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DAA1 - The Ghost of Jack Cade on London Bridge
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/19/2020 11:51:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page hyperlinked ToC (only in the pdf), 1 page editorial, ½ a page ToC, 1 page SRD; the print-version, obviously, does have a back cover as well. We have 21.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreon supporters, who sent me the Dark Albion books, to be reviewed at my convenience.

Okay, so this is an introductory adventure/setting book, and it is billed as a dual-format book for both Fantastic Heroes & Witchery (one of the most underappreciated games ever), and generic OSR. A few notes here: I usually consider dual format books bad deals for the customer, because you invariably end up with content that you didn’t want or planned on using. For games with complex rules, this also usually results in issues with the logic, power-levels, etc. The Dark Albion books did not fall prey to this, both due to the systems in question being pretty compact in their demands regarding real estate, and due to a pretty meticulous approach to rules. This adventure is no different in that regard, so kudos there.

Which brings me to another aspect: I vastly prefer OSR books to actually subscribe to a specific rules-set. Why? Because playing in Labyrinth Lord or For Gold & Glory, or LotFP for that matter, are very different experiences, and power-levels. While many referees have a relatively easy time adjusting components on the fly, this book goes a step further and genuinely walks you through the rules that are employed: We get BOTH ascending attack bonuses AND THAC0s (called TaAC0 here); one save is presented, with notes for 5-save systems provided, and even a default DC noted. Skills can be resolved via d6, via d%-checks, or with d20 vs. DC, accounting for both 5-type style saves and those based on ability scores. Interestingly enough, this does a better job with these guidelines to allow the book to be used with e.g. 5e than many of the bad conversions to 5e I’ve read. In short, this is one of the VERY FEW books I’d consider to be truly successful at being a universally applicable OSR-module without losing details or bad hiccups.

The module is intended for 1st to 2nd level characters, though personally, I’d suggest using this as a first level adventure. In case you were wondering, btw.: The rebellion of the eponymous Jack Cade was a very real thing. Cade’s rebels were beaten on London bridge due to his men starting to loot, earning the ire of the populace, so there is a historical background here – when the module starts, the rebellion is obviously already over. Nice, btw.: The book does come with a pretty significant epilogue and suggestion for further adventures, with hooks often based on actions the PCs may have taken. The module has no read-aloud text, just fyi.

In order to talk about more this module, I’ll need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. . All right, only referees around? Great!

The module’s rules deserve further applause: One of the few magic items (this is Dark Albion at its best), is a spellbook that contains a variety of different spells that don’t properly work – like a charm person accompanied by insane jealousy. I liked these. In fact, I’d have loved to see a similar treatment for all spells in a rulebook, as these can be easily used as a kind of spell mishap.

Anyhow, what you should know, is that London Bridge as depicted herein, is not only fully mapped (including sideviews) and illustrated (some gorgeous b/w-pieces), it also pretty much is an excellent generator: The pdf sports a generator that lets you determine the number of levels of a building, the number of shops, the type of sold goods, the number of rooms per level, room contents, room occupants and attic content and current occupants. The maps provided help render this place alive, and better yet, the book comes with 20 VERY DETAILED NPC/sample occupants-angles to further make the bridge come alive.

The bridge is more than dressing, though. Indeed, the module provides rules for navigating the constant throng of people on London Bridge, including chases and vanishing in the crowd, as well as chases by row boat. Concise rules for falling into the Thames are provided as well. In a way, it may even be more salient to think about this supplement as a local environment sourcebook with a detailed adventure hook.

You see, structurally, this is aimed at the experienced GM: It presents an environment and a problem, all associated rules you’d require, and then throws in the PCs – in a way, this is as wide-open a sandbox in this context that it can be.

LAST WARNING. SPOILERS. PLAYERS, SKIP AHEAD.

Now, plot-wise, I love that this module subverts superstition – you see, Jack Cade’s ghost has been seen on London Bridge (his decaying head on a pike being one of the b/w-artworks), and people are spooked. Well, if you’re gathering your trusty Undead-EX-gear right now, you’ll be surprised to hear that it’s no ghost plaguing the bridge, but rather an enterprising criminal who happened upon a mage suffering from a botched spell; he quickly absconded, and, being illiterate (nice catch!) starting fumbling about with a crystal, a rather malfunctioning magic item. This item lets you use a ghostly project image – and the criminal has been using the item rather well in his scam! If people are running from ghosts, they’re less likely to notice missing valuables, right? This is a genuinely cool angle I enjoyed, and if you execute it properly, can provide more than one day worth of gaming. You can run this is a quick manner, in a slow one, and anything in-between – but however you run it, make sure you have a very detailed knowledge of the content herein. The sandboxy nature and open structure, coupled with the locale and density of content do mean that you should properly prepare this module. If you do, you can use all those sample PCs and mapped locales to evoke a genuinely plausible vision of London Bridge.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Dark Albion’s nice two-column b/w-standard, with a surprising amount of neat b/w-artworks and an impressive amount of cartography. I wished the maps had been collected in the back as well, for printing them out, though. Similarly, the lack of player-friendly maps is a downside for the module – more so for this than for many others. Why? If this had player-friendly maps, it’d allow the GM to just hand out house-map after house-map as the PCs explore, making the bridge “grow” on the table! This is still possible, but requires some obvious work. I do suggest you do that, though – it’s totally worth it!

Dominique Crouzet’s first (and much to my chagrin, so far only) Dark Albion adventure is a successful venture; while I’d argue that this is closer to a regional sourcebook than an adventure in the traditional sense, its adventure components can be executed with rather impressive results in the open, exceedingly-detailed sandbox provided here. I consider this module to be very much worth getting, and a great way to get into Dark Albion. Now, beyond Dark Albion, this would require some serious reskinning, obviously, so do bear that in mind.

While the map-shortcomings did irk me, there is one more aspect to consider: The pdf clocks in at a grand total of 2 bucks, with the print version (saddle-stitched softcover) clocking in at what looks like at-cost at just $6.99, the price you pay for many pdfs. Considering the great bang-for-buck-ratio, I’ll round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DAA1  - The Ghost of Jack Cade on London Bridge
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Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/13/2020 05:14:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 94 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 89 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

I received this book in its Lulu softcover PoD-version by one of my readers for the purpose of a review, to be undertaken at my convenience. I also consulted the pdf version, but the review is primarily based on the print iteration.

Okay, so the first thing you need to know, is that this book is not necessarily Dark Albion-exclusive; the lion’s share of the book is not even OSR-exclusive; depending on your skills in the target system, you can use this with pretty much everything; there are rules-components here, but since the book does not subscribe to a singular OSR-system, much like Dark Albion, there might be some minor tweaks required when using this in some contexts. The book contains two pages of character sheets, and two pages of worksheets for the GM, which is certainly appreciated.

What is this book? In short: It’s the largest and most encompassing chaos cult generation toolkit I’ve seen so far. The generator operates in 7 simple steps: First, you determine the social class of the chaos cult – and yes, mixed cults are possible, but statistically are actually the rarest ones – which makes sense. Both of these come with tables. After this, you determine the size of the cult, and proceed with a simple decision: Has the cult been exposed or not (yet). Then, we come to the largest consideration – determine the cult type. Fake cults, witchcraft, old religions, heresies, elf cults, object cults, sex cults (PG 13, in case that bothers you) –here is the best thing about these: There are different cult types for different social classes: Nobles might e.g. follow immortality cults and the like. These cult types come btw. with more detailed descriptions.

In step 5, we get tables for cult secret lairs, once more with different tables for different social classes of the cults; step 6 is optional, but I’d recommend it: A massive table lets you determine special resources the cult might have – veterans, protection of local lords, monsters, etc. Also optional: Step 7 nets you a variety of chaos cult complications, with the table spanning 2.5 pages.

This generator alone is already an impressively potent tool for the GM, and from here, we only go further: We get tables to determine how cultists recognize each other, and a rather cool table on cultist obligations and taboos. Random tables for ceremonies are provided as well: One to determine the place, one for the required garb, and one to determine the ceremony type.

With these, an experienced GM already has the tools to make a cult adventure, but we haven’t started yet! The book then proceeds to present a wide array for actual reasons for joining a cult, which allows you to generate surprisingly plausible allegiances within the cult.

What’s that? You want CHAOS? Well, we have mutation rules here – in short: They are permanent and almost impossible to revert, which is how they should be; we learn about the church’s stance on mutation within Albion’s context (hint: It involves the words “kill” and “extreme” and “prejudice” and/or “pyre”…), before the book goes into a variety of mutations in 3 different categories: Minor, moderate, severe. Minor mutations can include witch marks, blood thirst, loss of hair, small horns, being worm-infested, etc. – is the fellow just diseased or a cultist? The fact that these are subtle is great – it lets you get into the witch-burning paranoia-mindset.

The major mutations are more rules-relevant and include being haunted, developing canines, loss of limbs or gaining the evil eye. Severe mutations, finally, include a familiar (with subtable including individual benefits), becoming fish men, green men, growing pincers, etc. These are the…well, nasty apotheosis kind of mutations that may see the target become the focus for a cult.

After these mighty generators, we get a step by step guide for running chaos cult adventures and potentially, even whole inquisition campaigns, with suggestions for current objectives, as well as a variety of really diverse hooks for getting into adventures; then clues. Get it? Now that the cult generator is done, the book proceeds to present a chaos cult adventure generator, and it’s a genuinely well-crafted one, including massive tables of clues to scavenge. This section btw. also include a means for players prodding in the dark to be rewarded, so if your players stumbled into an aspect of the adventure you have not accounted for, this’ll help.

The book then proceeds to depict, in detail, a massive array of tables for questioning NPCs: We get tables to randomly determine whether a random NPC is a cultist, how cultists and their allies will react, how non-cultists will react, and what non-cultists will tell. The book also features a total of 20 detailed baseless rumors – essentially detailed red herrings. Suggested events and encounters and a huge amount of sample cultist personalities, as well as a whole page of old-school statblocks for run-of-the-mill cultists are also featured.

This out of the way, we get a low-level, mid-level and high-level chaos cult dungeon – these come with nice b/w maps, and are functional; not brilliant, but they certainly do their job. No player-friendly versions of the maps are included. If the book has one weakness, it’s that the space taken up by these sample lair would have imho been better served by more material for the investigation generators.

Finally, since elves are chaotic and pretty evil in Dark Albion, we have notes on elf cults alongside a variety of different cults – from demonic cults to bacchae and good ole’ blood god we get detailed notes on daily practices, rituals, etc. There are notes for the heresy of the Cathari, Donatists, and there are notes for cults of Eros and Venus, Gaia, Green Man, etc. – and yes, Gnostics, Manichaeism, and the Hawk, deity of the Scots Men, Hecate, Mananan – this book delves deep into the whole aspect of mythology in Dark Albion that I’d have loved to see focused on more in the main book. And yes, frog cults are presented – but I have no problem with frog cults per se; I have a problem with the nation of high fantasy, decadent frog people breaking the setting’s consistence…so no problem there. We get appropriate notes like alien artifacts for star cults, magic item relevance, etc. – nice.

The final appendix of the book deals with locations of power, covering rules for magic-dampening locations and magic-enhancing ones; chaos-enhanced and planar-crossover locales, as well as a chaos backlash table can be found here – and since drugs are obviously involved in a pretty serious way in dubious rituals, the book covers a massive table of visions, hallucinations and bad trips, finishing what must be called a truly encompassing generator.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, with everything being precise, didactically sound in sequence, etc. – no complaints. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and is just as well-executed as in the campaign setting. Artworks are a mix of well-chosen public domain art and stock pieces; personally, I preferred the public domain art here. Cartography is nice and b/w, but there are no player-friendly iterations of the maps. Much to my dismay, the pdf has no bookmarks – if you just want that iteration, detract a star.

To get that straight from the get-go: This expansion/generator book is pretty darn awesome.

