Friday, March 18, 2011

Review: Majestic Wilderlands (Part One)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have purchased a PDF copy of this setting / rules set by Rob Conley, of Bat in the Attic renown. Here I will present my thoughts on the setting / rules, as I read the material, in bullet form. Following that, I hope to roll my collective notes up into a more traditional review.

  • Introduction: "No attempt has been made to balance these rules in terms of game mechanics." ~ Right off the bat, I like this! It appeals to my thoughts on not tailoring settings, rules, and especially encounters to the character. To a lesser extent even character to character. Can't wait to see how / if he incorporates this into the setting / rules.
  • Characters (Fighting Men): Several variation of fighting men are presented, and captured nicely, with associated rules. As promised, these classes of fighting men, under initial scrutiny and without play-testing, do not appear to be balanced with each other. I phrase it that way because, though one character may outshine another in more areas than one, the 'offending' class is harder to acquire do to minimum attributes, quests, and such. I personally like this and mention it because, though it may fall right in line with 'old school' play, players of later version may protest.
  • Characters (Fighting Men): The Fighting Men presented seem to be well thought out and presented in a fashion to give a strong feel for the setting, even though I haven't even gotten that far (setting material), I get very strong Legends of Paksenarrion vibe from them. This is awesome in my book, being someone who likes the works of Elisabeth Moon. Granted, I may have made this connection because Rob recently posted about the same.
  • Characters (Fighting Men): One thing that concerns me is the mention of one type of Fighting Men being the "traditional enemy" of another one of the Fighting Men presented. This immediately throws the old, 'why are we working even working together?' question at me as a GM, which I hate to hear. I think this, unless presented differently later in the book, could have been worded differently for my tastes. Perhaps toned down, but not removed. Perhaps 'being at odds' would have been more apropos?
  • Characters (Magic-users): With this section, a question arises, do the 'original' Sword & Wizardry classes exist? I am assuming they do, though the Fighting Men section jumps straight into unique Fighting Men classes, while the Magic-user section just briefly mentions what I think are 'traditional' Magic-users. They are described as "lone practitioners of magic outside of any of the established orders", then the book proceeds to cover several orders. Not sure on this, but think it may be a GM call, or covered on the author's site by now. I believe the initial confusion I got is do to the mention of Magic-users in passing at the beginning and then the first 'Order' being very similar to a conventional Sword & Wizardry Magic-user.
  • Characters (Magic-users): This section is well written, consistent internally, and online with the presentation of the Fighting Men section. There are a couple minor typographical errors within the section, but nothing significant,or detracts from the rules.
  • Characters (Magic-users): Magical 'schools', called Orders, are expansive and diverse. The Orders, rather than having their access limited by minimum Abilities like Fighting Men, are limited by trials at various levels. Do to this I see the optional Fighting Men classes presented being more unique than a Magic-user associated with an Order within the setting. It appears that non-Order Magic-users are suppose to be 'secretive' in nature, whether sought for indoctrination or extermination, it is not clear yet. This combined with the benefits of the various Orders makes me wonder why someone would chose to be a 'traditional' Magic-user. In short, it is interesting to see the Fighting Men classes appear to be presented as unique, while the Ordered Magic-user being the norm within the setting.
  • Characters (Magic-users):  As previously mentioned, many of the Magic-user schools require tests or challenges to progress. In theory this is interesting and adds an interesting feel to the setting. I am just concerned on how best to handle these tests in the contexts of gaming? Sure, role-playing is the goal, but how will such tests be perceived by non-Magic-users within the group. Individual sessions would be ideal for this purpose, but are not always possible. GM fiat might also be an option, but this IMO will forgo an interesting part of the experience of The Majestic Wilderlands, as I see it. Play tests are in order! = )
Part one of my review covers the first 27, of the 139 pages, of the book. Thus far I may have appeared overly critical, but that was not my intention. Mostly it is just thoughts as they appear to me as I read through the book for the first time. Thus far, it is a very solid product, and if I read no further I got my $7 worth.

Part Two to come,

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