enough to have presence in many cities and villages and serves many functions including peace brokers and teachers. Its main use here though is to act as an antagonist to Jodah and the other mages around him. Organizations in your campaign setting should serve purpose. For example, the Conclave and the City of Shadows are both places where mages go and learn their craft, but each have far different methods about them. Jeff does a great job of noting that most 'mage schools' are 'cults of personalities' and are based and held together by one strong personality. In some ways it reminds me of martial arts in signature moves and things of that nature.

2. Character Drive: One of the things about Jodah is that he is not necessarily setting out to be a hero, but doesn't like not helping people, especially those in dire circumstances, when he has the ability to do something about it. In some role playing games, this knack or compulsion or drive might be something to resist and it's something the GM should use to help build the player's character and provide elements that are beyond the world of hack and slash so to speak.

3. Timing. This one is far more tricky. Jodah is sought after by his friend and mentor and also by the Church which wishes to kill him. As that is going on, he is in the middle of some very difficult issues of his own. Jeff Grubb manages to bring all these elements into play at one point in time and the impact of all the things hitting at once is greater than if they just happened one at a time. If you can arrange it so that things at least appear to flow organically the world will seem larger then just the portion that the players are directly involved in.

Magic the Gathering continues to have a ton of novels and resources dedicated to it and fans are fortunate in that some of them are good.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Attack of the Ghost Ship With Cannibal Rats!

Sometimes you just can't make this stuff up.

A ship that underwent a lot of failure prior to being launched out to sea to die.

A ship that is host to rats that cannibalize each other.

A ship falling apart into the ocean but still in one piece.

A ship that may hit a major land mass and disgorge its contents upon the unsuspecting populace!

While the real life version will be annoying as hell I'm sure, I'm also sure that if they know it's going to hit land that they'll do a lot of clean up.

But that could very well be the whole setup for a movie like say "Alien" where the crew is sent in for a standard clean up and it turns out to be much worse than people initially though.

In fantasy or science fiction campaigns, the amount of things that could be on such a 'dead' or ghost ship is almost limitless. The thing here though, is that unlike say Space Hulk, here the object is threatening to crash into an inhabited area. Imagine a Death Watch setting where for whatever reason, a Space Hulk manages to actually crash into an inhabited area? Yeah, little bit different scenario.

Ah reality, never stop ceasing to amaze us!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Kindle Strikes Again

Not that long ago, had a nice sale on their kindle books. It includes some books on history and computer programming that I was quite to buy. If funds were permissible, I would have bought more.

Turns out must have enjoyed the sale as well because they're doing it again. I was disappointed thought that the pickings didn't seem quite so good this time, although I did find a few books that weren't in the sale that were also inexpensive so I'm throwing some links to them as well.

The Last Kingdom Bernard Cornwell : I enjoy a lot of Bernard Cornwell's historical materials. This is one of his 'Saxon' tales and it's running for $2.99 on the kindle format.

The Burning Land Bernard Cornwell: Another book in the Saxon tales, and this one for only $1.99. That's a good deal.

The Winter King Bernard Cornwell: This is Bernard covering King Arthur in a historical style and context. I blogged about it and enjoyed the trilogy.  $2.99 in kindle format.

The Books of Blood - Volume 1 Clive Barker wrote some great short stories here and I've owned a few versions in paperback. I skipped out on this one though because I have a Kindle and you can borrow it. Otherwise, in kindle format it's $2.99.

The Greek Myths Robin Waterfield looks to be another solid book on Greek mythology. I haven't read this one yet. Listed at $1.99.

After Tamerlane John Darwin a book focusing on empire building after 1405. I keep meaning to get back to it as I've had it 'forever' it seems. Currently going for $1.99

There are several other books that look interesting, but I'm afraid I haven't gotten halfway through the books from last sale.

