Thursday, September 24, 2015

Elric & Other Excerpts

Artist Eric Cante posted this picture of Elric of Melnibon√© yesterday, and it is badass.  I love Michael Moorcock's work, and while we're talking about it, let me also mention that Wizards of the Coast still has not published a melee-centric variation of the Warlock class, and it's a bad oversight.

I've had in mind to write some kind of variation myself now for several weeks--we need it because of the way my daughter plays Sneakatara Boatman and because of the way that I write her into my fiction--but I've simply not had anything like the time to sit down with the Player's Handbook and try to come up with something that seems balanced.  I've got an idea in mind; I just need to fool around with it a bit.

While we're talking about Sneax, it is perhaps worth mentioning that I've been working on a new story about her.  Truth be told, this story is actually about Elaina Emboo, but what can you do?  Sneax is in it; she's still a viewpoint character, but Elaina's arc is doing most of the driving.  I've been pleased with it so far.  For what it's worth, I sent an early draft of Act One to my test readers a few weeks back, and they seemed to like it, though they are not always the toughest critics.  Truthfully, I could use a couple of test readers who are assholes, but even the ones I have that went to West Point tend not to want to hurt my feelings.

Strange but true.

Anyway, the new story is a novelization of "The Mystery of Mordecai's Monster," a project I decided to undertake after realizing that the audience for my fiction and the audience for short RPG adventures over at ENWorld.Org are not necessarily the same audience.  That said, if the reactions to "Malvern Manor", "Mordecai's Monster", and "Fall of Cahokiantep" are any kind of indication, folks seem to like my stuff better when I'm writing that weird-horror mode I've been using lately, and...  Well, the new story is definitely weird horror.  

This has the upside of letting me do pretty much whatever I want storywise without worrying about how it's going to be received by my audience because, bottom line, I'm trying to freak you out.  The downside, though, is that I've now completely departed from any semblance of Young Adult storytelling.  By the time this particular story starts, Sneax is seventeen and Elaina is nineteen, and I'm done trying to pretend that they're kids playing in an adult world.  I think of them more as 7th Level D&D characters, albeit young ones.  The monsters that they're fighting are real monsters, creatures that could kill the average person with ease or perhaps even lay waste to an entire village.  Perhaps more to the point, the temptations that they have are adult temptations.

I mention all of this because it at least partially explains why I think this project will never find a traditional publisher.  The stories themselves defy easy classification.  "Fire Elf" is a middle grade reader but "Priest of Loki" is a Young Adult piece, and it's hard to say that anything in The Crown of Pluto is even remotely targetted at kids.  The actual story "The Crown of Pluto" is a war story.  And the stories themselves keep getting darker and weirder from there.  I am loathe to abandon the characters, though.  I personally find the writing process a little more interesting now that we've started layering new quirks and complications onto the general framework, and anyway, the arc's not done.  

To put it another way, I know that I need to do more with Cahokiantep.  

Cahokiantep is a fresher, more original world, it's got a more original premise, and it fills a clearer niche in the literary marketplace.  On top of that, I feel like I made a mistake labeling the "Sneax & Elaina" stories Young Adult when in fact they probably appeal a little more to RPG and fantasy fiction fans in a general/adult sense.  That's an error that's easily corrected as I start getting into a new story-space.  

Nonetheless, I keep getting caught up in Wanderhaven.  I still feel like I have stories to tell using these characters.  I just wish more folks were giving the books themselves a chance.

I really want to share some of the new story.  It's impossible to do that, though, without giving away massive spoilers for some of the earlier books, and I don't want to do that.  Almost the only thing I can share without giving anything away are the section openings, the bits that serve to give a bit of heft and scope to the world at large.  So...

“Necromancy is the magic of death.  But just as death is the end of life, so too must death magic be the magic of life and the spirit.  The necromancer cannot heal, perhaps, but he can hold off the end times.  He cannot give life, but he can hold back the angels, reanimate flesh, and give motion and purpose to what would otherwise be mere meat and bone.”
 ---- Cassius Cato Oittougliae, Magical Transformations

“The magic of death is neither Art nor Science.  It is magic, by definition.  It works not through the application of mystic formulae nor on the basis of any measurable scientific principle.  It works because the necromancer wills it to work.  Once the soul departs the body, it is the necromancer’s determination that must give purpose and volition to the husk that is left behind.”
 ---- Cassius Cato Oittougliae, Magical Transformations

So yeah.  It's all about Necromancy.


  1. I'm curious. What are you looking for in a melee warlock that a Fiendish Blade Pact doesn't offer? (I'd like to figure out acceptance criteria before I start work on such a thing myself.)

    1. The main thing I think the class is missing right now is a reason to close to melee.

      As written, the class design is almost entirely based around the Eldritch Blast with the ocassional damage kicker spell thrown in for when you need an extra jolt. So you can blast away at range and then use, say, Witchbolt when you want to pull out all the stops. As it is, this is almost always your best option. That's a problem if you're trying to build a different kind of character.

      I can think of a couple of ways to redesign, with the obvious one being to reintroduce some kind of Shadow Walk feature that gives you the ability to gain concealment when you move. If you add melee weapon proficiency and/or some teleportation powers, you then have the basis for a Skirmisher-type class similar to the new version of the Ranger. The obvious downside, though, is that you are potentially stepping on some toes here.

    2. You could also add in a revision of Hellish Rebuke for melee where the bad guys take damage for hitting you.

    3. Armor of Agathys is a pretty good option here, especially as your pact magic slots increase in level - 25 temporary hit points and 25 cold damage per received hit is brutal. Admittedly, 25 hit points evaporate pretty quickly at 9th level, and tying the cold damage's duration to the temp hit points' duration is a serious limitation.

      Arms of Hadar is a solid point-blank AoE - not technically weapon-linked, but you have to get all up in their business to make it useful.

      Finally, my friend Stands-in-Fire retooled the Warlock with some of these goals in mind, thusly:

    4. Cool. I'll take a look at that. Thanks.

      I should add that there's probably an out here in the basis of the Pact of the Blade as well in that you gain proficiency with your Pact Blade regardless of what it is. Still, I'd like to see something like a Shadowdancer class option presented through the Warlock, which is what I've had in mind to write up. Granted, I'm a little more interested in the concept sketch than I am in trying to balance it, but I still think there's an opening here somewhere.

    5. Also check out the new cantrip, Greenflame Blade, they have previewed from Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. As one of my friends was pointing out, if this is available to blade 'locks, their lives just got a lot better.

    6. Interesting. I hadn't seen that. Thanks for pointing it out.