Powers of Light & Darkness
Review by Brent Knorr
The Powers of Light and Darkness is the second Shadow World product to be released by ICE in their new incarnation. (If you aren't familiar with the history of what happened with ICE, you can find a write up on it at http://www.ironcrown.com/welcomewagon/ICEhistory.htm)
Powers of Light & Darkness is a 128 page soft cover book that details the major movers and shakers on the planet of Kulthea, aka Shadow World. Chapter One is a one page Introduction which explains what is included in the book, it expands and updates information that was presented or hinted at in previous books, some of the religions are covered as well as several major political groups, including two new ones, The Alliance and the Empire of the Raven Queen of Gaalt.
The introduction also explains that this book presented a bit of a dilemma. Expanding a little on the information there, the author, Terry Kevin Amthor, had continued to produce Shadow World material after the original ICE had dropped it as a setting and then gone bankrupt. However, his material was all done for Second Edition Rolemaster (RM2), not the newer Rolemaster Fantasy Role playing (RMFRP). A lot of the material for this new book was created during that time. Then ICE came under new ownership and arranged a new agreement with Terry to make Shadow World an official Rolemaster setting again. However, if they were to include the statistics for the new RMFRP system in the book, they would have had to cut the book down to make room. They choose instead to leave the book with just the RM2 statistics and post the RMFRP statistics as a free 27 page PDF on the ICE Website at : http://www.ironcrown.com/free_downloads/ICE.6402Pwrs_RMFRPstats.pdf
This decision generated a lot of debate on the ICE forums in the Shadow World section. It will be interesting to see what they decide to do for future Shadow World products.
Chapter Two covers the Forces of the Unlife. The "Unlife" is the major force of evil on Shadow World, basically a collective energy of Anti-Essænce that strives to destroy and feed on the destruction. The chapter starts with an explanation of why beings might choose to serve the Unlife. The first group detailed is "The Iron Wind", and the chief servants of this group, "The Priests Arnak". There are six high priests, each of which leads a separate cult. They operate with subtlety and guile. This is in contrast to the other major group, "The Messengers of the Iron Wind" which are overt in the use of their power. There is one Messenger serving each of the Priests. The Priests, Cults and Messengers are all described.
The next group described is The Silver Dawn, "The Daughters of the Silver Dawn" are a group of women, travelling in pairs, posing as healers that live a nomadic life travelling around villages and towns offering aid. Strangely, people and occasionally entire villages tend to disappear when they are around. Two pairs of Daughters are described, as well as the House of the Silver Dawn, where the Silver Mist resides, consuming the human life force that the daughters provide it.
Another all female group is described next, the Steel Rain, a group that specializes in using seduction and infiltration to turn other institutions to their cause. Again, several members of this organization are described, including some lower level members that could make good opponents for lower level players.
The "Golden Eye" is the next of the Forces of Unlife to be described. This group was formed by the Elf Cydin and his three sons which posed as gods to tribes of superstitious Jineri and trained them to be exceptional warriors. The history of the group and several members and their equipment are described.
The final group described in Chapter Two is the "Heralds of Night". Twelve ancient beings that ride black unicorns and act as servants of various Evil factions on Shadow World.
Chapter Three covers the Dragons and DragonLords. The DragonLords are Dragons that have the power of Shapechanging and, by use of the Dragon Helms, can remain in human form indefinitely but still use their breath weapon with almost full potency. The first part of the chapter discusses Great Dragons in general, their mentality, spells, senses, physiology, weapons, nesting and mating habits. This is followed by a description of the creation of the Dragon Helms, items created for the six oldest and strongest of the Great Drakes. Each of the DragonLords is then described in detail. A minor errata note on the first DragonLord, Drul Churk, the Statistics listed under "Dragon Form" should actually be under the "Human Form" section and vice versa.
Chapter Four is The Lords of Essænce. These are the K'ta'viiri, the original humanoid inhabitants of Kulthea. The chapter starts with a brief history of the K'ta'viiri and the reasons for their fall. General racial abilities are described, then the chapter profiles the most prominent K'ta'viiri, including Andraax, sort of Shadow Worlds equivalent to Elminster of the Forgotten Realms. Unfortunately, the actual game statistics given for Andraax in Powers of Light & Darkness vary somewhat from those given for him in the Shadow World Master Atlas. He is listed as being higher level in Powers, so this could be viewed as being representative of his skills later in his career. Perhaps some unfortunate event occurred that could explain why a few skills dropped in value in Powers. In any case, the statistics given in Powers are more complete than those found in the Master Atlas so in most cases I would go with them. Three additional K'ta'viiri and one half K'ta'viiri are described in this chapter, and two additional half K'ta'viiri are described in a later chapter. They are definitely some of the most interesting characters running around Shadow World.
Chapter Five is The History of the Jerak Ahrenreth. This organization is one of the oldest on Kulthea, starting out as a group dedicated to the protection of Kulthea. Eventually the various members of the group fell, some slain in combat, others lost into the Void. Eventually the chief of the group settled into a deep slumber, leaving his machines to monitor Kulthea and awaken him if danger arose again.
