Ever since the box set Fury of Shadow, detailing the forest of the elves of Erethor in the Midnight campaign setting, the fans of Midnight have fantasized about a similar product that would focus on the dwarves of the Kaladruns. This did not come, but a product about the dwarves was produced: Hammer and Shadow.
Hammer and Shadow is the 14th in the line of supplement for the Midnight line detailing the continent of Eredane after its conquest by the dark god Izrador. Following the same pattern as other Midnight supplements, Hammer is a 64-page, black and white soft-cover.
The cover art is, as usual, in full color depicting a single hammer wielding dwarf surrounded by dead orcs at the entrance to what appears to be a dwarven-hold. While the drawing is moody enough and fitting to the whole Midnight feel, the dwarf to me seems a bit… unnatural. Sure, dwarves are supposed to be short and heavily muscled but this one seems to be taken to the extreme with huge arms and hands. Perhaps he got some spell on him, I don’t know.
The interior art is great, depicting both the dwarves and their enemies in equal measure. The regional maps, on the other hand, are bad; even bearing in mind that this review is of a PDF version of the product, the maps still are worse than other I’ve seen in PDF products. These maps appear to be just blown-up images from the main Midnight map that appeared in the Midnight 2nd edition book; hence they are fuzzy and appear out of focus, with only the symbols for the different villages, forts, ruins, etc. along with their names appearing sharp because they were plainly added on top of the original map. I believe FFG could have invested a bit more and drawn better, more detailed, maps for this product.
The book is divided into six chapters, but really has three main parts: the dwarves and their history, the current situation in the Kaladruns, and new rules.
Chapter 1 goes into great detail to describe the dwarven way of life. Everything from how they act within their own clans and other clans, to how they treat other races and the half breeds among them. Their language, government, beliefs and gender relations are all treated here, as well as a better understanding of the difference between Kurgan and Clan dwarves. Major dwarven and non-dwarven settlement are also described and given a short history. I think this chapter is great, and while not all information in it should be available to the players, a DM should consider giving any dwarf player a large part of this information so as to give the player a better understanding of the dwarven culture. And of course, for any NPC the DM is running.
Chapter 2 is all about dwarven history... war history at any rate. The dwarves have been fighting amongst themselves and with the orcs for almost 10,000 years after all. The chapter goes through the Ages of Eredane, and after each Age a defining battle in the dwaren history is shortly described whether it went well or not for the dwarves. The chapter is interesting enough, showing us how the dwarves came to be as they are in this Last Age of Eredane, after thousands of years of constant warfare.
Chapters 3 to 5 each focus on a different area of the Kaladruns Mountains going progressively from the north, to the central Kaladruns, and finally to the southern Kaladruns. These chapters describe nicely and in detail the history of the war in the area along with the plans ahead with each chapter further divided to focus on the Shadow’s forces, their tactics, important personas, and locations, and with the same treatment given to the dwarves later. It might have been a matter of space, but I liked the fact that of the many possible NPCs detailed in this chapter, no space was wasted on their stats, and hence more space was used to portray the land and forces, instead each NPC mentioned had in parenthesis race, class, and level. Only the dragon Arynix, one of the Shadows’ best weapon in the area, was detailed and stated and that is due to the simple fact that dragons in Midnight are treated differently (their abilities have no connection to their color).
Chapter 6 is all about new rules specifically made for the dwarves and fighting in the Kaladruns. The complementary handful of feats along with two new Prestige Classes (the Ancestral Foe, self explanatory, which can be taken by either orcs of dwarves; and the Dwarven Loremaster, the dwarven channeler with the ability to etch powerful rune magic).
Also we are presented with Dwarvencraft Techniques which can be learned with an appropriate feat, a teacher, and the investment of some time and a few XP points. These techniques serves to show the excellence of the dwarven smiths; making weapons, armors, or items, more durable, sharper, better wielding, lighter, and more, without resorting to magecraft and enchantment, something the dwarves are no entirely trusting of. I’m not sure how much benefit a PC will garner from these techniques, but a DM could certainly use these guidelines to gift his PCs with good, non-magical, dwarven made weapons.
Tunnel Craft is a nice section describing innovative ideas the dwarves have come up with to better communicate and move around in their tunnels. Some optional rules are recommended to make fighting in the close-quarters in the belly of the Kaladruns more interesting, such as the possibility that a weapon would shatter on the walls after a natural 1 on an attack roll, or the best weapons to be used while fighting in cramped spaces.
Finally the Appendix takes a chapter out of the Fury of Shadow box set and gives an arc by arc account of the great and final attack (at least that is what the Shadow’s minions hope) on the dwarves. It is written short and to the point describing the two main fronts, central and southern Kaladruns, and gives the reader both a feeling of despair and a glimmer of hope.
The focus of this book is clearly on the war being constantly fought on, and bellow, the Kaladruns, with every persona and location described in terms of what he, she or it has to offer to the war effort. What was missing for me from this book were places that might exist simply because they are there, or local legends and tales that might or might not be true but could certainly have an impact on the world of Midnight. These things, and others like them, are usually used to better flesh out the area described in the Midnight supplements; and while Hammer and Shadow is well written and interesting, these “branching out” of the main story of struggle that is Midnight were distinctly missing (for me) here. Other people, of course, might feel differently.
Like I said, this is a good book, and if you are a Midnight DM and are running a campaign in the area of the Kaladruns, or just want better knowledge of the dwarven culture, this is a good purchase. For those not playing in the dark and excellent world of Midnight, you would probably not miss out on much.
[3 of 5 Stars!]