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Shadows of Esteren - Of Men and Obscurities OST
by JOHN C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/26/2016 19:09:01

I really enjoy this sound track. It's a great thing to chill out to at work. Trying to speed metal your way through life can be exhausting at times. I may have derailed, lets get this back on track.

This track is an excellent pairing with the setting. A constant stream of classically based music, the contemporary and ambient sounds keep this from being a slog despite it's down tone. The soundtrack remains surprisingly fresh. I listen to this sound track in between studies of the main rule books just because it seems to exemplify and even amplify the mood of the setting so well.

I'd enjoy thick album on it's own, the fact that it is expertly honed to a wonderfully moody world makes this a rare gem. I'm not a huge user of background music in games, so I don't really have strong feeling of it's use as a background track while running the game. I don't find this obtrusive in anyway so I think it would still work great.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Esteren - Of Men and Obscurities OST
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Shadows of Esteren - 12 Pregenerated PCs
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/26/2016 15:36:30

Not only were these pregens free, but they are also useful and beautiful. Esteren is a marvelous game and these characters make getting into the game easier and faster.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Esteren - 12 Pregenerated PCs
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Shadows of Esteren - DEARG OST: 2 Free Tracks
by Brian S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/12/2016 19:01:53

These are really good!

Encore un Espoir - This is very evocative of an epic journey, probably on horseback, through amazing sites and countryside. There's an underlying pulse that feels like hoofbeats and a grand, sweeping melody led by traditional instruments. Everything builds, feeling like there's more wonder around every turn. The ending, however, is calm, peaceful, and a bit reassuring... like finding home at last.

Manteau de Corbeau - Hardship, struggle, possibly even battle if not all out war, is coming and this track begins by rallying for it. Percussion and vocals that are often poorly used and seem to hit you are the head are actually beautifully combined here to give the listener just the right hint of scale. A little over a minute in, the focus changes and we seem to move forward, making progress against all odds. Strings and muted brass are joined by vocals and pipes to evoke determination and purpose. A short, quiet movement follows, perhaps to survey the battlefield or count the dead. Then pipes triumphantly lead percussion and some vocals in a driving beat to the amazing climax.

These tracks are very well done and gorgeously produced. Well worth a listen over, and over again.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Esteren - DEARG OST: 2 Free Tracks
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Shadows of Esteren - Book 0 Prologue
by Mike K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/19/2016 17:47:03

If you're into hack and slash adventure, this probably isn't for you.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Esteren - Book 0 Prologue
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Shadows of Esteren - Black Moon Handbook
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/13/2015 07:06:44

originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2015/08/03/tabletop-review-the-black-moon-handbook-shadows-of-esteren/

The Black Moon Handbook originally began its existence as Ghost Stories a free bonus for various Shadows of Esteren Kickstarters like Travels and The Monastery of Tuath, but eventually the project became so big that the Esteren team divided Ghost Stories into two separate works –a fiction collection entitled Hauntings (which we will review down the road) and The Black Moon Handbook, a supplement that acts as both a book for GMs to run spooky occurrences in their SoE games, and as an in-game item that PCs can find and use in their travels. You don’t see something like that very often. As such, this makes The Black Moon Handbook a bit of an experiment which succeeds and fails in very different ways.

The best part about The Black Moon Handbook is the art. Like with any Shadows of Esteren release, the art is by far the best you will see out of any gaming product in our industry. For three years running, Shadows of Esteren has picked up our “Best Art” award in our year end awards and between The Black Moon Handbook and Occultism, it’s definitely the front runner to get the award again this year. Seriously, the book’s art is that fantastic and even if you don’t plan to play Shadows of Esteren, it is worth picking up the books just for the art and stories.

