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Reviews of 'Heroes of Sorcery'

Heroes of Sorcery

by Steven 'Stan!' Brown
Fifth Age, Volume 7


Reviews of 'Heroes of Sorcery'

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Reviewer: Morten Brattbakk

Rating: Stars

Book One, One Moon, Not Three was a treat. It was mostly a rules book, but the text was spiced with references to Krynn all along, making the rules vivid to read and feel like a real part of the world. Ingenious.

The book started off with a chapter on roles. Eight roles were presented, among them sorcerer roles for all three knighthoods, as well as the academican, independent and itinerant sorcerers, the spellbroker and the battlemage. These are all well balanced and sure to provide a background for the player, not just some skills. The battle-mage is much more balanced and thought-through than the similar warrior-sorcerer role in Heroes of Steel, for example. Some more roles, or ideas for roles, would perhaps have improved this section a little.

Chapter two takes a closer look at all the schools of magic. This is very useful to anyone playing a hero who can wield sorcery spells. It adds a new dimension to electromancy (very needed in my opinion) and suggestions for how to combine different schools. The only thing I miss from this section is some more info on the divination school. That section is mostly concerned with seeing forward and backwards in time. Other aspects of the divination school, seeing across very long distances, detecting magic etc. are ignored. But still, a terrific help to spellcasters, this chapter.

The next chapter details different organizations of sorcery and different institutions in which to learn sorcery. The Academy, private colleges and wandering sorcerers are mentioned, giving ideas to both the Narrator and not least to players when deciding background; How/where did you learn magic etc.

Then there are the optional rules with long-duration spells, group castings, a closer look at what the reason code means, and draining magical items to fuel a spell etc. Again, a very good chapter.

The book concludes with a "Who's who" chapter detailing sorcerers not mentioned in The Last Tower – The Legacy of Raistlin, one of them is Jenna, Dalamar's former mistress. Very interesting, and some cool characters which would add to a campaign. Then there is a brief section on magical races like dragons, huldrefolk, scions and Irda (and some advice for working them into a campaign), and the book concludes with a section on the dragon mage.

All in all, One Moon, Not Three is by far the best Fifth Age supplement book yet. While what I need the most is area descriptions, I found this rulebook very useful (more elaborate magic rules were needed) and balanced. All the rules being spiced up with references to Krynn lifts the book to even greater heights.

Too bad I can't say the same thing about the adventure, The Killing Frost. The heroes go on a quest from Solace to Southern Ergoth, trying to find Huma's Dragonlance before a group of Dark Knight who work for Khellendros get to it. With them they have Gilthanas, who journeys with them in hope of a reunion with his lost love Silvara.

Like all Fifth Age adventures, this adventure is split up into acts and scenes. I do not like this format, as it tends to reduce the options and power the players have over the game. A Killing Frost is extreme in this case, there is very little leeway in order of the scenes, and what really happens within each scene. In very many scenes, under outcome it just says the equivalent of "in any case, the adventure proceeds to scene three." While I haven't playtested the adventure yet, I am fairly certain my players will feel pushed in one direction all the time.

Another problem is the writing and the descriptions. While the "atmosphere" paragraph in each scene is a good intent, the author should have tried to put more of the atmosphere he's promoting into the text he's writing for the scene. Also, descriptions are virtually non-existent. What does Ankatavanka look like, for example? Instead of just providing players with a brief history of the town as they enter it (the only description provided in the adventure), I would like to say how it looks as they reach the top of a hill and see the port town below them, describing the buildings, the smell, the harbor. The same goes for Castle Eastwatch. While there is a map of the castle, very little of its description tell how the castle looks, how it feels, and what the surroundings are like. This is very important in a role-playing game to provide a vivid image for the players.

Take a look at the original DL1-14 modules to see how they vividly portrays the locations and provides an atmosphere without the need for a seperate "atmosphere" paragraph. I'm not saying the "Atmosphere" paragraph isn't useful, just that it needs to be supplied with something more.

But the adventure isn't all bad. It is a very good and exciting story but the presentation is in heavy need of improvement. I'll see how it turns out when I run it for my players, but in any case it will be with quite a few modifications.

At last, the map sheet. It is the size of the sheet in Heroes of Defiance and The Last Tower – The Legacy of Raistlin, showing Northern Ergoth, and the Foghaven Vale, both in an overview and a cross section. The map of Foghaven Vale is very familiar to Dragonlance veterans. It is (almost) an exact replica of the maps in DL7 and the Atlas. While needed for the adventure, I think they should have been printed on either the back of the map (the The Last Tower – The Legacy of Raistlin sheet was printed on both sides) or in one of the booklets, so that the Map of Northern Ergoth could have filled the whole sheet, like the Northern Ergoth map in Heroes of Defiance did. It would make it more detailed, providing more sites and landscape forms and details for Narrators to work with.

So, in conclusion, Heroes of Sorcery is definitely worth buying, for the sorcery rules if nothing else. Unlike Heroes of Defiance, which was useful to Fourth Age gamers as well as Fifth Age, this one is strictly Fifth Age.

Review made Friday February 6th, 1998 on the alt.fan.dragonlance newsgroup.


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