Shadow Vale Player’s Guide

This book was essentially dropped in my lap by one of the developers after he advertised it on our forums and it was suggested that he submit a copy to be read and reviewed by a member of the D&D Archive staff. I was pleased to be able to read a new d20 book that didn’t attach itself to any company or established campaign setting that I know about. It’s a little like starting a new fantasy novel series; it could be bad, sure, but it could be really, really good as well.

[i]Shadow Vale Player’s Guide[/i] details a relatively small part of a setting that is largely ignored in the book. It is a place isolated from the surrounding world by harsh geography, a veritable microsetting in and of itself. It’s obvious to me that the author has spent a lot of time and effort in creating Shadow Vale and it shows through as a labor of love.

The Shadow Vale is a large valley that is sandwiched between nigh-impassible waters and a very large cliff structure. Though I don’t recall the book saying so, I assume that the name of the place stems from being in the shadow of these cliffs. With the exception of Viking-like raiders that arrive from time to time, the rest of the world seems content to simply leave the area alone rather than try to get through the natural barriers. Far from being a melting pot, it’s home to a series of small cultures, some racial and some geographical, but each unique unto itself. This includes dwarves locked in a war with goblins, a village of halflings that whiles away their days with frivolity and four different nations of elves, each more barbaric than the last.

The maps of the region are very well-drawn and define the various areas nicely. While I did find myself constantly getting confused about which tribe of elves was which, the various tribes and nations of people are also discussed in detail. More than half of the book is actually dedicated to a breakdown of the important settlements in the region, and each one is detailed exhaustively. Further, a calendar structure is also provided, which does a good job of helping to explain some of the dates that have been peppered into the earlier parts of the book. I’m not without complaints where [i]Shadow Vale Player’s Guide[/i] is concerned, though. For starters, while the book seems to have been spellchecked pretty thoroughly, it is riddled with grammatical and punctuation errors. Also, the chapter about races and classes is actually halfway constructed of character traits, a new system for helping to mechanically customize a PC. I have no problem with these traits, I actually enjoyed most of them, but I can’t help but feel like they didn’t belong where they were. Perhaps a separate section about PC creation might have been better? Lastly, the final chapter was about deities, which is fine, but afterward, the book just drops right off without leading to anything or winding to a close. There is no afterward or note from the author to help tie all of the chapters together into a more cohesive setting. That might not be strictly required, but it’s a little jarring to turn the page from deities and see the Open Gaming License that marks the end of every d20 book.

These things being said, I believe that the good in this book seriously outweighs the bad. It’s obvious from the start that the author has put a lot of love into the pages. Shadow Vale might not be the easiest place to drop into an existing setting, but it could provide an interesting interlude for a group that is between settings. It's available from [url=http://www.rpgnow.com/product/99391/The-Shadow-Vale-Player%27s-Guide]RPG Now[/url] and for the price, I think [i]Player’s Guide to Shadow Vale[/i] is more than worth the purchase.

[img]/sites/default/files/images/shadow_vale.jpg[/img] [b]Torn World: Player's Guide to Shadow Vale [/b]
[b]Author:[/b] Alyssa Faden [b]Publisher:[/b] [b][url=http://www.tornworld.com/]Torn World[/url] [/b]
[b]Publish Date:[/b] [i]2012[/i] [b]ISBN:[/b] N/A (watermarked PDF)
[b]Pages: [/b]70 [url=ratings.shtml]Rating[/url]: [img]/archive_migration/sites/default/files/images/rating08.jpg[/img]
[b]Retail Price:[/b] $6.00