Fronela review.

From: Keith Nellist <keithnellist_at__NHOb88FYQY9xOCo3XojB8Nd2qvsQjGHr0MZ4Spz4ZmPwqCWI5K63ok5H_PWG13>
Date: Tue, 14 Apr 2009 04:42:27 -0000

I've been enjoying the 2nd Age output from Mongoose, even though I sometimes feel that it sometimes does things the way I wouldn't have, or is too obviously catering for a party of adventurers, or just misses some fact or glosses over something that I would consider important. I don't think that they are getting enough reviews, good or bad, so rather than complain about that, I thought I'd try to write some. Here's my take on Fronela.

First off, the cover. This is of a shiny looking knight on a horse slashing at some out of shot opponent with a green clawed hand barely making the edge of the . It's workable as an eyecatching picture - the composition is good - but on closer inspection I'd question stuff like the position of his shield when riding a horse, the whole anatomy of the horse, the lack of eyes, and the fact that the helmet has no airholes. I'd say it was fairly non-Gloranthan and not a classy piece of art. For art direction I think it should have featured something from the Fronelan landscape - such as a big river, or lots of snow, or Sogolotha Mambrola - something specifically from Fronela - such as Hsunchen, or Grotarons, or knights. I guess we have the Knight, but I'm not satisfied with it. It has clearly been cut down from a larger picutre which might give more context and given some narrative to the scene. Enough moaning about the picture, my main gripe with the cover is the fact that it curls up into a tube. I'm not sure what process isn't working when these books are made but this is the most annoying thing about this book.

The structure of the book is fairly standard: Introduction, History, an overview, then detail for Loskalm, the Janube City states, the barbarian lands of Charg and Golaros, then the Hsunchen, Cults and finally an adventure, and an index. For those Glorantha completists who have most supplements, con books, box sets, fanzines etc the book feels for the most part like a compilation of old articles, which is not necesarily a bad thing, has been done before and besides, what other option is there when the facts of Fronela need to remain essentially the same.

The downside of this is, in my opinion, that Fronelan history is, and always has been, a bit dull. Until the interesting stuff like the Syndics Ban, Zoria, the Arrolian settlements, Lord Death of a Horse, the Kingdom of War and Harrek happen. Now, that may be the fault of the author in presenting the material, or it may be that the material just doesn't grab me personally. Perhaps there wasn't enough space to fit in more than the bare facts of Fronela. Even here though, it has struck me that some things are not even mentioned. I cannot see anything about the Dilis Swamp, or Gharkor, how about Wooly Rhinos? I cannot find where the Gate of Banir is supposed to be.

The editing is a bit odd in places, for example when Bergotha has two subtitles. The index is too small to be of much use. The table on page 63 is organised oddly, it should have either been grouped by allegiance or by Tribe, not in alphabetical name order. The illustrations are the normal grey sludge that I personally dislike. What's wrong with black and white without the dull grey intermediates? Perhaps I'm old fashioned as most RPG supplements seem to prefer this format but it is just not my cup of tea. I do not know what the illustration on p.65 is supposed to be of. The map, also, would have been better in black and white with a readable font, with provinces and such like marked on it. The map has more problems, specifically that it does not tell you enough about where stuff is. Where is the Khuul Forest, the Grand hunting, the Sullen Hills, War Moor, Camp Nuvarus. Where, indeed is Golarus, where is the dot for Galastar, what is the blobby thing down the middle of Charg? Is Morain spelt Morain or Morian?

I'm possibly being a bit harsh and giving this book a bad rap. I guess I should point out the good things. I do actually like it. It has inspired me to try to make a History of Fronela Britannia style board game so there you go - it's inspiring. The brief scenario at the end of the book is OK, but feels like it is an edited down version of something longer. There are scenario hooks in the rest of the text but they could have been presented more clearly as such. I think perhaps the problem with this product is not that it doesn't do what it was written to do but that the whole premise of the book could have been different. There seems to be a lot of skimming of the surface where a smaller more focused adventure would have actually revealed more about Fronela in a show not tell sort of way. As an example, the "personalities" are interesting but what have they got to do with the Hsunchen tribes, what have they got to do with the ghost city of Inkankos and how do I get them all into my story about Ernalda the Snake worshipping barbarian tribes. Is . My guess is that there was too much material needed to just cover the basic background in 102 pages and keep it coherent. I know random encounter tables are out dated, but they did give a feel for what sort of thing one might encounter wandering around a particular area and might have helped here to make sense of where various Hsunchen might be encountered, what sort of beasts are wandering around, who might be doing what, especially when tied in with a more useful map. Even some random events, similar to the format from Genertela Crucible of the Hero Wars might have been good.

There are so many products that this can be compared with - Griffin Mountain (a big wilderness to wander around in), Genertela: Crucible of the Hero Wars (most of the basic information on Fronela is here), Glorantha the Second Age (a lot of the 2nd age information, for example the personalities, are originally mentioned here), Dara Happa Stirs (as an example of something that "Fronela" could have been like). Most of these are absolute classics not just for Glorantha but for Role Playing Games so Fronela is up against tough competition. it is not Griffin Mountain. It is not Genertela: Crucible of the Hero Wars. It is a reasonable product, that is not without faults. I'm glad I bought it.

Why didn't Lawrence rename Loskalm Lozkalm?            

Powered by hypermail