Category Archives: Reviews & First Looks

Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide – A first look

When I first opened the brand-new FR campaign guide, I was disappointed. I was hoping for new races, new classes but the book did contain almost no crunch, only fluff. Then I remembered that the crunch probably comes with the upcoming FR players guide. When I continued reading I was surprised, since the book starts with the description of the town of Loudwater and an adventure. When I am not mistaken this is the first time in D&D history that a campaign guide starts with an adventure. Since I am not overly interested in published adventures (I prefer to write my own), I skipped a few pages and came to the chapter called “Adventuring”. And from this point on I was starting to love the new book. I don’t want to go into too much detail here. There are quite a few detailed reviews on the net and this is just a first look since I haven’t had the time to completly work through the 280+ pages book.
Wizards of the Coast have really managed to reinvent the Forgotten Realms without destroying the flair. In one of my earlier posts I wrote about my fear of the Realms. Although I like the setting in general, I always preferred other settings as a GM. With the FR you always get the feeling you’re running someone else’s campaign. And with the changes in the 4E version of the setting, Wizards has given the Realms back to the players. And although this was claimed when the 3E version came out, this time it’s true!
Ok, let’s recap what has changed between the two editions:

  • 100 years have passed
  • Cyric has murdered Mystra, which destroyed the Weave, changed magic, shifted the planes and let part of Abeir merge with Toril.
  • Gods have died or have been revealed as Exarchs working for more powerful details (which greatly reduces and simplifies the pantheon! This is detailed in the “Pantheon” chapter)
  • With “Returned Abeir” a new continent appears (bringing Dragonborn with it)
  • The destruction of the Weave caused the Spellplague that tainted certain areas and created mutations in creatures, effectively creating a new kind of monsters, the “Plaguechanged”
  • Whole nations have been replaced by areas from Abeir

Ok, this if of course not a complete list of changes (yeah, I am lazy). The important thing is that they’ve changed enough to give us a lot of new stuff to play with. It will still feel like the realms but there are a lot of areas that are new and that not even your Forgotten Realms veteran has ever seen them. High-level NPCs like (in)famous Elminster and the Simbul have more or less retired and there are a lot of opportunities for the players to earn money and fame.
The largest portion of the book is claimed by the “Faerûn and Beyond” chapter which gives detailed information on all the regions of Faerûn and Returned Abeir. Usually every region like “Cormyr”, “The Dalelands” or “Vasaa” consists of two or three pages including a small map and descriptions of the area, lore, settlements and features and adventure sites.
The “Threats” chapter concludes the FR campaign guide with description of monsters, NPCs and organizations that could become enemies or even allies for the player characters.
All in all I really like the direction Wizards has taken with the new Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Perhaps I should mention the artwork before moving to the conclusion. The whole book contains beatiful artwork on par with what we’ve seen in the core rulebooks. The included map is ok, but not as good as the one we got with the 3rd Edition version of the Realms. The cover features a female drow riding a dragon and not Drizzt Do’Urden as shown earlier. This is a welcome change in my book.
I am now eagerly awaiting the upcoming Players’ Guide. From what I’ve read in the campaign guide we’ll get at least one new class: the Swordmage. I am pretty sure that the Drow and perhaps the Gnome will be available as fully detailed player races in the upcoming book. I also would like to see some FR-themed paragon paths like Harper or Purple Knight.
If you were hesitant to run a campaign in the FR before, the 4E iteration of that classic campaign could be interesting to you. The designers made enough changes so that you can regard the updated campaign as a whole new thing much as the 4th Edition of D&D is something like a complete new game in many regards. In any case, you should at least have a look at this great book at you Friendly Neighbourhood Game Store.

Tiny Adventures

Some time ago I stumbled upon “Tiny Adventures“, a Facebook application created by Wizards of the Coast. In Tiny Adentures you choose from a set of different adventurers (the iconic D&D 4E characters), give your new hero (you start at level 1) a name and you’re ready to embark on adventures. I chose the half-elf paladin. He came with some gold, a dagger (WTF?) and a rusty chainmail. Hmm, paladins ain’t what they used to be. When I clicked on the Quest tab, I got a list of several adventures suitable for my level. I chose “Sins of the Saltmarsh” and off I was…
The process of adventuring itself is not very interesting. You wait for a few minute before you can press a button and you get some descriptive text about what had happened (an encounter, fight, whatever) and you get some XP, perhaps some gold and/or equipment. Even while you are on adventure you can go to the shop, buy and sell stuff and you can even equip new armor.
In my opinion this simple game is a pretty nice idea, but it could need a bit more interactivity. Let me make some decisions, give me some customization options and I am happy. But in its current state “Tiny Adventures” is a nice distraction but not a real game.

Savage Worlds

Last Saturday some friends came over to my place to play some board games. When we couldn’t decide what game to play I offered to run “Pirates of the Spanish Main” for them. “Pirates of the Spanish Main” is a stand-alone setting based on the Savage Worlds rules. I haven’t run SW before and I had only read the setting once but the rules seemed easy enough and I was pretty sure I could come up with some adventure on the go. In the end I used the adventure included in the “Pirates of the Spanish Main” book.
Pinnacle Entertainment advertises Savage Worlds as “Fast! Furios! Fun!” and I have to agree that this description is spot on. It took some while to get used to the roll mechanic and the combat rules, but we figured it out eventually and we stopped bothering about the rules and played. The combat is much faster and feels more lethal than in the new D&D for example and that’s a good thing in my book. Player characters normally don’t die but a good hit by an elite NPC could mean he’s lying face-down on the floor eating dust very fast. Normal NPCs go down with one good hit. This makes combats fast and furious, which suits the cinematic nature of most roleplaying settings.
My player group had also a lot of fun during character creation. Especially the Edges and Hindrances let them come up with some colorful ideas for their characters and within a few minutes we had a motley crew of pirates ready for adventure. We didn’t finish the adventure in one session so we resheduled our upcoming D&D night to play “Pirates of the Spanish Main” instead and I am thinking about starting a Rippers campaign (another setting using the SW rules) in the coming weeks!
Savage World is an awesome game to pick up especially if you are interested in a fast and fun roleplaying game.