The bad news is that The Black Moon Handbook is the worst written book for Shadows of Esteren so far. Hmm. Let me rephrase that. The Black Moon Handbook is the worst TRANSLATED book for Shadows of Esteren so far. If you’re new to the game or merely a casual fan of it, you might not know that Shadows of Esteren is a French game and each book is written in French and then eventually translated into the English language. All of the previous releases were fantastic. You couldn’t tell that the games were localized. With The Black Moon Handbook though, it’s really obvious. Grammar, sentence structure, phrasing and the like are all very off in the English translation. Some parts of the book are sound and actually read like they were written by someone fluent in English. Other parts read like they used Google Translate to localize the text into English. It’s very disjarring. As someone who reads, writes and speaks both English and French, I could see what the passages were trying to say, but also how whole paragraphs could have been stated/translated better. This made the book hard to read at times, and more importantly, hard to enjoy. Hell, some of the text is STILL IN FRENCH and they didn’t bother to translate things at all. In one of the adventures, an “Item of Power” has its stats and mechanics still in French. There is no English translation for it. That’s extremely sloppy and goes back to highlight how exceedingly poor the translation of The Black Moon Handbook is. So many of you that pick this supplement up will have to have Google Translate on standby if you play this adventure. Due to the lack of quality in the translation you may want to wait and pick this release up once (IF) the digital versions are corrected…or not at all for a print copy.

So now that we’ve got that big warning about the translation out of the way, let’s talk about what you will find in The Black Moon Handbook. The book is primarily written as if it was written by an in-game author, Steren Slàine, who is an occultist in the Shadows of Esteren world. As well, you will be sidebars which act and notations or critical (snide) commentary from a skeptic named Enly Mac Bedwyr. This means the topics in the book often contain two opposing viewpoints – one who believes in ghosts and one who believes only in cold, hard science. It is primarily up to the reader to decide, which author is right – if either. Well, at least until the last two pages when the book makes it abundantly clear which is right by having one of the two die horribly in a short piece of fiction that showcases their belief structure is horribly wrong.

The first chapter gives an overview of hauntings in Tri-Kazel. How they can occur, traditions, folklore, legends and spiritual beliefs. That sort of thing. Haunted houses and spectral manifestations are the bulk of the piece though as the “author” gives theories and conjecture as to how a haunting can occur and the way one can rid a location of the ghost tied to it. The book also designated a difference between a haunting and cursed place, the latter of which is a haunting that was no exorcised or where terrible things keep happening in a once mildly haunted area. You’ll find mechanics for spiritual combat, exorcisms and possession if you wish your Shadows of EsterenBlack Moon Handbook herself.

Chapter three is “Ghost Hunting” and it contains five story seeds. I can’t say that they are adventures since the pieces aren’t fully fleshed out. It’s merely the framework and guidelines for turning these pieces into adventures. A GM will have to do a lot of the work themselves, but each of these seeds are fairly straightforward and simple enough to pull off. The book does say that each seed requires little prep work which is true, as each piece should take no longer than one or two sessions to get through. Besides those scenarios, there is advice on homebrewing your own haunted adventures in Tri-Kazel, a few maps and information on education in Gwidre, which is helpful as your first potential adventure takes place in one.

“Rounding Up Stray Souls” is the first adventure and it takes place in a boarding school. One of the students has gone missing and the characters are hired to find out what happened to her. At the same time another student is starting to see her ghost and slowly but surely things begin to happen? Is the school actually haunted or is it a case of teenage imagination leading to mass hysteria amongst the students? In truth, either can be correct. The story is designed so that the GM can pick either a supernatural or mundane cause behind the events at the school – whichever fits his or her purposes better. In fact, all of the adventures on this collection, save one, give you the choice of supernatural or mundane events behind the adventures. I personally prefer the non-supernatural choices simply because they are more interesting. A bonus that comes with doing the mundane choices is that when you finally DO spring an actual ghost on the players, they’ll be so used to “Scooby-Doo” endings that they won’t be expecting a real haunting, thus making it all the more memorable. If there is one thing I have learned from decades of playing and running Call of Cthulhu is that horror games run the risk of their monsters become the equivalent of Kobolds or Orcs in D&D if you use them too much.

