Champions of the Mists
Authors: William W. Connors, with 'additional design' by: Steve Miller, Cindi Rice, & David Wise
Summary of content:
An interesting book on heroes, with great kits focused on roleplaying and nicely chosen good NPCs.The 13 players kits are really well made and generate many long term ideas for any campaign. The pistoleer features rules for firearms. Among the more interesting IMHO: the Cold One, Order of Guardian (cool kit for NPC), Knights of the Shadows and of course the Ghostwatcher.
The 10 NPCs are well designed, with interesting adventure hooks for each. Most of them are taken from Ravenloft novels. Among the best in this lot: Alanik Ray, Larissa Snowmane (and her travelboat) George Weathermay (interesting mentor for PCs - why isn't he a ranger anymore ?), Hermos (the giant from Carnival is however a little developed IMHO), Tara Kolyana (as one of her various incarnation) and the worst: Gondegal and Dragonov (I hate everything high powered in Ravenloft - please, ± 12th level would have been enough, IMHO!).
Great book overall. 4.5 on five.
David "Jester" Gibson
This book was eagerly awaited after the release of Domains of Dread as it was to finally carry the rules for firearms in the Land of Mists. That and after all the years there was finally a product specifically for the players that added depth to the heroes in Ravenloft. Eight years of products and finally attention was being paid to someone other than the villains and their sole adversary Van Richten. The results are good but mixed in a few places but overall made for a good product.
The cover of this book is notable, it was one of the better product illustrations at the time. The picture is nicely done and grabs the attention, you want to know the background to what has happened but at the same time it is a scene both familiar and understandable. This product was also one of the first to feature the small claim that the book was: Adaptable for use with any AD&D campaign setting. This appeared on many products and was only true half of the time. While I am sure the Children of the Night books could be used, say, in a Dragonlance game other products such as Servants of Darkness would prove far more challenging to adapt.
This book is divided into three sections. The first, an introduction, also describes the role of the four types of classes/champions in the Mists. There is the Warrior Champion covering the Fighter, Ranger and the like. This is typical of 2nd Edition when all classes fit into the four molds so that classes like the Druid were squeezed into the Priest section. This chapter is small to the point of being tiny and only offers the smallest pieces of advice. Unremarkable as a whole but an adequate introduction to the theme of the book.
The second section, The Crucible, describes a series of kits for the game. Kits were essentially specializations on character classes, often usable by different classes but sometimes specialized. Each offers suggestions on Role-playing the kit as well as offers benefits and hindrances for taking said kit. In many ways kits were the precursor to Prestige Classes, something to modify and supplement the base classes. Many of these kits have been turned into Prestige classes although some have simply been made into feats. The Knight of Shadows, Pistoleer and Order of the Guardian have been directly updated and can be found in Van Richten's Arsenal and the Monster Hunter can be found in the Ravenloft Player's Handbook. Meanwhile others such as the Ghostwatcher, Cold One and Spritualist have been made into feats. There is some excellent information in many of these entries such as the role and duties of organizations such as the Circle, the Green Hand the the Guardians. This nicely supplements the brief descriptions of these groups in Domains of Dread.
A brief note also on the smokepower weapons, aka firearms. This product, as earlier mentioned, brought new guns into Ravenloft and AD&D but did not do much to change how these weapons were classified. They did not use gunpowder but still used the AD&D varient thereof known as smokepowder which was technically a magical substance. Five new weapons were added as well as a few related items. All are fairly expensive and dangerous to use and little more than two pages were devoted to these new items. However, as in Masque of the Red Death, guns are quite effective against people wearing armour making them quite deadly in the right situation. But the AD&D rules do not work well with guns making these rules a rough fit at best.
The second section of the book is Champions that, like the name suggests, is devoted to fleshing out many of the NPCs and heroes of the Land. Most of these are not new characters but are instead lifted from the pages of the novels or from previous versions of the setting. Most notable are Tara Kolyana making her return to the setting after being ignored since the Black Box and the long awaited stats of George Weathermay who likewise has not seen print in almost a decade. Both have been updated for third edition but receive quite a fair bit of description here.
Also notable are Bother Dominic from Tapestry of Dark Souls, Ivan Dragonov and both Hilda and Friedrich Kreutzer from Mordenheim, Hermos from Carnival of Fear and an important player in the Carnival (which I hope to review soon) as well as Larissa Snowmane from Dance of the Dead. This book also features Alanik Ray and the Lost King Gondegal. Sadly Ray's faithful sidekick (and possible lover) Arthur Sedgwick is not described and detailed. In retrospect I'm surprised the Weathermay-Foxgrove twins did not make it into the book, but perhaps they were deemed too young at the time. These NPCs are interesting but many are not what I expected when I first picked up the book. They were less true champions and heroes and more good NPCs that stories could be written around. The Kreutzers for example seem noble but not truly motivated to fight evil or do anything truly heroic. Likewise Hermos does little to drive back the darkness. Unlike Weathermay of Gondegal they are not sources of inspiration and legend that characters can emulate or idolize. It seems this book was used more as a place to publish statistics for established characters than a true list of the land's heroes. And while I am sure Snowmane was excellent in the book and screamed to be included in a campaign for one such as I who have not (yet) read Dance of the Dead I am less than excited to read about her. Likewise her background seemed more to summarize events in the book than give a full update on what the character has done since. Two paragraphs summerize her early life (all twenty years of it), six paragraphs summarizing the book and only one tell what she has done in the decade since.
Champions of the Mist was big for the new gun rules and the NPCs but had a few flaws. Too much emphasis was placed on established characters and reminding readers of the events of novels. Likewise, despite being a fairly “player-friendly” book Darklords are mentioned repeatedly and the identity of several are revealed. But this was back when players were expected to know who the Darklords were even if their characters did not. Sadly this book has little to offer now. The descriptions and role-playing suggestions are useful and many of the kits offer interesting suggestions for characters and personality traits. The information included on the Knight of Shadows, Order of the Guardians and Green Hand are still useful for those seldom described organizations. And many of the NPCs have yet to be detailed making this the only product to describe their in-game stats.
This has an original rating of Four severed digits out of Five and a current rating of two and a half.
Finally... a Ravenloft accessory for the good guys, at least for those still using AD&D's 2nd Edition rules. Champions of the Mists may very well be a unique RL accessory simply because of its "heroic" premise, and I personally believe that nothing, not even "Heroes of Light," can match what goodies the good guys can find within these pages.
Two things I love about this book: the Kits, which include the mystical Order of the Green Hand; and the Champions, such as Dance of the Dead's Larissa Snowmane. What Ravenloft player wouldn't want to hunt those who desecrate the dead of the Amber Wastes, or wade through Souragne's swamps and find Larissa's riverboat illuminating their path? Although the histories may be found wanting, the short info found is reasonably good for DMs who don't have access to the Ravenloft novels. Champions of the Mists is a welcome addition to those who still believe that Ravenloft is worth its share for the heroes.
Four out of five steel coins.
This was a good product that at the time needed to be made, Ravenloft was so barren of ideas for native characters that the kits within were a very welcome addition to the overall mythos of the Land of Mists. My favourite of the bunch was the ghostwatcher kit. Though one complaint was the total lack of any ideas for psionicists which were still at the time being supported in the core book. I also enjoyed this book for stating out some of my favourite Ravenloft heroes such as Larissa Snowmane, and the Kreutzer's . Overall I found this to have lots of good and useful information, easily worth the money I spent on it.
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