After the inconsistencies of the main book, this one focuses on dark fantasy themes and manages to depict chaos cults and making them in a holistic manner; it lets you not only create a cult, it also has all the tools to run an investigation into it in a pretty fluid manner, without much prep work. If you’re good at this type of thing/an experienced GM, you may well use this to run a spontaneous cult investigation sans any prep-work – heck, I’ve done it. That is a fantastic thing to achieve. RPG Pundit and Dominique Crouzet deliver in this book, big time. This is not only useful for Dark Albion, but far beyond the setting and system – whether WFRP, Greyhawk, The Witcher or some other dark fantasy setting, this can very much yield helpful results. An impressive achievement! 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos
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Dark Albion: The Rose War
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/06/2020 12:05:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive campaign setting clocks in at 285 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page chapter hyperlinks (for easy pdf-navigation), 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 2 pages of index, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 276 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to a patreon supporter sending me the hardcover with the request to cover it at my convenience.

Okay, so, Dark Albion, what is this? Well, first of all, this is a medieval roleplaying setting set in the age that served as an inspiration for A Song of Ice and Fire.

Before we get into the main meat of the book, which is the setting, we should definitely talk about the rules situation here. The book uses two different rules systems, and I am generally never a fan of those; why? Because, regardless of which system you prefer, you’ll have the burden of the additional content you neither needed, nor wanted. Dual-format books tend to be intrinsically customer unfriendly to a degree; for OSR supplements, this is slightly mitigated due to the less pronounced focus on rules; in this book, the issue is reduced further, for the design is per se made to be able to be grafted onto most old-school systems, with the rules-relevant aspects mostly relegated to the appendices at the back of the book. In short: The book does not consist of ½ content you won’t use; the system-specific rules are complimentary, not required to run this, and are in the back.

Beyond the sub-systems introduced (to which I’ll return below), let us talk about these first. For suggested OSR-systems, Labyrinth Lord and Lamentations of the Flame Princess are suggested, and since there are x-in-6-references here and there, the latter might work best. Swords & Wizardry and the like will work just as well, just fyi. The OSR-appendix is a collection of houserules, and honestly, it’s perhaps the weakest aspect of the whole book: The section is noted as “quick and dirty houserules”, and probably are best conceived of as a basic form of OSR-game if you don’t want to use a specific one for your game. If you’ve read a couple of OSR-games, you probably won’t notice much of interest here. The brief class redesigns presented here are not that interesting, and the most relevant aspects are probably the notions of adding a critical effect table, as well as a brief set of rules that makes you roll 1d20 and add the spellcasting ability score, versus DC 12 + spell level to successfully cast a spell.

Here’s the thing: The rules section for Fantastic Heroes & Witchery, the second system supported here, is vastly superior. In case you are not familiar with it: Fantastic Heroes & Witchery (FH&W) is one of the most underappreciated games out there, and one of all-time favorite RPGs. No kidding. Why? Well, some people, me included, like options and per se, more stuff that we can do with PCs. At the same time, I also enjoy gritty games, and I really like my theater of the mind angle. In a way FH&W is a super-modular game that posits the question: What if we had an increase in the option array akin to what D&D 3.0, PFRPG, etc. brought, but without the miniature tactics angle of those editions? In many ways, the game never becomes as granular, but allows for very broad selections of mechanically-diverse characters, all without becoming too complex for old-school fans. It’s seriously great, and if that sounds even remotely compelling to you, then get this game. It’s worth it.

Anywhere, where was I? Oh yes: Magic being unreliable is realized in a more interesting manner, at least as far as I’m concerned: You see, Dark Albion posits a direct opposition of Law & Chaos as the central alignment conflict (one axis model); the Law is represented by the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus), and as such, magic falls in roughly two categories, with some working simply less reliably under the sun! That’s awesome! It’s a reason for magic practices, occult rituals and the like taking place at night! The 13-level FH&W-classes presented herein range from the obvious (like e.g. noble knights) to some that are frankly interesting by mechanics: The caster-class Magister, for example, comes with white and gray magic, but may learn black magic – but every such spell will cost the magister a white or grey magic spell known. That’s a cool way to represent corruption. As a German, I am also rather fond of the Demonurgist, essentially a Faust-like being with fiendish familiar, who becomes REALLY good at finding the creatures of chaos…and who can, at one point, even imprison demonic forces, making for a great anti-hero. These classes feature Albion’s subdued dark fantasy aesthetics with rare, but powerful magics. For FH&W, we also get two new spells and a super-simple and robust ritual demon summoning engine, which brings me to one aspect of the global rules I really enjoy, so let’s start talking about global rules in Dark Albion.

Demon summoning is not some vancian spell simply cast, nor are demons the standard D&D outsiders; instead, we have a rather solid ritual engine; 1d20 + class level + Intelligence modifier versus a DC determined by the rank of the demon – hilarious: Powerful demons may force their subordinates to show up instead. I don’t know why, but that got a serious chuckle out of me. Both the images used and the rules here (plenty of demonic abilities included) help make these feel like demons from the medieval age, not their D&D compatriots. For more diverse forms, resources like the Random Esoteric Creature Generator or the one from No Salvation for Witches are recommended by yours truly. (Alternatively, most creatures from Raphael Chandler’s horror bestiaries…) Anyway, why summon them? They can teach you spells and the like…you know the stories.

Since I mentioned this, a brief note: the layout by Dominique Crouzet is FANTASTIC. We have pictures on every page, graphical elements, and some of the best uses of public domain art that I’ve ever seen. The book has a better, more consistent visual identity as a result than many comparable books with fancy full-color artwork. It also underlines the (faux) historicity and themes of the book. Huge kudos for that decision.

But let us get back to the global rules: I very much like how this setting treats poisons and alchemical extracts: From arsenic (and cantarella) to mandrake and wolfsbane, we get quite a few new ones, with easy and quick rules to forage the, and prepare them, and all of this is supplemented by medicinal herbs and alchemical creations like Alkhalest and Aura Fulminata – if anything, this section made me smile from ear to ear, and I genuinely wished there was a whole book on herbs, poisons, substances and the like. Poisons, fyi, usually need to be ingested. This section, while brief, also works and does so well.

I can’t say the same about the magic item section, which can be summed up with two words: Bland filler. A sword+0 that is magical, but doesn’t help you hit foes? Oh boyo! Holy water! A cloak that lets you turn into a wolf. A powerful artifact torn in 7 pieces. This section is, at best, redundant. Thankfully, it is brief.

The second big rules engine that sets Dark Albion apart, would be the noble house engine: A noble house has three stats: Military Power (MP), Financial Power (FP), and Political Power (PP). You roll 3d6 for these, and multiply the result by x3. If you have a title, you get a bonus to each ability – lords get no bonus, kings get +20 to MP and FP, +40 PP. Additionally, each region has modifiers, with the most interesting being the Isle of Mann, which gets +20 MP, but only for defensive purposes. Allegiance to York or Lancastrians also influences these; not choosing a side provides a universal penalty, while choosing a side helps with that side, but imposes a huge penalty for the other side, obviously. All existing houses are covered, so this looks like it could allow you to go Birthright! Awesome! I also liked that there are annual events, but there are only 23 such events, which is weaksauce for a longer game. This needed more to stay engaging and not devolve into becoming boring.

The book also features a battle-engine based on the MPs; these include modifications for special forces (such as spellcasters, etc.), ground, etc. and leader MP modifiers, which is per se nice – but there is no tactics involved in the battles themselves. They are decided by one die roll. If battles are just one background facet of your game, this might work for you, but for games that wish to go into more details, account for tactics and the like, zoom in and out – this won’t do. Similarly, for the rules-lite crowd, this system requires that you determine casualties and victories by determining percentile values based on differences in checks. That’s a lot of math, for no gain. This is a bad engine. It has no tactical depth, gets boring immediately, and requires a bunch of math for no payout. And I LIKE math. Heck, I once ran a whole high-end hardcore Pathfinder-campaign, where every single encounter was hardwired to be a numbers-puzzle…but this engine here? It has no depth, is too clunky for being quickly resolved, and offers no payout for the time it takes to resolve. Write your own mass combat engine, use another and graft it onto this one.

Okay, and that is pretty much the major part of the rules featured herein, so let us get to the main meat of this tome, namely the campaign setting.

To historians, it sounds stupid to explicitly state this, but time and again, I’ve observed that the cultural notions exhibited in almost all roleplaying games are actually more reminiscent of the early modern period with regards to their drapery, if you will; aesthetically, most fantasy worlds we play in hearken much closer to our actual modern and contemporary morals and aesthetics, which deviate significantly from the lived-in reality of medieval Europe. There are three basic notions, grand injuries to our self-importance and ego, that mankind has suffered since those days: The knowledge that we are not the center of the universe, the knowledge that we are not special in the grand scheme of the natural order, and the knowledge that we aren’t even masters of our own psyche. These three notions have radically influenced our Weltanschauung as a whole when compared to any person living during the medieval period. We have a very different conception of reality, and if you think that ren-fairs have ANYTHING in common with actual life in this period, I hate to break it to you, but nope.

This extends to the degree where plenty of people simply lack the knowledge to properly roleplay a person of this time, as they would violate social decorum left and right and/or be offended by the social mores of that time. As such, this book has a manifold challenge ahead of itself: It needs to teach and contextualize the lived-in reality of the times, make it playable for the average gamer out there and generate a compelling setting based on the by now most notorious periods in English history…so let’s see how this fares!

The first big component that sets the medieval mindset apart would obviously be informed by nothing else than Christianity, or rather, the collective of Abrahamic religions as a whole; these ideologies informed pretty much the structure of the social strata, the calendar, and the general world-view. For example, there is the notion called “Gottesgnadentum” in German, which denotes the idea that the social station of nobility is granted by the grace of the Christian god, which makes any rebellion, disrespect, etc. not only an affront to the ruling powers, but also almost a kind of heresy against god. That is an extremely frightening concept to me that is hard to wrap my head around. Take out Christianity and the effects of Rome, and the whole European structure would have gone a very different route. Now, out of a fear of offending someone’s religious sensibilities, many RPGs cop out of using Christianity, and this is no different. HOWEVER, at least it makes a smart call with the replacement: Instead, we get, as noted before, the Sol invictus as a placeholder, which lets us use all of our accumulated Dark Souls memes in game. “Do you even praise the sun, peasant?” The Unconquered Sun is also used to defuse another hot button issue: One might assume that not everyone subscribes to the Lamentations of the Flame Princess-thesis of adventurers as sociopaths, outcasts and misfits by definition, and in some ways, the church of the unconquered sun allows for a softening of borders for modern sensibilities without breaking the setting’s basic tenets.

You see, more so than even 50 years ago, the medieval age was obviously HORRIBLY sexist by modern standards. There also was a lack of social mobility. If you thought your racist/sexist grand-parents were bad, you have no idea, and should seriously do some research. In Dark Albion, the divine providence of the Unconquered Sun sees fit to call female individuals into service as well as males, allowing them to break through the social norms. Clerics, by the way, are the exception – they are essentially rare, and the special OPs force of the church. Few higher ups are clerics, and e.g. the Pope is a commoner. Which brings me to the first point where the book seriously falters. How do these people keep their power, when clerics have the direct power of the Unconquered Sun? This question is never properly explained. Same goes for witch trials, or trials in general. The book acknowledges how fun trials can be and spends quite a bit of time on them – and I agree.

And yes, the cleric and magic-user spell lists are limited and mostly purged of direct damage spells. But clerics still have detect lie. That renders the whole notion of trials that are not easily solved a matter of bad logistics. Note: Even executioners used to travel; Meister Franz Schmidt, famous executioner of Nuremberg, has chronicled his travels rather well – you can still read his journals, and there is a neat English translation as well. Establishing a similar situation for clerics and difficult trials would have been easy. It also disregards the whole angle of the logics of the punitive judiciary system in place back then, and how that interacted with how people and criminals approached their penance. Here, it is evident that per se good ideas have not been thought through properly. This oversight can also be observed for two other factors – the Turks worship the Unconquered Sun as the Moon, which is CLEVER. How and why this validates the struggles between them and the sun-worshipers, however, is exceedingly opaque. The Russian Orthodox Church is all but ignored as well – the ideas and the consequences of the changes have only been thought through in a logical manner as how they pertain to the core concepts. This is particularly jarring and evident in contrast with other components.

For, and that is an important note, one CAN see that the author is a historian. The level of fidelity and knowledge on display regarding the subject matter is impressive; while there are changes made to historical facts, these tend to be due to the requirements of being more gameable and subtle influences of the fantastic. Hadrian’s wall, for example, is still standing and fortified, for the wild places are where the dark things and inhuman creatures lurk.

