Game: Discovering Dusters
Publisher: Eilfin Publishing
Series: Undiscovered: The Quest for Adventure
Review Dated: 22nd, December 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
Value is relative. Discovering Dusters is a supplement for Elfin’s Undiscovered: The Quest for Adventure and as such is a far rarer commodity than A.N. Other’s Guide to d20. Without meaning disrespect to d20 supplements (and publishers) I can safely point out that there is no shortage of them. On the other hand, while Eilfin does support Undiscovered, new products for the line are a welcome treat.
You’ve about 82 pages for your US $7.50. You’ve about 82 pages because you’ve always got to slice off a few for the cover and increasingly common adverts in the back. That’s still great value for money though – the sort of bang for your buck that only PDFs can offer. It’s also worth noting the quality artwork here in Discovering Dusters. I feel decent artwork is often the first to go (rather, never achieved in the first place) as the smaller publishers look to produce cost effective products. Eilfin’s always done fantastically well with the illustrations and they continue to do so here.
The supplement’s full title can be read as Discovering Dusters (Bonus: Shaman Skills). It’s the shaman option that takes up most of the page space. It’s the shaman option that leads onto totems and spirits – as you’d expect shamans to do – and we’ve about 40 pages for this. We’ve about 10 pages to describe the role of the shaman in the duster tribes.
You can do the maths. That leaves about 30 pages left for the Dusters.
We’ve the secret history of the Dusters – not even fully known by the Dusters themselves – told to us by Gwydion. This isn’t unusual for an Eiflin supplement; Gwydion’s a handy narrator for all sorts of stuff. I have a bee in my bonnet when it comes to game setting background that’s suspiciously like an author’s campaign told with the players’ favourite bits in the forefront. Oh, I don’t mind publishers basing games on campaigns (or even play testing them!) but I think they should be written up with emphasis on what the neutral reader is most likely to find interesting. In this instance I found it hard to care what the matriarch of the would-become Desert Dusters got up to and was more interested in the Machiavellian plotting of the demons and the sudden disinterest of the dragons. The origin story flips back and forth between a macro view and a micro view without warning. That said I really do think Eilfin’s writing talent is maturing and improving. I really didn’t care for the garrulous style of Undiscovered but here in the origin story where the writing is as verbose as it gets in Dusters Discovered it’s not too bad.
There are stats for Plains and Desert Dusters. The Undiscovered has lovely little spider-web designs that graphically show the peaks and troughs of the racial attributes. It’s good to see that that sort of detail hasn’t been skimped out of the supplement. In addition to the Plains Dusters (who can transform into snakes and miniatures amphiteres) and the Desert Dusters (who can transform into sand snakes and small drakes) we’ve rules for half Plain Dusters and half Desert Dusters as well as the rare human-Duster half-breeds the Dravers.
Discovering Dusters looks at Duster society – when do the children begin to manifest their shape-shifting powers, when do they begin to hunt and that sort of information. This is what I want from a supplement about such a popular race as the Dusters. It’s a useful section but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the supplement was simply going through the motions. I was much more impressed with what comes later. We’ve got a few pages of Duster script. Eilfin have carefully stylised squiggles, their translation and even sound. One scissor like squiggle, for example, is pronounced ‘cadesh’, means “forager” and is from cada (search) and esh (small). Similarly, a different glyph is pronounced ‘cadeth’, means scout and is from cada (search) and eth (people). I’m hopeless at languages but I love touches like that in my roleplaying games. It really does
I began by pointing out how much space the Spirits and Totems had in the PDF. Now, although the Undiscovered game mechanics are pretty much un-adaptable for any other system (at least in my mechanically weak mind) I think it’s easy to use all the hard work put into the totem animals in any campaign setting you care for. Each animal has about as about a third of page of text, mapping a level to set of powers, and each one has a simple but effective black and white illustration. At a push the totem animal illustrations could be the sort of image carved into wood or more easily painted onto stone.
If you’re a fan of Undiscovered then you’re likely to love Discovering Dusters. I see Undiscovered as a fetchingly retro high fantasy romp and Discovering Dusters suits that just fine too. The only thing left to do is point out the irony of having a supplement titled “Discovering” for an RPG series called “Undiscovered”.