Saturday, September 17, 2016

Liar's Blade by Tim Pratt (Appendix N Edition)

Below I'll be talking about some of the things I found in Liar's Blade that I think would make for good gaming material.

First off, you've got Rodrick and his talking sword, Hrym to start with. They could make dubious allies or the players could be looking to learn something from them. In Liar's Blade itself, the duo initially thinks they've been hired to be bodyguards but their employer knows right off the bat that they are thieves and con men. No reason why the players wouldn't know either.

Next, you've got Hrym, a talking sword with numerous magical abilities. One of the problems with gaming is the need to codify everything. It's a natural need as in playing a game, rules are handy to have around.

At the same time, they can kill the fun. You don't want something that the players can abuse left and right with minutia, which they tend to, but by tying the abilities into a separate entity, in this case, an intelligent sword, you've got the fun stuff that can make ice bridges and spare the Rodrick from extreme cold, as well as something that doesn't just go, "Yeah, freeze the blood in everything around us."

Another benefit of a magic sword that talks, is that it allows the Game Master to have a presence in the game that he can feed the players useful and not-so-useful information. After all, there's nothing to say that an intelligent sword doesn't have its own agenda or can't be wrong just because it's an intelligent sword.

Third, don't overprepare. Rodrick and his talking sword cover a lot of ground in this novel. They meet Sword Lords, travel through the River Kingdoms, and do some deep lake exploration. If you as the Game Master has spent a long time making numerous encounters in each location and place that the characters have stopped, you might be upset that they haven't had all of the encounters you've mapped out.

It's a rock and a hard place situation. I've been in games where it was clear that the game master had no idea what was supposed to happen next. They had no monsters ready. They had no NPC's ready. It was a sit-down and well, we'll figure something out.

If you're sharp on your feet and can quickly change up the pace, this is not a problem.

Most people won't admit it, but they are generally not that guy. Have your stat blocks, have a flow chart of how you're expecting the adventure to go, have some 'generic' encounters that you can slide into the campaign at any time, but don't plan each and every second out of the game because it's not all going to be used. Make sure you've left yourself enough wiggle room to handle something that happens in the campaign.

Fourth, use false employers. Most players are not self-directed. They don't decide, "Hey, today we're going to do X." Mind you that might just be a scenario that happens because they don't have the information themselves to go do X. Player's usually have plenty of motivation.

But false employers are those who hire the players for X and instead, it's actually Y that the players are doing.

And when you use this little gem, the double cross, don't be afraid to switch it up. Have the characters guarding some shady individuals who are actually up to good. Perhaps the players have been hired to guard a few halflings who happen to have a magical cure for the disease rampaging across the region but need guards because they are being hunted down.

Liar's Blade provides a lot of entertainment and is a quick read for those looking to explore the Pathfinder setting proper.