August 27, 2020

Kung Fu Classics

Do you play the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG? Are you interested in playing in or running a wuxia campaign? Please take a look at this and please let me know any comments or criticisms you may have or if you would you like to collaborate to expand on these ideas! 

Kung Fu Classics


July 31, 2020

The Sword of Shannara, in conclusion

In conclusion, yes, Sword of Shannara is highly derivative of The Lord of the Rings but that doesn't make it bad. There a lot of cool twists and turns in Sword of Shannara and the ending especially. In the end, Shea is rescued from the gnomes by Panamon Creel, a one-handed warrior, and Keltset, a mute troll. This unlikely trio find the sword but do not recognize it. It just looks like one of many pieces of junk found on the battlefield.

While the others spy on troops, rescue the king, and muster the human forces, these three slowly realize that this is THE sword and that Shea must face the Warlock lord with it. They are captured by trolls and Keltset eloquently (through bearing and sign language) pleads their case. And the trolls are persuaded and bring them to face the Warlock Lord.

And this is where I think it gets really interesting. The sword doesn't do anything sword-like. It might as well be a rock or a shoe. All it does is reveal truth. First Shea faces the truth about himself and then he forces the Warlock Lord to face the truth about himself. Unfortunately, the truth about the Warlock Lord, like any undead being, is that he should have been dead long ago. So he dies.

Have you done that sort of thing in your game? Give the evil forces information that turns them to your side? Use revealing truth in a devastating way? In what seems to be a story derivative of another, I like how this story changes things in interesting ways. Don't be afraid to let things change in your game!

May 24, 2020

The Sword of Shannara, part 2

In my last post, I talked about the first quarter of the book and how it compares and contrasts to the Lord of the Rings. Here I talk about the 2nd quarter of the book.

There is only one scene that shows that this is a post-nuclear world and it is here where a half-flesh and half-metal insect-like monster attacks the party. Both Shea, the only one who can wield the sword, and his adopted brother are wounded by this beasts and are brought unconscious and close to death. After driving it away, the party must then find a friendly place where they can heal the brothers. But first there is a great group of gnomes blocking the way! The interesting thing is that these gnomes are not a war party looking for the heroes but some kind of religious ceremony. The heroes devise a plan to get past them and here we see a decision showing the morality of the heroes. The one designated to shoot an arrow will not kill an unsuspecting enemy so he wounds him instead.

After getting past the gnomes, they find some gnomes who heal the brothers and they are on their way again. Through a very Moria-like Hall of Kings. The monsters are different, showing Brooks's creativity, and this time, Gandalf (Allanon) does not get separated from the party but Shea. Of course, this is very problematic since only Shea can wield the sword. But the rest of the party goes on anyway to try to find the sword.

It's here that the story finally diverges from Lord of the Rings definitively. Shea is captured by gnomes and the rest find that the sword has been captured too. How can they possibly succeed? We'll have to read the last half of the book to find out!

May 10, 2020

The Sword of Shannara

It was 1977. The Holmes Basic Set for D&D came out that year as well as the Monster Manual. The AD&D rules were still being worked on and would not come out until 1978 and 1979. The Sword of Shannara, a novel penned by a young Terry Brooks fresh out of college, released to great popularity, excepting many fantasy roleplayers. They said The Sword of Shannara was just a shallow copy of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and in some ways they were right. But in many other ways they were wrong.

This review covers only the first quarter of the novel and in its broad strokes, you will find it very similar to the Fellowship of the Ring. But although Sword of Shannara is very inspired by Lord of the Rings, it still goes its own way. It dispenses with Tolkien's poetry and gives us more action. You could even say that Sword of Shannara is the D&D version of Lord of the Rings.

Let's state the differences first. There are no hobbits in Shannara. Shannara is a world similar to ours after an apocalypse that made man evolve into gnomes, dwarves, and trolls. Elves were always around in our world but they now they no longer hide themselves. The Warlock Lord allies himself with gnomes and trolls and flying creatures called Skull Bearers. But the biggest difference is that there is no ring. There is a sword and, at the beginning of the story, the Warlock Lord has stolen it.

So while there is a fellowship of men, dwarves, elves, and a magic-user that forms after the two young men escape from Shady Vale, the quest is different. They have to find the sword. Then they have to figure out how to use the sword. And then defeat the Warlock Lord with the sword. Is that much of a difference? Yes. They are not hiding a ring as they travel to the land of Mordor, while the ring plays with everyone's hopes of power. They are on a mission of desperation. A mission that more resonates with D&D adventures than Tolkien.

I'll post more as I continue reading. What are your thoughts about The Sword of Shannara?