Eventually, one of the other original members that had been lost in the Void returned and was determined to rebuild the Jerak Ahrenreth. However, his time in the Void had changed him, the goals of this new order are protection by domination through minions. What was an organization for good has now become an organization of evil. The chapter describes the members of the Circle of Eight as well as the "Eight Secrets" which are the eight towers that were built or expanded by the members of the Jerak Ahrenreth. The chapter also gives the statistics for the "Twelve Adherents", which are directly below the Circle of Eight, and are more likely to be encountered by Player Characters. The actual values for the statistics for one of the members, Môg-dûrek were accidentally omitted, they should be as follows:
Lvl:30 Hits:121 AT(DB):13(40) Sh:Y Gr:N Melee OB:90ma Missile Ob:70ja Mov:5
Age: Immortal (appears 25), Ht/Wt: 6´8?/220, Hair/Eyes/Build: Black/Brown/Powerful, Dmnr: Fanatical.
Race: Jaader/Erlin, Profession: Evil Cleric. Skills: Chan55; Climb15; Perc66; Ride60; S&W80; Swim45; Act50; Admin25; Chem23; DemnLr88; Diplom44; DrugTol25; Ldrshp20; Medit30; PoisonLr36; PubSp56; Seduct70; StarG30; Stra&Tac26.
Stats: St 88; Qu 91; Em 66; In100 ; Pr 99; Ag 96; Co 91; Me 74; Re 67; SD 88; Ap94.
Spells: All Base Evil Cleric Base, 3 each Closed and Open Clerical. PP: 240. Items: Bracer, x4 PP and casts Shield
3x per day, Mace, +25 and Unholy, +20 javelin, Chain armor.
Chapter Six is "Other Powers". This covers The Alliance, a commerce-based oligarchy , the kingdom of Gaalt, led by the Raven Queen who is bent on conquering a substantial section of the Shadow World, and a third group, The Eight Imperial Orders, which served the Emerian Emperor long ago and were thought to have disbanded. However, they have survived, some as protectors against disorder, others as twisted servants of the Jerak Ahrenreth.
Chapter Seven covers the Loremasters, a group dedicated to the gathering and dispersal of knowledge, teaching the ways of peace, order, and law. They are advisors, not leaders and do not impose their will on others and only use violence as a last resort. That's the theory anyway, as the history of the group reveals, this isn't always possible and there is often disagreement on what they should do, and some of the steps they resort to to gather information makes them less of a goody goody organization than they might appear to be at first. This is a group that Player Characters could quite easily end up working for. The author does a good job of giving examples of several Loremasters, with some interesting quirks and personalities.
Chapter Eight describes the Navigators. The Shadow World is subject to many storms, magical and mundane, and travel can be slow and dangerous. The answer to this problem? Hire a Navigator to transport you and your cargo instantly and safely to almost anywhere in the world, for a hefty fee of course. This chapter describes the Navigators, and their Compasses which allow them to do their jobs. There are several different Navigator Guilds described and a few Navigators themselves which might be encountered by Player Characters seeking the services of a Navigator.
Chapter Nine covers Kulthean Gods and Immortal Spirits, including the Lords of Orhan which live on the great Moon of Orhan. They are disembodied spirits unmatched in terms of raw personal power. They are themselves Essænce foci, beings of energy that often take humanoid form. Sometimes they seem to have a great deal of interest in the inhabitants of Kulthea, other times, very little. The Lords and their relationships and powers are covered in a reasonable amount of detail, as are some of the Greater Spirits of Orhan, servants and aides to the Lords that are basically demigods.
On Charon, the third largest moon of Kulthea, live the Dark Gods, which are similiar to the Lords of Orhan and may have originally been part of the same group but splintered off. The Dark Gods view the inhabitants of Kulthea as toys that they can play with then cast away on a whim. Again, the powers, relationships and the Gods themselves are described, as well as some of their servants, the Greater Dark Spirits.
The final section of the chapter deals with Other Gods, other powerful, non-corporeal entities that are not part of the Lords of Orhan or the Dark Gods.
The final chapter is the Religions of Kulthea which summarizes a dozen of the religions that can be found on the Shadow World. The summaries includes information on the symbols, cultures, allies, enemies, clergy, worshippers, structure, goals, rituals, benefits, restrictions and ideology of the religion. These are all fairly brief but have enough information to give a pretty good idea of what the religion is about.
Overall, if you are interested in Shadow World, or are already using it, this book is invaluable. If you don't play on Shadow World but are looking for some good and evil organizations for your own world, this book may give you some good ideas, but alot of the organizations are tied heavily into the Shadow World setting and would take alot of work to adapt to another setting. This book is loaded with characters, there are at least eighty personalities given, not including the Gods and Spirits. The text itself is well written and manages to pack alot of information into a relatively limited amount of space, while still being fairly easy to read. I'm sure that most of the chapters could probably be expanded to fill an entire book, but it's an excellent summary of the Powers that are active on Kulthea, the Shadow World.