Tag Archives: Dungeons and Dragons

Tasslehoff’s Map Pouch- Age of Mortals

Name: Tasslehoff’s Map Pouch- The Age of Mortals
Type: Accessory
Publisher: Sovereign Press
System: Dungeons and Dragons any edition
Setting: Dragonlance
Pages: N/A
Cover: Softcover
Price: Out of print
Rating: 3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

Tasslehoff's Map Pouch- Age of Mortals, Cover

There are some things in a collection that are considered prized possessions, items that mean more to you than they would to others because of their rarity, because of their link to a cherished memory or because of who gave them to you. Tasslehoff’s Map Pouch- Age of Mortals is one such item for me and it’s for all 3 reasons and more.

Tasslehoff’s Map Pouch- Age of Mortals was released as part of the D&D 3rd ed range of Dragonlance products that Sovereign Press produced. At that time Sovereign Press, owned by Margaret Weis, had licensed Dragonance from Wizards of the Coast and was producing a line of books that covered various periods from the classic ‘War of the Lance’ line all the way into the ‘Age of Mortals’ and ‘War of Souls’. Tas’s Map Pouch was released as part of a series of map based accessories and was the first product in that line.

All the maps were drawn by Sean Macdonald and the cover art for the set was created by Larry Elmore and Ken Whitman. The cover is particularly nice, being a really good up close illustration of the irrepressible Kender behind a table of maps, that may or may not be his but are definitely about to make their way into his possession.

In the set you get 12 maps. Eleven of these are A4 sixed small maps and then there is a single poster sized map. The maps included are-

  • Ansalon in the Age of Mortals- this is the poster sized map.
  • Solace
  • The Tower of High Sorcery in Wayreth
  • Citadel of Light
  • City of Teyr
  • City of Solanthus
  • City of Sanction
  • Nalis Aren- The Lake of Death
  • Storm’s Keep
  • Darkling Hall
  • Ansalon in the Age of Mortals as drawn by Tas
  • The Desolation

Tas's Map Pouch- Age of Mortals, Poster Map

I’ll start with the poster map as it’s one of my most treasured possessions. As expected the map covers Ansalon in the Age of Mortals, which means such things as The Desolation and the Great Swamp are depicted since huge swaths of the continent were reshaped by the Great Dragons during this era. Also, because of the era, there are some notable changes to the map from the more well-known earlier periods and the most prominent is the absence of the maelstrom in the Blood Sea of Istar.

While it’s not my favourite era it is a truly stunning map, accurately showing the scale of the continent (which is much smaller than you’d think at around 1300 miles wide and 870 miles long) and defining the individual regions. While I know where places are, seeing them in context helps bring the setting to life in a whole different way and being able to actually point to places during games really helps my players understand where they are and what is close by. I like the fact that the map also references other continents like Taladas and Ithun’carthia and shows their locations in relation to Ansalon as we as showing where notable places like the Isle of Gargeth would be.

The map has hundreds of locations named on it, from major cities like Palanthas and Solace, to holy sites relevant to individual gods (who are no longer relevant in the Age of Mortals) and other places of interest such as the feared Dargaard Keep. I’m sure that some places have been missed, perhaps because they aren’t relevant to the setting in this era or because they were only ever mentioned in passing in a single novel or sourcebook but, to my mind, everything important seems to be on there, everything I’ve looked for anyway, and so it seems to pretty complete.

It’s not really relevant to the review but when it was in production you could buy directly from Sovereign Press and, if you did, you could request it be signed by Margaret Weis. It’s this signature that makes the map so valuable to me, and it reads ‘May Dragons fly Ever in your Dreams, Margaret Weis’.

Of the other maps nearly all are of recognisable locations to fans of the fluff but there is one exception and that’s Darkling Hall-

Tas's Map Pouch, Age of Mortals, Darkling Hall

Darkling Hall doesn’t exist in the fluff for the setting as far as I’m aware and was inserted as a location that GM’s could use to make their own stories around. I like this idea as one of the biggest criticisms of Dragonlance as a setting is that PC’s can never really live up to the legends of the character sin the main fluff and so adding an interesting and exciting new location helps drive a different approach.

Darkling Hall looks to be a temple to all of the dark gods, located somewhere near a place known as the City of Shadows (which I confess to also not knowing so I presume it’s also an invention for this map). It is 8 sided with an alcove for each of the gods surrounding a area, perhaps a reflecting pool, which shows the constellations of the evil gods high as they would be seen in the night sky. This central chamber is known as the Chamber of Trials and each god appears to have a trial associated with them, such as the Trial of Immortality for Chemosh or the Trial of Vengeance for Sargonnas.

