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Rhune: Dawn of Twilight Campaign Guide (PFRPG) PDF

***** (based on 1 rating)

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Are you ready for Ragnarök?

In the snowy, icy fields of the North, entire tribes of barbarians—disease-bound servants of the Thrall Lords—amass, mustering for Ragnarök. Their ears tuned to whispers sane men cannot hear, these horrid foes wait only for the guttural command of their masters. Further south, the dead gather among the ruins of pulverized cities, growing stronger in shadows of the Ghoul Stone, the necromantic bridge between Midgard and Neinferth. All the while, the good people of the South stand divided against their aggressors: the City-States of Vallinar embracing technology as a means to win Ragnarök, while the ælves and their allies battle to eradicate every trace of it. All the while, the daily tick of the Ragnarök Clock marks the passing of another season, bringing every branch of Yggdrasil closer to Ragnarök: the final battle.

The long-awaited Rhune: Dawn of Twilight Campaign Guide contains:

  • A detailed look at the world of Rhune, from the lands of the Middle Court to the various realms beyond, including information on:
    • Briglæss, the Glimmering Lands
    • Grimhæm, Realm of the Fel & Fallen
    • Nachtland, the Shadow Realm
    • Neinferth, the Yawning Gap
    • Niflæheim, the Realm of All-Winter
    • Sommerfæth, the Forest Unburning
    • Thodheim, Realm of the Dishonored Dead
    • Tieferhæm, the Underhall of Velash
  • Important information on the technology of Rhune, including details on ambient power fields, dragon towers, as well as how storm tech impacts the various people—both on Midgard and on other branches of the Great Tree.
  • Details on all of the races native to Rhune, including: the ælves, the aryandai, the automata, the clockwork elves, the dwarves, the glitterfane, the malaran, and the jötunfolk.
  • Over 90 new unique traits for PCs to choose from.
  • Rules for earning and spending both honor and wyrd points.
  • Information for any PC that wants to learn to use the runes, even if they don’t have arcane or divine abilities.
  • Six new classes for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game including: the Blood Skald, the Clockwork Adept, the Gjallarhorn, the Gun Priest, the Juggernaut (of Blind Fury), and the Plague Bringer.
  • A greater look at the City-States of Vallinar and the various factions that operate within and beyond them.
  • A detailed look at both the Æssinyr and the Thrall Lords: the gods who ready for the final battle over Yggdrasil, the Great Tree.
  • New rules for extraordinary devices – items designed to merge magic and technology together.
  • A bestiary filled with new monsters for your heroes to fight.
  • New spells, incantations, gear, guns, alchemical recipes, and other options unique to the lands of Rhune.

Written and developed by Clinton Boomer, Will Cooper, Adam Daigle, Stephen Michael DiPesa, Joshua Kitchens, Ben McFarland, Mike Myler, and Jaye Sonia.

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Are there errors or omissions in this product information? Got corrections? Let us know at store@paizo.com.

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Product Reviews (1)

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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This massive campaign guide clocks in at 356 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page dedication, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page backer list, 3 pages of ToC, 1 page session sheet (also included as a separate pdf), 2 pages of char sheet (similarly included and form-fillable), 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with343 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Urgh. This took forever. What you're reading is my 5th attempt at writing this review. No, I am not kidding. 4 times I wrote this and ended up not being happy with the tone, the focus. This is a hard book to review, so please bear with me - I have to digress a bit to properly explain this book. I actually bought the limited print run hardcover version of the book and while I do have the pdf, the hardcover is ultimately what this review is mostly based on.

First, let me take you on a brief trip through history. Back in the day when I was pretty much a nobody, the esteemed and absolutely amazing Paco Garcia Jaen "took me in" as a reviewer for GMS magazine. I obviously wanted to know what kind of people I was working with and so I listened to a lot of the cool interviews he conducted. (Seriously, check out GMS magazine!) So, it was there that I stumbled over this small indie RPG publisher who had a brief, approximately 16-page, FREE pdf for a setting called "Rhûne." I opened it...and my jaw DROPPED. Not only did it have Paizo-level artwork, it also had a massive map by none other than cartography god Jonathan Roberts. Oh, and the writing was simply amazing...the setting was unique in tone and focus.

Let me be perfectly honest: I did not expect it to go anywhere. It was amazing and just the creative impulse I love; radically different and creative...and it was the setting of a small, tiny publisher. One man's vision. I did not believe that we'd ever see this book. When small pdfs began slowly trickling in, I was cautiously optimistic. When the KS for this book blew up like it did, I was positively pleased by my fellow gamers obviously craving something different, by them lending their trust to a small outfit like Storm Bunny Studios. I would have supported it back then, but alas, my precarious situation left me completely broke while the KS ran. When the book actually came, I knew I had to have it and, as providence had seen to, had at this moment the funds to allow me to purchase it. Then the book got stuck in customs big time and was almost sent back...but I digress. What I'm trying to say is that this is exactly what KS is supposed to do: Make visions come true that otherwise would never have seen the light of day in this form. To all backers of this book, I take a bow before you. The book languished on my shelf for a while due to my reviewing duties for my patreons...and then I began reading it, slowly, in increments.

