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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

RPG Review Digest: Forgotten Realms, Battlestar Galactica, LOT5R

by Ken Newquist / September 7, 2008

Since I mentioned last week that I thought the RPG blogging community should do more reviews, I thought it might be a good idea to follow-up on that and see what's available this week. It turns out it's a good week for reviews, with a slew having been posted for the new D&D 4th Edition Forgotten Realms campaign book. There are also reviews of the new 4E DM screen, a Legend of the Five Rings source book, and the Battlestar Galactica RPG.

I also came across the blog post "Where To Get You Some RPG Reviews", which runs down the best places to find role-playing game reviews on the web.

D&D 4th Edition

Opinions on Forgotten Realms 4th Edition vary greatly, but given that it's a 4E book, you knew that was going to happen, right? For the most part, opinions seem to break along the same lines as 4E itself; those who view the Realm's exhaustive complexity hate the new edition's random retconning and apocalyptic redesigning, while those looking from a break from said complexity welcome the celestial and terrestrial house cleaning.

The most objective (and largely positive) review that I read was Martin Rayla's over at Gnome Stew: 4th Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide Review: Big Changes, Good Book, Crappy Map Martin presents a comprehensive chapter-by-chapter review, comparing the book to its 1st and 3rd edition iterations, outlining the major changes to Forgotten Realms (and they truly are major, involving the death of gods, merging of worlds, and much, much more) and raging against some truly awful cartography. Also, he kicks off what will be a recurrent theme: the book's sad excuse for an index (which is not labeled as an index, but rather "a source of inspiration.")

RPG Blog II has "A Thoroughly Incomplete Review of Forgotten Realms 4E" offers a hodgepodge review from a Greyhawk fan's perspective. The general sentiment is thumbs down for those who loved the realms as is, thumbs up for those who don't mind it being completely remade in 4E's image.

Worlds in a Handful of Dice minces no words expressing their dislike for the new campaign guide in A Rant and a Review: Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. From shuffling the heavenly pantheons to turning Abeir-Toril into two separate worlds, to the Breaking of the Weave, there's little that they like. If you're a diehard Realms fan, then you need to check out this review.

The Art of the Near TPK has a short review of the Dungeon Master's Screen. It scores major points for its thick, sturdy construction, which seems to be a trend these days with new screens. I haven't seen any, but in theory I like the concept: after years of flimsy, easy-to-knock-over screens, it'd be nice to have one with a little more substance to it. Critical hits has a review of The Treasure of Talon Pass, Wizards of the Coast's Free RPG Day offering (now available as a download from the WotC D&D site). It's apparently a straightforward dungeoncrawl with some underwhelming combat encounters.

Other Games

It's not all Dungeons & Dragons. The Life and Times of a Phillipine Gamer has a review of the Emerald Empire supplement for the Legend of the Five Rings RPG while the Geek Gazzette blog has a quick review of one of my favorite game: the Battlestar Galactica RPG has James Gillen's review of the Star Wars: Saga Edition. He doesn't nearly as much as I did. Finally there's my own review of the Freedom City Atlas: Pyramid Plaza PDF supplement for Green Ronin's Mutants & Masterminds superhero game.


I think reading those FR reviews has made me want to buy the 3e version more. Two of the really telling issues are the lack of cultural information (THIS is the real meat of a setting -- not extra rules or crunch -- for me) and the shake-up/retconning of the Gods list, as well as the paring down. I think the idea of "too many gods" is sort of like saying there are too many pizza restauraunts: if you don't like Pizza, the fact that there are a lot should have no effect on you; but for the rest of us the amount of variety and choice makes us happier -- even when there's overlap. Its sort of the difference between Christianity's approach to divinity and the Romans. For christians, there is only ONE god, and everyone else's divinities are at best other aspects of God, or at worst figments of their imagination. Opposed to this is the Roman approach, where they (historically) acceppted other cultures gods (to the point of incorporating them into their own pantheon -- Mars FREX may have originated as a Sabine god, and Minerva was adopted from the Etruscans) even if they did not worship them therselves. Sure, Zoroaster may exist, but its Jupiter Maximus for me, thanks...


I think it has an effect on non-pizza lovers in so much as they might say ... "I don't want to live in a place with so many damn pizza joints" (which is a criticism I've heard of the Lehigh Valley BTW).

I'd like to borrow Brendan's 4E Realms book at some point, just to check it out, but honestly I'd much rather they had created a new world from scratch, building on the "candles in the darkness" theme of 4E, then savaged the Forgotten Realms. A setting with such a deep, rich and well-loved (at least by some) history really deserves better.

Oh, and major bonus points for working Roman polytheism into your post. :)

Good review. I think that you hit it about right; there's clunky bits to the rules, but the really awesome part of that game is the Plot Points mechanic. I loved players having the ability to modify the rules, but I also enjoyed how it really got people to come out of there shells. The nature of Plot Points means you really want to use your Advantages/Hinderances because bringing them into play is likely to yield you points, which you need to save your bacon.

More and better examples would be great (as would another source book or two) but all in all it's a great game.

I know this is a pretty old post, but I thought it was worth commenting to say that while reviews are polarized about how many changes - arbitrary or not - were made to the campaign world for the sake of newcomers, I dislike the 4E FR books simply because I find them useless even to a newcomer.

I don't have the advantage of an adolescence spent with Forgotten Realms and attempts to even try to wrestle with it is worse than trying to make sense of X-Men continuity. Yet, despite the fact that they've tried to make it 'newcomer-friendly' I feel like a lot of information is being imparted so sloppily as to sound condescending rather than accessible.

I mention this because I'm about to sit in on an RPGA LFR game and I don't want to be the guy running a paladin that worships a God I know nothing about. I started D&Ding with 4E Eberron and I've already had to deal with canon lawyers who know less about the setting than I do - I did eventually go back to read 3.5 Eberron materials - and I don't want to deal with people who know MORE.

I'm aware that WotC has improved their supplements since the release of the FR materials, but this is really a sloppy book. The "ten things" on pgs. 4-5 of the Player's Guide are incomprehensible gobbledygook and make no effort to guide newcomers easily into the world.

Just thought it was a 'different' opinion worth appending to this post's comments page.