Game: The Fir Domain
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Series: Slaine: d20
Review Dated: 17th, November 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 10
Average Score: 5.00
What a little gem! The Fir Domain is just 32 pages long but don’t let that put you off. Every page has earned its place in the book so the quality is up and the price stays down.
The Fir Domain are one of the key tribes of the Earth Goddess, one of the Celtic tribes that your players are likely to come from. They’re known as the Tribe of the Growling Shields because their shields really do growl, they’re specially designed to amplify the tribe’s war cries – oh, and the specially sharpened razor edges on the shields are worth noting as well. This tribe gets up to such un-Celtic things as organising its troops before battle and getting cross with Druids who over step the mark with the King but on the other hand some of the women of the tribe can still give birth to a fully grown, fully armoured and armed warrior and that’s straight out of Celtic legends.
The History & Traditions of the Fir Domain present a couple of possible histories for the Tribe – they’re not sure which one actually correct but that’s the way of things in Slaine’s time. These alternative histories provide the roots for character concepts, prestige classes, feats and magic spells found later in the book. There’s a lovely tradition the Fir Domain have of hunting Titans and just a few pages into the book you’ll find notes of the Royal Hunt of the Titans which occurs as part of the inauguration of a new King. There are new kings every seven years among the Fir Domain because after seven years the current king is killed and replaced. The creatures that are encountered on the Royal Hunt are omens of good or ill fortune and with just a short list of examples you’ve got flavour and plot inspiration bundled together. Wild Boars, for example, suggest that the ruler will be fierce, defend his land and may be greedy. They also might indicate trouble with the Finians.
If you’re familiar with Mongoose’s Collector Series then you’ll know the character concept system well. Character concepts are great; they add more depth to your basic Class, give you more to roleplay with, a tighter angle on your character’s background and give you some mechanically bonuses and penalties too. For example, rather than just being a Noble Warrior (a core class from Slaine) you could pick the concept “King’s Man” and be one of King Osdann’s own Noble Warriors, you’ll have that extra angle to roleplay with, enjoy starting the game with a mail shirt (and that’s a huge boon in the near Stone Age of Slaine) but suffer penalties to your Charisma checks when dealing with normal people from your tribe because they hate you protecting the ruthless king. See? That’s more character background than some people bother doing at all. There are a few pages of these concepts, each one taking about half a page, and that’s enough to ensure that all the basic classes are covered. There’s a new race too. I said before that some of the women of the Fir Domain could give birth to fully-grown and armed warriors – well, they really can. A legendary founder of the Tribe, one Cymidu, could do this to and if your bloodline is still pure enough and you’re a brave woman then so can you! Or, on the other hand, you could play one of these dangerous, raging warriors. I’m not so sure they make a great choice as a PC because (as the book advises and warns you of) these near-humans are very prone to flying off the handle and slaying friends, foe or brothers alike. The two prestige classes are fully detailed through 10 full levels and that’s always good to see. As with the new race in the Sons of Cymidu these prestige classes are taken straight out of Fir Domain history. Actually, it’s a bit a cheat because the writers can come up with the history just to suit the creation of the prestige class – but it works for me. The Dancer of the Sword prestige class is the warrior-based idea it sounds like and the Russet Hound class favours the thief class. If you’re a fan of having animal companions for your character then the Russet’s Hound Fox Companion ability will appeal greatly to you. Later on, the Russet Hound can actually shapeshift into a fox himself.
There’s a page of new feats which includes the “Loins of Cymidu” just in case you want to thwart your GMs attempts at writing a nice well-balanced and diplomatic Slaine game by constantly trying to give birth to dangerous warriors. Heh. There are three pages of new magic spells. Slaine uses its own magic system and although the main rulebook had a fair few spells in it, it could have done with more. I suspect that new spells will be gobbled up hungry GMs and players alike for quite a few supplements to come.
The Folk of the Fir Domain sees a half-dozen or so NPCs written up with between a page and half a page of background and then a stat block. I’ll admit that although I’ve read Slaine before the game came out I can’t quite be sure whether these people are characters from the series or made up by the writers – in either case they’re there as a plot resource and their presence means that there is space set aside in the Tribe Book series for NPCs that might be from the comics.
The book finishes in a similar way to Mongoose‘s other 32-paged series – The Slayer’s Guides. A Scenario Hooks and Ideas section does just as it says it would and quickly presents a few paragraphs of scenario seeds over two pages. There’s then a Fir Domain Reference list with a bunch of stat blocks for Fir Domain Headmen, Noble Warriors, Warriors, Gorias Smiths and Son of Cymidu. I do find these reference sheets handy because I’m not a fan of number crunching and often reach to these pre-genned stats than going through the process myself. In case you’re wondering the Gorias Smith is a Character Concept not a prestige class but it’s something of a prestigious character concept since the Fir Domain are known for their advanced metal working.
There’s fresh artwork in the book. We’re not seeing snippets from the comic series any more and have gone back to the typical style of placing square bounded illustrations in amongst the text. This isn’t a bad thing, the illustrations are nicely Celtic and I can’t shake the feeling that some of them might be single cells from the graphic novels after all.
I was really surprised by the book. I was sure it would be a rush of 5 level prestige classes, token notes on the tribe’s history and then too much empty text on NPCs and locations. Sure, there are some pages for NPCs but the balance is right, there’s just enough to make the section worthwhile but not so much as to turn it into filler. The background text is succinct rather than too short or too long for a small book. I’d rather have the two prestige classes presented in this book than twice the number of half-as-strong prestige classes that could have appeared and the new feats and spells are helpful.