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What good is a first-level wizard, anyway?

By Lloyd Brown III May 1996
In the AD&D® game, no opponent is more feared than a high-level wizard. They can slay with a word, travel the planes, conjure efreet and fiends, and stop time itself. The trouble is getting there. The average novice wizard has less stamina than the town baker, no armor, and no weapon better than a tree branch. Comparatively, they are almost the equal of a kobold in combat but must amass the equivalent of 358 victories over kobolds to earn enough experience points to reach second level. How do they ever survive?

By their wits, of course.

By the time a 0-level PC or NPC has cast his first magic spell and earned the right to call himself a wizard, he has learned quite a few things, but his studies have consumed much of the time he could have spent learning other things, like intensive weapons studies. First observe the things a wizard can’t do, and try to make the most of it. Then catalog the considerable things a novice mage can do, and see how they make their way in the world.

Would-be wizards are advised to listen to the words of the Archmage Tallus, Guildmaster and Dean of the University of Candlekeep, who was a surprise speaker for the College of Magic graduating class of 1321. His experience is vast, and his intellect astounding. His anecdotes tend to involve intricate technical details, some of which go past the heads even of his peers, who have learned to nod their heads and murmur agreement rather than to ask for an explanation. For this reason, large parts of his speech are not repeated here, and notes are given and details explained for the layman.

“The best armor you’re going to find is a good suit of plate mail. Polish it, enchant it if you can, then put it on somebody else and keep him between you and anybody that wants to hurt you. If the armor isn’t good enough, use your spells to help out the man wearing it. If a fight goes very badly, you’re probably not strong enough to run in 50 pounds of steel, including 10 pounds on your head that limits your sight to a 30 degree arc. A shield spell costs nothing, protects you from magic missiles, doesn’t inhibit your vision, and never slows you down. There. I think my opinion of armor is clear.”

A wizard cannot wear armor. The restrictions are pretty clear here, and any attempt to fiddle with this rule will most likely lead to abuse. For characters in arctic weather conditions, some DM’s may allow heavy clothing to count for AC 9 or even AC 8, but it will almost certainly apply movement or Dexterity penalties as well, probably resulting in a net loss to the PC. Whenever possible, a mage should hide around corners, snipe from a prone position, kneel behind a low wall, or use natural cover to deflect missile attacks and enemy spells. The best way to compensate for not being able to wear armor is to support the fighters between the novice wizard and the enemy. An enlarge spell does this well. (See the cantrip ideas listed below for elaborations on this tactic.)

The only advantage here is that the wizard is virtually guaranteed first selection of any magical protections that the party may come across. Magically protective rings, bracers, cloaks, etc. are almost always given first to wizards. These items weigh little and most provide saving throw bonuses as well as Armor Class bonuses.

Weapons and combat tactics
“Whenever possible, stay away from the enemy. This may sound like telling you to stay out of the blast radius of a fireball, but you’d be surprised how many graduates perish trying to be brave. If you can attack by dart, by spell, or better yet, by someone else, then by all means do it! Just because you don’t attack by sword or spear doesn’t mean that you don’t contribute to the fight. Far from it.”

According to the Player’s Handbook, the mage is allowed to choose from five weapons: dagger, dart, knife, staff, and sling. Five weapons makes for poor versatility. Receiving only one proficiency at 1st level makes the decision a tough one. One possibility for improvement is to take a kit that allows the use of different weapons. Ask the DM if the weapons allowed to wu jen, either from the old Oriental Adventures book or The Complete Wizard’s Handbook, are allowed. Barbarian mages may also be allowed different tribal weapons. While this may offer variety, few of these weapons are really an improvement over those already available to mages.

Another option is to petition the DM to allow some other weapons. The choices are restricted to weapons that require little strength or skill. A club hardly requires a great deal of skill, although some degree of strength is required. A net should probably be allowed to wizards, especially if the player is willing to take the fishing non-weapon proficiency in order to justify knowledge of how to use it.

Even choosing among the basic weapons is tricky. Each offers a distinct advantage. First, consider the melee weapons. The staff is a likely choice: it inflicts the most damage of any of the wizard’s weapons and costs the least. A good bargain. If lost, a staff is easily replaced. It is also likely to be found in magical form. If the DM allows for it, a fine quality or exceptional quality staff able to provide non-magical attack or damage bonuses could be commissioned at low cost — if a weapon maker skilled at constructing staves can be found. For that matter, a better quality weapon of any sort allowed by a wizard should not be too expensive.

A knife or dagger can be used either as a melee or missile weapon. Although it causes less damage than a staff, a dagger, too, is frequently found in magical form. Knives and daggers have the benefit of being easily concealed. Several should be carried and at least one kept handy in case the character is caught in a net or in close quarters.

Both the dart and the sling are effective missile weapons. The sling is cheap, highly concealable, inflicts good damage if bullets are used, has virtually limitless backup ammunition in the form of stones, and has excellent range.

