Review: Elminster’s Forgotten Realms

WotC and Me

I have not purchased a Wizards of the Coast product for several years. Recently they have found a way to get me to pry the dollars from my wallet to fork over to them. First it was the 1st Edition reprints. I actually wasn’t going to buy them, but while at Gen Con I found the trio of books at a price that bettered even Amazon’s price. I couldn’t resist.

Then Ed Greenwood’s Elminster’s Forgotten Realms book caught my attention. This book is an edition neutral book full of fluff written by Ed Greenwood about the Forgotten Realms. This book made my pre-order list at Amazon. I am not sure if I have ever actually pre-ordered a D&D book, even in my 3.x days.

The Book

Elminster’s Forgotten Realms is a hardcover book coming in at 192 pages. The book retails for $39.95. The book is described as providing an insight into the Forgotten Realms world from the creator of the setting, Ed Greenwood. The book is system-less in nature, so whether you play any number of D&D editions or have converted the Realms to another fantasy RPG system there should be something in this book for you.

Ed Greenwood wrote the book with cover art by Jesper Ejsing. Interior art comes from a variety of artists including Ed Greenwood, Wayne England, Tyler Jacobsoon, Beth Trott, and more.

The book has six major sections covering all matters of Realmslore. These sections do not include the foreword, introduction, or afterword.

First up we have Life in the Realms which covers an array of topics. A brief portion covers viewpoints on the Realms from a racial perspective. Along the way we learn common Realms terms for common expressions. This chapter continues with information on events and festivals, theater in the realms, medicine, illness and medicines, drugs, poisons, and current news and rumors.

The next chapter discusses Laws and Orders. This chapter is a discussion of class and nobility, justice, property law, trade laws, handling the guilty, who enforces the laws, pacts and alliances, and more information on the infamous Zhentarim.

The book takes a closer look at where people in the Realms live. Not as in region, but what are their actual homes like, the local Inns and Taverns, food, drinks, and even fashion.

Money drives any society and this is where the next chapter takes us. This chapter covers work, day jobs for adventurers, guilds, trade and merchant princes, coinage by region, trade goods, and information about the slave trade within the Realms.

The next chapter is the longest in the book, with a look at Gods and Followers. The early parts of the chapter address how people in the Realms worship, why evil is allowed to exist when good deities have a known presence, charity, temple income, and priesthoods of the Realms. The priesthoods section is the longest and covers many of the major deities within the Realms.

The final chapter is in regards to The Art, or magic within the Realms. The prevalence of magic is covered, information on bloodlines, alchemy, bardic magic, elven music, spellsong, and more.

Amidst all of the chapters are images of notes written by Ed Greenwood regarding the Realms and submitted to editors over the years. These are a very interesting look into how the Realms grew over time.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed my read through of this book. The book’s style is probably the closest I will ever get to sitting down at a table with Ed Greenwood in a tavern and listening to him spin his tales about the Realms. The tone of the book seemed very conversational to me.

The book is edition-less, so fans of 1e, 2e, 3.x, or 4e D&D who are fans of the Forgotten Realms are sure to find this a fun read. However, if you prefer books heavy on crunch, this may not be the book for you. There is not a single stat block, spell block, feat, or anything at all resembling a game statistic in the book. I find that a good thing, but if you buy books for crunch only, you will likely want to pass on this one.

The artwork in the book was decent and had its up and downs. Only a few pieces felt particular evocative to me. Art is such a subjective area of critique though, that I am sure there are others that feel differently from me. It wasn’t that the art was bad, just the majority of it did not strike a chord with me.

The primary highlight in this book for me were the pages that showed Ed Greenwood’s old notes. I could just imagine him with stacks of notes in his house that he typed up into some presentable format and sending them off. Over and over and over. The depth of the Realms and the campaigns Ed ran for his group just astound me.

