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Dark Albion: The Rose War $9.95
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Dark Albion: The Rose War
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Dark Albion: The Rose War
Publisher: DOM Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/25/2015 10:04:43

War is always a good backdrop to a fantasy campaign. There is so much chaos and change and opportunity that a group of adventurers could make their way from nobodies to national heroes..or villains. That is one of the basic conceits of +Kasimir Urbanski's aka RPGPundit's latest book Dark Albion: The Rose War. Published by DOM Publishing, the same that gave us Fantastic Heroes & Witchery. Overtly the book is for FH&W, but it can be played with any Retro-Clone or original D&D game you wish. In fact I am going to jump ahead and say that it would work with any version of D&D you choose, including 5th Edition. But for me the game seems like it would shine under Original Edition. But more on that later.

I am reviewing the PDF only at this point. I don't have a copy of the printed book yet. The PDF is 277 pages; 275 of content plus cover and a hyperlink page that we also saw in FH&W. It's a nice touch.

Before I get into the meat I want to about the art and layout. The art is predominantly woodcuts and public domain images from the period or about the period. I want to say that for the record I LOVE this sort of art. I really do. It captures the feel of time I think far better than most RPG art. I love the art in the D&D/OSR books, but that is art for a game world. For a historical one I want this. Also the graphic design and layout is much improved in terms of technique from FH&W. This is obvious when in the FH&W appendix it switches back to the other style. It is the same as the previous book, but still better executed.

The book is nicely organized and I am first grabbed by a sense of nostalgia. This feels like an old-school Gazetteer. In particular the Greyhawk ones of old. We have a two page Table of Contents and a two page index. Both are hyperlinked.

The center of the campaign is the War of Roses. This war, between rival claimants to the throne of England, the House of York (the White Rose) and the House of Lancaster (the Red Rose). This lead, among other things, to the creation of the Tudor Dynasty (White on Red Rose) when the House of Lancaster defeated the House the York and Henry Tudor married Elizabeth York to become Henry VII of England. This is also the milestone between what was "Dark Ages" England and the English Renaissance. Though I personally think of the date as being later when England broke with the Church or even later still when Elizabeth I came into power. But that is my personal bias. (Side Note: See if RPGPundit is working on "Dark Albion: The Tudors", now there is some intrigue!)

The Introduction is a brief overview of the book, the War of Roses, and what to expect in this campaign book. Most of what is here is detailed more in the book, but a couple of things draw our attention. First this a "gritty" campaign. So magic is low, character classes will be low and it is human centric. Other differences between this and other "D&D" are given, such as very, very few demi-humans and few "monsters". Also the differences between this world and our world are given. The one that stands out here is the Church of the Unconquered Sun, something that readers of my blog should already be familiar with, http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2015/02/sol-invictus-unconquered-sun.html. In fact this Church is like one where Rome (Arcadia) adopted Mithra instead of Jesus. It is an interesting idea and one I would love to see more of.

Next up, and what takes up a good chunk of the book is the Gazetteer of Albion. For his alt-history version of England, Pundit sticks with the very archaic Albion as opposed to England or even "Angle-land". I do not object. I used the name myself in Ghosts of Albion, though for different reasons. This is part socio-political overview, part maps and part campaign information. Having gone over the same territory, though 360 years later, I appreciate the attention to detail here. The bulk of this is of course on Albion and Wales (not "Cymru"?), lands up into Scots-land ("Alba"?) only go to Hadrian's Wall, which is still intact in this world. Lands into Ireland ("Erie"! thank you!) only go to the Pale, as appropriate. Beyond the Pale? Well that is where the ancient Brannans live, you don't want to go there. Honestly, this could have been the entire book and I would have loved it. Give me old maps and names of people and I will fill it up with ideas. I already want to create characters and give them histories.

Next up is Kingdoms of the Continent. As you can imagine, an overview of Europe. Not as in-depth as the Albion chapter, nor should it be. There are a couple things though I want to point out.

  1. Frogland. Really? ugh. Ok, ok. I get the desire to have a non-human, chaos-based kingdom. But I really have to admit this sticks out like a sore thumb. It's really just not good. Sorry. I just don't like it, it seems to go against everything we just read about human-centric, low magic, gritty-realism. If I were to use this in a game (and I really would want to) Frogland is going away. I'll replace it with a Clark Ashton Smith-style Averoigne. It really kind of mars the entire work in a way.
  2. Arcadia. There is something REALLY interesting here. I would love to see RPGPundit talk about how The Unconquered Sun grew up out Mithraism to replace Christianity in his world. Plus this is the Renaissance. I would imagine that Arcadia at this time in this world looks a bit more like Mage the Sorcerers Crusade than it does D&D.
  3. Wallachia. Ok, including a bad ass Dracula almost (almost but not quite) makes up for Frogland. Having him live in a castle named "Crows Loft" is very cheeky ("Crow's Nest" might be closer, but hey, not my book).

