Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Song of Ice and Fire

I'm not a big fantasy reader. I appreciate Tolkien and a few other writers, but over all a lot of common themes in fantasy: a "chosen one" - often young white male - who has to fight the big, ultimate evil with some magic weapon just turns me off. I like mythological elements when they're woven subtly into stories, but I dislike stories with absolute black and white morality. 

A few years ago a friend introduced me to George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. It's a low magic setting that evokes a War of the Roses medieval family saga focusing on the noble houses of a world called Westeros. There are those who are honorable in the world (but not absolutely good), and there are those who act dastardly (selfish beyond belief, or sadistic), but not evil in the stronger sense. 

Anyway, I bring this book series up because Green Ronin is coming out with an RPG soon. Guardans of Order (now out of business?) produced a game of the world before, and it looked great, but I never bought or played it because 1. It was pricey. 2. It was... really just the expensive price tag I saw on it at Barnes and Noble turned me off. Other than that it looked like a good gritty, low fantasy game focused more on deceptive politics than combat. 

I picked up the free pdf quick start. The system is very basic - d6 based - but I like this because the lack of complication doesn't allow the mechanics to outshine the role playing - which should be essential - in a game like this. I see a lot of potential with playing a single household: one player takes on the role of Lord, one Maester, Sept, some Sers or bannermen, and you have the makings of a potentially good household v. household political drama. There do seem to be some magical objects hidden across the world too, so I don't see why an old fashion dungeon crawl would be out of the question. 

The game comes out in October. I've been anxious to play a fantasy game that takes place in the mythic past. Other than some one session runnings of DRYH and some other indie games I've downloaded lately, I've mostly been playing Changeling, or other WoD products straight for the past three years. I love WoD, but I need more variety in my gaming. --- I do want to go back and play some more Requiem for Rome though. As far as I'm concerned, that was the perfect Vampire setting. 


Questing GM said...

Interesting. I know some of my players who would love to play a d6-based game since we don't get alot of polyhedron dices here.

Downloading the quicks start pdf as we speak.

I've heard great review about the novels. Now is probably a good time to hunt down a few and start reading. It's been a while since I've read my last fantasy novel.

Ishmayl said...

I personally have only read the first book in the series, and was turned off by what I consider a very Stephen King-esque style of writing - that is to say, he seemed to throw graphic violence and sexuality into the story for absolutely nothing more than shock value.

With that being said, the setting and system itself intrigue me more than a little, as I am trying to find a simpler system on which I can piggy back my new magic system, and this looks like something that may work. Thanks for the heads up!

Jack Phillips said...


Although I do like the series, I think you're right - as far as the first book goes - I remember having a similar reaction the first time I read A Game of Thrones. His prose is also kind of plain too - which that reminded me of King.

However, in later books, I think he gives a good job of exploring the thoughts of some of the characters who took part in at least the graphic sexual acts, and making them human enough to justify what they'd done. So in character, I believe actions in the first book are justified, but from the reader's standpoint the justification comes a little late. But I think that was his intention - to prima facie make you take sides against and for certain families and later get you to feel otherwise.

The setting is interesting outside of the story. That and the Warhammer fantasy role play setting are probably my favorite fantasy settings for gaming purposes.