Thanks End! You've really put a lot of work into this review, so I'll give it the attention that it deserves! Also, lets give credit where credit is due.
Here are my thoughts/comments on your review.
The Shortstory - by Jason Kimble. I am really glad that you liked this story and thought that it complimented the city and the guide. I think so too, and I agree, it does a better job than the shortstories from the player's guide. I especially like the way it introduces Grey to the reader, oh and just wait, you'll get to know Grey more intimately in our upcoming Viridian Legacy adventure path.
Chapter One - by Stefen Styrsky, David Nicholas Ross, Jonathan Palmer, Thomas Baumbach, Scott Moore and myself. I actually had to cut some of the materials for this chapter, mostly concerning the religion of Mor Aldenn, though. I was also close to cutting some of the holidays and festivals, because I thought it took up too much space, but here you are... wanting more! :) Well, you'll see at least one new big holiday/festival in the upcoming Viridian Legacy AP. I am glad that you feel that the city makes more sense now. Also, I think we are going to expand the laws a bit, perhaps in some articles on the blog... I've always wanted to discuss specific items and spells that were outlawed in Mor Aldenn.
The Spellwarden - by Thomas Baumbach. This was added in the last possible minute. We had wanted to include a new class called the Spellwarden from the beginning and had even discussed it in details among us (the writers), however, only a week before I started putting it all together, did Tom find some time for this (mind you, he had not been the original writer assigned this task, but writing base classes is something of a treat for Tom). I am glad that you think it works and feels balanced. I don't personally have any experience with the magus, so I've not really been able to compare these two.
The Sprite - by Scott Moore. Scott actually wrote two new races, this one and the pseudodragon. The Pseudodragon was always my favorite, but it is just a little unbalanced and wasn't ready to be included, so we left it out. It might still see publication, however, on the blog. This one was also a little unbalanced to begin with, but I think what we included in the setting guide really works. There are also a couple of feats created especially for the sprite - to make it more fun playing a tiny creature.
Aldenic Spellshield - by Andrew Mongeau. This one went through several makeovers, but I really like what we ended up with. It serves an important purpose in the City of Mages... to keep the mages on their feet!
Ancestral Spirits - by Ron Lundeen. Yeah, this is a fan of mine as well. I haven't played with haunts that much, but these kind of ancestral spirits just feels right in Mor Aldenn and especially in the necropolis. These comes with all the information that you need to make your own, including several cool examples.
Ley lines - by David Nicholas Ross. From the very beginning, I knew that I wanted ley lines in and around Mor Aldenn, but I also knew that I personally wouldn't be able to write the needed material. However, out of nowhere comes David, who had written about ley lines before and had all kinds of cool ideas! I would definitely say that even if most ley lines are created with Mor Aldenn in mind, they could just as easily be transfered to another setting. And as you said, there are a bunch of feats, spells, items and even a monster (the leyspinner) who makes the ley lines even more useful.
Spell Pike illustration - by Bruno Balixa. Yep, this one did not make it into the Mor Aldenn Creature Compendium, and why is that, you ask? Well, it was the last piece to arrive but I guess I could have waited a couple of days to get it in the pdf, however, the illustration was going to ruin the one creature per page layout and I knew that it would make it into the setting guide.
Ringside Seats, introductory adventure - by Ron Lundeen. I agree, this is a small adventure, but also a fun little fast-paced ride through the city. It probably won't take that long to finish, but it introduces the PCs to several magical elements and allows them to get either on the mages good side or on their bad side. It also shows the GM how he can allow adventure to reach the streets and not just the surrounding lands.
- Lack of information about festivals, laws etc. I would have loved to include all of the information that we wrote... and more. But at some point you are going to stop and let it be enough. I think there is a nice balance of information here. I am, however, sorry that I didn't include a section on outlawed magic items.
- Centaurs as quadrupeds. Personally I don't mind them being quadrupeds, there is a lot of wilderness surrounding Mor Aldenn and most of the time, this would be an advantage. For the rest... a simple spell (perhaps alter self) will surfice.
- Unbalanced gaiants. Luckily that trait you mentioned is an alternate gaiant racial trait and therefore... easy to remove.
