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.

Conclusion:
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.



Now available!

- Axel


Interesting. I just finished reading Soldragon Academy and will review it soon. It will be interesting to see how this one is.


Thanks! I look forward to reading your review.

- Axel


This review depressed the hell out of me. I sent it to GMS magazine as well.


Thanks for the review, End! I am sorry that you are that easily depressed, especially since there were a lot in this book that actually worked for you.

To better understand your review and to actually use your review to make our products better, I've tried to break it down and make a sort of review of your review! :) It will also answer a couple of your questions.

Lets start with the good and then end with the bad.

The Good
- Short rumors of the city works.
- There is an appropriate amount of information about the locations.
- Several cool ideas in the history chapter
- The idea of using ancestors (and introducing ancestors) is great.
- The third chapter of Wizard's Path is good and has some creepy imagery.
- The Centaur race is balanced (although you would probably never allow one in your game)
- Excellent printer-friendly two-column layout (in its aesthetic simplicity)
- B/W art is nice

The Bad (with my comments)
- Strife between the mayor's two councillors shouldn't have been revealed: I disagree. This is no secret, and it would be cool if the PCs chose side as well.
- Identity of Yargus Tem, the guildmaster of the thieves' guild: Again, I disagree. sure, some players will have no use of this information, but some might, like rogues. Also, the thieves' guild in Mor Aldenn is not an evil guild, it is actually a big part of the city and doesn't prey on it. The guild might even be useful in the defense of the city.
- The identity of Jordrick Runsen, the Poisoner, shouldn't have been revealed: I disgree here as well. The text doesn't read "Jordrick Runsen uses his poisons to kill innocent aldennians and mages of the city!" To me a poison is just another weapon, which means that it can be used for good or bad. Also, that he makes poisons isn't a secret. What I should have written as well was probably that he makes antidotes as well.
- Secret of Nolly Ravenheart, which is only hinted and not revealed: I partly agree. You are right, as written, it is a rather useless information and only meant to make her more interesting than she should be. In the original manuscript I believe I wrote that children and animals felt something strange about her, after she had returned from the Spindlewood Marsh. I am sorry that I didn't add this bit, because it would have made more sense.
- Editing felt rushed: Well, if only enough people bought this that I could afford hiring an editor... alas, they don't. However, I am glad that you were only annoyed by "several punctuation errors" and nothing else. I can live with that. If you point out the few errors I'll make sure to update the pdf immediately.
- The size of the map: I agree! In fact, I have already made a new map of Mor Aldenn which makes much more sense with regards to the size. You can find it here; Revised Map Pack of Mor Aldenn. This map will also be used with the upcoming Mor Aldenn Setting Guide. I think you will find that this size fits better with a small city of around 5000 inhabitants.
- No bookmarks: Well, I tend not to use bookmarks myself and so I often forget about them. However, this is an easily fixable flaw.
- Big file size: Yeah, I am normally not too concerned about this, but as the books gets bigger, I am forced to think about this. I don't see why this makes it a significantly lesser product, as it says nothing about the contents, or layout.
- 6 pages of campaign notes: Yep, you are right, you probably have a notebook of your own. However, this was added with regards to the POD solution from RPGNow. Yeah, it was also an experiment for my own sake. I promise that I've not forced you to pay more for these extra pages and you don't even need to print them out if you don't want to. As far as experiment goes, I probably won't add these to any future HHG products.
- Lack of info on the number of mages and their power levels: Well, I could probably have added more information on the mages, since it is the City of Mages, but honestly, I don't think a player's guide needs to reveal everything. Let the players and GM come up with a few things themselves.
- Afraid of Forgotten Realms syndrome: Heh. I've been afraid of this myself, but I honestly dont think the power level is too high. You'll find out more about this once the Setting Guide hits the shelves. But yes, you will find an Elminster-type in Mor Aldenn, but he is quite neutral and wont really mess up things for hte PCs.
- Wizard's Path: I disagree that these three shortstories leaves every problem to be handled by the mages instead of the main characters. Also, I think they do a good job at introducing the city to the reader.
- Lack of other contents: Well, sure, we all want more content that fits with our needs. However, I've heard what you would like to see in the future and I can assure you that some of that contents will finds its way into the upcoming setting guide!

I don't think your review makes it a 1 star product, but THAT is just my oppinion. You are, of course, allowed to have yours. I hope I haven't misquoted you, I tried really hard not too.

Thanks again for the review!

- Axel


Hey Axel,

thank you for taking my review not too hard. Let me elaborate a bit!

Thieves' guild - Nice for you to elaborate upon it, though while the guild MAY BE useful in the defense of the city, that still means that the official channels should not support the guild and the identity of the chef should be secret - a contact person, all right. But apart from the problem of authorities/arrest, the head of such a guild makes for good plot twists...if unknown.

Using poison is traditionally an evil act and poison is NOT just another weapon, but rather a devious tool that is explicitly used to kill foes. Poisoners are usually evil people and frankly, in any city but a CN or evil ones, they should not ply their trade in public.

My main problem with the city of mages, as presented herein, is that I can't fathom how this city is supposed to work. The mages, law, authority - even as a DM who owns all of the other Mor Aldenn-files apart from Gaiants, I still can't see how the city operates. I sincerely hope the campaign setting remedies the shortcomings.

Essentially, you mentioned that how magic/wizards work within the context of the city and interacts with the PCs is up to the DM - I don't agreee. It's your central selling point for the setting. Not detailing it (although it's vital for PC interaction with the authorities) undermines a central reason to like the setting.

My group just arrived and I'll reply in more detail, if desired, once our session is done.

Cheers,
EZG


Well, I wouldn't say that there is nothing about the mages in this player's guide, there certainly is. The rest you will just have to buy the setting guide to get (along with NPC stats, new arcane archetypes, spells, feats, magic items and whatnot). Also, the very first chapter called "A Guide to Mor Aldenn" is written, much like this guide, as a player's guide to Mor Aldenn, and don't worry, this is all new material and not just a reprint of the extended player's guide :)

I guess the setting makes more sense to someone who has created it over a 2 year period than someone who has never even heard of it.

- Axel


I really don't want to bash you and your efforts, as I've been enjoying some of your companies' products very much and try to promote you. However, unfortunately I can't judge your vision of a setting, but only the pdf and quite frankly, at least to me it lacked the information I as a player would have expected from a player's guide, especially for 5 bucks (for which we usually get more content). I do look forward to the setting guide and hopefully will be able to give it a higher rating - the city does have true potential.

Thank you for your extensive feedback, for even though while I don't agree with the points you make and stand by my verdict, it's nice to discuss the points with you in a civilized manner. Thanks again!

All the best,
Endzeitgeist


No problem! You might have a point that $5 may be a bit much for the content, but unfortunately, a publisher have to count in the price of the artwork (and especially the price of the cover!) for their final product price. We can't just use content as a pointer when pricing a product.

You SHOULD stand by your verdict, just like I stand by my product, but I can't imagine what verdict you would give the product if there was nothing positive to say! :) Or how depressed you would be...

You have certainly given me a couple of good points that will make the next Mor Aldenn product better! Which, by the way, is another Ron Lundeen adventure... called the Wreck of the Keening Crone!

Thanks again for reviewing our product!

- Axel


Yeah, I get that financial reasons can be a pain. Great news with regards to the next adventure, btw.! I guess I'll have to get the creature compendium review done soon so that I don't fall back too much! :D

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