October 7th, 2008

Smiley

Tell us, O Baron, of the fearsome Apelords and how you…

Originally published at Figures of Text. Please leave any comments there.

I am slightly hesitant about reviewing Fourth Edition products yet, as I’m still getting to grasp with the rules. The only reason that my current campaign is running at all smoothly is because all the players are running their own games and/or know the system well, so I don’t need to adjudicate anything except how the goblins smell. So, take this review of Races of the Shroud: The Apelord from One Bad Egg with a grain of salt.

It’s about intelligent apes. There’s some highly ignorable background about how the apes were mutated by the malignant ‘Shroud’, which seems to be like clathrated methane,only made of Evil. For your generic, REH-meets-the-standard-4th-ed-mandated-diversity-dungeon-fun-team, it’s not necessary, but it will apparently feed into other Bad Egg products. The Apelords are written up as player character race and as a monster, and there are also some zombie monkeys bad guys. (Presumably, the pirate warforged pdf is in production.)

The pdf looks fantastic, and the writing’s as good as one would expect from the Spirit of the Century gang. The rules look mostly solid from my journeyman’s perspective - I’m not sure about some of the powers that involve vertical movement (’squares straight down’ seems a very awkward construction to me), and I suspect that the Apelord’s emphasis on bare-handed attacks will make the race underpowered beyond the Heroic tier.

What I really like about it, though, is how useful it feels. I’ve been mulling over doing my own pdfs when I know the game better, and this is exactly the size and feel I’d aim for. It’s plug-and-play, with enough flavour to be interesting without being awkward.

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If that last review came with a grain of salt, then this one takes the concept of the unbiased reviewer and buries it six feet deep in the salt flats, then dances on its grave throwing salt around and singing the salt song. I just got my copy of Baron Munchausen, in the stylish new Gentleman’s Edition. As I said to James Wallis at his birthday last saturday, ‘James, we have no friends in common nor do we work together moderately frequently, and I certainly wasn’t honoured to be one of the groomsmen at your wedding a few years ago; no, we have no connection whatsoever, so I’m perfectly able to review your new book in an utterly unbiased manner. Pass the pan galactic gargle blaster.

The new Munchausen looks beautiful. The old edition was very nice, but you could mistake it at a distance for D20 Adventures in Generica - Hole of the Troll. The new pocket-sized black book looks more like The Meaning of Liff, if Douglas Adams had written it sometime in 17-. It looks classy.

It looks so classy, in fact, that you could go up to random strangers on the street and thrust it into their faces shouting ‘read the bit about the number of players needed, where the Baron talks about invading Belgium! Or the duelling stuff! It’s great!.’ You could possibly do that with the older edition too, but this one looks a lot more like a ‘real’ book. Plus, it’s small enough to slip into a pocket, so it can easily be carried to the pub or whipped out to ambush someone.

In addition to the classic rules, it also contains ‘the Adventures of Es-Sindibad’ and ‘My Uncle The Baron’. The Sindbad variant is a great addition. Instead of the other players interrupting you, they get to add extra restrictions and elements at the start of the story, so it’s less I’m Sorry, I Haven’t A Clue and more Book at Bedtime, assuming the book involves rukhs, djinni, ghuls and ninja. The Arabian Nights setting is a welcome change - I suspect it’s more widely known or at least a little easier to emulate in extemporaneous stories than the peculiar feel of the Baron’s tales.

(I should also, perhaps, talk about the typography, which is very interesting if you like that sort of thing - but I’m not going to, for sundry reasons that are mostly to do with needling deli.)

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Races of the Shroud: The Apelords is recommended for D&D4e players who like monkeys.
Baron Munchausen is recommended for absolutely everyone.