Kingmaker Session 4

The cast of characters:
Bryan is our fearless GM
Marc plays our warrior Stannis, skilled with a bow
Hudson plays Sonja, who fights with savage fury, hewing foes with a great-sword
Paul plays Egg Shen, a monk of unusual disposition from distant eastern lands
Brian plays Ambario, whose mastery of armor cements his bold advances
I play Arndor, a fey-blooded sorcerer (history here)

We began the session in the comfort of the fort, discussing our options. A dozen more soldiers had arrived, bringing the complement up to 18. The priest was grateful for the liberation of the temple.

We are motivated to strike down the bandits; they seem like an ambitious target (said Arndor), particularly holed up in their fort, but harassing tactics would keep them rocked back on their heels. We also decided to investigate the far side of the Thorn and make sure that bandits weren’t widely roaming there.

We set off for the Thorn River bandit camp the following morning, crossed at its bridge, and scouted the south side of the Thorn. No serious obstacles cropped up, though we noted that the water was high with snowmelt. We continued down until the thorn flowed into the Shrike, then backtracked to the ford. There was no bear at the ford this time… but the water was much higher with snowmelt.

Stannis took the lead and crossed the river; we were poised to haul him to safety if the river current proved too strong. He crossed successfully and anchored a rope to guide his allies across. That worked for a while… until Ambario and Arndor were swept from their horses by a freak wave. Luck was with them and they caught the guide rope before they were swept downstream to dash against the rocks. Bruised and teeth chattering, soon everyone had completed their crossing back to the north side of the Thorn. We were less than a mile from the bandit’s bridge across the Shrike where we had won our victory against Kressel. Confidence bubbled up in us; we mounted up and headed out to investigate.

When we approached, we noted that a new detachment of bandits had set up at the bridge. They were all keenly armed with long bows, but their archery proved no match for Stannis. We plunged forward at a gallop, trying to close the distance and take as few arrows as possible. At hundreds of yards their arrows went wide, but as we closed their aim improved. Sonja veered when struck and galloped into a copse of trees near the river, screened by the foliage. Ambario continued straight ahead, his armor turning most of the arrows. Behind him rode Arndor, who mimicked Sonja in veering for cover when the range grew too short. At a lope followed Egg Shen, who still adhered to humility, asking no horse to bear him. From the rear, Stannis’s precise volleys proved deadly.

As Sonja and Arndor sought cover, the leader of the bandits balanced his paired blades in hand and dashed forward to engage Sonja. The remaining four, then three, archers (one fell, speared by Stannis’s arrows) tried to provide cover fire, but Ambario could not be dissuaded. Arndor’s magic sought the archers holding the bridge; two were ensorcelled and stopped their firing.

The bandit wielding short sword and blade struck at Sonja as she emerged from the trees; they proved well matched. Quite well matched until Ambario closed on the bandit from behind; while Sonja was marked by his blades, they soon caught him between their skilled assault and cut him down like a mad dog. Meanwhile, Egg Shen had closed with the remaining non-ensorcelled archer, and broke his neck with a snap kick. By the time the last two bandits shook off the enchantment, they were menaced by the heroes’ blades.

They surrendered. The first refused to speak, terrified of the Staglord. Ambario formed a noose and prodded him off the bridge. The second, tongue loosened but still brave enough to demand amnesty, filled us in on the fort–and his friend, who had fled for reinforcements on spotting us. It also became clear that the Staglord was using the danger of facing us as a threat; guarding the bridge was a punishment detail.

The friend who fled was a member of Falgrim Sneed’s force. Evidently, while Falgrim may be welcome in the bandit keep, his men aren’t. Falgrim’s men are a band of about 8 river kingdoms mercenaries with a savage dog who lair in the marsh, only a few miles to the south. Our captive also told us that the fort is well defended, with few approaches–and haunted, built out of the ruins of an old monastery. Few safe approaches to the bandit keep exist. It lays west of the Shrike river against Tuskwater Lake; access from the east side of the river required crossing a guarded causeway. The Staglord is still served by about 10 men at the fort; he drinks all the time and is fiercely strong–he bites people in battle. His lieutenant Akaros is a strong thug. With that information provided, we reluctantly agreed to let him go, though Ambario ensured that he had no weapons as he departed north, towards Oleg’s, Brevoy, and civilization.

