Kobold Press

Book Review: Rise of the King, Companions Codex II, by R.A. Salvatore

Rise of the KingThe orc has really hit the fan—actually the orc, the drow, the frost giant, the goblin, and the white dragon have all hit the fan and once again the fan is the Silver Marches. As Drizzt and the Companions cross the land to finish laying the soul of one of their long-time allies to rest, they learn of the extent of the peril that the cities and citadels of the Silver Marches are actually in. This peril is led by the ever-scheming drow, who are not only trying to further themselves but who are doing the will of their vengeful goddess. The dwarven citadels are surrounded above and below ground, and any efforts to reinforce the besieged cites near them will lead to their fall. The drow have divided and are poised to conquer. Will the Companions overcome this monstrous incursion, or will the Silver Marches finally fall?

If this sounds like a book written by R.A. Salvatore that you have already read, you wouldn’t be completely wrong. Events like this have happened before in different forms with less powerful enemies. There comes a point where, as a reader, I stop caring about the fate of the ever tenuous alliances in the Silver Marches, and this series put me at that point. Salvatore’s writing skills and his exploration of some characters that have not gotten the spotlight in the past are about the only things that kept me reading this book or this series. The whole reincarnation of heroes who should have stayed dead was bad enough, but to add insult to injury, here they are fighting the same old battles that they have fought in the past, and many of the characters really haven’t changed as much as you think they should have.

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Gaming and the Busy Adult

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, If you’re anything like me, you started playing roleplaying games sometime in your teens. You know, back when it was nothing to start a game Friday night, pass out from exhaustion early Saturday morning, wake up at noon and continue from the night before with a quick lunch of leftover pizza. Then one day you wake up and realize that you haven’t had a decent game session in almost a year thanks to your job, bills, and responsibilities to your family. Even thinking about staying up all night makes you tired. Most times it’s a slow decline; for some people it happens the second they move out to college or to follow a career.

How do you find the time to play? How do you get started again once your flow has been disrupted? How do you organize a group of your own?

The honest answer is this: Hard work and a whole lot of luck.

The more helpful answer is to take a look at the things I’ve learned over the years and see if you can apply them to your search for games.

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The Lovecraft Factor: Bridging the Gap Between Miskatonic and Midgard

A sketch of the fictional character Cthulhu, drawn by his creator, H. P. Lovecraft, May 11, 1934“Memories and possibilities are ever more hideous than realities.” —H.P. Lovecraft, “Herbert West–Reanimator”

Howard Phillips Lovecraft is considered by many to be the godfather of modern horror—and appropriately so, for his macabre influence can be seen far and wide while navigating the 21st century pop culture landscape. For me, Lovecraft was something of a gatekeeper to the widening world of weird literature at a time of my life when discovery was critical to my development as both a young storyteller and a fledgling game master.

Lovecraft is one of the preeminent writers of the classic “Weird Tales” era of pulp storytelling (and likely the most celebrated). And though his contemporary (and ofttime pen pal) Robert E. Howard would inevitably leave more of an impression on emerging game designers Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, Lovecraft’s grim legacy—much like the incessant Call of Cthulhu itself—is inescapable.

The Midgard Campaign Setting from Kobold Press features its own nebulous corner of Lovecraft country: Ginnungagap, the Yawning Void. And though little can be definitively said of it, let’s explore those “tenuous paths” in an effort to discover something of the creatures from that “distant and primordial realm” so elusively referenced by the Midgard scholars.

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Goblins of Midgard: The Firebrand, the Raider, and the Mercenary

Midgard With EagleWhen they aren’t picking lice out of each other’s scalp or roasting rats over an open fire, these three goblins of Midgard are carrying out acts of destruction and mayhem.

While few are accounted masterminds among their number, each has a reputation that extends outside their little tribe. Feel free to add them to your game as NPC adversaries.

Roasty Toasty, Female Goblin Rogue

Roasty is an arsonist in the employ of Radovar Streck, alchemist and member of the Zobeck City Council.

Whenever Streck has need of a little urban renewal work, either to keep the volunteer firefighters’ union busily happy or to frustrate the territorial ambitions of the Greymarks, he calls on Roasty.

For especially big jobs, Streck might provide Roasty with a powerful accelerant. But usually, the means of lighting a spark is left to Roasty’s imagination and her small squad.

She frequents the Wheatsheaf Tavern and the Ragpicker’s Guild in Lower Zobeck when she isn’t making deliveries for Streck’s peat and coal wagon. (Her nickname comes from this job, when she hollers from the wagon perch, “Get yer coal. Get yer peat. Get yer roasty toasty!”)

She’s easily recognizable as being the only goblin wearing a frilled cotton mobcap adorned with a rosette of red and gold, the Free City’s colors. She thinks of herself as a patriot, always speaking loudly of her devotion to the city. Of her arson projects, she is very discreet.

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