The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=29637.
SPOILER ALERT If you are going to be a player in a Shadowglade game, do not, I repeat DO NOT read this review of the Game Masters guide: buy it and don’t touch it until after that game has ended, but buy it anyway!
Shadowglade: Game Master’s Guide picks up the intentional slack left from the Shadowglade: Player’s Guide. Yes Nate Peterson and crew actually lied to the players in the player’s guide and what players might think is the truth is very far from it, how cool is that? This Game Master’s Guide tells the real story of Shadowglade and how things really run, not what the Player’s Guide would lead the players to believe.
d-sworn enemies made as the surviving nations have begun to rediscover their roots. Out in the wilds and darkness, however, not all that lurks is friendly…or human…or even alive. The history of Shadowglade is one shrouded in mystery and uncertainty. The ruling nations and popular churches and inquisitive souls have documented what little history they could, however, in an attempt to ensure the ravages of time could not scour what little they knew ever again.
The Game Master’s Guide to Shadowglade is a supplemental setting for Pathfinder containing a human-centric world that focuses on below 10th level play. There are three core products that support this setting including the Player’s Guide, Game Master’s Guide and Basic Bestiary but several more are in the works or have already been released. The Shadowglade Game Master’s Guide has all of the tools a game master needs to take their players through a wild romp within the Shadowglade setting.
What this game lacks in dynamic cover art it more than makes up for by uncovering the authors brilliant deception during the course of the Player’s Guide. Yes Nate Peterson used common sense and decided to let the players believe one truth while the game master knows the real truth, well played sir, well played.
Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Nothing has changed between the Game Master’s Guide vs. the Player’s Guide. The cover art is still uninspiring, and the interior artwork still looks like it was lifted from a Dragons Lair type video game. The fonts and text are still crisp and this, like almost every other RPG book, uses the two-column format. The only real difference between this book and the Player’s Guide is that I think there is actually less art and because the content is so outstanding, it actually might be a slightly better product. I was disappointed that the Game Master’s Guide did not include a map.
Mechanics: 9 out of 10
The E10 setup for this game is really smart, it doth smell of D&D 4th edition, but I like the way Mr. Peterson and crew dealt with it. I am focusing on the E10 concept because it is really the major mechanical factor making this game standout. There are things like Supernatural Points as well as traits and defects, which are setting appropriate and a few of the old standbys. The E10 setup focuses on what I call the sweet spot in gaming, by level 10 you have some really cool powers but a combat turn doesn’t take 3 hours. There are rules to support game play after 10th level and they seem balanced and fair. The lack of most arcane spellcasting classes may turn many folks away from this setting, but sometimes it is good to be forced to change things up a bit. I like playing non-standard races and there really isn’t much room for those in this setting, again the change of pace should be welcomed not a deal breaker.
Value Add: 10 out of 10
This is how a Game Master’s Guide should be written. I love that the Player’s Guide is actually deceptive. This Game Master’s Guide is succinct and full of useful information, while still addressing rules support. While it contained more charts than the Player’s Guide, it didn’t feel like a simple collection of charts with a few pictures. Sometimes less is more and this is a svelte GM guide that does what it sets out to do.
Overall: 9 out of 10
Even with racial and class restrictions, Shadowglade is still a wonderful setting. The player’s and game master’s guides are wonderful examples of blending meta-game and in-game concepts. The fact that the players guide does not provide meta-game data is done really well. Most GM guides are full of charts and tell GMs how to run a game, this GMs guide actually gives the GM the truth about the world and presents a bird’s eye view of what is going on. There is more information that could have been included in this setting, but I know that will come out in more supplements. The sub 100 page GM guide is a great way to provide the necessary information without getting too deep. The differences between the truth in the Player’s Guide and the actual truth as revealed by the Game Master’s Guide alone make this a product to be reckoned with. This GM guide really reveals what is behind the shadows in the world of Shadowglade.