Did anyone pick up anything from either sale particularly worth reading? Good stuff? Overpriced even at $2.99?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

City of Sorcery by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Rare is the time when I’ve read a book with more titles and subtitles. I think this is just ‘City of Sorcery’, written by Marion Zimmer Bradely, but it’s also got the Darkover trade dress and under that The Renunciates (Free Amazons).
This copy is from 1984 and comes in at $5.99. I’m sure most paperbacks these days easily hit the $9.99 mark. I bought it from Half-Priced books, off of the dollar spinner racks. It was well worth the dollar. Looking over Amazon, it’s only available from third party sellers at this time, with no Kindle version. Now that’s a shame as one of the things I’d love to see e-books used for, is the restoration of so much of the ‘lost’ fantasy books that fail to stay in print.             
If you’re looking for a fantasy book with some science fiction elements, the Darkover book should hold your attention. If you’re looking for a fantasy book with a lot of strong female characters, City ofSorcery again has you covered.
I haven’t read any of the Darkover books in easily twenty years. I was never a huge fan to begin with but do remember reading a few of them and just never getting into it or keeping up with it. For its time I assume it was successful due to the sheer number of books in the series.
The majority of the novel tackles exploration of the ‘Hellers’, an unexplored region of Darkover. This exploration takes the form of fighting the elements, fighting against fatigue, fighting against altitude, fighting against a village where strangers are welcomed, and then drugged to make the murder of them easier.
Depending on the game system you’re playing, this could be a fun thing or a terrible thing. One of the things I loved about 3rd edition, and the OLG, is that it allowed settings like Midnight from FFG, to flourish. There were a lot of fantastic elements in the dark fantasy game, and fighting against the elements just for survival was high on the list.
But that was my least favorite aspect of the game. I didn’t want to take subdual damage or have to keep track of it or have to keep making saving throws or customize my character just to survive the wilds.
On the other hand, games like The One Ring, do a fantastic job of providing some penalties for failure to make a ‘travel’ skill check. It uses a few roles that have to be filled and these checks can be complicated by failure or rolling the ‘eye’ on the d12. The results of failure vary but can include losing health to encountering monsters to added travel time.
This matches well with the movies where the journey is often one of the more dangerous aspects of the characters trails. In City of Sorcery, there is a ‘big bad’ at the end, but her powers and abilities rely on having those around her to carry out her will in addition to her own knowledge base and powers. While she’s a danger to the characters, she’s not necessarily as terrible as the trials that got the characters to the location to begin with.
I find that 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons, with its skill check system, also allows a great deal of ability to customize the travel times as well as the meetings between characters and leaders of towns.  This is another strength of The One Ring where important meetings between the characters and NPCs to gather information is easy to play out.
 City of Sorcery is not heavy on action, is not heavy on sword and sorcery, but is heavy on character and exploration.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Look what's shipping: Premium Original Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game (D&D Boxed Game)

As a certain Professor would say, "Good news everybody."

In this case, my Amazon order for the Premium Original Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game (D&D Boxed Game) reprint of the original, or at least some of the original Dungeons and Dragons material, has shipped.

I know a lot of people put in orders to Amazon for this product and were annoyed, at best, with the numerous delays.

For me, I had the opportunity to cancel. I know a few people over on did so and ordered it from Barnes & Nobles online and have already had it for a week or more.

But since my playing schedule is erratic at best, I didn't see any need to make a big deal of it. If it shipped, great. If it didn't, I could always save the money.

For those who don't know what's in this reprint, taken from the Amazon page itself:

A premium, deluxe edition of the Original D&D® "White Box"!
It's the original Dungeons & Dragons game, packed with more content than ever before.

The original Dungeons & Dragons boxed set was published by TSR, Inc. in 1974 and was the very first roleplaying game, introducing concepts that have persisted throughout later editions. It included three small rules booklets in a white box.

This deluxe, premium reprint of the original "White Box" features new packaging and includes the following seven booklets:

 Volume 1: Men & Magic
 Volume 2: Monsters & Treasure
 Volume 3: Underworld & Wilderness Adventures
 Supplement I: Greyhawk
 Supplement II: Blackmoor
 Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry
 Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes

Each booklet features new cover art, while the interior retains nostalgic original art. Booklets are packaged in an engraved illustrated wooden storage case.

So for those who kept their orders at Amazon, have you got a shipping notice yet? Are you looking forward to having it as a bit of nostalgia or are you going to play with the rules? For me, it's definatly nostalgia. My limited time and my friends bouncing from system to system makes it difficult for me to schedule something like this in when they're chomping at the bit to run Numera and other new games.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

From Ashes to Ashes to Diamonds

I enjoy reading a variety of things ranging from discovering underwater cities in the modern era, to discovery of mass graveyards due to drug wars and other bits that might be considered either morbid or useless.

