Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Review Dated: 21st, May 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
Feuerring: Gateway to Hell has exactly the same number of pages as any of Mongoose’s Slayer’s Guides but it feels like a very much more meaty book. There’s the impression of more bang for your buck. Feuerring is the first of a new series “The Planes”.
Okay. Let’s assume that the minutia of the legal agreements from Wizards insist that most of the content from Manual of the Planes is not part of the Open License. This would mean Mongoose wouldn’t be able to write about Feuerring in relation to any of these trademarked Planes. Feuerring’s introduction makes it clear that the book has been written for any fantasy based game in mind and although it talks about the Material Plane and the Astral Plane (both common ideas in fantasy writing) it only ever mentions “Hell” and never “The Nine Hells”. As a GM who’s entitled to change his campaign world as he wants I found myself thinking that Feuerring would be a nice addition to the Nine Hells, it’s position as a direct neighbour of the Astral Plane is about right, the “alignment balance” of Lawful Evil for the Plane is about right and there are other touches like a connection to the River Styx (which could be any river Styx) also helped inspire me to make this crazy connection between the Nine Hells and Feuerring.
No matter which hell Feuerring encapsulates it is clear that the fiery realm is the outmost garrison of some truly diabolical Plane. Feuerring is primarily fire, flowing seas of flaming souls on which float islands of devils. If you’re wicked and evil during your life then there is a chance that you’ll spend eternity burning among the flames of Feuerring. The ring of fire only claims a certain type of evil though – the lawful the evil; those people balanced just so on the axis of alignments and the book gives the example of a cruel tyrant who killed thousands of his subjects in a ruthless enforcement of his domain’s laws. Some especially wicked people – say that tyrant killed tens of thousands and instilled unspeakable terror on his land – avoid the flames and find themselves as a trapped citizen on the islands or may even have an island specially formed for them. Actually there’s a range of ways to avoid the flames or even “escape” from them. If the villain’s god (or god-like deity) rules one of the islands of Feuerring then it has the option of taking his soul, giving it form and adding it to the population of the kingdom. Other souls manage to evolve from the flames, slowly turning into an actual devil… a nice way to explain the birth of a devil. Some lucky souls escape the fire as friends who have travelled the Plane pull them from the flames. The book contains another nice little quirky boost by suggesting that the souls in torment just seem to know when they have an ally on one of the islands and manage to float up to where they need to be.
There’s a nice collection of rules in Feuerring for those adventurers who decide to push through the frames, beach the outer boundary and enter the deeper pits of hell. The devils are immune from the unholy heat but adventurers take buckets of dice worth of damage, must avoid getting smashed by rocks caught in the flame tide or take even more damage and then smuggle the whole group through the breech before the tear closes. Feuerring is a place for extremely powerful (or extremely unlucky) groups of characters.
Despite the presence of the tortured flaming souls it is the presence of the Plane’s islands which will interest most adventures and which get the greatest chunk of text in the book. Feuerring’s a Plane where the rulers can manipulate reality and, in fact, if you think your character’s up to the challenge then there are rule suggestions for a battle of Will against various islands.
Feuerring: Gateway to Hell details a couple of the bigger islands. The biggest island on Feuerring was created to hold the now quasi-divine Helle. Helle lives on Ísjarheim and if you’re already thinking of Norse mythology then you’re spot on. Helle looks to unite the Frost Giants. Their island on the flaming Feuerring is a tundra wasteland where you’ll find Winter Wolves and the roots of a tree known as Yggdrasil. Powerful Doomhags act as (and might be) the three Norns. You’ll also find the frowwen wandering the island – the spirits of those warriors who died fleeing combat. The frowwen tend to end up as food for the Winter Wolves but some of the Frost Giants, those with power or aspirations, are given a paragraph of text in way of further explination each.
Azzareck is the island where a rather nasty red dragon ended up after she was killed. Vuugrinoth, the dragon empress, has a dragon cult all of her own and thousands of children. The whole set up with Vuugrinoth is just ideal for a long-term villain in a high-powered game. Azzereck’s a different island from Ísjarheim and given the magical nature of the Plane things work differently. On Azzereck Vuugrinoth’s fear of treachery manifests itself through nasty penalties on trying to sneak around and just as nasty bonuses trying to combat sly assassins. Magic’s different as well, fire based spells are easier to cast, cold based spells are more tricky and there are other changes too. As you might expect the list of magic, combat and other powers that the Plane effects is different for each island.
Hibburon is an anomaly. The island wasn’t created to home a quasi-deity like Helle or Azzareck. Garrisons of Barbazu devils cover all of Feuerring – even the previously mentioned islands – but Hibburon is their fortress. As with the other “normal” islands magic, combat and spell like abilities will all work slightly different here.
Feuerring comes complete with a list of creatures. The Frowenn (spelt differently now), the Doomhags, the large construct of the Ungrotons and the Lake Hags of Hibburon are all given the full monster creation treatment.
Also in the chapter giving advice and suggestions of how to adventure in Feuerring you’ll find a new spell and the powerful Emessern dragon bane sword (which ties back into the text for Azzareck, the island of red dragons).
I have high hopes for The Planes series and enjoyed Feuerring. At some point the Slayer’s Guide series is going to reach saturation and so we run the risk of loosing the ultra-cheap but high quality 32-page books from Mongoose. However, if The Planes prove to be popular (and if Feuerring’s anything to go by – they should be) with the d20 community then we should continue to get these lightweight products. If you don’t believe a 32-page RPG supplement can provide any real value for money then check out the artwork in Feuerring; the inside cover posts a full page colour picture – how often do you see that in such a slim book?