Jennifer (gaaneden) wrote,
Jennifer
gaaneden

Reviews of my work - A Player's Guide to Castlemourn

I was talking to my editors Margaret Weis Productions and Sean asked me if I had ever read the reviews of A Player's Guide to Castlemourn (Free on DriveThruRPG.com).

No!

He immediately sent me the urls:
  • D20 System Guide & Reviews - It's a 5 star review!
  • Fist Full of Comics (And Games) Review - It's a good one, too!

    I really need read these. I've been battling my own insecurities over my writing for the past couple of days. It is nice to see people liking what I write.



    D20 System Guide & Reviews - Players Guide to Castlemourn Review

    This is rather exciting. New settings are always fun and seeing one from the beginning by Ed Greenwood, one of the creators of the Forgotten Realms, is something I look forward to doing. I am a big fan of settings as I think they are the most creative outlet for gamers and writers. There are always cool and unique ideas that draw one to a setting. And of course if one does not use the setting they can steal and cut out the pieces they like and find a way to adapt that into the setting they are using.

    A Player’s Guide to Castlemourn is written by Ed Greenwood and Jennifer Brozek. The book is published by Margaret Weis Productions, LTD. It is in print and PDF format. The book is not that big only about forty pages. It has nice black and white art and a good layout. The PDF does not include any book marks. It has a single two page map in the book of the setting. It is not a big setting so the map has some good detail and is well done. Like all settings I hope to one day see a nice full color fold out map.

    The book starts with a small work of fiction called Seventeen Shield. The story works okay but does not seem to make the setting feel much different then many other settings. There is some unique terminology the setting uses that is in the story as well as places and races referred to. I would have liked to have seen a better opening piece of fiction that just screams Castlemourn.

    Castlemourn is a place that has little history. About four hundred years ago something big and powerful happened. It left the world like it is now a place of mystery. No one knows what happened before and if any one has found hints to what occurred they have not made it public. Castlemourn is a small section of land on a coast. There are impassable mountains filled with monsters to the north, east and west. There are some islands far out in the water and beyond them is a great ocean filled with seas monsters storms and other dangers. That is the hook of the setting. It is a fantasy post apocalyptic setting. The people have set up small countries and trade with each other and life moves forward. And some people try to look back and figure out the past.

    The overview is written as if it is being told by someone. It works here as it just basically covers the many places of the known lands. There is adventure and danger to be found many places. This is a world that will serve adventurers well. The races are mostly inter mixed so aside from a woods filled with elves and an underground area of dwarves most races can be found anywhere. There is political strife and some countries are close to being at war. Others are just hanging on giving a variety of adventure seeds and campaign types a DM may want to try. Just reading through the book will get a DM’s creative juices flowing and one can easily see how easy it will be to set adventures here.

    The setting does have some interesting new words that are nice but I think can be a little tough until one gets used to them. One area that can be confusing is the four words Umbrara, Mournra, Castlemourn, and Mournan. Umbrara is the World of Castlemourn. Mournra is the lands that make up Castlemourn. Castlemourn is the lands and people of Mournra. And Mournan is the folks of Castlemourn. Each of the eight points of a compus have new names as well with a new prefix that mean most. So, a direction can be west and with the prefix it will be westernmost.

    Astrology and religion are given a nice overview here. I like the inclusion of Nighlanters which are just constellations. Being born under a certain one can have an impact on a character. I think more on that will be presented in the full setting book. There are seven gods in the pantheon and they are helpful. It seems the world needs them a little more now so from reading the book I guess there are more clerics and religious classes here. The arcan castes though are much rarer as they are mistrusted. Many seem to believe they caused whatever happened.

    Character creation is going to be about the same. All the races of the Player’s Handbook are in this setting except the half orc. The abilities of the races have changed some. Dwarves have a thing with thinking everything as an illusion. It does not go into detail on why that is just that they are affected by illusions easier but can also ignore something as if it was an illusion even if it is not. And if one thinks that is weird then get this: elves glow. It is a bit different and gives them a nasty penalty to hide checks. Half elves glow too just not as much. Gnomes have some Great Focus on a Great Task. The book does not go into what that is at all, but there is a little mention of it. There are tweo new races in the book for the setting: Godaunt and Thaele. The Goluant take the place of the half orc. They are a well done mechanically version of them. They descend from the Fell beasts, the evil monsters. They are looked down on by other races for their heritage. The Thaele it seems are a playable vampire like race. I’m guessing here because very little is mentioned about them other then they are mysterious. They have other abilities named but not defined like Accursed Aura, Blood Thirst, Seasickness, and Silver Allergy.