One has to wonder why the Realms is steeped in such lore. The typed page from Ed on page 85 of the book provides insight for this I believe. The note for the page from Ed notes that for players that have read every book, module and more for D&D tend to turn the game into a wealth of metagame knowledge. He notes that drowning them in so much Realmslore that one cannot possible track it all the DM has brought things back into real roleplaying. I found that an interesting way to combat the metagame knowledge of players.

While I enjoyed the entire book, a couple of sections did stand out to me.  From the Laws and Orders chapter there is a section on becoming a noble in Waterdeep. It was an interesting section. The detailing of how the Phull and Zulpair rose to power in Waterdeep was particular insightful.

In the same chapter I also found The Secret History of the Zhentarim a good read. I have tended to use Zhentarim in several of my Forgotten Realms campaigns in the past making this section stand out to me. The included typed diagram from Ed in this section was wonderful!

The book is full of nuggets of information to help a DM run a Forgotten Realms campaign. Even if you do not run the Realms for your campaign, there are many ideas that can be stolen for your own world.

Summary

I had been looking forward to the release of this book. It did not let me down and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and getting an even better feel for the Realms as Ed Greenwood wrote it. If you are a Realms fan I highly recommend adding this book to your collection. From the conversational style, to the intricacies of the Realm the reader can learn about, it is a very strong offering from WotC for Realms fans!

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Review: Kobold Quarterly #23

Kobold Quarterly

An issue of Kobold Quarterly #23 arrived at The Iron Tavern this week, the print and PDF magazine from the Open Design/Kobold Press group. I have been a steady reader of the magazine, but it has been several issues since I have done a review on an issue here. The last review I did was for issue #19.

With Wolfgang Baur at the helm as the Kobold-in-Chief and a complement of staff providing editing and graphic design services the magazine remains a premier periodical for the RPG market. Kobold Quarterly comes with the feel of the Dragon magazine of old with its production quality and articles covering many game systems, including Pathfinder, D&D, AGE, and recently 13th Age. This issue is no different.

Issue #23 is the Autumn 2012 issue and includes an impressive array of contributing authors. Monte Cooke, Ed Greenwood, Wes Schneider, and Wolfgang himself all contributed articles to this Autumn issue along with a host of additional authors. This issue of the magazine is appropriately themed Demons and Devils. A stunning cover by Emile Denis titled “Master of Demon Mountain” further reinforces the theme for this issue.

This issue contains 20 articles ranging from articles geared towards characters, design and DMing, Game Theory along with four feature articles. I will take a brief look at each of the feature articles and then highlight some of the other articles that stood out in my opinion.

Feature Articles

First up is Dispater by Wes Schneider. This article is a continued examination of the lords of Hell in the Golarion campaign setting from Paizo. Dispater is an archdevil who holds a reputation of Hell’s reasonable, rational and honorable overlord. The article goes into great depth about all things concerning this archdevil. Corruptions, Allies and Enemies, Souls and Servants, the Cult of Dispater and more are all covered. The article provides a wealth of information for the GM looking to bring Dispater to life in their campaign.

Next we have Slithering in Moonlight by Marc Radle. This brings the lamia to Pathfinder RPG as a player race. Details of physical description, society, relations, alignment and religion are all covered. Mechanics of playing a lamia including racial traits, a new oracle mystery, and new racial feats are also detailed. If you have players who prefer to play races out of the ordinary or as a GM you want more information for recurring NPCs, the lamia article will provide you with the information you need.

Of the four feature articles, Pages from Asmodeus by Ed Greenwood was my favorite. An article that covers the Vile Black Book we learn of an oversized spellbook with traps within its pages, spells that move about on the pages from one reader to the next and a wealth of new spells. Spellbooks is an area I consider an interesting area to play in. This article hits the mark quite well. Introducing this book into your campaign or using it for a model for other particularly notorious spellbooks in your game will cause players to use caution with new spellbooks they find.

The final feature article is Mechuiti by Adam Roy. Detailing the demon lord Mechuiti in the Midgard Campaign Setting. Lord of apes and cannibals this CR25 creature is not to be trifled with. History, allies and enemies, cults and followers are all described in this article. A full mechanical write-up of this massive beast is also detailed as well as some lowlier minions.  Whether you play in the recently released Midgard Campaign Setting or simply “borrow” this write-up for your own, there is something to keep your players on their toes.

