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Dark Albion: The Rose War $10.99
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Dark Albion: The Rose War
Publisher: DOM Publishing
by ROCK [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/23/2024 14:35:55

Can Pundit do any wrong? I don’t think so! Fantastic work! Medieval authentic is such a great concept. The idea is you make an accurate world of the time and then add their contemporary myths as part of the reality! It’s great, buy it



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Dark Albion: The Rose War
Publisher: DOM Publishing
by Dale [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/25/2023 21:18:26

Dark Albion takes the old-school D&D rules and turns them on their head to take you back to a mythical version of 15th century England, not as it was, but as it was represented in folklore and myth. 'Medieval Authentic' indeed! I've been gaming since 1980 and this really excited and taught me things!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Dark Albion: The Rose War
Publisher: DOM Publishing
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!]
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Dark Albion: The Rose War
Publisher: DOM Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/25/2015 10:04:43

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The book ends with the OGL statement.

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total: 4/5

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

Total: 3.5/5

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

Total 3.5/5

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

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

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

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

Total: 5/5

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

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

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

Total: 16/20

Corey Ryan Walden Blogspot.



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

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



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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