Law & Justice in Albion is a fairly important chapter. Characters will not be able to act like the "murder-hobos" of other games. Albion, at this point, has been around as country of laws for some time. The Magna Carta has been around for 200+ years at this point so this is not a lawless land, far from it in fact. Frankly more campaign guides should have this as much as they do maps and people of interest.

History of Albion is just as fascinating as the Gazetteer. While I personally believe that games are about the characters, having a detailed backdrop is always nice. Plus if your game is going to more about court intrigue and combats of words and lies rather than adventuring, then this is a must read.

Characters in Albion discuss what has been mentioned briefly already. What characters you are likely to use in this game. It is human centric and low magic. Now there is an interesting twist here in that the Church of the Unconquered Sun has Priests, which are like real-world priests in the Catholic church, and Clerics which are more like D&D clerics. In fact you can have a female cleric. This is a handy way to have your cake and eat it too. The reading of this chapter makes me think that Lamentation of the Flame Princes might be a good rule fit for this, but as I read more I think that Original D&D is the best choice. Though given the changes to the world in general I would also add druids and witches to my games.

Currency & Equipment is actually quite an important chapter. Money didn't just seperate the wealthy from everyone else, it also separates the classes, as in the upper and lower class. In many D&D games characters tend to throw around gold like it was water. You see that even in some of the pulp influences of D&D. Historically though and even until past the Victorian age you would not find people throwing around a gold coin. Copper pence/pennies were the coinage of the common man. Maybe a silver shilling. Ok, technically the silver shilling wasn't minted until the 1500s and it was worth 12 pence (not the 10p listed). BUT this is just a change to make things easier for the game and that is fine with me. I would still introduce a gold guinea at 21s/0p though it's introduction is still not for another 200 years or so. I just like the idea.

The next two chapters, Noble Houses of Albion and People of Interest, deal with the people that populate this world. I would say that if you are playing a court intrigue game then these are your important chapters. Knowing who is controlling what and what their moves might be is a great aid for the right-minded GM. I would say that if you are or were a fan of Pendragon or even Birthright then study these two chapters. Heck given how Pendragon works this could be part of the same set of PCs, only their dynasties 35-40+ generations later. Ok, so I am not taking any stars away from the overall product for this, but I will state my disappointment in the whole "Frogmen" one more time here. Craaak VII? Lraaap XI? Come on Pundit, you can do better than this.

Sorcery and Secrets is the chapter I have been waiting for. I will point out one discrepancy between what is said here and what is assumed. Magic-user spells are listed to 9th level, ok that will take a pretty high level magic-user, beyond the "7th level will be really high" mentioned. Plus 9th level spells are pretty big magics. Personally I would limit all spell casters to 6th level spells. There are some rules in FH&W to help get around this restriction.
There are some really good demon summoning rules. I would combine these with the magic circle rules given in FH&W as well as the Ley Line rules. In fact in might be interesting to take this chapter and Chapter 9 from FH&W and look at them as a unified whole.

Adventuring in Albion. Ok this is more like it! Give me reasons for my characters to do things! For me I am content with "there is a war of succession to English throne going on. You all are peasants. Figure out how make the most of it." Thankfully there is more here than just that. Several sample adventure locations are given, including one at court. Travel across Albion is discussed though characters are more likely to run into tolls rather than trolls, but both are still possible.
While monsters are rare in this setting a guideline for what might be possible would be good.

Three Appendices follow.
Appendix 1 detail the Knights of the Star and Secrets of the Clerical Order. Knight of the Star are an order of Knights loyal to the crown and king of Albion. These Knights could be seen as the Paladins of Albion and are given similar in-game status. Appendix 2 is a set of house rules for rules-lite OSR clones like Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Swords & Wizardry, and Basic Fantasy RPG. Appendix 3 is a set of rules when playing Fantastic Heroes & Witchery. Like I mentioned before this appendix drops the Dark Albion style for the FH&W one. Various new classes for FH&W are added including the Cleric of the Unconquered Sun, the Magister, Hedge-Witch and Cymric Bard among others. Also classes from FH&W are discussed including which ones NOT to use in Dark Albion. Some details about how Dark Albion's cosmology fits into the FH&W assumed cosmology.

The book ends with the OGL statement.

There is a lot crammed into 275 or so pages. While the guide is complete and there is plenty to do with it, it also opens up a lot of possibility for the world as a whole. Dom and RPGPundit could make a career out filling up the other countries. The time period is an interesting choice too. Having played a ton of historical games I tend to draw a fuzzy line right around the time of the Tudors. Prior to this time I can emulate with D&D-like games, after that I use other games. Dark Albion adheres to my own internal logic in this respect. Though I do admit I can see myself pushing that line a bit when it comes to Elizabethan times. I have done that time period both as a D&D-like game and as a setting for Ghosts of Albion.