Article Highlights

Continuing on into the magazine there are several other gems for GMs and players alike. The article Selling your Soul by Rodrigo Garcia Carmona was an interesting read. It outlines the process of striking a deal with the devil, covering research, summoning and negotiating for the deal. I found it an interesting look at this process that we often write off as “making a deal with the devil”. This article gives the GM some tools to add a little more to that transaction.

Sundering does not come up too often in my games, but the rules in Simplifying Sunder by R.C. Higgins brings an item condition scale that you move up as you attempt to sunder weapons. Also included are some additional modifiers for CMB and CMD stats for the weapons themselves. A good read and if I were to build a character with sundering in mind I would likely ask the GM if we could incorporate the ideas in this article.

Fruits of Friula by Christina Stiles provides more background of the city of Friula in the Midgard Campaign Setting and 14 inks and poisons. I sometimes think I am in the minority when it comes to enjoying reading about mundane or items just a touch above mundane items.  This article details poisons adding new descriptions and effects that Friula is infamous for. Rare inks and magical inks are also detailed. This is a strong article that can only add depth to your game as you incorporate these new poisons and inks.

Those are only a few of the articles in the magazine this quarter. Some will be interested in the Living Gods for 13th Age, or Ask the Kobold column or Monte Cook’s Different Kinds of World Building, and more.

The Art

Not to be overlooked is the art and graphic design of the magazine. A long list of artists’ work grace the pages of this magazine. All enhance the magazine really rounding it out and bringing things the articles talk about to life.

Wrap Up

The Autumn issue of Kobold Quarterly is again a stellar offering from the folks over at Open Design/Kobold Press. With articles to inspire, add depth to your game, and more it is well worth picking up. Even the system specific articles are easily ported over to your system of choice.

Kobold Quarterly is available from the Kobold Store in Print+PDF or PDF-only.

Tankard Rating
5 Tankards out of 5 Tankards

Note: The Iron Tavern was provided a review copy of this magazine, though that did not influence the review.

Review: Midgard Campaign Setting

Kobold Press released the Midgard Campaign Setting earlier this week. For those unfamiliar with the Midgard setting , it started as the home campaign of Wolfgang Baur. The setting had been the home world for many of the books Kobold Press (formerly Open Design) has released over the past few years. Taking this a step further, Wolfgang Baur opened the campaign to supporting patrons resulting in the product available today.

Front cover design credits go to Wolfgang Baur, Jeff Grubb, Brandon Hodge, Christina Styles, and Dan Voyce. Cartography credits to Jonathan Roberts, Sean Macdonald, and Lucas Haley. There are many folks responsible for art in the book and included on the list are Storn Cook, Callie Winters, Hugo Solis, and more.

The book is available in hard cover format, soft cover format and PDF, ranging in price from $49.99 for the hardcover+PDF to $19.99 for the PDF only. The physical books are available from the Kobold Quarterly store and Paizo.com. The PDF is available at each of the above points of sale and at DriveThruRPG.

What is inside?

The book weighs in at 296 pages and uses the Pathfinder rule system for mechanic elements, though an appendix is included for the AGE system as well. The setting is described as a dark fantasy world with a European influence. Along with new “crunch” to support the more than 50 kingdoms detailed in the tome, there are new feats, traits, spells, cleric domains, and more. The book contains ten chapters, three appendices, and an index.

Chapter One is an introduction to Midgard providing the reader with information on the seven secrets of Midgard that make this campaign setting unique from others. A history of Midgard is included as well as information on time, planes, and dates. The Ley Lines of the campaign setting are defined and includes feats associated with Ley Lines and how to use a Ley Line. Read on for more information on Ley Lines below.

Chapter Two covers the people and classes of Midgard. The optional rule of status, a mechanic for tracking fame and notoriety within the world is also detailed in this chapter. In addition to the major traditional races such as humans, elves, dwarves, the setting adds other major races – dragonkin, gearforged, kobolds, and minotaurs. The chapter concludes with additional feats and traits for each of the major regions of the Midgard campaign world.