The second and third adventures are tied together and, in fact, really should be one piece rather than two. I’m not sure why the authors made this into two as the first one doesn’t have a real ending and the second really doesn’t work as a stand-alone. The attempts by the writers are…not good. Let’s leave it at that. ANYWAY, “The Key to the Past” sees the characters having to enter a haunted castle. Why? They have been hired to retrieve paperwork that will allow their employer to own the property and then tear it down to make way for a new road. Hey, new infrastructure and a terrible evil place gets razed. Win-win, right? Well, not for the characters who can’t leave once they enter due to the machinations of all the ghosts that dwell within. What follows is a survival horror type affair where the players have to figure out how to escape the castle. The next part, “Bloody Trail” is why the characters are released. It’s to track down the last surviving member of the clan who owned the castle in “The Key to the Past,” who is not only a NPC from Chapter Two, but also a paranoid psychotic assassin who is why all the ghosts are in the castle to begin with. Fun times as you track down this character.

“The Return of the Missing One” is the fourth adventure in this collection. Here a husband long thought dead has returned after fifteen years. He looks very different physically though. Is the answer a con man trying to play off a wealthy widow’s grief or is it that the soul of her husband has taken up residence in a new body. Again, the choice is up to the person running the adventure. This was my favorite in the collection as it’s a lot of fun and can go many different ways.

Our fifth and final adventure is “Spectral Dance.” Here the PCs have to figure out what caused a mass killing at a ballroom gala. Thirty people died at this soiree with people rumbling that a local legend, an apparition known as the WIng of Death is responsible. Was it? This adventure has a lot of detective work and in many ways feels like Call of Cthulhu adventure. It’s a lot of fun whether you go for a supernatural reason or not. The PCs will have to really work to solve this one!

Chapter Four ends the book with a “Bestiary.” Here you will find the stats and ecology of four different supernatural creatures. This is pretty cut and dry. All of the creatures are fabulous and the art that goes with them….well, it’s Shadows of Esteren. There is no better art in tabletop gaming right now.

So that’s the book. The English translation can be BRUTAL at times, but the actual meat contained in the Black Moon Handbook is a lot of fun. It’s a fine supplement that just needs to be re-translated in parts. You get a nice amount of fluff, some new monsters, four or five adventures and a lot of information about the supernatural (or what passes for it) in Tri-Kazel. It’s not the best release for Shadows of Esteren so far, but if the localization can get fixed, it’s well worth picking up if you are a fan of the game.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Esteren - Black Moon Handbook
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Shadows of Esteren - Of Men and Obscurities OST
by Tony C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/30/2015 11:15:29

I met these guys at Games Expo 14 and was overwhelmed by their gaming philosophy of liberte, egalite, fraternite (sorry, there is no word for cliche in French). They talked about immersing themselves in the gaming environment and were excited about the score that had just been written to evoke the mood of their 'dark' world. With video games music now regularly part of the classical charts alongside film music it is only natural to provide a soundtrack for RPGs. I've been waiting a year for a chance to hear it in its entirety and I'm not disappointed. This could add to the atmosphere of any fantasy RPG or even reading a book in the genre. Although there is a certain darkness it is gentle in many places and a pleasure to have on in the background. Esteren is a beautifully created world and this soundscape does it justice. Hopefully, it will have RPG designers regularly commissioning musicians alongside artists and writers when they develop new games and gamers will look back and say 'Oh, yes, it started with Esteren.' So buy this and immerse yourself one degree further in your favourite fantasy style world. When you want a change try the Final Fantasy series music (or even commission your own - I'm told the musicians hang out at peopleperhour.com (I have no financial affiliation to this site so mention it as a pointer to others). And, of course, when you're feeling light-hearted try playing Munchkin to The Liberty Bell or the Imperial March depending on your point of view...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Esteren - Of Men and Obscurities OST
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Shadows of Esteren - Book 0 Prologue
by Misael T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/16/2015 08:25:37

I've never read an RPG book which mixes setting, and gameplay so well. The books reads like a story, while presenting a simple yet fun mechanic for roleplaying and combat. The RPG leans more to narrative game play like Dungeon World, and Numenera, but does not feel alien to DnD players. It's a refreshing game especially for new players like me (only played one game of DnD 3.5). It's easy to pick up, and easy for the game leader to guide one through.

