Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Random Reviews: Corsair

Do I get extra XP for this dramatic pose? I recently picked up Richard Baker’s new Forgotten Realms novel Corsair.  It is the sequel to Swordmage, and continues the adventures of Geran Hulmaster.

I enjoyed Swordmage a lot when it came out, even though it suffered from being the first 4E Forgotten Realms novel.  As a result, it felt like it spent a lot of time providing exposition for things like the Spellplague, spellscars, and changelands that were at best tangentially connected to the plot.

On the other hand, Swordmage did a very good job at fleshing out Hulburg and its environs.  The book got me to care about the town and its inhabitants.  It also seemed to be a great playable environment for D&D, and I am seriously considering starting a campaign there sometime soon.

Corsair picks up several months after the events of Swordmage,  Geran Hulmaster is still in Hulburg, helping the city recover after the events of the first novel.  Unfortunately for Geran, he has managed to pick up many enemies over the years.  This means his presence in Hulburg is more dangerous to the city than helpful.  Kind of like Luke Skywalker being part of the rebel strike force on Endor brought unwanted attention to them.

The most obvious problem facing Hulburg are pirates threatening the shipping routes.  In true player character fashion, Geran decides the best course of action is to gather the party together, commandeer a ship, and confront the problem head on.  What Geran doesn’t realize is that there are a number of much more insidious plots directed against both him and the city.

The villains are probably the best part of Corsair.  Most novels give you one major villain, possibly with a henchman to help them out.  Corsair is teaming with fully-realized bad guys, all of whom have their own goals and motivations.  The villains make alliances of convenience to accomplish their goals, but each one seems to consider himself the mastermind and the other villains mere pawns.    

This leads to a great deal of overlapping plots and dastardly deeds.  Just like Swordmage provided a great campaign setting, Corsair provides a great example for DM’s on how to layer threats against the PC’s in a believable manner.  Even better, this layered approach to villainy allows the PC’s to take out the occasional big bad without completely derailing the campaign.

So I heartily recommend Corsair, especially if you are GM.  It is not only an entertaining read, but a great inspiration for your tabletop game.  Plus it has pirates.