In many ways, the gazetteer is absolutely amazing regarding its attention to detail, hex maps, all the details and politicking. If you enjoyed the more complex tapestry of allegiances of A Song of Ice and Fire in comparison to Game of Thrones’ dumbing down of everything, this will make you grin indeed. If you’re into the era in a non-fantastic context, doubly so. At one point, I genuinely stopped looking for settings like this, because I knew I’d hate their anachronisms and lack of ambition and b/w-morality, and Dark Albion generally manages to avoid these pitfalls. If you’re looking for a historical reference for a fantasy game, then this delivers in HUGE spades.

I also love, and I mean LOVE, that the book does not simply handwave the importance of social class. If you’re a peasant, you’re not wearing a sword, not unless you want to go to jail. Indeed, walking round in armor, with weapons, like murder hobos are wont to do, is a capital letters BAD IDEA in most regions of Albion. This whole aspect is awesome, and personally, I’d have appreciated e.g. further discussions on privilege by class – colors, for example, were restricted by class, and used to e.g. denote prostitutes etc. More on the class system would have been helpful not only for the setting, but beyond its confines. I really love that the book provides an overview of the things to come, as another example of plentiful adventure seeds.

There are two aspects where this otherwise frankly phenomenal component of the book struggles. The first would be organization. The book imposes a huge cognitive load upon the reader, particularly if you’re not familiar with the Rose War. I did not notice this myself, but I’m a bad reference; however, when I handed this book to other people, they complained about the sheer number of names. With fluid allegiances and intrigue left and right, getting some family trees, allegiance trackers by year, etc. would have made this much more user-friendly for the non-academic/non-history-buff gamers. That being said, the history component is fantastic. I love that part of the book.

The second problematic aspect would be fantasy. Oh boy does Dark Albion’s fantasy SUCK. The book has a serious identity crisis and no vision whatsoever as to how it wants its fantasy to be. Non-human races are non-player races; elves were decadent and evil proto-cultures, got it. Albion is a rare magic setting, and magic is feared, got it. But you can study magic in frickin’ Oxford. I am not kidding you. It’s an overt, magic academy, totally inimical to how Christianity would deal with that, and to the concept of magic being dangerous, aligned with chaos and demons, etc. The book can’t really decide how rare its magic is supposed to be, nor how powerful. Beyond aforementioned cleric issues, we have genuinely cool angles for Dracula that make him essentially the Castlevania villain, and a few nods to myths – there are these gems, directly contrasted with pretty bland-festy encounter-locations (no player-friendly maps) that are boring. Still apart from the church/Oxford-logic guffaws, when looking at just the island, Dark Albion could claim to be a dark fantasy setting. It doesn’t make much use of Anglish or Celtic myths, which is a huge lost chance, but oh well.

And then there is the continent, particularly France. You know, this does try to be the Anglish Warhammer Fantasy RPG, with the notions of magic as dangerous and chaotic, etc., just minus Chaos and a stronger emphasis on medieval conceptions of what demons do. Sounds good, right? I mean, okay, the setting has unfortunately eliminated any good reason for the primary conflicts of the continent without replacing them with a valid substitution, but that doesn’t influence Albion, so you can ignore that.

You can’t ignore Burgundy and France. That section was so bad, it gave me fucking whiplash. Know who conquered the majority of France, excluding Burgundy, erecting a decadent empire where humans are enslaved to decadent masters.

Frogmen.

I am not kidding. Frogmen. You know, because…France. Haha. Ha. -.- This is neither funny, nor badass. It’s STUPID.

And everyone on the continent’s just watching. They have tons of magic, so there goes your cool low magic premise. They seem to exist in a quasi-vacuum, and none of the other human free cities, baronies, etc. seem to unite to exterminate them. The church doesn’t ally with the Turks to exterminate them. We have a whole land, that, like a festering pustule, breaks any notion of cohesion, plausibility that the setting worked so hard to establish. They are LITERALLY agents of pure evil, of the thing directly opposed to ALL of organized religions. Can you picture what would have happened if a republic of Satan had sprung up in medieval Europe? They’d have been crusaded to back to hell faster than you can say “That escalated quickly.”

I can live with a bland dungeon, a minor logic bug, a subpar subsystem. But this book spends hundred+ pages to establish a great, gritty theme and then makes a trollface and laughs at: “Here are magic frogmen!” That’s not smart, clever, or funny. It’s also not scary. Anything would be scarier. Cannibal halflings. Skaven. Undead. Heck, what about Russian Orthodox holy hussars? Anything.

All the small inconsistencies accumulate…but the frogmen take the script and throw it out the window. They are the culmination and escalation of the small issues, and represent a huge, festering blemish that wrecks the setting as written for me. Totally.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules language level; the rules are precise where presented, and make sense. Layout deserves special applause: It’s one of the best uses of layout elements, public domain art and aesthetics to convey authenticity that I’ve ever seen. This shows how good-looking you can make an indie-production. The b/w-cartography is nice, but no player-friendly versions are provided for the encounter areas later in the book. A huge kudos, and good reason to get the electronic iteration: We get a TON of maps in that version: There are three versions of the Albion map – one in full color (on the back of the hardcover, fyi), one in b/w, and one in parchment. There are 6 regional hexmaps in b/w, and in a version that is parchment-style. The continent comes in a colored and b/w hexmap, and there is a an additional b/w rose war hexmap for the GM. Seriously, kudos for this. The hardcover I have, unless I’m seriously wrong, is the Lulu PoD-iteration, and it is quality-wise solid, with the proper name on the spine, etc. The electronic version comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Dark Albion is a frustrating book for me; RPG Pundit and Dominique Crouzet, for a long time while I first read this, crafted a setting that seriously captured my interest. The small inconsistencies kept accumulating, but for a long time, I thought I’d end up loving or liking this…and then, the inconsistencies got worse. (And before you ask: the book makes it VERY clear what Dominique Crouzet contributed – they are not responsible for those issues!) The more I thought about missed chances here and there, the more I wished that this had embraced its grit more…and then, BAM:

Trollface!!

Lololol, tHeRe ArE lOtS oF mAgIcAl EvUuUhHl FrOgMeN iN fRaNcE!

SuRpRiSe StUpId GoNzO iN yOuR gRiTtY rEaLiSm!

Seriously? SIGH

I seriously think this book had been better off, if it had not tried its hand at fantasy AT ALL. The grounded, history angle is genuinely great, inspiring, fun – presented in a manner that, while not exactly easy to digest, is easier to digest than history books, with a stronger emphasis on the game. For a reference book? Awesome. That aspects are top tier, and if the book had managed to execute these last few steps in internal consistence, they’d be benchmarks.

Everything pertaining to magic, fantasy, etc.? Not that great, to put it lightly. With some additional effort, the Sol Invictus conceit could have genuinely worked PERFECTLY, but it feels like the authors ran out of steam there. The fantasy is lackluster, boring, been there, done that – or frankly insultingly dumb.

This could have been a milestone, and, as far as I’m concerned, it throws it all away, tarnishing even the brightest of its parts. I reread the book after a few months had passed, knowing what was to come, and I arrived at the same conclusions. The near-historical parts are great, but tarnished and tainted by thematic whiplash and small inconsistencies. As a result, I can’t recommend this as a campaign setting.

If you’re looking for a gritty low-magic dark fantasy reference tome for the era? Then this will deliver in spades…provided you can tune out aforementioned issues. I have to rate this book in its entirety, and when all is said and done, I can only recommend this in a very limited manner, in spite of the obvious passion that went into this. My final verdict can’t exceed 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Albion: The Rose War
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Dark Albion: The Rose War
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/06/2020 12:04:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive campaign setting clocks in at 285 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page chapter hyperlinks (for easy pdf-navigation), 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 2 pages of index, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 276 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to a patreon supporter sending me the hardcover with the request to cover it at my convenience.

Okay, so, Dark Albion, what is this? Well, first of all, this is a medieval roleplaying setting set in the age that served as an inspiration for A Song of Ice and Fire.

Before we get into the main meat of the book, which is the setting, we should definitely talk about the rules situation here. The book uses two different rules systems, and I am generally never a fan of those; why? Because, regardless of which system you prefer, you’ll have the burden of the additional content you neither needed, nor wanted. Dual-format books tend to be intrinsically customer unfriendly to a degree; for OSR supplements, this is slightly mitigated due to the less pronounced focus on rules; in this book, the issue is reduced further, for the design is per se made to be able to be grafted onto most old-school systems, with the rules-relevant aspects mostly relegated to the appendices at the back of the book. In short: The book does not consist of ½ content you won’t use; the system-specific rules are complimentary, not required to run this, and are in the back.

Beyond the sub-systems introduced (to which I’ll return below), let us talk about these first. For suggested OSR-systems, Labyrinth Lord and Lamentations of the Flame Princess are suggested, and since there are x-in-6-references here and there, the latter might work best. Swords & Wizardry and the like will work just as well, just fyi. The OSR-appendix is a collection of houserules, and honestly, it’s perhaps the weakest aspect of the whole book: The section is noted as “quick and dirty houserules”, and probably are best conceived of as a basic form of OSR-game if you don’t want to use a specific one for your game. If you’ve read a couple of OSR-games, you probably won’t notice much of interest here. The brief class redesigns presented here are not that interesting, and the most relevant aspects are probably the notions of adding a critical effect table, as well as a brief set of rules that makes you roll 1d20 and add the spellcasting ability score, versus DC 12 + spell level to successfully cast a spell.

Here’s the thing: The rules section for Fantastic Heroes & Witchery, the second system supported here, is vastly superior. In case you are not familiar with it: Fantastic Heroes & Witchery (FH&W) is one of the most underappreciated games out there, and one of all-time favorite RPGs. No kidding. Why? Well, some people, me included, like options and per se, more stuff that we can do with PCs. At the same time, I also enjoy gritty games, and I really like my theater of the mind angle. In a way FH&W is a super-modular game that posits the question: What if we had an increase in the option array akin to what D&D 3.0, PFRPG, etc. brought, but without the miniature tactics angle of those editions? In many ways, the game never becomes as granular, but allows for very broad selections of mechanically-diverse characters, all without becoming too complex for old-school fans. It’s seriously great, and if that sounds even remotely compelling to you, then get this game. It’s worth it.

Anywhere, where was I? Oh yes: Magic being unreliable is realized in a more interesting manner, at least as far as I’m concerned: You see, Dark Albion posits a direct opposition of Law & Chaos as the central alignment conflict (one axis model); the Law is represented by the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus), and as such, magic falls in roughly two categories, with some working simply less reliably under the sun! That’s awesome! It’s a reason for magic practices, occult rituals and the like taking place at night! The 13-level FH&W-classes presented herein range from the obvious (like e.g. noble knights) to some that are frankly interesting by mechanics: The caster-class Magister, for example, comes with white and gray magic, but may learn black magic – but every such spell will cost the magister a white or grey magic spell known. That’s a cool way to represent corruption. As a German, I am also rather fond of the Demonurgist, essentially a Faust-like being with fiendish familiar, who becomes REALLY good at finding the creatures of chaos…and who can, at one point, even imprison demonic forces, making for a great anti-hero. These classes feature Albion’s subdued dark fantasy aesthetics with rare, but powerful magics. For FH&W, we also get two new spells and a super-simple and robust ritual demon summoning engine, which brings me to one aspect of the global rules I really enjoy, so let’s start talking about global rules in Dark Albion.

Demon summoning is not some vancian spell simply cast, nor are demons the standard D&D outsiders; instead, we have a rather solid ritual engine; 1d20 + class level + Intelligence modifier versus a DC determined by the rank of the demon – hilarious: Powerful demons may force their subordinates to show up instead. I don’t know why, but that got a serious chuckle out of me. Both the images used and the rules here (plenty of demonic abilities included) help make these feel like demons from the medieval age, not their D&D compatriots. For more diverse forms, resources like the Random Esoteric Creature Generator or the one from No Salvation for Witches are recommended by yours truly. (Alternatively, most creatures from Raphael Chandler’s horror bestiaries…) Anyway, why summon them? They can teach you spells and the like…you know the stories.