I would say pick this up if you have any enjoyment for English history or if you are looking to play something different than the same old dungeon crawls.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Albion: The Rose War
Publisher: DOM Publishing
by James S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/15/2015 21:39:38

This review originally appeared on my blog, Halfling's Luck. (http://www.halflingsluck.com)

Dark Albion: The Rose War, written by the RPG Pundit and published by Dom Publishing, is the kind of product that makes me jealous. I'm an amateur history buff and a huge fan of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series - both the films and the books. You see, a few months ago, I considered doing a politics supplement for Swords & Wizardry: WhiteBox because of my love of both these things. I made a few notes, wrote down a few ideas, and set it off to the side. I turned my attention to White Star, which has had its own success.

Well, as things became finalized for the print-on-demand version of White Star, I returned to my idea - only to find that someone had done it far better than I ever would. That product is Dark Albion: The Rose War. You see, Dark Albion is more than just what it says on the tin. It bills itself as "Grim Fantasy England in the 15th Century." But that's not quite right. This product is that and more. You can read it and use it as written with your OSR game of choice. Statistically speaking the game is very light. It can be slotted into Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, Lamentations of the Flame Princess or any other OSR or older version of D&D or AD&D on the market with no mechanical modification. That's not to say the game is lacking in substance. In fact, quite the opposite.

Dark Albion takes readers and gamers into a 15th century England and does so with remarkable detail - but it never feels overwhelming or dry. It does not give simple, stark facts of the past. It paints this distorted mirror of a history that feels familiar, but the details make it fresh - like fine spice to a classic meal.

In spite of the fantasy elements introduced, the game is firmly rooted in history and this is reflected in the art - much of which is taken from historic pieces in our own world suitable to the period. The game has its goblins and elves and magic - but these are foreign and rare. Most have never seen a magical beast or a spell being cast - and most never will. These things are dark and dangerous, best left undisturbed and unspoken.

But Dark Albion is more than a rich historical setting. It takes OSR gaming out of the dungeon and into the throne room. Social class and political acumen have more power than swords and spells. While this in and of itself is not earth-shattering, the way it is implemented makes the rules regarding social rank and political power something to be easily integrated into any OSR game. In this sense, a referee who wants to reach into the pages of Dark Albion and extract these options is not bound to an alternate 15th century England. There's no reason these rules couldn't be used when player characters establish strongholds and gain titles or applied to an original campaign where the referee wants to include politics and power plays as a part of their campaign from day one.

That being said, I can't imagine not wanting to use Dark Albion with its written setting. It's beautiful, detailed and so vibrant. It begs to be played. The characters can change the world, even from first level. In fact, the setting is written so that few characters rise beyond 3rd level. Those that do have done deeds worthy of renown and are going to have quite the reputation. With a reputation will undoubtedly come attention and with that characters will be drawn into the political conflicts of the day. Whether they're mercenaries, nobles or knights - all bleed by the thorns of the Rose War.

In summation, Dark Albion: The Rose War is a product thats myriad of uses. By providing 275 page of rock solid material, the gamer is guarenteed to find something more than worth the price of admission. If you want to add politics to your game? This book has it. Want to avoid the politics and set a campaign in a historic setting? This book has it. Want to find a mine full of ideas, NPCs, locations, and adventure seeds to bring to a campaign outside of poltiics and setting? This book has it. Want some fantastic ideas to give depth and weight to your magic-users and clerics? This book has it.

Dark Albion is one of the best products I've purchased this year, if not the past five. I could take this book and run a campaign for years - whether Labyrinth Lord, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or even a game not commonly associated with the OSR like Basic Roleplaying by Chaosium or Steve Jackson's GURPS. The sheer versatility of the product combine with great production values, engaging writing, and solid cartography make it an absolute must-have. In short, Dark Albion: The Rose War is a must-have and given the density of what you'll find in its pages I'd especially recommend a printed copy.

You can find the PDF on RPGNow for $9.95 and in hardcover on Lulu for $29.24 (as of this review, that's a 20% discount). It clocks in at 275 pages, so in both cases that's a bargain of a price.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Albion: The Rose War
Publisher: DOM Publishing
by Corey W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/21/2015 02:25:58

Dark Albion is a new book, but it feels convincingly old. I feel like I've stepped inside a history book; except a history that is not our own. Or rather, it is our history if we lived in a dark alternate reality. RPGPundit describes the book as being initially inspired by Game of Thrones, with a bit of Lamentations of the Flame Princess thrown into the mix. Dark Albion is an obvious departure from these influences however, depicting its fantasy as "sinister", "dark", and "gritty". These are terms that everyone bandies around in the OSR, and ironically in the attempts to remove the Tolkienesque tropes from our games, I fear these words have become their own fantasy cliche. With that contention out of the way, I wanted to see how Dark Albion holds up; not only in regard to its tonal claim, but as a complete product.