I recently played one of the adventures presented in the epilogue on Roll20, and it was amazing! Everyone felt like they were an important and distinct part of the story, and ended up very satisfied with it's ending. We're planning on continuing as a campaign. I'd totally recommend this book. Can't wait to get Book 1: Universe.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Esteren - Book 0 Prologue
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Shadows of Esteren - Book 1 Universe
by Michael H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/02/2015 10:44:34

This is the players guide for the Shadows of Esteren game system. It gives you a background to the game world which is given in a series of letters and tales from characters in the world. This allows you to not only get a feel for the world, but also shows you the different attitudes of the peoples rather than just telling you. The guide is very well written and illustrated to a high level. I really can't say how good the artwork is in this book.

The second half of the book gives you character generation, a basic description of the game system and combat system as well as the details of the various magical character types. There is enough here to run a game in the world, however there are no GM details which is a downside. The various hints throughout the book show that there are deep secrets in the game world, ones that are not yet available to the GM. BUT don't let that put you off. This is still a brilliant game, with a fully worked out world that you can run adventures in.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Esteren - Book 1 Universe
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Shadows of Esteren - Book 0 Prologue
by Satu R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/12/2014 11:33:15

A great fantasy horror game influenced heavily by celtic and norman mythology. A must try for anyone tired of common fantasy games and looking for something fresh and new.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Esteren - Book 0 Prologue
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Shadows of Esteren - Monastery of Tuath
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/09/2014 19:25:19

Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/05/20/tabletop-review-shadows-of-esteren-the-monastery-of-tuath/

The Monastery of Tuath is the fourth release for the critically-acclaimed Shadows of Esteren series. Each of the four Kickstarters has been more successful than the last, with The Monastery of Tuath bringing in 1,053 backers and raising $137,000. Not bad for a fifty page supplement and adventure combination, eh? Well, it deserves it. You might remember that back in 2012 I wrote glowing reviews of Book 1: Universe and Book 0: Prologue. The series would go on to win three awards in the 2012 Tabletop Gaming Awards like Best Art, Best New Game and Best Core Rulebook. 2013 only saw a single release for Shadows of Esteren – Book 2 Travels. While I personally wasn’t impressed with the content of this book, especially not compared to the high quality of the first two releases, the art was still some of the best we’ve seen in years, and the release easily picked up our Best Art award in the 2013 Tabletop Gaming Awards. Now here we are with the first SoE release of 2014, and I’m happy to say that The Monastery of Tuath is a return to greatness for the series and well worth picking up even if you never plan to use the adventure or location it contains.

The Monastery of Tuath is comprised of two sections: a supplement describing the location, the history and the background of the Monastery, and then an adventure that runs twenty some pages. The adventure is heavily influenced by In the Name of the Rose, which has also spawned a film starring Sean Connery and a poorly done video game rip off, Murder in the Abbey. Of course, the adventure isn’t a straight homage. It has its own unique Shadows of Esteren twist, involving magic, monsters and curses. At its core, though, the adventure is very much a whodunit style murder mystery with false finishes and a Rogues’ Gallery that will keep players busy for quite some time.

The first half of the book will see the most use, as it gives a lot of information not just on Tuath’s monastery, but monastic life in general for the Shadows of Esteren setting. The prologue is a two page piece of fiction depicting how this particular monastery came to be, along with the origins of its particular saint. You will also see how the number six pervades everything in the religion of the One. Six prayers, six notions, six vows and so on. It’s an interesting mix of Masonic and Christian homages. The six vows especially provide some great role-playing opportunities for any character who is a servant of the One. If you’re looking to play one of Soustraine’s adepts, you’ll definitely want to pick up The Monastery of Tuath for all the content and potential story seeds you and your GM will find in it.