The only explanation given relates to the Hall of Warning which looks to be the entrance and this takes the form of a written warning that advises that those of evil intent can pass a single challenge to ‘dwell among their kind’ while good hearted individuals must face all 8 challenges. There is a lot of possibilities that the DM can expand upon in using this room with each element providing more and more story opportunities.

Tas's Map Pouch, Age of Mortals, Solace map

No collection of maps for Krynn would be complete without a map of Solace, the city famous for being the start of the Companion’s quest during the War of the Lance. Solace is about as iconic a place in the Dragonlance setting as it’s possible to have and it’s nice to see a full colour map of it. As it’s set during the Age of Mortals the map legend includes things like the Last Heroes Tomb, commemorating those who dies during the War against Chaos as well as the Academy of Sorcery founded by Palin.

The Inn of the Last Home is, of course features, as is the Trough, the rougher tavern at the opposite end of town that is generally frequented by mercenaries and other lowlifes. As expected the drawing is filled with trees, as befitting Solace, although a great many dwellings now cover the ground as well since the settlement has expanded over the years since the War of the Lance.

Tas's Map Pouch Age of Mortals- tower of Wayreth

Another nice inclusion is the Tower of High Sorcery in Wayreth. While the sourcebook Towers of High Sorcery contains significantly more information about the tower, it doesn’t include a map and for a place that may well be visited by just about any Wizard character in the game, having a map is a nice thing, even if you never actually need it to run the Test of High Sorcery.

This map is split, covering an aerial map of the compound and then a floor by floor breakdown of the two towers that make up the Tower itself. The only downside really is that having a map takes little bit of the mystery out of the location, a place that should inspire wonder and dread in equal measures, but you can’t have it both ways.

Of the other maps 3 cover cities, Teyr, Solanthus and Sanction and these are of great use when running the game as I find being able to properly help player orientate in a city helps it feel more real and so bring the setting alive in their minds. Of the 3 only Sanction is what I’d call a tier one city, having been the site of numerous important events, especially in the Age of Mortals and beyond. On a personal note though, I like having Solanthus as my own games invariably end up in middle Solamnia at some point and Solanthus makes a good stopping off place. Personally I would have preferred Palanthas but that may well have appeared in the later War of the Lance or Legends map collections.

Two of the maps cover citadels/fortresses, these being Goldmoon’s Citidel of Light and Storms Keep, headquarters of the Knights of Takhisis and Ariakan’s personal abode. Neither is a must have but as both are of great importance during the period, being the symbolic seats of power for the opposing sides of light and dark, they are a solid inclusion.

Tas's Map Pouch, Age of Mortals, Nalis Aren Map

One map is of a wilderness location, being Nalis Aren, the Lake of Death that was once the great Elven city of Qualinesti. These isn’t much to this one, just a short legend defining where notable features of the city, such as the Tower of the Sun, were and the body of the great green dragon Beryl. To be honest this didn’t need to be in the set, it’s an important feature of the period but the map doesn’t really show anything and fluff in the Age of Mortals book more than suffices to cover this.

The last two maps are area maps. One is Tas’s own map of Ansalon in the Age of Mortals (if the signature is to be believed) and serves to be a solid in game hand out of the world. The other is a similar map of the Desolation, the north eastern area of Ansalon that has been taken over by the great red dragon, Malys and turned into a veritable hellhole. Most notable here is the location of the kender city of Kendermore, destroyed by Malys due to her hatred of that race. This map is apparently the property of the kender Kronn Thistleknot, presumably the descendant of the kender hero Kronin Thistleknot.

On the whole this is a nice collection. At the time of release it wasn’t prohibitively expensive and so it made for a nice addition to the collection. It had neither crunch nor fluff and no source material is included to support anything, something that isn’t really a problem but it would have been nice to perhaps have details of where supporting fluff could be found in within the Dragonlance range.

I’m happy with it, but I know I have rose tinted glasses for the setting and especially because of the signed poster-map. There are certainly weak maps in the set, like Nalis Aren, but those that are good are really good and nice to have. I wouldn’t pay a lot for the set and that makes it hard to find now in the UK if Amazon and Ebay are anything to go by, but if you do see a good quality copy out there for something resembling retail price it’s certainly a worthy addition to your collection.

 

Dragonlance: The Prologue

Dragonlance Logo

The campaign starts in the Autumn, in 343AC, in the village of Digfel in Abanasinia. The would be heroes are all children living in the village and this prologue tells the story of their first adventure together.

At this point in the story Aldorin has only been in town for a few weeks, hit mother staying here as it is one of the few places that the young elf has been able to make friends. Thorin is you but apprenticed to the village blacksmith and is learning his trade there. The group of children are all of like physical and mental age and play together when their chores are done, either in their tree-house of Solace, in an old abandoned water mill or in some nearby caves reported to be haunted.

