Book Review: Nine Princes in Amber

I sought out this book when I heard it might be turned into a tv-series – and from page one, I could see very clearly why someone would consider this material for a tv-series. This first book in The Chronicles of Amber is written very cinematically. It starts in medias res with a main character waking up in a hospital with amnesia, and progresses from there at full speed through the action. And there’s action aplenty! Continue reading Book Review: Nine Princes in Amber

4th of December: Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding

4 Kobold-GuideToWorldbuilding

A bunch of advice and insight by gaming industry insiders.

Editor: Janna Silverstein

From: Worlbuilder’s Toolkit

This book is an anthology of essays on various facets of worldbuilding, written by veterans of the gaming industry like Monte Cook, Keith Baker and Wolfgang Baur. The book starts out with some more general essays on worldbuilding as such, and then progresses to more specialised topics like options for religion, technology or magic in a Fantasy world , designing a mystery cult or how to write a “world bible” or work within someone else’s intellectual property.

A couple of highlights:

Chris Pramas’ “Worldbuilding Outside In or Inside Out”, about two ways of doing worldbuilding. Do you start with the great strokes of the world, or do you start with the specific setting for your story?

Joshua Roberts’ “Here Be Dragons: On Mapmaking”, about creating maps for your world. A quick and accessible guide to creating good, believable and useful maps for your setting.

Michael A. Stackpole’s “They do what now? On societies and culture”, about creating interesting cultures, and thinking through the consequences of small cultural differences.

My impression: This is a very interesting book, and one that holds a lot of inspiration for someone embarking on a worldbuilding project. There is a lot of general advice, and the more specialised articles would be quite useful when designing those certain elements of your setting. The essays are short, which makes it easy to blast through one if you are in need of a creative pick-me-up. I might have wished that some of them were a little longer, but there you are.

My main objection is that they are rather focused around a certain kind of setting: the standard D&D Fantasy setting. While many articles refer to other kinds of settings (like Wolfgang Baur’s “How real is your world?”, which lays out a taxonomy of Fantasy worlds), it is clear that the focus of the book is that particular kind of world. I would have loved an article or two about science fiction world, or maybe on Urban Fantasy or contemporary horror worlds.

Other than that, the book might have benefited from perspectives outside of the very D&D-focused world of heroic Fantasy games. Maybe a Fantasy author, or perhaps even an Indie game designer. Or just someone from another corner of the “trad” rpg sphere – maybe someone from White Wolf/Onyx Path, or perhaps someone like Kenneth Hite or Robin D. Laws, who have been responsible for a number of different games.

I do like the book, though, as an inspiration for creating worlds for either Fantasy fiction, or for role-playing.

How would I use this: I would turn to this book when I need inspiration for a world – like when I’m about to start preparing for a new campaign – or during the process of designing a setting, in order to get some inspiration for things to consider.

2nd of December: Adventures on Danger Planet


2 Metzger-AdventuresOnDungeonPlanet

Science Fantasy Dungeon World on a weird planet.

Author/Designer: Johnstone Metzger
From: The Indie Cornucopia Bundle

For the second instalment of my Advent Calendar, I’m looking at the book Adventures on Dungeon Planet, a sourcebook for Dungeon World. I got it in the Indie Cornucopia bundle, a bundle that also held the main Dungeon World book, The Planarch Codex (another reskin of Dungeon World), Apocalypse World, some Fiasco playsets and a number of smaller games.

This book takes Dungeon World and adds a Science Fantasy layer to it. It has a tone to it that reminds me of Jack Vance, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. The game tells what is essentially a Heroic Fantasy narrative, dressed up with weird aliens, clangy metallic robots and weird, nefarious overlords (possibly played by Max von Sydow).

The game comes with new playbooks, including the Earthling, lost far from home, and the Engine of Destruction, a robot built to kill. It also adds new Dangers for the GM to use, three new races to use as adversaries or PC’s (Android, Alien and White Ape), stats for space ships and rules for creating a planet. At the end there is a bunch of Science Fantasy monsters to use in adventures.

My impression: I like many of the things that Dungeon World does with the apocalypse engine, but the standard Fantasy classes seem too bland to work as PbtA playbooks. Transposing the whole thing to a strange new planet and adding the new character options to the mix changes that to a large extent. It seems to me that the new classes in this document has a lot to play on, and I would love to play a game in this setting.

The book has a pretty nice layout, and the illustrations really underline the mood and setting of the book. Some of the monster stats in particular are not the most nuanced, but that is not a big deal. All in all, a rather nice basis for a (slightly silly, over the top) game.

How would I use this: I could definitely see myself bringing this game to the table, maybe for a one-shot, maybe for a short campaign. I don’t know that I would want to do a long campaign in this, but that is perfectly OK – I can be satisfied with less.