|Privateer Press Digital|
Richard Lee Byers’s Murder in Corvis is a lively advertisement for the Iron Kingdoms Roleplaying Game in the best kind of ways.
Murder in Corvis is a novella following four individuals: Milo Boggs, the rogue alchemist, Gardek Stonebrow, the trollkin bounty hunter, Eilish Garrity, the magic-wielding detective, and Colbie Sterling, the mechanik setting about to establish her own mercenary company out of the Cygnaran city of Corvis. Fate and coincidence take these four individuals with little in common and even less to like about each other and put them to the task of finding a murderer that is plaguing the already-dangerous undercity of the infamous City of Ghosts.
The story itself feels like your standard murder mystery with your regulation close calls, scrapes with ruffians, dealings with dangerous criminal elements, ominous reveal leading into an action-packed climax, and villainous unmasking in the anti-climax. The accompanying prose is fair, but nothing that I would be terribly excited about. Byers’s use of multiple perspectives did not feel like a particularly effective tool where the plot is concerned, but I think it worked well in playing toward the story’s real strength, which was exploring the inner thoughts and relationships between the four individuals that the story follows. Murder in Corvis is largely an ensemble piece, appropriate given the nature of the source material.
Eilish is effectively Sherlock Holmes in armor while wielding magic. He’s cocky, head-strong, intelligent, and perceptive. Gardek is a consumate bounty hunter and a bit of a loner. Gardek has worked as an agent of certain criminal interests in Corvis’s underbelly for ages and knows all the movers and shakers in play there. Milo is a skittish if capable alchemist and part-time thief. Like Gardek, he tends to stick to himself, but there’s something about his character that indicates a certain desire for camaraderie. Colbie is the quick-thinking, cool-under-pressure mechanik who holds this mismatched group together.
|Privateer Press Digital|
Stories based on a fictional gaming intellectual property are inherently a tool used to promote the game it is based on. Some of these works approach the setting with a more abstract sense of the attached product, often without a strong foundation in the mechanical nature of the game itself or simply with little regard for it. These are typically my favorite kinds of stories that are based on gaming IPs, as there is always something mentally jarring about feeling like my thoughts are drifting out of a narrative and into a battle report.
Murder in Corvis, however, is a story with what feels like a decidedly firm grounding in not only the Iron Kingdoms as a setting, but the Iron Kingdoms Roleplaying Game itself. Anyone with any kind of experience with the IKRPG will find themselves identifying core components of the game, like that Eilish is a character with the Investigator and Arcanist careers while Milo is an Alchemist and Thief. I found myself saying “make a Climbing roll”, “roll your Forensic Science skill”, or “here comes the Negotiation check” under my breath several times throughout the story. It is also appropriate to point out that the four protagonists are characters that already exist within the Iron Kingdoms themselves as the pre-generated characters in the introductory adventure Fools Rush In.
While these tie-ins did little for myself as a reader well-versed in both the Iron Kingdoms as a setting and as a roleplaying game, this is not to imply that they are without value to the public at large. Readers experienced with the roleplaying game in its current edition may find the storytelling to be arguably patronizing, but those without may find it a good means to understand the mechanics of the roleplaying game on multiple levels.
|Privateer Press Digital|
As I mentioned, Murder in Corvis is your typical murder mystery, which might feel less-than-exciting where literature as an art is concerned, but its structure as a story is perfect for roleplayers, and that, combined with the story’s implied mechanical applications of the IKRPG’s skill system, can act as a fine guide for fledgling game masters who seek to start running their own adventures in the Iron Kingdoms. The character development and relationships between the characters themselves are perhaps a bit cliche, but are fantastic examples of how a player goes about developing and fleshing out characters of their own to play within a game.
I feel that this is where the target audience for Murder in Corvis is identified, specifically people with an outside interest in the Iron Kingdoms Roleplaying Game, particularly those without much experience with roleplaying games in general. Since the grand majority of Privateer Press customers tend to invest exclusively in their miniatures games, Murder in Corvis is an exceptionally well-crafted tool in getting these people, as well as people with only peripheral awareness of the Iron Kingdoms and her various attached offerings, to see the potential in not only the Iron Kingdoms Roleplaying Game, but roleplaying in general.
Murder in Corvis can be found online through Skull Island Expeditions, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble for $4.99. If you’re thinking about getting into roleplaying, particularly the IKRPG, it is a fantastic place to start.