Chapters Three through Nine cover the regions of Midgard. These chapters provide a detailed look at each region, highlighting life there, regional differences, cities, and more. Each section also includes possible adventure hooks for a GM looking to run a game in that area. The regional chapters are quite detailed and do an excellent job getting a GM up to speed on characteristics for these regions.

Chapter Ten delves into the Pantheon of the world. The Great Serpent of the world is discussed, gods by various regional area, and new domains are introduced – including a beer domain (Oh, how many dwarven clerics I’ve played that could have used this)!

Moving on to the Appendices, we find the first dedicated to the AGE system. It introduces numerous backgrounds for AGE fans and specializations. This appendix comes in at 14 pages. Appendix two contains regional encounter tables and appendix three is a short section on what other Kobold Press materials have information that expand on topics in the campaign setting itself.

Is it any good?

Midgard Campaign Setting is an excellent release from Kobold Press. The book is very well organized and provides numerous regions, ideas, and even mechanics to borrow for your own campaign world.

My favorite item from the book is the ley lines. Ley lines are arcane and divine magic sources that can enhance the power of a spell if the caster is near it during casting. Ley lines are invisible sources of power to most, though some mages may have the ability to see them. Ley lines enhance spells by providing some meta-magic effect to the spell being cast. This could include heightening the spell, causing it to reach further, remove the need for verbal or somatic components and more. Very powerful mages can learn to control these sources of power more reliably. Ley lines can vary in power from.

Ley lines are handled mechanically through a variety of feats to learn to use them and in some cases control them. Several random tables are provided for the different powered ley lines for generating the random effects when tapping into a ley line’s power.

I found ley lines a very interesting portion of Midgard. Even if you have your own campaign world, ley lines are ripe for the plundering. I know I will be considering them for my campaign worlds even if I don’t run a game in Midgard.

There are many regions detailed in the book that will enable a GM to place a campaign start in a myriad of areas that best fit the feel they want. All of them were good in my opinion with enough information to give you a feel for the idea without them being so detailed that I would feel stifled running in this campaign world. That is a difficult balance to strike, but I think a good job was done here.

Elven regions, human regions, dwarven regions all have a place in Midgard. Beyond the traditional regions one would expect in a fantasy setting there several that bring new flavor as well. There are the Dragon Lands where the dragons rule supreme and humans are looked down upon. The minotaurs have their region to call their own. Even the ghouls have the Empire of Ghouls to call their own.

Even the predominant human regions have interesting twists to keep them interesting. I found the area of The Seven Cities quite fun. The regions here have made war a normal part of life. There is even a season for war with a strict set of protocols for declaring war, waging war, and more. This season even brings mercenaries down on a seasonal basis from other areas. The dwarven mercenaries of Ironcrag are notorious for raising free companies and heading south to participate in these wars.

Further to the west one finds the Wasted West. This land was obliterated in the Great Mage Wars scarring the lands forever. To this day monstrosities and rips in the fabrics of the planes themselves dot the land. Magic behaves differently, the storms are supernatural, and macabre landmarks are used by travelers to cross this land. There are so many adventure plot hooks here that a GM would likely never run out of ideas for their campaign just from this region.

The races that are added are also well-done and fit the world. Dragonkin, Gearforged, minotaurs and others have excellent backgrounds and a reason for being in the world. While I tend not to stray from traditional races in my games, the story behind the gearforged was interesting with the blending of ones soul with the clockwork mechanics. Well done.

The art and maps in the book are very good as well. With many full page art pieces at the beginning of each chapter and other inspiring works spread throughout the book. The maps are excellent and include many city maps. While not a part of this particular review, be sure to check out the Midgard iPad Atlas to really bring the world map to a unique medium. (Read The Iron Tavern’s post on the Midgard iPad Atlas).

