Aug 08

A GM Reads: Seeking North

 

My revised reading challenge for 2017 is to focus upon what a GM can take from the books I read. I lift out characters, events, creatures, plots or themes from each book. As a GM, you still need to read the book to gain the most benefit, but each review brings a few ideas for the GM.

 

Sadly, I have a backlog of titles to write about. My latest book to review is Seeking North, by CJ Cherryh, Lynn Abbey and Jane Fancher. This short e-book can be downloaded from the authors’ website, Closed Circle, where they describe it as follows:

 

Seeking North is a Shared World Lynn created for the three of us to play in. It got off to a quick start, then the Six Months of Chaos took over our lives, and our hoped for schedule kinda collapsed. We’re hoping you like and encourage us to get back at it, cuz the characters are great fun and . . . well, we all want to know what happens! Download the first part here . . .

 

Read more at Closed Circle

 

I am a huge fan of CJ Cherryh, so it was interesting to read this collection of short stories. The shared setting is unusual, and the stories showed different voices. I would read more in the series, to see what happens next.

 

See also my review of Tripoint, by CJ Cherryh

 

 

For the GM

These stories are set in a post-apocalypse world, or perhaps a colony which has fallen into ruin. Yet, I still found a topic of interest for fantasy GMs. Much of Seeking North revolves around mules, and their benefits compared to horses. There are two points here which bear repetition.

 

Firstly, horses are relatively fragile creatures. They require careful tending, and a limited diet. It is too simple to treat them as four-legged motorbikes, for the Heroes to jump on a moment’s notice, ride until the destination is reached, and then forgotten. As Seeking North reminds us, the reality is very different.

 

Secondly, the book highlights the ruggedness and flexibility of mules, notably as an alternative to horses. A mule can work as hard, but requires less care, and eats a broader range of plants. Mules are thus better suited to working on a farm, pulling wagons and even as mounts for low-status riders.

 

While not covered in the book, this distinction reminded me about the use of oxen on farms. All the advantages of mules also apply to oxen, with the added benefit of edibility. For a fantasy GM, oxen may be a better match for the setting than mules.

 

 

Happy Reading

Phil

 

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