Darts, however, are the weapon of choice in close combat. Despite their seemingly puny damage, their high rate of fire means both higher total damage than the sling and multiple target capability. Also, if a wizard’s attack or damage capability is magically enhanced in any way, the higher rate of fire capitalizes on that improvement. Improving damage by +1 means only one more point of damage each round with a sling, but potentially three more points of damage with the darts.

Of course, nobody ever said that since a wizard can be proficient with one weapon that he can’t carry others. Hard-pressed fighters, acrobatic thieves, and clumsy clerics can all lose weapons sometimes. If a wizard is handy to toss a club or dagger to the newly-unarmed comrade, his companion may not have to face the enemy empty-handed.

These aren’t all the weapons allowed by wizards. This survey exhausts the list in the Player’s Handbook text on mages, but there are others available for the resourceful. Greek fire, holy water, vials of acid, torches, nets, marbles (detailed in The Complete Thief’s Handbook) and other “equipment” can all be used to harm or hamper the enemy. Wizards should stock up on these items whenever they can afford them. None of them weigh much, and most can be used to affect undead and certain other nasties that can’t be hit by nonmagical weapons.

There is still more a wizard can attack with. Some animals have natural attacks more effective than a wizard’s dagger or staff. Even a beginning mage can probably afford a trained war or hunting dog. Sturdy (1+1 to 2 HD), fast (MV 12), keen of sense (difficult to surprise), and intelligent, a dog makes a loyal companion. If treated well, he can be a loyal companion for years. A couple of animals can even be bred, and pups trained, especially if the character is skilled in these areas. Characters who buy dogs solely for cannon fodder are warned: even these domestic beasts have their protective deities.

All of these tactics can be applied by any member of the party. What makes the wizard unique is that each day he can choose a different selection of spells with which to arm himself. When considering which spells he can use to harm the enemy, two things should be remembered. The first is that enemies are often allowed a saving throw or magic resistance check to reduce or avoid damage. Allies don’t or won’t resist these spells. The second is that indirect attacks can usually be directed against more than one enemy. Consider an enlarge spell, a common first-level alteration. Burning hands could be used to attack one enemy, if he is within 3’ (something most sensible mages avoid). An enlarged fighter, even if his damage potential is improved only by one point, can do more damage before the spell’s expiration, can attack different targets, and gains other benefits as well (greater reach, overbearing benefits, etc.). Spells like enlarge work well on animal companions also. In general, spells that enhance the party’s ability to inflict damage are better than those that attempt directly to damage the enemy.

Freedom from front-line combat also puts the wizard in an excellent position for a hands-off leadership role. The wizard can direct the combat and throw his strength where it is needed, acting as a tactical reserve, or he can give commands, serving the party as a combat coordinator.

Starting money
“So you’ve spent all of your money on books, tuition, and material components. Big deal. What else do you need? You have it all, right there in your hands! Your spellbook and what you put in it are your keys to success. You’re the smartest men and women in this city. Use those brains. Money is the least of your worries. Trust me.”

Looking at the starting money for the different character groups, it seems that the wizard has the least of the four groups. Instead of looking at starting money, compare what is left over after the necessities are purchased. They actually have the most spending money left over after purchasing weapons and armor. Priests must have a holy symbol, thieves must have lockpicks if they wish to use those abilities that require them, and good weapons and armor for warriors are not cheap. Wizards begin play with a free spellbook, cannot wear armor, and their most expensive weapon costs 2 gp. That leaves quite a bit left over for other things, like the grenade-like missiles or animals mentioned earlier. This money can even be loaned to other characters who come up a little short when buying expensive weapons or armor. Mages who lend money to these characters are virtually guaranteed a little extra protection in battle.

If a character feels the need for more money, the wizard is in an excellent position to earn more. This is a case where a player must become aggressive with the game and not wait for the DM to drop the next adventure in his lap. Certain spells have great commercial value, even those available to beginning mages. Detect magic, erase, read magic, comprehend languages, and identify all have obvious uses and are sometimes commissioned by those without these abilities. If a mage lets it be known that he is willing to perform these services for money, customers may seek him out. Some other spells have applications to a more select market, mostly shady or questionable. The thieves guild can be a good customer for these spells. Armor, for example, gives a thief the benefits of an Armor Class better than he can achieve by wearing the armor types allowed for thieves, and it still gives him ability benefits of not wearing armor. A thief fearing violence would be wise to have this spell cast on him.

On the other side of the law, wizard mark can be used to identify property in case it is stolen. Revealing an invisible wizard mark can spell doom for a would-be thief who claims a stolen item belongs to him. Rich merchants or nobles might wish to have their valuables protected in this way. The same rich merchants would pay a bundle to have mending cast on an antique vase worth over 3,000 gp that had been knocked over by a careless servant. The servant himself might even bring the vase to the caster, hoping to fix the damage before his master came home and noticed it.

It is common procedure to ask that the purchaser provide his own material components, which the spell-caster always overstates, as part of his “markup.” This can provide the caster with valuable material components for spells that he could not normally afford to cast, like the aforementioned wizard mark.