The day started like many others, with the children meeting on the edge of town, just after midday. However something about that day was a little different, their friend Talimarious didn’t show up and so they went to call on him. When they arrived at his house they were alarmed to find out that Tally (as they affectionately called him) wasn’t there and, more alarmingly, that his mother didn’t remember him and that his bedroom was being used as a pantry. The asked around town to try and understand what was going on and were met with accusations of tall tales regarding their friend, no-one, except for them, could remember him.

Unsure as to what to do the group decided to search their most common play spots, to see if they could find any clues as to what had happened to Tally. They first checked their Tree-House, but found nothing there and so just picked up with wooden swords and shields and made their way to the Abandoned Mill. Here they found tracks of some kind of humanoid leading into the attached house. Closely looking at the tracks they determined that they were recent and look like they were made by some kind of goblinoid.

Taking great care they managed to sneak into the house and up the stairs without alerting the creature and they ambushed it as it was in it’s makeshift lair. Now, being around 10 years old, a single goblin posed quite a challenge for the diminutive heroes and what followed was a frantic 30 seconds of trying to beat the knife wielding goblin around the head with a rusty skillet what the wannabe wizard through handfuls of flour at it hoping that some of the random gibberish would turn out to be the words to a spell.

Eventually the goblin was defeated after the dwarf, Thorin, managed to leap on it’s back, grapping it to the ground while it was blinded from the flour and Remus knocked it out with the skillet, now dubbed the Skillet of Justice. Feeling rather proud of themselves the group wrapped the goblin up in as much rope as they could find and paraded him through the village before receiving a 2 steel piece rewards, spending it on sweetcakes and then running around hyperactive on sugar for the rest of the day. Of their missing friend, Talimarious, there was still no sign.

The last place to search was the haunted caves. No one knew why they were haunted and the group just recall that it was the older children that passed down this secret knowledge to them. REMUSXX did all that he could to perpetuate this myth and had previously put a scarecrow in the caves to provide a suitably ominous presence for anyone sneaking inside. As always the group approached the caves cautiously, entering through the narrower northern entrance. No-one had ever actually seen a ghost hear but that didn’t stop them creeping forward with fear in their hearts. As they approached the first cavern they heard a noise, something scuttling in the darkness before a wolf pounced on Bastion, who was leading the party. The wolf sank it’s teeth deep into the child’s arm and, in that one act, gave Bastion a lifelong distrust on all wild animals. For it’s effort the wolf earned a solid smack to the face with a wooden sword and ran away whimpering.

While Bastion nursed his wounded arm under the care of Aldoran, Thorin and Remus searched the complex of caves and found that a recent cave in had caused a hole to appear in the floor of the second cavern and that the pit seemed to descend into some form of dwarf made complex that was previously unknown. Remus returned to town to acquire rope but, being particularly intrigued by the idea of dwarven ruins Thorin obtained himself a suitable branch to use as a makeshift ladder and descended into the complex below to find that he was in a corridor, blocked at one end by a cave in and with a door in the other. While the complex certainly appeared to be of dwarven craftsmanship it was human sized in all other proportions.

Thorin proceeded to search alone, creeping cautiously forward through the first stone door and into a room containing the plinths of 5 statues, long since damaged beyond recognition. Another door lead to an north/south corridor and wide hallway with a large set of double doors, made of stone and brass and bearing the image of a fiery gate. Feeling that this last door would indeed lead to treasure Thorin put caution and thoughts of his lost friend to one side and approached eagerly, in doing so setting off a trap and falling into a pit.

When Thorin hadn’t returned the rest of the party set out to look for him, now using RemusS’s newly liberated rope. They found him quickly and managed to pull him free of the pit and after he dusted himself off he was a bit worse for wear but able to stumble along behind the rest of the party. At this point Hett, another of their friends who has been stuck doing chores, turned up and advised Bastion that his mum wanted him and it looked like he might be grounded for getting into a fight with a goblin.

The rest of the group, now with Hett appraised of their missing friend, made their way through the corridor heading north and after it turned west found 2 locked doors, one in each of the north and south wall. Hett and Remus worked together and managed to pick the lock on the southern door with their rudimentary equipment, revealing a room that may once have been a bedchamber for a number of human sized occupants, judging by the rotten remains of beds and mattresses. The northern door revealed little more, with just some smashed pottery, glass and a stone alter in the room.

Further around the corridor, that had taken a southern turn, they found 2 more doors, locked but leading to larger rooms. The eastern door appeared to lead to another bedroom, but with just a single bed inside. The western door was more curious after a glance through the door revealed another stone alter, but once it was unlocked (with Remus setting off another trap, which would have poisoned him had the poison not long since dried up) the room was shown to be clean, tidy and sparsely furnished as a bedroom. Aldorin surmised that the room must have a powerful illusion cast upon it but after trying hard to disbelieve concluded that Thorin had simply made a mistake and the group moved on.