First Impressions: Dark Albion is impressive. The digital download was PACKED with content. I actually laughed in amazement at the amount of content. It's ridiculous. Want an example? There are seventeen (17) digital maps, irrespective of the 285 pages in the Dark Albion book! Some I liked more than others (which I'll talk about later), but the amount of work that has gone into this project is nothing to sneer at. Quite the opposite.

Generally speaking, I do not like public domain artwork in RPG products. I find it detractive, rather than helpful. Dark Albion is the one exception where public domain artwork is not only appropriate, but effective. It is meant to have this type of artwork. As I mentioned in my introduction, it recalls an old reference work, while being completely new. The layout reminds me somewhat of Rules Cyclopedia. If you like RC I imagine you'll find the interior layout to your liking.

Dark Albion's unswerving commitment to detail truly staggered me. Some RPG supplements are evocative and original, yet are lacking in overall substance. Honestly — and I say this without any sense of hyperbole — Dark Albion may be the most thorough and detailed RPG product I have ever read. The alternate history it presents is so considered and integrated I had trouble working out the subtler differences between history and fiction at times. RPGPundit writes well. He writes in a way that does not talk down to, or coddle his audience, yet delivers the message with clarity and punch. I'm not sure what his academic career entails as an historian, but I found the work to be logical, succinct, and cumulative in its presentation; as a good history source should be. In short, I really enjoyed his style.

With my initial reactions out of the way, let's look at some specifics.

The Specifics: Layout: The interior of Dark Albion is black & white. It's a common choice, making publishing a lot cheaper. Given the content and overall mood of Dark Albion I think this was a perfectly suitable choice. Dominique Crouzet works as a graphic artist, I believe, and has added his talents to Dark Albion's cartography, cover design, border art, and layout. The border art is attractive and fitting for this work.The table of contents and index are clear and relatively comprehensive, making navigating the book a breeze. Page [b] uses an unattractive font, appearing muddy on my computer. It appears to be the only place in the book where this font is present. A simple and legible font is used everywhere else.

Total: 4/5

Maps: I love maps. As far as I'm concerned, the more the merrier. The good folks responsible for Dark Albion clearly align with this philosophy too, given the impressive amount of cartography. Naturally, some maps are better than others, though they are all very functional. I immediately gravitated towards the Player Maps. They have an attractive sepia/parchment appearance, providing a thematic complement to the entire work (see below). I found the Albion colour map to be lurid. I wasn't a fan of the colour choices, which are too bright. I felt it diminished the otherwise consistent black & white theme.The hex maps are decent. They're tidy and gameable. Lastly, the adventure maps are very good — clean and pleasing to the eye. There were some noticeable visual inconsistencies between sets of maps, and a few of the maps looked a little cheap to me. But again, a huge applause for the efforts and attention to detail. I can't even imagine how long they would have taken to create. For any fellow pedants, simply use the maps you like, and ignore the rest. I'm not certain, but I would estimate there are more than 25 maps if you include those within the book!

Total: 3.5/5

Artwork: The artwork is almost entirely public domain, and all of the curated pieces match the tone of the work. There are usually at least 2 pieces of artwork per page. The book looks good to read through, though if you are skimming through the book, or reading it for elongated periods of time, it becomes somewhat tedious to look at. Artistic highlights were the castle pictures, the absolutely terrifying demon illustrations, and some of the battle scenes. Again, like the maps, this is all highly subjective, so if you're big on public domain artwork I bet you'll really like the look.

Total 3.5/5

Content: Buy this book for the content. I don't care what anyone says about Dark Albion, the complete commitment to detail, and the immense volume of work is worthy of commendation. Seriously — and I cannot stress this enough — it is absolutely excellent. Whether or not I would use everything in Dark Albion is besides the point. If you've read any of my previous reviews, you'll know I'm a pick-and-choose kind of guy. I'll outline some of my personal highlights. Situated in modern-day France, Frogland is the home of repugnant worshippers of "dark alien gods". The idea has a sense of primordial fear to it, in some senses reflective of the English/French relationship historically. Besides the obvious analogs between the French and the Frogs, I like the idea of a land in close proximity, where fear of attack from monstrous fiends is every looming. Sure, it's been done before, but it adds some political tension to the game, and is a great adventure hook for further development. The Eire is another attractive adventure site, filled with "barbarians and dark fae". The land is described as pagan, and provides an interesting point of tension to develop. The Cymri are a race of men, who had ancient dealings with elves. They were possessors of powerful magic, and consequently a new class, the Cymric bard, has been developed as a playable option.

Speaking of new options, there are plenty within Dark Albion. A range of new classes are presented including the Cymric bard, demonurgist, hedge witch, magister, noble knight, knight-errant, and more. Mechanically there are numerous suggestions for running a game in the Dark Albion universe, both for common retroclones like Swords & Wizardry and Lamentations, but also for Fantastic Heroes and Witchery. Additionally, RPGPundit has included his "Quick and dirty house rule notes", which include some excellent suggestions for beginning an Albion campaign. The treatment of demons is most terrifying. Demon summoning, dark magic, and fearful sorceries are described in detail, living up to claims of "dark and gritty".

