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Hellfrost Region Guide 3: The Magocracy Review
Posted By Nick the Lemming On March 21, 2011 @ 10:29 am In RPGs | No Comments
The region guides for the Savage Worlds Hellfrost setting, with the exception of a couple which focus on non-geographical elements, comprise three discernible groups; “Evil” lands which have been overrun by the forces of the various villainous factions (the Liche Lands previously reviewed are a good example of this) and which are inimical to player groups; Border lands, such as the Freelands, where safe havens of civilization exist beside lurking dangers that threaten travelers; and “Civilized” nation states in the Hearthlands, where shadowy evil does lurk, but not in the same numbers as in the other places. The Magocracy is an example of the third category, and as such is a good location for WFRP-style Enemy Within type campaigns.
After a short introductory paragraph to set the scene, this pdf opens with a discussion on Social Hierarchy. This section goes over the three social strata in the Magocracy, being the Heahwisards (sorcerous nobles), the Honour Nobles (non-heahwisards who can offer something of use to the heahwisards), and Peasants (everyone else). As the name of the land suggests, the heahwisards rule the country. Honour nobles are usually military commanders or priests, though the titles conferred are symbolic and do not offer any real authority or power. A “Rules of the Realm” sidebar gives a few setting-related rules for Savage Worlds, mostly concerned with how social demographics in the Magocracy affects the Noble edge.
Next comes a section on Education, which really only affects those able to afford it, and following that, a brief section on Religion in the Magocracy, which centers on Maera, goddess of magic, which is not too surprising. A few other gods who have some worshipers in the land get a brief mention too, but as the patron goddess of the country, Maera gets the most information. The next section, on the Military of the Magocracy, covers organization, the use of magic by the military, and notable units. This is a quite lengthy section compared to some of the others, as it goes into quite a bit of detail concerning the make-up of the forces in each of the provinces of the country. A sidebar contains several new power edges that characters can have access to (not just those of the Magocracy). Further sidebars throughout the pdf contain more detail on the sect of Maera, and include several festivals and other holy days concerned with her sect, as well as offering outlines for prayers and suggested skill and edge foci for worshipers of Maera.
The next section is on Trade and Tribute, a shorter discussion on economics, including taxation, which includes brief note of relations with trading partners and neighboring countries. A similarly brief note on Magocracy Architecture, unsurprisingly mostly in the Anari style, leads into Major Locales, which describes several more places to visit in the Magocracy, expanding on those given in the Hellfrost Gazzeteer. One of these is a Sacred Place (see my review of Region Guide 1) devoted to Maera. A couple of Persons of Note are then described, without stat blocks so the GM can customize them to his or her particular needs, before finally ending with a section on Gods and Monsters, which features two new minor deities (Eyludr, the Herald of the Gods, and Hoarri, whose focus is divination) and two new creatures, the Mage-Bane, a possibly physical manifestation of the Siphoning, and the Moon Dog, said to be escaped puppies of Maera’s faithful hound Garm and possessing several magical abilities. A sidebar on the Heralds and a short description of the powers of the Staffs of the Mage-Princes completes the pdf.
Unlike the Liche Lands region guide, this pdf does not have a section concerning adventure ideas, or reasons why your characters would want to come here, but that does not mean this region is simply to be used as a base between adventures or simply as a background land where your character was born. As one of the Hearthlands, external danger is not immediate, and internal danger from Hellfrost creatures or the undead are not as prevalent as in border realms. It is a good location for intrigue-laden political campaigns, however, with around a dozen major heahwisard families controlling the land between them, all jockeying for position and power. The importance of mage-prince staffs means that patrons of adventure are easily found, since several are missing. Espionage campaigns would also fit neatly into the Magocracy.
As with all Hellfrost region guides, little of this guide is in the form of SW-related stat blocks, which means that the guide can easily be used by GMs using other systems for their campaigns. It also means that GMs using SW can customize the various people and places to match their own characters’ abilities and interests. In my last review, I mentioned that I’d have liked to have seen a smaller scale map with more detail for the region, and this still stands. Another possibility would have been to offer a floor-plan of a particular building (the Royal Library?) or type of building (a typical Anari home?). This was another good guide, but not one as immediately gripping as the Liche lands.
Style: The usual format, no artwork, the occasional typo, decent layout. 3 / 5.
Substance: Good for offering information on day to day Magocracy life, with several ideas throughout the different sections that would help in creating an intrigue-laden campaign, or, conversely, given the detail on provincial military, some kind of mass warfare campaign centered on an attempt to take the throne by force. Not as immediate with ideas for adventures or campaigns as the Liche Lands or other region guides, however. 3 / 5.
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