Friday, September 14, 2012

Review - Shadowrun: The Land of Promise

So recently Shadowrun: The Land of Promise was released by Catalyst in PDF format. I picked up a copy from DriveThruRPG and had a read.

For those who don't know, The Land of Promise is the translation of Tir Tairngire the predominately Elvish country that was established to the south of Shadowrun's default Seattle setting. It's a country that has seen its fair share of turmoil over the last 50 years of the setting (currently in 2074 as of this supplement.)

So what do you get. Well for $5.95 you get a 24 page PDF. The production quality is of the current usual Catalyst standard, that is pretty good and as you'd expect from a RPG product these days. It's colourful, with a good density of text and a reasonable text to graphics/whitespace ratio. 

The 24 pages break down as:
  • 1 page for the cover painting, which while nice enough kind of evokes a sensation of Rivendell if it where on Minbar
  • 1 page is the obligatory Jackpoint login screen informing you of what is coming next, and some news
  • 4 pages are taken up with a vaguely interesting piece of short fiction that sets the scene for some of the action going on in the Tir these days
  • 13 pages of information on the Tir (well most of it is your favourite Jackpointers talking about the Tir)
  • 1 page of adventure hooks
  • 3 pages of NPCs for people the average shadowrunner may encounter during their stay
  • 1 page (well half a page really) detailing briefly a magical society, The Moonlight Thorns
What it isn't. This isn't a guide to the Tir, for information on the history of Tir Tairngire, culture etc you'll need to look at The Sixth World Almanac, or the older first edition Tir Tairngire sourcebooks. 

What it is. It is presented as an edited down copy of a delightfully cheesy Tir Tairngire travel brochure for prospective tourists (complete with Grimmy the Grimoire icon telling you all about the Tir. Think that annoying paperclip from older versions of Microsoft Office and you'll have the exact right idea.) When I say heavily edited it means the majority of the would be text in that brochure has been deleted and replaced by commentary by the usual suspect posters on Jackpoint commenting on the realities of what goes on. While this may sound annoying, long time Shadowrun readers know that the real meat and details are often in these posters comments giving the realities (and sometimes completely incorrect information) on the topic at hand, and The Land of Promise is no exception to this rule. In fact the Jackpoint comments make up perhaps 80% of the text of the book outside the opening fiction and NPC section. It should be noted that the single largest topic of conversation here is the princes of the Tir, what they stand for and what they're currently up to in the run up to the next election.

What little art is in the book (other than Grimmy the Grimoire) consist of some character drawings that seem to be representative of princes of the Tir, but its not obvious. The art is adequate, but doesn't seem to be trying to fill a particular purpose as the style doesn't always seem to fit with the descriptions of the princes it's presumably trying to illustrate. It's almost as if they just had a load of spare character art lying around and decided to use it in this book.

One thing I don't particularly like about the book, and Catalyst please take note, is the attempt at illustrating the different sections of the travel guide and which section is currently being read. Imagine images like below
  + Subject 1
  + Subject 2
  + Subject 3
   - Subject 4
 where the Subject 4 item is the section of the guide currently being read. I can see what they're trying to get at and it does give some framework to hanging the sections of conversation off of, but it just serves to illustrate what could have been in the book but isn't, and this could be confusing to someone who doesn't get what they're trying to do. 

So value for money. Well I recently purchased the hardcopy of The Clutch of Dragons (review coming later), a 152 page softcover for $29.99 (that's just under 20 cents a page.) Compare that to $5.95 for a 24 page PDF leaves you at just under 25 cents per page, and that's only a PDF not a hardcopy, and it seems a bit pricey. I'd really expect to pay perhaps $3.95 for this rather than the six bucks, especially given the higher margins (but perhaps lower sales.)

The product does really rely on you being up to date on the Shadowrun background for the Tir and the civil unrest and political upheaval of the last decade to get the most out of it, so if you're not familiar with that and just want a book to give you some information then you should look elsewhere. If you want an update on the political situation and some more tidbits of information plus filling in more holes in the continuing Shadowrun metaplot, then by all means have a look.

If you're planning on having the players run in the Tir during the upcoming election, then there is plenty of information in here to use as plot hooks for what will bean interesting time.

Overall I'm not convinced this is a must buy at the price and for the content. I'm a Shadowrun completist so I'll buy anything they produce for it but your mileage may vary.

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