“When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.”

-George A. Romero, Dawn of the Dead

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Stealing from Sanderson: The Shattered Plains

As I wrote earlier I’ve been reading Brian Sanderson’s The way of Kings. It’s the first book in the Stormlight Archives an epic fantasy that looks as if it may rival Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. One of the things I noted while reading was about how so many fantasy series have a built in area for D&D adventures. For example, Tolkien’s “Mordor”, Jordan’s “The Blight”, Martin's "Beyond the Wall" . Even the Legend of the Five Rings RPG has “The Shadowlands’. In the Way of Kings, we have “The Shattered Plains”. Sanderson’s adventuring wasteland has a few interesting aspects that make it particularly ripe for use, at least in part, for a Keep on the Borderlands style campaign.

A staple of Fantasy, the unexplored borderland. Art from the Game of Thrones wiki

The Shattered Plains are essentially ground zero for some sort of apocalyptic event in the World of Roshar’s (the name of the planet) ancient history. From what I’ve read thus far and have been able to determine (I’ve read about half the book now) this was once a battle ground used to keep an evil known as the Voidbringers at bay. The way I have envisioned the topography of the Shattered Plains in my mind is as follows. Imagine a large patch of mud that had dried out leaving it cracked creating small islands of mud divided from each other by miniature crevices. Then zoom in and imagine that each one of those crevices are like the deep canyons. Each little mud flat is a rocky plateau. Most of the plateaus are crossable by someone who is capable of pole-vaulting across (in the book Alethi scouts do this), or in the case of the barbarian Parshendi people who have a unnatural ability to leap across them with their own legs. Typically, the Alethi Military use bridges they use either permanent or portable ones they use to cross.

Art taken from Brian Sanderson's The Way of Kings showing a stylized map of the Shattered Plains

In the present day the Shattered Plains is still a war zone. This time between the Alethi and the Parshendi. The while the two sides fight each other, the true battles tend to be over the birthing pods left behind on random plateaus by monsters known as Chasmfiends. When a birthing pod is discovered on a plateau, each side races to claim the gem stone that grows in it. The Chasmfiends themselves also have enormous gems inside them. They however, tend to fight back. For example, “[The King] ripped free the beast’s gemheart – the enormous gemstone that grew within all Chasmfiends. It was lumpy and uncut, but it was a pure emerald and as big as a man’s head. It was the largest gemheart Adolin had ever seen, and even the small ones were worth a fortune” (Sanderson, 210). In terms of stealing this for a D&D campaign, the hunting of Chasmfiends or their birthing pods could be reason enough for adventurers to brave the dangers of your campaign worlds own borderland area. Additionally, you now have built in adversaries who are also competing for these precious gems. These adversaries could be rival adventurers to barbarian natives, or perhaps other creatures who feed on the gems to gain magical powers or just requires the sustenance provided.  

A Chasmfiend - Art taken from Brian Sanderson's The Way of Kings 

Another example of how the Shattered plains can be used is the canyons that divide the plateaus. The plateaus while relatively large are still limited in space. Some plateaus are larger than others and some have features that make them treacherous to fight on. As a result, many warriors fall off and land at the bottom dead taking whatever valuable they had with them. Often the need to harvest the gemheart and leave quickly precludes the chance to recover these bodies (if at all) until later. To complicate matters dangerous and violent thunderstorms assault the land on a semi regular basis. This causes the canyons to fill with torrents of rushing water that scatters these bodies to distant places in the network of canyons. Unlucky work crews are occasionally sent on canyon duty to recover whatever salvage they can. One account in the book describes it like this; “It was like barrow robbing, only without the barrows…They carried sacks, and would spend hours walking around, looking for the corpses of the fallen, searching for anything of value. Spheres [equivalent to gold pieces], breastplates, caps, weapons” (Sanderson, 391).

Chasm Duty - Artist unknown 

Brian Sanderson’s The Way of Kings offers many great ideas that can be stolen for use in a D&D campaign. In particular, the dangerous race to steal gemhearts and salvaging valuables from dark and haunted canyons that are something in between a dungeon and the depths of Underdark in a more traditional D&D campaign. It lends a new sense of danger and exploration that could boost the fun and excitement of your campaign. The Way of Kings offers even more to steal and I hope to write about some of the other things I think would be perfect for use in most D&D campaigns including monsters, and magical weapons and armor like Shardblades and Shardplate.  

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Way of Kings: The Gamer Archive

I’m back after another long hiatus of the blog. As I went through some of my favorite blogs I noticed I’m not the only one who has had a dearth of posts in the past while. Life has a way of sweeping you up and putting blogging on low priority. Not to mention that it’s difficult to write new and interesting content. I don’t want to be one of those blogs that just rehashes what everyone else is saying.

Shadows Over Innistrad is a great expansion!

What have I been doing game wise? First, on the RPG front I have done nothing for as long as I can remember. I have the 5e PH but I haven’t even really done anything with it. I’ve still been playing Magic: The Gathering quite a bit. The new Shadows Over Innistrad set has been pretty awesome. I managed to win first place at the pre-release tournament at my friendly neighbourhood game store! Magic has been my go to game since it is fast to play and finding a group of players is easy.
Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower

My local game store is also big fans of Warhammer. I’ve tried a few times now to get into miniature war games. I’ve picked up the start of a fantasy orcs and goblins army, and 40k Blood Angels. I have yet to play any actual games with them yet which is a bit frustrating. Lastly I picked up two Games Workshop board games. Deathwatch Overkill and Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower. I’m very excited to get those put together and get some play time in. I’m not making any promises here, but I hope to write up a review of these games when time permits.

Deathwatch: Overkill

Finally, on the reading front I just finished rereading the first Dragonlance novel, Dragons of Autumn Twilight and I’ve now started on Brian Sanderson’s epic fantasy series The Way of Kings. Dragons of Autumn Twilight was a fun read. It’s not without its faults but I still enjoyed it. I don’t really understand what people have against Dragonlance. I think over the years, now having more distance from RPGs has put a few things in perspective for me. I no longer really understand the polarized nature of gamers. That is to say that as I’ve browsed various forums I’ve noticed this tendency for gamers to really come down hard on settings or games that they think suck. I don’t really see it as a healthy thing for the nerd community. But that’s probably a blog entry for another day. The short of it, be kind to each other fellow gamers.

Why all the hate?

As for Sandersons’s Way of Kings. Holy Shit. This is a great read. I can see how Sanderson was chosen to finish Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. The dude can write. His worlds are interesting, though the magic in this world has elements similar to his Mistborn series. I think that you could probably make many comparisons to the Way of Kings and the Mistborn series, yet each is also distinct and entertaining in it’s own way. Either way the book has been excellent and I highly recommend it.

Books 1 & 2 of The Stormlight Archive, do yourself a favour and read it.