This book is advertised as a Pathfinder compatible setting and an AGE appendix to bring that system to the mix. If those are not your systems of your choice, do not let that deter you. The mechanics in the core of the book are for the Pathfinder system, but there is a tremendous amount of material that is setting neutral that will serve GMs of other systems. I rarely run Pathfinder these days and will still find lots of useful ideas for my own campaigns.

My only complaint is more related to a technology factor. Paizo has spoiled me with their “lite” versions of PDFs for their more graphic intensive books. The Midgard Campaign Setting feels a little clunky on my tablet. Admittedly I am still using a generation 1 iPad for RPG PDFs, so I am on an older device. A “lite” version like Paizo releases would help with much smoother page turns while reading on the tablet. This is a minor nitpick, the PDF is usable on my iPad, I am just spoiled by the bar Paizo set with their “lite” PDFs.

The Wrap Up

I have only touched on some of the highlights from the book in my eyes. Even with this summary I am neglecting other gems in the book. There are surely to be things in this book that help inspire your game as well. I really cannot do the campaign setting justice in a single review.

The Midgard Campaign Setting is an excellent release from Kobold Press. If you are looking for a new campaign setting to start you next campaign in, look no further. If you have an established setting or you homebrew, you still owe it to yourself to pick this book up. There is a multitude of material to borrow to inspire your own campaign setting of choice. Great job Kobold Press!

Review: Dungeonslayers

Dungeonslayers – So much for so…nothing.

Review by Guest Blogger Kelly Davis

While the dinosaur in the fantasy RPG room is going through yet another edition change, its former third party provider fills the void with an ever increasing pile of books, and yet others attempt to recapture the old school, GM focused days of yore – we the consumers are left with many, many options to satisfy our fantasy RPG cravings.   I don’t think we’ve had this many choices in quite some time.

While edition wars rage on, supplements fill the shelves and 70’s van art enjoys a renaissance – most of our lives haven’t changed. The economy still stinks, we have kids, demanding jobs, and houses under the curse of entropy itself.  Many of us simply don’t have the money to spend on another pile of books, or the time to invest in a game where fights take an hour or more to complete and you need to be an engineer to devise an encounter.

One German gamer apparently felt the same way, and unlike most of us, he did something about it. Christian Kennig made his own roleplaying game; his own FREE roleplaying game.  It’s on the web. It’s in PDF and printable, and most importantly, it’s under the Creative Commons. That means that not only can we play it, we can help contribute to its future.

It’s called Dungeonslayers and while the title may put the game into a box, the rules system does anything but. Designed to be simple, quick to teach and learn, and customizable; the Dungeonslayers rulebook clocks in at 170 pages, and only 10 of these are rules.  The rest is character creation, equipment, talent and spell lists, a bestiary, treasure, game mastering tips, a sandbox campaign world and a trio of adventures.

The Basics

The game only uses one die: The 20 sided.  It’s used a little differently than you may have used that die before. You are looking to roll equal to or under a target number, usually determined by combining a primary and secondary ability score (plus or minus various modifiers).  A success is a success, but you are really shooting to get as close to your target number as possible. Why?  Well, in combat – your roll, the one you used to roll to hit? That’s also your damage.

What’s that, you say?  Let’s say you have a melee attack score of 14.  You want to attack that goblin.  You roll your d20 and get a 12.  You do a potential 12 points of damage to the goblin. He gets to roll a defense roll, using his defense stat as his target.  He has a defense of 7. He rolls a 2.  That reduces your 12 by 2, or 10 damage. Since he only has 8 HP, he goes down!

Remember the joy of rolling a 20 in D&D?  That’s a critical hit!  Not so in DS.  A 20 is a fumble. You drop your weapon, your skill check fails, sometimes other bad things can happen – like your shield breaks. (Yes, you can fumble defense rolls too.)  If there are fumbles, you know there are critical successes, too.  They are called ‘coups’ in DS and it’s whenever you roll a 1.  When you roll a coup, you get your target number as a result. Have a 14 melee attack score, it’s like you rolled a 14.

