Kobold Press

Book Review: Fire in the Blood by Erin Evans

Fire in the BloodThe Sundering is a world-changing event that is ushering in the newest edition of the iconic Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. The activities surrounding this move by Shar, goddess of loss and secrets (amongst other things), were captured in a book series aptly named The Sundering. One of those books was written by Erin Evans and featured her two iconic tiefling twins, their dragonborn adoptive father, and several love interests and some folks from the Nine Hells—you know just for flavor. Erin Evans has continued this tale with Fire in the Blood. This epic fantasy novel takes place mostly in the land of the Purple Dragon, the kingdom of Cormyr. The kingdom is at war with Sembia, who has allied itself with Shar and her forces of darkness. As is typical for the forest kingdom, internal political matters threaten to overshadow the external war that threatens to destroy the kingdom and give the forces of darkness the foothold they need.

Both of the twins are involved with love triangles that make the most jaded soap opera viewer salivate. These triangles actually involve more than three people because when the twins are involved, the other twin is always a factor, then adding in their dragonborn adopted father makes things more complicated. In one case, the future leadership of Cormyr is at stake, and in another a warlock’s powers and soul are at stake. To further complicate matters, the current heir to the throne has gone missing in a magical mishap and the son third in line for the throne has fallen into a magical coma resulting from the same accident that sent his father to places unknown. Agents of Shar have been discovered inside the walls of the capital of Cormyr, and trying to uncover their plots while not upsetting the delicate political balance is proving more dangerous than anyone could imagine. As if all of this wasn’t enough, trouble is brewing in the Nine Hells. Oh, and did I mention that gods once thought dead are rising again?

This book is epic fantasy. Normally I don’t expect this much intricate story from individual Forgotten Realms books, but Evans jumped in with both feet and showed zero fear when she did it. In past reviews, I have been in awe of Evans’s ability to balance the Machiavellian plots of the Nine Hells, and while those still rage in this story, her ability to bring those plots and schemes above ground to the Land of the Purple Dragon is one of many things that make her as successful as she is. Evans never seemed to lose control of all of the sub-plots that she balanced, and all of them combined with the very complicated relationships in this book. The combination of all of these could have quickly turned into a flaming wreck of a runaway train, but in Evans’s hands it felt more like watching freestyle skiing from a Go-Pro type camera. There are all of these twists and turns, and at times you think you are disoriented, until the actual skier hits their landing and you, as a voyeur, realize that you were safe the entire time.

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Drama vs. Realism vs. Game: Scenes

The Tempest by Thomas ColeThe heroes are in the middle of a political campaign, trying to win the support of the populace for their next effort. A key constituency is the kobolds of the Kobold Ghetto, and the players have decided to gain its favor by showing the kobolds that they have a lot in common. They decide to help out in the mines, buy drinks for kobolds at the local taverns, hand out coins, and generally do a lot of little things that add up to the support of the kobolds.

What happens next?

Realism

In a realistic scenario, the heroes would spend a lot of time doing hard work—10-hour days in silver mines, for at least a few weeks, which is long enough for the heroes to earn the respect of the kobolds. Realistically, a lot of it’s going to be boring. The heroes might get a pulled muscle or a stubbed toe, but not much else.

Drama

How can we make this dramatic? The rules of writing fiction suggest the use of scenes to make the game more exciting. A scene, simply put, is one group of characters at one location at one time, where someone wants something and there is an obstacle to them achieving that.

Let’s break down this task that the players are trying to accomplish into scenes. In scene 1, heroes are at a mine, trying to prove they have the chops. But our heroes are not miners, so they are learning. Perhaps the boss kobold is a bit of a bully, and he keeps throwing obstacles into the path of the heroes, such as “forgetting” to provide them with lanterns, assigning them to a dangerous area, and requiring that they collect a quota of ore before time runs out.

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Collection of Curiosities: The Reflection Pool

"Jiro the Kobold" by Pat LoboykoWater stretches out before you, reflecting the sky above. But what is within the pool? Perhaps the water element has more than just water in it! You can roll randomly for a result below, or use the handy number provided with each entry to figure out your result on a d12. You can also pick the one that works for the area in which your characters currently linger.

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Prepared!

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone by Thomas MoranSo your players went off on a tangent…

We’ve all been there. Sometimes it’s unavoidable; you’re staring at ten single-spaced pages of adventure you wrote last week and your party just walked… right… by. Prepared! offers you solutions to player tangents while you figure out your next move.

Unexpected traveling can be a stressful situation for a GM to facilitate. You want to provide your players with something more than: “It takes about four hours to get there. It…uh…rains a little.” Below are four snappy scenarios that can be used when your party engages in a little impromptu road wandering.

The Disbanded Circus

Who They Are: Tamby and Godgerman’s traveling circus was destined to fail. The party encounters a small remnant of the circus as this group travels to a nearby civilized center to sell circus gear and find new work. These sad folk have two horse-drawn wagon cages full of nearly dead animals.

What They Want: To reach civilization and forget the whole awful experience. Information on the road ahead would be welcome.

General Disposition Toward Strangers: Suspicious, ranging to ambivalent.

Plot Hook: The circus was disbanded when trained giant spiders turned on the ringmaster. The disbanded circus workers fear the spiders have been stalking them…

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Report from the Southlands: The Editorial Side

Southlands ScarabGreetings, Southlanders!

In just a few short months, the Southlands sourcebook and all the project’s shiny add-ons will be in your hands, at your tables, and ready to provide your gaming groups with unlimited adventures beneath the pitiless sun. We can’t wait to see what GMs and players do with the myriad story hooks, rich traditions, dastardly villains, and brave heroes—all inspired by the Arabian Nights and ancient Egypt—that the project will offer.

But! Before all that goodness can happen, the book has to wind its way through the editorial process even before it heads to layout, proofing, and printing. And that editorial process is where I come in.

I’ve been working with portions of the core Southlands text for about the past three months, and I have to say, it’s been an incredibly fun ride. I’ve taken tours of the River Kingdom of Nuria Natal, the Dominion of the Wind Lords, the High Jungles, the perilous East and West, the Abandoned Lands, and the Southern Fringe. I’ve explored the strange traditions of lotus magic and combat divinations, and I’ve learned the ways of the proud Lion Kingdom of Omphaya and the Narumbeki legions. I’ve even peered into the disturbing lives of the insectoid tosculi, which build hives that engulf ruins and thriving communities alike.

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