The corridor took another turn, this time east and another two doors were found. Aldorin followed the corridor round a further turn to the north to discover that it liked back up with the original corridor to form a square. Of the two new doors, one couldn’t be opened and the other seemed to lead to some form of a library. The walls were covered, floor to ceiling with bookcases containing all manner of books and scrolls that Aldorin surmised must be magical from the runic writing on their spines. Summoning all of his power he cast a mighty spell of Detect Magic and found that all of the books and scrolls were protected by a powerful spell, all except one, a scroll buried beneath some detritus on the floor, a scroll bearing the necromantic spell of Animate Dead.

While Aldorin was “playing with boring books” as Remus put it, Remus and Hett made their way back to the mighty double doors, convincing each other of the magnificent treasures that must be held within. They knew the door was locked but with the open pit could find no reasonable way to reach the door to try and pick it and hit upon the plan of taking the bed from the neat and tidy room and using it as a ladder/stepping stone. Between the two of them they managed to manoeuvre the bed to the door but, try as they might, they couldn’t get it out of the door, either one would slip, or it would get jammed in the door or, in one instance, it simply vanished from sight as it crossed the threshold. This convinced them that magic may indeed be responsible but, again, they were unable to see through whatever illusion may have existed.

It was around this time that the children decided that they may need to go home for supper and vowed to return the next day to discover the secrets of the big room.

On day 2 they completed their chores as normal and discovered Bastion was still not allowed out to play so they went onto the caves without him. Descending down into the dwarven halls once more they approached the pit in front of the double doors. Thorin had hit upon a reasonable idea and had brought along a hammer and nails and went about constructing a platform to bridge the two sides of the pit and allow Remus and Hett to try and pick the lock. Despite REMUS’s reservations as to the sturdiness of a platform built by an apprentice blacksmith he risked using it anyway and consequently fell down the pit when it broke, twisting his ankle.

Aldorin noticed that there were large stone carvings above the door, and hit upon the idea of throwing a rope over them to suspend Hett in front of the door so he could open it. While the plan seemed dubious, it worked and the doors were unlocked causing the party to scurry to safety behind a nearby wall in case some huge creature swooped out and tried to eat them. Using a branch gathered earlier Thorin carefully pushed the door open from a distance so as to avoid any potential traps or protective wards that may have been set to guard the room. No such defensive measures were forthcoming but the group were met with an unholy screaming and flickering prismatic lights as the door edged open.

Hett, the first to enter, found himself in a large room with an arcane looking circle dominating it’s middle. Floating above the circle, surrounded by a bubble of roiling prismatic smoke was the source of the screaming, their missing friend Talimarious. The bubble was being bombarded with bolts of crackling energy emanating from 3 vases set upon ornate marble stands, in 3 of the corners of the room. A 4th vase lay broken on the floor in the north west corner. A quick search found a reset switch for the pit trap which allowed the others easy entry into the room and they instantly set upon throwing stones at the remaining vases to break them, under the belief that this would help their friend.

It was at this time that Bastion, having managed to sneak out of his house joined the group once more just in time to see one of the vases break., Aldorin was the first to strike true, shattering the south east vase with a ray of frost that left him exausted and this set of a chain of events that they would remember for a long long time and that would leave permanent scars on the children.

The room erupted with an almighty explosion, blinding all inside and bolts of light rebounded off the walls, striking both Aldorin and Thorin. Thorin began to run, heading out of the door and back to the entrance as a thick green acid fog began to rapidly fill the room, seeping out of all 4 vases. Of Talimarious there was no sign.

The group tried to run but the smoke got to Remus before he could plant a step, forcing Hett to run back and rescue him, carry his friend on his shoulders. Aldorin, exhausted from his spell, staggered after Hett and Remus, forcing his wearing feet to carry him forward faster than should have been possible. Bastion, struck with the terrible awe of the moment, was the last to leave, barely escaping as the acid fog descended on him, horribly burning the right side of his face.The group escaped with their lives, but without their missing friend. They returned to town changed by their experience, brought closer as a group and, although they didn’t know it, with a destiny mapped out for them.

Also, they were all pretty much grounded for the rest of their childhood and none of them could sit down for a week.

D&D 5th Ed DM Screen Review

Name: D&D 5th Edition Dungeon Master’s Screen
Type: Accessory
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
System: D20 (5th ed D&D)
Setting: N/A
Size: 27.4cm x 21.5cm (folded) 109.5cm x 21.5cm (unfolded)
Price: £10.00
Rating: 5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)

5th Ed DM Screen

This is going to be a pretty quick review to be honest, there isn’t a lot to say about a DM Screen and I wouldn’t generally review just a screen, but I’m actually pretty impressed with this one. What I might do though is maybe take a look at the wide variety of screens I own for different games at some point.

