Fiction Review: Promise of Blood

Last nightPromiseOfBlood_FINAL_RP I finished reading Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan.

It’s apparently his first novel, and let me tell you, I don’t think I’ve read a debut that was this impressive since I finished Lies of Locke Lamora. I was utterly captivated and could not put this book down. The world building was some of the best I’ve ever encountered, putting Jordan, Tolkien and Sanderson to shame. The dialogue was crisp and to the point, although, I didn’t feel as though it was terribly innovative or compelling. But it certainly never lagged.

The story really follows 3 distinct storylines, Adamast, the investigator who is attempting to solve some political puzzles/historical puzzles, Tamas, the general who leads the coup against the King in the first two chapters, and his subsequent political struggles, and Taniel, the son of Tamas who struggles to find his place between family, duty, and friendship. I certainly found Tamas the most intriguing of the characters, and a good chunk of the story is devoted to him, much to my enjoyment. His depth was apparent from his first foray in the story, and I couldn’t help but like him.

I found Taniel uninspired. He was generic and cliche. Maybe I’m not supposed to like him? I was unsure, but I never hated him. Just…wanted to get past his bits to more Tamas.

Adamast had the least compelling story, but was much better written then Taniel. I’ve got to be honest though. Any complaints I have are me stretching to find something besides praise for an excellent story.

My only real complaint was I felt the story lacked direction in an underlying way. There was no common threat to tie these characters together, and while at times their stories converged, it felt somewhat disjointed during the climax. Maybe I’m too used to the common idea of a single “villain” or “big bad” and I couldn’t get my head around anything different.

Regardless, this is easily the best fantasy book of the decade for me, and I already ordered the sequel. I fully intend to reread Promise of Blood today/tomorrow, and then dive right into the second book! And all the short stories. Oof.

http://www.brianmcclellan.com/bookstore/promise-of-blood

http://www.brianmcclellan.com/bookstore/the-crimson-campaign

Pendragon and the Importance of Thematic Rulesets

Last night I had the opportunity to play Pendragon, by Nocturnal Media. Pendragon is an RPG that has cropped up on my radar multiple times, but I’ve never had access to a copy or known anyone who does.

I was given a copy of the core book as a gift recently, and as some friends had wanted to learn how to play RPGS, I felt a game based on King Arthur and the commonly known mythos was an excellent choice.

Wow.

I was completely blown away by this game. I don’t believe I’ve been that impressed with an RPG at any point I can recall. We only had a few hours, so we did character creation and a short intro session that ended with all the characters being knighted.

1.) Character Creation

Pendragon is a variation on the well-known Chaosium dice system, and uses a single d20 roll to resolve actions. You have roll under your skill. Pretty simple. The character creation starts with the basics. Age, name, order of your son in the family hierarchy. The game also uses a innovative trait system, to determine your characters virtues, their strengths, their weaknesses, and emotional responses to situations. This was the game changer for me. I was able to help several people who had only either RPG’d once, or never to determine how their characters would react. If they had a question, I’d suggest they look at their highest virtue and respond in that way to the situation.

Is it a perfect system? No. But is it excellent? Yes. It was fantastic. Attribute and skill generation is generic and fairly straightforward. My only complaint was the lack of a skill table to easy pick skills and determine what skills you can have. We had to spend some time hunting through the rule book to find rules for different skills.

After character creation was wrapped up, we ran through the books quick introductory adventure to turn our squires into knights. The adventure was simple, effective, and taught the game the types of roles. Excellent. Pendragon is rapidly becoming my RPG of choice.


 

However, this brings up some thoughts regarding RPGs. The Pendragon RPG works because the entire ruleset is designed around a single concept. You play a knight. There’s no other options. You are either Pagan or Christian. All the options fall in skills, advantages and such.

So when the rules for Pendragon are built around the single framework of delivering the game of being a Knight during Arthur’s reign, they do it well. That’s the only goal they have.

Whereas games like Dungeons and Dragons, World of Darkness and other systems are built to effectively deliver games regardless of setting, have rules that sometimes don’t quite fit. You have to drop and mod the rules to effectively deliver the game you want to.

I suppose this is part of my aging in RPGs, but I find that I prefer single system rulesets that are built to deliver thematic game play over generic systems. Interesting. It’s a new discovery for me.


 

Kickstarters of Note:

A World of Dew – Samurai Noir RPG

East Texas University – College Level Horror RPG