If a wizard character is ever really, really in great need of cash, all wizards are assumed to begin with a spellbook. A blank spellbook has 100 pages, valued at 100 gp per page — a 10,000 gp asset! Hocking your only spellbook, buying piles of armor, weapons, and good quality equipment for the party, hoping for a successful adventure before the due date on the pawn, than buying back that spellbook, is about as risky as chancing a game of chess on a queen sacrifice — but what a story if you pull it off!

Spellcasting between adventures
“Any mage who waits for a written invitation before casting a spell ought to be drawn and quartered. lf you have the ability to protect yourself or your friends, do it in the safety and privacy of your home. Waiting until you see the whites of their eyes may be fine for attack, but it’s suicide for a defensive position.”

Spellcasting should not be limited to active adventuring periods. Some spells, like armor, mentioned above, have no set expiration time. If this spell is known, it should be cast on the wizard, his pets or familiar, the party thief, and any priests who are not allowed to wear heavy armor. Between adventures is the time the character casts a detect magic spell, item by item, on all of those potential magical things picked up in the last adventure and then casts identify on those that turn up positive. Spells that are commonly cast for others for money can be cast for the wizard and his party, as well. Scrolls can be read, broken weapons can be mended, and valuable property wizard marked.

Finally, new spells can be chosen. A wise spellcaster remembers which spells went unused, which were useful only in certain situations, and which were enormously successful. This critical feedback at low levels makes all the difference when a wide selection of spells is available at higher levels.

Spell selection
“So now you have the things you think you’ll need. You are loaded down with spellbook, food, water, volatile compounds, incendiary missiles, pungent material components, daggers, darts, and a staff. You have it all, right?
“Wrong. What spells are you going to use? Figure you’ll just make that part up as you go, huh? Bad idea. Right now is the time for you to decide what spells are the most important, because you don’t have much choice. If you take one spell and never use it, you’re worse than useless — you’re in the way. Don’t wait until you see your enemies before you cast a spell. Good spellcasting may mean you never have to meet the enemy. The only combat you’re guaranteed not to get killed in is the one you don’t fight.”

When a caster has only one or just a few spells, selection is vital. Between gaming periods, as mentioned earlier, the spells memorized are not important, unless the DM likes to spring adventures on you without warning. When a set goal is known, and the party has time to pack up before leaving the safety of the inn or boarding house, spells should be chosen with care.

Most 1st-level attack spells cause damage less than or equal to a single sword thrust. Choosing these attack spells (magic missile, shocking grasp, burning hands) means that the wizard has one attack in which he is as effective as a fighter for a single round. Shocking grasp and burning hands especially require the caster to get uncomfortably close to his opponent. Given the choice, these should be avoided.

If a player wishes to choose an attack spell, consider color spray, sleep, or charm person (to attack with an intermediary). These all have advantages: color spray and sleep both affect multiple targets with no saving throw, and charm person can have an extraordinary duration.

All things considered, the beginning mage is best suited to let the rest of the party attack. Looking at the numbers, an orc armed with a spear or short sword is likely to kill a 1st-level wizard with average hit points and AC 10 after only two rounds of combat. For this reason, defensive spells should take priority over attack spells.

Good defensive spells include armor, as already discussed, shield (which provides a good Armor Class plus total immunity to magic missiles), and protection from evil (which can provide complete protection against certain monsters). The latter two, while providing good protection, have a duration limiting their usefulness to one battle or fraction of a battle. Other defensive spells are either too specific (like gaze reflection) or less effective than the normal, nonmagical way of doing things (hold portal). Wall of fog provides adequate cover for the entire party to make a retreat, or confound an enemy, giving time to prepare an ambush or light Greek fire, heal wounded, or some other action. Feather fall, in addition to its conventional usage, can save a single party member from a single missile attack that might hit. Once.

The problem with these spells is their limited duration. If the enemy also beats a hasty retreat from the wall of fog, or waits until the protection from evil is expired, the spell allowed for only a momentary respite from battle. This may be useful, but the caster now has no spell to cast to save the party again.

The only 1st-level spell that circumvents this one-shot usage hindrance is cantrip. With a duration of one hour per level, it can affect multiple combats and the important non-combat situations in between.

Using the cantrip

“Let me tell you about my first adventure. I don’t recall exactly what we were there for, but that old wooden hill fort stands out clearly in my mind. I had chosen cantrip for my only spell, and my companions thought I was crazy. When the goblins started pouring out of their little trapdoors, I heard, ‘Put ‘em to sleep!’, ‘Charm one!’, ‘Magic missile the leader!’ Well, I couldn’t do any of that, so they formed an arc, backed me into a corner, and told me to stay alive so they could kill me themselves later.

“Xavier, our war-priest, stood in front of me, waving a huge axe. Attacking those little vermin made him look like a giant slug on a cold day. I used a quickblade¹ to help him out a little. I alternated that with the opposite, leadblade2, on the goblins he was fighting. One of the squirmy little monsters snuck in under his legs and tried to attack me. I turned my hands black — so they looked leprous — with a blackhands³ and reached out to touch him. He backed up enough to run into Xavier’s backswing. After that, their slingers started targeting me. I used an evocation, minor shield4, to deflect their arrows as much as possible.