So, the first thing you have to know about me in order to understand where I'm coming from, would be that I am enamored with Norse lore and culture; I lived in Norway for quite a while, I speak all Nordic languages, my translations from Icelandic have been published and I have read pretty much a significant portion of the literary canon of all Scandinavian lands. I am proficient in Norse and Old English as well and read the extensive catalogue of sǫgur (plural of sagas, just fyi). I'm the prick who'll correct assumptions about culture, the guy who complains about translations failing big time to convey the tone of the originals properly, the guy who'll chew your ear off about the "errors" in the Vikings TV series. My passion for the topic makes me pretty hard to please. Rhûne is not a straight adaptation of the material, but it heavily quotes the themes and leitmotifs of Scandinavian mythology and reappropriates them.

Reappropriation would in this context be the process, by which a culturally distinct text (this can include visuals and any form of media), originally distinct for a certain culture, modified and included within the cultural context of mainstream reception - examples would include subculture music aesthetics gaining traction - whether it'd be rock or rap or something more far out. In this process, often wrongly negatively connotated, the respective medium is taken and modified to appeal to a wider demographic, changing, but also evolving at an amplified pace: Without broader acceptance of rock, there would have never been punk...metal...etc. It is a perpetual broadening of focus. Similarly, Rhûne appropriates Norse concepts and employs them in the context of roleplaying games, but unlike many reappropriated forms of media, it stays in the tone and leitmotifs featured, remarkable true to the source material, while at the same time radically mutating it.

The key notion here would be "stormpunk", the term coined for the genre featured in the setting. The analogues of the word to steampunk are pretty evident from the get-go (2 letters difference...), but ultimately, the resulting concept is radically different than any comparable "-punk"-suffix'd setting. In order to properly enunciate why and how, I have to dive a bit into the exact nature of the setting, for, even though I can only talk about the concepts herein in a linear manner, they all are interconnected.

As pretty much everyone knows, there is an inherent fatalism, an, pardon the pun, "endzeitgeist" (Zeitgeist of the end-times) inherent in Nordic myth: We all have at least heard about Níðǫggr chewing at Yggdrasill, about Naglfar, the ship of nails, about Ragnarök and the Fimbulvetr; there is a fatalism of acceptance and a promise of, perhaps, a renewal or an inevitable end that suffuses the myths. This concept is inextricably interwoven with Rhûne's stormpunk aspect. So, what is this stormpunk? Well, the closest analogue would perhaps be to look at the ostensible works of Nicola Tesla and picture what would have happened, if his concept of a freely accessible, immensely powerful electrical energy would have been applied to a Norse cultural context. Instead of explaining an allotopic, quasi-Victorian or Edwardian history wherein steam and coal are king, Rhûne is at the same time feeling more progressive and more archaic, more savage and more advanced. The existence of the stormtech, ultimately, makes the setting closer to our own world (as I'm using copious amounts of electricity to write this review and you're doing the same, reading it!), but at the same time, Rhûne's whole theme is actually more fantastic than comparable "-punk"-settings, at least to our eyes.

The reason for this lies in Rhûne understanding, in spite of PFRPG's alignment system (which I, as you know by now, LOATHE), that a crucial component of Norse life and fascination with literature lies in its unique (from our perspective) morality: We all are conditioned, from an early point in our lives, to read the world in dichotomies, courtesy, among other factors, of the influence of our book-religions. We believe in good and evil, righteous and vile causes, in defined absolutes, in spite of our life experiences often contradicting this. And indeed, if you take a look at the "heroes" (protagonists would perhaps be a better word...) of the classic sǫgur, you'll see a distinct lack of traditionally heroically coded behavior: Gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, the might of the strong and popular - these aspects are counteracted with a surprisingly progressive mindset that is closer to us and our world than we'd usually believe...in fact, reading the old sǫgur, you'll be reminded more of the writings of relatively modern authors than medieval literature. This duality of the archaic and modern is expertly interwoven with the concept of stormtech and generates a panorama both familiar and alien, sitting, quite literally front and center among the setting's leitmotifs.

You see, instead of the predetermination of traditional myth, it is the mythos of science that represents a central focus for the book: The nations of the world, in order to access the Æssinyr (the deities), in their quest for truth, have created these technological wonders suffusing the world - but they also set the Ragnarök clock in motion. The responses of nations and races towards the scientific advancements ring familiar in many a way: The ælves, original architects of the clockwork gates and immortal while close to their homelands, have resorted to a radical philosophy of luddite proportions, eschewing the technological advancements made, while those ælves that walked alongside their lady Y'Draah to discover the whereabouts of the Æssinyr turned into the forsaken, the clockwork elves, who would then proceed, bereft of their immortality and shunned by nature, to create the race of the automata, sentient constructs that only lately have gained what you'd call free will. The ælves believe, fervently, that progress, stormtech and all those boons it brought to the city states of Vallinor, is responsible for the doomsday approaching and that only by shunning progress, they can hope to halt the inexorably approaching end. On the other side, dwarves, for example believe that only in further technological advancements can lie a form of salvation for the world.

