Monday, November 7, 2011

My Favorite Gaming Book

Note: The following was meant to be a review on how useful this 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons book could be to a 4th Edition gamer.  It turned into a  love letter.  I apologize.

Okay, so I've gotten hours, heck YEARS, of enjoyment from lots of different RPG book over the years.  I made build after build with my first PHB just for fun.  I poured over the 3rd Ed. Forgotten Realms source book learning about every detail of the setting, rejoicing at things I recognized from my trips through Balder's Gate 1 and 2.  Both The Epic Level Handbook and Deities and Demigods inspired me to design and plan grand campaigns (that never happened.  Boo.)  There have been many gaming books I have loved, but none so much as:

I can say, without any hesitation or irony, that the campaign I am currently running would not exist without this book.  I have read most of this book from cover to cover multiple times, made detailed notes concerning its contents, and reworked entire plot-lines to better fit the events of this guide.  It is, for all intents and purposes, my campaign bible.

I like Eberron.  I think there are lots of good stories that can be told in this setting, and have tried to do so more than once.  I heavily adapted The Red Hand of Doom 3rd ed. module to Eberron and later ran a Noir-Crime drama set in Sharn.  I played in a number of play-by-post Eberron games.  But when I first read the Forge of War, I was instantly inspired by a very specific vision for a campaign.  That's what every good campaign book should be able to do.  Here's why I love it:

Chapter 1: The Course of the War
This chapter is amazing.  It's like a history book that takes you through the entire war, calling out key events, key people, and exploring the roots of the war.  It is a straight-up fun read.  I've used this to create a timeline of events that has been informing events in my campaign, especially in the Kingdom Building phase of it.  The closest thing to statistics or ANYTHING "crunchy" given in this chapter are lists of the types of units and how many of them participated in the major fights of the campaign.  The maps that show how borders changed every few years are also useful.  Since most Eberron cartography includes the Mournland, having actual maps of Cyre is very useful.  This chapter fills out all of the history, the grudges, and the motivations that make "modern" day Eberron tick, giving players a deep well to draw on for character histories.  In addition, it gives an awesome backdrop upon which to run military and war-time campaigns.

Chapter 2: A Guide to the Last War
If the first chapter gives you the background, this chapter introduces you to the players.  If ever I need to make a character or fill out a detailed PC who was around and active during the last war, I can just flip to the appropriate page in this chapter and learn nearly everything I need to know about what was important to that nation/faction/or group during the war.

Chapter 3: Heroes of the Last War
I admit, this chapter is full of rules stuff for 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons that I never got a chance to use back when I played 3.5, and will likely never use in the future.  Chapters 1 and 2 are the reasons I love this book, except for one little thing: the Magic Item Sets section which contains the War Regalia of Galifar.  This magic item set was one of the things that helped cement this campaign.  The chance to have Prince Oargev, the King with no Country, searching for the Regalia that proves he's worthy to wear the crown of all Five Nations? Awesome.  So I have remade this Regalia, using inspiration from this book, for my own campaign.  I will share it soon!

Chapter 4: The Last War Campaign
Could I run the game I'm running without this chapter? Sure.  That said, this chapter has offered my some great advice on how to run this game.  Things discussed in this chapter helped me form the idea that Heroic Tier will be historical, Paragon Tier in traditional "modern" Eberron, and Epic tier will change the face of Eberron forever.  It also made me realize that years can pass between adventures, and that's okay.  That said, I knew my high-powered characters would want something to do in those years, so I invented Kingdom Building.

I sold most of my 3.5 books a couple of years ago.  The Forge of War was not sold, nor do I anticipate selling it any time soon.  It is the foundation of my campaign, and explains the deep motivations that have run the world of Eberron.  I highly recommend this book to ANY DM who is running a game in Eberron with any sort of depth.  I also recommend it to ANY PLAYER who is playing a character whose back-story even touches on the last war a little bit.  Chapter 3 is the only part of the book deeply rooted in 3.5, and in all honesty, it was never the reason to get this book.  Chapters 1-2 alone would be worth the price on the cover, and Chapter 4 is a great bonus.  If you play or plan to play Eberron, or just want an entertaining fantasy-war history to read, buy this book.

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