PrinceofNothingReviews: Dark Albion Pt. IV: So fuck that and fuck you, you sad little shit. I know it must be really hard to see me win again and again at every thing I do, but frankly, I couldn’t give a fuck anymore about whatever issues you have with me. I don’t need to anymore, because I won.

(muchos gracias to Timothy for providing some of the choicest Pundit quotes for us to gaze upon and admire on YDIS)

Dark Albion stretches out before me and behind me, as unfathomable and dimensionless as the heart of some primordial ocean. I can no longer turn back but there is no end in sight. I plod on, deeper and deeper, praying that beyond the measureless abyss there is air and light and heat, hoping against hope that by that time I will still be able to recognize what they are.

Much aplomb is made about the History of Dark Albion. I hope you like History because Dark Albion gives you enough to deepthroat a spermwhale. It also would have made more sense to present the history before the Gazetteer, since this makes it easier to understand the frequent references to historical events and places given in said gazetteer but fuck it. We are told that this is a year of many inauspicious portents and omens, with dark clouds, cold winters, rebellions and a glaring defeat against the hated Frog Men at Castillon and the stinking Turks took Byzantium. FUCK.

The North of Albion is broiling with gang wars and feuds and basically in Dark Albion 1453 war was beginning as shit threatens to get out of hand. But first some more history. It begins with pre-history fantasy, some good stuff, the elves that bred men and goblins and came to rely on them for shit and became decadent and used drugs and civil war and so on and so forth.
Excellent plot hook about the splinter faction of death cult worshipping faye being locked in the Pennine mountains with magic seals (War of the Rose is cool but a war of the rose that spirals into an apocalyptic zombie six-way mashup with the Frog Men, the united Scott tribes and the other Fey joining is better). After the Elves albion was led by Cymric wizard kings who could not sustain the level of magical infrastructure they needed and also gives a reason why there are so many goddamn Barrows everywhere.
This stuff is fine fantasy shit, which is why I think that a near perfect duplicate of England originating from these starting conditions is weird and silly. The rest is basically recorded history with some king arthur thrown in. I will give it credit for brevity yet completeness, essentials like previous monarchs are given in sparse yet comprehensive detail. I cannot stress enough the jarring tonal shift of reading about elf wizards fighting dragons on one page and pages and pages of nonmagical history completely uninfluenced by the fact they have clerics and wizards and demons and dragons on the other. If you are going to set it in a pseudo-historical setting its okay to make minor alterations here or there. You replaced France with a nation ruled by giant intelligent sorcerous frog men, I don’t think we need to worry overmuch about historical accuracy anymore.

What IS interesting is that Dark Albion provides a 50 year timeline with multiple events each year. Of course it is noted the PC’s can alter the course of events. Fortunately, Dark Albion remembers it is also a fantasy game, thus occasional off-hand mention of wolfmen or ratmen( a replacement for Jews? And also take a drink!) is made, in no way affecting the course of the war of course. Naturally, all events that would normally involve France have been given a tinge of sorcery since france has been replaced by Evil Frog Men, or at the very least the word Frenchman has been replaced with Frogman. And of course even though chaos looms and threatens and people have wizards and clerics, the timeline pretty much proceeds unchanged (historians or John, feel free to correct me on this). At least we get a hook where a band of adventurers gets to capture the Mad King and return him to Albion. It’s a good primer on the Rose War and it should provide you with a nice backdrop but I cannot help but snigger as I read about Henry Courtenay planning insurrection or the battle of Wexham and then suddenly a plot hook where a band of adventurers stops Sir Pierre de Braaap from summoning a Dragon in an elven temple or a crusade to stop Morgaine in Pictland. So goofy.
Incidentally, this is a sort of valid approach when writing historical fantasy, that is to say, you assume magic exists but it is either subtle, rare or it is largely countered by other magic and thus society can remain properly medieval. Take note, the last option had better be used with restraint. The way this shit is written its kind of obvious the magical elements are resolved by adventurers and don’t really affect the course of history and that is lame as shit. If they do, its because historical events have been rewritten as magical (better but still stupid because they have exactly the same outcome). The campaign ends on a high note with an epic battle between Henry Tudor’s army with a magically controlled dragon [for the PC’s to stop] and Richard York.

After this nonsense we finally arrive at character creation. Characters in Albion have randomly generated social status, ranging from peasant to nobility. This is no less the expected for a game of this type, what is interesting and deserves some small credit are the random background event and origin tables, remniscent of beloved Gaz 7 the Northern Reaches albeit more streamlined if at the cost of variety. Origins and events include such wonders as animal companions, banishment, true love, disinheritance, or encounters with chaos. Crucially, they provide both mechanical benefits or drawbacks and roleplaying/plot hooks. These deserve credit, they help flesh out the character and more importantly, embed them in the thematically wavering world of Dark Albion. Some of the bonuses are vague but this is neccesary if one wants to keep it compatible with all the progeny of Ur-DnD and the vat-grown monstrosities that came after them. Additionally, the notes on character classes and the list of english Anglish, Cymric, Scottish and Welsh are grimly functional. I randomly generated Sir Roger Egglesfield, Connor Macdobhnie (of the Unconquered Sun?), Gryffyth ap Wynn and Mildred the wisewoman for illustrational purposes.
Incidentally, if one had to pick at gunpoint or knifeblade a particular game or retroclone to inflict Dark Albion upon, Lamentations of the Flame Princess seems the logical choice, a viewpoint I seem to share with mr. Pundit but not mr. James Edward Raggi IV, unfortunately for mr. Pundit. It seems unneccesarily mean-spirited to cast salt into such obviously open wounds and therefore I shall neglect to do so just this once, for I am a kind man as well as a handsome one. I speculate the thematic gulf between Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Dark Albion was simply too vast to cross by any means known to modern science, and thus the two can be unified on the tabletop but not within the bindings of a hardcover.