I counted eight adventure sites/mini adventures within Dark Albion. My favourite were the Barrowmound adventures, which had the best of the adventure maps (I thought). Rules for law, punishment, and justice are included within Dark Albion, adding to the punitive feeling of any good medieval/early renaissance work. Dark Albion is packed with detailed setting information, including heraldry, important political figures, quasi-historical timelines, battles, name generators, cosmologies, description of the low magic setting, and much more. I could go on, but you get the idea. This tome is oozing content.

Not only is Dark Albion extensively detailed, but it is highly useable. Pains have been taken to give the DM/Ref plenty of suggestions for incorporating material into their campaigns. New mechanics are well-covered, and the setting information is purposely broad, allowing the DM to get his/her hands dirty, and make Dark Albion their own.

Total: 5/5

Final Thoughts: No one with a firm grasp on their sanity would dispute the staggering amount of work that has gone into this product. That the work is impressive and comprehensive is beyond an understatement. There is no half-assery here. Blood, sweat, and tears have been poured into Dark Albion, making it an 100% effort. It is easy to cut corners when quality, literary consistency, and excellence are concerned, but no such liberties have been taken in Dark Albion. With maps for days, 285 words of useful content, and all the artwork you could possibly want, Dark Albion delivers on its promises, and more.

That said, I have a few gripes here and there. The overall inconsistency of public domain artwork rears its ugly head at times. It was no mistake to use public domain artwork in Dark Albion. It certainly fits the mood. The inevitable and fundamental problem I have with public domain still stands however — it can look great, or it can look somewhat thrown together, as so many varying artists are required to fill out a project. This gives the work a patchy feel at times. I readily admit my biased behaviour to judge a book by its cover, but first impressions stick. The same can be said about the maps. Sometimes an overall theme seemed to be lacking: one was colourful, one set was parchment, one set was greyscale. I think this was to clearly distinguish between player maps, geographical map, and area maps, but the effect was a little jarring or inconsistent.

My personal predilections aside, Dark Albion is a book rife with possibility. If one has been searching long and hard for a quasi-historical, low-magic setting, filled with all manner of the grim and horrible, look no further. Dark Albion delivers in that department beautifully. It combines standard fantasy tropes, history, and folklore so well, that one begins to question where one ends, and the other begins. It is a truly mythological work, endowed with a sense of otherworldly epic. I have not played a campaign using Dark Albion, so I cannot comment on its pragmatic application. I am left with a sense of possibility, however, as the cogs of inspiration begin to turn.

Total: 16/20

Corey Ryan Walden Blogspot.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Albion: The Rose War
Publisher: DOM Publishing
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/13/2015 00:50:50

