My powers a very hazy shadow #DnD #RPG #Malazan

You ever see someone do something so well that you are just in awe? For example, I like to play some sports, basketball, football. But when I watch top professionals play the same sports it is like we are not even playing the same game.

Well I am trying to introduce more visuals in the boys campaign. Get better at describing what they see, especially in combat. It is slow work, takes a lot of practice. And I am also trying to build a truly unique and interesting campaign world for them. Something out of the ordinary. And I like to think I have come up with a few good twists.

But then I dived back into the Malazan series. And I am reminded how great and amazing a really well described and built campaign world can be. I like the Forgotten Realms books, they are good reading. And I liked the Dragonlance books. And of course the Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings are absolute classics. But check out this piece:

“Once they reached the main shaft, it was four hundred paces to Twistings’ Nearlight. Unlike Deep Mine, with its thick, rich and straight vein of Otataral running far under the hills, Twistings followed a folded vein, rising and diving, buckling and turning through the limestone.
Unlike the iron mines on the mainland, Otataral never ran down into true bedrock. Found only in limestone, the veins ran shallow and long, like rivers of rust between compacted beds filled with fossil plants and shellfish.”
Excerpt From: Erikson, Steven. “A Malazan Book of the Fallen Collection 1.” Transworld. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.
Reading that I can almost touch the rock they are talking about. And see the vein of unique rock that they are mining. And then when you get into what that Otataral really is, here is a breakdown from the Malazan Wiki:
Otataral was a magic-deadening reddish ore[1], generally sold in the form of dust, which superficially resembled rusted iron. It not only prevented the use of magic, it also prevented mages from accessing or opening their Warrens and could drive them insane (this may have been due to otataral itself or the forcible removal of access to their warren); an attempt to do so, or use magic on an individual holding otataral caused the effect to fail in a gust of chilly air. The effects of otataral could be circumscribed somewhat through encasing the metal in a dense material (such as a granite box) or a weapon’s sheath. Elder racial Warrens such as Kurald Galain and Tellann were immune to its effects.
Now that substance plays a minor role in the books. It is the foundation for one Empire’s powers, but is mainly mentioned in passing. And yet the writer put that much thought and work into coming up with something that is only peripheral to the overall story.
These books are great. And the story is terribly intricate. But more than anything what really drives me to read them is the attention to detail and depth of world building in it. Unlike the more traditional fantasy books there is not only a history of the world, but it impacts almost everything that the characters do. It is a world where almost every place where the action occurs is steeped in thousands of years of history, a history that often rises up to take a role in the story.
In my dreams I would find a group and a GM who had read all these books and would be willing to run a game in this world. It would be amazing on a level like playing football in the NFL.
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Ah, variety is truly a wonderful spice #Malazan #WoT #Furies

After finishing the Star Wars Battlefront book last week I dived into my library. Here’s the thing, I obtained some time ago a file that had a lot of ebooks, and most of them were fantasy and sci fi. So when I reach a point where I do not have a library book to read and am not actively working on a series I will go to that file. And last week, when I got my new iPad, I loaded a number of books on it from that library.

Some of them are books I have read one time (or more.) For instance I had been on my way of working through the Wheel of Time yet again. I really like that series, it is still probably my favorite of all time. And yet, oddly enough, it is probably one with the least amount of reference to traditional role playing worlds. Everyone is a human, with very little deviation even for geographic location. But slipping back into the series is like a good pair of jeans, it just fits right, is comfortable, and I know what to expect. And yet it is complex enough that I can still pick up on the occasional new piece or clue when I read it again.

I also loaded some books I had not read, from a writer I knew and respected. And after finishing the Star Wars book I gave on them a try. I read the book Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher. I came away impressed. It did drag a little at pieces, maybe a little too complex for its own good. But it is a fascinating world that he created. I always like stuff with Roman influence, and this book has just enough of that to make it interesting. And there were enough surprises that it kept me on my toes. So yeah, a good read, and I do look forward to continuing the series. But not just yet. Because I decided that it was instead time to dive back into another familiar series.

That is the Book of Malazan. Perhaps one of the most complex and rich fantasy worlds I have ever encountered. Like Wheel of Time, it is not traditional RPG fantasy. There are no Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, etc. And so much of the series is about a terribly complex set of political and magical webs that it can be terribly confusing and easy to get lost. So it is not the easiest read. But man, is it good if you do get into it. The world building in this series puts pretty much everything else I have ever read to shame. There are layers, and layers and layers of stories woven together. An incredibly complex history. And a monstrously huge cast of characters, many of whom die (but not before telling a deep story first), or disappear for a book or two.

The point of all this is that I love variety in my books. Even if I am reading a lengthy series (trilogies are passe), I am willing to take a break from one and move over to another. And then of course I will gladly borrow from all of them when I need inspiration. Inspiration for a character, a story arc, or even campaign. They are all worth my time and attention. And it is a great life when I have all of these choices to work from.

Thinking beyond the expected #StarWars #RPG

I’ve been reading this book:

Battlefront_Twilight_Company_cover

To see more go here: Star Wars Battlefront Twilight Company

I am really enjoying this book. Got it from the library of course. But it does something that many of us are not used to when thinking of Star Wars. It completely goes away from the core characters, there are mentions of Luke and Leia, but they are just that, mentions in passing. There are no Jedi Knights running around with light sabers.

Instead it is a war novel, set in the Rebellion era. It most reminds me of the Warhammer 40K novels. It is gritty, violent, and very interesting. I really like it when stuff like this is released. It reminds me of the Clone Wars series (except for the proliferation of Jedi in the show.) The thing that I love about it is that it shows that there is a great big universe out there. I think that is important, especially if you think about role playing game settings.

It is all very well to tell the story of the heroes. Luke, Leia, Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf, Bilbo are all interesting characters and their stories make for good fiction and thrilling movies. But what is happening elsewhere? That is the area I like to focus.

When you think about Star Wars, imagine a large galaxy, where faster than light travel exists, where thousands of non-human races exist. And imagine an Empire large enough to control most of that galaxy. An Empire rich enough in resources to create not one, but at last count 3 Death Moons. That’s a huge effort. And the logistics is kind of overwhelming when you think about it. That’s a lot to imagine. And then imagine all the stories that can happen in that universe.

One of my favorite fantasy series is the Malazan Book of the Fallen. And one of the things I like about it is the way it focuses on the stories of the grunts, who spend their time trying to figure out what their leaders are doing. I understand that in Middle Earth the main characters are the closest thing to grunts, because it is a world with a seemingly small population. But not every fantasy world has to be like that.

And that is an approach I like to take in coming up with my stories and the setting. Yes, there is a bigger world out there. And yes, the events in that bigger world will eventually impact the players. But not every player can be the Emperor killer. Not every group can find the great sword, staff, orb what have you, that spells doom for the Evil Big Bad Guy.

I prefer to tell the little stories. The players are the settlers on the frontier, just trying to scratch out a living. And maybe they will make some small contribution if there is a war. But not everyone gets to be the Hero who Saves the Day.

That’s what I mean by thinking beyond the expected. For every Knight with a +5 Holy Sword, there need to be a certain number of grunts sweeping out the trash, killing the goblins and orcs. Some campaigns are about the Heroic Journey. Mine are about survival and exploration.