I absolutely loved the section entitled “Monasteries of the One,” as it gives you an amazing amount of detail on monastic life within the game. In fact, it’s so well done, other low fantasy games could easily pick this up and use the content provided with only a little bit of modification. There’s so much info about daily life, chores, potential health and income issues that come with such a secluded life, and of course – church politics.

The first half of the book concludes with information about the specific monastery the book is named after – providing a small map, a detailed look at each room (21 in all) within the monastery, and a set of thirteen NPCs that currently reside within. I was really impressed by all aspects of the piece. The art and content were top notch and the topic is one that most games really don’t give you an in-depth look at. Generally, monks in tabletop RPGs tend to be more of the eastern variant, and getting over two dozen pages on the classical western version made for a very fun and interesting read.

Then there is the adventure. Although Book 0: Prologue gave us a set of really nice adventures, the one within The Monastery of Tuath is the best so far. If this is any indication of how the upcoming Ghost Stories adventure collection will be, I think Shadows of Esteren will be up for a few more awards this year as well.

The adventure is entitled “Vengeful Words,” and the piece says it should take you five hours or more to complete. The adventure contains three acts, each of which is comprised of multiple scenes, so the adventure could run a lot longer depending on how intricate investigations get or if your players are more used to hack and slash style gaming rather than adventures where success lies with wits over die rolls. “Vengeful Words” focuses on a murder mystery that takes place within the grounds of the monastery. At first it appears to be straight forward, but it is anything but. Sure, you have corrupt religious officials and a nebulous big bad who doesn’t actually make an appearance in the adventure itself (there are allusions to him though), but it’s got all the makings of a great horror story as well as a whodunit. You have a cursed book and vengeance from beyond the grave, and it’s definitely an adventure that will keep players entertained from beginning to end.

Besides the playing of the adventure, I also have to comment on how well laid out the piece is as well. While the Shadowrun Missions format of adventures is by far the gold standard in the industry right now for ease of use and flow, the SoE adventure layout is a close second indeed. There are little icons to help clue a GM in to certain things that will/should happen when they appear in the text. These include the Gore, Supernatural, Suspense and Psychology tags, along with cues for music or text in red that highlight the most important aspects of the adventure. “Vengeful Words” is just really well done in all respects, and even if you have no plans to play the adventure, it’s still a lot of fun to read through as well as to see how SoE adventures are laid out, allowing even inexperienced GMs to run them smoothly.

All in all, The Monastery of Tuath is a terrific piece and one well worth picking up. Although it is only fifty pages long, your money might be better spent picking this up as a PDF rather than in physical form, as this is a short supplement rather than a full sourcebook or core rulebook. Regardless what version you pick up though, The Monastery of Tuath is terrific and a fantastic addition to an already awesome RPG line. If you’ve missed out on the previous Shadows of Esteren releases, this might be the time to jump in and see what you’ve been missing.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Esteren - Monastery of Tuath
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Shadows of Esteren - Book 0 Prologue
by Rafael C. C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/01/2014 06:28:14

Setting The universe of Shadows is a low fantasy setting with an strong focus on terror. It's like Ars Magica meets Call of Cthulhu. One of the strongest points of the setting it's the luring atmosphere where the players are encouraged to investigate and face the hidden horrors who dwell everywhere. There is no description for those monsters as the game director can choose the theme of their chronicle: the so called feondas ("Enemy" in the old language) range between anything you can imagine: from creepy insects that devour people from the inside to more orcish enemies (although the combat system is pretty deadly and other options different from combat are encouraged).

There are no wizards but alchemists (called magientists), clerics (from the Temple) and shamans (demorthen).

Stripped from the supernatural element, the setting has an strong remembrance of the highlands from Scotland during the dark ages, with the crown trying to unite the old clans.

The land it's a peninsula with no contact with the mythic continent: a massive array of mountains separate both lands and travel by sea is too dangerous (remember, monsters are not legends, they are quite real).