“Then I noticed a dark elf standing in their midst, directing their attack. Standing on his shoulder was a beady-eyed little rat. A familiar: perfect target for a cantrip. Sure enough, the rat jumped off and started running around, squeaking here and scurrying there. I put a minor slow5 on him when he got close and told Shadow, our thief, to go get him. Holding him hostage, we made the dark elf pull back his goblins and made our escape, were able to convince the regular army to make it a military operation and wiped the goblins out. I’ve memorized at least one cantrip ever since.”

Before discussing the myriad applications of the cantrip, the exact limits of the spell need to be defined further than in the Player’s Handbook. The rules governing cantrips say that “they are completely unable to cause a loss of hit points.” This rule is pretty clear and needs little elaboration. The DM must decide, however, whether he will allow for adding to hit points lost by other means. The cantrip “cannot affect the concentration of spellcasters.” This also is clear, but it must be noted that concentration need not be affected to effectively ruin a spell. Many spells are sight targeted, and impeding the caster’s vision may make using the spell impossible, even if it is successfully cast. The cantrip “can only create small, obviously magical materials.” How big is small? One pound per level of the caster, up to 10 Ibs., is not unreasonable. As for volume, small should fit in the caster’s hand.

The last restriction, that a cantrip “lacks the power to duplicate any other spell’s effects” needs the most clarification. Read strictly, a phantasmal force can create any visual illusion, so a cantrip cannot. A ventriloquism or audible glamor can create an auditory illusion, so a cantrip cannot. An unseen servant can move things, so a cantrip cannot. A Iight can create illumination, etc. A more appropriate reading is that the cantrip cannot duplicate the exact extent of another spell. Illusions must be a limited to certain size (10 square feet, for example) and will fool only the stupidest observers, as they will be semi-transparent and wavering, at best. Sound volume should be limited to a human voice at conversational levels, ability to move objects should be equal to a Strength score of 3, and light should be no more than the output of a single candle.

As they are introduced, DM’s should make other decisions about cantrip applications. Some are very strong for one-shot uses, and should be restricted to one use per casting. Others should be allowed to maintain as long as the caster concentrates. Some other restrictions: no more than one application at a time can be maintained. Beginning a new one cancels the previous application. Effect on chances to succeed at any feat should never be more than 5% or +1. Defensive applications should never reduce damage by more than one hit point.

Magic item use
“In the desert, they have a saying: ‘the best place to keep your water is in yourself.’ In other words, don’t save it. Use it. lf any of you graduates dies with spells uncast, I’ll personally raise you and beat you for it. That goes double for unused magic items that your non-spellcasting companions can’t use.”

Wizards have the greatest number of magic items available to them. Even at 1st level, a wizard can use nearly any of these items. Any charged or one-shot magical items found should be used in an appropriate situation, without considering saving it for later. The only exception is if you know in advance that the party must face an enemy that cannot be harmed by any other means you currently possess. Again, this rule itself is invalid if it looks like you’re going to die before you get there. If you’re saving the scroll of Melf’s minute meteors for use against a gargoyle (which can be hurt only by magical items or magic spells), but it looks like the ogre you can’t avoid now will wipe you out, there is no sense saving the scroll. This applies to all wands, staves, scrolls, potions, certain charged rings, and non-permanent miscellaneous items.

“I’m sure you’re itching to start spell-casting and get to trying all these ideas, so I’ll let you get on with your ceremony after one more word of advice. Well, praise, maybe. You’ve made a wise choice to become a wizard. None of your companions has the potential that you do. When you get older, you’ll be a major power in the world. Until then, be careful, and good luck!”

Viking Code of Conduct

Vikings have their proper code of conduct that, at many times, is considered more important than their proper laws. Frequently, a Viking can be pardoned or have his penalty commuted to banishment, if his reasons are honored. A man who demonstrates to have a deficient personality, though, will be marked through his whole life.

This code is basically defined by four main virtues: honesty, hospitality, courage and loyalty. Besides those, Vikings also admire cunning and luck. Although cunning is more of a vice than a virtue, the way it’s used or the results obtained from it wind up bringing reputation to the man who uses it. The true Viking hero has all these characteristics in abundance, besides being a deadly warrior, a sly poet, an enthusiast of partying and drinking and, sometimes, a deep connoisseur of magic.

Honesty: The word of a Viking, given in oath, contains the supreme truth. Once the word of a Viking is given it will be kept at any cost, even one’s own life. An oathbreaker has no friends.

However, in everyday life, some situations allow an oath to be broken. In the case of an oath demanded with cruel intentions or to bring harm to the one who gave his word, breaking the oath is allowed. However, if the man who gave his word insists in fulfilling the oath, it won’t be his honor to be affected, but the deceiver’s.

Another frequent case of allowed breaking of an oath happens when the word was given to a foreign enemy or to a Viking of an opposed clan. This is especially accepted when done through satire, cunning or, mainly, a heroic act.

Hospitality: For a Viking traveler it’s important to know that, in friendly territory, he’ll always have food, shelter and protection. Thus every good man has the obligation to treat a guest in the best way possible and to wait nothing else in response. The most popular satirical verse between Vikings tells about a stingy host.

