Thursday, December 30, 2010

I Read Some Raymond Feist

A number of people whose opinions I respect think he is a fine author and worthy of my reading time.  Looking for a little recreational reading, I endeavored to read some Raymond Feist.

Years ago I played the computer game Betrayal at Krondor.  I thought the game was mostly fun but was unsatisfied by the plot line.  At the time I chalked it up to the challenge of applying literature thinking to game design.  This summer I borrowed a copy of Krondor: The Betrayal.  I read roughly about a third of the way through the book and put it down.  Permanently.  I have probably only done that a half dozen times in my life.  At this point in my life I am less tolerant of books which do not reach an enjoyment threshold than I was in earlier times in my life.  This can easily be attributed to the various pressures on my time and the scarcity of reading time.

Why did I not enjoy Krondor: The Betrayal?  Quite simply, neither characters nor plot engaged me.  I found the prose did not create pictures in my head.

First week of December we did an island visit; it was a vacation escape from the cold.  Looking for reading material, I am advised Krondor: The Betrayal is not one of Feist's better books and am recommended to try the Conclave of the Shadows series.  Further advised that the first two books go together and the third is optional, I pack borrowed copies of Talon of the Silverhawk and King of Foxes.

They were better but still I find them wanting.  I never felt the characters progressed beyond two dimensional caricatures.  They never felt like real people to me, I was unable to relate to them.  The plot wandered like a pick your own adventure book.  Powerful background characters acted like omnipotent plot fixers, much like deus ex machina.  The plot fixers had knowledge the characters in the book and the readers never get to know.  They are just smarter than all of us.  I will try not to spoil the series but at one point the central character suffers a debilitating and supposedly permanent injury, which later is 'cured' by the omnipotent plot fixers.

I did read complete the two books while on vacation.  The good news is I did not put them down.  I do not think I will be reading any more Feist though.  As the old saying goes, his books are apparently not my cup of tea.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Divination, not the answer to who, when & where

So, to summarize what I said previously - we want a Divination to give useful advice commensurate to the level of the spell being consumed without spoiling a good time by solving the adventure outright. 

In my current campaign the party is in search of a powerful artifact/weapon.  They have found an ancient city in ruins occupied by a combination of humans, humanoids and nasty creatures in an uneasy and shifting balance.  They have reason to believe the artifact is in the city, hidden in the tomb of the original owner.  They have reason to believe they need a descendant of that owner, one of her bloodline, to overcome the protections surrounding the artifact.  They have reason to believe those protections are potent and dangerous.  They have a lead on a solution, but it is inconvenient.  They decide they want to find an alternate solution.  So far so good; I like it when they use their heads.

So they decide to ask the gods.  Priestess, fire up the Divination spell!  Now what to ask....  The first thought was "where and who is the closest bloodline and how do we overcome the protections on the artifact?"

Rather than just let them try the question and have it fail, I maturely interject as DM.  "Bzzzzzzzttttt, sorry that will not work."  Disappointed and confused look from the player.  So then I take a little time to explain the limits of Divination.  'Similar to augury but more powerful, a divination spell can provide you with a useful piece of advice in reply to a question concerning a specific goal, event, or activity that is to occur within one week.'  More confused looks.  I followup with examples of what successful and unsuccessful divination castings might look like; your character would have had some training at the temple and this is what you would know.  More player discussion ensues and they finally decide on the question.

“If we return to Penchawn to get the bard Faynie, is it our only chance to retrieve Gray Razor?”

The response is as follows:  Tula's children were few, and what still lives are spread far and wide. No path is certain, and no path is sure. A journey to Penchawn to seek the bard may yield what you seek through wise actions and honeyed words.

They think long and hard about this and decide, for now, they do not want to take the time to go all the way back to Penchawn.  They decide there must be a solution here in the ruined city.  So they set about finding the small pockets of humans left in this ruined mess.  At one stop, a middle aged man named Escovar claims to be in the bloodline of the artifact owner, a famous barbarian princess.  The party, ever suspicious, decides another Divination is in order.

"If Escovar joins us in our quest will we be able to obtain Gray Razor?"

The response is as follows: A cloud of doom hangs over this action. The path remains dangerous and the vision of death is imminent.

They decide against sharing this little bit of good news with Escover, telling him they will get back to him.  Away from Escovar they have a long discussion about the meaning of this divination.  Perhaps there is just trickery in the words, and the vision of death is simply the occupant of the tomb.  Ever confident, they discuss their chances of figuring out how to overcome the danger called out in the divination.  After all, the divination did not say absolutely it would not work and they would all die.  Next outing I find out what they decide as their next action.

Ah, the fun I have with Divination. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas and Thanks

I have been otherwise occupied for the last few weeks, so I have not made time for a post.  I plan to catch up next week.  I had been busy with an island vacation, work, and holiday preparation.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and hope you can enjoy it with friends and family.  Thank you all for reading, commenting, and fellow bloggers for their interesting musings.  Best to you all.

Here is a link to an old post of mine, a meager attempt at humor.  This was originally written for my PBP group and updated slightly for the blogosphere. The Night Before Christmas, D&D blogger style.

And last but not least - Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus.
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