So why is this one so cool? Well it’s down to what is actually included on the DM side of the screen. Before I get to that I’ll take a look at the pack as a whole. The outer packaging that is normally just a paper wrap with a general description on the back is actually pretty cool, obviously it is still thin card wrap but the inside is a mini-poster that advertises the D&D Adventurers League, which is pretty cool-

D&D 5th Ed DM Screen, Poster

 

The screen itself is made of nice thick card and covered with a glossy coating and it seems pretty hard-wearing, which is good because screens see alot of use. It’s a four pane screen and it’s landscape in format, as is common for modern screens, which I actually like this as it reduces the DM/Player separation. The player side depicts and epic battle across all four panes between a party and a red dragon and it’s minions.

D&D 5th Ed DM Screen, Frontal

However, it’s whats on the DM side that impressed me, especially this-

D&D 5th Ed DM Screen, Name Generator

As silly as it is, the inclusion of an NPC name generator on the screen is something that will help me immeasurably as I literally can’t count the number of times i’ve made up a stupid name on the spot when the PC’s have decided to talk to someone I hadn’t considered. I used to have a whole list of names ready, just in case, but this is a much more elegant solution.

The rest of the inside of the screen is filled with the normal kind of things you’d expect to see, details of the various conditions, cover and concealment and some random event tables. Unlike some previous DM screens this one isn’t cluttered or hard to read and is filled with things, like the NPC name generator and the random events table, designed to keep the game flowing when it might stagnate.

The inside of the screen is also covered with little bit of art, some just to illustrate things like the various status modifiers and others, like the Tarrasque attacking a village are just there to make the screen a little more interesting for the DM to look at. At the end of the day this is still just a DM screen but it’s one of the best DM screens I’ve bought in a long time.

#RPGaDay Day 10, Favourite RPG Publisher

RPGaDAY2015

 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record I might have said have said Monte Cook Games, because of Numenera, but that was until recently. As great as they are, they are’t EU friendly, especially on their Kickstarters and that bothers me as an EU resident. Unfortunately for me, the postage on Monte Cook Games items is just far too high, doubling the cost of a book and there isn’t a reasonable alternative that makes me willing to endorse them.

That leaves me in a bit of a bind, the only other companies I buy from with any regularity are Catalyst for Shadowrun and Fantasy Flight Games for the 40k rpgs and I haven’t bought from them in some time. I can’t say Catalyst are my favourite RPG publisher, their editing process is too lax and the quality of the writing is too varied for me to feel the need to rush out and buy their ware, which would be the best sign of them being my top publisher.

So, in line with the general theme of this blog, I think I’m going to have to go with something a little more old school and pick TSR. It’s not an original choice and, I’ll be honest, they did put out a whole load of weak products but, at the end of the day, they did some fantastic things as well.

Just to break it down why TSR are my favourite RPG publisher, well, first, they created Dragonlance, my absolute number 1 game world of all time. I’ve been reading Dragonlance for 25 years and if there is any one thing that really spurred me to get into the world of gaming it’s Dragonlance. As a kid I wanted to play through the Chronicles with mu own characters and, 25 years later, I’m still re-reading the novels and I’m preparing for a Dragonlance Campaign in 5th edition.

Second, and it’s weird that this is second, but they were the company that produced D&D, my absolute number 1 game of all time. It’s a bit cliche now to say that about D&D, most people think that they have moved on from D&D to other games and left it behind but, for me, nothing compares to good D&D, be it a long story based campaign or some good old fashioned dungeon crawling.

Above and beyond Dragonlance TSR are responsible for a couple of my other favourite settings of all time, being the amazing Planescape and the chilling Ravenloft. Planescape is one of the most inventive campaign settings i’ve ever had the pleasure to run and my complete collection is the pride of my games collection. Ravenloft has so many clever little elements and touches that it’s hard for someone to not find something they like there. For me the Ravenloft products of Castles Forlorn and The Nightmare Lands stand out as examples of what horror can be like, done right.

Sure TSR released some less than stellar items and there was some heavy bloat in virtually every line by the end but especially in the sheer number of campaign settings that they were churning out, but, in their heyday, they were a powerhouse that paved the way for all of the companies, games and worlds I love today. Without TSR there wouldn’t be an RPG hobby for me to enjoy and write about and for that alone they have to be my favourite company.

#RPGaDay 2015 Day 3- Favourite RPG of the last 12 Months

RPGaDAY2015

So, my favourite New RPG of the last 12 months? Hmmmm, I don’t think I’ve picked up many that would constitute as new in the last 12 months, in fact I think it may just be Malifaux- Into the Breech and D&D 5th ed.