Since I mentioned this, a brief note: the layout by Dominique Crouzet is FANTASTIC. We have pictures on every page, graphical elements, and some of the best uses of public domain art that I’ve ever seen. The book has a better, more consistent visual identity as a result than many comparable books with fancy full-color artwork. It also underlines the (faux) historicity and themes of the book. Huge kudos for that decision.

But let us get back to the global rules: I very much like how this setting treats poisons and alchemical extracts: From arsenic (and cantarella) to mandrake and wolfsbane, we get quite a few new ones, with easy and quick rules to forage the, and prepare them, and all of this is supplemented by medicinal herbs and alchemical creations like Alkhalest and Aura Fulminata – if anything, this section made me smile from ear to ear, and I genuinely wished there was a whole book on herbs, poisons, substances and the like. Poisons, fyi, usually need to be ingested. This section, while brief, also works and does so well.

I can’t say the same about the magic item section, which can be summed up with two words: Bland filler. A sword+0 that is magical, but doesn’t help you hit foes? Oh boyo! Holy water! A cloak that lets you turn into a wolf. A powerful artifact torn in 7 pieces. This section is, at best, redundant. Thankfully, it is brief.

The second big rules engine that sets Dark Albion apart, would be the noble house engine: A noble house has three stats: Military Power (MP), Financial Power (FP), and Political Power (PP). You roll 3d6 for these, and multiply the result by x3. If you have a title, you get a bonus to each ability – lords get no bonus, kings get +20 to MP and FP, +40 PP. Additionally, each region has modifiers, with the most interesting being the Isle of Mann, which gets +20 MP, but only for defensive purposes. Allegiance to York or Lancastrians also influences these; not choosing a side provides a universal penalty, while choosing a side helps with that side, but imposes a huge penalty for the other side, obviously. All existing houses are covered, so this looks like it could allow you to go Birthright! Awesome! I also liked that there are annual events, but there are only 23 such events, which is weaksauce for a longer game. This needed more to stay engaging and not devolve into becoming boring.

The book also features a battle-engine based on the MPs; these include modifications for special forces (such as spellcasters, etc.), ground, etc. and leader MP modifiers, which is per se nice – but there is no tactics involved in the battles themselves. They are decided by one die roll. If battles are just one background facet of your game, this might work for you, but for games that wish to go into more details, account for tactics and the like, zoom in and out – this won’t do. Similarly, for the rules-lite crowd, this system requires that you determine casualties and victories by determining percentile values based on differences in checks. That’s a lot of math, for no gain. This is a bad engine. It has no tactical depth, gets boring immediately, and requires a bunch of math for no payout. And I LIKE math. Heck, I once ran a whole high-end hardcore Pathfinder-campaign, where every single encounter was hardwired to be a numbers-puzzle…but this engine here? It has no depth, is too clunky for being quickly resolved, and offers no payout for the time it takes to resolve. Write your own mass combat engine, use another and graft it onto this one.

Okay, and that is pretty much the major part of the rules featured herein, so let us get to the main meat of this tome, namely the campaign setting.

To historians, it sounds stupid to explicitly state this, but time and again, I’ve observed that the cultural notions exhibited in almost all roleplaying games are actually more reminiscent of the early modern period with regards to their drapery, if you will; aesthetically, most fantasy worlds we play in hearken much closer to our actual modern and contemporary morals and aesthetics, which deviate significantly from the lived-in reality of medieval Europe. There are three basic notions, grand injuries to our self-importance and ego, that mankind has suffered since those days: The knowledge that we are not the center of the universe, the knowledge that we are not special in the grand scheme of the natural order, and the knowledge that we aren’t even masters of our own psyche. These three notions have radically influenced our Weltanschauung as a whole when compared to any person living during the medieval period. We have a very different conception of reality, and if you think that ren-fairs have ANYTHING in common with actual life in this period, I hate to break it to you, but nope.

This extends to the degree where plenty of people simply lack the knowledge to properly roleplay a person of this time, as they would violate social decorum left and right and/or be offended by the social mores of that time. As such, this book has a manifold challenge ahead of itself: It needs to teach and contextualize the lived-in reality of the times, make it playable for the average gamer out there and generate a compelling setting based on the by now most notorious periods in English history…so let’s see how this fares!

The first big component that sets the medieval mindset apart would obviously be informed by nothing else than Christianity, or rather, the collective of Abrahamic religions as a whole; these ideologies informed pretty much the structure of the social strata, the calendar, and the general world-view. For example, there is the notion called “Gottesgnadentum” in German, which denotes the idea that the social station of nobility is granted by the grace of the Christian god, which makes any rebellion, disrespect, etc. not only an affront to the ruling powers, but also almost a kind of heresy against god. That is an extremely frightening concept to me that is hard to wrap my head around. Take out Christianity and the effects of Rome, and the whole European structure would have gone a very different route. Now, out of a fear of offending someone’s religious sensibilities, many RPGs cop out of using Christianity, and this is no different. HOWEVER, at least it makes a smart call with the replacement: Instead, we get, as noted before, the Sol invictus as a placeholder, which lets us use all of our accumulated Dark Souls memes in game. “Do you even praise the sun, peasant?” The Unconquered Sun is also used to defuse another hot button issue: One might assume that not everyone subscribes to the Lamentations of the Flame Princess-thesis of adventurers as sociopaths, outcasts and misfits by definition, and in some ways, the church of the unconquered sun allows for a softening of borders for modern sensibilities without breaking the setting’s basic tenets.

You see, more so than even 50 years ago, the medieval age was obviously HORRIBLY sexist by modern standards. There also was a lack of social mobility. If you thought your racist/sexist grand-parents were bad, you have no idea, and should seriously do some research. In Dark Albion, the divine providence of the Unconquered Sun sees fit to call female individuals into service as well as males, allowing them to break through the social norms. Clerics, by the way, are the exception – they are essentially rare, and the special OPs force of the church. Few higher ups are clerics, and e.g. the Pope is a commoner. Which brings me to the first point where the book seriously falters. How do these people keep their power, when clerics have the direct power of the Unconquered Sun? This question is never properly explained. Same goes for witch trials, or trials in general. The book acknowledges how fun trials can be and spends quite a bit of time on them – and I agree.

And yes, the cleric and magic-user spell lists are limited and mostly purged of direct damage spells. But clerics still have detect lie. That renders the whole notion of trials that are not easily solved a matter of bad logistics. Note: Even executioners used to travel; Meister Franz Schmidt, famous executioner of Nuremberg, has chronicled his travels rather well – you can still read his journals, and there is a neat English translation as well. Establishing a similar situation for clerics and difficult trials would have been easy. It also disregards the whole angle of the logics of the punitive judiciary system in place back then, and how that interacted with how people and criminals approached their penance. Here, it is evident that per se good ideas have not been thought through properly. This oversight can also be observed for two other factors – the Turks worship the Unconquered Sun as the Moon, which is CLEVER. How and why this validates the struggles between them and the sun-worshipers, however, is exceedingly opaque. The Russian Orthodox Church is all but ignored as well – the ideas and the consequences of the changes have only been thought through in a logical manner as how they pertain to the core concepts. This is particularly jarring and evident in contrast with other components.

For, and that is an important note, one CAN see that the author is a historian. The level of fidelity and knowledge on display regarding the subject matter is impressive; while there are changes made to historical facts, these tend to be due to the requirements of being more gameable and subtle influences of the fantastic. Hadrian’s wall, for example, is still standing and fortified, for the wild places are where the dark things and inhuman creatures lurk.

In many ways, the gazetteer is absolutely amazing regarding its attention to detail, hex maps, all the details and politicking. If you enjoyed the more complex tapestry of allegiances of A Song of Ice and Fire in comparison to Game of Thrones’ dumbing down of everything, this will make you grin indeed. If you’re into the era in a non-fantastic context, doubly so. At one point, I genuinely stopped looking for settings like this, because I knew I’d hate their anachronisms and lack of ambition and b/w-morality, and Dark Albion generally manages to avoid these pitfalls. If you’re looking for a historical reference for a fantasy game, then this delivers in HUGE spades.

I also love, and I mean LOVE, that the book does not simply handwave the importance of social class. If you’re a peasant, you’re not wearing a sword, not unless you want to go to jail. Indeed, walking round in armor, with weapons, like murder hobos are wont to do, is a capital letters BAD IDEA in most regions of Albion. This whole aspect is awesome, and personally, I’d have appreciated e.g. further discussions on privilege by class – colors, for example, were restricted by class, and used to e.g. denote prostitutes etc. More on the class system would have been helpful not only for the setting, but beyond its confines. I really love that the book provides an overview of the things to come, as another example of plentiful adventure seeds.

There are two aspects where this otherwise frankly phenomenal component of the book struggles. The first would be organization. The book imposes a huge cognitive load upon the reader, particularly if you’re not familiar with the Rose War. I did not notice this myself, but I’m a bad reference; however, when I handed this book to other people, they complained about the sheer number of names. With fluid allegiances and intrigue left and right, getting some family trees, allegiance trackers by year, etc. would have made this much more user-friendly for the non-academic/non-history-buff gamers. That being said, the history component is fantastic. I love that part of the book.

The second problematic aspect would be fantasy. Oh boy does Dark Albion’s fantasy SUCK. The book has a serious identity crisis and no vision whatsoever as to how it wants its fantasy to be. Non-human races are non-player races; elves were decadent and evil proto-cultures, got it. Albion is a rare magic setting, and magic is feared, got it. But you can study magic in frickin’ Oxford. I am not kidding you. It’s an overt, magic academy, totally inimical to how Christianity would deal with that, and to the concept of magic being dangerous, aligned with chaos and demons, etc. The book can’t really decide how rare its magic is supposed to be, nor how powerful. Beyond aforementioned cleric issues, we have genuinely cool angles for Dracula that make him essentially the Castlevania villain, and a few nods to myths – there are these gems, directly contrasted with pretty bland-festy encounter-locations (no player-friendly maps) that are boring. Still apart from the church/Oxford-logic guffaws, when looking at just the island, Dark Albion could claim to be a dark fantasy setting. It doesn’t make much use of Anglish or Celtic myths, which is a huge lost chance, but oh well.

And then there is the continent, particularly France. You know, this does try to be the Anglish Warhammer Fantasy RPG, with the notions of magic as dangerous and chaotic, etc., just minus Chaos and a stronger emphasis on medieval conceptions of what demons do. Sounds good, right? I mean, okay, the setting has unfortunately eliminated any good reason for the primary conflicts of the continent without replacing them with a valid substitution, but that doesn’t influence Albion, so you can ignore that.

You can’t ignore Burgundy and France. That section was so bad, it gave me fucking whiplash. Know who conquered the majority of France, excluding Burgundy, erecting a decadent empire where humans are enslaved to decadent masters.

Frogmen.

I am not kidding. Frogmen. You know, because…France. Haha. Ha. -.- This is neither funny, nor badass. It’s STUPID.

And everyone on the continent’s just watching. They have tons of magic, so there goes your cool low magic premise. They seem to exist in a quasi-vacuum, and none of the other human free cities, baronies, etc. seem to unite to exterminate them. The church doesn’t ally with the Turks to exterminate them. We have a whole land, that, like a festering pustule, breaks any notion of cohesion, plausibility that the setting worked so hard to establish. They are LITERALLY agents of pure evil, of the thing directly opposed to ALL of organized religions. Can you picture what would have happened if a republic of Satan had sprung up in medieval Europe? They’d have been crusaded to back to hell faster than you can say “That escalated quickly.”

I can live with a bland dungeon, a minor logic bug, a subpar subsystem. But this book spends hundred+ pages to establish a great, gritty theme and then makes a trollface and laughs at: “Here are magic frogmen!” That’s not smart, clever, or funny. It’s also not scary. Anything would be scarier. Cannibal halflings. Skaven. Undead. Heck, what about Russian Orthodox holy hussars? Anything.