- Reprinted information. Yes, this is very true. Some of the information in this guide you will also find elsewhere. However, we did not include all the monsters from the Mor Aldenn Creature Compendium, so if you buy that one, you still get some unique creatures. There were two reasons why we did this: 1) to bring a little attention to the Mor Aldenn setting, and 2) to earn a little cash. However, to balance it, I think I've priced both products rather low so that you don't feel ripped off and cheated.
- Sample Spellwardens and others. I agree, this would have been a cool idea. I am sorry that I didn't think about this. Hopefully we'll have the chance to include some spellwardens in the upcoming adventure path or maybe as an entry on the blog.
- Player's guide... Yes... I hear you. We'll make up for that one by publishing a free Viridian Legacy Player's Guide... of infinitely better quality!
My only real regret about the setting guide... it's not in colour! I would have loved to publish a setting guide in full colour. All the maps are in colour, and even some of the illustrations (among those the four that illustrates the shortstory), but it just doesn't make sense to have some illustrations in colour and some in b/w.
Thanks, D_M and Axel.
D_M, I think you might actually enjoy this setting. If you have some spare bucks, this might be well worth checking out.
Axel: Thank you for the detailed analysis/feedback - it helps me improve as a reviewer. And once again: Kudos - this setting by far surpassed what I expected to find and makes me actually look forward to your AP - classes, festivals etc. make this book an excellent purchase and quality-wise a definite recommendation on my part. While it was not straight 5 stars, it is still an excellent verdict and while I complained about some options, the relative ease with which they can be ignored etc. made me settle for this verdict. :)
I just got done looking through the PDF. Very nice!
It wouldn't be appropriate for me to do an actual review, since I'm listed as an author (although, truth be told, by contributions came early on and were fairly minor).
However, I did want to comment on the top notch production values of this thing - very well done! I would certainly recommend this to anyone.
Finally finished reading through it, and have to say, I liked the setting a great deal. Was not thrilled at the repetition of material, and reading through the thread of comments above this one, I see you have already addressed your reasoning for including repeated material, but I would say to you, Axel, you're selling yourself short. The design work, from you and those who worked on this setting, is good. The thing that impressed me immensely was the small stuff, the details that did not get overlooked. But then suddenly I'm looking at material I have already seen, some of it more than once, like the Giaints.
Review posted here and on RPGNow
You mention an updated print version...perhaps you should take that bold step, and remove some of the recycled material, replacing it with new, original material. At the very least the Giaints as a race have now been covered in three separate books that I know of.
Thanks for reviewing our big setting book, KTF!
I hate to repeat myself, so if you want to know why I reprinted some material already published elsewhere, and I honestly don't think there is too much of that, look above.
I am currently planning a print edition yes, one that I am going to work on this summer, and I'll be reprinting this material as well as other material from newer products (like traits and feats from our upcoming FREE adventure path player's guide). If this material had an effect on the price (to make it more expensive) I'd say, drop it two stars, but it really doesn't. It is included for the sake of completion, and honestly, we are talking about some gaiant feats, a couple of races, an archetype, some magic items and then most of the monsters from the Mor Aldenn Creature Compendium (though not all of them). All in all we are probably talking 20-25 pages out of the 167 pages, and you still get all this for less than $10.
Had I not published some of the stuff already, I can tell you that this book would have included less artwork and probably a map of poorer quality.
Even paizo reprints material and especially make use of old artwork that you've already seen in other products.
I already read through your explanation to End! why the material was included, and you are correct in that at the price point you have put this product, the material does not have a massive impact upon the value.
I know Paizo rehashes as well, and that burns me also, as they have no excuses, they have the quantity of people on staff, and the budget, to not be doing that. It is one thing for a small publisher to reuse material, it is quite another for the big boys to be doing it.
I wasn't trying to put you on the defensive Axel, you have designed an amazing setting here. If anything, take my annoyance at reused material as a desire to see more new material, as the setting inspires the want for more.
I'm not on the defensive, I just love to explain myself :)
No seriously, I am really glad that you like the setting and want to see more, and can understand why you feel sad that you've already read this material once and, in fact, purchased it already.
Sometimes (not always) material changes slightly when reprinted, as we learn from mistakes and want to rectify them. Our upcoming player's guide for the Viridian Legacy adventure path has some spells, feats and magic items from Eldritch Secrets, and these have been altered slightly, to fit the setting and to make them more balanced.