Monday, January 30, 2017
Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Promises, Promises & RPG Blog Carnival
Promises, Promises is one of those books that people have been telling me I need to read for years. It features witches, oracles, a Red Sonja-like warrior woman, and, as the cover proclaims, plenty of dykes.
But more importantly, it is a fun story with some great and memorial characters. This is L-J Baker's first foray into comedy and it's a ton of fun.
In the pages of this book she lampoons and satirizes: Star Wars, Dune, Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Princess Bride, Shrek, the Valdemar Books, Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, Eragon, Narnia, every fairy tale, Buffy, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (many times), Harry Potter, Monte Python and the Holy Grail, Conan, and of course lots, and lots of D&D.
Not all her jokes hit the mark, but there are so many you don't really care. This is not, as others have claimed. a Xanth-like novel, but the comparison is a fair one.
I honestly believe that L-J Baker had to have been (or still is) a gamer. The references are too well done and actually too lovingly well done to be anything else other than admiration. Yes she is poking fun at some long-held tropes but in such a way as only someone who has loved these tropes can.
If you love stories of adventures or games of them, then I would suggest getting this for those reasons alone. It points out some of the most ridiculous situations adventurers often find themselves in, but again does it in such a way as never to ridicule, but have light fun. The lack of proper hair care products, insect repellant, steady wages and sleeping accommodations are only the tip of the iceberg. You quickly learn that every adventuring company needs a "Ruth".
A couple of nitpicks. Sometimes the book tries to be too clever. Especially when talking about anachronistic details like flushable toilets and advanced cartography. BUT even these are meant to poke fun at modern biases you see in many fantasy books, especially ones based on game worlds.
Also, I picked up the audio-book for this and the narrator really has an odd way of pronouncing some of the words. Not sure what was going on here, but I cringed every time she would say "talons". Other words she just didn't know how to pronounce. I picked up the Kindle version too just to make sure I was not mishearing something.
All in all, though the book was extremely fun and enjoyable. There is a good story here and even a message about not having to go out to seek something that you already have.
It's no spoiler that there is a Happily-Ever-After (it's on the cover) but like all adventures, most of the fun is getting there anyway.
Thank you my internet minions for suggesting this book to me! Now go forth and find me more!
(Or...if I take the lesson from this tale, I should just go over to my tower of "To Be Read" and tackle that.)
Books Read so far: 4
Witches in this book: Miss Sandra Sybil Blunt, first rate wooer of women, but only a third rate witch.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Sandy is good. She doesn't always know that.
Best RPG to Emulate it: So easy. This book SCREAMS "Play me in Pathfinder!"
Use in WotWQ: Given all the cameos of so many fantasy characters in this book Sandy, Ruth, Dru, Mavis and Bob will have to make a guest appearance in my adventures someday. Dru will have to say something appropriately anachronistic.
The Problem With Oracles
Consequently, this book also ties in nicely with this month's RPG Blog Carnival, Prophecies & Omens. It really illustrates how and why Oracles, Omens, and Prophecies are such a pain in the ass (and often very fun to use).
In "Promises, Promises" we get two oracles of a sort. The first is "The Infallible Oracle of Ring" that has stated that Drusilla, dispossessed princess of an oppressed people, will go on many adventures with the Great Obtuse Mage, and survive to get her kingdom back. This is great since it gives Dru plenty of motivation to go on this otherwise ridiculous adventure, sadly everyone else thinks she is insane.
The second oracle is the previously mentioned Obtuse Mage, also known as Sandy Blunt herself.
She is the one that gets everyone in trouble. She tries to hit on a princess in disguise (another princess) and commits the capital offense of Prophesizing to one of Royal Blood. She has a year and day to make all her alcohol and lust-fueled boasts come true.
"Promises, Promises" plays on the setup of prophecies in fantasy fiction quite well. Several others are mentioned such as various farm-boy turned chosen ones (read Star Wars, Dune, Eragon and Harry Potter). Dru will often throw herself right into danger because of the Infallible Oracle of Ring.
While fun for a book, even a book based more or less on RPGs, it is a bit harder to pull this off for RPGs in play. So if I was the DM and I had a party that included a witch, a princess, a warrior woman, a clueless paladin, an ogre druid and a highly resourceful shop girl (first I guess I'd question what the hell was I playing) I would not let my princess jump feet first into the deepest part of the ocean because the Oracle said she would get her crown back.
Prophecies have to be vague, Omens have to be hard to read. The Prophecy in Harry Potter, for example, was vague enough to mean Harry or Neville. Or in the case of Anakin his "bringing balance back to the force" meant killing every Jedi until there were only two Jedi and two Sith left.
In my own games, I had set up a situation where a child was going to be born who would essentially become the "Messiah of Witches". This was during my "Willow & Tara" game in Season 2, "Season of the Witch". Season 3, "Generation Hex", would fast forward a bit (the child was born in 2005) to deal with the children born then in high school now. One of those characters was going to be this new power in the world. I didn't know who yet, I wanted to keep that much vague even from me, but I knew it was going to be one of them.
What I could not foresee (though it should have been obvious) was my Season 2 taking forever, so much that the game's future became the real-world's past and Season 3 never getting started.
Who was going to be the new Witch Messiah? No one knows now.
So here is my advice for Prophecies and Omens in your games:
1. Keep them Vague
Just like the prophecies of Nostradamus are ret-conned to mean or justify anything today, keep your's vague so they might mean anything at all.
2. Have the Players Give them Meaning
Let your player decide what the prophecies mean for their characters. Along with being vauge, this gives you an "out". Plus they might come up with something much more interesting than you did and they will find ways to make it come true.
3. Use them Sparingly
Omens, Prophecies and the like have more punch when they are a rare thing. No considers the weather app on your smart-phone to be magical, but it has a far better success rate than what Nostradamus has said. Part of that reason is well, science, but also I can get a weather report anytime I want one. Back in the early days of the internet (the 80s) I was dumbfounded when I logged in and could get a real-time weather map. Why? Because it was rare and new.
Prophecies can be a lot of fun. Or like for the poor Obtuse Mage and 3rd rate witch Sany Blunt, they can be a real pain in the ass!