DS doesn’t require a battlemap, figures, tokens or things like that, but it also works well with them. Everything is in meters. Dungeon maps use 1 meter squares, movement is in meters, so it’s pretty straightforward. There are optional rules for sighting, multiple opponents, wielding two weapons and more. So if you crave that tactical detail, you can have it.

Characters

The character choices are deceivingly simple. You pick from one of three races: Dwarf, Elf or Human. Each race grants you certain perks. They follow the expected tropes familiar to fantasy gamers. Dwarves are tough, Elves are nimble, Humans are skilled. Your choice grants you a bonus to your abilities, too.  If you feel too pigeonholed by only three races, there are race creation rules in the back of the book.

After you select your race you choose your class. There are three classes to choose from: Fighter, Scout and Mage. If you select mage, you must select from Healer, Wizard or Sorcerer (Think white, gray and black magic).  “Where is the ranger?” “What, no paladin???” you might be asking. Hold on. I’ll get to that.  Think of your character as your swim lane for future specialization. Right now choose if you want to be ‘fighty’, ‘shooty/sneaky’, or um…’magicy’.  Your class grants you yet another bonus to ability and helps determine what talents you can select as you advance in level (We’ll get to talents in a moment).

You have 3 primary Attributes – Body, Mobility and Mind. These values will most likely never increase.  Each attribute has two related traits. These 6 traits should sound somewhat familiar to most gamers: Strength, Constitution, Agility, Dexterity, Intelligence and Aura. These are the abilities that your race and class bonuses are assigned to, and you can increase through advancement.

There are also several derived stats called “Combat Values” that use cute little icons to help you identify them on your character sheet and in the bestiary. The calculations are explained both in the rulebook and on the character sheet and you may refer more to these than your attributes and traits while playing.   Things like Hit Points, Defense, Initiative, Movement rate, attack values and spell casting ability – some of which affected by the armor you wear.

In almost every action you perform in DS, you determine your target number by adding the values of an attribute and a trait, modified by conditional effects, equipment modifiers, and more.  So when you are choosing your race, class and assigning your abilities, you need to think about the typical actions you’ll be performing and adjust accordingly.

You also start with a talent (or 2 if you are human). These are somewhat like feats in some editions of D&D. There is a large list of talents, both combat and non-combat in nature, that grant bonuses to tasks. You can take some of these multiple times as you advance, increasing the bonuses.

Leveling

Advancement comes very fast at lower levels, you get experience from defeating enemies, exploring rooms, achieving adventure related goals and even some for roleplaying. When you level, you get points to spend to raise your traits, your hit points and gain/improve talents. When you reach 10th level you may choose to change to a ‘hero class’. These classes represent some of the traditional themes we love so much in our fantasy gaming. There are 3 heroic classes for each base class. Fighters can become Berserkers, Paladins or Weapon Masters. Scouts: Assassins, Rangers and Rogues. Each type of mage (Healer, Wizard and Sorcerer) have three as well, like Druid, Elementalist and Blood Mage!  Picking a Hero class opens up some talents unavailable to any other classes and really helps you define your character’s role in the party.

Game Mastering

The game master has a lot of help in designing adventures for DS. First, there is a large bestiary filled with some of the traditional creatures encountered in any good fantasy game. There are guidelines for creating tougher, more seasoned version of monsters. Each monster has a “Foe Factor” to help you determine if your adventuring party is ready to fight them and if so, how many at once.

Treasure tables abound, making on-the-fly gaming much easier, as you can roll random loot after the encounter. The monster ‘stat block’ includes suggested treasure table choices as well.

The rulebook includes a brief introduction to the DS campaign world “Caera”. It’s a small but varied world filled with all the types of locations you’d expect. The game designers intentionally made it a small world, to encourage you to run a forest game one week, a city game the next, a desert adventure after that – and avoid explaining how your characters trekked thousands of miles to get there.  There are lots of interesting little ruins and enticing locations on the map, guaranteed to start the seeds of adventure.

