Marching into new adventures - a Mephisto review
With The Bloodmarch, Fria Ligan now delivers the third region for Forbidden Lands and, thus, another campaign for the fantasy role-playing game. After the Ravenlands and the Bitter Reach, this time, the adventure leads west into the Bloodmarch. The campaign assumes that the events in the Ravenlands have resulted in the reopening of the pass to the Bloodmarch so that settlers and adventurers flock to this new region to seek their fortune.
The Bloodmarch is an entirely different region than the Ravenlands. Demons have also ravaged here, but the demonic threat here is now more bizarre and dangerous, with flesh-like forests growing across the landscape. The ruling power in the region is the Horse Clans, but the five individual clans disagree with each other, although some candidates would like to change that and seek to unite the clans. But the Horse Clans, too, are actually relatively newcomers who have displaced the original inhabitants of the lands, the Vasnians, and driven them back into a small area of the land.
In addition, there are the Horned Dwarves, who are allied with the Horse Clans, and another elven power, the Red Elves, who are associated with the demonic forests, not to mention the elusive moon elves. The fact that these factions are not all friendly to each other is unsurprising. Therefore, The Bloodmarch offers several power groups and conflicts at once.
For example, two of the churches from Alderland are active in the region with opposing goals. In addition, there are the oneiromancers, a mage sect led by an exceptional leader. The Horse Clans are trying to unite under one of the tribes, and the Vasnians would like to drive all invaders out of their land. And, of course, the remaining demonic forces here also have sinister goals. Add to that an even more sinister newcomer, and you get a hint of the resulting conflicts and alliances. This situation is the starting point for the campaign, which also involves the search for several magical artifacts for which the various power groups have their own uses.
What's important, without giving too much away, is that more secrets about the entire setting will be revealed in the course of the background story. Thus, the arrival of the humans in the Ravenlands is explained and appears in a different light, and another sinister threat comes into play. First, the sourcebook provides a basic overview of the region, which is characterized by volcanoes, ash fields, cliffs, and the demonic Crimson Forests. Then the book highlights the different kin and their roles and introduces the region and some selected locations.
In terms of gameplay, the book also offers several new magic schools. First, there is the Magma Song, which is a variant of the Stone Song that can be used to manipulate fire and stones. There is also the school of Mentalism, which can be used to influence people's minds. Oneiromancy, a kind of dream magic, plays a unique role. For the followers of the Rust Church there is also Magnetism, another small magic school. Essential for the setting are also some potions, especially of the blue tar consecrated to the gods, and other things.
Of course, the book describes traveling in the Bloodmarch, and offers tables to roll for random encounters and terrain that suit the setting accordingly.
The magical items of divine origin central to the setting are described in depth and covered in terms of rules. It is also essential to determine where the corresponding objects are located at the beginning of the campaign, for which there are sometimes several possibilities. After that, the core characters of the campaign are presented, of which there are quite a few. From the Horse Clan warrior who wants to unite the tribes to the leaders of the different churches who follow their secret missions to powers that can endanger the entire region, The Bloodmarch offers a complex and dynamic background.
As expected for such a setting, there is also a bestiary with new monsters briefly described. The strange creatures encompass, e.g., the mechanical mecha built by the dwarves, dangerous plant creatures, and winged horses. Of course, the book features random encounters that can serve as a prelude to small adventures before the descriptions of places kick off in about the last third of the book.
The Bloodmarch follows the same path as the previous books in that it introduces places, their inhabitants, and story hooks, but there are no concrete adventures with a specific course of action. The campaign is based on the actions and initiative of the player characters. These scenarios can resolve quite differently depending on how the players proceed and how they antagonize or ally with the various other powers. Each adventure site offers hooks for the campaign before finally coming to an epic finale at some point. The book concludes with rumors for the player characters. Interestingly, these are not limited to the region but look at other areas and describe the overall world more precisely. On the other hand, the rumors already hint that other regions will probably soon be covered in future setting books. And again, it is possible that at the end of the campaign, another region of the game world will become accessible, which can be expected to be covered in a sourcebook in the future.
The Bloodmarch is a well-crafted sourcebook for Forbidden Lands, which is especially useful if you are more interested in a region among barren rocks, volcanic landscapes and horsemen clans instead of the previous settings of Ravenlands or Bitter Reach, or if you have successfully worked through the other regions and now want to follow the overall campaign to the next epic goal. The book is well written and atmospherically illustrated, so this sourcebook can definitely be recommended to Forbidden Lands game groups. The Bloodmarch presents an exciting campaign, fascinating non-player characters, a look at the wider background, and a few new magic schools and monsters.