May 09

A GM Reads: Legend


As you know, the new year brought a new reading challenge for me. The plan is to read my way around Europe with a selection of YA novels.



The goal of the 2017 Epic Read project was twofold: a tour of Europe, before Little Englanders uproot the country and sail off into some imagined Utopia, and read more children’s books. Yet, I also want to reward myself with occasional genre books.


However, it is clear to me how the original plan is not working. I struggled to find YA books for the first two European countries on my list. Thus, the Epic Reads project was splitting into two strands: an adult book tour of Europe and random children’s books.


This divided focus works poorly with my limited schedule. I simply lack the time for two major strands of reading. I resolved to change my plan. Much as I enjoyed the two European books, it was reading the children’s books which will have the greatest benefit for my writing. Thus, the 2017 Epic Reads is now focused on reading a selection of children’s books, generally taken from the boys’ shelves.


As you can see from the title, this is not what I am writing about here. As part of my general overhaul of my reading plan for the year, I realised short reviews of children’s books is not what the blog needs. I would reinforce the themes of my blog better if I reviewed books as a GM.


A GM Reads

Thus, I begin a new version of the Reading Around series of book reviews. The revised title shows I am focused upon what a GM can take from the book in question. I will lift out characters, events, creatures, plots or themes from each book. As a GM, you will still need to read the book to gain the most benefit, but each review should have something for the GM.


The series begins with Legend, by David Gemmell. This is part of the Drenai Saga, currently published by Random House. The website describes it as follows:


Druss, Captain of the Axe, was the stuff of legends. But even as the stories grew in the telling, Druss himself grew older. He turned his back on his own legend and retreated to a mountain lair to await his old enemy, death. Meanwhile, barbarian hordes were on the march. Nothing could stand in their way. Druss reluctantly agreed to come out of retirement. But could even Druss live up to his own legends?


Read more at Random House


I am a big fan of David Gemmell’s work, across many series. His books have great pacing, engaging characters and enthralling plots. My shelf space is very limited these days, but there is room for many of his books.



For the GM

I see two main areas in Legend for the GM. This ignores the great characters, or the presentation of a siege. I recommend reading the book for those details. Legend also has a specific detail and a broad theme I want to share today.


The specific detail is the fortress city of Dros Delnoch. Unlike many fantasy books, there is no map of the fortress in my copy. However, there are many details about the layout of the city scattered through the book. Dros Delnoch blocks a pass through the mountains with a series of walls, each cleverly named. The land behind each wall is higher, making the walls easier to defend. The multiple walls reminded me of Minas Tirith, of course, but Dros Delnoch is far less vertical in nature. It would make a great backdrop for a siege game.


Scaling up, the broad theme I take from Legend is how a GM can mine history for campaign events, yet mix up the timelines. I recognised elements of the Spartans at Thermopylae and the Mongol invasion of Europe. These events are not repeated in Legend, but woven as inspiration into the fantasy story. Ken Hite always urges GMs to mine history for their games. Here is a brilliant example of an author doing the same thing.



Moving Forward

I continue to read children’s books, but these are now updated only on the Pinterest page. My next book with ideas for GMs deals with Anglo-Saxon monastic sign language.



Happy Reading



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