Courage: It seems redundant to talk about Viking courage, mainly in battle. However it’s important not to mistake it for self-denial or disdain to one’s own life. A Viking values his own life and will not endanger himself for a cause that he knows to be lost. The unnecessary death is the death of a fool, but the death of a hero is the one that makes the difference.

An important aspect of courage is determination – the powerful desire to see something happen, no matter what is in the way. Once a Viking hero decides a course of action, nothing withholds him. To take a decision is to give his word to himself. A man without decision is not honest to himself and has no honor.

Loyalty: Loyalty commands the relation that exists between the individual and his group. The loyalty of a man belongs to his family, his jarl and his king (or althing), in this order. This order of priority can be modified by an oath of personal loyalty - for example, a huskalar will swear loyalty to his jarl, whose command will become his main priority.

The duty of a follower is to do anything that his jarl commands him to (this includes dying) and to place the interests of his jarl above everything else. The Jarl, from his part, is duty-bound to his followers and, in many cases, this is a more difficult role. He must behave in a good manner and be a just leader if he means to have men following him.

Cunning: This is the most curious rule of behavior. Using artifices that deceive an opponent is much appreciated, as they demonstrate the intelligence, wit and malice of the Viking people. However, this type of trick must be applied only against those opponents who prove undeserving of respect. The line between cunning and cowardice or disloyalty is narrow and not quite defined, and the reputation for cunning can be changed into notoriety for lie, deception and cowardice. To be smart is a risky move.

Luck: Without luck a man can be honest, hospitable, courageous, loyal and smart, without ever obtaining anything, and without earning reputation or fame. A man can be born rich and lose everything, but a man born with luck never goes hungry. Heroes who have luck are good men to follow.

Age of Blood – Miniatures Wargame

Working on Age of Blood has been a long journey but one far from arduous. The first set of rules was released on Wargames Journal almost two years ago now and this new edition has been something that I’ve wanted to complete for some time. What started as a simple revision of the original rules quickly grew into a major overhaul as I tried to add every conceivable thing I could think of to make the game more fun to play, in both the battle and campaign rules.

One of the reasons for originally writing the game was because I wanted to play skirmish games in which heroes can be truly heroic and battles can be fast and unpredictable affairs - where you can never really know what might happen next. Being able to customise heroes and watch them progress and develop satisfyingly was something I’ve worked very hard to get right. Not only in allowing heroes to gain injuries, improve characteristics and gain special abilities, but also in a way that does not make them invincible. Even the hardest hero possible in these rules can still be defeated, and not just by similarly tough heroes. Even unarmoured peasants can be dangerous if there are enough of them.

The campaign system in these rules is somewhat of a resource management game in itself. Different commodities (loot) can be acquired (stolen) and then traded (fenced) in different locations around Europe for varying amounts of profit. One of the keys to a successful warband is shrewd trading. Knowing what to sell where to sell it can be the difference in scraping by and making a fortune. Not everyone will want to try their hand at the campaign elements of the game and that’s fine - the rules can still be played as a typical skirmish wargame, either a purely historical or quasi-fantasy one.

The game, though very detailed, is simple in its mechanics and easy to pick up, but with its many layers of depth one that’s difficult to master – at least that’s the intent.

Tom Hinshelwood, July 2005 email:


Shadow of the King (Pendragon's Banner Trilogy) (Paperback)

by Helen Hollick (Author)
Arthur is dead. His widow, Gwenhwyfar, left at Caer Cadan with their small daughter, faces overthrow by the powerful council headed by Arthur's uncle. But, unknown to her, events in France and Germany mean that a far mightier battle lies ahead. This is the third volume in the "Pendragon's Banner" trilogy.
By far the best version of the Arthur legend I have read so far - and I've read a few!
Helen Hollick combines fact with fiction to create a very real and credible Arthur. Her trilogy is packed with suspense, passion and pathos and is totally addictive! I defy anyone who does not fall in love with at least one of her beautifully developed and fully rounded characters, be it with her headstrong Gwenhwyfar or with her rugged Arthur.
Unlike most contemporary Arthurian novels, Helen omits the characters of Lancelot and Merlin, and rationalises the magical elements of the legend, one would think to the disappointment of the reader. Without a shadow of a doubt, however poor Merlin and Lancelot were not missed by me in the slightest, despite my being a lover of all these magical and romantic elements in previous novels.
'The Kingmaking', 'Pendragon's Banner' and 'Shadow Of The King' are all absolute 'musts' for anyone who enjoys a damn good read, and the sooner a film maker puts them on the big screen, the better!

Pendragon's Banner (Pendragon's Banner Trilogy) (Paperback)

by Helen Hollick (Author)
Second book in Hollick's Pendragon Trilogy
Pendragon's Banner takes up where The Kingmaking left off as Arthur Pendragon has a constant battle to hold on to his crown and keep peace among the rival British and Saxon factions. With no real home of their own, Gwenhwyfar and their sons ride with Arthur and his men, but this eventually leads to tension between the two, especially after a tragic accident threatens to destroy the marriage permanently. Uthr's former mistress Morgause plots with King Lot and the Picti of the North to destroy Arthur and his family, as Arthur's ex-wife Winifred continues her scheming to make her son Cerdic as Arthur's heir.

