Game: Undiscovered Quests & Adventures, Issue #1
Publisher: Eilfin Publishing
Review Dated: 24th, March 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
The first issue of Undiscovered Quests & Adventures is a surprise package, it’s a bit of a gem. The PDF is the first ezine from Eilfin Publishing for their Undiscovered: The Quest for Adventure RPG. If you’re pleased with your copy of Undiscovered then Quests & Adventures, Issue 1 really is something you should consider buying. It’s only US $5.00
Quests & Adventures, Issue 1 was written back in April 2002 and so, at the time this review was written, its nearly a year old. It just goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or an e-book by its date. Q & A #1 isn’t a crude beast. Its 96 pages are nicely formatted, easy to read and packed with useful stuff. 96 pages for $5, that’s pretty good, just a touch over 5c per page. There are some early PDF product pitfalls that Q & A #1 does fall into though; there are no bookmarks and printing the product will guzzle an awful lot of ink.
It is a colour product, printer problems aside, I really think the art and cartography works in the ezine’s favour. The front cover image, by Calvin Camp is good enough but as you scroll through you’ll find entire art galleries as well as some great colour illustrations. Pictures of alfar are common, the ice alfar on page 44 would make a great desktop wallpaper. The use of colour also helps to keep the text blocks separate. In the pre-written adventures (of which there are two) you’ll find the bits to read to the players have a light blue background and side comments are white on black.
The ezine starts with a short questions and answers section. This level of fan service helps promote Undiscovered above many of its rival high fantasy RPGs; product support makes all the difference.
The product gets going in earnest with a fairly substantial pre-written adventure. I’m not a great fan of pre-written adventures but including them in an inexpensive and large PDF is a good way to win me around. The Star of Eilfin offers up a little more information about the alfar deity Eilfin and is written for 4 to 6 players with characters between 1st and 3rd level. The adventure is newbie friendly, taking care to offer advice to the AG (Adventure Guide) where needed. There adventure is a bit of a dungeon crawl, a quest for an important item but it’s this sort of high fantasy that Undiscovered seems best suited for. There are plenty of maps and this is a good thing. A pet peeve of mine is text in pre-written adventures that tell the players what their characters are doing, the word “You” is too commonly used in adventures all across the RPG industry and it strikes here in the Star of Eilfin too. I think it’s quite likely that by the time some gamers have read the Questions and Answers introduce and the Star of Eilfin adventure that they’ll already be feeling as if they’ve had value for money for their $5 purchase. There’s plenty more of Quests & Adventures to come though.
Slather’s Secrets is a story and an example of the sort of added extra you can expect to find in generous PDF ezines. The only downside here is that the pages dissolve into a sea of text as can sometimes happen in PDFs where the illustrations start to grow thin.
Q & A #1 isn’t thin on illustrations as a whole though. Right after Slather’s Secrets there’s the Showcase that (as the name implies) looks at the work of a guest artist. In this case the featured artist is Elfwood artist Sara Brodin.
Hot on the heels of the unicorn pictures is a brand new race for Undiscovered. The half-alfar is a predictable race but it’ll also be a much request race. The half-alfar gets the full race treatment, including the rather useful Undiscovered attribute graph. There are lots of different types of Alfar and so the section is sure to look at half wood-elves, half star-elves and half ice-elves. The huge benefit of doing your own ezine is that the supplemental material in it can be as genuinely useful as a popular new race.
There are new game rules in Q & A too. One of the first of these are optional rules for knocking people out using the Undiscovered system: K.O.s. If you think Knock Outs are for wimps then you’ll be probably be pleased to find rules for fatal blows following close behind. What’s fatal? 500 points of damage. More rules? Yes! Mounted Combat… and that’s something I hadn’t even noticed was missing from the giant book that is Undiscovered. I’m glad it’s here though since horseback battles really are something I can see occurring in Arkas. In fact there’s a truck load of new rules; rules for armour absorption, for maiming opponents, breaking weapons, luck and diffusing spells! In typical Undiscovered style you’ll find lots of tables and charts to go with the new rules.
Two character profiles present multi-paged character sheets along with a few pages of background story text. It’s here you’ll sample some of the best art, including the lovely but deadly ice alfar. It’s not every day you’ll get stats for 93rd and a 94th level NPCs!
The “What’s Happening in the World Today” applies, of course, to the Arkas campaign world and is probably a little out of date now given this issue of Quests and Adventures is nearly a year old. However, the time lag isn’t a bad thing if you’ve just started with Undiscovered and will let you catch up with the progress of the official game world if you want to.
There’s another story in the form of “From the Depths of Centaural” and again it’s a welcome piece of flavour text but suffers from a lack of illustration. By this time I doubt anyone would doubt value for money for the $5 product but there’s still just under half the PDF to go!
It’s not just the illustrations and text background that adds colour to this PDFs, there’s a significant quantity of coloured cartography too. The maps come to a fore (with perhaps the exceptions of the pre-written adventures) with the “The Town of Nyalan”. You’ve the map of the town, the demographics, the history and even a tour of key locations. You can pay $5 for world gazetteers alone and although Nyalan is just one town it is certainly thoroughly detailed and complete.
The second of the pre-written adventures is “Trading Company Troubles” and it’s designed to be the first of three adventures. Ah, it sounds like a not-so-sly lure into the next issue of Quests & Adventures but it is complete enough in its own right. This adventure features a player handout; a single page from the PDF that can easily be printed out and handed to the players. This is a bonus, since this is an electronic product you’ll be able to print a fresh copy out or print multiple copies whenever you want. A large section of this adventure is presented on blue paper, well; PDF pages coloured blue… and I think it’s supposed to be.
Afterwards you’ll find a new monster race – Giant Rats. The Eilfin paperback pre-written adventure, Kings of the Desert introduced Giant Bats and Giant Bees as new monsters. There’s definitely a giant monster fashion in Canada at the minute.
“Thieves’ Dilemma” another story and “Gwyddion’s Library” another world gazetteer feature draw the ezine to a conclusion. Gwddion’s Library enjoys a detailed history combined with some world maps.
Quests & Adventures contains some really useful optional rules, some good enough pre-written adventures, excellent world features and information and fantastic illustrations. There are some sections in Q & A that are worth $5 alone and by producing a 96-paged ezine for that price Eilfin have guaranteed a successful product.