There are also three adventures in the book as well. Each one designed to be played in one session. On the DS website, there are about a dozen more adventures, each one page in length. Most are simple dungeon crawls and they provide a night’s entertainment.  The maps and icons are common among these adventures so they are easy to pick up and run without ANY prep time on the GM’s part.

Licensed to Create

The creative commons license (which basically says make what you want for this game as long as you offer it for free) really inspires people to design more cool stuff for DS. It’s been around in Germany for a few years, so there is a lot of material in German waiting translation. Some of the materials are promoted on the DS website. There is a whole new spell system you can try out, for example. In Europe, people have taken the skeleton of the DS system and used it for other classic RPG genres including: Zombieslayers (modern zombie apocalypse), GammaSlayers (mutant future apocalypse), and DS-X (an X-Files/conspiracy/MIB type setting).  I can’t wait to see these translated into English! Play with this system a few times and you will want to create something with it too.

Summary

What can I say? I love this little game. I love that it’s one booklet, I love that it’s free, I love the open license, I love how quick it plays and what little time it takes to prepare for. There is absolutely no reason not to download this and let your gaming group know about it.  Will it replace all those other fantasy games out there that we’ve shelled out hundreds of dollars for? Maybe not, but I guarantee you that you will have as much fun (or more) playing it. It is a great ‘go to’ game for when your gaming group can’t all get together, or for when your GM needs a break, and it would make a great game to run at conventions. So what are you waiting for? Go to www.dungeonslayers.com today.

Bio

Kelly Davis has been playing roleplaying games for most of his 40 something years. Most of that time has been spent as a game master.  He works as a contract system analyst for General Motors and is happily married with two creative kids who he is hoping will take up his hobbies.  His favorite games include D&D (all editions), Gamma World, Savage Worlds and now Dungeonslayers!

Review: Through the Cotillion of Hours

Author:  Daniel J. Bishop
Publisher:  Purple Duck Games
Art: Scott Ackerman
Price: PDF $3.50 / Print(+ PDF) $7.50
Pages:   15

Through the Cotillion of Hours is Purple Duck Games third release in their Adventure Locale line supporting the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG and the second written by Daniel Bishop. The Adventure Locale series of adventures written to be dropped into nearly any DCC RPG campaign with minimal prep. One of the unique characteristics about this particular release is it can be used for any character level and any number of characters.

As noted in the blurb text for the adventure, sleeping characters are invited to a masked ball of the Dreaming God, Somnus. Donning masks the characters are granted entrance to the palace where they are left to find the Dreaming God Somnus to possibly ask him to grant them some request. Best be careful though as not all requests are met with pleasure.

The adventure can be run as a drop-in as it can occur while characters sleep. That keeps a DCC RPG judge from having to work it into the current campaign as it can literally happen at anytime in a campaign path.

I mentioned earlier the Adventure Locale series are designed to be run with minimal prep and dropped into existing campaign worlds. This adventure truly delivers on the drop-in factor. Given that it can be run with any number of players and any level of character, it really is quite flexible. I could easily see prepping this and having it ready to run for nights that we are a couple of players short. This module could certainly save me from needing to cancel a session due to last minute cancellations. All I need is for the characters to sleep and I have an adventure for them to take part in.

The other nice thing about this adventure is that they might not complete it the first time through. That isn’t an issue as it can become a recurring dream. So if I were to run it for a couple of players one night I could always pick it up again on another week where we were short some players.

The prep factor of this one is higher than the first two in my opinion, mainly because the judge needs to learn the dream world and how things work there. The adventure is also timed and the judge needs to be ready to track that time and know how to advance that “clock” forward. The previous two adventures I could literally run after a brief skim of the PDF. This one needs a slightly more thorough reading to be ready to run. The time needed is well worth it in my opinion, but it does need a bit more prep time.

Another thought that kept passing through my head as I read this one was the tie-ins to Coliseum Morpheuon from Rite Publishing. I reviewed Coliseum Morpheuon here at The Iron Tavern several months ago, but it covered a whole dream world as well. It could be an interesting area for a DCC RPG judge to explore if they chose.