There's actually a whole lot more to it than that, but I'm not into book reports and we all know the main gist of the legends. What you don't find in Hollick's trilogy is all the glorified magic and enchantment of many other books on the period - no Merlin, no Knights of the Round Table and no Lancelot. Arthur is a hard drinking, unfaithful (at times), hot tempered ruthless warrior who does what he has to do to survive and protect his kingdom and his family. Just be warned, the battle scenes are brutal and bloody, so if you're looking for a prettified story of Arthur and his Gwenhwyfar I suggest you look elsewhere. Next up and last in the trilogy Shadow of The King.

The Kingmaking (Pendragon's Banner Trilogy) (Paperback)

by Helen Hollick (Author)
By far the best version of the Arthur legend I have read so far - and I've read a few! Helen Hollick combines fact with fiction to create a very real and credible Arthur. Her trilogy is packed with suspense, passion and pathos and is totally addictive! I defy anyone who does not fall in love with at least one of her beautifully developed and fully rounded characters, be it with her headstrong Gwenhwyfar or with her rugged Arthur.
Unlike most contemporary Arthurian novels, Helen omits the characters of Lancelot and Merlin, and rationalises the magical elements of the legend, one would think to the disappointment of the reader. Without a shadow of a doubt however, poor Merlin and Lancelot were not missed by me in the slightest, despite my being a lover of all these magical and romantic elements in previous novels. 'The Kingmaking', 'Pendragon's Banner' and 'Shadow Of The King' are all absolute 'musts' for anyone who enjoys a damn good read, and the sooner a film maker puts them on the big screen, the better!

The White Raven (Oathsworn) (Paperback)

by Robert Low (Author)
Praise for THE WHITE RAVEN: 'Robert Low's Oathsworn trilogy is historical writing at its best and most full-blooded, with its tremendous pacing, black comedy, a wonderfully vivid and rough-hewn prose style like runes hacked into granite, and most appealingly of all, its doomy, pagan sense of comradeship-unto-death between Orm Rurikson and his band of Viking brothers' WILLIAM NAPIER Praise for THE WHALE ROAD: 'A company of warriors, desperate battles, an enthralling read' BERNARD CORNWELL 'A fantastic book, one of the best I have read for years. There's a wonderful earthiness to proceedings and he creates a tangible sense of being there. There's a sturdy, lyrical and epic quality about the writing which makes it feel like the kind of saga a Viking would recount in his old age.' SIMON SCARROW 'A stirring Viking series of blockbuster battles and religious intrigue.' Publishing News 'All the right ingredients are firmly in place!above all there is the storyline itself; told in an earthy, rough-and-ready stylewhich perfectly compliments this saga for the 21st Century.' Yorkshire Evening Post 'A fascinating read' The Glasgow Herald 'The Hangman humour of the band of sworn brothers gives Low's epic but brutal tale real humanity and the detail of 10th century life is wonderfully vivd. The action is fast and furious!shockingly believably so. Low's debut novel hits the mark with maximum impact.' Bridlington Today

Product Description
The epic and action packed sequel to THE WOLF SEA, charting the adventures of Orm and his band of Viking brothers, The Oathsworn The Oathsworn have itchy feet. Battle-hungry and tired of keeping the homestead fires burning, they are restless for action. And, being the Oathsworn, action is what they get. When their homestead is attacked by Klerkon and his men, the Oathsworn promise bloody revenge. But they didn't count on having to undertake the most dangerous journey of their lives in order to save two of their number. Packed with epic adventure and bloody action, THE WHITE RAVEN is Robert Low at his very best.

About the Author
Robert Low has been a journalist and writer since the age of 17. He covered the wars in Vietnam, Sarajevo, Romania and Kosovo until common-sense and the concerns of his wife and daughter prevailed. To satisfy his craving for action, having moved to an area rich in Viking tradition, he took up re-enactment, joining The Vikings. He now spends summers fighting furiously in helmet and mail in shieldwalls all over Britain and winters training hard. He lives in Scotland with his wife.

Harald Hardrada: The Warrior's Way (Hardcover)

by John Marsden (Author)
Product Description
One of the greatest medieval warriors Harald Sigurdsson, nicknamed Hardrada (Harold the Ruthless or hard ruler) fell in battle in an attempt to snatch the crown of England. The spectacular and heroic career which ended at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire on 25 September 1066 had taken Harald from Norway to Russia and Constantinople and saw him gain a kingdom by force and determination rather than right or inheritance. He was one of the most feared rulers in Europe and was first and foremost a professional soldier, who acquired great wealth by plunder and showed no mercy to those he conquered. "Harald Hardrada: The Warrior's Way" reconstructs a military career spanning three and a half decades and involving encounters with an extraordinary range of allies and enemies in sea-fights and land battles, sieges and viking raids across a variety of theatres of war. John Marsden's superbly researched and powerfully written account takes us from the lands of the Norsemen to Byzantium and the Crusades and makes clear how England moved decisively from three hundred years of exposure to the Scandinavian orbit to a stronger identification with continental Europe following the Norman invasion.

