Game: Undiscovered Quests & Adventures, Issue #2
Publisher: Eilfin Publishing
Review Dated: 24th, March 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
Quests & Adventures is the ezine from Eilfin Publishing for their own high fantasy hardback epic Undiscovered. Quests & Adventures is an incredibly cheap, US $5, PDF download. This issue, number #2, is even better value than the first as it breaks the century mark and tallies in at 104 pages.
Issue #2 of Q & A is dated September 2002. As is the case in issue #1 there’s no internal bookmarks in the ezine and that’s a shame. Bookmarks are always useful in a PDF and become vitally important when the product gets to be as large as this release of Quests & Adventures is. Despite all the illustrations in Q & A the PDF manages not to be too heavy and it is not too awkward to scroll rapidly up and down through the pages. You’ll probably want to keep Q & A on-screen rather than printing it out since it makes heavy use of colour and is likely to drain your ink cartridge dry.
The introduction is worth reading; it really is. One of Undiscovered’s lead developers (and editor-in-Chief of Q & A) Adam Theriault reveals a little more about the history to the RPG’s campaign setting. Magic was once lost on Arkas and has only fairly recently been accessed again – and we’re told a little more about how the magic was lost and how one of the old gods managed to prevent things for being much worse.
Following suit is the highly valuable questions and answers session. A company that no longer answers questions from fans, readers and players is a sorry animal indeed and it’s just refreshing to see a small company like Eilfin make the effort to do the ezine and answer questions. This time round we clear up on how much pre-training you can put into a skill and whether mages can change their mind about what spell they want to cast.
Raiders in Disguise is a pre-written adventure. As is quite common for Undiscovered this first adventure is a low level dungeon crawl and written in a newbie friendly way. Coloured backgrounds are used to highlight those bits of text that the AG (Adventure Guide) should read or paraphrase and which text are game notes. It’s so newbie friendly, in fact, that you’ll find boxed comments referring the AG to monster stats at the end of the adventure appearing twice on the same page. It’s a typically well designed dungeon crawl. It does everything that I dislike about dungeon crawls; it uses phrases like “You find” often, has tunnels to crawl around in and things to fight. On the other hand it doesn’t do much wrong as a low-level dungeon crawl; the maps, for example, are refreshingly good. As an adventure aimed at people new to roleplaying then it’s a useful inclusion in the ezine and it’ll probably only be old cynics like this reviewer who can flick through it quickly and dismissively.
Following on the heels of Raiders in Disguise (and does that name give away the adventure a little?) there are stats for the new monster (which appear in the adventure!). You’ve actually got three sets of stats for different ages and an illustration tucked away on the page above.
Slather’s Secrets appeared first in issue #1 and continues here. It’s a flavour text story that’s presented by Slather the God of Unknown as so contains all sorts of implications and pointers.
Then there’s another new monster. The illustration looks remarkably like an anthropomorphic version of the first new monster introduced in Q & A #2 but it is actually an entirely different beast. I think. The Vormokrel (as opposed to the Mokrel, the first new monster…) is a being of living earth and has the ability to forge a mystical link with dwarves.
There’s a bit of dwarf theme in this issue of Q & A. The first issue gave us a new player character race in the form of half-elves and now we’re treated to the half-dwarf. Once again the race won’t win any prizes for originality but it certainly is likely to be a popular request among players. Races in Undiscovered come with a plethora of information and rules and they’re all here in this ezine. The half-dwarf has everything from its attribute graph, to aging rules and starting money. The full colour illustration of the half-dragon dwarf is absolutely great.
Okay. I lied. The Vormokrel new monster doesn’t lead directly onto the half-dwarf. In between there’s the Showcase where a pair of illustrations from British artist Jon Hodgson are squeezed in. Quest & Adventures is a very visual ezine, the art quality is one of the serious selling points in this value for money product. Somehow, though, there doesn’t seem to be as many illustrations in Issue #2 as there was in Issue #1. Perhaps the advert selling Eilfin prints from the company’s website is an indication that they’re not going to be so generous with the abundance of artistic talent.
In “Caught Under My Spell” we’re treated to 18 new spells, exactly 3 new spells from the 6 covens. The ever-present Undiscovered rule tables are especially pretty here, the PDF layout manager has done well to shade and border different headings in the tables appropriately.
There are two full character portraits; not as high level as before, only 84th and 83rd but once again we have pages and pages of character sheet information and background story for the two NPCs. Undiscovered likes doing things on an epic scale (the book is huge) and its quite time consuming making highly experienced NPCs and so offerings like this in the $5 product are quite tempting. The character portraits are also a chance to let the artists shine again and treat the readers with some fan-service. It’s no surprise to find the sexy werejaguar illustration on sale as a print.
The “What’s Happening in the World Today” is vital if you’re keeping your Arkas up to date with the official meta-game plot. Since the chapter is just a single page of bullet points it’s easy to skip by if you’re not.
Jungle Raiders is an entertaining story from one of Undiscovered’s other head designers, another Theriault. Although the pages of two-column text do begin to fuzz into a sea of black and white due to the lack of illustrations, it’s still an easy read. In a 104-paged product that only costs $5 there is plenty of room for short stories.
There’s a whole 5 pages of maps and information detailing the town of Zutum. Maps of towns that show individual buildings and the lay of nearby hills all on the same scale are rather rare – it’s a surprising highlight in the ezine. You could use the map in any RPG but the demographic information itself is really only suited to Undiscovered because it contains many of the Undiscovered specific races (like Muklags and Dracomenscs).
Breaking the Ice is the second of a three-part adventure that began back in Q & A #1. It’s less of a dungeon crawl than the previous pre-written adventures I’ve read from Eilfin but its still aimed at low level characters and written so even newbie AGs (Adventure Guides) can handle it. You’ll find much of the scenario is set in a fantasy casino. Nice. Okay, it’s not that original but it’s a good deal better than yet another set of tunnels or tombs.
“Of Tests and Deals” is a story featuring a Desert Duster and I think this further confirms my theory that the Dusters are the most popular of the unique races in Undiscovered. Of course, there’s a human too, but that’s a given.
Gwydion’s Library was one of my favourite features from the previous ezine and it’s a strong feature here too. Gwydion’s the God of Knowledge and so the few pages here dig up quite a few treasures. There’s also another rather good computer generated map. The focus of attention is on a swampy and jungle covered region. This introduction to the jungles and swamps leads nicely onto separate sections on diseases and yet more new creatures. Tradition demands that there’s at least one new giant creature in an Undiscovered product and we’re appeased with stats for giant anacondas. Giant Bats strike again. There’s a significant number of new monsters in this section, snakes and werecreatures (true and turned).
Quests & Adventures is truly a valuable resource for Undiscovered players and AGs. It’s inexpensive and worthwhile.