In the Midnight campaign setting, the dark god Izrador has conquered the lands of man. Upon the wreckage of one of the greatest cities of Eredane, the scholarly city of Highwall, Izrador had his minions erect his own dark capital, and the great tower of Theros Obsidia. A constant reminder to those who survive and still oppose of what has been and what is now.
City of Shadow is the fifth supplement for the citing describing the remnants of the city and the tower of Theros Obsidia, as well as the forces residing in it. It is important to note that while this supplement was written in the 3.5 edition era, it was also written before Midnight 2nd edition, and so some of the stat blocks, characters, and monsters do not follow the new additions that Midnight 2nd edition follows.
The front cover shows a dark side picture of the city with some orcs, legates, and some companions standing on a ledge overlooking it. The picture is nice and fitting, but I do not believe it truly captures the feel and surrounding of Theros Obsidia, especially when we take into account the later description of the city and its layout. Most of the interior art is taken over by maps (more on that later), and a smaller part with the regular high quality of dark, moody, drawings characterizing other Midnight products and the Midnight setting in general.
The book itself is divided into five chapters, and so I’ll break them down for you:
Chapter 1 is a short, yet nicely written, history lesson of the city of Highwall, how it grew and prospered through the ages, its importance to the people of Eredane, how it finally fell to the armies of the Shadow, and how Theros Obsidia was founded on its crumbling building.
Chapter 2 describes the city proper, both a short geographical descriptions, and a note on how the city looked before it was conquered. A simple map with few buildings (most have been destroyed while the city was conquered) gives a general idea of what the city looks like, with several points of interests numbered and described. Most are described in a paragraph or two, perhaps also a personality to go along with it, rather dryly I think. Not much mood is built into these descriptions, and compared to other products in the Midnight line, has very few adventure seeds scattered around. Probably the most interesting place and organization described in this chapter is the Blackwood Company, a company of corrupt elves fighting for the Shadow; but this too, I believe, suffer from a lack of personality as the Company is described is general lines, and broad strokes only.
The resistance, meager as it is, is also described in this chapter, and introduces a new organization with a new prestige class, the Lightbearers. Again, not much detail is given. The last several pages of the chapter has an encounter table for Highwall, with stats for those described in the table.
Chapter 3 is all about the dark tower that was erected with the divine powers of Izrador, Theros Obsidia. The Theros Obsidia complex has two towers: Theros Obsidia Minor (rising just about 250 ft. in height) and Theros Obsidia Major (rising about 2000 ft. in height), the Keep surrounding the larger tower, and a dungeon complex bellow the towers. For me, both towers were unimaginative and uninteresting. I can understand the visual impressiveness of high, sky-reaching, dark and brooding towers… but I don’t know, having barracks in the tower that has the soldiers running 60-100 ft. of stairs down to respond to an emergency doesn’t sound like good design to me, or putting storage areas on the two topmost floors… though I might be wrong, and this might be very logical. And that is just the smaller tower.
The main tower, having 50 levels, is described with even a broader brush. The dungeon beneath has, among other things, a place for prisoners and a Demonarium (a dormprison) for alliedcaptures demons and devils of the dark god. And the Keep surrounding Theros Obsidia Major, mainly just tells us who lives there, how large the garrison is, and where such structures as the stables, the smithy, and warehouses are.
Chapter 4 was the best chapter in the book for me. It is this chapter that gives us a closer, in-depth look at the Order of Shadow and the legates, those evil servants of Izrador: his clerics. The chapter describes some of the daily rituals and costumes of the legates, as well as describes for us how Lesser Legates are recruited, trained and serve in the great hierarchy. Also described are the Soldier Legates (with their own initiation, training, and the service they provide) and the Temple Legates and their obligations. It is in this book (and it was later incorporated into the Midnight 2nd edition core book, and well as expanded further in almost every other Midnight supplement) that we were first introduced to the Black Schism that threatens to tear the Order of Shadow apart between the Cabal and Devout. Also were shortly described (and again, later expanded and incorporated) where other small sects and factions within the Order (The Harrowers, Sisterhood of Tender Mercy, and the Eyes of Izrador) that made the whole monolithic Order much more intriguing (and intrigue ridden), dangerous, and interesting. Too bad the list of Greater Legates at the end of this chapter did not incorporate at least a small part of that into itself, instead of jut giving us name, race, level, and location.
Chapter 5 gives general ideas for campaign for either good or evil characters and the mechanics for the new PrC mentioned earlier, the Lightbearer. This chapter could have been better used, possibly, by giving more adventure hooks rather than just bland ideas such as “Patrol”, “Smuggling”, or “Breaking the Mirror”. Two more PrC (Harrower and Legate Martial) are available for download from the web enhancement on the Midnight page at the FFG site.
This book receives 3 stars because I do think that it has some interesting ideas and some good stuff in it... but not enough. Another problem of this book is that it is very limited as going into Highwall is probably one of the most dangerous tasks possible for Midnight heroes (not the most dangerous, but it is certainly in the top five), and even what it does describes it does only half-heartedly. A DM wanting to have his characters in Highwall, either as good characters infiltrating or evil characters working with the shadow, will probably be able to use this book, but only as a very general basis.
For people not running Midnight, I do not think there is anything to find here.