Both are great games, Malifaux is lavishly illustrated and really expands the twisted world of the setting. What I like about Malifaux is that it’s part horror, part Deadlands like steampunk and part dreamscape all rolled into one twisted but fascinating world. Add to that a system that is bespoke for the game and draws inspiration from the skirmish game and you end up with something quite special.

D&D 5th Edition Cover

In the end though, it’s always going to be D&D 5th ed for me. I love D&D, it’s my favourite RPG of all and the one I’ve spent the most time running and playing in my 20 some years in the hobby. With that said, I hated 4th edition with a passion, aside from a couple of modules like The Madness at Gardmore Abbey. D&D’s 4th edition changed the game into something I didn’t recognise as Dungeons and Dragons and, most importantly, changed the whole nature of the settings that used to be the core of D&D.

Fortunately 5th edition appears to have rectified this. The system is something closer to 3.5 which, despite its issues at high levels, is the definitive edition of the game as far as I’m concerned (let’s not make Pathfinder comparisons here) and at the same time it draws from the best parts of 1st, 2nd and 4th edition to make something really quite fun and simple and that feels like Dungeons and Dragons.

On top of that, and it was one of the things that excited me the most, 5th makes references to the settings that I love and grew up with. Dragonlance is mentioned under the Elf racial description and the Planescapes Great Wheel returns with the City of Doors, Sigil at it’s heart. Just reading these little references in the Players Handbook caused me a little twinge of nostalgia as I recalled epic moments when playing those settings and brought a smile to my face.

To me that’s why we play, it’s great to read a new game, to discover a new world and to realise how awesome it is. In the end, though, we roleplay to bring a smile to our faces and those of our family and friends and to make great memories and D&D always has and always will manage that a little bit better than any other game for me.

Lords of Waterdeep Review

Name: Lords of Waterdeep
Type: Board Game
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Players: 2-5
Age: 10+
Playtime: 60 mins

Size: 28.4cm x 7.6cm x 39cm
Weight: 1700g
Price:  £33.00
Rating: 5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)

Lords of Waterdeep, Front of Box

Lords of Waterdeep is a competitive resource acquisition and management board game published by Wizards of the Coast. It is set within the city of Waterdeep, City of Splendour, in the Forgotten Realms Campaign setting and revolves around the game of one-upmanship played by the hidden Lords of Waterdeep, the secretive hidden leaders of the City of Splendour.

I picked up this game on a bit of a whim actually, I was originally going to buy X-Com until one of my regular group mentioned that they were picking that up regardless and so I needed an alternative. My criteria was pretty simple, I wanted a good game that easily accommodated 5 or more players without breaking and Lords of Waterdeep seemed to meet those criteria while, as a bonus, being fairly cheap.

Lords of Waterdeep, side of box

Let’s start with the box, since it’s actually pretty unique. The box splits in two around the middle but the two halves are actually kept separate by an insert in the bottom half. This insert is gold coloured and decorated with swirling patterns and the overall effect is that the box looks like the kind of curiosity you might find in the home of one of the Lords of Waterdeep.

Inside the box is a customer made plastic insert that actually holds all of the components neatly and tightly to the extent that carrying the box vertically in a bag doesn’t cause the components to become dislodged. There is a guide in the rulebook as to the proper place for everything and the insert holds the board snugly to provide a lid of sorts to the rest of the contents. It’s a weird thing to dwell on but it’s very rare that this amount of thought goes into how the components will be stored and transported.

Lords of Waterdeep, components

Inside the box you get-

  • 27 x Wooden Meeple Agents (5 each of Blue, Green, Yellow, Black and Red to match the factions and
  • 1 each of Cream and Pale Green)
  • 1 x Wooden First Player Token
  • 5 x Wooden Victory Point Counter Tokens
  • 100 x Wooden Adventured Cubes (25 each of Black, White, Orange and Purple for Rogues, Clerics, Fighters and Mages respectively)
  • 5 x Player Boards (1 each for the 5 factions)
  • 5 x 100 Victory Point Markers (1 for each faction in Blue, Green, Yellow, Black and Red)
  • 12 x Lords of Waterdeep Cards
  • 50 x Intrigue Cards
  • 60 x Quest Cards
  • 24 x Building Tokens
  • 60 x Gold Tokens (split as 50 x 1 and 10 x 5 denominations)
  • 36 x Victory Point Tokens
  • 40 x Building Ownership Tokens (8 each of Blue, Green, Yellow, Black and Red to match each faction)
  • The Board
  • The Rulebook

The production values seem pretty high on everything included, the tokens are full colour, thick, card, the cards are full colour, thick, laminated, cardstock and the wooden tokens are all clean cut and brightly painted. I tend to find that the inclusion of wooden tokens makes a game feel like it has been designed with more care and attention to detail and that is very much the case here.