We decided to wait, lurking in ambush, for Falgrim’s men to ride to the rescue. But a day passed; on the second day, we realized that the mercenaries weren’t going to ride into our ambush–or come to visit the bridge at all. Advancing south would do little good; we’d approach the keep from the wrong side–across the causeway, and likely drawbridge, protecting the fort. Given the inadvisability of that route, we decided to investigate a lead we’d let slide… the fangberry patch.

So we recrossed to the north and rode to the Thorn. We rode along the bank and came to the ford; Ambario and Arndor refused to cross–they’d already felt the treacherous river almost sweep them to depth. So, with some humor, the group agreed to ride all of the way north to the bandit’s bridge and cross the Thorn in safety. We took advantage of the remaining cover of the old bandit’s camp and settled in for a night. During his watch, Stannis noticed that his belt pouch had vanished. Ambario decided to investigate, and climbed down the hole where Kressel had holed up; in that room, he found small furniture, glowing rocks, small playing cards, and the stolen coins divided into stacks–as if he’d interrupted a game in progress. He collected a glowing rock and the stolen coins and emerged from the hidden chamber, puzzled.

The next day the heroes found the fangberry patch in a shallow valley. Stannis took a position on a short hill and kept a watch over the horses, while the rest of the heroes descended into the web covered thorny bushes. The thorns were sharp; the warriors cleared a broad path with axes and blades to ensure that we wouldn’t be caught and prodded both in and out. Finally we reached the bright leaves and began picking. Suddenly, a wave of disturbed spiders–not large, but a swarm of thousands–emerged from the bushes and flowed toward the berry pickers. Sonja was engulfed, her skin turning red with dozens of bites. Desperate plans were selected; Ambario took his large shield and flopped down crushing spiders by the dozen, while Arndor flicked a cloud of sparkling sand that flashed into light, stunning the horde of spiders… but also dropping the mighty Sonja in their midst. The warriors continued whomping on the stunned spiders, while Stannis rushed down the hillside to recover our fallen friend. He lifted her out of the spiders as they shook off the spell; soon the violence and a kindled torch broke the swarm and sent the remnants fleeing. With a wary eye to the bushes, Stannis and Sonja kept an eye out from the hilltop, while the rest harvested the precious berries.

That night we ran two two-person watches, letting Sonja sleep through to recover. Stannis was attacked by four wolves and was pulled down, but everyone rushed to his aid and we were soon victorious. On the late watch, Ambario skinned the wolves for our return to the fort.

The heroes returned north, crossing again at the Thorn River bandit camp’s bridge. Rather than continuing down river to the bandit’s bridge across the Shrike, they decided to return to Oleg’s and drop off their fresh fangberries. The alchemist was pleased, offering a 25% discount on his valuable potions. The swordlords’ reward for bandit suppression (400 gold!) had arrived. Arndor asked Oleg to request skillfully wrought chainmail and a masterwork steel shield from his contacts back in civilization. We stocked up on fresh healing, resupplied, and finalized their plans for a strike against the bandits. We headed south the next morning.

Two days later we reached the bridge across the Shrike… to find no bridge at all. The bridge had been burned down to their pilings at the river’s center. We discussed the possibility of repair, examining the trees of the copse that had protected us from bandit archery only a few months ago. Few were long enough to even reach the smoldering pilings at the river’s center, and without proper tools to fell the trees and place them, repairing the bridge appeared impossible. Our heroes were not deterred; abandoning the bridge repair plan, they spent the next day exploring north along the Shrike, seeking a ford. They found none. So our heroes decided to cross south at the Thorn River bandit camp bridge and skirt the forest edge in a broad arc leading to the bandit keep.

This time they hustled through the bandit camp by day, not trusting the mischievous forces that had taken stolen so subtly from Stannis last time. As we passed through Egg Shen heard voices, but couldn’t find the speakers. Ambario did recheck their hole, where he traded some copper from his purse for gold on the table. Without pause, the heroes continued their journey.

As we advanced through the woods, Sonja suddenly signed danger to the rest of us. Once alerted, several others heard the crashing sounds of something large snapping winter brittle brush. In the distance Tuskgutter–an immense boar, tall as a horse–was spotted. We scattered and positioned ourselves; then Ambario started pig calling. Arndor caught his cloak on a tree as it charged; Ambario leapt into the lane it was charging down and intercepted it. Arrows leaped from Stannis’ bow, burrowing deep, and Egg Shen launched a brutal combination of strikes against the boar. Sonja’s great axe cut deep in its hide; after perhaps twenty seconds of ferocious fighting, it suddenly slumped.