All the small inconsistencies accumulate…but the frogmen take the script and throw it out the window. They are the culmination and escalation of the small issues, and represent a huge, festering blemish that wrecks the setting as written for me. Totally.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules language level; the rules are precise where presented, and make sense. Layout deserves special applause: It’s one of the best uses of layout elements, public domain art and aesthetics to convey authenticity that I’ve ever seen. This shows how good-looking you can make an indie-production. The b/w-cartography is nice, but no player-friendly versions are provided for the encounter areas later in the book. A huge kudos, and good reason to get the electronic iteration: We get a TON of maps in that version: There are three versions of the Albion map – one in full color (on the back of the hardcover, fyi), one in b/w, and one in parchment. There are 6 regional hexmaps in b/w, and in a version that is parchment-style. The continent comes in a colored and b/w hexmap, and there is a an additional b/w rose war hexmap for the GM. Seriously, kudos for this. The hardcover I have, unless I’m seriously wrong, is the Lulu PoD-iteration, and it is quality-wise solid, with the proper name on the spine, etc. The electronic version comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Dark Albion is a frustrating book for me; RPG Pundit and Dominique Crouzet, for a long time while I first read this, crafted a setting that seriously captured my interest. The small inconsistencies kept accumulating, but for a long time, I thought I’d end up loving or liking this…and then, the inconsistencies got worse. (And before you ask: the book makes it VERY clear what Dominique Crouzet contributed – they are not responsible for those issues!) The more I thought about missed chances here and there, the more I wished that this had embraced its grit more…and then, BAM:

Trollface!!

Lololol, tHeRe ArE lOtS oF mAgIcAl EvUuUhHl FrOgMeN iN fRaNcE!

SuRpRiSe StUpId GoNzO iN yOuR gRiTtY rEaLiSm!

Seriously? SIGH

I seriously think this book had been better off, if it had not tried its hand at fantasy AT ALL. The grounded, history angle is genuinely great, inspiring, fun – presented in a manner that, while not exactly easy to digest, is easier to digest than history books, with a stronger emphasis on the game. For a reference book? Awesome. That aspects are top tier, and if the book had managed to execute these last few steps in internal consistence, they’d be benchmarks.

Everything pertaining to magic, fantasy, etc.? Not that great, to put it lightly. With some additional effort, the Sol Invictus conceit could have genuinely worked PERFECTLY, but it feels like the authors ran out of steam there. The fantasy is lackluster, boring, been there, done that – or frankly insultingly dumb.

This could have been a milestone, and, as far as I’m concerned, it throws it all away, tarnishing even the brightest of its parts. I reread the book after a few months had passed, knowing what was to come, and I arrived at the same conclusions. The near-historical parts are great, but tarnished and tainted by thematic whiplash and small inconsistencies. As a result, I can’t recommend this as a campaign setting.

If you’re looking for a gritty low-magic dark fantasy reference tome for the era? Then this will deliver in spades…provided you can tune out aforementioned issues. I have to rate this book in its entirety, and when all is said and done, I can only recommend this in a very limited manner, in spite of the obvious passion that went into this. My final verdict can’t exceed 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Albion: The Rose War
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Lion & Dragon
by Paul C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/23/2019 11:40:22

A criminally under-appreciated product. Lion & Dragon is a solid OSR core book and makes changes to the base system surpassing its predecessor in all respects.

In particular, I love the level-up mechanic, which includes both elements of chance and choice, preserving randomness, while allowing for precise build possibilities. It's certain that no two characters will be exactly the same, but you will certainly be able to make the most out of your class.

I will try to run a few adventures with this setting to provide a more nuanced review in the future, but I'm already a big, BIG fan.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lion & Dragon
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Dark Albion: The Rose War
by Chad K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/22/2019 16:11:25

Dark Albion is the setting and additional/expanded rules for Lion & Dragon. Id say Lion & Dragon is to Basic D&D and dark Albion is Advanced D&D with a setting & Dungeon Master Guide thrown in. L&D is about 130 pages while Dark Albion is 275 pages. This a "real Medieval RPG", not high fantasy. Grim Fantasy England in the 15th Century. No Elf warrior-mages or Halfling thieves. This book was a labor of love, Im sure countless hours of research went into this game. The art reinforces the whole medieval feel of the game. Tons of information on social status, laws & prisons, government & religion. Herbs & demons. Regions, Kingdoms, history- a huge detailed setting. While there is information on classes (and there is also the excellent Lion & dragon) most of the book is system neutral and could be used for almost any fantasy game you want to give a gritty historical feel. This game is well supported by RPGPundit Presents by Precis Intermedia, as well as other books like Dark Albion Cults of Chaos. I highly recommend this game. I bought soft covers, but I like this game so much I intend to buy hardcovers.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Albion: The Rose War
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Lion & Dragon
by Chad K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/22/2019 15:46:21

I love this game. Ive been playing RPGs for over 30 years and I have never seen anything like L&D and Dark Albion. This is what I imagined a "real Medieval RPG" would be like. (and more than I could imagine) An enormous amount of research and love went into this game. This is not high fantasy- there are no Fighters taking 4 spears to the chest while fighting 10 opponents and winning with his sword +4. No Mages throwing fireballs while flying and invisible. Hit points are kept pretty low. Fights can mean quick death. Wizards (Magisters) use alchemy, astrology, summon Demons. It feels like magic from history, what people believed magic was like in medieval times. It takes time, effort & preparation. The game can be summed up by reading a bit on the table of contents: Social Staus is Extremely Important, Life is Cheap, Magic is Rare. The game is heavily supported- Dark Albion( rules & setting), Cults, adventures, and many interesting articles in RPGPundit Presents. Dont wait- go & buy this game.

The person that gave this game 1 Star is a pathetic fool as well as a liar. RPG Pundit is a very vocal guy with strong political views- that is no reason to give the game 1 star. You are rating the game, not the person. Personally I think he is great.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lion & Dragon
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Lion & Dragon
by Alex W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/15/2018 17:21:32

Although I've been in the RPG hobby since the early 80's I was never keen on D&D itself, so that the whole OSR thing largely passed me by. However, I do enjoy RPGPundit's blog and YouTube videos, and appreciate his barbed mockery of the SJW entryism current in the RPG hobby. So I decided to buy Lion and Dragon as a gesture of support.

Of all the Pundit's games L&D appealed to me the most because of his pitch of it being “medieval authentic” with a magic system based on actual occult tomes. I flatter myself that I know a lot about medieval England and Europe, and I dabbled in occultism as a youth. So either L&D would be right up my alley, or I'd have the knowledge to identify over eager self-promotion on the Pundit's part.

Physically the hardback book I received is a quality product. The design of the book makes a virtue of the publisher's relative lack of funds compared to larger RPG publishers. Rather than trying to compete with a slick, highly produced design style, they've made use of a lot of suitable public domain art, old etchings, woodcuts, illustrations from old editions of occult books, as well as some commissioned pieces which are in a similar style. There's quite a lot of art, and it all looks good, and the simplicity of the layout and design recalls a Victorian or Edwardian design aesthetic, which while anachronistic for the C15th, does fit the game's attempt to be authentic to a real world past.

The mechanics of the game are obviously derived from old D&D, but tweaked to give a game which is set more in the real medieval world rather than the modern-day-in-medieval-fancy-dress which has always been the assumed default in D&D. One of the things I always disliked in D&D's class-and-level system was how characters quickly become superhuman, their inflated hit points allowing them to shrug off an axe full in the face from a great big orc. L&D starts characters at level 0, advancement restricts HP inflation, and there's a nice table to roll on for permanent physical wounds. It's not as tidy a nod to realism as d100/Runequest, but in terms of a D&D based game it's great stuff.

Although the game makes explicit the social order of the medieval world, including gender roles, I was slightly disappointed that the setting wasn't actual medieval England but a fantasy simulacrum Dark Albion, the subject of a previous Pundit book. However, transferring the content to the real medieval world would be easy for any GM with the right background knowledge. This is made easy because Albion is very close to a real medieval nation, which comes through especially in the magic system which is the real gem of the book. Clerics work miracles, all of which are strongly of the sort associated with actual saints and their relics in the middle-ages, and Clerics are assumed to be agents of a monotheistic faith which the book calls The Unconquered Sun but can easily be run as the Catholic church. It occurs to me that an L&D game with the players as Clerics during the protestant reformation would make an interesting campaign.

Wizards no longer blast Magic Missiles around with abandon. The L&D magic system is based on ritual, and is drawn heavily from magical beliefs of the time, when alchemy was science and what we term “supernatural” was seen as just one aspect of an all-encompassing natural philosophy. This is the Magic User as Faust, or even Roger Bacon, rather than Gandalf. The magic section is both extensive and fascinating, and clearly well researched – I only discovered after ordering the book that Pundit classes himself as a practicing occultist and it shows. Although my copy of Abramelin is long since gone, it is obvious from the magic system in L&D the Pundit knows his stuff.

I suppose the best compliment I can pay this game is that I actually want to run it, despite my historically lukewarm attitude to D&D. The powering down of characters, real world societal assumptions, and especially the excellent magic section, make L&D the D&D the teenage me really wanted – if only Pundit had worked for TSR circa 1983 my RPG life might have been very different!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lion & Dragon
by Scott S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/13/2018 18:29:54

THOUGHTS-ASSH, MAZE OF THE BLUE MEDUSA, LION & DRAGON

I am a huge fan of the game Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea (ASSH). I had liked the game before, but put it on the shelf for a bit right when I started going back to school again. I figured that GURPS is a game for engineers, and why shouldn’t I be playing a game for engineers? In that brief time I became reacquainted with the GURPS Vorkosigan Saga, and even started reading the Vorkosigan books. The best of the GURPS books will always inspire you to take a look through the source material. I tried to start a campaign using their superlative GURPS Discworld rules, but decided to wait for Dungeon Fantasy…and I waited…and I waited.

It’s probably a good thing that I waited for that boxed set to release. Calculus was definitely getting harder, and Chemistry was becoming more and more of a bear. The time commitments for both developing a campaign using GURPS, and reacquainting myself with GURPS, were not going to be there. I won’t even go into how surreal time management gets when my reserve drill commitments come into play.

In that time of waiting, the kickstarter for Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea paid off! The books arrived! I had forgotten that I had ordered two of them and was gobsmacked when they arrived! Now, I thought that a second edition of this game was completely unnecessary. The original was contained in two coil bound books, with the most evocative art I had seen in an OSR book. These books were digest sized, but the newer books were not. This book took everything about the original and turned it up to eleven! I was wrong. The presentation, and the minor corrections were more than worth the kickstarter. This single book took all of my GURPS books off the shelf. It is that good! The art design. The homage to the works of Robert E. Howard, Moorcock, Clark Ashton Smith, and Lovecraft are brilliant! This is the game that I have always wanted to play. It sits on my shelf, with its own line of adventures and Barrowmaze. This is my favorite game and book ever!

However, there are two other products that I would like to write about today. I’m somewhat reluctant to, given the vociferous reputations of both of the authors, but each of these works is superlative in their own way. I’ve been struggling, wanting to write this piece for months because these other two books are just that good, Zak Sabbath’s Maze of the Blue Medusa and RPGPundit’s Lion & Dragon.

I already have a favorite game, and I have neither the time nor the money to invest in further games. At this point, I hope to earn enough as an engineer to pay off my student loans and keep my wife from having to become a hooker. I was reading tenfootpole.org, when I came across a best of list. Maze of the Blue Medusa was listed as the best of the best. My opinion differs from the blog author’s in many ways. For instance, I enjoy the ASSH adventures, while he seems to hate them. But I had been looking at this product for a while, and with this recommendation I decided to purchase it. Lion & Dragon has just been released, and while it looked interesting, I couldn’t afford it. However, given the apparent snowflake reaction to pundit and the various shenanigans that rpgnow and onebookshelf seemed to engage in to drive his sales down, required something more than words from me. I purchased the book. I do not care for bullying.

So what are my thoughts?

Zak Sabbath has been pushing the envelope graphically ever since Vornheim was released. A Red & Pleasant Land pushed these boundaries even further. Maze of the Blue Medusa is his finest work so far. Graphically, I wonder if he is pushing the limits of what can be placed into a book. Now I say this, not having a physical copy of the book. My feeling is that just as much care went into the making of the book as the pdf. As much as I love my copy of ASSH, my feeling is that I would love Maze just as well. These products catch the eye, spark the imagination, and aren’t just a window into the mind of an author but enable any dungeon master to follow them and run the same kind of campaign just as effectively.

