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Heart of Shadow
[1-58994-183-7]
$14.95
Publisher: EDGE Studio
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by Arnon R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/15/2007 17:41:47

This supplement to the Midnight campaign setting turns our attention to the place were all the suffering of Eredane comes from; the place where the Shadow’s essence is strongest, where resistance is nonexistent, and where odrendor, the chosen of Izrador, the orcs, come from: the land beyond the Fortress Wall.

As most Midnight supplement, this one too is a 64-page, black and white soft-cover. The full-color front cover depicts a cavalry of orcs on large evil looking boars going through the desolate northlands, giving one hints as to what is inside, as well as telling us upfront: this is orc-land. Enter at your own risk! The interior art is, as usual in the Midnight products, excellent with its dark themes and showing us equal measures of those living in this land, vistas of the land itself, and of course, the hardship that it is to live in this inhospitable land.

The book has four chapters:

Chapter 1 describes the Marchlands, the area immediately north of the Fortress Wall and the land where the Dornish houses once ruled, and the Marchland itself is divided into four different areas from west to east. These areas are excellently described with vivid language, usually telling us how the place was before it was corrupted by the shadow, how it was corrupted, and how it stand today; along with these descriptions, particular areas and special characters, along with dangers that one might encounter while traveling through the northland, are given. From the horrors of Udasha’s Grove in the Withered Woods, to the first and greatest orc warren of them all Gasterfang where the orcs promised their souls to Izrador, to the Eye of the Shadow where the oldest Mirror of them all is and a thousands of years old legate experiments with souls far away from the eyes of the fractured and intrigue-ridden Order of the Shadow.

This chapter also describes how several tribes have migrated south during this last age, moving to greener pasture, and tells us of the great hostilities between some of the greater tribes, each one with its own allies, and how this might easily grow into a civil war. Another hostility that is described, just bellow the surface and just as dangerous, is the one between the Kurasatch udareen, Izrador’s mother-wives, the priestesses and leaders of the orcs, and the legates of the Order. Both sides resent each others power, but none dare act on that resentment… yet.

Lastly are described those who do not follow the Shadow: a lone warrior that hunts the orc; a clan of Dorns known as the Pale Dorns who several thousands of years ago decided to hide right under the Shadow’s nose; and an old orc who says that something about how all this was is being waged stinks.

Chapter 2 goes deeper into the north from the Weal, through the Vale of Tears and then plummets into the Scar, the place where Izrador’s crushed body fractures the earth. This chapter is as descriptive and interesting as the first chapter, full of the dangers of traveling, and living, in this hostile land; from the Rime Witches of the Spire of Black Ice (shown on the cover), to the Pit of the Cold Mother and her growing army of ice-cold undead. Once the Scar is reached, the presence of the dark god is all around, and this fractured and corrupt land is portrayed very vividly, with both physical dangers of enemies and mad spirits, as well as mental difficulties that one should expect from nearing the grave of a Dark God. A description is given o n how to reach deep into the Tomb of God Flesh through the Black Chantry, the Lichgate, and other difficulties; but such an accomplishment is of such epic proportions that it is not really expect to happen, and it is (as usually in Midnight products) left up to the DM to decided how the players, if at all, the can affect anything about this ultimate enemy.

Chapter 3 is all about the denizens that have been mentioned and described throughout the past two chapters. Five new creatures, four new templates (such as Cold Ones, and the Ghulam, slaves of the Zordrafin Corith), and three major NPCs are described and stated here. And as for the NPCs, some more of their story is revealed here.

Chapter 4 has a new Prestige Class, the orc priestesses, the Kurasatch Udareen, which is very nice and, of course, fitting to the setting even though it would probably come to play only by the DM with NPCs, the fact that several new spells that were apparently written for this PrC are missing doesn’t help much. The second part of this chapter is the Taint rules which are very deadly, for you are damned if you get them (and continue getting more and more) and damned if you loose them, and by damned I mean: you get killed. This dark theme that Taint will kill you either way, might be very fitting to the dark setting of Midnight, but is very punishing and might be too much. All creatures suffer from taint, and some might even have to apply one of the new templates presented in chapter 3, but of special note are the channelers. They have special rules, and gain a taint pool of spell energy that may be used in conjunction with their normal Spell Energy pool and has the special ability to not cost more while casting in the area of a Mirror. Catch is, every time a tainted spell energy is used, the channeler must succeed at a Will save or gain more taint. Tainted Channeler also might start getting special abilities (“good” things) and conditions (bad things) that mark them as tainted, and this coupled with the tainted spell energy pool they gain might make channelers who embrace the taint very powerful being… at a high cost, of course.

Throughout the book there are numerous “letters” that were supposedly sent by a junior legate to his master. These letters inform what the legate has learned about the various orc tribes in the region, their numbers, allies and enemies, and other facts that add life to these tribes, as well as giving us glimpses into the personality of this Brother Corlian who supposedly wrote these letters. These are very well written, and one of my favorite parts of this book.

In conclusion, this is a very good book. It is very well written and interesting, and gives DMs enough information to run their party through this harsh land, or, for those so inclined, to run an evil campaign comprised of orcs, legates, or any other minion of the Shadow.

For those not running Midnight unless you might want to look at the new creatures and rules, and lets face it there are plenty of books out there offering much more monsters and rules, there is not much here to find. This product is for Midnight DMs who want to expand their knowledge of this area of Eredane, the Heart of the misery of the land. You will not be disappointed.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Heart of Shadow
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