Some time back, in one of our publisher spotlight articles (here) we focused on the independent “Blackbyrne Publishing”, I was then and remain a big fan of the material that they produce, it has that old school feel to it and generally meets what I expect and want from fantasy rpg’s.
After publishing a number of solid and successful scenarios Blackbyrne have produced an entire campaign setting, “Age Of Lords”. The setting has an epic feeling to it presenting a entire continent with a long and detailed history, complex politics and religious intrigue. As with all of the Blackbyrne product range it is available for both Pathfinder and D&D4E – I have only read the Pathfinder edition, (and I have never warmed to 4E), so for the purposes of this review that’s where I’ll focus.
There are two books that go to make up “Age Of Lords”; a Campaign Setting and an Expedition Guide. As you would expect the first is aimed firmly at the GM whilst the latter is more relevant to players.
In general the content of both books is of the high standard that I have come to expect from Blackbyrne, there is a fair amount of detail (in some places maybe even too much detail), and some very nice artwork throughout – although the placement and mixing of artwork styles does tend to be a little distracting and actually detracts slightly from the overall professional feel of the work. But frankly these are very small niggles – and I’m probably being picky in the extreme.
The Campaign Setting focuses on the world history of “Braugh” (pronounced Brow), provides detailed timelines and more background than the players would ever get around to assimilating in a game. But for GM”s who like to understand their milieu fully it is all both interesting and very readable as are the descriptions of the various kingdoms and the general geography of Braugh. The Campaign Setting is just that, it is the setting, the places, the politics, the geography, the peoples, and the religions. You could, if you wanted use this book with almost any fantasy rules set, aside from the monster stats there was nothing in here that was so specifically Pathfinder that you couldn’t use HARP or Iron Gauntlets instead if you wanted.
The Expedition Guide however provides more of a focus on the rules and the mechanics of playing in the world of Braugh, if you were only going to buy one book to use with Pathfinder and get a feel for the campaign setting then this would be the one, much of the essential background material is recapped and summarized in sufficient detail to get by comfortably. Additionally there is a good focus on the practical; calendars, currency, outfitting as well as a smattering of new and innovative magical items.
The new rules include a number of prestige classes as well as an entirely new class “The Blade Conjuror” – which you may have already seen if you downloaded the free Age of Lords micro adventure, “The Secret Of The Pit” (available on DriveThruRPG here). Careful thought has also been given as to how the various races fit into the campaign setting and the world of Braugh as well as introducing new races (Half Dark Elf and Osotarian), though I’m not sure it really needed those and I would most probably not be offering them as options to my players.
In summary, “Age Of Lords” is an interesting and detailed setting for your Pathfinder Campaign. If you are the kind of GM who can work well with the detailed background concepts, who can make the most of the political intrigues then this is certainly one for you. It is an epic setting and certainly players in my own games would have to adventure there long and hard to do more than scratch the surface. If you are starting out looking for a setting to get your teeth into then this could be ideal, there are also enough blanks in the world map for you to make this feel like it is your own setting.
As always I find myself agreeing with the Blackbyrne motto of “Story Over Rules”.
You can find the PDF’s for both the Campaign Setting and the Expedition Guide at DriveThruRPG (here) or RPGNow – and at the time of writing (1/9/12) are offered at heavily discounted prices.