Sunday, May 28, 2017

Initial Thoughts: The Lost Lands: Stoneheart Valley

I am four sessions into my first Lost Lands campaign using the Swords and Wizardry Complete rules.Despite a few learning pains, I am enjoying it! The rules are lightweight which allows flexibility during play, though there are a few instances I needed more defined rules. We originally started with three players but now rocking a full party of five.

The campaign is set in Frog God Games’ Lost Lands setting. I pitched this setting as a midway point between the decline of magic such as Tolkien and the high fantasy of Forgotten Realms. The setting intrigued me and with the prospect of a new game group I bought The Lost Lands: Stoneheart Valley based on suggestions as a great induction to both the ruleset and setting. In later posts, I’ll post my thoughts on actual play experiences. But for now I wanted to share my thoughts based on initial read through of the whole book. Note this is based on the PDF.

The book breaks down into four main sections. The three are previously published adventures updated to conform to FFG’s new setting. They are The Wizard’s Amulet, The Crucible of Freya, and The Tomb of Abysthor. The Wizard’s Amulet is very linear but intentionally. It is designed as an introduction for both players as well as GMs. There is a monster encounter that even experienced GMs will find useful. The Crucible of Freya presents a followup adventure but is not as linear and can be played with more flexibility.This adventure also includes a small town that can be used as a starting hub for adventures. It includes NPCs, a few locations, and a number of hooks intended to entice the party to stay a bit and explore the countryside. This alone should offer at least a handful of gaming nights.

The Tomb of Abysthor is a dungeon location near the city of Bard’s Gate. There is plenty here for multiple nights of exploration. Be warned, this is where the challenge level gets particularly nasty and I suggest warning new players that blindly exploring the dungeon level by level is ill advised. There are a number of new items and spells found in the dungeon with associated new rules located in the final section.

The quantity of artwork in the book seems a bit light, though much that does exist is phenomenal. There are a number of instances where the artwork presents an opportunity help create the scene. A number of times, I snipped the picture out and used it for this purpose. The other big standout are the maps which are easy to read and more importantly include both keyed and unkeyed. This is great if you're using the maps on a virtual table or for actual handouts. The only negative with the maps is the lack of a real regional map, a downfall if you're using this book to introduce your players to the Lost Lands.

Overall, the book is a compelling read. Full of usable material even if the learn to crawl before you walk approach the book takes is a turnoff. Both the town of Fairhill and the Tomb of Abysthor offers plenty of adventure hooks to keep parties entertained for weeks. And it is wrapped up in an affordable package. My only complaint is that I wish there was a small gazetteer of the Lost Lands included. As the book aims more at new players, I think not including an overview of the world and some of its nuances is a missed opportunity. However, I still recommend GMs grabbing a copy of this book for their collections.

Stay tuned throughout the year as I plan on posting thoughts on each section as I play through them with my play group.


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