As an admission, I am not Zak’s audience. I have no desire to run an Alice in Wonderland type game. My stuff is much more mundane and much less gonzo. I prefer Greg Gillespie’s Barrowmaze, primarily because I like tons of undead running about. Barrowmaze is the ultimate in what I feel would be a standard dungeon. It’s only flaw might be in that it is not organized as a series of levels, but is one huge level. I understand this dungeon and could easily run it. Most megadungeons have trouble with their organization. The Dungeon of the Mad Archmage never grabbed me. The organizational aids for Dwimmermount, took a huge book and made it even more intimidating. Everything would be changing all of the time, renedering the original book moot at some point. Stonehell is interesting, if a bit staid. Maze of the Blue Medusa is something else altogether. It is a complete package of a wild and gonzo dungeon that anyone can run.

Zak and Patrick Stuart have taken this conceit and created a dungeon with deadly encounters, moral quandaries, allies, enemies, consequences for decisions, and they have organized it so flawlessly that anyone could run it. They have created a dungeon that any party can encounter. If you are low level, you can survive, if you keep your wits about you. Choice matters here.

I have never encountered any product that is organized as robustly as this one! If you only have the money to buy one OSR dungeon get this one! Even if you don’t want to run a gonzo dungeon, the hand holding and organization here will help you with your home game. This isn’t some guy bragging about their home campaign with a product so huge that you won’t know where to start. It is bigger than itself! Read it! Be sparked! And run something!

Lion & Dragon is much more down to earth. This is what Pundit’s Dark Albion should have been. By that, I mean that these are the rules that should have been in the book. No system notes from the campaign, no conversion notes from Fantastic Heroes and Witchery. These were good things, but they pale in comparison to the rules in this slim book. This is a medieval authentic OSR rules set. One that is true to the material, and that does a wonderful job of preserving player agency. For example, at each level you can either roll twice for your level benefit, or you can choose once from the table. Which will it be? The choice is the player’s.

Where Zak hits you, like that first time I saw the Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader preview in White Dwarf magazine, with a tightly packaged surprise of something that you never thought you would be able to run on your own, Pundit gives you an overflowing box of ideas that just keep leaking all over the place. Dark Albion has multiple small dungeons that you can place anywhere in your home campaign. They fit into the Dark Albion campaign very well, but they are almost modular in that they can be dropped into your campaign almost at will. His scenario The Child Eaters is one of the simplest and nastiest scenarios I have come across. This isn’t some fake cosmic horror, but down to earth terror that explains just why Dark Albion’s society is the way that it is. Cults of Chaos is designed for Dark Albion, but can put chaos as a horror front and center in your campaign in ways that Games Workshop hasn’t done in years! This is great stuff!

If I have twenty, then I’m getting ASSH. That game will not disappoint you. If I have ten for an adventure, then I’d get Blue Medusa. It may not have exactly what you want, but it can show you the way to get there. Afterwards, if I had some more money, I’d pick up Dark Albion. It’s not gonna exactly fit into my ASSH campaign, but it has enough adventure bits in there to more than make it worth my while. Most especially, it provides the background for Cults of Chaos which will fit into ASSH.

Talanian bears watching because of the overall excellence of the entire package in ASSH. Zak bears watching because his envelope pushing is going to go beyond the printed page at some point. My guess, is that he will come up with something that is going to redefine what can be done with a pdf in the near future. If I had the money, I would pick up whatever he had to offer in print. Those will be utterly fantastic books. Pundit…I would like to see him strike off on his own and form his own company. His products have always been playtested to death, but graphically the execution hasn’t always been there. Arrows of Indra was a brilliant OSR imagining of ancient India, but the art and design just wasn’t there. Dark Albion and Lion & Dragon are dramatically better. The maps alone are just amazing!

As a caveat, I have run ASSH. I have not had a chance to run either Blue Medusa or Lion & Dragon, so I would advise you to take my words with a grain of salt. All three of these products come with my highest recommendation. They will serve to take you places that you never imagined going. All of them will spark your imagination, and have been skillfully designed for ease of play at your table.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lion & Dragon
by Geoffrey S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/09/2018 07:27:13

Summary : a nice OSR RPG, which delivers its promise, albeit on a high fantasy tone for something "medieval authentic". Four stars as a game, the fifth is earned on the reuse potential for most elements. I have reviewed the pdf version.

Content description : Inside, you get : a complete set of rules, including : character creation, magic (divine , profane, and summoning demons), fight, NPC reaction rules, morale rules to deal with followers, equipment list, medieval poison list, magic item list, adventures seeds, a bestiary… List are displayed in the form of random tables. Art is a strong point. More than one drawing per page, with a medieval and / or OSR product vibe in all of them.

What I liked :

  • most if not all of the content can be used outside of this product.
  • simplicity of the rules. Grab and roll your D20, apply the modifier (generally, one from skill and one from level...) and roll it against difficulty.

Could have been even better with :

  • "default setting" of the author, aka Dark Albion, is still very present is this product. This is a design choice, as explained early in the book, but I feel at least a comparaison table between "real world" and "Dark Albion" could have been useful. Perhaps even a few pages. Or a complete removal of it.
  • the default fantasy level is high, which surprised me a bit, for an "medieval authentic" experience. Some optional rules or rules tweaking advice to tune it down a little or completely could have been great.


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lion & Dragon
by Kenneth J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/03/2018 20:25:00

Lion & Dragon is a fantastic and complete RPG. The game tries to emulate a more realistic medevial world, our world, and can easily be converted to any OSR system that you'd like to use. The game is presented in black and white with the traditional two column layout and features fantastic art and is a joy to read. I highly recommend it!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos
by Jeffrey D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/03/2018 09:53:47

I wrote a short RPG review of this product for Knights of the Dinner Table (mag) last year and recently got to post that review in full on my blog... This product is pretty much workable with any system.

Here is couple a snippets from that review:

"At its core, Cults of Chaos provides richly detailed framework for creating and applying a variety of cult types or organizations, as an antagonist plot piece to your campaign. The purpose of which, you will use this very supplement to determine. I would say, just about any type of cult you could imagine, but actually this supplement has it covered well beyond what most, or at least those (including myself) not educated in cult history, would think to imagine. It’s a flexible product."

"Cults of Chaos delivers a richly detailed framework for running an inquisitor style campaign leaving few stones unturned. The format is cleanly executed and writing is concise. As a product it’s not only a Game Master’s toolkit, but probably the best system neutral plot-kit device I’ve read. I’d give Cults of Chaos eleven and a half Aleister Crowley’s out of ten, but then again I don’t do ratings and such evil must be stopped! Hopefully, my players will be up for the task."

The review in full is on my blog here: https://withinthedungeon.blogspot.com/2017/12/dark-albion-cults-of-chaos-rpg-review.html



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos
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Fantastic Heroes & Witchery
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/07/2017 04:27:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive rule-set clocks in at 430 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page general hyperlinked ToC (kudos for the added comfort!),4 pages extra-detailed ToC (again, hyperlinked for your convenience!), 4 pages of general index (again with hyperlinks and at the front of the book for easy navigation!), 4 pages of spell index (you guessed it – with hyperlinks, at the front of the book, for comfortable navigation), 2 pages of SRD, 1 page character sheet, leaving us with a massive 412 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This book was provided by a patreon (not sure if the gentleman wanted to be identified) and requested as a prioritized review. My review is based on the pdf-version of this massive book, since I do not own the print version and therefore cannot comment on the merits of the print version.

Okay, so this is, in general, an OSR-type of game; it is suffused in the aesthetics of old school roleplaying. But this is not just a rehash. To contextualize this book: We do not have a system that tries to be too close to the original versions of the game; unlike Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry or, for example, OSRIC, this moves a bit further from the established base. At the same time, it does not assume a d6-style gamplay like AFG or VSD6 and, while more “modern” in several aspects, the game is not as radical a departure from the old framework as NGR. But how does Fantastic Heroes & Witchery fit into the OSR as a whole, how does it work?

Well, among the attributes, there are no surprises: 6 attributes, Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma. Human range is usually 3 – 18, with 19 being classified as superhuman. Modifiers range from -4 (at 1) to +4 (at 19) for the attributes and maximum spell level is similarly capped by attributes. Very high relevant spellcasting attributes can provide a very limited amount of bonus spell slots. The system assumes a superhuman attribute cap of 25, akin to older editions of the game.

The attribute modifiers similarly should not provide too much surprises: Strength mod is added to melee attack + damage and physical skill checks like running, swimming, etc. and is used in saves vs. physically impeding obstacles, for example. Dexterity modifier is added to ranged attack roll (not damage!), used for Stealth etc. and may be used in saves to avoid e.g. a dragon’s breath etc. – you get where this goes right? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll realize at this point that saves. Saves are denoted by a fixed value on the respective class table, and quite a few of the options herein further modify that. Still, as provided, there can be saves associated with any of the attributes, which means that, in this aspect, the closest analogue would probably be D&D 5e.

Races in the system are not necessarily treated as a class, but instead…well. As a race. As such, though, there is a balancing aspect applied to them – we have maximum levels for the non-human races to balance that aspect. A handy table collates these caps, just fyi. However, the races do have minimum attribute requirements AND maximums; when you’re a dwarf, your maximum Dexterity can’t exceed 17, for example. Now, I did write “necessarily” above, since there are actually racial classes for the non-human races; in these, they generally have unlimited advancement and this, ultimately, provides an out-game motivation to choose these. In-game, this makes the races more culturally relevant.

Important note: The race does determine the racial hit-die; this hit-die denotes the wound capacity; class-levels provide hit dice as well; these are vitality hit points. You will note at this point, that the system requires a distinction between character level and class level – and that, by virtue of the racial hit points, 1st level characters are not wet towels in a world of razors. Personally, I consider that to be a pretty elegant solution. Movement rates are denoted in both 1e/2e and 3e-style notation – default would be 12’’ (30 feet). Interesting among the racial write-ups: Instead of 3e and the follow up’s distinction between low-light and darkvision, we retain the classic infravision, but make distinctions in how exactly it works, from race to race. We do get the classic races, including half-elves and half-orcs. Humans are set apart by an experience bonus…but there is more. Beyond these usual suspects, we also add rules for tieflings – who are treated more as a template race here – there could, e.g. be Halfling-based tieflings and dark elves, to note one example that is depicted in full, would be considered to be a tiefling race.

Upon completing this section, you will immediately notice that this book, familiarity nonewithstanding, seems to be a bit…different. For after the traditional fantasy races, we get weird tales races – a whole chapter. This is not an afterthought, either – this section is pretty much the equivalent of another rule book’s whole racial chapter. Now, unsurprisingly, this section is deeply infused by Appendix N-aesthetics; we get rules for exotic humans (you could use the rules presented here to make Carcosan human species, for example); there are rules for Earthlings (humans from Earth, particularly suitable for planes-hopping and Sword &Planet, obviously), who actually gain some abilities that are WEIRD – what may be common here may well be uncanny in another world and we can’t fathom the effects alien worlds might have on us…so personally, I liked that. Tainted humans are those that have been tainted by radiation, exposure to the entities of the Cthulhu Mythos, etc.; there are rules for Planet of the Apes-style Primates; for Reptilian PCs (with subtribes based on chromatic dragon colors for the dragonborn fans), revenants (yep, playable undead, who offset their power with the need to consume life and vulnerabilities) and there even are winged folk. While I am not a big fan of low-level flight, the weight-based restrictions imposed on their flight and the other modifications do offset this significant advantage somewhat. Finally, witchlings are humans that devolved (or evolved) into another race via constant exposure to the occult and potent, black magic.

Okay, after this massive section, we get a couple of general backgrounds to choose from; Alignment is less important in FH&W; most people are assumed to be, basically neutral; the only other axis that is relevant is the old one – Law and Chaos. That being said, exemplars of these are probably rarer than in comparable games.

As you could glean from the existence of racial classes, there is bound to be a HEFTY chapter on classes; a handy table in the beginning groups classes by type/race and then lists them.

