Saturday, November 21, 2009

Doug Niles Irritates Me

You know, most days I can think of something constructive to post, but for the last couple days, every time I've sat down at Ye Olde Laptop there's only one thing popping into my head: Douglas Niles irritates me.

Not the man, himself, of course...I've never met Mr. Niles and he's probably a swell guy. But for whatever reason, as an author he bugs me. I'm not even talking about his writing style (I wouldn't even know HOW to analyze that kind of thing...I'm neither an English teacher nor a pro critic). But his subject matter, the substance of which he writes.

I don't know what I'm trying to say here...well, besides the obvious title of the post; I guess I'm just venting a little bit. I picked up CM2:Sabre River in the game shop the other day, read through it, and tossed it back on the pile. It just seemed so damn boring and trite. I picked up N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God mainly because it represented a missing chunk of my past. I was even able to get the maps for it that had previously been missing. But I haven't finished reading it as I got bored just a few pages in.

And I think this is part of the reason I never finished reading it in my youth. Well, I'm sure that I was frustrated it was making reference to AD&D stuff that wasn't in my B/X rules, and it WAS pretty low level by the time I'd picked up the Players Handbook. But even still, I probably would have at least READ the module. And I didn't...I just wasn't wowed by the plot.

And now I have X3: The Curse of Xanathon and IT is missing all its pages from 15-18 (ugh!) including a couple map inserts. And in reading the thing, it just feels...I don't know, "mediocre," I guess. In some ways it feels similar to evil cult has moved into town and now everything's going to hell. You have to raid a bad temple.

But I don't like how it casts the Ethengarians (the Mongol-type people from Mystarra) as the bad guy...and worse that they're SNEAKY bad guys instead of ride-in-bows-blazing Scourge-of-God-type villains.

Then there's the un-killable Evil High Priest. I'm not sure why this is so irritating but I'll try to codify it. Let's see...okay, how about this:

- the guy is invulnerable to EVERYTHING, right? Period. It's not very subtle or clever.
- the only way for the players to find this out is by attacking the guy. There are no hints, no preparations that can be made, no nothing that occurs previously in the story.
- depending on how fast the players figure out their little problem, he could really do a number on them. Of course, he "delights in physical combat," so they only have to worry about him bashing them with his mace and not his high level spells
- during the encounter he does the comic book villain thing, giving the players hints on how to kill him...which, of course, is dumb

Basically the whole encounter is a bit of an F-You to the players, who then need to figure out (from the clues in the High Priest's know, the chamber where he is invulnerably bashing them about?) where they're supposed to go to find his "life force" so he can be killed. And then there's another shrine/mini-dungeon to delve. And then it's back to the Evil High Priest. And yadda-yadda-yadda. Boring.

Then there's the whole "oh the Duke is crazy and he's expelled the dwarves and declared war on them" time limit thing. Basically, the players have three weeks to A) figure out the Evil High Priest has cursed the duke, B) figure out the EHP is invulnerable, C) go find his life force and return...or else the dwarves are going to march on the town and raze it.

This is DUMB. The whole adventure takes place in one small Ducal city-state in the kingdom of Vestland. Why would the entire army of Rockhome (the dwarf nation) launch an invasion just for a few insults? That would bring down the rest of Vestland on them, not to mention neighboring allies. And do the dwarves really give two shits about the crazy Duke? He hasn't launched an attack on them, he's just "declared a state of war exists" and threatened to shave the beards of any dwarf that doesn't leave town...and they leave town! So what's the big deal that would get the taciturn dwarves to mobilize in three weeks?

It's irritating. Unlike Mr. Cook, Mr. Niles does NOT unleash the potential of B/X game play with his module...he dumbs it down and makes me uninterested in the game.

When I put Sabre River back on the pile, I had half-jokingly told the proprietor that "I still had a bone to pick" with Doug Niles over the damn Dungeoneers Survival Guide...a hard back book for which I shelled out good money as a kid and never used, except for those irritating non-weapon proficiencies. I probably should have stuck with my instincts and skipped the other modules with his name on it.

I see from his wikipedia entry that Mr. Niles has published many fantasy novels of the Dragon Lance and Forgotten Realms variety. Somehow, this doesn't surprise me as both those series irritate me, too. Yes, I know that the man isn't responsible for either of these campaign worlds. I'm just not surprised that he's drawn to the subject matter...he and I seem to have very different tastes.

[okay, now that I've got all THAT out, maybe I can turn my mind to more constructive matters; sorry about that folks]

1 comment:

  1. No need to apologize. It was both informative and entertaining. Good post.