Monday, June 17, 2013

Captain Blood Introspective

Jeff Black at Dark Dimension has a review and reaction to Rafael Sabatini's Captain Blood: His Odyssey. I particularly appreciated his closing paragraph.
The book alternates between lighteartedness and some rather grim events, giving it a jarring, dichotomous feel. Also, major characters die "offstage" at times, making the demise of some of Blood's most persistent antagonists and faithful companions frustratingly anticlimactic. The ending of the book itself is oddly, and ambiguously, ominous, casting a shadow on what might have been a happy resolution. All of these things sound like I found them to be detriments, but I ended up finding them adding to the mystique of the book. There was something realistic about it all, with no character safe and some plot points left dangling, as often happens in real life. Sometimes life is messy and unresolved, and even Captain Blood cannot swashbuckle his way out of every grim situation...even ones he'd hoped for and found not as satisfying when he finally got his wish.
These qualities of a narrative are far too rare for my tastes. I like messy stories replete with ambiguity, rather than tidy conclusions, which, perversely enough, is a too-frequent characteristic of many of Mr Sabatini's other tales. I like stories which stand conventions about who lives and who dies on their head. In short, I like stories that don't feel like most stories.

It's also at the core of what I enjoy so much about sandbox campaigns and why I have so little interest in linear adventures. As Jeff notes, the events of Captain Blood resemble what "often happens in real life," and that's what I want out of my roleplaying game experiences. Indeed, I believe that this is one of the greatest strengths of roleplaying games.


  1. It is very much one of my favorite novels of all time. Very nice review, there. I will have to send my compliments to the author of the review.

  2. Thanks for having a look. I agree that a less tidy conclusion, in the hands of a talented writer, can leave the reader thinking about the story long after the last page is turned.

    I can definitely see how a sandbox campaign is appealing, for similar reasons, and I enjoyed running and playing campaigns like that back in my heyday of playing D&D in the '80s. I don't get to play as often as I'd like these days, but I've always got that sandbox at the back of my mind, waiting to be brought to the table.

  3. If nothing else, dying offscreen allows for "The rumors of my demise..."


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