I do this because they are fuel for the imagination. You either have precedent for something happening, or you have new information coming to light.

Among the resources I follow, is good old NPR.

Their latest article discusses turning human remains and ashes into diamonds using a process similar to that used by the earth itself.

I can't imagine any roleplaying game that doesn't automatically have potential for such a thing.

In modern and post modern games, like all remains of loved ones, the objects become objects of worth not necessarily based on their monetary gain, but their sentimental gain. Depending on the wealth of the individual making the stone, there could be real value involved with it.

Players in a Cyberpunk 2020 game could be hired to retrieve such a diamond or steal one.

In a fantasy game, it should be obvious that there are a ton of possibilities for such a use.

For example, what if this was an old preservation process? Imagine a ten thousand year old diamond found that contains the remains of a powerful sorcerer or warrior whose techniques made him invincible on the field. Perhaps the forging of people's ashes into this type of diamond negates the aging process for things like raise dead or resurrection spells.

There are other potential uses such as ioun stones. Perhaps ioun stones are actually made in this method using different types of creature's ashes.

Other magic items could be applicable as well. Anything that is a gem could be forged in this manner.

Cursed items? What if a lich uses such a stone as his hiding place? What if a gem is haunted by a ghost or some other type of malign intelligence?

Diamonds just went from being 'only' a rare piece of jewelry to potential magic.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

English Longbowman 1330-1515

English Longbowman 1330-1515, written by Clive Bartlett and illustrated by Gerry Embleton, is one of the Osprey Publishing Warrior series that has seen print on and off through the years. Strangely, the book is currently out of print and I didn't see a Kindle version available from Amazon.

I tend to enjoy this smaller book by Osprey because they tend to have great artist, and the writers tend to put a lot of diverse information, not all of it necessarily with laser like focus on the actual subject but of the time period itself.

The front cover is a combination of pieces from the interior with the left side archer being one of two archers in the actual picture in the book, and the equipment on the right being roughly half a page worth of equipment from a two-page spread of archer equipment in the interior. If you enjoy the cover, you'll appreciate the interior. Gerry Embleton has a nice 'realistic' style.

Gerry does several internal illustrations that bring to life the subject matter in a wide variety of scenes. In one, the archers are practicing their craft. In another, English Longbowmen are fighting their German allies. According to the plate information, this happened from time to time because the German forces wouldn't listen to anyone else.

In another one, soldiers catch a bowyer making bows after dark. And this is forbidden because quality may suffer. In the dark ages before modern electricity, working in the dark was not conducive to quality materials and goods. As these were weapons made for war, it was vital that they be at their highest quality.

The other nice thing is that Gerry also does several internal black and white illustrations. These help further provide details on what archers wore, such as different hats and boots. It provides the reader with an idea of the variety to be found in even these old times.

In terms of roleplaying games, there are often things that spring to mind when reading these books that I try to make a note of to add to my rpgs.

For example, a big part of the potential pay for any English Longbowman, is in plunder and prisoners. Of the plunder, a certain percent is supposed to be kicked up the chain of command, and then higher until it gets to the king. Of the prisoners, depending on that status, the soldier may ransom them back, or they may have to give them to the higher ranking officers for a flat reward.

That part there had adventurers written all over it. I can easily see a group of adventurers capturing a high placed noble. A person of such rank and prestige that they should give him over to their superiors but in many games I've witnessed, player's greed tends to make them take chances that might not always be the wisest. There are all sorts of possibilities in terms of what can they do with such a person, how do they keep him under lock and key? How do they keep him safe? How do they keep others from discovering him?

This doesn't count just regular plunder. One of the notes in the book is that one of the greatest achievements during the wars with France was the movement of so much French wealth back to England. It notes that most wives and households of soldiers had some part of France's wealth decorating it ranging from fur coats and tables to plates and of course, jewelry.

For other role playing bits, there is good old superstition always at work. Soldiers and their commanders would carry certain tokens around with them in order to guarantee victory or survival. One English commander is reputed to have "carried a good-luck token for the whole army in the shape of the banner of St. Cuthbert." Nothing like seeing historical characters and those that have been incorporated into the game's founding meet like that. The Banner of St. Cuthbert might even be a real magic item.