We divided the board for travel and returned to Oleg’s; they were excited to see the such a feast of meat, which would help break up a monotonous winter root diet. Vekkel Venzen, who had lost a leg to Tuskgutter, gifted Stannis with an enchanted bow and a half-dozen animal bane arrows.

We renewed our provisions, loading up for an extended journey to strike at the Staglord’s keep–or at least to harass his men. After a few days of relatively easy journeying, in the woods south of our fight against tuskgutter, we set a watch for the night. On watch, Sonja was ambushed by an owlbear; her shouts roused her slumbering allies, who rushed to battle. A whispered spell from Arndor bought them time to position themselves to strike with deadly force from all sides; then the fight began in earnest. The heroes fought boldly, and the great bear, still dazzled by its enchantment, was unable to find a chink in Ambario’s skillful defense. Then, suddenly, its heavy paws landed on Egg Shen; we feared it would smother our monk friend to its chest. But the weird magic of its being couldn’t overcome our heroes’ skill and training; several skilled blows opened it up and it fell, dead, at our feet.

[End of session]

Recent Media

Books:
Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold is a 1956 novel by C. S. Lewis. It’s quite good, and seems like a very unusual approach to both Cupid and Psyche. The self reflection, particularly of Orual, is amazing. He does a good job of capturing the inward directed nature of our thoughts and musings; Orual is convincing both as a relatively selfless person and as someone who turns her back on difficult knowledge.

Cold Magic by Kate Elliot. I really enjoyed her writing; the book was compelling through. Cat and Bee seem authentic as young women from the striving class in an industrial age analog. A nice job is done mixing industry and magic without stretching into steampunk; the airship that amazes everyone is off screen.

Dresden Files: Cold Days by Jim Butcher. (Book 14) A good continuation of the series; Harry recovers, and it’s quite a journey. The Winter Fae are cruel (as we’ve seen before) and complex; Winter’s deep purpose is revealed and its machinations threaten to strangle everyone. It’s very good, but leans heavily on previous books–after 14 books, I don’t think he expects you to start with this one. (It’s still very accessible, but more than before, it will lack depth and meaning without prior books.)

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller. An incredibly interesting book, set in the real world, today. The lives of the characters feel realistic–and further from my experience than a fantasy hero. Engaging, amazing, well done.

Love in the Time of SeiĆ° was designed by Jason Morningstar and Matthijs Holter, and is based on Matthijs’ excellent game Archipelago II. It’s an interesting game–or at least an interesting, very bare bones, scenario. I can imagine it running for a long session, or a few short ones. The mechanics are mostly consensus seeking, hinging on application of six ritual phrases. Very cutting edge; I look forward to trying it. Online resources are available, so you don’t have to cut up your book.

I also read Hollowpoint, which was intriguing. It deserves another read; it looks to do hyper competence well, with a strong emphasis on violence and its consequences.

I’m currently beginning Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson. Set in Boston, 1765, it’s a window on a period where I’ve done little novel reading.

Podcasts:
Dice Tower 289: The first non-special episode in a while. Several good games; a good comparison of super hero games [avoid DC, Legendary and Sentinels are both excellent].

Board Games to Go:
131 – An rambling session, mostly talking between friends about other friends. I came away knowing that there’s an online show called Game Night, similar to a less slickly produced Tabletop.

132- The first in a series, a count down of a top 100 board games, as rated by 60+ designers and reviewers. Mark Jackson was one of the presenters, a big part of why I picked this series up. Well done; I look forward to the top 85, which will come in future episodes.

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff:
21 – Interesting; I particularly liked the first segment on Showing up to Play vs. Showing up to be Entertained. They also wandered into the fields of fudging. The topic was well covered, with divergent views.

22 – The discussion of the roles of mapper and caller was quirky, particularly as we transitioned to their modern equivalents. As usual, it was curious to see what dimly recognized things they’d shine light on.

Roleplay DNA, Episode 16 — Post-Apocalyptic gaming.
Handled unusually, with a particularly nostalgic bent; certainly no mention of Apocalypse World, and no real depth about Savage World’s Hell on Earth. Their theory, that apocalypse roleplaying’s often silly nature unleashes better roleplaying didn’t seem earned–or justified by their examples–but it wasn’t a bad podcast episode.