About the Author
John Marsden is a journalist and writer. His numerous books include The Illustrated Bede, The Fury of the Northmen, The Tombs of the Kings, Alba of the Ravens, Somerled and the Emergence of Gaelic Scotland and Galloglas.
Hereward: The Last Englishman (Paperback)
by Peter Rex (Author)
Product Description
After the Norman victory in Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror's oppression of the English led to widespread famine, death and destruction, culminating in the brutal Harrying of the North and the deaths of 100,000 people. Did the English submit to the tyranny of their oppressors? Or was this to be the beginning of one man's fight for liberty? Returning from Flanders to find his country taken over by the Normans, Hereward, known traditionally as 'the Wake', embarked on a path of resistance that was to start with the violent plundering of the monastery at Peterborough. Subsequently abandoned by the Danes he had relied upon, Hereward barricaded himself on the Isle of Ely. Holding out alone until reinforced by the arrival of Earls Edwin and Morcar from the North, Hereward found himself the object of William's personal hatred and his desire to stamp out the last remnants of English resistance.Peter Rex rescues Hereward from the myths associated with his life and career, and finally reveals the mystery of his parentage and baffling disappearance into the mists of the Fens...

About the Author
Peter Rex is a retired history teacher. He was Head of History at Princethorpe College for twenty years. His other books include The English Resistance: The Underground War Against the Normans, Edgar: King of the English 959-75 and Harold II, all published by Tempus. He lives in Ely.

Raven: Blood Eye (Hardcover)

by Giles Kristian (Author)
Product Description
For two years Osric has lived a simple life, apprentice to the mute old carpenter who took him in when others would have him cast out. But when Norsemen from across the sea burn his village they also destroy his new life, and Osric finds himself a prisoner of these warriors. Their chief, Sigurd the Lucky, believes the Norns have woven this strange boy's fate together with his own, and Osric begins to sense glorious purpose among this Fellowship of warriors.Immersed in the Norsemen's world and driven by their lust for adventure, Osric proves a natural warrior and forges a blood bond with Sigurd, who renames him Raven. But the Norsemen's world is a savage one, where loyalty is often repaid in blood and where a young man must become a killer to survive. When the Fellowship faces annihilation from ealdorman Ealdred of Wessex, Raven chooses a bloody and dangerous path, accepting the mission of raiding deep into hostile lands to steal a holy book from Coenwolf, King of Mercia. There he will find much more than the Holy Gospels of St Jerome. He will find Cynethryth, an English girl with a soul to match his own. And he will find betrayal at the hands of cruel men, some of whom he regarded as friends...

From the Author
In A.D. 793 a flotilla of sleek longships sailed out of a storm and onto the windswept beach at the Holy Island of Lindesfarne, off England's north-east coast. The marauders who leapt from these grim-prowed craft sacked the monastery there, slaughtering its monks in what was seen as a strike against civilization itself. This event marks the dawn of the Viking age, an age in which adventurous, ambitious heathens surged from their Scandinavian homelands to raid and trade along the coasts of Europe. Fellowships of warriors, bound by honour and wanderlust, would reach as far as Newfoundland and Baghdad, the sword-song of their battles ringing out in Africa and the Arctic. They were nobles and outcasts, pirates, pioneers and great seafarers. They were the Norsemen.
Being half Norwegian and spending so much time in the fjords, I have always known I would write a Viking novel. As a child, I would look out across the water, letting my imagination summon the image of a dragon-prowed longboat rowed by grizzled, bearded men. I could, if I really concentrated, hear the sound of oars dipping in unison into the sea. I still do it even now! I imagine families standing on the smooth rocks of the shore, waving their menfolk off. I feel the fear knotting in the men's stomachs as they set off in open boats across the North Sea. I feel the prickle excitement beneath my skin.
In the summer of 2004 I scribbled down the first words: 'I do not know where I was born. When I was young, I would sometimes dream of great rock walls rising from the sea so high that the sun's warmth never hit the cold, black water....I know nothing of my childhood, of my parents, or if I had brothers and sisters. I do not even know my birth name.' I think this opening was a deliberate attempt to venture beyond my own reality, seeing as I come from a very close, firmly-rooted family. Osric (later Raven) is shunned by society because he is different. He is an outcast. My life may be a little unconventional, but I would like to think I am not entirely outcast!
Much about the novel changed over the two years of writing, but those opening lines made it all the way, and I'm glad about that.
From then on, I just tried to write the sort of book I would want to read, full of battles and adventure, but one which also delves into the mind of a young man thrust into a strange new world. I hope I have succeeded. The book was certainly a lot of fun to write.
Giles Kristian.

About the Author
Giles Kristian has been the lead singer in a successful boyband, a model and a copywriter for an advertising agency. Raven is his debut novel and he is currently hard at work writing the follow up. He is of Norwegian and English descent and divides his time between London and New York.