Another interest facet of archers, is that they didn't have a lot of quivers doing on. They often kept the arrows pushed through their belt or in a sack. Gives different opportunities for belts to have abilities that they might not normally be associated with.

One of the problems though when looking at books like this, is they tend to focus on the type of soldier as part of an army. In most role playing games, the players are usually controlling one character at a time. But it does provide you with some ideas if you're running a war. For example, the archers, while not as heavily armed or armored as other soldiers, often found behind staked ground. This prevented knights from charging them. Little details like that can go a long way.

If you're playing an archer like character, from his own experience, he might know to make use of terrain so that the enemy has a harder time getting to him.

Even when it comes to naming conventions, the 'longbow' is called a warbow because they were constructed in mass quantities for wartime and used in wars. It might not change the equipment in the Player's Handbook for example, but if the players start talking about the qualities of their warbows as opposed to longbows, it gives them a more personalized touch.

One thing the book notes, is the importance of having a 'higher' allegiance. It mentions this not as die hard fanatics or anything of that nature, but the willingness to stand and die down to a man for a cause. It assumes a chain of loyalty ranging from the common soldier to his commander, from his commander up the chain of command to the king, and then even to the land itself, to England. This patriotism could be a trait for characters or loyalty to their allies and friends or to the king. Providing characters hooks to the setting can be easy if they are willing to have their characters invest in something outside of themselves.

Monday, January 13, 2014

47 Ronin by Mike Richardson Stan Sakai

Dark Horse comics publishes a lot of non-superhero comics that I enjoy. Last year during the old 'Black Friday' bit, they have their annual half-off sale. I picked up the 47 Ronin in digital comic format. Written by Mike Richardson and illustrated by Stan Sakai, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

Mind you, that's not true in the art department. I've written about Stan Sakai and his long eared wandering ronin Usagi Yojimbo many times before. But Mike RIchardson wasn't as familiar to me. Still, it's a fairly well known historical tale, and Dark Horse's website is generally nice in that they often have a multiple page preview for all the digital comics they sell. Looking through those previews, I felt pretty secure that it would be a 'safe buy'.

And it was.

47 Ronin provides a much more grounded and historical version of events that Keanu Reeves recently brought back to theaters in a semi-fantasy, semi-westernized style.

Here there is no magic needed for the assault. Here there is no need for a half-breed of magical nature to assist in the taking of vengeance. Here there is no love story. Or at least no love story between a princess and her servant.

Instead we see 47 loyal ronin, loyal beyond all sense of the word, who are determined to avenge what they see as a wrongdoing to their lord regardless of the personal cost. This cost comes in many forms ranging from their personal honor, to their status that they could have had even as ronin. As they know this is a death sentence, it also costs those who decided to have families that opportunity to live outside their lord.

It's well told and takes its time. We see the general plan and the specifics that each character goes through. We see the fall from grace, we see the rise of a force capable of laying siege to a powerful merchant. We see the end result which is almost universally the same.

Mike Richardson did a fantastic job in the telling of 47 Ronin and I'll be keeping an eye out for anything else he does of this nature even as I wait for the next graphic novel of Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai, which according to Amazon, is a while in coming and is title, Usagi Yojimbo Volume 28: Red Scorpion.

All good and well said, but what does that have to do with role playing?

1. Lead by Example: One of the things I unfortunately see often as both a player and a GM, is that the GM has expectation X and the players have expectation Y. Sometimes this happens even after they talk about the concepts of the game. This generally happens a lot with superhero settings. Older readers often think that the games are going to reflect the comics where characters are generally law-abiding heroes who don't kill. Younger ones who grew up with Image in the 90's, or heck, even with movies, don't necessarily see anything wrong with massive property damage, lose of civilian life, or killing your enemies en mass. By providng material, either in movies or in other media, such as comics, the players and game master can have a clearer understanding of what they are expecting the game to actually play as. If someone said, "I want to play 47 Ronin" and meant the latest movie as opposed to someone who read the historical based comic, there would be some issues.