Classes provide a BtH – the Bonus-to-Hit, basically the attack bonus. BtH can be classified as full, ¾ or ¼ - generally, spellcasters will be REALLY sucky at hitting things; worse so than in even d20-based games. New vitality hit dice are gained each level, up to 9th; for the remainder of levels (as classes range in levels from 1 – 13), we get fixed bonus hit points. Classes do have requirements, feature the equivalent of proficiencies regarding weaponry and armor, and sport class features; classes may also provide bonuses to specifc saves – fighters, for example, get +2 to saving throws to Strength and Constitution saves. In general, you can assume each odd level to provide a class feature. In this way, the classes presented herein are indebted to new-school aesthetics – and, in my mind, they’re better off for it, as even fighters allow for a bit of customization and player agenda. Now, before the grognards out there start hissing and booing: The respective features, in general, remain well beyond the rules-complexity of e.g. 5e, let alone PFRPG. Speaking of which: The berserker and knight, to take two variants, would be the stand-ins for barbarian/paladin; Nice: knights per se are NOT per default paladins or antipaladins/blackguards; instead, there is a chance to gain this status in play, but it remains rare; considering that paladins were historically known as the 12 peers, foremost members of Charlemagne’s court defined by larger than life and mostly fictitious propaganda denoting the superiority of Christian martial arts over that of the Sarazens. I digress.

A big departure from traditional depictions of classes would be the lack of a divine caster – instead, we get an elegant little class that, to me, feels much more “divine” that the god-coated cleric ever did – the Friar. Armor up to chain-mail, d8 HD…and basically, the main draw of the class is the prayer mechanic: You roll dice, depending on your level, as a full-round action. This generates an effect: Countering magic, blessing allies, dispelling charms – you know “magic” stuff that is actually ascribed to the devout. However, each subsequent use of prayer actually adds to the chances of not getting the aid you prayed for. You begin with rolling 1d6 + Wisdom modifier and increase that to up to 3d12 base dice at 13th level; the second prayer only succeeds on a 2+; the third only on a 3+…and so on. This is dead simple, easy to grasp and flavorful. Oh, and at higher levels, they can ask for divine intervention. Seriously, seriously love this class. The mystic would be basically a monk class and is a subset of the friar; the templar would be the hand of god, the martial, blessed soldier. Assassins, bards and acrobats would be subsets of the thief.

Wizards would be the primary casters, gaining spells of up to 6th level, with warlocks and wise man/woman as subsets; before you’re asking: No, warlocks are not all-day blasters, but rather casters that dabble in forbidden magics, traitors to their kin by virtue of the knowledge they crave, if you will. You know. Closer to the actual meaning of the word. I digress. The base array of classes, as a whole, struck me as well-balanced. The rules-language is surprisingly precise and definitely takes a cue from the crisp and precise old-school books and the codification strategies employed by current systems.

Onwards to the racial classes! The clansdwarf would basically be the dwarven specialist fighter; the gothi the armored, dwarven spellcaster who can cast in combat while wielding a weapon; their spells are also not automatically ruined by being hit, making them pretty strong – they get a Constitution save. They are, however, restricted to white magic Elven eldritch archers can, bingo, enchant arrows and their fae-mages are gray magic specialists who may place spells in objects etc. The class comes with subsets – druid-y nature priests called forestalls that can exclusively nature spells and wardens, basically rangers with limited fighting prowess. I’ll give you three guesses what the specialty of gnomish Illusionists is; you’re correct, of course, though their spell-list is called “Delusion”, not illusion in a conscious departure focusing on effect rather than description. Tricksters are basically a hybrid of that class and the thief. Halflings can choose to be the lucky folk champion underdog fighter or the thief-y scout.

Now, there also are weird classes – if I had to codify these fellows in the terms of another rules-system, I’d call them occult classes, perhaps more fitting for early modern/Edwardian/Victorian gameplay; the necronimus, for example, can sense the spirits and gains a degree of awareness of them, though they are, perhaps surprisingly, white magic casters. Occultists would be the black magic side of the coin, defined by corruption and dark lore, but also uniquely suited to defeat fiends and demonic entities – basically the antihero trope.The psychic would be the equivalent of FH&W’s adaptation of the classic old-school psionics: We get the classics like mind blast, Id insinuation, etc., a point-based psi-engine, etc. – but also the attack and defense mode engine. I’m gonna earn some boos and hisses by saying that, but here goes. Old-school psionics suck. I always loved the idea of psionics to death, from the moment when I first read it. However, psionics only got good at 3.5 and onwards, courtesy of Dreamscarred Press and later, Paizo’s psychic spell engine as an alternative. The attack vs. defense mode system, while sensible on paper, never ever played well. It was always exceedingly clunky and frankly, I wished that this class had deviated further from it. Anyway, if this works for you: Cool, I don’t judge, more power to you. Playing with it, I consider it just as clunky as the old-school psionics.

The rifleman would be the gunslinger, the dashing space-opera hero with great aim, defensive rolls and tech-use; the savant is the Doc Brown-style mad tinker/inventor and is a class for the player who enjoys a bit more freeform: While concise guidelines for devices are provided, the engine presented is pretty open. The sky-lord would be the ace pilot, while the wild brute is basically the savage/Mowgli-type character.

Okay, so that would be the class roster; I already touched upon wound hit points and vitality hit points; this distinction is btw. only usually made for PCs - no need to track it with NPCs. Transition from saves of other systems, be that 3.X or old-school games, is btw. dead simple and further facilitated by the handy tables; transition from 5e is a cake-walk that probably doesn’t even require any brain-power; I’m confident I could manage it while horribly drunk. Petrification and polymorph, for example,a re translated to Strength; Death, paralysis and poison to Constitution; Charisma is used to resist spells that do not have a listed attribute noted in their description. Dead simple. Characters heal 1 + Con modifier hit-points per day, 3 + Con modifier for proper rest; characters are dying from -1 to -9 and -10 = death. For every wound hit point lost, characters suffer a cumulative -1 penalty to ALL DICE ROLLS. This means that, even if you have a high racial Hit Die, you won’t necessarily work well longer; it just means that you’ll be more likely to be able to limp away. Skill-checks work pretty much like in current games: d20 + bonuses vs. DC. An average task is DC 10, nearly impossible is DC 30. There are rules for opposed checks, characters may be aided – here, the emphasis on teamwork and assistance provides a nice bit of detail.

Now, let us take a look at the equipment: The system assumes a gold standard and provides both ascending and descending values for armor class notation. Default is, btw. AC 10. Armors impose a skill penalty and a spell failure chance. Exotic armor like dragon armor, samurai armor etc. is included. The weapon selection is massive, provides examples for further weapons, and base damage types are differentiated: Bludgeoning, slashing and piercing damage. A metric ton of kits, outfits etc. can also be found, and yes, there are rules for early firearms, should your game include them….and then, we get something I did not necessarily expect.

A whole chapter on science-fantasy equipment. Whether you’re looking for rules to play fish out of water/time anachronistic adventures, want to do some steampunky reskinning or go full-blown space opera, this chapter provides items from revolvers to laser guns, noting how technology differs from magic in its capabilities. And yes, from zeppelins to hover cars, this section is neat and shows that this type of gameplay is not just a fire and forget afterthought.

If required, a massive table collates item saving throws and substance hardness. Combat should provide no issues for veterans of the game: Initiative is rolled with a d6, adding casting duration or speed factor of the weapon to it; low scores go first. Surprise is btw determined by a d6 roll in scenarios where it’s not clear. The larger the creature, the higher the speed factor of natural attacks. Interesting: The further you walk, the higher the initiative segment, and receiving charges, for example, can decrease the initiative segment. If this sounds weird, it’s not: The roll determines when the action begins, the modification how long it takes. This sounds complicated on paper, but is dead simple in gameplay and can yield some surprisingly rewarding, tactical situations and also allows you to play really cinematic boss fights. Now, the combat system per se is similarly easy – I already covered how attacking works; actions are similarly simple: There are primary actions (basically like standard actions/5e actions), secondary actions (move actions/move/bonus actions) and free actions. The game assumes a critical hit/fumble engine and sports a couple of combat modifier, but not excessively many. Further emphasizing tactics, the game knows multiple defensive actions: Choosing to evade applies +4 to AC versus ONE attack; parrying nets you +2 to AC versus 3 attacks. Apart from fleeing in a panic, there is no real attack of opportunity system in place, but from strangulation to putting a blade against a target’s throat etc., the whole array of combat maneuvers is covered and pretty much available. TWF and unarmed fighting rules are pretty concise as well. Due to the simplicity of the system and the relatively easy math, even called shots tend to work as intended. Morale checks for creatures are also assumed to be part of the offering, just so you know.

Vehicle combat rules are included; turning/rebuking undead is based on creature HD and character level; psionic combat…okay, it’s not bad per se…but it’s indebted to the classic attack/defense mode paradigm. Next. We do also briefly mention duels of rhetoric, which was a nice touch. Exploration, overland movement by terrain, sea- and airborne travel (with trails, wind etc. influencing speed), becoming lost, chase rules (including chases in the wilderness and at sea, dungeons, etc.) supplemented with random hazards/obstacles.

Now, there is one component about the health/hit-point mechanic that I’m not too fond of: Not only do wound hit points influence the rolls of the character, they also decrease speed – which means that dwarves, with their low speed, can theoretically be still in fighting shape, but RAW unable to move. While easily remedied with a minimum value, this is still a surprising guffaw in the otherwise, as a whole rather impressively precise book. While we’re on the subject: I am rather happy that the Constitution-based percentile chance to not being able to be recovered from death makes a return – death should mean something and some of my most nail-bitingly intense moments were the rare resurrection rolls in my earlier games. But I digress.

Among the conditions known, we have the usual suspects like blindness/deafness, diseases, etc. – and 5 levels or drunkenness (YEAH!), 4 levels of fear (you guessed it: shaken, frightened, panicked, cowering)…but it should be noted that both starvation and losing limbs are their own things here. Ability loss persists while the condition that instills it does; ability damage heals at a rate of 1 per day; ability drain needs magical fixing. Energy drain, lycanthropy and petrification are as deadly as the old-school crowd wants them to be. Be afraid. Rules for high altitudes, suffocation, toxic air, smoke, corrosive atmosphere, extreme temperatures, deep snow, avalanches, instant freezing, falling (yes may go partially straight to your wound hit points…), rain, storms – you note it. The chapter on these environmental and terrain effects is massive, exhaustive and pretty much amazing.

Sample NPCs, hireling rules and an easy to grasp monster/NPC-notation – simple, handy, no complaints. Now, beyond the friars mentioned, we take a look at priests and gods – several takes on gods and how they may or may not exist, are provided before we get EVEN MORE class options, like the witch-hunter fighter, the crusader berserker. The preacher bard variant or the inquisitor thief sub-class. A MASSIVE array of deties and potential subjects of worship is provided, remaining setting-agnostic throughout – elemental water, fertility deity, fortune – you get the idea. Basically, you get the rules and then can apply the template provided to your setting of choice. A class for champions or law and chaos and one for the guardians of neutrality complements this section. While we’re at it: We do not stop there. We receive a massive, detailed discussion on the matter of the immortal soul, petitioners, as well as on the planar cosmology assumed (including discussions on positive/negative energy plane and plane of shadows!!) etc. - kudos for going the extra mile here!

Now, magic. As briefly touched upon before, FH&W does not per se assume an arcane/divine divide in magics; instead, magic is categorized in white, gray and black. I am not going to insult your intelligence by explaining these notions, so let’s talk about some of the other components that set the magic engine presented within apart: Beyond even more variant/sub-class options, we actually not only get rules and guidelines for spell-research, but also for incantations. In case you are not familiar with the concept: Think of these more as sword & socery-esque magic, as ritualized forms of magic that can have benefits ranging from a folk magic charm to the calling of a demon lord. The notion and concept has always been exceedingly dear to my heart, so big kudos for providing the like. It should also be noted that the creation of pentagrams and protection circles against entities is provided in its own brief sub-section, once more providing a level of detail and coverage that rather baffled me, in a good way. Speaking of which: The optional rules for severe sorcery put a smile on my face: Obsessions gained from study, true names and their power, inherent danger of preparing spells, ley lines, rules for ritual sacrifice – here, we have a massive selection of rules that can dramatically tweak how magic feels in your game. We get spell-lists by school…and then a MASSIVE grimoire of magic. Spells are listed alphabetically, with class level, casting time, save, target, range, duration, and SR, if applicable, noted in the beginning. I love this. You get the meat of the spell’s effects at one glance, sans having to skim through the whole spell’s text. Kudos for going the detailed route here. Oh, and guess what: Some spells are reversible. How many are there? 666. Yes, that’s A LOT. And there are some pretty cool ones: You know you want to cast zombie stooge ,or time mirror right?