Kingmaker Session 3

The cast of characters:
Bryan is our fearless GM
Marc plays our warrior Stannis, skilled with a bow
Hudson plays Sonja, who fights with savage fury, hewing foes with a great-sword
Paul plays Egg-Shen, a monk of unusual disposition from distant eastern lands
Brian plays Ambario, whose mastery of armor cements his bold advances
I play Arndor, a fey-blooded sorcerer (history here)

We resumed immediately after the wolf attack that closed Session 2. Our characters spent a restless night recovering from our wounds and debating whether we should drink the healing potions to eliminate our recovery time. The chill night passed.

The next morning we awoke and decided to spend a day of chores and recovery at the camp. Early in the morning, a trapper approached. After an exchange establishing that he was not aggressive, he came forward and traded us healing poultices for the wolf skins that Ambario had prepared while we waited. They worked incredibly well, so we resumed our quest.

We decided to indulge Egg-Shen, who was fascinated by the tale of Davek’s ferry over the snake having been burned out and Davek killed. When we got there, only a rope remnant crossed the river. Near the old crossing a brass bell waited. Impulsively, Ambario decided to ring the bell. As the clear note sounded, everyone was struck dumb by a sudden plunge in temperature and fog that boiled out of the river. Stannis stumbled away from the bank, hefted his bow, and prepared for battle, while Sonja gripped her huge blade and likewise prepared to fight.

From the river emerged an emaciated, haunting form: the dead Davek. Ambario spoke boldly, telling the apparition that we fought the bandits who had killed Davek, and that we had already slain many. Davek’s apparition extracted a promise from us, to throw the Staglord’s body in the river so that he could watch him die. We promised him the deed, though once he departed we worried about the difficulty of transporting the Staglord alive to the river for a grizzly execution.

After we recovered our courage, we continued on to visit the kobolds. We followed the river, and knew we were close when we spotted a bright blue mite staked to a post on the hill. Once we neared the staked mite, a keen eyed companion spotted a sign marking an abandoned silver mine. When we investigated, a kobold guardian called a challenge out from within the cave. Fortunately, he then recognized us from the moon radish harvest; unfortunately, he lacked wit enough to greet us in a tongue that any but Ambario could understand.

He led us into the depths of the mine; Ambario noticed the glimmer of silver in passing as we negotiated the mine. At one point we passed a caged mite prisoner and asked the kobolds how their questioning progressed; later we turned sideways and shuffled to avoid a pit trap. Soon we reached at the main hall. Both the Chief and the Shaman were present; only Stannis was keen eyed enough to notice the subtle control that the shaman was exerting over the chief. They told us of their war with the mites; the raids

We negotiated; the kobolds would not agree to harvest their silver for us, and we were unimpressed with their offer to let us keep what we gained from the slaughter of the mites–since we had no intent to share what we’d won by force of arms with them–other than their statue. Eventually Arndor suggested that we extract a promise that the kobolds stop their raids on “biguns” instead. Reluctantly, Ambario offered that as the requirement, and they agreed. We would attempt to recover their missing idol. On the way out of their warrens, the shaman asked us to deliver the idol to him personally. Stannis was insulted by the attempt to break our proclaimed word.

We advanced halfway between the kobold camp and the great tree the mites were said to haunt. We decided to set up camp and sleep; to hit the mites in the morning. (The mites are nocturnal, reported the kobolds.)

The next morning we woke shortly after dawn, and it only took a few hours to reach the tree. We expected less activity by day, but were surprised to find the tree totally deserted. We hunted about, almost at random, before Stannis finally stumbled on a concealed entrance to their lair among the roots. The tunnel was small; we all dislodged tons of dirt on the way down.

Ambario was first down; his armor turned aside the tabletop catapults two mites fired as he descended, their caltrop ammunition harmlessly deflected. The mites decided discretion was wisest and fled by two exits. Or tried; Stannis cut one down with a well-placed arrow. The other got around a corner, calling alarm. The mite tunnels were a tight squeeze for us all; they stood 3′ high with few spaces more than 4′. So, stooped, we rushed after the fleeing mite. In the next room, guards attempted to delay our advance, while centipede herders roused their beasts (more than a foot across) to fight. Luck was on our side; while minor wounds were inflicted by the mites and centipedes, their poison did not bite.

