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Reviews of 'Rise of the Titans'

Rise of the Titans

by Richard Dakan
Battle Lines, Volume 2

Reviews of 'Rise of the Titans'

Here are the visitor reviews we have of Rise of the Titans. For more information about this title, please visit the item detail page.

Reviewer: Morten Brattbakk

Rating: Stars

When I first saw the ad for Rise of the Titans, I thought to myself that this is probably "The Sylvan Veil for ogres". And I turned out to be right. The Sylvan Veil detailed Silvanesti society, but most of the product was an adventure. The Sylvan Veil was a SAGA product, with a half-hearted effort at putting in Advanced Dungeons & Dungeons stats as well.

Rise of the Titans is the same. 30 pages of source material, 60 pages of adventure, with the SAGA system being the main priority. Like The Sylvan Veil, it gives very vague hints on how you may put a lot of work into converting Fifth Age magic to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, but gives no real clue and basically says it can't be done properly.

The author is Richard Dakan, a name I have never heard before. I was a sceptical to this product because of the new author, and the fact that it is titled after a new kind of creature. After all, there have been enough introductions of new creatures that didn't work, for example huldre and scions.

But I was positively surprised. I prefer Rise of the Titans to The Sylvan Veil, mostly because the adventure in Rise of the Titans is so much better than its predecessor. The module is also more interesting to read, very much because of the titans, the new ogre sub-race which opens up for some very intriguing storylines (including the adventure).

The source material is mostly told in the voice of Dauroth, titan and ruler of the united kingdom of Kern and Blöde. He writes about the origins of the ogres and various sub-races (he re-writes history, he is consciously using history and creating legends of old times to make the ogres follow the titans; and he does not mention goblins and hobgoblins), how the societies of Kern and Blöde are organized, ogre rituals, festivals, battle tactics, and some words on the Khalkist hill giants. Hundjal, another titan, writes the story of Dauroth and how he became a titan. At the end, written in an omniscient voice, there is some info on titans and their biology, how they are created, rules for playing (half-)ogre heroes/PCs, and some ogre magic items.

This material is, for the most part, very good. The titans are an incredibly cool concept. They are transformed ogres, and unlike other races that have been introduced to Krynn, they have a satisfactory background story (although there is one mystery that I sincerely hope some thought have been put into: Who/what gave Dauroth the vision on how to turn ogres into titans and why?), and Richard Dakan has not gone overboard with them. It is not easy to create a titan, or even to remain a titan. The titans, and their creation, affect several things on Ansalon; the relationship between ogres and elves in particular, but also the relationship between the two Khalkist ogre nations, and between different fractions of ogres, especially in Kern. Not to mention, even dead souls are affected by the titans. The relationships between the ogres and the Knights of Takhisis and dwarves of Thorbardin are also covered (if not detailed) in Rise of the Titans. The huge dragons are hardly mentioned. Considering all the possible stories that can evolve from the titan concept (like I hinted at above), I realize even more how bad an idea those dragon overlords were, when we get as interesting stuff as this instead.

I have three major pickings about the source material:

1. While Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is given a decent treatment in this product (more decent than The Sylvan Veil and DLC15A), the stats for the titans should have been explained more; the "25% chance of priest spells" in particular. What's the background for this? Why wasn't there a Monstrous Manual page with full stats and descriptions of titans?

2. The lands of Kernen and Blöde and their features are hardly described. They are described somewhat in the adventure, but not nearly enough (I'll get back to that). And while this product doesn't really ccontradict the earlier knowledge we have of Kern, it does fail to utilize DL12 and DL15, and to create a tapestry where DL12, DL15 and Rise of the Titans all connect to describe Kern. It feels like DL12 and DL15 is one version of Kern, Rise of the Titans on another.

3. Kern and Blöde are both described as nations with an unbroken ogre history from the time of the ancient ogres. This can't be true. Kern was certainly a part of the Istar empire at some point, and there is written evidence (Dwarven Kingdoms of Krynn, various timelines) that ogres were driven back even in the Khalkists by the dwarves of Thoradin before the Cataclysm. The writer also forgot to consider the effects of the Cataclysm. There were a few too many of the ancient ogre ruins and cities standing, considering how old they are and all that has happened in the meantime.

Before I talk about the adventure, I would like to comment on the map. There is a small map sheet (same size as the map in DLC15A) which depicts eastern central Ansalon including Blöde and Kern on one side, and two castles found in the adventure on the other. I was a bit disappointed by the wilderness map; it contains much less detail than the TotL, and is even on a smaller scale.

The adventure starts in Jennison, a city in Nordmaar which should have been described more in this adventure (all we get to know is there is an inn at the docks). The PCs are supposed to meet with a fleet of elven ambassadors (of Alhana), but most of the ambassadors are captured by minotaurs and sold to the ogres. As the PCs travel to Kern and later Blöde to find the elves, they get entangled with the titans and the situation in the ogre kingdoms.

This adventure is, like I have said, much better than The Sylvan Veil, and there are two main reasons: It is not that linear, and it has a great story, where the PCs are not just on a quest like they were in The Sylvan Veil, but have to investigate and find out the larger story behind the elves' disappearance.

The heroes can travel in Kern and Blöde, but too little info is provided for that kind of wanderings to work. The woods, plains and mountains are hardly described, and while the Blöde section does contain three or four tips on what creatures can be encountered, a full-fledged encounter table for both lands like the ones found on the back of the cards in Time of the Dragon would be great to give a feel of what kind of creatures live in those areas.

The cities and other specified places are mapped well, except for Dragon's Point and the slave pits there, both of which should have been mapped.

There is also something called the Giant's Road between Kern and Blöde. I am not sure about this concept, because if you look at most Ansalon maps it obviously must have been broken down and interrupted a lot more than was described during the years. There was a Cataclysm, there are roads and communications going from Taman Busuk to Khur, and the Khalkist Range is interrupted by lower hills where the road runs.

The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons system is treated decently, but not at all well enough. To accomodate SAGA, all randomness is 1-10, and the full range of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is not utilized when only "Strength or similar" checks are called for whenever a SAGA action appears in the text. Also, when PCs are dueling ogres in one portion of the adventure, the dueling is determined using dice and the contestants' Con score. The problem is, ogres are monsters and no Con is listed for them.

Lastly, I wonder why they have clung to the Acts and Scenes based adventure style for an adventure that does not fit into the concept. Because the heroes can travel a lot in Kern and Blöde, there could (and should) be more area descriptions and encounter areas. As it is, too many of the places players can, and often will, visit are barely covered or not covered at all because they take place between scenes. Also, I don't see why the "dungeon" maps (of the Khan's palace in Kernen, and Dauroth's citadel) can't be keyed with numbers or letters. As it is, with e.g. "entrance chamber" being stated on the map and the text, it is more difficult to connect the text to the room during play (this is also a problem with DLC15A). In a couple of places, the descriptions of the Khan's palace were vague and different to place on the map, and on Dauroth's citadel, there is no door or entrance into the part of the citadel that contains guest chambers, teaching room, Dauroth's chamber, and the cellar. Also, in the decription of the teaching room there is a door, but it doesn't say where the door leads. I suppose it leads to the stairs down to the cellar, but if so, why is there a door from the hallway to the stairs?

Anyway, you have to see through my nitpicking. This is really a good product. I would say that it is one of my favorite game products published since the introduction of the Fifth Age. We get a lot of ogre info, and the adventure is good. The titans are incredibly cool, so is the method of how they are created and sustained, not to mention the major implications of this method. Great stuff!

Review made Wednesday February 16th, 2000 on the newsgroup

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