The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=29596.
Players Guide to Shadowglade introduces us to a world that ended 500 years ago and has been reborn with a distinct lack of arcane magic. Divine magic is still around, but magic is generally a rare thing to be feared. Society has been slowly rebuilding itself, but when there are people involved, conflict is sure to follow.
Players Guide to Shadowglade is a supplemental setting for Pathfinder detailing a human-centric world that focuses on below 10th level play (E10). There are three products supporting this setting including the Players Guide, The Game Masters Guide and a Basic Bestiary. Settings for Pathfinder are a dime a dozen, however the Shadowglade setting incorporates some interesting concepts that allow it to feel unique without complicating the game mechanics.
This is what a players guide to a setting should be. Many guides follow the lead and style of a D&D type players guide and while that works for some, this guide is written with the idea that the information contained within is really attainable for player characters. Shadowglade is a mysterious world and this is the type of player’s guide a player could keep with them at the table and reasonably reference during a game without breaking the game with meta-thoughts.
Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Player’s Guide to Shadowglade looks good, not great; the sparse art has that cell-shaded feel that many people are using these days. For me that style still looks like screen captures from the Dragons Lair video game, but some people are really into it. The cover art is done well, but not evocative. The picture of the Gunblade revolver felt forced and inaccurate. There are no revolvers in this world, so why picture them? The font used is good and easily readable; the textured blue faux leather pattern that forms the background of the front and back covers is smart and simple. The “world map” looks great; it is minimal but effective. There is plenty of “white space” for an enterprising GM to “color” in. This book uses the standard 2-column format that most gamers are familiar with. The page borders are interesting without being a distraction.
Mechanics: 9 out of 10
This setting doesn’t blaze a bunch of new or innovative game mechanics, but rather expresses its qualities in other subtler ways. The setting is designed on the tier 10 system. Put into simple terms, this means the primary focus of Shadowglade is to play below 10th level. There are suggestions and advice and simple, straight forward rules for running the game past 10th level, but the focus is 10th level and below. I enjoyed going into this setting knowing that it was designed as an E10 setting. I am not a fan of firearms in a fantasy setting, but their development makes sense based on the lack of arcane magic and the fact that the Pathfinder system has several firearms-based abilities and classes.
Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
Player’s Guide to Shadowglade is top notch when it comes to how it is written and information that is contained within. Shadowglade could be inserted on that mysterious continent that always seems to exist on any RPG world with almost no difficulty. Because of the restrictions on arcane magic, some class choices are limited, but rather than being a detractor I think this makes the system even more interesting. The rules in this setting make sense and with this guide most players can really make their characters come alive in an interesting way.
Overall: 9 out of 10
If you want to play an exotic race, Shadowglade is not the place to do it. If you want to reach 20th level, this is not the setting for you. If your entire gaming career is based on playing arcane casters, stay away. And yet I still give this product a solid, well deserved 9. This book seamlessly integrates game back-story with the realistic table-side implications of those rules. Player’s Guide to Shadowglade does a great job of changing its voice to reflect the world it is describing as well as what an everyday sword swinging adventurer knows. Stay tuned for my reviews of the other two core books from Shadowglade, but be warned, there will be spoilers involved with those reviews and I recommend you not read those reviews if you are going to be a player in a Shadowglade game.