Holy crap when I asked for and got Dark Albion I wasn't expecting the breath and scope of this sprawling setting book that you can easily get lost in. I received the review pdf copy of The Dark Albion Setting Book By Rpg Pundit & Dominique Crouzet this morning. I've been devouring it ever since, imagine if the War of Roses was being fought in a low magic but heroic world of witchcraft, sorcery, warfare and violence in the middle of one of the more complicated periods of English history. This is not our world. Not at all, your looking at a dark fantasy lens of our own history twisted by the authors into an alternative OSR setting. Dark Albion is a sprawling two hundred and eight five page pdf book for any new school, old school, or retroclone rpg system. Everything about this book speaks volumes of it's alternative world “War of The Roses” setting. The pdf is incredibly expansive, we’re clocking in at two hundred eight five pages of wall to wall artwork and 15th century dark fantasy setting. The pdf includes some very impressive maps of London, the British Isles of the 1500’s, a fully realized setting book that smacks of a dark fantasy campaign setting seen through an Old English lens, and with heaps of history, background, and much more. The setting goes into details about its own world right out of the gate. This isn't D&D as you might know it. Instead this is a pseudo historical setting abiding along its own rules and mores. Society is front and center with changes spelled right out in the introduction chapter with headings like : the level range is low, social status is extremely important,the role of women, the church of the unconquered Sun, chaos cults & heresy, the non human is hostile and dangerous, the monstrous is found in lonely places, and differences between our world and our historical world. This is all laid out in a common sense fashion easy to read and it defines itself by its own standards. This book is wall to wall artwork, while much of it is public domain but here its used to great effect! The layout is very well done by Domique Crouzet and company. The text easy on the eyes on the flow of the product is easy to follow. Dark Albion tries to separate itself from its D&D roots and that's a step in the right direction of this product. Albion has frogmen and undead at the edge of civilization as rulers vie for the throne and each others throats. The PC's are placed right center stage if they wish to be with their DM's consent. The pdf of Dark Albion has some wonderful maps that make great player hand outs, & its perfectly laid out but with all of the fiddly bits and pieces laid at the feet of the DM for easy access. Everything here is totally different then what you might be used to in a conventional D&D game. Social status plays its hand in this society and a party is most likely going to be of the same social standing just to make game play easier. Women's role in Dark Albion reminds me of Chaosium's Pendragon, with a few exceptions. Young ladies are often chosen by the Unconquered Sun as clerics but this game defines clerics as warriors as well as priests of the Unconquered Sun.Clerics of the setting are completely redefined into the confines of the rich darkness of Albion, they're the only ones who can cast miracles and are of a martial persuasion. Not every priest of the Unconquered Sun can perform miracles only clerics. Women of lower status may be thieves but may not lead a gang or become the head of a thieves guild unless they were incredibly ruthless. Never mind the rarity of women warriors because your going to have to be of high birth and trained as a knight. They are there but very rare. Woman among the Scotsmen are thought of in a completely different respect, those that can beat a man are look upon as warriors. You look get a look into the nature of magick in this game setting and the women of this society, and magick is a study fraught with danger. According to Dark Albion: "Women are just as capable, in theory, of studying magic as any man; however, the great Collegiums of Cambridge and Oxford only allow male students for the Magisterium. This means that any female Anglish magic-users were either self-taught or trained in private outside the official system. Among the upper classes, these ladies trained in the use of magic usually keep their art a closely-guarded secret, only revealed to the most trusted family or servants. In the lower classes, such women are usually the “wise women” of the town.It is a career fraught with danger, as the suspicion of chaos-worship or witchcraft is likely to fall much harder on a self-taught female magic-user than on a respected Magister of the Collegium" The DA setting feels as if, the Roman empire never left England at all and bits of nature, magick, and definition of it are still lurking on the fringes of England along with a ton of the mythic and demonic. The demonic here is nasty,dangerous, and chaotic in some of the darkest ways possible. It seems to ooze out in places in Dark Albion just waiting to take full advantage of the idiotic politic of the War of the Roses. Chaos is just waiting to unravel society and damn the human race in Dark Albion. This is a magick poor game setting in one sense, magic items are ultra rare and very hard to come across in this realm of the legendary and mythic. Only the rare wizard or magician is going to have any truck with these types of items. Because all magick flows from Chaos in one form or another. England and the Church of the Unconquered Sun work very hard to stamp Chaos out by any means necessary. The details are very well done especially when you get into the Gazetteer of Albion, all of the locations of the 15th century environs of England are there and in place but vastly different then our world's War of the Roses's England. This is a world of adventure and danger, you've got an England where zombies, undead, and all manner of horrors rise from the grave. If your expecting the usual dungeon crawling common to D&D, your in for a bit of a different type of adventuring. From the Danger and Adventure section: "Ruins abound from earlier peoples, be they barrows in Salisbury, in the depths of the great forest of Sherwood, the Pennine Mountains, the wild lands of Cambria, the swamps of the Wash, or the frontier brutality of the Northern Marches. Monsters of various sorts lurk in these dark uncivilized pockets. In the cities, cults of chaos plot, as well as more mundane thieves guilds. Bandits loot the countryside, some portraying themselves as «rebels» in these troubled times. Tales are told of treasure-hordes from ancient kingdoms before the time of the Anglemen, still waiting to be found in the depths of mountain caverns. Dragons and Giants exist, though they are dwindling and it has been centuries since either made themselves seen in the civilized regions." And then we get into the Fae a bit with this little tid bit of an introduction to these alien and very strange race of yore. "The Fae, the inhuman beings who