I recently finished The Silver Skull, a novel by Mark Chadbourne, part of his Swords of Albion trilogy. In all, a pretty good read at a hair over 400 pages. The novel follows the exploits of Will Swyfte, England’s greatest spy. Swyfte is Elizabethan England’s equivalent of James Bond: dashing, rakish and quick witted. While the threat of the Spanish Armada looms over England, Swyfte and a few other stalwarts work behind the scenes to protect Queen and kingdom from the true threat: the Fae and the Unseelie Court.
It’s a solid novel, well paced and tightly written. Its not without its faults – the threat and villainous plot feels almost anachronistic in this day and age – but these are outweighed by what the novel does right. It’s also a first novel, so one has to forgive the author a certain amount. I’ve added the follow up, the Scar-Crow Men, to my future reading list.
If that sounds right up your alley, start bugging the librarians at LPL for a copy.
Most of you have been around long enough to know my roleplaying game hobby extends beyond this library program. I’ve been playing RPGs since the early 80’s, and regularly since my sophomore year of college (1992). My regular game group meets every other Friday night, and has for many years. We took a few temporary breaks to have children (it’s very hard to come up with anything coherent when you are only getting about 2-3 hours of sleep between feedings and diaper changes), but we’ve always managed to bring it all back together.
The game we are currently playing is Witch Hunter: The Invisible World. Its a game that is equal parts swashbuckling adventure and macabre horror, taking a lot of cues from one of my favorite pulp literary characters, Solomon Kane. The players assume the roles of soldiers of faith against the things in the dark, scratching at the door in the night. These characters are members of apocryphal orders of church knights, most considered heretical by their faiths and denominations. Witch Hunters all work in the service of God, but come from every faith; Christian, Judaism, Islam, etc. Character types range from the beleaguered priest, to the bravo swordsman, from the caring midwife, to the sharp-witted cutpurse. The supernatural has left its mark on each of them, and so they have taken up a higher calling despite the odds.
The genesis for this campaign began about a decade ago when I began playing another (my first) swashbuckling RPG, 7th Sea. It was (and is!) terrific fun but got me thinking how cool it would be to run a darker sort of game set in colonial America. That led me to reading Solomon Kane which inevitably led me, via Savage Worlds, to the Savage Worlds of Solomon Kane (SWoSK) and All for One: Regime Diabolique (which for a short period served as our program world milieu). Witch Hunter actually predates both of these by a couple of months, but after about 2 years of regular SWoSK play, I decided I needed a system that was heftier and a bit less ability-oriented than Savage Worlds and had a more substantial world setting. And since I’d already been adapting huge chunks of Witch Hunter to my SWoSK game, and since the publisher was kickstarting a long awaited 2nd edition, I decided it made sense to migrate over to a new system and world setting with parallel themes to what my players and I have been enjoying for years now.
We’re also trying something new this time around by going virtual. While the Friday group has always been evolving, we’ve lost several good players to distance. I also have some friends who, because we live so far apart, I never get to game with them anymore. So at the recommendation and guidance from another friend (my GM-guru), we off the tabletop and onto Roll20. It’s been a challenge, and we’ve had to learn new ways of doing things. I actually spent money on a gaming headset rather than rely on my old phone earbuds. But its been a lot of fun to reconnect with players old and new and added a whole new dynamic to our game.
While it’s not the primary mission of our program, one of the things I love to see are players taking the next step, seeking out RPGs on their own and building their own groups, either as players or GMs. For those of you so inclined, I can’t recommend any of the games I’ve mentioned in this post enough. SWoSK is a self contained game with all the rules you need to play and enough adventure support to keep your group laughing death in the eye for years. Like the idea of swashbuckling horror but Savage Worlds just doesn’t do it for you? Both All for One and Witch Hunter offer very different (and well supported) visions of the same sub-genre. (All for One now has an official Savage Worlds version, too!) And if you don’t mind hunting through the aisles at Half Price Books, 7th Sea will rock your world every which way to Sunday. Want to game but got no group? Heading off to college in the Fall and want to roll dice with your friends back home? Roll20 has you covered.
Now get out there, roll some dice and have fun!