העמותה למשחקי תפקידים בישראל (אתר היסטורי)Review: Heirs to Merlin / יוסי גורוביץ - העמותה למשחקי תפקידים בישראל (אתר היסטורי)
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Review: Heirs to Merlin / יוסי גורוביץ

Review: Heirs to Merlin

Heirs to Merlin: The Stonehenge Tribunal
Ars Magica Tribunal Book
Written by David Chart
Published by Atlas Games
160+ pages, color cover art, b&w interior art, foldout map
22.95$
*****

This is the fourth tribunal book for Ars Magica, and the best one so far. It covers England and Wales up to 1220, 1220 being the "official" beginning date for Ars Magica sagas.

Ars Magica is set in Mythic Europe, which divides the storyguides into two very broad camps: those who play in Europe with magic thrown in, and those who stress the "mythic" in Mythic Europe. David Chart is a historian; as such, he leans towards the historical camp; and yet, he manages to do an excellent job of combining the two.

The book begins with an introduction, which explains how to use it best. It's there where Chart drops the bomb: there are no gaming stats in the book. None whatsoever. He gives two main reasons: one, the book is intended for both storyguides and players; the information within HtM is supposed to be common knowledge for player characters. Second, it allows the storyguide to set his own power level. As he dryly says, "Stats for characters like Henry III are largely irrelevant. Most player characters could kill him easily: he's a twelve years old mundane. He's also the King of England, and that's what counts". Well said. The place formerly devoted to stats is now filled with more character information, which is as it should be in a game that prides itself on its storytelling.

The second chapter deals with history. Unlike earlier tribunal books, this time the history of the Order of Hermes is enmeshed with that of the mundanes, and is detailed in the same chapter. It's also a relief to see that England's history is not all a part of some demon's plot It's clear that Atlas isn't White Wolf, which put demons wherever it could. The chapter begins with pre-Roman days, and reaches to 1220, and is well written.

Chapter 3 deals with the life of the peasantry in painstaking detail. Read this chapter and understand that all the New Age nonsense about the "happy life of the medieval peasant" is precisely that: nonsense. Life was nasty, brutish and short. It's a depressing read, but it's essential. Chapter 4 does the same for town life, and details some of the larger towns in England. Chapter 5 gives details of trade, travel and industry.

Chapter 6 is dedicated to one of the two great powers of medieval Europe: the Church. Highly informative (it taught even me a few things), it is also written in an engrossing way. Chapter 7 details the nobility, though less emphasis is put on it than on the church (which is, frankly, more interesting.)

Chapter 8 deals with law and government, and is extremely funny; I would dub it "twenty plus ways to torment your players". All sorts of lawsuits are details, with adventure ideas by the ton. It also helps bring the medieval world to life in an unusual way. Probably the best chapter in the book.

Chapter 9 deals with Wales, and is the only disappointment of this book. It is far too short, there's not enough information, and there's not even a guide as to how pronounce those awful-sounding Welsh names. A pity.

Chapter 10 is dedicated to the Order of Hermes, and it manages to paint nicely a picture of a fractured tribunal, on the brink of earth-shaking events. Long term players of Ars Magica know that the Stonehenge tribunal is considered chaotic; this chapter explains why, and why this is changing. The meat of the chapter are the NPCs, which are very well done (we even get to see, wonder of wonders, that rarest of beasts, the incompetent magus!).

Chapter 11 is devoted to politics, both mundane and hermetic. I wouldn't say too much, except to say that the situation in 1220s England isfluid. The king is a minor, the country has just emerged from a civil war, the most powerful man in the country is the Papal legate, many nobles are dissatisfied and the local branch of the Order of Hermes is slowly transforming. As they say, may you live in interesting times.

Chapters 12 and 13 detail the legends of the Tribunal and its mythic places, respectively. Both are rather short – too short, for my tastes – and not all that inspired. A glossary and index follow, and a good, long bibliography seals the book.

All in all, this is an excellent book, a credit to Atlas. Throughout the book, quotes from the tales of the English saints provide background text, and there are dozens of adventure seeds sprinkled liberally throughout. What's more, those adventure seeds provide the medieval feel which so many other so-called "medieval" sourcebooks lack.

Furthermore, since there are no stats in the book, it is perfect for everyone who wishes to play in 13th century England – even if they don't play Ars Magica. Every GM who ever dreamed of playing in a truly medieval setting is encouraged to give this book look.

פורסם ב21 בנובמבר 2008 בקטגוריה סקירות על-ידי jerusalem | לתגובות - בפורום | Tags: ,

 

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