Reviews of 'Heroes of Hope'
Reviews of 'Heroes of Hope'
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Reviewer's Note: (Beware of some spoilers for the adventure):
Well, there is this box with a Jeff Easley painting that is neither
terrible nor good, and it has 2 books (Book 1, a sourcebook, and Book 2,
an adventure.) and a map, covering the Plains of Dust, Dimernost,
Silvanesti and parts of Khur and the Desolation.
Let me start with Book 1.
Prologue: Has a few theories on how mysticism works. It would be perfect
to make the debate we had on the nature of magic even more confusing. No
straight answers are given.
Chapter 1: These are roles connected to mysticism. There are some
standards like Knights of Sword, Rose and Skull, barbarian and Kagonesti
shamans and some rather interesting ones like the kender nightstalker (a
kender with connections to the dead) and the monks. The section on the
monks actually describes the priesthood of Majere much better than any
4th Age product I have ever seen. Overall, the roles are OK, but there is one
drawback: Most of them don't have any real disadvantages. Often, they are
given the easy way out by having the disadvantage of non-trump on
Presence actions. This is rather munchkin, I'd say, since Presence
actions are seldom used, and this is like having an AD&D kit with a +5
in strength and a -2 in Charisma. everybody picks it since the +5 means
a lot, while the -2 don't.
The chapter has some pages listing the true gods and the names they have
in the different Ansalonian cultures. I have a few gripes here: Among
the true gods are listed High God, Chaos and Artha (a demigod from the
DLE series, who died there.) These three are not part of Krynn's strict
pantheon (Chaos may not even be a god), and so they should have been
excluded. There was also a little mistake on the other names of the
gods, Zebir Jotun, as according to Tales of the Lance Zeboim is called among the Ice
Barbarians, now has become Zebyr Jotun. And while a list of which names
the gods have in the different corners of Palanthas, I still wonder:
Where is Paladine called Paladine? Where is Zeboim called Zeboim? There
is no mention of that.
Chapter 2, about mystic groups, lists the mystic aspects of the Knights of Solamnia, Knights of Takhisis
and Legion of Steel. It details how the mystic training is connected within the
groups, and explains more about the Vision of the Knights of Takhisiss, and their test
of loyalty and their Inquisition. The Citadel of Light is also mentioned
here (but it is explained much more thoroughly in "Citadel of Light", of
course), and there is an interesting entry on how the Holy Order of the
Stars copes now that the gods are gone. In addition, there are sidebars
with short descriptions of the whole order of each god. What I don't like
here is the mention of the gods of magic having holy orders, which in my opinion
are bad leftovers from Tales of the Lance.
These entries are OK, but works best when used together with Heroes of
Steel (for the Knighthoods), and Citadel of Light (for the Citadel of Light
Chapter 3 briefly describes 3 land areas: Khur, Dimernesti, and Port
Balifor. Khur was previously described rather good in DL15, in a short
adventure therein called "The Riders of Khur", and Heroes of Hope is, for the most
part, consistent with DL15, updating the history of Khur. But Heroes of Hope claims
that the Khur have never known the true gods, which can't be true since
in DL15 the god Sirrion is present in a tribal ceremony. (But this might
also be a mistake since DL 15 takes place before the War of the Lance,
before the gods returned; but it still indicates the Khur were familiar
with some gods.) Unfortunately, Heroes of Hope completely ignores the intriguing
gypsy-like culture and feel DL15 gave the Khur, replacing it instead
with the DL standard nomadic barbarians. This was sad, I think, as a
more exotic and special culture is needed on Ansalon, and this was the
perfect opportunity to develop one.
Dimernost is OK described, as is Port Balifor, on how it is after the
coming of Malys. My main gripe about this chapter is that the
descriptions are way too short, only a few pages each. The sections on
Khur and Dimernost do tie into the adventure in Book 2 which fleshes
those areas out a little, but we are still a long, long way from HoD's
treatment of Northern Ergoth, not to mention if there were a Herald's
Lorebook's dedicated to these areas. (especially Khur, with a
gypsy-esque culture. I would love such a book.) Dimernost, however, is
rather detailed if you use Books 1 and 2 of Heroes of Hope together with
the Dimernesti article in Dragon magazine #250.
Chapter 4 is optional mysticism rules, with some word on how creating
hybrid spells (spells using both sorcery and mysticism), and it fleshes
out the different mysticism spheres. It also has a couple of pages on
how the optional sorcery rules in Heroes of Sorcery apply to mysticism.
While this chapter do give more ideas about mysticism and the spheres
than the 5th Age box, it is, IMO, not precise enough. The chapter ends with a
rather good part; rules and tips for playing Kagonesti heroes, and a
little bit on their history and culture.
At last in the book there are some pages of NPCs, all of them with some
mystic power. They are mostly boring and uninteresting characters,
except for the two bad guys (Knights of Takhisis), especially the female
half-elf from Silvanesti has some great potential.
Book 2 is the adventure, The Crown and the Serpent. It takes the players
from Solace (yeah, seems like every 5th Age product has to feature Solace)
through Schallsea and the Plains of Dust to Khur and to Dimernost. This
adventure actually does have some interesting descriptions and story ideas
to develop. But those that I find interesting are only briefly
mentioned. The adventure is very linear, with characters being sent
from one location/situation to the other. In each "Scene", as the
situations are called, heroes are expected to handle a problem. In just
about every case, exactly how that problem is handled is set in advance,
and the players have to figure out exactly what, then move on to the
next scene. (For example, the heroes can kill Brynseldimer in this
adventure, but apparently only if they do it like it says in the
adventure.) There are hardly any scenes which can be played in a
different order than what is previously set. It doesn't help that a
single small page is devoted to an alternate route through the Plains of
Dust (which would mostly be rehashes of the already written scenes,
except the names are changed.) This adventure isn't leading players by
the nose. It is grabbing their noses, pulling them in one direction
without even giving them the opportunity to look any other way.
The map is OK, perhaps a bit too big-scale with not enough details, and
with 3 rather bad pictures depicting events in the adventure made by
Easley when he apparently was in a hurry.
So overall, this boxed set is pretty average. It does not handle
mysticism and mystic roles nearly as well as Heroes of Sorcery did with
sorcery and sorcerers. And it does not handle Khur, Dimernost and Port
Balifor nearly as well as Heroes of Defiance handled Northern Ergoth.
So, overall, in usefulness and such, I would rate this box below Citadel
of Light, Heroes of Sorcery and Heroes of Defiance, but above Heroes of
Steel, Wings of Fury and The Last Tower. It is quite useful for use of
mysticism and playing mystic (as well as Kagonesti) heroes (and it has
some cool ideas about mysticism and mysticism roles, some of which are
detailed further in Citadel of Light), and might be useful if you need general,
(very general), guidelines for Khur, Dimernost, Port Balifor or the
Plains of Dust, but it does not succeed in making neither mystic rules
nor area descriptions as interesting and comprehensive as they could
(and should) be.
Oh, yeah, and unlike Heroes of Defiance, Heroes of Hope is most
certainly something than those who play AD&D in 4th Age would not find any
useful at all.
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