A few got away, calling alarm, though Stannis’s arrows pinned several more before they could flee. When we reached the next room, a few guards tried to hold us away from their piles of junk, but Sonja’s great-sword and Ambario’s slashing blade felled the first; again they fled. Egg-Shen and Sonja raced across the room, heedless of traps, and slew them as they bottlenecked exiting the chamber. Our confidence was high; the mites we’d seen were no challenge to our skill. Which is how we came to overreach…

Rounding the corner, Sonja raced into the midst of the next chamber, where the mightiest mite warriors rose from their table and fanned out before their chief, who straddled a great tick. Sonja raced forward to cut down the fleeing mites, outpacing her allies. The warriors rushed to confront our barbarian, heartening their allies, who ceased fleeing and surrounded Sonja, cutting her off completely.

Before we could break through the mites and link back up with Sonja, the chief’s riding tick leapt forward and plunged its melon sized head into our barbarian, drinking deep. We redoubled our efforts to reach her; Arndor ensorcelled several mites clearing a path for allies to reinforce Sonja. Ambario’s heavy armor proved an impenetrable wall to the beleaguered mites. A hard fought engagement left many of our heroes wounded, but slew the mite king, his pet the tick, and the king’s guards. The mite remnants fled to the dark rear of the chamber, hurtling themselves into a chasm, swinging from great root to root. We didn’t pursue.

Among the chief’s loot was the kobold’s idol. Meanwhile, a crazed mite was our prisoner; while he understood the common tongue, his thoughts were too disordered to be of use. This chasm was the end of our path (we had no desire to descend), so we retraced our steps and soon approached the tunnel where we’d entered. Given the generally easy slaughter of the mites (their chief and his warriors exempted), we decided to proceed down the other path and clear the nest. In the next chamber we encountered a brave remnant of the mite hordes–but rather than prepare for us, their death, they instead enjoyed themselves with the torture of a kobold they’d captured earlier. We clashed and the mites fell, but before they died one of their number roused a truly tremendous centipede that emerged from the chasm at the back of this chamber. It lunged forward, startling the warriors with its speed, but luck favored our heroes; it landed sharp slashes of its scythe like mandibles, but never caught and drug our warriors away from their companions. Eventually it lunged forward one time too many, and the coordinated blows of our warriors felled it.

Meanwhile, Arndor had freed the kobold. The prisoner proved to be a member of the same kobold tribe; on our journey back, he told us of his capture and the plight of his tribe. (He, at least, spoke common.)

We retraced our route and reached the kobold warrens before sunset. We asked him to fetch the chief and shaman. He was reluctant; he blamed the troubles of his tribe on the mean-spirited shaman. We suggested that since he would be out of our sight, he could fetch whomever he chose. Several minutes later, he returned with the chief and his warriors in tow. We offered the chief the idol; he took it and smashed it to the stones. We prepared for an attack following his bold gesture, but instead he swore to break the shaman’s hold over the tribe. His warriors fell in enthusiastically, and together they raced to confront the shaman. We followed, hurrying to catch this confrontation.

The shaman appeared ready for a fight with the chief and his warriors… but confidence turned to terror as Sonja charged forward, Stannis contributed arrows, and the rest of the humans charged. The fight was brief. After the shaman’s death, the chief thanked up publicly, repeated his pledge to end his people’s raids on biguns, and invited us to take the shaman’s horded treasure with us in thanks for freeing him and his people.

We returned to Oleg’s–or, at least, set a path to do so. Each evening, Sonja was wracked by terrible, worsening chills. It appeared that the foul tick had passed some disease to our mighty barbarian. In the still frigid nights, we made warm camps and tended to our sick companion; when day arrived, we hurried our horses and finally reached the humble trading post.

The priest (who had come with the soldiers) tended to Sonja, curing her disease. We told tales of our exploits; Lieutenant Kreston told us that he would send to the Swordlords for our reward for taming the kobold problem.

[Ding, level 2!]

Several paths were open to us at this point; after discussion, we decided to try to find the abandoned temple to Erastil, in part to repay the priest of Erastil who had cured Sonja. We set off for the short journey on foot; the temple was in rumored to be in the woods, with passage too tangled for horses to be of much use.

We searched about and quickly found the ruins of the temple. Or… not quite ruins. Statues of the god in many forms were still present, just deeply tarnished; the font of holy water was stagnant and green with slime. Stannis, one of Erastil’s faithful, searched his pack and took out a cleaning cloth. He began applying it to the tarnished statue, while the other heroes kept a wary eye out for the rumored guardian.

