An Endzeitgeist.com review
All right, so this humble FREE pdf clocks in at 6 pages, 1 of which is the front cover; the second page contains the editorial – and the rest provides exactly what it says on the tin: An introduction to Dolmenwood!
While Dolmenwood is a kind of serialized campaign setting, in that it is expanded in the Wormskin-zine, and while the setting’s rules are presented in B/X as the chosen OSR-rules-setting, this pdf is 100% player-friendly, and should be considered to be a kind of a teaser trailer for PCs. On a rules side of things, this means that this does not feature rules, and as such, it gets the system neutral tag on my homepage.
So, the first page paints in broad strokes what Dolmenwood is. I am not going to reiterate the information here, and instead provide my own understanding: Dolmenwood is somewhat akin to Kobold Press’ much beloved Margreve, in that it represents an ancient forest that is deeply steeped in mythology, in ancient times. That is where the similarities end, though.
Now, Dolmenwood could be described as “weird”, but this adjective is by now so broad in its application that it needs some explanation: Dolmenwood is not deeply entrenched on the quasi-LotFP-ish side of things regarding its adversaries; it is a fantasy setting through and through, but it is one that feels, at least to me, more primal. Less on the tentacle side of things, and more indebted to real-world mythology, in particularly the German, British and Slavic fairy tales, as seen through a lens more strange, more odd, than what you’d expect from a quasi-Grimm-style adaptation.
Instead, this feels like an unfiltered look at a somewhat obscurely quasi-mythology, one that is suffused with nods towards the Celts and Picts; it is also not a mere dark view of said topics, in that it is suffused with an unobtrusive and impressive, very British humor that manages to tip-toe the line just before becoming gonzo. While there are surreal and intriguing components in Dolmenwood, they never transition into the gonzo, remaining rooted (haha!) in a kind of plausibility that generally would make it possible to drop this into a historic setting’s stranger corner of the wilds. A big potential issue for historic settings, i.e. gods, is bypassed here, as the micro-setting knows the “One True God”, though this religion is anything but dominant in the strange wilds of Dolmenwood. The closest approximations I could think of would be a blending of Zzarchov Kowolski’s and Chris Kutalik’s styles, though less grim and less goofy.
Dolmenwood features plenty of leylines, and it is a setting very much informed by proximity to the lands of Fairy. As a micro-setting of sorts, it can be inserted into most campaign settings sans any kind of kerfuffle.
Now, this pdf is clever in that it presents player-information: For example, we get brief write-ups of the sentient races within: Thus, players will know that things like goatmen, moss dwarves and grimalkin are common in Dolmenwood, bringing the player knowledge on the same level as the knowledge all but the most oblivious PCs will have. The pdf then proceeds to provide summaries of the known factions and powers associated with Dolmenwood, introducing us to the aforementioned church, the Duke of Brackenwold, Fairy lords and the things in the woods. The pdf also provides delightfully spoiler-free information on some sites of interest, as well as a visual representation of a map-sketch that the PCs can find…
Editing and formatting re top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a nice, printer-friendly two-column full-color standard, and the use of public domain art within is nice and enhances the flair of the book. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.
This introduction by Gavin Norman and Greg Gorgonmilk is a great little pdf: It shows players a glimpse at Dolmenwood’s unique aspects without spoiling details. It is a great pitch for the setting – and it is FREE! It’s very hard to argue with that, and as such, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars –a great example of how you can make a good player-teaser!