    Classes are the same with new ones that the reader is told about. The new base class the Buccaneer and the prestige classes the Dusked, the Faithless One, the Rhyesword, Servant of the Seven, Truesword Knight, and the Waymaster are all mentioned but not defined. The first three levels of the Waymaaster are presented and it looks to be a fun merchant crossed with a swashbuckler type prestige class.

    The Player’s Guide to Castlemourn is really an appetizer until one gets the actual setting book. It will serve as a nice overview of the campaign setting and give just enough information for some to decide if they like the setting. There is no need to go out and buy the campaign setting first if one feels they might not like it. I am now really looking forward to the actual setting. This has really hit me the right way and made me want to see a lot more.





    Fist Full of Comics (And Games) Review.

    Fresh from Gen Con, Working Man reviews the new Castlemourn player's guide and setting....

    A Players Guide to Castlemourn
    Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
    Author: Ed Greenwood & Jennifer Brozek
    Pages: 40
    Format: Permabound with color, cardstock cover, B&W interior art and text
    Price: $4.99 MSRP


    Disclaimer: I would like to thank Margaret Weis Productions for providing a review copy of the product for the purposes of this article.


    Ed Greenwood, creator of the expansive fan-favorite Forgotten Realms, seems loath to rest on his laurels. This time he turns his creative energies to the lands of Castlemourn on the world of Umbrara for the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 rules.

    Castlemourn is a land without a past. A magical catastrophe of world-shattering proportions rocked Umbrara to its foundations over three hundred years in its past. New mountains were thrown up while other lands were cast into the seas. Civilization was plunged into the dark ages. All knowledge, including memory, of this by-gone age has been lost. All that remains are the forlorn and unexplored ancient castles that give this land its name.


    It was this idea of a post-apocalyptic fantasy setting that first attracted my attention. The focus for adventures in Castlemourn is one of exploration. Dungeon delving has a purpose other than accumulating renown and wealth. The rediscovering of Castlemourn's past is paramount to preventing another catastrophe in the future. This emphasis on exploration will be particularly exciting for younger gamers as well as those wanting to capture the nostalgic flavor of 1st edition D&D.


    Dungeons are not the only things to pique players' interest. Courtly intrigue aplenty awaits brave adventurers as nations seemed poised on the brink of war. Here a palace reception can prove just as exciting and dangerous as a trap-laden castle corridor.
    This players' guide is broken into three district areas: “Seventeen Shields”, a Castlemourn short story by Ed Greenwood, an overview of Castlemourn as told by a veteran merchant, Master Tyheros, and a guide to developing player characters for the setting. The first two sections really help evoke the unique flavor of Castlemourn while the last section provides the crunchy bits for creating PCs true to that flavor.


    The fiction, while short, does an excellent job of quickly relaying the tension and fear that underlay the setting. From there, it's a quick tour over the major points of interest in the land. This section has enough juicy bits to keep you reading but sadly the overall size (40 pages total) leaves little room to go into verbose descriptions of the various realms that make up the setting. It definitely left me wanting more.


    For those apprehensive of this being a Forgotten Realms knock-off, fear not. There are plenty of unique elements that make this setting stand on its own two legs:

    * Due to magic as the supposed cause of the catastrophe, arcane spellcasters are seldom trusted and study their arts on secluded islands
    * Magical items are rare and extremely valuable
    * No Orcs! (that should be worth a couple of points)
    * New unique races (Golaunt and Thaele) and classes (the buccaneer) as well as six new prestige classes
    * Starmoots (astrological events) that influence of the realm and the characters within it
    * Birth skills which grant re-rolls on failed attempts when in the character's birthplace (a 50-mile radius area centered on the spot where the PC was born


    Players can bring their favorite PCs to Umbrara to explore via the estemel, magical portals to other realms. For those wanting to create new characters to fit the background of the setting the Guide provides a starting point. All core PC races are available except for half-orcs (as noted in what makes the setting unique) which are replaced buy the Golaunt. The Thaele or “Strange Folk” are mentioned but must await the full campaign setting (due out in stores November '06) for rules to create PCs of this race. Only the first three levels of the Waymaster prestige class are listed in the Guide. The remaining five prestige classes and new core class, the buccaneer, must also wait for the campaign setting.


    As an introduction it does well in providing a brief overview of the setting as well as some minimal assistance to players in creating their PCs. It really is meant to pique a player's interest for the upcoming full campaign setting release, which I feel it does very well, rather than make it a usable tool for character creation. There is a lot more about the setting and the relations between the races, not to mention class and skill options, which I would want to know before creating a character. Some enterprising DM could take this material and run with it, but it is sketchy at best for my tastes. In our present day of $40+ fantasy game settings, if you are at all curious about the setting, it is definitely worth stopping in to your local game store and plopping down the $4.99 to get a look at Castlemourn and decide if the setting is right for you.

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