Saturday, October 4, 2014

Review and Commentary On Swords of Kos: Hekaton From Skirmisher Publishing For Your Old School Sword and Sorcery Campaigns

Grab It Right 

This is is one of those anthologies that comes out when a company is promoting an rpg setting. I love the Sword of Kos campaign sword and sorcery setting. Its got a different flare to its material then many OSR efforts that have come out. This is the second volume of the series and its a nice solid hit to the material. 
Skirmisher does a good job setting up the backdrop to their sword and sorcery setting with this volume which is set right smack into the heart and soul of their timeline for the Kos rpg material. These stories are focused around the various Kos historic monsters and horrors that the setting uses as both background and game fodder in spades. All of this material has an ancient Mediterranean fixation and it suits what it does quite nicely.It reads some place between ancient Greek mythology and its own brand of highly epic sword and sorcery fantasy with a Skirmisher Publishing flare.
 Here's the Drivethrurpg blurb: 
"'Hekaton! Hekaton! Hekaton!'
From his quarters at the top level of the City Guard commandery that controlled the main entrance to the Hippodrome of Kos, Commander Ivan Pieger could hear the crowds chanting in the grand plaza some five stories below. Hekaton, of course, simply meant “one hundred,” and was shorthand for hekatontaetirĂ­da, or 'one-hundred-year anniversary,' but the full expression of the term did not roll off the tongue very nicely and could not easily be chanted in unison by hundreds of frenzied souls.
Pieger got up from his paper-strewn desk and strode — as much as he was able to stride on his short, somewhat bowed legs — over to the narrow casement window that looked straight out onto the plaza before the great oval-shaped Hippodrome. It was still more than a full day before the start of the Titanomalia, the annual commemoration of the great volcanic disaster that had rocked the very pillars of the world and which many people believed had been caused by a great war between the Gods and the Titans. It had, in any event, awakened the forgotten races, monsters, and magicks of a primordial age that had preceded the relatively placid era of human-dominated peace and commerce that was ongoing at the time of the cataclysm.
The Titanomalia was always a chaotic spectacle but this one promised to be unprecedented, corresponding as it did with the hundred-year anniversary of the cataclysm ..."
Inspired by the works of classic swords-and-sorcery authors like Fritz Lieber, Jack Vance, and Robert E. Howard, Swords of Kos: Hekaton is the second entry in Skirmisher Publishing LLC’s fantasy fiction series and follows Swords of Kos: Necropolis. In this anthology, the island and city of Kos and the lands around it are explored through the stories of eleven authors and original illustrations and cartography by nine artists. All are set during the Hekaton, centennial observance of the great volcanic cataclysm that reawakened magic, the elder races, and all manner of fell monsters, in a fantasy world that draws upon the myths, legends, and history of the Mediterranean, Europe, and the Middle East.
Stories in this compilation include “Bloodsuckers” by Michael O. Varhola, “Rogue’s Nightmare” by R.M. Aislin, “Chasing Shadows” by Richard T. Balsley, “The Misadventures of Bjoric” by Brendan Cass, “The Rite” by Christopher Van Deelen, “To the Dragon Apeiron” by Lissanne Lake, “Unfamiliar Ground” by Sharon Daugherty, “The Day Pateon Fnordseeker Gave Up Drinking” by Eric Lis, M.D., “Nithernons the Ale’er” by John Giddens, and “The Price of Land” by D.M. Fitzgerald. Join us in our adventures through the dark and fascinating swords-and-sorcery world of Kos!
The writing in these stories is tight, well thought out and done with its own merits. Some of the stories are well done and work well with the sword and sorcery slight of hand that does its work well. Namely making me want to run a game set within this campaign world. I didn't mind weighing through the pdf and going through the two hundred and eighty plus pages of material here. The stories are well done and nicely written, they go down easy. But I'm not crazy about the cover art on this one. I understand what its supposed to convey but it doesn't do the sword and sorcery material of this book any justice. Point of fact I actually think it takes away from what this book sets out to do. Namely market me on a new campaign setting. That really is how I feel about it.

Using Swords of Kos: Hekaton
For Your Old School Campaigns 

This book is meant to be a throw back to the 80's fantasy paper back anthologies with the illustrations, maps, and background pieces. The book might as well be another old school resource book for the campaign setting. The stories illustrate and under pin the setting very well. I think that its very well written, and the folks at Skirmisher know the material very well. That being said I don't think that DM should take any of this material within the stories as gospel. I've written, read through and made a stab at Kos as a campaign setting and its strength lays partially within the fact that it can be a very well thought out DYI old school campaign setting.
With all gaming fiction there is a problem, role players often take these anthologies as gospel and that can be a problem for a DM which makes the following my advice with this and any of the Kos material, use what you like, leave out what you don't and pull from these books as needed when planning adventures.
Skirmisher makes these books system neutral and the ideas here suit that premise very well. The heart and soul of this anthology is the writing which captures the ideas, spirit, and intent of the setting very well. Bottom line is these stories entertain and pull the reader in while dealing with the issues and events of the historical and current world of Kos. Grab this one when you can and pull the material as you need. 

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