An Extended Player's Guide to Mor Aldenn (PFRPG) PDF

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This Player's Guide to Mor Aldenn is an expanded and (slightly) revised edition. So what is new to this edition of the Player's Guide?

Well, inside you'll find a short story in three parts written by Sean Holland, an overview of the city, its locations and inhabitants and a new playable race (the centaur) and a new rogue archetype (the street magician).

You'll also find a couple of (almost) blank pages by the end, useable for campaign notes.

Cover by Florian Stitz. Artwork by Gary Dupuis and Justin Hernandez. Additional material written by Stefen Styrsky and Thomas Baumbach.

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Fails as a player's guide in almost every way

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This pdf is 48 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1/2 page editorial, 1 blank page as a back cover, 6 pages of lines (for campaign notes) and 1 page SRD, leaving 38.5 pages of content, so let's check out what Mor Aldenn has to offer to you!

The book kicks off with a short introduction and the first chapter of the series of narratives called "The Wizard's Path", short episodic narratives that take place in Mor Aldenn and circle around the exploits of an adventure party in the making. This first episode has also been released as a separate pdf (that costs $1.00)and is 4 1/2 pages long.

After this extensive piece of mood-setting, we get a chapter on the rulers of Mor Aldenn, information on the city (complete with a city stat-block) and guilds. Mor Aldenn, though named city, is actually rather a frontier town with a population of roughly over 5000, thus being significantly smaller than e.g. the Great City or the upcoming Questhaven. I actually consider the size of the town a plus - there are enough iconic cities out there and more are to come, but small and larger towns and villages have been rather overlooked as of yet.

This is where I encountered the first problems with this book - GMs don't get statblocks (absolutely ok with me, this is a player's guide), but why is e.g. the strife between two of the mayor's counselors included in the text? On the top-side, we get a lot of short rumors to dish out to players and both inns and shops.

While I love the Inns and taverns, I'd like to know why the identity of the guildmaster of the thieves' guild is revealed in these pages. That's not information that should be readily available, at least from my point of view.

Each school of magic has its own tower in the city of mages and all of them are significantly unique to prevent confusion. Other locations of note are the town-dungeon, Barrowdelve, where the remains of heroes of the city are interred and the Horse Downs, where a tribe of centaurs has settled. The locations are aptly introduced, albeit I would have loved to see more content for just about all of them.

The next chapter introduces the players to persons of note. Once again, the identity of a POISONER is included in the section. Not an alchemist, not a herbalist, but a POISONER. In the section of Nolly Ravenheart, a secret is mentioned but not the nature of the secret. Once again, I don't get why this paragraph has not been cut from the player's guide - assuming, a player has read the book and the GM introduces the character, the player is forced to separate his from his character's knowledge. Another character "secretly" works for the guild. Not after players read this book.

After that, we are treated to another installment of the Wizard's Path (5 1/2 pages, has also been published as a separate pdf) and subsequently to a short timeline of Mor Aldenn, which includes several cool ideas and a side-box of one-page ideas for what your ancestors might have done. Now that's a great idea, as it facilitates both character generation and motivation while providing a nice starting point to determine people's reaction to the PC in question. We are also introduced to the area in the immediate vicinity of Mor Aldenn before once again skipping to the final installment of the Wizard's Path (5 pages)for this book, which has, to my knowledge, not been released as a separate file. It's also the best of the three, featuring some genuinely creepy imagery.

The pdf also offers a new player race, the centaur. While it is balanced, I sincerely doubt the practicality of having a centaur with the party on e.g. delves, climbing etc. - it's the old mount problem for a character and should be talked about with the DM prior to choosing. I know I wouldn't necessarily want one in my game - it proves to be too limiting in adventure design. Centaurs also get 4 alternate racial traits to choose from. As a final bit of crunch, rogues get a new archetype, the street magician, that can learn a very limited amount of spells and spontaneous sneak attack weapon enchantment for giving up trap finding and trap sense.

The two-column-layout is printer-friendly b/w and excellent in its aesthetic simplicity, as I've come to expect from headless hydra games. Editing felt a bit rushed, I encountered several punctuation errors, though none that impaired my ability to understand the content. The b/w-artwork is nice, though the city depicted on the map felt a bit small for 5000+ people, but on the technical side, this file has some rather severe problems: First of all, it has no bookmarks and secondly, it's 101 Mb. Yep, you heard me. I don't have a problem with big pdfs. But 101 Mb? You gotta be kidding me! Especially sans hyperlinks and bookmarks - that's unacceptable!

The content, unfortunately, is also a bit of a problematic topic: While I enjoyed reading at least parts of the Wizard's Path, it takes up 15 pages of the 38.5. 15! That's a damn lot and I still don't know why we need 6 pages of campaign notes. Why should I print out not one, but several pages with some lines on them, when I can just use regular paper?

There are some logic bugs that don't fit well with me with regards to the NPCs and locations detailed herein, among others the fact that this is a player's guide and contains information on the thieves guild's GUILDMASTER and POISONER. Have I mentioned that Mor Aldenn is supposed to be NG? I get the necessary-evil-angle for the necromancers, but for one who makes a living POISONING people and SELLING poison? Another problem I see is that we don't get information on how many mages there actually are in the city or their power-levels. I know that I might get some flaming for writing this, but I'm somewhat afraid of the "Forgotten Realms"-Syndrome, where every town had its high-level blacksmith, mage etc., raising the question why the PCs are needed at all.

The "Wizard's Path"-installments unfortunately don't really help either, more or less focusing on the protagonists running tail between legs to the mages so they get to do the cool stuff. I'm not convinced that this would make for compelling adventuring.

More importantly, though, at least in my opinion the pdf fails at what it sets out to do: Introduce a player to Mor Aldenn. It includes information that I consider GM-info or at least shouldn't be available to all PCs. I can't just print out this file and hand it to my players. On the other hand, information on the unique selling point of the town, the mage towers and their heads are sparse at best, though I think at least some of the leaders should be known in such a town.

The overall book feels like it has been kind of cobbled together - there is not enough information on the town to make it compelling and we get A LOT of filler. Yes, the Wizard's Path is an ok read, but not something that necessarily belongs into a player's guide. What would have helped would be information on unique goods, laws (especially with regards to magic!), taxation, the role of centaurs, a PrC for the town guard, sample militia, more crunch. Anything, really, that is not a kind of filler like the campaign notes in the end. I am sorely disappointed by this book, as e.g. Moon's Folly was a much more compelling book and is, at least in my humble opinion, vastly superior to this book. As written herein, I can't see Mor Aldenn working in my campaign. The information is too sketchy. It doesn't work as a handout for players. As a GM I can see too many potential problems and no pressing need for the PCs to adventure there. Combined with the technical problems that somehow give me the impression of a rushed job, the 5 buck price-tag and the fact that there are other, better introductions to little towns/villages (one by HHG themselves!), I'll sadly have to settle for a final verdict of 1 star - I really hope that further books will prove to be better, the setting deserves it.