System Pretty simple. First you have five ways rated from 1 to 5. A value of 5 marks a strong use of that way but also holds some disadvantages. In example, a combative value of 5 marks an apt warrior but it also can mean a wild and careless person.

Then you have abilities/domains from 1 to 5. They represent some generic knowledge like close combat, travel, etc. You can specialize in disciplines, who give you the values from 6 to 15. Add one d10 to your way and your ability/discipline and surpass the difficulty threshold. That's all. As you can imagine from this, combat is pretty quick and deadly.

The system also focus in the growing madness of the players as they face the horrors of their adventures and has a pretty elaborated illness system, too. Life is hars in Esteren.

Overall, a quick and simple system that gets the job done and focus on interpretation.

Production quality This is it. The golden crown. Three 2013 ennies: best art, interior GOLD, best production values GOLD and product of the year SILVER are clearly a sign of what can you expect when you get any of the books. Full color and almost every page has an illustration that ranges from good to astonishing. A nice, non linear layout catches the eye and helped by the narrative (with the only exception of the system, everything in the book 1 is narrated as a series of letters that also contain seeds of histories) makes the reading a truly enjoyable experience.

Without any doubt, the three published books are amongst the most beautiful that you can bought for your library. The fourth book (an adventure inspired by The Name of The Rose and focused in the Temple faction) is just now on kickstarter and there is also a fifth book, the official campaign but only for french speakers yet.

Book 0 Prologue is an introductory kit but with three really nice scenarios. It's free for download due to previous kickstarter campaigns stretch goals.

Book 1 Universe is the core book and contains everything you need to play. No scenarios, they are in book 0.

Book 2 Travels is divided in two parts. The first one expands the geography and land description. The second one is a long scenario.

Highly recomended!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Esteren - Book 0 Prologue
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Shadows of Esteren - Book 0 Prologue
by Tomaso M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/14/2014 18:05:20

It's a wonderful and incredibly detailed dark medieval low magic no elves (or smurfs) RPG. It's a French game very well translated and edited in english. I already own all the english base books and it's a really interesting setting. Very detailed, interesting, "magience" magic technology, shamanic and monotheistic religions in a underground conflict. Not an hack / slash RPG it's a more intellectual atmosfere game. Monsters are true Horrors and are not commonly seen. Very very nice! Give it a try! Book= prologue is free!!!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Esteren - Book 0 Prologue
by Gonzalo D. G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/14/2014 10:17:55

Shadows of Steren es un grandisimo juego. Tiene una ambientacion muy trabajada acompañada de un apartado grafico absolutamente perfecto e integrado con el trasfondo. Aunque este libro no posee todas las reglas es perfectamente jugable con no uno sino tres escenarios que gradualmente nos introducen el universo y nos acercan a un mundo que sin necesidad de razas fantasticas y mareas de magia devastandolo todo, se basta para llenar la mesa con misterio miedo y desafios.

Un hallazgo y una compra fabulosa.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Esteren - Book 0 Prologue
by laurent c. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/14/2014 09:23:06

You shouldn't miss this RPG ! Esteren describes a complete and "wide wild" world with paths for many stories, mysteries, fears and success. It's built around simple rules, so you can keep focus on the main ambiance and stories.

Prologue is a good intro to the world, but I fully advice anyone to read the "Universe book", even if he's not a Roleplayer.

Oh, one more word... Each new page is a discovery, with creative page design, and more than this, wornderful pictures. These books aren't books, they're art !



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Esteren - Book 0 Prologue
by Evan K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/14/2014 08:14:23

This book sets the groundwork for Shadows of Esteren RPG game. It includes an overview of the setting; gives the general ground rules for the game rules and provides some simple scenarios to whet your appetite. Additional books in the series flesh out the universe which provides a sinister underpinning to a realistic world. This RPG does require a Game master (or game leader) and of course the success of a campaign can depend on their ability and knowledge of the world. Overall, it is highly enjoyable with mysteries to solve and a great world to explore.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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