One does not have to be a scientist to realize that this mirrors very much our own stances towards technology, though it, like any good fantasy, exacerbates the theme and cloaks it in expertly woven mythology: Instead of the fear of nuclear annihilation, what we see herein is the conscious knowledge of precisely WHEN the world will end - there are only 99 years left and on the timer of the Ragnarök clock and time is running out. Speaking of themes clad in the fantastic that resonate herein: Much like "A Song of Ice and Fire", this setting very much cloaks modern anxieties and themes in an easily digestible format: In the frigid North, the Fel Horde under the auspice of the Thrall lords amasses to destroy the South - you would not be wrong in realizing the analogue to the White Walkers, but the setting does not simply quote the material here; instead, the mythological resonance of the Fimbulvetr is superimposed on "A Song of Ice and Fire"'s themes of nuclear anxiety as a means of annihilation: The Northern entropy of a nuclear winter is counteracted by man having the weapon of mass destruction that is the dragons, incarnation of uncontrollable nuclear fire. In fact, I'd argue that Rhûne paints a more diversified picture here by including some notions you would not expect from a fantasy setting, no matter how far out.

The thoroughly constructed nature of automata (as opposed to Midgard's gearforged housing the souls of erstwhile mortals) and their free will, their relation with their creators, ultimately means that the setting also allows for the exploration of classic transhumanist ideas, of the question of free will, of the question of the existence of a soul...and much more. In this aspect, Rhûne is similarly significantly more progressive and open, dare I say "modern" than pretty much all comparable settings I have read. That being said, this modernity is always tinted in a thoroughly compelling manner with the archaic: Raiding, slaving and trading, the whole traditional viking-experience, if you will, is a strong leitmotif for the whole setting - but one that, much like many aspects of the modern and archaic mingling, is not simply accepted: The change of social structure that electrical access brought, the themes of a variant industrial revolution and the social upheavals it engendered are counteracted by the decidedly Old Norse way of life and generate a fusion that is wholly and utterly unique in its repercussions and the detail its ramifications generate.

Rhûne exists very much in a wide variety of thematic and ideological areas of tension and as such, it is, more so than any other campaign setting I have read in a long, long time its very own world. Indeed, one can argue that Rhûne, while using PFRPG as a base-line, is not vanilla Pathfinder. This notion of a very defined and concise identity is enforced by the book from the get-go. Instead of taking the anything-goes route, Rhûne instead begins with character creation and talks about what is acceptable for the setting's tone and why; the world very much makes the generation of characters and themes to be explored a group effort - and I applaud this decision. In a world with so many conflicts and tensions flaring, an internal consistency of an adventuring party is of tantamount importance and personally, I applaud this book for having the guts to say no to the entitlement of universal availability of everything. Indeed, in a setting where the genesis of a race like the jötunfolk has eliminated whole generations with the Burðr Morðvíg in the aftermath of the fall of jötunstones, where ælves tend to view the automata as abominations at best, this is VERY important to retain the consistency of the lavishly crafted and beautifully woven lore of the book.

Having a character in Rhûne means picking sides. Both racial and class decisions matter more than in any other d20-based campaign setting I have ever read - and I have read pretty much all (or at least almost all) of them. The book does not simply state this, but instead guides the group through the process in a detailed and unique manner that I really wished more settings employed. For the aficionados of Norse themes, it should also be noted that the FuÞark matters - everyone is born under a rune and that provides intrinsic benefits to the character in question. In a world where the conflict of good vs. evil takes a backseat, one indebted to the morality of the old sǫgur, it is similarly important to note the vast impact of honor, the insertion of which is supplemented with various different ways of tackling it in different complexities: Whether you just want to use it to determine starting attitudes, whether you tie it to areas, whether you include racial tensions - the choice, in spite of the structuring themes of the setting, is ultimately yours and can range from hand-waving to simulationalist level of detail - and yes, if you're using Ultimate Campaign, there are some differences which are explained in sidebars, allowing you to decide on your own.

One of the, at least in my opinions, best aspects of Rhûne from an engine point of view, would be how it treats the determinism that suffuses Norse myth and flips it: The concept used for this purpose is wyrd and it ties in with destinies, governed by, bingo, runes. So, as you may know, the Norse mythology and its concept of fate is very determinist, norns and all. At the same time, this obviously clashes with the more progressive aspects of the Rhûne setting. The solution is interesting, to say the least.

Part II of my review is here!


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