The material released by Judges Guild has delighted generations of gamers. For many,
it was an integral part of their gaming childhood or early adulthood. The Wilderlands setting has long stood as a monument to the joys of hex-based exploration.
Now comes Supplement VI: The Majestic Wilderlands, wherein Rob Conley (author of Points of Light, Citadel of Fire, and other works with a definite classic bent to them) shares his 30-year home campaign, and stats it for use with Swords & Wizardry. Conley gained the permission of Judge’s Guild to release his version of the Wilderlands, and the end result does not disappoint.
With 3 decades of adventuring in the Wilderlands, Conley has definitely had time to put his own mark on the setting. Not only full of a goodly amount of setting overview, the 140-page Majestic Wilderlands also crams in plenty of new optional Swords & Wizardry sub-classes & skills. The reader will likely “mix n’ match” amongst the sub-classes, with entries such as the Myrmidons of Set, Berserkers, and Rune-Casters among the most
entertaining. The religions of the Wilderlands also offer the opportunity of specialty priests, something Conley implements well.
The skill add-on rules are brief and to the point. Although it may not be utilized by many players of Swords & Wizardry, it is short and familiar (utilizing a 1d20+ability bonus+class bonus vs. Target Number of 15). People wanting to keep the simplicity of Swords & Wizardry while adding a basic skill system could do far worse.
The second section in the book deals with treasure and monsters, and is perhaps the weakest point, but still manages to introduce a few new baddies and items for use. This is the one section I wish had been fleshed out just a bit more.
The largest portion of the book is the third section, and Conley goes into loving detail here describing his Wilderlands. More than just a geographical primer, Conley manages to really impart the flavor of the races and cultures of the Wilderlands. Never too dull or uneven, Conley expertly guides us through a whirlwind of cultures, religions, peoples, and entities that turn the Wilderlands from a static place to a dynamic, living one.
If anything, knowing Conley’s excellent eye for cartography, I would have preferred to see a few more maps included in the book. Despite this, he manages to make you feel immersed in what feels to be a well-worn, comfortable setting. It’s almost as if we’ve been invited in to have a cup of tea in his personal campaign, and the effect is a pleasant one.
All in all, The Majestic Wilderlands compares favorably to other Wilderlands efforts, such as James Mishler’s Adventure Games Publishing. Users of this book should find a high degree of compatibility with both AGP works and the original Wilderlands. Perhaps the biggest difference is in tone, with Conley’s Wilderlands not exactly a somber place, but one that is a bit more serious in tone. This is not a bad thing, however; Conley’s setting is all the more vibrant and engaging for the scholarly and attentive tone of the writing.
The print copy of Majestic Wilderlands retails for $12, and comes in both a more colorful cover and a brown “original supplement” look. The pdf is $7, and is easy to read due to the single-column layout. For the amount of gaming material presented, either is a good value. It should be easily adaptable to any classical or neoclassical RPG, and probably a few outlier systems to boot.
Overall, Supplement VI: The Majestic Wilderlands gets high marks. Whether you're looking to spice up a classical D&D campaign with some great ideas or need a world to call home for your campaign, you'll want to check this out. Wilderlands is definitely recommended to anyone looking for inspiration for any OD&D-based campaign, or for an example of what quality worldbuilding can produce. One can only hope Mr. Conley decides to open the vault to his gaming archives a bit further.
[4 of 5 Stars!]