This is my sword. There are many like it, but this one is mine...
A few weeks ago, freelance RPG writer, Matt James, put a call out on Twitter. Matt was looking for 4e bloggers that might be willing to review his upcoming offering, "Soldiers Of Fortune"; a gaming supplement set in Wolfgang Baur's, Kobold Quarterly's campaign setting - Midgard. I initially jumped at the chance, because I've known Matt from Twitter and from having him on the DM Roundtable which I help host.
Matt was quick to send me a review copy of the supplement, and then I promptly set to...well, sitting on it. There are a number of reasons for my hesitation, but most of them had to do with my lack of experience in reviewing this kind of material. While I'm eager to share my thoughts about products I actually use (usually dungeon terrain and other types of physical objects), I have much less experience reviewing written words. That lack of experience combined with a product I wouldn't necessarily immediately have use for myself (or so I thought at the time), made me drag my feet. However, I have finally shaken off that bit of writer's block, and so a little late to the party, I provide this review. Matt, I ask your forgiveness for my hesitation. Please don't assign me to KP duty.
As I stated above, this supplement is probably not one I would have initially picked up on my own. My own campaigns don't have a strong militarized element, and that is what Soldiers Of Fortune is all about. If you want to know how to incorporate guards, soldiers, mercenaries, and armies into your 4e campaigns, this is definitely the tome for you. However, even if you (like me) don't have a strong military component to your campaigns, you can still find something useful in this supplement. In fact, there are SO MANY interesting and useful tidbits, I'm going to give you 20 reasons (in no particular order) to immediately go out and buy Soldiers Of Fortune. Free 3-Day passes to anyone doing a push-up after reading each one:
01) Clear and well thought treatise on the reasons for going to war.
02) Plot hooks that are specific to the subject matter of the book, but general enough to drop into any campaign setting.
03) Clear examples on how the various races of the Midgard setting view the life of a soldier.
04) Numerous Skill Challenge examples that work great in just about any military adventure.
05) Clear examples (in the form of "Edicts") that show how armies work and how military campaigns are conducted in the Midgard setting.
06) Numerous "call-outs", little boxes of extra text that help tie either real-world or campaign setting information in to the general information provided by the supplement.
07) Interesting NPC generals and leaders suitable for use in any campaign.
08) An entirely new background theme for military characters - The Mercenary.
09) An entire career's worth of new Powers: At-Wills, Encounter, & Dailies.
10) A slew of new feats for military characters.
11) Powers & feats specifically related to the use of siege engines.
12) Military themed Paragon paths.
13) A host of new magic items including War Banners and new Martial Practices.
14) A complete adventure for five - 7th level players.
15) New monsters. Many of the new monsters are related to the Midgard campaign setting, but could easily be re-skinned to suit any campaign.
16) New minion & minion aura rules to facilitate large combats (but see my notes below).
17) A boat load of new templates for various military types.
18) The entire supplement is laid out in an attractive way with sparse but relevant art and maps for the included adventure.
19) A fantastic section on siege engines and how to use them. This section (for me) is worth the price of admission alone.
20) Clearly written by someone who has been in the military and is able to apply that knowledge to the game, without speaking down to those of us without that experience.
With all these great reasons to buy Soldiers Of Fortune, there are a couple of things I would have like to have seen that are not included. The supplement is certainly complete without them, but I think it would have floored me had they been included.
01) Rules for large scale combats. The 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons has been lax on this point, and this book would have been a natural place for those rules. It's quite possible, though, that there's enough material on that subject to warrant a second book. Soldiers Of Fortune - The Field of Battle would be a great title for that, by the way. Just sayin'.
02) Clearer rules for when characters NOT of a military nature find themselves conscripted into an army. How can the Rogue, Wizard, or Druid get along if left with no other choice but to find themselves drafted? I think that would have been a great addition.
Again, these are minor points. Overall, even though I don't run a military styled campaign, there is plenty of material in Soldiers Of Fortune to warrant its cost. Every DM needs to have these rules in their 4e arsenal.
Soldiers of Fortune is available at the Kobold Quarterly Store in both PDF file and hard copy versions. I do suggest you pick up a copy.
At ease, Soldier.
Until next time...
Game excellently with one another.