The art on the cards and relevant tokens is good and all in full colour with each of the more iconic people and places bearing a strong resemblance to the relevant characters. Choosing Waterdeep as the setting, rather than going with a generic customer made city, was a strong choice as the inclusion of iconic places and characters helps people feel more connected to the setting. I’m not really a Forgotten Realms fan, Dragonlance, Eberron and Planescape have always been my thing, but even I know the name Khelban Blackstaff and know of some of the legends of the City of Wonders.

The Board is A2 sixed and folds into A4 sized. It is a full colour representation of the city of Waterdeep with various buildings highlighted as being locations you can assign Agents to in the game and what the result of that action is. There is space for all of the various decks and discard piles and there are spaces marked around the outside to denote where buildings can be built.

The rules are short at 24 pages but the rules booklet still comes with a sewn binding, which I found surprising and just another sign of the high production values put into this game. All things said I was able to learn the game fairly quickly by reading the rules and playing a couple of turns and was able to teach 4 other people to play it inside of 10 minutes, despite having never properly played it. The rules tend to be intuitive and simple and the rulebook includes a nice section clarifying specifics from the cards, although I would argue that they should have simply made the cards clearer rather than adding the clarification to the rulebook.

Playing the game is pretty straight forward. Set up involves deciding on a faction and taking the board, checking how many Agents (the wooden Meeples) each player gets, based on the number of players, and handing them out, randomly assigning a Lord of Waterdeep and randomly assigning 2 quests and 2 intrigue cards to each player. Four Quests are placed face up on the board and the rest of the deck next to them, the intrigue cards are placed in the indicated space, three buildings are placed in Builders Square and the rest are stacked nearby. The player going first (decided by whoever most recently visited another city) takes the First Player Token and 4 Gold and then every other player clockwise takes 1 more gold than the last (so player 2 takes 5, 3 takes 6 etc.) Finally 3 Victory Point Tokens are placed on Turn spaces 2-8 on the board and 1 is placed on each of the buildings in Builders Square.

The game always lasts 8 phases and each phase is broken down into a number of turns. At the start of each phase the 3 Victory Point Tokens are taken off the relevant turn space on the board and 1 is placed on each of the 3 buildings in Builders Square and each building that has a restock is restocked.

Play continues until each player has assigned all of their Agents at which point the phase ends, Agents are cleared from the board and the next Phase starts, with the person in control of the First Player Token taking the first turn and assigning an Agent. After the last player assigns their last Agent on Phase 8 and they complete the action from that building, the game ends. Bonus Victory Points are awarded based on remaining Gold or Adventurers and according to the details on individual Lords of Waterdeep cards. The player with the most Victory Points after all bonuses have been added is the winner.

On their turn a player can-

Assign an Agent
Complete a Quest

Assigning an Agent involves a player taking 1 from their supply and placing it on a building on the map. Once the Agent is assigned the player takes the action detailed on the building, either collecting Adventurers, collecting gold, playing an Intrigue card, collecting a new Quest or some combination of all of the above.

Lords of Waterdeep, Quest Card

Each Quest card has a number of prerequisites that need to be met for a player to complete it. These are generally a number of adventurers of one or more types (shown by a number of coloured cubes on the card) but may also include an amount of Gold that needs to be spent (shown by a number of Gold Tokens on the card). If a player meets the prerequisites on any of the Quests they have, after assigning an Agent and taking the building action, they can complete a single quest and collect the reward.

Quest rewards are varied but generally involve a Victory Point amount and it is these that dictate the winner at the end of the game.  Each Quest is of a certain type, such as Piety or Skullduggery and this tends indicate the type of adventurers (so Clerics of Piety Quests) that you need to complete the Quest but also may be aligned with one or more players lord of Waterdeep.

That’s more or less it for how to play the game. The various buildings allow for different activities such as playing or acquiring Intrigue Cards (more on these in a minute)  but in principal the idea of the game is to hire Adventurers and acquire gold in order to complete quests and therefore earn Victory Points. The player with the most Victory Points at the end of the game wins.

Lords of Waterdeep, Lord of Waterdeep Card

Each Lord is a specific character and these are dealt randomly at the start of the game and are not revealed to the other players. Each Lord provides bonus Victory Points to either certain Quest types or based on the number of buildings you own, at the end of the game. It is therefore within your interest to try and acquire and complete quests that are aligned with your Lord’s bonus.

Lords of Waterdeep, Intrigue Cards

Players gets 2 Intrigue cards at the start of the game and can draw more by assigning Agents to certain Buildings. These are always kept facedown until played so only the owning player knows that they have. Intrigue cards represent the political manoeuvrings of your Lord to try and improve their position and allow you to do a variety of different things such as forcing a Mandatory Quest on an opponent, to reassigning an Agent to recruiting Adventurers.

