Saturday, 22 February 2014

[Review] The Land Of Mithgarthr, volume one

This review contains general opinions. Reviewing a PDF of The Land Of Mithgarthr Volume 1 I got from Mithgarthr Entertainment when I asked nicely.

And the review begins...

The Looks

The cover is nice explaining well with a subtitle what's this about. "Being an overview of the Land of Mithgarthr, with focus on the Kingdom of Karak". The game is compatible with Labyrinth Lord which is shown clearly on the cover.

The layout is clear two columns and the pages have nothing extra but text and few pictures. Extremely clear to read but a bit boring.

There are few pictures, most of them like emblems. Not bad. There are only a couple of bigger pictures which are ok.

The big complaint goes to the area map. The resolution makes it messy and unreadable. You can download the map online too (haven't done it though) but I can't understand why they didn't see that the map in this product is horrible. Or is it just my computer doing tricks?

Also I think colorful hex map might be a good for gaming purpose but in my opinion the setting map could be fancier and nicer to look. Gaming material maps can be what ever as long as they serve the purpose.

The map alone for these two reasons takes ½ points away from the final score.

The Land Of Mithgarthr

As earlier said this is a setting book volume one focusing on overview of the Land of Mithgarthr focusing on the Kindom of Karak. Mithgarthr is a large island on the planet Cairnvarthi. There's no more information about the planet or what other islands and continents there are. And then it explains there's mild weather in the island.

After that brief overview in the beginning the product promises a solid foundation for adventures and more supplements to come to cover other locations and realms of Mithgarthr.

Then the history part. Usually I dislike history parts in roleplaying games. At worst those are long, boring and unnecessary for me as I want to know what happens now when the player characters adventure and what will happen in the future. Naturally history can hide some good adventuring hooks and that I approve. It's just those all the other years with boring information.

But how's the history in Mithgarthr. Not too long, short texts per year easily focusing on the point. Not too much boring included. Actually this was one of the first history sections I read through (partly because I review this but also because it wasn't dull wall of text).

The history begins with men founding the island, making friends with the older races already in there (elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes) and settling. These people are the Karakians (what's this book focuses on later). Then from the north came Wikinger people and some conflicts they had. Wikinger also settled here making another kingdom. Then evil wizard happened and a war... and to the present day there's another evil wizard starting to be evil. It reads straightforward and I liked it. And the elves dislike people and avoid them.

I feel a little influence in the history and settling America. Just a little but enough to spot it (vikings, finding a new land).

 After the history we get a calendar. It's like ours but simplified (28 days per month) and with different month and week names what are not too silly. Sunday is the first day of the week like in Germany.

People Of Mithgarthr

Two nations of men. Other more civilized and other kind of like vikings but lacking information of how. Then elves, dwarves, halflings and gnomes are presented. Elves don't like people because from men the evil wizard rose. And because other races are ok with humans elves are wary of them too. So generally no elves here, they hidden.

Why no elves? Is it important design decision to make Mithgarthr what it is? I don't mind though. Just interested in details.

Pantheon

This book gives five gods for humans. The origin of these gods is interesting as they were originally war heroes. Also different gods have different gimmicks for clerics who follow them; one god's clerics can use any metal weapon and other's can use lutes as a club). The history of a god is interestingly written and their personalities differ enough from each other. Interesting gods but their actual purpose is not clear enough. Why should one worship them? What they do for the worship in general?

Also all the gods are men. No girl power here.

Generally the gods are interesting and how they affect cleric character's making them a little different is cool.

And then there is Chaos. They hate gods and are a constant and ever-present threat to the good people of Mithgarthr. Ok. Maybe other supplement opens this up. Not too imaginative at the moment though. Good versus evil because...? The Advanced Edition Companion of Labyrinth Lord is suggested here for demons and devils.

Monsters

All the basic fantasy monsters found in a rule book of Labyrinth Lord focusing on green skins, lizardmen and that sort of things. There's also plenty of dragons. And a new race ratten is included here. Kind of basic rat men.

One thing I dislike this book suggests is that Labyrinth Lords scale the monster HD to the current party level. This means that no matter what level you are the orc raiders are going to be tough (also the exp is more though). The purpose is that the monster(s) should frighten any man no matter of level.

I get the point but I hate this in computer games. When you level up you get special powers but still have to (more or less) grind those same monsters but with more special powers.

But I do get the point. Could there be any other way to do this than scale the monster HD up? And I think they should have explained that better. Is it:
Player level + monster HD -1? That's 1:1 isn't it?
I know that Labyrinth Lords and Referees can quickly make up rules like this or just put a random HD they feel right for the situation but when the writers make up something like this they should explain what their original idea was.

This is something that cannot be reviewed without longer game test. And more I think about this more I kinda like it...

The Kingdom Of Karak

And then we get to the area fluff of Karak starting with geographic overview. A nice map would work great here.

First we get towns. Plenty of those but not too many. Few lines of information per town. The town leader's name is told but not much "who" he is. General explanations no hooks. In a sourcebook of Karak we get town names and general short overview except for the biggest of them. Still there's lots to do for a Labyrinth Lord to run a city adventure (quick Vornheim hype here). But if you want to spend time fluffing towns there's just enough information to distinct them from each other.

Also a place called Dyson's Delve is located here. It's a free dungeon you can get from HERE.

The Rest

Briefly holidays (what and when but no how), laws (unimaginative) and finally churches/temples with little information and some prices for services.

What's The Score

I like it but there are so many little flaws. For me the things I like are:

+ It is short. I hate settings that take ages to read and memorize
+ There's plenty of room for your own ideas
+ A sandbox

And things that are not that great:

- There are general ideas (it's a town) but no explanations or meat (what is the town)
- Feels more like a blog post than an actual product
- You get the idea, maybe inspiration but there's so much to fill yourself
- It doesn't tell the most important thing: what the adventurers do and why this setting is a great place to run roleplaying games? Unfortunately, I don't know
- The map sucks

If the product told me why the adventures in Mithgarthr are awesome and there were a little more details this would have been better. I don't say I wouldn't use this in my own game (planning to use this in my forthcoming LL campaign) but this is just a sketch I need to make my own world into. The text in this has no meaning.

I give this 3/5 skulls. Enjoyed reading it, wanted more details and cool.

UPDATE:

The map has been updated in the product and can be found here also:
http://www.rpgnow.com/product/126801/ME001a-The-Kingdom-of-Karak--Map

As I said a better map is worth ½ skulls.

So the new score for this product is 3½ skulls.