Showing posts with label Jose Villarrubia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jose Villarrubia. Show all posts

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Conan: Black Colossus Volume 8

Recently I was at Half Price Books when they were having one of their sales. In this instance, it was 50% off on a Sunday so I picked up this volume of Conan for like a fiver. From what I know, there are already several volumes past this one but I'll have to wait for the store to have it in stock and for another sale. Thankfully one of those criteria will be met tomorrow and I'll have to see if the other is when I go there.

And sorry if I'm pitching out so many of those mini-notes on the Conan books but while I've got some time off, I figured I'd better take advantage of it.

In the collected Conan comics that make up volume 8, Timothy Truman is joined by Tomas Giorello and Jose Villarrubia. This collection features a new telling of Black Colossus which has had a few interpretations over the years.

One of the biggest problems this volume faces is found in the early version with art by John Buscema. His line work is fantastic. It's not that the artists here are bad mind you. The artist who does the chapter breaks, Joseph Michael Linser, is top notch and I'd love to see him fully illustrate some Conan.

John's artwork though, is gigantic in scope. From the first page of the original, where Shevatas a thief stands on an outcropping of rock locking over the ruins of Kutchemes, the tone is set. In the new version... it's almost a little too carton like in scope in terms of the line work. It's too bright, too vivid. John's artwork relies on the almost impossible to appreciate details he puts into it. His pages are often packed with illustrations while the new volume uses pages like they were going out of style.

Now mind you, that may be part of the whole publishing bit. When stories like this are told for today's audience, the intent is usually to collect them which requires a certain number of pages and issues to do so. John didn't necessarily have to worry about that and may have had to ram the page with art.

The good news though, is the new version is actually more... useful for mining for role playing ideas. It has a few things that I've mentioned are useful to gaming before. For example, Conan has work as a mercenary. His patron keeps him around because he's the best swordsman he has. Sounds like something players would fall into with their unusual skill sets.

In addition, dreams are a part of the scenario here. The princess who hires the mercenaries Conan is allied with is haunted by visions of a sorcerer who desires her for his queen. She on the other hand seeks out wisdom in the temple of Mirtra and is provided instruction. Dreams and the messages of the gods working their ways on the campaign may seem a bit high fantasy for a Conan tale but they're in both versions. Visions and omens from the gods and supernatural elements shouldn't be overlooked as ways to hint at things.

Conan also discovers that working for mercenaries means that there are those who might not like a potential threat to the status quo. In this case, he makes an enemy of a fellow officer who causes a bit of trouble for him. Having rivals that the party members can't simply kill right away due to time or circumstance can add a level of pressure to the players as they have more things to take into account when they make their plans.

Speaking of that circumstance, having something ready and on hand to throw into the campaign to keep it moving is always a good idea. When the mercenaries here are at rest, Conan's patron finds out that they're not getting paid and so that leads to the mercenaries sacking the town and then moving on. Be prepared to move the adventure forward and push the players so that they're not always just sitting around waiting for the next mission.

In terms of my biggest fault with the new version here, is something that probably wouldn't hurt to throw in the campaign every now and again just to add that dreaded 'realism' to the setting. In this collection, the sorcerer who survived three thousand years and the sacking of his own city, loses his powers because he was so focused on getting his queen that he failed to abide by the terms of his pact with his demon god Set. Love makes people do crazy things. Throwing some weakness like this into your master villain can make them more interesting and rounded.

Conan: Cimmeria Volume 7

So we get Timothy Truman, Tomas Giorello, Richard Corben and Jose Villarrubia this time around for the collection from Dark Horse Comics, Conan: Cimmeria Volume 7.  There's some great art this time around as Conan learns, as others before him have, that you can't go home again.This volume felt... cleaner than previous ones. While there is some callback to other events and events here do become incorporated into the ongoing bit in their own way, the whole felt more accessible and stood on its own.

The art is top notch as well. Richard Corben does a bang up job of bringing the adventures of Conan's grand father, the one who in many ways set him on his path, to fantastic light with great coloring to provide some differences between the 'current' story and the flash backs.

In terms of adventure seeds, alas, much of it is old ground.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished versus Rewarding Good Behavior. On the one hand, you don't want a campaign to become stagnant and only have elements flow in one direction. The world is larger than the characters, larger than the current backgrounds. Those who adventure forth without bothering to learn legend and lore may find themselves stepping into deep waters.

In this instance, Conan's grandfather interrupts a ritual where a mother is slain and her two children are about to be. Turns out those kids were werewolves but the twist is that one of them is 'good' and the other bad. The further twist? Turns out that it's not the wolf that makes the one rogue, but his humanity. O the irony eh?

The other one, the 'good' one, winds up saving Conan and relates that tale to him, even coming back later to provide further assistance.

Giving the game layers and multiple options, allowing it to evolve based on the player's actions, even when their good intentions have bad results, should effect different parts of the campaign differently. Those that are pragmatic and suffer thanks to the players actions may think of them as foolish do gooders who aren't ready for the world. Those that are always on the side of right and righteous may want to take them under their own wing, may want to provide them their own tales and background of how decisions they themselves made went wrong and how they are seeking to undo those negative effects now. Not only does that provide the players an option to bond with some non--player characters, but it also allows the Game Master to sprinkle campaign lore and legend through the use of the NPCs.

I mentioned that this book isn't heavy with ties to previous material. On the other hand, Conan comes across Caollan, his first lover, in chronological order, introduced in the collection Conan 0 although I think printing wise that comes later. The ability for writers of all material to invent the past is one that can be useful when adding details to NPCs and cities and other elements of a campaign. Tread carefully when doing so with the players though. It doesn't hurt to ask a player if they mind you doing X and adding it to the campaign. Many will look forward to seeing what you do but some are very protective of every aspect of their character.

In addition to Caollan though, she is being hunted by Horsa, one of the Aesir who Conan claims to know. Now on one hand, this provides a bit of deeper context to the fighting Conan does and Conan, while I won't say goes out of his way NOT to kill Horsa, it does provide some interesting things to consider when running a campaign. For instance, if two friends come across each other at opposite ends, how far will they go? Will one drop the job? Will they both try to finish it without getting in each other's way? Will they go straight for each other's throat? The impact shouldn't be limited to just that incident though.

For example, if the players are known for being ruthless to former allies, what will future allies think of that? Some may find it appropriate and be prepared for future eventualities including meeting the players again. Allow things to evolve organically.

For the environment, Conan winds us using some weakened ice to escape some pursuit on a narrow ledge. In another instance, to prevent himself from being surrounded, Conan retreats into a cave and the cave ends in a massive cavern that is covered in pitch. Pitch and torch against monstrous flesh? For Connacht, Conan's grandfather, when travelling the passes to his home of Cimmeria, he was almost killed by an avalanche that buried him in snow and broke his legs.

Where are the players? How stable is their footing? How stable is the ceiling? Can things be set afire? Will they have to climb? Will they have to hold their breath?

In terms of switching the visuals around, of using old stats with at least new looking monsters, we have the Skrae. I saw that because while they look impressive and they are excellent trackers, they, like pretty much everything, gets cut down like wheat. They are terror inducing and unique in appearance, but man, Conan's already at this stage met a few relics of ancient eras and killed worse so... Yeah. If your players are looking for some interesting twists, you don't have to reinvent the wheel each and every time you want to throw some 'new' monsters at them.

Conan Volume 7 showcases the old adage you can't go home again quite well and its end throws Conan somber and weary of soul back onto the road.