Things Heroes Say:
A Fantasy Artbook & Phrasebook
We’ve all experienced moments when someone utters something in response to whatever just happened within the game. It’s usually whimsical and funny that we laugh at, occasionally a few eye rolls, and every so often, the Gamemaster gets a good laugh too. More often than not, these times live long in our memory. I usually review products that Gamemasters might want to add to their “toolbox.” Today, I’m focusing on the player “toolbox.”
Things Heroes Say: A Fantasy Artbook & Phrasebook (hereafter Things Heroes Say) is, as the title states, an artbook and phrasebook. Fantasy art is easy to imagine, but a phrasebook? Yes, one-liners, puns, short quips, and the like accompany much of the art. A resource for players and Gamemasters alike, Things Heroes Say is easily better suited for players.
This hardcover book measures an odd 8.25″x10.75″, not quite U.S. letter size. It contains forty-one distinct two-, three-, four-page sections, each thematically titled. For example, “The Things to Say to Witches and Wizards” or “When Your Low on Health.” Each section contains one to four pieces of full-color art and a plethora of phrases
Bryn’s artwork is stunningly beautiful! Each time I flip through the book, something new catches my eye. To my untrained eye, the art looks like impressionism. As I take in each piece of art, I find myself recalling fleeting memories and thoughts of games past and books read, giving it a sense of realism.
The individual artworks incorporate elements that are often blatantly aligned to the spread’s theme. However, some pieces feature more subtle details that help capture the observer’s attention and imagination.
Paring the artwork to a collection of phrases further enhances the overall experience, whether you’re just a casual observer or actively picking through the phrases to use in your own game.
Bryn collects hundreds of phrases and statements. These include one-liners and short statements organized into thematic groups married to one or more art pieces. The idea behind these collections of phrases is for players to pick through the available expressions and, if possible, use them in-game when they encounter a situation aligned to one of the sections. The caveat is, the phrases are meant to be spoken in character—furthering the notion of immersion.
They are meant to be used in character to break up an awkward silence, increase or decrease the narrative’s tension, or perhaps just to get a laugh out of those around the table. Two examples accompanying the artwork above (When You Have to Pay for Something) include: “Here you go, my friend. It’s all here. You keep it steady. ok?” and “Pfff, I’m not payin’ for that.”
The phrases appear as if they’re just splattered onto the page—font sizes vary; they range from gray to black, bold and unbold—some standing out more than others. In my experience, it has been the largest of the fonts that grabbed my attention first.
I like the Things Heroes Say, but… Its usability in-game is limited by its physical size and how the phrases are grouped and arranged. As I stated above, I love the art and feel that most observers will as well. However, the presentation of the phrases makes it very hard to read and dial in on something specific at a moment’s notice while in-game. I know lists are boring, and the way the phrases are currently presented is more whimsical and fun, but lists would have been more usable.
If the way the phrases are presented is something you can work worth, this should be a resource you consider adding to your player’s toolbox. If you’re like me, you’ll mine its many sections for cool and exciting one-liners and retorts that your character can use. Things Heroes Say also makes for a nice discussion piece if you want an excellent and affordable art book for the coffee table.
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