The Equipment section seems fairly robust, with the short explanation on who controls most of the wealth and the role of barter conveying useful setting info. As expected, starting gp is radically different for commoners or nobles. I always like sections on coinage provided they do not drag on overly long and Dark Albion gives us our Groats, eggs and Crowns to place within our treasure hordes alongside the common pennies, shillings and pounds. Not only is the Nobility richer, but better equipped as well, with automatic starting equipment running the gamut from chainmail and a spear to a fucking war-horse and plate-mail. Bottom-line: If you are not noble born, eat shit faggots. Tiny detail that makes sense: armour maintenance costs and guidelines on how often one must do so. Nice.

Some specialised equipment that actually gives PC’s something to do with their inevitably accumulated hoards of ill-gotten gains: Sheffield Swords for your nonmagical historical equivalent of Valerian Steel/Masterwork Weaponry. Rules for Firearms and their availability are of course, provided. Like anything else, they are monstrously expensive so fuck you if you are not a Noble. Exploding dice rules for firearm damage and some drawbacks but you knew that already. The equipment list covers anything from everyday items to wage costs, mercenary costs (crucial for mid/high level games) housing costs and taxation so it fulfills its function quite nicely.

I’ve read enough for now. I’ll be checking out Albion’s Noble House simulator and mass combat resolution system next, again, credit where its due, this stuff absolutely needed to be in Dark Albion and its there, now lets see if it’s not shit. Maybe you can turn it into a sort of OSR Birthright. My predictions are in line with my experience of DA so far, its not very well written but its very thorough and completionist which is certainly nice. I think I almost would have liked it better if it had paradoxically less fantasy in it.

Current Attitude towards Dark Albion: Cloudy with occasional glimpses of (Unconquered) Sun.

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5 thoughts on “PrinceofNothingReviews: Dark Albion Pt. IV: So fuck that and fuck you, you sad little shit. I know it must be really hard to see me win again and again at every thing I do, but frankly, I couldn’t give a fuck anymore about whatever issues you have with me. I don’t need to anymore, because I won.

  1. This thing where all obviously magical happenings are eventually solved by adventurers so that the historical status quo remains untouched… it’s great fodder for a Doctor Who story/RPG, but it seems a little uncalled for here. If you’re going to introduce these elements throughout recorded pseudo-history then you’re going to deviate from the course of same at some point, or risk contrivance. (Of course, some of us tucked all our fantastic elements away in exile until history had arrived at the moment we wanted to use: a contrivance and a half and aren’t we lucky that the mythology fed right into our hands, eh?)

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    1. That SORCERY HATH RETURNED ALL HAIL DISCORDIA is actually a pretty good approach to historical fantasy, and you can always trace it back to the prophecies of the mad arab or ye olde Pnakoptic manuscripts and the knights templar or whathaveyou. Alternative, make magic super duper subtle and rare and on the fringes of society (I’d recommend it for a Terra Incognita Game or something).

      DA would have been better with advanced combat rules and without too much wizardry, kind of like OSR pendragon or something.

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      1. That’s pretty much exactly what I did and oh for fuck’s sake I’m just going to have to write this damn thing, aren’t I? (The super duper subtle and rare and on the fringes of society is something which would intrigue me a lot more if I didn’t have Mage: the I’m Not Sure What The Point Of This Magic Is fatigue.)

        I thought Pendragon was OSR Pendragon but what do I know?

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      2. Make it, i will support you in whatever way does not inconvenience me even in the slightest and it might galvanize me into typing up my own stuff in a format that is at least partially intelligible. Also podcast again, there is warhammerfagging that needs um…fagging.

        That fatigue is all your own fault. I will not sympathize with anyone wading through the snow-flake packed labyrinth of angst-wank that is M:tA (i admit i gave up after the ten pages of introductory fan fiction, unsual for a man of my fortitude and courage). I have half a mind to review something WoD related and i want to give it a fair shot so i might try Changeling: The emo, Beast: RAAAAWR or Demon: Have you seen the matrix? or perhaps mummy: YOU LEVEL DOWN and give it a spin.

        Pendragon is Basic Roleplaying, surely you would not suggest anything without saving throws is OSR? I need to make a list of persons anethema to the OSR so we know reflexively whom to shun.

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  2. The way this shit is written its kind of obvious the magical elements are resolved by adventurers and dont really affect the course of history and that is lame as shit.

    A wizard undid it.

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