A Game of Thrones is probably not new to most people, what with the HBO series out and all. I just finished reading the book and so I thought a review was in order. For Game Masters I think the book highlights a couple of questions that are worth considering.
I’m a big Tolkien fan, and it’s not often that I find a book I’d even consider comparing with his works. A Game of Thrones, however, is a book to reckon with.
The story is inspired by the War of the Roses, and if you’re even a little familiar with English history you’ll pick up some of the references. The novel takes up a “point of view” (POV) narrative from the perspectives of several characters, switching to a different character with each chapter. The story is full of intrigue and war, and despite being a fantasy story has nothing “faerie” about it. This is medieval Europe complete with the pox, be-headings and a smattering of sinister monsters. In fact, “less is more” would be the best way to describe the fantasy aspect of this book. In Martins work the little fantasy offered is so believable and “real” that you might even begin wondering why Tolkien bothered with Elves at all.
As it is in the Seven Kingdoms
So what can a GM learn from A Game of Thrones? Well, first off, humans can be more interesting than buckets of elves and, dare I say it, tonnes of dwarves. Sometimes all the fantasy races available make a story convoluted; how do dryads and mer-folk react to each other? Do orcs and salamanders have an ancient history that drives their interactions? Who cares? I think even Tolkien kept the number of races to a manageable amount, and he had many races.
Secondly, learning from real-life history is a good thing. Why not use your game prep time as an opportunity to learn? A fantasy D-Day Landing could be a great idea and something to really interest the war gamers in your group.
Third, landmarks are important, not just for finding your way, but also for telling a story. Throughout the books places like Winterfell, Riverrun and The Wall become touchstones for the development of the story. Whatever setting you’re using, make the most of landmarks.
There’s more I could say, but what about you. Did you read the book or watch the series? Did you enjoy it? Did it influence your story telling? Leave a comment and let us know.