Game: The Book of Guilds: Minigame issue #2
Publisher: Valent Games
Review Dated: 11th, December 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10 [ Something special ]
Total Score: 22
Average Score: 7.33
The Book of Guilds from Valent Games is rather good. The Book of Guilds is the second from the minigame series. Minigame is something of an ezine – with back issues being cheaper than the current one. There’s nothing particularly eziny about The Book of Guilds. It looks, reads and feels like a fully-fledged supplement.
The series title “minigame” is especially fitting as The Book of Guilds really is a d20 mini game. There are character creation rules (which fall within the OGL), classes and a campaign world.
There’s also a plot and NPCs. I don’t like pre-written adventures but I do like this where we’re given a setup, a really new twist and then everything we need to explore the newly created world… and the natural resolution to the campaign is the inherent plot arch in the minigame.
Guild Island is a magical place. Through study and deep knowledge, the Guilds develop powerful magic. For decades the Hunters Guild have been the most powerful.
They’ve ruled harshly with implied force, fear and blackmail. Rumour has it that the powerful Hunters can kill with a glance. Two days ago the Hunters Guild exploded. There’s nothing left now. There’s simply a smoking crater. There’s still a panic. There’s a power vacuum. There’s politics.
You might as well treat this review as an adventure-review and turn away now if you’re worried about spoilers.
This is a game about politics. On Guild Island adventures don’t go dungeon diving. There are no dungeons. The goblins and orcs on the Island when the guilds first arrived do not and did not have the same knowledge is a magic connection with the Island and so had no chance in the wars. When the Cooks Guild can brew nourishing and healing food which can also grant shapeshifting powers then what do you expect to do against the Bodyguards or Hunters?
There are no elves, dwarves or other player races on the Island either. It’s just humans and despite the vast wealth of knowledge here, the Scholars have no idea that these other races might be real. There are intelligent non-hostile and non-human races on the Island though – like a tribe of Blink Dogs.
I’m a great fan of politics and treachery. I really like a supernatural mystery. This set up appeals strongly to me.
There are no PC classes either. As a great twist, the only core classes suitable on the Island are the NPC D&D classes. We have the adept, aristocrat, commoner, expert, and warrior.
There are prestige classes though and these prestige classes match each guild. If you were to reach the Hunter prestige class then you would become a member of the Hunters Guild… if it still exists.
The main guilds are Archers, Architects, Bodyguards, Cooks, Glassblowers, Gravediggers, Hunters, Midwives, Musicians, Painters and Smiths. There other guilds too but these are the ones we have prestige classes for and therefore the ones our characters will concentrate on.
That said these other guilds, I think of them as NPC guilds, are damn interesting. The Weavers and Judges are mysterious and you can only guess what the Scholars get up to and only wonder where the Spies are. I also like the Fishers Guild as they’re the only ones with any sailing knowledge left – the Sailors Guild was destroyed en route to the Island and this is why all the offshore sailing lore has been lost and the Island isolated.
You could, maybe, squeeze the Island into your current d20 campaign setting. Although it would work best if you just have a human group as the non-humans do not benefit from the strange magical connection with the land.
The prestige classes we’re given for the other guilds are pretty detailed. They’re only 5 levels long but this is entirely fine as this standard for the entire setting.
There are a couple of pages for each too and notes on the guild’s philosophy, current goals, jobs, allies and enemies as well as the prestige class’ powers. The Hunter prestige class is, on purpose, more powerful than all the others.
There are new feats too.
This issue of minigame has a host of NPCs too. These interesting guild members are there for GMs to weave into the rich thread of magic and politics.
So what did happen to the all-powerful Hunters?
That’s up to you. On one level this is a bit of a cop-out. On another level and only because Valent Games list so many plausible options (an accident, demonic pacts, sabotage, one or more guilds working against them or even various forms of bluffing). Could another guild take the Hunters down? The Architects built their fortress. Could the glassmakers focus a powerful lens so that the sun beamed towards the Hunters? Conspiracy theories abound – and so they should. That’s the goal of the game.
There’s more than just the mystery of what happened to the Hunters too? Just what’s going on with this Island? Why does knowledge become powerful magical abilities? There’s a lot to investigate.
If you have an academic gaming group who like mysteries and investigations or plot and treachery or diplomacy and sabotage then it’s hard to imagine your group not lapping up The Book of Guilds.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.