2. Lawful Villains have allies: Sometimes you just want to take your katana and strike a merchant dog down in the presence of the shogun. Well, that's not necessarily a good idea because that villain has a son married into a very powerful family and hey, even if he deserved to be struck down from behind like a dog, those other people aren't going to have their name, and their honor dragged through the mud. Their not going ot take the chance that someone will be sympathetic to the poor good guy's tale of woe and suffering. No, their going to buy that guy with every force at their disposal as quickly and inhumanely as possible. When designing your villains, don't forget their network.

This network may not even be one that they sought out. For example, a rogue elf may have a half elf son who feels determined to protect his father regardless of the cost and that half elf is married into a very powerful merchant family who can hire the most dangerous defenders and mercenaries in the land. In a fantasy RPG, that might even include assassins to hunt the players down before they get their bearings.

At that point, what would characters do? The source of their enemy's power isn't actually the enemy, but perhaps a non-evil individual who simply doesn't want to see his relative killed.

3. Suicide Mission: Sometimes you have to take one for the team. Sometimes the team has to take one for the boss. If there is absolutely no chance of winning, or at least living and winning, this should be something that is clear to the players at the start of the campaign. If the GM has poisoned the characters and they only have X amount of hours to live, a popular plot device, or that if the players going on with their course of action because that's what they're meant to do, such as say Rosach from the Watchmen, they should know ahead of time that it's death to do so.

This doesn't mean a bad role playing session though. It might be best for a one shot or a limited campaign, but there can be powerful action scenes, there can be allies gained and lost, there can be vast treasures gambled and earned. It's just your going to die.

Knowing that ahead of time may make some players bold. It may give them role playing opportunities that they've never engaged in before.

47 Ronin by Mike Richardson and Stan Sakai has a lot going for it and is well worth a read.

47 Ronin is available at Dark Horse over here in electronic format with the individual issues running about $3.99 each, each one with a preview, and is available from over here in hardcover format for $14.99, a $5.00 savings form the cover price.

For those who've read the Dark Horse comic, do you have a particular scene that stands out? A particular bit that you'd like to bring to your RPG?

For those who've read other accounts of the 47 Ronin, is there a particular version you'd recommend? I picked up two of them immediately after seeing the movie in kindle format, and have an old hardcover with other stories in it, as well an Osprey book I want to get to.

The 47 Ronin is a tale with a lot of elements to it that historically bears retelling in one form or another.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

Fantasy Novel Review

When I initially read, novel, The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski, I wasn't overly impressed. I don't know if it was the translation, the short story format, or just the writer getting to the introduction parts of his world and characters but it struck me as rather mediocre. Unfortunately for me, I had already purchased the Blood of Elves in kindle format when it was on sale. I figured I'd already read the first book, might as well plow through the second.

It was the right call. Blood of Elves is a much better book than the Last Wish. I don't know what the author Andrzej Sapkowski did between the books, or if the company found a better translator or what, but it is head and shoulders above the previous book.

The book's title, Blood of Elves, is a bit of a play on words. I initially thought it would be something about the sacrifice of elves in that the world had passed them by and it was their time to move on. And in part, that element is there. But more than that, it's the bloodline of elves. In the Witcher's setting, many individuals have the blood of elves in their heritage. Many can claim lineage to the elves.

It uses a lot of the material set up in The Last Wish, but isn't overly reliant on the reader having read that book. Instead it does a lot of subtle world building by allowing various factions and personalities from different regions and races to air out their world points which provides the reader with a lot of background and detail as to what the current state of the world is.

In doing so, it provides the reader with clearer understandings of the various characters including Geralt, the Witcher, an albino who was raised from an orphan, as are all witchers, to be a slayer of monsters. There are other cast members we are introduced to, including Ciri, who is a 'Surprise Child' which has a faerie tale quality to it. A Surprise Child is one conceived of when a favor is granted and payment is allowed to be anything. Very similar to King Arthur's own tale in the movie Excalibur. 

Many members of the cast make appearances here including Dandelion, a poet, bard, performer who acts as part time spy for his country, as well as being a friend to the Witcher himself. In some ways, he reminds me of a 'Companion' style character popular in Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion series. He's useful, but can't compare to the main cast so to speak.