If a player assigns an Agent to Builders Hall then they can buy one of the face up buildings immediately by paying the indicated Gold cost. When they do this they place it in one of the places indicated on the board and add a Building Ownership Token to the corner to reminds everyone who the owner is. These bought buildings are called Advanced Buildings and tend to have better rewards for assigning Agents to them than the Basic Buildings on the board. Each Advanced Building indicates what a player gets when they assign and Agent to it, such as Gold, Intrigue or Quest cards or Adventurers but they also indicate a bonus that the owner gets when someone else assigns an Agent to the Building, which is usually Gold or Adventurers.

I found Lords of Waterdeep a very simple game to learn and teach and a fun game to play. I’m a big fan of Euro style games that are competitive but have very few ways of directly attacking another player, making tactical use of your own resources and abilities all the more important. The specific number of turns means that the game will always last around an hour, unless players are particularly slow in taking their actions, and that’s also a good thing as most games that support more than 4 players tend to have playtimes of 2-3 hours.

The game has a surprising amount of tactical depth as your intentions vary based on who your Lord is and which buildings are available. The game can have interesting decision points when you have to decide whether to utilise a building owned by another player and therefore allow them to collect the owner bonus or whether to limit yourself. Likewise tactical use of Agents to deny other players from obtaining certain types of Adventurers, therefore limiting their ability to complete Quests is a valid choice and adds another element into your decision making process.

For a game I bought on a whim I’m pretty pleased with Lords of Waterdeep and it’s certainly a game I will continue to take to games nights.

At the time of writing there is one expansion available for Lords of Waterdeep.

Planescape- A Players Primer to the Outlands

Name: Players Guide to the Outlands
Type: Roleplaying aid
Publisher: TSR
System: AD&D 2nd Edition
Setting: Planescape
Format- Boxed set
Size: 28.5cm x 22.5cm x 1.7cm
Pages: 32
Price:  OUT OF PRINT (£11.99 retail)
Rating: 3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

Players Primer to the Outlands, front of box

A Players Primer to the Outlands is a boxed accessory for the Planescape AD&D campaign setting published by TSR in 1995. The set comprises of a 32 page guidebook to the various Gate Towns in the Outlands, a poster map of the Outlands and Gate Towns and a 41 track CD that acts as an in game resource for player characters.

Players Primer to the Outlands Guide Cover

The Guidebook comprises the bulk of the information in this set and is written, as almost all of Planescape is, as an in game resource, complete with planer cant. The book has a page devoted to each of the 16 Gate Towns in the Outlands and then a further 24 locations described so as to help flesh the Plane out for DM’s and players alike. Additionally the book provides a brief overview of the Outlands, gives some information on Spell and Power keys and explains how magical effects are diminished as you move closer to the Spire at the center of the Plane.

The book is nice enough and very much in the style of the Planescape line of products. The cover art is a little disappointing as it is just a direct copy of the art from the front of the box, picturing the Mimir (pronounced mih-MEAR) but the art inside is all DiTerlizzi and if you like his work on other Planescape products then you won’t be disappointed.

Players Primer to the Outlands DiTerlizzi art

The CD is the unique part of the box. During this period TSR produced a line of CD based accessories for the various setting, including Ravenloft’s excellent Light in the Belfry, but this is probably the most unique because of it’s use as an in game resource. Every single Planescape party I have ever ran a game for has received the Mimir as an item and utilised it to learn a little more about the planes and it alway goes down well because it’s fun and interactive.

The CD has 41 tracks which cover a range of topics from each of the Gate Towns to interesting locals and even has both a malfunction track and a no information track for when the Mimir does have the information or has become corrupted. The tracks are all recorded as in game accounts from adventurers who have visited these places and is really well portrayed by the actors who capture the correct feel of each of the locations from the order of Automata to the insanity of Xaos. You can see a complete track listing here-

Players Primer to the Outlands Mimir Track List

 

Players Primer to the Outlands, Poster Map of Outlands

The poster map is A1 size and double sided. On one page is a map of the Outlands, with the Spire at the center, which shows the location of each of the Gate Towns and other locations of interest, such as the Caverns of Thought. The other side of the poster map is split into 4 smaller locations including Torch, the Mausoleum of Chronepsis, Bedlam  and Sheela Perytoyl’s Realm. To my mind this is the best map of the Outlands available in any of the Planescape products and a must for any collector of the setting.

Overall it’s a good box with some interesting and unique contents. The Mimir CD alone makes the set a worthwhile purchase is you can find it because it adds an extra level of depth to your campaigns.