All in all another solid adventure from the Purple Duck Games for DCC RPG. This one will be nice to have in the back pocket for times we have a couple of players cancel. I look forward to the next in the Adventure Locale series.

Review: Crawl! Issue #4

Crawl! is a fanzine for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. The fanzine is wrangled by the Reverand Dak and is only available in paper form. In the day and age of electronic distribution that last point might sound a little odd. But it is quite refreshing to stroll out to the mailbox after work and find the most recent issue there.

The typical issue of Crawl! includes additional options and rules for DCC RPG. These can range form tables that expand the current game, new spells, patrons, and similar content. The most recent issue of Crawl! deviates from that content line-up and presents a full adventure.

Issue #4 includes a 5th level adventure written by Yves “sheriffharry” Larochelle, a detailed village with NPCs, a forest, a new dragon, a dungeon, new magic items and more. The layout of this issue was done in a way that allows people that are not necessarily in the market for a new adventure to “steal” bits and pieces and use them separately from the adventure itself.

While I have not been able to play-test the adventure in this issue, it reads well and should be an enjoyable session or two of fun. As mentioned before there are several things in this issue I could easily drop into my existing campaign. From monsters to NPCs to populated dungeons the issue proves very useful to an judge running DCC RPG.

Scott Ackerman does much of the artwork in this issue. If you are a fan of DCC RPG you have probably been seeing more and more of his art pop up in some of the 3PP products. Scott really seems to catch the Appendix N feel of DCC RPG with his art depicting twisted creatures and scenes.

If you play the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, you should check Crawl! out if you have not already.

Mini-Review: Midgard iPad Atlas

Today I received my regular Kobold Courier email from the now Kobold Press. Immediately catching my attention was the phrase ‘Midgard iPad App‘. With my attention caught, I hurriedly opened the email to discover that Kobold Press has released a Midgard Atlas application for the iPad. This sounded very cool.

For those that are unfamiliar with Midgard, it is Wolfgang Baur’s personal campaign brought to the masses via the Open Design Project. With Wolfgang’s notes as a basis and lead design work by Wolfgang Baur, Jeff Grubb, and Brandon Hodge the patrons of the project worked hard to bring this campaign world to fruition. With efforts to produce rulebooks from Midgard for Pathfinder, D&D, and AGE rule systems it strives to be a setting for groups regardless of rule system choice.

This application for the iPad brings the entire world atlas to the iPad in zoom-able form. The map was created by Jonathan Roberts, a name well recognized in the RPG map-making community. Here are just a few of the highlights from the product page in the iTunes store:

  • Detailed maps of 9 major cities
  • Animated clouds
  • Removable text
  • High-resolution

I have played with the map on the iPad and was very impressed. I had some concerns my generation 1 iPad might be a little laggy with this application, but it zipped right along. I was able to zoom and move about the map with almost no delay.

The resolution of the map is spectacular. I could zoom in quite close on any terrain feature I wanted to see and it was quite clear. As noted above nine cities are included with detailed maps. I could readily tap on one of the detailed cities and pop open the city map and also zoom in and see wonderful detail as well. The detailed city maps are keyed with numbers as well.

The animated clouds passing over the campaign world are a neat touch as well. The animated clouds can be removed from the map at a touch of the button. The same goes for the text that is placed on the map, a touch of the button and it is removed form the map as well. Tap it again and the text reappears with city names and other noteworthy landmarks.

My only wish for the application would be to include textual pop-ups when in the detailed city map. Key buildings will have a number on them to indicate what they are in a look-up table. I would like to be able to tap the number on the detailed map and have the name (and since I am wishing here, a short description of the place too!) of the building pop up in a text box.

I think Kobold Press has shown other RPG publishers the new standard in electronic campaign maps. The application is available for $3.99 from the iTunes store. Check it out, if you like maps I think you will love this app.

While several screenshots are available at the iTunes store, I took a few to show folks some of the areas from the Midgard Atlas. I tried to show non-descript areas to avoid giving too much away. I also scaled the images down some as well.