Housecarl (Paperback)

by Laurence J. Brown (Author)
Style Magazine
Brings history to life as vividly as if you were watching a film...

Eastbourne & District Advertiser
…cleverly recalls a year in history when the land was awash with blood

Barry Spikings, Castle Rock Entertainment
…a great read…

Boston Target
A five-star read…

Barry Spikings, Castle Rock Entertainment (Co-Producer of The Deer Hunter)
…a great read… there should be a film in it.

David Ward of The Lincolnshire Gazette
…fast paced, exciting and very absorbing… For people who like historical novels it is a must…

Experience Sussex
…extraordinary first novel… chilling descriptions of slaughter and carnage put the reader right at the heart of the savage conflict.

Carol Davies of The Eastbourne & District Advertiser
…accounts of the… battles in 1066… conjure up the atmosphere of the occasion and the brutality of the invading forces.

Lincolnshire Style Magazine
…the story is retold in graphic and sometimes gory detail… you can almost feel their passion and their pain.

Product Description
It is 1066 and the storm clouds are gathering over England. Beyond the channel Duke William of Normandy prepares his great invasion. Far to the north Harald Hardraada, the warrior King of Norway, laya claim to the English throne. Caught between the two Harold Godwineson, the embattled English King, enlists the aid of his personal champion, Ranulf Redbeard to recruit man for his elite Housecarl regiment.

About the Author
Laurence J. Brown is a partner in the law firm Morley, Brown & Co. and specialises in personal injuries. He lectures on the subject to other lawyers and barristers. He also talks on law and history to Women's Institutes, Probus clubs and church wives' groups. His interest in history decided him to write his first historical novel, Housecarl, which is on sale throughout the United Kingdom and now also the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa. Several film companies are showing an interest in the film rights. He is working on a sequel, which he is hoping to have published later in 2004.
He shares Paul Mould's interest in the cinema and sees the best of the new releases but he naturally prefers historical epics. His writing style makes a book easy to read but hard to put down. His description of battles places the reader in the middle of the action, almost smelling the stench of sweat and blood.

Cold Heart, Cruel Hand: A novel of Hereward the Wake (Paperback)

by Laurence J Brown (Author)
Packed with intrigue, sex, romance, and drama. - Trevor Reynolds of The Lincolnshire Echo

Paul L Money, Astrospace
...what a book!... My rating 9/10

Product Description
Spring 1070: William, the Conqueror has been King of England for three years but his reign has not been a peaceful one. The Saxon people have risen up against the Norman oppressors but the Conqueror has crushed them all with shocking brutality. All seems lost but in the Fens of East Anglia, a Saxon nobleman, dispossessed of his lands, lights the flame of rebellion one last time.

From the Publisher
A sequel to Housecarl, Laurence J Brown's acclaimed account of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, Cold Heart, Cruel Hand follows the adventures of Ranulf Redbeard as he fights alongside Hereward the Wake in a final bloody stand on the Isle of Ely.
Laughton Swanney, an Amazon customer from Lincolnshire:
An epic tale of love and war under the heel of the Normans - 5 stars
I loved Mr Brown's first book. It is an amazing portrayal of life and war in and around the time of the Norman Invasion in 1066.
It is an old saying that the second book is harder to write than the first but this does not appear to be the case with Mr Brown. His writing style has soared in confidence in his portrayal of life after the Norman Invasion. This is a novel which takes you along at pace.You will visualise it so clearly it would be criminal not to turn it into a film for those who are not so keen on reading as the rest of us. It would be a film with the potential of Braveheart.
The book itself is deeply oppressive detailing the harshness of life under the Normans. The brutality is endemic and the drudgery of life for the Saxons is starkly highlighted. In Hereward's camp the players act out their lives in the cetainty that the Norman killing machine will eventually seek them out and destroy them as the last pocket of resistance.
The story is underlain with a forlorn but nonetheless dogged determination not to give in to the enemy. It is that indomitable spirit that makes the British what they are- the very essence of guts and courage.
Oh! And in a book full of bad guys there is one character who truly drips evil. He makes your flesh crawl. You can feel the poison ooze out of the pages and his vindictive atmosphere pervades the whole story. I kept looking round to make sure he wasn't behind me!
This naked malice is in stark contrast to a father's love for his son and his desperate race to find him and reunite his family.
I can thoroughly recommend this novel to you and I will use that hackneyed cliché - It truly is a book you won't be able to put down.

About the Author
Laurence J Brown is a partner in the law firm Morley, Brown & Co. and specialises in personal injuries. He lectures on the subject to other lawyers and barristers. He also talks on law and history to Women's Institutes, Probus clubs and church wives' groups. His interest in history decided him to write his first historical novel, Housecarl, which is on sale throughout the United Kingdom and now also the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa. Several film companies are showing an interest in the film rights. Cold Heart, Cruel Hand is the sequel to Housecarl, and Laurence is now working on extending the series.
His writing style makes a book easy to read but hard to put down. His description of battles places the reader in the middle of the action, almost smelling the stench of sweat and blood.