Reviews of 'Holy Orders of the Stars'
Reviews of 'Holy Orders of the Stars'
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Holy Orders of the Stars is an amazing book! It's as simple as that. But what makes this Dragonlance sourcebook so good? Well let's start from the very beginning.
Chapter 1: Priests of Ansalon – This chapter starts off with a description of different ways in which a character can enter the various Holy Orders of the Stars and what being a cleric of one of the gods of Krynn entails. This part of Chapter 1 really gives players some insight and some nice guidelines regarding how their character might have joined a Holy Order and it is a must-read for any player who wishes to explore the religious side of Dragonlance.
Then Chapter 1 moves on to give the reader a very detailed description of how the various races view the gods. This part is very interesting because it presents the gods in many different ways. This is an excellent roleplaying tool for both DMs and players and it adds depth and variety to each deity. Something I really like about this part of Chapter 1 is that the designers haven't just put the humans into one box and generalized. Human perception of the gods is as just as varied internally as when compared to the other races. Regional heritage is the key here.
Next up are the Prestige Classes - one for each of the gods, excluding the three gods of magic, which totals 18 Prestige Classes. Granted, I'm not a game mechanics genius, so I can't really make a qualified assumption as to the crunchy part of the Prestige Classes. What I can say is that these Prestige Classes will add depth to any Dragonlance campaign. The Prestige Classes seem like natural extensions of a cleric serving the god in question. The Dark Pilgrim of Takhisis is part assassin, part seductress and part cleric; the Bright Warden of Paladine is a spark of hope in a dark world with anti-undead abilities and protective properties; the Coinsword of Shinare is a mercenary who benefits from honoring any deals he makes. Every Prestige Class emphasizes the portfolio of the god.
Chapter 2: Prayer, Spells, & Holy Relics – You guessed it. This chapter deals mainly with divine magic. Let's focus on the spells first. One of the things I found very interesting is the way the spells in the book are divided between Spells of Light, Spells of Gray, and Spells of Darkness. I found this division rather intriguing as it reflects the emphasis that the Dragonlance setting puts on the concept of good, evil, and neutrality.
The spells themselves are very well done. As mentioned previously I'm not a game mechanics genius but I like the concept of all the spells and they seem balanced. Two spells made me jump with glee. The Timeless Slumber spell is actually the one used by the dragons in the period between the Third Dragon War and the War of the Lance while False Vision is the spell used by Skull Knights to plant a false vision into aspiring Dark Knights in the years following the Chaos War.
The Holy Relics come next. This is a diverse collection of items, ranging from horns to dusts to kelp ropes. Most of them are tied to a specific god by origin, but most of them should be usable to any adventuring party.
Among the artifacts presented at the end of Chapter 2 can be mentioned the Kender Spoon of Turning and Miceram, the Crown of Power – both iconic Dragonlance artifacts.
Chapter 3: The Gods of Krynn – This is what most of us have been waiting for. A detailed look at the pantheon we all think we know so well and yet ask so many questions about. The chapter starts out with a description of the cosmology of Krynn. The Dome of Creation, The Abyss, The Hidden Vale, and the Gray are given some detail here but nothing about game mechanics. That might leave some with new questions, but personally I like the fact that the designers have left out such things as game mechanics. To me Dragonlance isn't about planar travel and the various planes should remain a mystery to the characters.
Next up is a look at the nature of the gods themselves and a new concept as far as deities go – Aspects. To quote the Holy Orders of the Stars an Aspect "is a portion of a god's divine essence clothed in mortality." An aspect allows a deity to interact with mortals and each aspect represents a side of the god. For those of you have read Amber and Ashes this will make a lot of sense, but all of us have seen images of Takhisis as a Temptress or a five-headed dragon. These are aspects of the Dark Queen, representing a side of the deity's nature. As far as game mechanics go, aspects are created by using the Aspect template.
New domains follow the section regarding aspects. These are Charm, Commerce, Madness, Nobility, Planning, Rune, Time, Tyranny, and Undeath. Some of them have been featured in previous D&D sourcebooks with varying degrees alteration for Holy Orders of the Stars.
After the domains we are treated to very detailed descriptions of the gods. Each entry includes History/Relationships (goes into detail about the history of the god, and alliances/enmities between gods), [insert god] In Your Campaign (gives suggestions regarding use of the god in question in a DM's campaign), [insert god]'s Aspects (which describes the aspects typically used by the god), and [insert god]'s Heralds and Allies. (which describe messengers used by the god and creatures summoned by Planar Ally spells). After each description is a sample write-up of an aspect as it might appear in a campaign. The entries are packed with information about the gods while still leaving room for some mystery and they should be a valuable resource for any DM.
After the entries describing the deities there is roughly half a page dedicated to the High God and Chaos. This section should answer a lot of questions people might have. Following this section is two and a half pages about the children of the gods, including write-ups of Artha the Foul, Jiathuli, and example Beast Lords (I was rather surprised that Bast wasn't the example Beast Lord. I'd never heard of Harkunos the Boar).
Chapter 4: Holy Orders of the Stars – As the title of this chapter might imply, this deals with the various Holy Orders dedicated to the gods. Never before have the Holy Orders received as much attention as is the case in this sourcebook (at least not that I know of)! Each Holy Order is given roughly two pages (give or take a paragraph or two). Sections such as History of the Church, The Church Today, Places of Worship, Cleric Training, Preferred Vestments, Prayers and Rites, Holy Days, Quests and Tasks, Allies, Enemies, and Mysticism and Magic all combine to give the reader a very detailed view of every Order. One of the things I found very interesting indeed is the section about Mysticism and Magic in which each Order's views on these subjects is discussed. After each entry the reader is given a sample write-up of a typical cleric of the Holy Order in question. The chapter ends with a section detailing worship of false gods, which should be very helpful for DMs who wish to add that element to their campaigns.
Chapter 5: Creatures – The final chapter of the book provides the reader with 3 divine templates. The Divine Messenger is a template which can be added to any animal, magical beast, plant, or vermin. We finally have some game mechanics for creatures such as the White Stag of Paladine (which is one of the sample Divine Messengers presented in the book). The Spirit Dragon is the soul of a dragon whose responsibilities keep it from moving on, while the Tenacious Soul represents mortals who have been made immortal by divine intervention (Lord Toede anyone?).
Sidebars – Info, info, info! The sidebars in this book are packed with the stuff. Everything from non-cleric (bards, blackguards, druids, rangers, and paladins) classes and their affiliations with the Holy Orders to the reconstruction of the Citadel of Light to a letter from Mistress Jenna concerning the Beloved of Chemosh. Amazing stuff!
Thumbs Up – A book packed from cover to cover with detailed descriptions of the gods and their mortal servants. The layout of the book is nice, and the contents are excellent. Some of the artwork is amazing. For me Ms. Meyer and Mr. Engle are the future of Dragonlance artwork! Pieces such as the ones made for the Dark Pilgrim of Takhisis and Bright Warden of Paladine are absolutely fantastic! And the Death of Takhisis, which was drawn by Ms Meyer, simply blew me away. This sourcebook carries on the Dragonlance setting and emphasizes what I usually say – The Dragonlance setting has never been more alive! The sheer volume of information will be a tremendous aid for any DM.
Thumbs Down – These are very minor grievances. I would have liked to see some more material on historical events such as the All Saints War and the Cataclysm (as seen from the gods' point of view). Except for the artists mentioned above I was a bit disappointed by the artwork in the book. But then I'm very picky when it comes to artwork.
All in all an amazing job by the people involved in the making of this fantastic book! Keep up the good work! You guys are doing an amazing job!
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