Age of Shadows; Campaign Guide is a 28 page supplement for the very good indeed “Age of shadows” RPG.
If you have read my review of the aforementioned RPG rules you will recall I drew comparisons to Lord of the Rings at the time, and those influences come across even more strongly with this product. This is not a criticism, far from it, this has been the holy grail of fantasy RPG rules sets since the white box of D+D. So, given that, then why is this product different?
Well the simple answer is that like Sir Percival, Kristian Richards is the first to finally achieve the goal so many others have sought. The feel and atmosphere drips from every word of AoSCG, you feel your self being pulled into the authors vision and wanting to share in it, wanting to play. Even the style of writing hits the nail so squarely on the head that you have to admit, this is what half the fantasy RPGs ever released were trying to be.
Chapter one fleshes out the background of the setting a little and although it doesn’t really add much you hadn't suspected from the main rules, the writing stile conjures up the images beautifully. Yes it wears it's influences on it's sleeve, but what influences they are, and how beautifully crafted the sleeve is! The chapter ends with some new abilities for your creatures, to help to customise the forces of the enemy. This is a notable feature in AoS, instead of a huge bestiary of creatures, AoS has only a handful, but several such as the Felgrim and Beastlings are intended to be customizable so you can produce virtually anything you like from the template. A very good idea, making the game more flexible and fitting in with the ethos very well.
Chapter 2 is a Gazateer of the setting and provides an outline of the nations, regions and cities of the world. This is not an in-depth gazateer with each city mapped out or described in minute detail, instead each entry gives the GM just enough to work with and to build into as much or as little detail as he wishes. You are told the most important points, why the city is where it is, what this means for it's inhabitants and the rest of the world, and so on. It does this in a way that fires your imagination and does not get bogged down in minutia that you may well have no use for anyway. This chapter ends with two beautiful maps. They are clean and practical and their simplicity marries up with an artistic flair that makes you want to look at them.
Chapter 3 adds some spacial items to the game, such as Elf lanterns and mithr...erm, Dwarf steal. Again, these aren't items for the sake of items, but seem to add something to your understanding of the world an it's culture.
Then we have chapter 4, which is a set of alternative rules. Remember when I said in my Age of Shadows review that I was surprised they had gone with the random Character generation rather than points buy? Well points buy is presents here as an optional alternative, which adds more customizability to the system. Options for generating epic level characters as well as some new options for the combat system (order of action, variable armour ratings instead of fixed and so on) which can be used or not to let the GM make the game suit his or her needs and vision.
Chapter 5 is headed NPCs and introduces an intuitive method for quick and improvised NPCs as well as providing some basic templates that you can tweak as you need them, making the GMs job far more easy, as you no longer need to stat up everyone you think the PCs may interact with, you only need stat up major NPCs and you can fall back on these systems for everyone else, including the bulk of your grunts.
That, and the OGL info round off the product, and you are left feeling both satisfied that you made the right choice and hungry for more. Not to mention eager to play.