The only problem with the book, is that it knows it's part of a series. While you wouldn't have to read any books previous to it to enjoy it, it ends on an obvious cliffhanger. This isn't something I'm fond of because there have been books by Ryamond Feist that just ended when things were 'getting good' and I was furious because at that time, I was reading them as they were coming out.

For those interested in the works of Andrzej Sapkowski, we have the following:

Blood of Elves in Paperback for under $8.00.

Blood of Elves in kindle format for under $7.00. 

Below I'll be discussing some of the specifics of fantasy novel Blood of Elves and how it might work in your own games.


Geralt is a Witcher. We find out more about these characters here. They were originally orphans taken in and trained at a citadel. They were subject to magic, training, and specific diet to augment their abilities. Some of this training is physical and martial related. Some of it is magical and spell related. All of it on the focus of destroying monsters.

Initially I thought that such a concept might be a prestige or paragon path, but after seeing that the changes are permanent and that the effects include things like reduced aging and augment physical abilites from the schooling, it would seem to be more of a core class or at least a rational for why a core class might have such abilities. Depending on the campaign, for example, in an OSR style game and designing your own classes, something done a bit in the Player's Companion to Adventurer Conqueror King, you might try to restrict players from taking a 'powerful' class by having very high requirements to get in. This in short was the method that the official Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game used to limit say the number of Paladins in a game.

The thing that shines through in the Witcher though, is that a specific class has specific elements to it. In this case, the witcher's training ground and home has been destroyed prior to the start of the novel. This limits any new witchers from being fully changed as those that were not there and did survive, do not have the knowledge base on how to craft the alchemical drugs needed to physically transform any students they do have. 

Despite their foundation being destroyed though, most of them shown here are loyal to the cause and the idea. They do not hold with the idea of working for a specific country or place. Geralt even talks about the world failing and in the ruins of that new world, fighting and killing monsters until one of them kills him. It's good character depth and motivation.

World Building

At the start of the novel, a group of various individuals ranging from merchants and wizards to kings and advisors, are listening to an entertainer. After the tale of the entertainer, they begin to speak about the things in the tale and assigning specific names to things only hinted at by the speaker.

In the modern era, there may be a certain assumption of knowledge. You can know what's happening in your town, your city, you state, your country, your hemisphere. Knowledge is deep and detailed. Things can be verified and cross checked. The request for information are instant.

In most fantasy settings, even those with wizards and other methods of circumventing the perils of long term travel, this is not true. The people on the next horizon might be completely unknown. Historically groups like the Mongols seemed to arise from nothing and nowhere because no one had really investigated and more importantly, made that knowledge widely known.

Throw red herrings into the campaign when you can because chances of everyone knowing everything? Slight to non-existent in those times characters find themselves part of. 

Character Knowledge

On the other hand, don't be afraid to give the players specific knowledge that is not common. Allow them to know things that even the so called professionals are wrong on. In the novel, Geralt is amused by a scholar who is speaking to him of certain types of creatures and how something Geralt is talking about, simply cannot exist. Of course when Geralt is proven correct, the scholar quickly changes his mind.

Giving players specific knowledge based on their profession or actual personal experiences gives them a reward beyond magic and gold. It is information that they might be able to trade with others of their profession or use to get into guilds or companies.


There are numerous other bits that show up in the Blood of Elves that make for some potential good gaming.

For example, on rivers, borders might be a bit difficult to detect and enforce. When certain trade goods are taxed or banned outright, will characters claim the law on their side if on a watery surface and claim the tariffs were unfairly enforced?

Factions within Factions: The 'wild' demihumans believe that they are fighting for their freedom. They have been roused to action by outside agencies. Those agencies aren't too concerned for their welfare. This leads the 'wild' races of elf, dwarf, and gnome, to fight against those living within and working within the human kingdoms, leading some of the human kingdoms to closely question, and set up tests of loyalty for those races. A situation in which there can be no clear winners. 

Blood of Elves is a strong fantasy novel and far ahead of The Last Wish. After I finish wadding through some of my other back log of books, I'll be sure to return to the next novel in the series. Hell, I might even pick up the computer game by that time.

If you enjoyed my ramblings, please +1, share, and ask questions or comments on your own enjoyment/dislike of the book.