An excellent first sub. It is tightly focused on the one subject while hinting at a greater world full of history and a blend of cultures. The narrative is well-written; the characters come through strong and give a human face to the structure.
I suppose there could have been more detail on the empire itself, although that wasn't the direct subject of the sub and could be a whole new one on its own (hint, hint....)
There are plenty of subs on Strolen's that run the gamut from high and low fantasy to steampunk and science fiction, so I wouldn't worry about the genre. I think creativity gets rewarded more than sticking to cliches.
Overall, I like this. The puzzles are interesting and practical and I think there is enough description to carry it through.
I probably wouldn't use it myself. While I see the challenge in making a single player face a barrow alone (and I would applaud a GM who could pull it off), I don't like the idea of making the rest of the players wait around. The few times I've ever done something like this, I've lost control of the group (players would lose interest, get up and wander around, and have trouble getting back into play.) Maybe that says more about my limitations as a GM, but I have more success when I keep as many players involved as possible. Plus, I like seeing how a group responds to a challenge. That kind of group energy is the reason I play so few video games (and I'm too set in my ways to try those new-fangled MMORPGS.)
While I could be wrong, I think Echo's point is that this feels a little contrived. Your point about the classic dungeon being far more unrealistic and contrived is a good one that I fully agree with, which is why I don't run them.
I do prefer subs with some extra prose. Even though I would never read stuff like that off to the players, I find that that extra bit of flavor helps bring the ideas to life for me. I understand that that is a personal preference, so I don't knock off points for subs that don't do it. You provided enough detail to make it understandable and I commend you for that.
And bonus points for using barrow mounds. I've always been fascinated by them.
It seems to me that with these creatures being so powerful, so difficult to kill, and so easy to multiply, that they would quickly overrun an area. That would definitely be a good plot hook on its own. The players could be given clues as to the wizard who created them and then try to find something in his notes to help destroy the blood beast infestation.
Good characterization of Corran. The link to Vulcan's Walking Stick was broken but I was able to find it through search.
This was an entertaining read. Characters and items like these can definitely be used to "flavor" a campaign.
I do have one question. How was the cooking set created? That part seems a little vague but is key to the whole piece. Did it originally belong to the royal chef? Was the walking stick somehow involved?
I love the concept and there are some very interesting ideas (such as a family member's blood being a good substitute for the target's, the danger of an enhanced spell coming back on the sender, and the effects of the different races.)
I also like the scholarly tone it was written in.
It seems like there could be more to this, whether it gets expanded on here or inspires more subs.
The Spirit and Blood
Blood and spirit are one and the same. To weaken the spirit is to weaken the blood. The strength of the blood is in direct correlation to the strength of the spirit. A timid or weak subject will supply weak blood. A starved subject will likewise supply weak blood. Some dark wizards have been known to rely on torture, as this paradoxically concentrates power in the blood, although the effect on spells can be quite unpredictable.
A blood pendant is an object filled with the blood of a poor soul whose mind has been wiped. With no soul, the blood becomes empty, and a great vessel for storing the wizard’s own power. It can be recharged at most 3-4 times before it disintegrates into a useless fluid and must be replenished. An average human can supply enough blood for 4-6 such pendants. The process which extracts such blood requires time. Time to break the subject’s spirit, time to blast the subject’s mind clean, time to extract and distill the blood into a usable form, and time to charge it. Only a truly despicable fiend would perform such magics and any found wearing one would be subject to execution.
Written by Theolannis, from the order of the Mystic Moon.