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Valkyrie Magazine and RPGnet are happy to provide this review.


Council of Wyrms
AD&D® Campaign Setting
TSR Inc.
[sterling]17.99 - Box Set

For those of you whose gaming ego has got the better of them, TSR proudly presents a campaign setting where you get to play Dragons. No, I'm quite serious. You actually get to play a Dragon - including the big teeth, wings, claws and awesome Listermint-proof breath! Set on the rather inanely titled Io's Blood Isles the PCs take the role of fledgling Dragons (from the crystal, and metallic ranges - sorry no Chromatic types, these are only available as NPCs, and rightly so) or Dragon kindred and Half-Dragons(!). But why any self respecting AD&D player would want to choose to play kindred or a half-Dragon over one of the mighty beasts is beyond me, but then I guess it takes all kinds.

For eighteen pounds you get three books, 12 heavy stock table and picture (backed with character sheet) cards, and three large fold out sheets. The sheets contain a map of the campaign area, a detailed clan structure of the island dwellers and a Dragon size scale, something that brought home to me the sheer size of these creatures and the stupidity of finding them down a dungeon. Which, by way of coincidence, brings the whole idea of a Dragon campaign into perspective. These creatures are huge, and although I don't usually dwell too much on ecology in a fantasy world, looking at some of the diets of these creatures they should have died of starvation several millennia ago. Each of the Dragon kin live on several islands - how long do you think it would take to strip the area of available food sources by a sizeable creature? Not long, I can tell you.

Book One deals with the rulings of playing the mighty creatures. Dragon PCs are created the same way one would create a normal AD&D player character and thus become just another 'class' for the AD&D game with a few extra limbs and special powers. All the tables necessary for character creation are muttered in the right direction and background is aplenty to give guidance to the fledgling Dragon player fresh from the egg. The rest of the book is just a grouping and expansion of material found in various Monstrous Compendium entries that have appeared over the years.

The campaign booklet is a little on the thin side. I'm not sure what plans TSR have for this campaign setting, but if it's anything like the current trend (Masque of the Red Death for example), this box set will be a one off. Which is a shame - Io's Blood Isles are so poorly detailed that you never get a real feel for the atmosphere of the place and it's though they have been used as a coat hook to just hang the Dragon campaign on.

Most of this volume consists of the Dragon clans and the society - which could be placed in any campaign setting and so makes this the most valuable book in the set. As with any other character class kits are provided for Dragons - now this attracted my attention and notes were quickly made. But then I thought, "Dragon-Priests and Dragon-Mages, aren't they just like Human-Priests and Human-Mages but a little bigger with crucial breath?" well, yes - and if you want to include these creatures in your campaign, get a Dragon and just add spells, no need to lash out [sterling]18.00. The other demi-human and human kits, Dragon Slayer, ward, exile, and Dragon Rider, are all sufficiently limp-wristed to be of interest as player characters.

Adventures is the Grande finale - it better be good. The first adventure sees the new Dragon PCs still wobbling about in the egg. Entitled "Not the Draca" it's basically a raid on the egg store by humanoids with a taste of the best things in life and Dragon meat. The whole thing occurs as the PC Dragons begin to hatch and the plot does not do justice to the television series from which its title is taken (the wonderful "Dinosaurs") and if the PCs don't act fast it could be a "well, is that it?" type of campaign.

There are three more adventures in the booklet and each takes the young Dragons further on in their careers as adventurers and the DMTM is advised to expand on each of them to flesh out the adventure and make it more enjoyable. I'm sorry, but if I'd just paid the best part of [sterling]20.00 I'd expect a little more than that, especially when you consider that the adventures could be undertaken by any party of humans or demi-humans.

The only thing that really peaked my interest in this box (apart from the Dragon size chart) was the material on Dragon Clan structure. Now this, I thought, I can actually use in my campaign. Dragons have been with AD&D since the beginning (what did you think the second "D" stood for) and nothing has really been done to bring the creature out of the primeval ooze - with this statement I am totally dismissing the whole of the Dragonlance campaign setting which was purely a marketing exercise implemented at a time when people thought Dragons were cute.

Overall: I'll definitely be putting a fair bit information found in Council of Wyrms to use in my own campaign. I won't, however, be making use of the Io's Blood setting, and I will certainly not be letting my players take the roll of Dragons - what will they want next? Tarrasque Thief Acrobat PCs? I feel that this boxed set is going to work best in an already established AD&D campaign setting (such as the Forgotten Realms), and the various Dragon clans should be given their own hidden niches for PCs to discover and interact with. If you've ever considered running a campaign based on the Anne McAfferey Pern series of books, then this could be a major help (along with the Atlas of Pern, illustrated by the talented Karen Wynn-Fostead), but, as an overall campaign setting, Council of Wyrms is certainly not worth the [sterling]18.00 asking price.

Review by Stig

Product supplied by TSR UK Ltd.

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