Our efforts to clean were interrupted by a great snort, and the charge of an immense bear! We scattered, then reformed to wolf pack the great beast. Arndor lashed out with bright colors, dazzling it and allowing us to reposition. Much like wolves against a bear, keeping its attention off of any one target was critical–one heavy paw was enough to drive any hero to their knees… had it successfully landed both paws on any one hero, death would have followed. But fate, or Erastil, was on our side and we finally defeated the mighty defender.

On the bear’s collapse, we saw the great beast’s form replaced with a humble man’s–an old priest, whose corpse aged to oblivion before our eyes, tattered vestments threadbare around the bones. A wave of holy energy swept the temple, scrubbing the statues bright and restoring the holy water’s purity. We gave thanks, then returned to Oleg’s to describe the temple’s restoration to Erastil’s priest. He was so taken with our description that he immediately discussed heading out to see the sanctified temple.

Recent Media

Just a quick list of things I’ve listened to of late.

Thomas Jefferson Hour shows 1002-1004:
Show 1002 was about a letter Jefferson wrote touching on his view of historical political rights, mentioned the Whig view of history, etc. A very interesting topic that the letter touched on were “Ward Republics”–a level of government within the county of about 100 families. The idea of extending democracy to such a local level is both inspiring and intimidating.

Show 1003 was a response to the Newtown massacre; emphasis was placed on pausing, empathizing, and not reaching for the stock talking points. Purely OOC.

Show 1004 It Came to Pass was a rebroadcast of the 2010 Christmas Special. This was the first time I heard it; interesting elements include a history of Christmas in early America, including its banning in puritan New England for 80 years, and differences in celebrating then and now.

This American Life
482: Lights, Camera, Christmas! 12.21.2012
Interesting stories about building extravagant Christmases, with a particularly interesting interview with a family that built personal myths about Santa, the north pole, elves, and so forth.

481: This Week 12.07.2012
A fascinating series of “day in the life” stories, covering the previous 7 days.

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Episodes 16-20
All four episodes were strong; each episode is basically four 15 minute mini-shows, often with one self-indulgent topic (that is still presented interestingly), while the other three are experts talking about their fields. Weird research for roleplaying, system design and play, history, and many other intriguing topics filled the hours.

Roleplay DNA
Episode 15: Contract Negotiations inspired tomorrow’s Gnome Stew post. I really enjoyed the show, will be sorry to see Ron and Vern depart, and enjoyed the stories and examples that surrounded the theme. I hope it keeps going strong when the crew drops to 3.

The Paulcast Episodes 6-8
Episode 6 was an interesting interview of Meghann Robern. I enjoyed it so much I shared it with Jennifer.

Episode 7 was a talk about not-gaming and the path he’s been taking.

Episode 8 was a fun episode about buying experiences and trying out new things, hung on a trip to a brewery on 12-12-12. It was a great example of why I enjoy The Paulcast.

Exemplary DM Season 3, Episode 1
Good, not great. I’ll keep an eye out for their efforts going forward (which will be erratic, given their relocation to separate cities), but am not at all compelled to go through their backlog.

The Dice Tower Episodes 284 and 285
284 was a solid episode; it’s been long enough that I don’t remember many specifics. I only listened to part of episode 285. (I was listening, then we skipped to something else, and there’s no “fast forward” for podcasts in the car stereo system to skip the stuff I’ve already heard when it resumes.)

I’m not yet willing to listen to the stuff I heard once to get to the new stuff. In fact, I’ll delete it, since I’m a few episodes behind, and this is a show whose use to me is very anchored in time.

Shadowmarch

Shadowmarch was a 4 book series (Shadowmarch, Shadowplay, Shadowrise, and Shadowheart); a modern very long fantasy novel take on heroic adventure. It was quite successful. After the disappointments of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn I initially checked out only the first book, but it proved strong enough that I checked out and read the remaining books in the series.

They did not disappoint. Characters were stronger, varied, and interesting. It didn’t fall into the trap of introducing a multitude of less interesting viewpoints in later books; the major viewpoint characters were constant throughout the series.

Together, the characters explored the world–though not exhaustively, and never with a “just to show the next shiny city” motivation. The troubles that beset the characters are huge and transformative. Some of the storylines fade for a while, but that’s actually a good thing–the main through lines continue and you’re interested when the action finally gets back to the second string characters.