" ...It certainly delivers more than expected. I half-expected it to make me breakfast in the morning, and it's entirely possible that the Ravenloft Gazetteer is responsible for the extra five bucks I found in my boot this morning. "
Title: Ravenloft Gazetteer Volume II by Sword & Sorcery Studios (White Wolf)
Format: Ravenloft D20 Setting Supplement
Reviewing Monkey: Genghis Kong
The Hype: Due to the great depth and detail of the Ravenloft world, the Ravenloft Core Rulebook could only give small fractions of descriptions for the many dread realms within the setting. In order to expand upon the popular gothic horror setting, Sword & Sorcery has supplemented these thumbnail sketches with their Gazetteer series, each volume containing a greater breadth of information on four particular Domains within Ravenloft. The Series is continued with Volume II and so more of Ravenloft's dark secrets are revealed. Are these secrets worth knowing? Read on, my Monkeys, and clutch tightly to your RPG Buddy's hand as you cross the borders--we wouldn't want you getting lost in the Mists.
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Drama: Gazetteer II details four adjacent Core Realms in Ravenloft--genteel Lamordia, enigmatic Darkon, desperate Falkovnia, and the desolate Necropolis. Each Domain is expanded upon and described carefully, discussing each major settlement as well as geography, culture, and noteworthy citizens. This may sound somewhat dull, but each entry is cleverly written as the field reports of a traveling scholar documenting the differences between the Dread Domains for a mysterious benefactor (who is in this volume revealed to be Azalin Rex himself). The plot is a continuation from Gazetteer I, and the books themselves are in fact annotated copies of the Doomsday Gazetteers, canonical tomes which characters themselves could stumble upon to learn more of the Dread Realms. This gives the entries a more entertaining tone while still making them informative and useful for in-game purposes. The history of each Domain and its Dark Lord are expanded upon, revealing how they rose to power and became a part of the Dread Realms. The reading is fascinating, the supplement seeming more like a story than hard text, and this monkey found himself intrigued by the plot involving the unnamed scholar and his "Doomsday Gazetteer" project. Once again Sword and Sorcery delivers on story, reaffirming what an excellent choice they were to publish the new Ravenloft material. 5 out of 5.
Layout and Presentation: The Gazetteer is laid out in a very organized, intuitive fashion. There is a Foreword by the fictional author to give tone and plot to the work, after which each of the four Domain reports receives its own chapters, and finally the Attached Notes for the DM's Appendix where hard rules and DM-only information is presented. Each Domain's report is formatted in a specific order, being Landscape, History, Populace, the Realm, Sites of Interest, and Parting Thoughts. There are numerous sidebars detailing specific systems information as well as plot hooks and "Dread Possibilities," those being interesting ideas that a specific DM can either use or discard. The artwork ranges from great to fair depending on the artist. Talon Dunning's work is, as always, fantastic--he is suited perfectly to the setting. There is a preponderance of uninspired Bob Giadrosich work, although while he isn't a particularly brilliant artist, his work isn't terrible either. Tom Biondolillo's artwork is too heavily shaded and filled with awkward angles and shapes, but this unattractive style actually seems well suited to depicting life in Falkovnia, so it is merely unexceptional rather than bad. Overall, the book is well designed, Talon's art is memorable and worth a second look, and searching for information should only take a single flip-through for familiarization. 4 out of 5
Playability: If your Ravenloft campaign is set in Darkon, Lamordia, Falkovnia, or (Ezra help you!) Necropolis, you really need this book. The descriptions of the various Dread Realms in the Ravenloft core book are mere thumbnails, but these are the real deal, giving you all the information you could honestly need to run a detailed, accurate adventure in the northern Core. It is among the ultimate in DM tools for managing such a campaign, and a player's best friend for understanding his environment. Take it from the Conqueror Ape--if you aren't using a Gazetteer as a reference, you aren't playing properly. 4.5 out of 5.
Desired Content: This book tells you almost everything you could possibly need to know about the Dread Realms. It gives common words, culture, secrets, geography… heck, it even tells you who the Dark Lord is and why, and who the noteworthy citizens are. It tells you how to play a hero from one of these four Domains, gives you plot ideas and hooks to get your game started, and even includes new spells and magic items for use in your campaign. For a book that's basically supposed to be a travel guide to four Domains, it certainly delivers more than expected. I half-expected it to make me breakfast in the morning, and it's entirely possible that the Ravenloft Gazetteer is responsible for the extra five bucks I found in my boot this morning. 5 out of 5.
|Sword & Sorcery Studios has gone out of their way to prove that they can be trusted to print a quality D20 product for any style of gamer…and they've worked twice as hard to prove that they deserved the license to Ravenloft when Wizards has kept all of the other classic D&D settings. The new line of Ravenloft Gazetteers is unquestionably an invaluable reference to players and DMs alike, or even to armchair fans who just want to know more about the fascinating Ravenloft setting. So just buy the book already, because you know you're going to need it sooner or later (even if it's just to trace the pretty Talon Dunning pictures inside for your own character sheet).|
The Good: Massive detail presented in an interesting fashion, Talon Dunning, and fantastic reference guide potential.
The Bad: The other art isn't as stunning, and if you don't like to read much, you'll probably miss out on some of the better parts of the book.
The Overall Ugly: If you play Ravenloft, you are going to use this book.
What it's Worth: Market