The Grimoire series is an e-zine to be released on a quarterly basis in support of the yet-to-be-published Mhar Fantasy campaign setting. Alas, Grimoire #2 appeared almost nine months ago and represents the second of a sum total of two releases by this company. I fear that they have fallen into the pattern of so many e-publishers (e.g., Steel Magic Studios). There is an initial burst of enthusiasm generating some very promising game resources?and then nothing. Volume #3 of this series looked especially interesting to me as it was to deal with medieval town and city life. However, its scheduled release date of ?Fall/Winter ?04? has come and gone and there is no sign that it will ever see the light of day. The same goes for the Mhar Fantasy core book.
More?s the pity for me because Fool?s Moon Entertainment?s materials are exactly the type of thing I want and use in my fantasy game. But perhaps that is the problem. This is not for players leading impossibly huge armies sweeping from horizon to horizon doing battle with the Ultimate Evil. The Grimoire--and I assume the Mhar campaign setting if it exists?primarily accommodates a low-fantasy ?historical medieval? setting. From what I gather, however, this is not necessarily the most popular category of the RPG market. Perhaps Fool?s Moon has decided that the trouble is not worth the effort.
This issue of the Grimoire covers three topics:
1) Minstrels, their training, and their instruments. This section explains the process by which someone can rise through the ranks to become a guild-approved minstrel. An explanation of one of the minstrel guilds? bureaucracies (the Harpers Guild) is provided. Also of interest is a set ?encounter? tables by which one can determine the success of minstrel?s performance given the particular environment in which the minstrel performs (e.g., carnival, pub, private performance for royalty, etc.). A dozen or so musical instruments, both historical and fantastical, are described.
2) The Domi, a Gypsy-like semi-nomadic people are described. It?s the familiar ?culture, creed, laws, and lifestyle of the folk? type of article. It?s a well-done piece, although it probably does cover ground that has been done in other write-ups in other RPGs.
3) Nothran, a small community built on the remains of an old roadhouse located at the crossing of two trade routes. Nothran is populated by 200 or so permanent residents although the transient population can be much greater and fluctuates depending on the time of year. Aside from specific locations within the town, the surrounding area is also described and several adventure seeds are provided. Several nicely done contour maps (B/W and color-versions for the players and the GM are provided) accompany this section. Also included is a set of interior drawings for Nothran?s roadhouse/inn. This was my favorite part of the Grimoire.
Both Grimoires are generic publications in the sense that they have very little rule-specific/dependent data in them. Apart to some vague references to D20 in one or two spots, the information can be used in any medieval era campaign. In particular, however, I think they would be of great utility to GMs running a Harn campaign. While Harniacs are frequently notorious in their unwillingness to use anything that doesn?t precisely jibe with the published canonical writings (witness the Great Potato War on Harnforum.com), I?d think even the most anal retentive Harn GM would find a something useful here.
Indeed it appears that the authors are heavily influenced by Columbia Games? Harn materials. The Grimoire?s 39 pages (38 pages of material plus the cover) remind me a great deal of Harn supplements. The format is the same, even down to the page numbering scheme (i.e., each chapter is numbered separately?this facilitates its placement in a binder in whatever order the GM finds handiest). Like most Harn materials the Grimoire is designed to be three-hole punched and put into a binder. The maps (which, as I mentioned above, are very nicely done in both B/W and color) also have a Harn look and feel. If I had to guess, I?d say that the Mhar setting core book, if it has been written, would be immediately familiar to any Harn afficianado.
With a bit of tweaking, much of the material in here could also be dropped into a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign. Some updating might be required as Warhammer takes place in a pseudo-1500?s world as opposed to the pseudo-middle ages setting of Mhar. The Nothran write up would be a very good add on to any WHFRP characters who are on the road.
Anywho, I hope that Fool?s Moon has not given up on RPG writing. Perhaps the Grimoires were a way of testing the waters before the authors decided to take the time and trouble to write a full-blown RPG core book. Even if they nix the campaign book, it would nice if they continued to release the Grimoires.
To sum up, Fool?s Moon has put out some very good stuff to be recommend to anyone running a ?low-fantasy-medieval? campaign.
LIKED: Really liked the maps.
DISLIKED: Aside from some spelling and grammar errors I can?t find much to complain about here. I like the illustrations within the book, most of which are very well done, however one or two of them depict races which I can only describe as ?furries.? I am not a furry fan. However, this is a personal gripe and not an inherent fault of the book.
QUALITY: Very Good
VALUE: Very Satisfied