Showing posts with label Superspies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Superspies. Show all posts

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Wolf's Hour by Robert R. McCammon

After reading Swan Song and asking about opinions for further reading by   Robert R. McCammon, one novel that came up in a few posts was The Wolf's Hour.

The short review? Thumbs up.

Take one part James Bond, in high action mode, and add a dash of werewolf and you've got the basis of the story. Oh, it's also set during World War 2 and involves a vital plan to save the allies during D-Day.

The writing engaged me. Robert's use of flashbacks to break up the sections of the book worked well ranging from how young Russian Michael Gallatin first suffers the 'curse' and how he grows with it and eventually joins the 'civilized' world.

Some of the things that stood out to me, is that despite Michael's potent abilities, heightened sense of smell for example, great physical abilities, and apparently like catnip to the ladies, is that he rarely 'walks' through any conflict and suffers several set backs.  Some of these set backs take time to overcome and recover from. Some of them have deeper costs.

There is also a lot of internal turmoil the character endures as he seeks to divine what exactly he is and what his role in society is.

In terms of gaming? Yeah, there were several bits that would be useful. Spoilers for the novel will follow. If you'd rather not be spoiled on some odd twenty + year old book, read no further.

1. Not everyone is a bad guy. One of the strengths of characters like Elric and Drizzt is that they play against the archetype of a member typical of their race.  Here, just as in the Captain America movie recently, the author reminds the reader that not every German is a Nazi with the introduction of a character named Mouse.

2. The surreal. There are a few points in the novel where due to the excess of the Reich, that things that would be vastly out of place in the 'real' world are seen as normal. One example of this is a train that a big game hunter has set up as a death trap that keeps circling the city of Berlin while he hunts the people within it. Another is a exclusive Nazi club where atrocities are on display and excess is the standard.

3. Delayed combat. Robert has at least three villainous characters who get their comeuppance at a later date than their initial vile acts would lead the reader to hope for.

4. Mystery. A part of the story that takes a good chunk of time is the unraveling of the "Iron Fist" bit where Michael has to discover what a local German artist and an undercover spy have in common with stopping D-Day from happening. Pathfinder has a few supplements that can handle such additions to them like Lorefinder a bolt of the Gumshoe system straight onto the Pathfinder engine.

5. The exotic with the mundane. World War II has a TON of supernatural crossoever elements to it. Usually those elements though, are in putting the players against some type of horror from beyond. Cubicle 7 for example, recently did World War Cthulhu and one of the settings is World War II. But what if the players are the monsters? Imagine the monster of Frankenstein. "What did you say your name was again? Adam? What happened to you? You look horrible. What were you in some type of accident?" The monster's rictus grin was unnerving. "An accident? Yes. An accident of birth you might say..." There are many opportunities to take the standard super hero types from say the Invaders and put a little Mythos twist on it. Sub Mariner an American patriot first and foremost and a spawn of the deep ones secondary? Lots of potential there.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Star Wars: Agent of the Empire; Iron Eclipse

Not too long ago, Dark Horse Digital had a sale on their Star Wars titles. Having some extra funds after pulling mucho overtime, I plunked down the cash and downloaded my comics.

Among the sale items, was Agent of the Empire. In short, 007 meets Star Wars. Done well too mind you.

The main character, Jahan Cross, is a graduate from the same academy as Han Solo who makes a few appearance that quite aren't cameos but don't fall into full fledged team up status either. It works for the most part and brings the new in with the old.

One of the fun things about the Star Wars setting, when done right, is that the area that the setting encompasses is huge. In a science fiction setting like Star Wars, or others of that nature, this allows the action to take place in areas that aren't formally controlled by only one faction. It puts Cross outside the boundaries of the Empire and relies on other bits of history in the long line of Star Wars history to get more of the connection to the setting inherent in.

Another thing done well is the threat. One can only have so many Death Stars, Planet Bursters, and other overpowered Star Killers around before you have to wonder why the Empire could ever lose.

In this instance, it's a virus that will override all droids and make them dance to one tune. This is a viable threat in a Star Wars setting where droids are basically smart tech everywhere. Your toaster could be a droid in the Star Wars setting.

While it would be hard to translate such a direct threat to most fantasy campaigns, those that have machine men, like Eberon and the War Forged, could be in for some potential issues. Otherwise the standard virus threat is pretty handy.

In terms of Jahan himself though, he is right up there with Bourne or other super spies. If trying to run such a campaign, the Game Master should insure that the characters are highly proficient in their field compared to about 90% of the people around them with only some real big threats having some similar fire power.

The characters need to have access to fancy goods. This could range from unique items to one shot items or items that don't necessarily work unless the user has a certain skill set. By making this items one shot or consumable, the Game Master can provide some more powerful items then he might normally slip into his campaign. Even better if these items come for a specific person who doubts the characters worthiness to use them.

On a tangent that I find most interesting though, is how Jahan perceives the universe around him. He works for the Empire because the Empire represents order. During the various assaults at the end of the old Clone Wars, he lost his sister due to the rioting and chaos and confusion. And he blames that on the Jedi.

Here, to an outside reader whose more familiar with the Star Wars setting and knows how everything turns out, it showcases how perception can be warped and how things can be viewed through a narrow focus.

In a super hero setting, some factions may work for what others perceive as an evil power but those who work for it perceive as a stabilizing force. Pitting these types of viewpoints against the players as opposed to the standard 'evil' ones can make for some more challenging encounters.

On the other hand, if the series continues for a while, I am curious as to how Dark Horse will handle the long term effects of the character against the setting. For one thing, Jahan doesn't hate aliens. Such entities generally don't have the good life in the Empire. For another, he respects droids. For another, he doesn't tolerate corruption and well, the Empire is rife with it.

If you've never thought of using the Star Wars setting to run something like a Spycraft game, Agent of the Empire provides a lot of direct inspiration drawn from other sources that shows how to stir, not shake, it all together.