Even after this HUGE chapter, we are NOT YET DONE. The appendices collate ability score in a table; you get age, height and weight tables, personality descriptors; a system to pledge allegiance to causes, nations, organizations, etc. to gain benefits; a system to track cultural origins and language and literacy (OH YES!!!) in THREE categories (primitive, default medieval, advanced (OH DOUBLE YES!!)! We get sample names by race and culture; an optional social origin system; alternatives to determine hit points; a quick and dirty one-page insanity-system; an appendix that collates all skills and provides sample DCs for them as well as conversion guidelines (YEAH!). Want further differentiation between fighters? Combat styles are provided; fencers can feint and deflect arrows, boxers can flurry…you get the idea. Want to adapt your favorite class? Conversion advice for 1E, 2E and 3.X classes is provided.

Oh, and guess what? MORE CLASSES. I am not kidding you. We get basically a Zorro-style adventurer; a druid-y animist; we get scary monks (all those creepy killer monk tropes rolled into a class), a pirate and a naval mage…and the thick brute. For when you want to play the rather dumb, but really strong character. Oh, and guess what – while the default system goes to level 13…there is an epic level appendix that expands that range to frickin’ level 25!

Now, if you want, you can also take a look at the saving throw appendix and take a look at the cool tweaks the system proposes for reactive and active saving throws: Foregoing your action to prepare for an incoming spell or effect would constitute, for example, such a case. This sounds complex, but in play, it is quite the opposite and rather self-explanatory. We close this massive tome with a list of spheres associated with particular domains, should you prefer spellcasting priests, and a critical hit table further expanded, with class specific effects.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting may be the one aspect that some people might grumble about. While the rules-language and formal language is generally precise, there are a couple of instances where it is evident that the author is not a native speaker; not through malapropisms, but via a couple of slightly rough verbiages. These instances are surprisingly few in number, though – I can literally rattle off a list of books with a lower rules-density, penned by native speakers, that did not fare as well as this tome. Layout is surprisingly gorgeous for such a tome: It is crisp, black and white and sports a LOT of nice graphical elements: Scrolls, original and stock art – all comes together rather nicely. The book is incredibly easy to navigate, courtesy of the indices, the hyperlinks and the massive array of nested bookmarks. My one criticism regarding the organization is that, personally, I would have preferred all classes and class options in one place; that is a personal preference, though – I get the decision to group them next to the respective optional rules.

Fantastic Heroes & Witchery is pretty much the “eierlegende Wollmichsau” among the OSR-systems. In case you’re not familiar with the term: It literally means “egglaying woolmilk(-giving)pig” and figuratively denotes a jack-of-all-trades. This book is perhaps the ultimate example of kitchen-sink modularity in OSR games…and beyond.

What do I mean by this? As many of you know, I really like BOTH super-complex games like Pathfinder, slightly simpler ones like 5e, old-school games AND really rules-lite games. Here’s the thing, though – ultimately, for longer games, you require two things to stave off boredom, or at least, I do. I need options and the capability to depict multiple types of gameplay. Sure, I love a good GUMSHOE investigation! I absolutely can get behind an amazing mega-dungeon hackfest! I adore really bleak purist horror! But know what I cherish about both the complex systems and the OSR-movement as a whole? Both provide a gazillion of ways to modify and tweak the game. Sure, I can play, e.g. LotFP as the designated quasi-historical weird fantasy game…and add some Stars Without Numbers etc. But this meshing, at one point, becomes a bit more complex than it needs to be. As “simple” as most old-school rules are, they quickly become less simple once you start getting into the heavy tweaking; that’s not bad for short games, but I prefer longer campaigns, and thus a sense of consistency in that department.

Dominique Crouzet's Fantastic Heroes & Witchery delivers just that for me. It’s a masterpiece. It’s like coming home. This game manages to walk the tightrope: You can play it as a rather simple, classic game on par with the big OSR-systems…or you can make use of the massive wealth of options presented. The combat, as depicted herein, is dynamic and incredibly fun and tactical – it rewards player brains and forethought. Moreover, it does not fall prey to them “I hit it with my sword”-syndrome, where the martial characters just stand around and bash on things. You can literally run a combat, where a gigantic Kaiju tries to squash the PCs as they hurry from cover to cover. I have rarely seen a system that is so simple, yet rewarding and complex, that lets you create such cinematic moments. The simple skill-engine nets a ton to do beyond killing things.

And better yet: Much like 3.X and PFRPG or 5e, the system sports an incredible flexibility: You can literally tie in almost anything into it with minimal fuss: Want to add in full-blown horror? No problem, the framework’s already here; expanding it is a cakewalk. Do you still have your favorite module from such a system lying around, the one you never got to run? Well, conversion is ridiculously simple. For 5e, you can basically do in on the fly as well. Want to include spacecraft rules? No problem. Heck, you could even translate a really complex combo-based martial artist class to this system, provided you have a bit of design skill. This system is not only compatible with regards to other OSR-games, it extends that compatibility to the new school systems and creates what may well be the absolute apex of system modularity I have seen so far, all without losing its own identity and touch. The magic-classification, the friar class, the way in which races are handled (which btw. also makes race –class conversion ridiculously simple), the excessive attention to detail provided for things like vehicles, travel, etc. – I have rarely seen a book that made me, time and again, smile so much. NGR, in comparison, is a glorious system as well, but conversion takes more effort, particularly when converting from newer systems.

The biggest achievement of Fantastic Heroes & Witchery, to me, however, would be that it manages to capture the nostalgia and simplicity of old-school gaming with the wealth of options (emphasis on optional!) of current games; all but the most number-crunching and min-maxing players will adore this book; it provides tactical and strategic depth without being mired in it. In case you haven’t noticed: This may not be as crisp as LotFP or S&W, but it is incredibly encompassing. I can pretty much take any book from my library of adventures, setting sourcebooks etc. and run it in FH&W without much fuss. Depending on your skill, you may even pull of such a transition on the fly. I deemed that to be an impossible feat. This book accomplished it.

And yes, I am SO going to get this in print.

If that has, by now, not become abundantly clear: I adore this book. It is a masterpiece in its encompassing nature, in its tendency to embrace what is good about a system, in how easily you can customize it.

If the idea of going old-school with simplified, quicker combat without losing the excitement provided by tactical combat even remotely appeals to you, if you look for a system that can easily handle PFRPG, 5e and OSR-conversions (heck, even 13th Age/4e, but that’ll be more work), then get this right now. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Oh, and while this was released in 2014, I make it a candidate for my Top Ten – after all, I only was pointed towards this masterpiece this year.

All right, only one thing left for me to do, and that is to thank the patreon that requested this book. I have rarely had so much fun with a book and FH&W is going to accompany me and influence my gaming sensibilities for a long time to come.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastic Heroes & Witchery
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Dark Albion: The Rose War
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/22/2017 07:09:59

History and fantasy come together in this book in a way which I wasn't sure I'd particularly like when I first saw it. Now that I have read the book I can say that I do indeed like the combination of real and fantasy world, and think it makes for a game setting which feels real and important to players, but also doesn't "straight jacket" them as some players feel a purely historical setting does.

I bought this book in soft-cover. Print and bind quality is very nice. I have given this book a "perfect score" because it really fills me with enthusiasm for gaming even just to flick through it. There are a few typos and editing issues which I sorely wish had been picked up, but I have never seen a book composed largely out of public domain artwork which manages to come together in such an appealing fashion. The layout feels OSR without being in any sense derivative or a knock-off of old TSR products from the early 80s - that is fairly unique. I'd describe the feel of the book as "high-end hobbyist". It feels like a labour of love, and that's a good thing!

I found myself strangely intrigued by the rules system hinted at in Appendix P, incidentally.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Albion: The Rose War
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Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/19/2016 15:13:34

The newest supplement for Dark Albion is now out, Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos. With a name like that how can I possibly say no?

A bit of history, I worked with author Dominique Crouzet quite a bit back in the late 90s and early 2000s. I know what sort of thing he likes (or at least liked) in this area, so I know I was going to be pre-disposed to like this. Kasimir Urbanski is also the author and his contributions were going to be a bit more of a mystery. But I liked Dark Albion so my expectations were pretty good. Like Dark Albion, this book can be played with any flavor of D&D you like. It is simple enough and light enough on the "crunch" it can actually be played with just about any RPG really. While reading I Was thinking about it in terms of Pendragon, Cthulhu Britanica and other games.

Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos is the cults and cult-like groups book for the Dark Albion campaign setting/rules. The book itself is 92 pages (94 with covers). This includes 2 pages of character sheets, a cult sheet and the ogl. Minus title page and various bits we are looking at 80+ pages of solid content. The art is all black and white and is a mix of newer art and woodcut designs. I am rather fond of the woodcuts myself, I love seeing these in books. I recognize a number of pieces as belonging to Dominique; so he is one of the artists as well as one of the authors. The first part of the book deals with the cults. In particular their size, composition, what social class they come from (very important really) and of course their motivations and where their secret lair might be. Life of the cultist within the cult is also detailed to a degree. Enough anyway to get you thinking more about them. In particular what they do in the cult, why they might have joined and possible mutations. That one needs some more explaining. Some cults are so exposed to the forces of Chaos that their cultist can begin to mutate. A great idea that I am glad to see here. Dom and I did something similar for Warlocks back in my 3.0 edition of my Witch book. So immediately I grabbed on that as something to use. The idea though has a lot of traction. There are similar ideas in Lamentations of the Flame Princess and I believe Dungeon Crawl Classics. The next section covers running advnetures involving these cults. Obviously these cults are not menat to be a one-time adversary. They are meant to be reoccuring antagonists and potentially even the "Big Bads" of your game. This includes a number of NPCs, mostly normal level humans, that are involved in the their cults. Don't assume though that "0 Level" = powerless. Nobility wield a lot of power regardless of level, a noble in a cult can be very bad for a party of adventurers. I might as well acknowledge the inclusion of the "Frog Cults". I still think "Frogland" is kind of dumb to be honest, but I don't mind these cults at all. In fact wasn't "Temple of the Frog" the first real adventure played in D&D and certainly one of the first ever published. The "Keepers of the Frogs" from Blackmoor could certainly fit as a DA cult.

Packed amongst all of this information are also tables of rumors and other information PCs can learn. I thought of this as the "Scooby Doo" section of the book; the PCs split up and search for clues.

We next get some sample cults and some examples of some cults in various dungeon settings. These are split up into low, medium and high level.

The appendicies are very interesting and include a section on Elves in Albion. This section reminded me a bit of a similar direction given in Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum. Indeed, one could use both books together to get a large, more detailed picture of the elves/fae/sidhe. DA tends to be low-fantasty compared to the C&S High(er) Fantasy. Still in niether case are these "D&D Elves", they still have more incommon with the likes Obereon, Titania and Puck than Tanis or Legolas.

The next appendix details a score cults of various types. All ready to drop in your game. The last appendix details sorcerery and chaos and the strange things that can happen when they mix. We end with a cult creation sheet and a character sheet. The character sheet should be offered for free download, I think people would like it.

All in all a fun book. There is nothing here we have not seen before in one form or another, but to have it all one place with this particular presentation is great. I am reminded a bit of the old Witches and Pagans book from White Wolf that covered similar territory. I even pulled out my Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade to see if this would work well enough with it. It would take some work, but it could be done.

What strikes me most is how easiy it is to integrate this into any game you like. The crunch that exsists is easily converted. Since a lot of the die rolling deals with tables and their results, conversion is a simple process.

I mentioned in the past that Dark Albion is particularily friendly to Jeff Talanian's Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Using a page from DA:CoC one could easily add DA style elves (and of course their cults) into the world of AS&SH. AS&SH style witches and warlocks seem particularily suited for the the chaos magic of DA.

In the end I thought this was a fun purchase. Glad to have it and glad to mine some ideas from it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos
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