once ruled this isle, were eventually overthrown by the Cymri they held as slaves, after the Fae had bred with some of them and given them secrets of magic; but it is said the Fae were not extinguished, only forced away into some other world; and in some magical places the border between the realm of Fae and the world of men becomes tenuous. From these places, the Fae may seek to bring chaos to the world of men, either raiding themselves, or sending forth Changelings (creatures that can mimic the appearance of a man) to do their bidding. Goblins too were once slaves of the Fae, and stories are told that the Goblins were not wiped out, but live on in vast underground cities deep beneath Albion." I have to say that this is vastly different then what I was expecting and it feels almost but not quite along the same guidelines of Pendragon or Harn in a good way. The grittiness that's present in the Fantastic Heroes and Witchery rulebook is brought to the surface in Dark Albion. But this is a world of warfare and in violent flux. When we start to dive beneath the surface of the Dark Albion book we are looking into a world defined by two things the weight of its history and the violence of its society. Dark Albion is an dark fantasy world gone very wrong, a place where the magic and mythology of the world has begun to wane and the dark claws of chaos grip the dark heart of this England. All set against the backdrop of the War of the Roses. And all of the while Chaos and Hell wait to end it all! The Church of the Unconquered Sun does its level best to eradicate it where it rears its head, often times by burning the infection of the infernal to the ground. This isn't D&D or any of its tropes at all. Here wizards and mages are working by their wits and your warriors better be born into a station where you can affect the world. Because the nobles are doing their level best to turn the Heraldic badges of The Red Rose of the House of Lancaster and The White Rose of the House of York into a chess board of blood, guts, and slaughter with someone claiming not only the throne but the very core of this world's England. Every little area of this England is fleshed out in such a way as to encourage adventure and breath life into the locations of Dark Albion. And this book's pdf is filled with wall to wall maps of adventure locations but there is very little here of fantasy adventures of a D&D style game. Because this is world of intrigue,violence, and hellish terror. The Church of the Unconquered Sun is a monolithic slab of an institution waiting to bring the hammer down hard on the head of witchcraft, magick, and Chaos in spades. The question is will your party be the nail or the hammer? The War of the Roses will determine that. For your social standing, status, and indeed your family honor is all at stake in this setting. So are your very lives. The Law and Justice section of Dark Albion leaves little doubt as to the thumb print of this world's Rome in my mind. Its bloody and vile hand prints are all over this chapter and the ins and outs of crime and punishment are dark, swift and horrid. The echoes of real world his are all over this chapter. Make no mistake, your PC's screw up in this world and its the stake or worse for them. The Europe of the Dark Albion setting is given lots of detail in this pdf, we get an overview of a darkly strange world that borrows from the Gothic horror tradition but doesn't emulate to any fair degree.The terrors and mythology are once again twistings of our own history but given far more depth to create the illusion of adventure just waiting around every dark corner and the roads of travelers beset with adventure. One might think that dealing with Dark Albion would be like diving into the deep end of a very long and boring history class from an alternative world? No the history chapter is devided into Albion today and the historical traces of this world's setting of the War of the Roses and where PC's can fit in. The Characters In Albion chapter is especially nice because it twists the usual tropes of PC creation with Dark Albion specific details such as backgrounds, PC life events, changes to the existing D&D style PC classes and the changes borne of Dark Albion, and more with an unusual flare for bringing all of the details together under one roof. Note that Scots take the place of the usual Dwarves in Dark Albion with some heavy twists along with the Cymri taking the half Elven race but again with some distinctly original twists all brought into the supernatural world of this setting. Some of the detail can seem a bit overwhelming but the author handles it with gratis and style all of their own. Currency & Equipment is well done and extensive with rules effected once again by social standing, wealth, social norms and mores as well as more. As a DM your going to want to have the PC's be well of and of noble blood or else things might be complicated for them. This is a personal observation and things might vary but according to the Currency and Economy chapter: "On the other end of the spectrum, the aristocracy has vast lands, knights and soldiers, and influence in the courts, but may actually have little in the way of liquid assets (though there are certainly exceptions). They trade as much or more on their reputation and ‘push’ in government as they do in money. The royal family itself is NOT rich at this time by the standard of the nobility, having drained the nations coffers over the last fifty years in failed wars against the frogmen, and now on the recruiting of armies to fight the Rose War. Both Yorkists and Lancastrians depend on the wealth of powerful and rich noble families like the Nevilles, or even wealthy commoner merchants like William Canynge. So if you are going to reflect the Albion setting’s economy accurately, player characters may often engage in exchanges for goods or services not based on coin-derived purchases at all." Once again the events of the War take center stage and this is one more reason why the hard and gritty feel of the book reminds me of a good episode of a Game of Thrones but with firearms and deadly politics can lead to PC's needing to take sides and looking out for their own interests as well. Everything from arms, equipment, to horses is all in this extensive chapter and there is plenty of hooks here to add in a bit of adventure and intrigue into buying equipment. Noble houses of Albion goes into an overview of the major events, players, parties, and back dealings of the War of the Roses of Albion and what its direct impact is on your PC's lives. DM need to pay special attention to this chapter because of the very nature of this book's setting history isn't simply background in this campaign but center stage and living. Important People of Interest lays out the impact of these power movers and shaker NPC's into the scale of the campaign's history. And just as in real life these are people of power, violence, and history with the power of life and death at their finger tips and around each others throats. This chapter charts out the relationships and bloodlines of each & everyone of them. The artwork is especially well used here to suggest and show the power struggles of Dark Albion. Sorcery and Secrets goes through the magick, mysteries, and dark sorcery of the setting. Magick here is fraught with power and pure danger. The Church is intertwined with the dark nature of Chaos itself from which all magick springs. If you are expecting the spell slingers and wizards of D&D, forget it. These are the wizards and witches of the witch trials, the men and women of a dark and far more sinister nature. These are the dark reflection of the light of the Unconquered Sun and they are ritualistic casters of the darkest sorts. The church views them as such and they do indeed summon demons, work from within the foundations of Dark Albion and twist reality sometimes for good but most often for bad. Chaos in this game setting is a losing proposition in spades. Witches, demon summoners, wizards, gamble with their very souls and they do it for the sheer supernatural darkness of it. Once again your social standing will actually affect your PC's ability to cast a spell. Demons are indeed powerful, dangerous, and infernal in every sense of the word, they really are the corruption of Hell itself and waiting at the threshold to drag your PC's soul into the Abyss. Magic Item creation is rarely practiced, dangerous, and horribly prone to have dangerous things happen. Poison or worse could happen from potion creation, and with a low magic setting this is very dangerous indeed. There are several artifacts and relics listed along with their mythology but these are items of myth and legend requiring quests and missions of dark aspect. For this will require venturing into the mists of adventure and foreign lands at the edge of Albion. The rules for Alchemy round out this chapter and their well put together with some nice systems built into this source book. They give just enough for PC's to add a bit more of the esoteric to their backgrounds should they be of appropriate station. Adventuring on Dark Albion gives the PC's a chance to get into the wider world of the setting with lots of guidance and wisdom for the DM to pull the players into the deep end of the setting with bandits, weirdness, and random encounters adding not only colour but a solid system for the DM to introduce the world of Dark Albion's adventures. This is one of my favorite chapters because it clearly outlines and highlights the dark mythic and legendary of this world. Magick and myth are or have faded from the world but its not gone yet nor will it ever. Here the mythological aspects of Dark Albion are holding on with tooth and claw for dear life. We get a sense in this chapter of the depth and breath of the history of the legends of Dark Albion and sheer volume of what lurks on the fringes of England and Europe waiting to tear apart PC's. There's maps, NPC's, adventure hooks, world building bits, adventure locations a plenty, and much more all living side by side with the world of the War of the Roses. The whole thing reads like an alternative world darkly with a knife to its own throat waiting for PC's to stumble into into it. You have burrow crawling, dark Fey remains,twisted festivals, weird customs, odd happenings, and your PC's are smack in the middle of it as victims, victors, and fools all being pulled into the setting by it all. There is a boat load of maps right in the middle of this chapter, and again artwork galore. This chapter is one of the most important to Dark Albion and really showcases the setting as well as the inherit violence of the setting's England and Europe. There is so much to take in that a new DM might want to look through this chapter as much an overview of what can be done with Dark Albion as much as a DM's adventure tool box. This chapter is really part of the soul of this book and its very well done. Worth the price of admission as well. The Appendixes add in that last dollop of icing on the wedding cake of Dark Albion. You get The Knights of the Star & Secrets of the Clerical Orders this chapter goes into Order of the Royal Star is the foremost order of knights in the land of Albion and its inner workings and secrets. Very interesting stuff I can assure you as we are brought into some of the inner workings of this organization's past and its role in the War today! Appendix P Rpg Pundit's Quick and Dirty House Rules, these are rules for use with the lighter OSR games. According to the book, "house rules are intended for use with the lighter OSR games, typically Swords & Wizardry or Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or even Basic-Fantasy-RPG." And these rules are well suited for what they do and how this game is a setting universal OSR book. These are solidly done allowing the fighting-man, cleric, magic-user, and sometimes thief to enter the world of Dark Albion. It has modifications for and of currency, equipment, weapons, etc. all for these OSR and original edition games. Finally rounding out Dark Albion is Appendix three for the Fantastic Heroes and Witchery rpg system, this chapter is a mini gaming source book for adapting FH&W to Dark Albion. And it does a damn good job of it, this chapter builds upon the foundation of the previous material laid out in the Dark Albion setting book. We get eight new PC classes along with notes about using some of the other FH&W classes with Dark Albion. Guidelines for Dark Albion being a low magic setting, chances of spell failure, and the dangers of sorcery. Both of which are optional guideline rules. A simple cosmology of Dark Albion put into Fantastic Hereos and Witchery terms and rules. And finally new spells from the rich dark fantasy setting Dark Albion. So bottom line is Dark Albion worth your money? In a word for the PDF, yes if your looking for a dark, gritty, rich, fantasy world of the War of The Roses. This is a labor of love by two authors who spent a great deal of time and energy on a project that must have taken years. The sheer volume of detail in this source book is over whelming in a good way, this is a very well produced and satifying OSR source book. Solidly done with tons of artwork, background, details, mystery, magick, and adventure ready for the taking by a party of adventurers in this dark alternative England. This is one very well written and exciting adventure settings to have had the pleasure to review and read. Here is a source book worth of the War of the Roses with all of the adventure, romance, blood shed,violence, and more that one would come to expect from these authors. It's already selling on Drivethru rpg and the hardback is up on Lulu as we speak and on Amazon as well. A dark variant cover of the setting book is available from Lulu as well, this is my favorite cover of Dark Albion. And within the next few weeks I'll be buying this one. Eric F The Sword and Stitchery Blog



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