Review: North Seat Player’s Primer
Hello everyone! Remember when I was here last week and I had to change up the review? Well, it definitely ended up being the right choice. Today I do not bring you the review of the first book of the North Seat campaign setting. Instead I have the Player’s Primer which is a supplement to go along with the setting and an absolute must if you are going to play North Seat Book 1. I will get into that, but this is important to note moving in the review of Book 1 later on, because without it the quality of Book 1 changes.
A Primer For….Everyone?
Let’s start with what this book is: a player’s primer. Primer, companion, supplement. Call it what you will but this book is a lot more than that. It may be some inexperience with the diversity of products out there but this is not a player’s primer, this is a campaign primer. Sure, it is addressed to the players and it includes all the things you would find in the Player’s Guide for a game. We have races, sub-races, class adjustments, and backgrounds all here. More than that though; we have languages, lore, history, philosophy, a starting town, major NPCs, major locations, and a change to the economy of the game. That is a LOT of stuff and certainly more than I had expected to find within its pages.
Please note: I don’t dislike this! In fact I think this is a great little product to work with and it has everything you will need to move into the North Seat. However, the title is a little misleading as to the full content. While Player’s Primer fits the Player’s Handbook style of naming convention, we should really take a step away from that when looking at a specific campaign setting we are building. Even if sticking to that convention and keeping the name, it would benefit Ethan Hudgens (writer) to fully list the amount of useful information here on the product page. This could only help draw some interest for the setting and also let DMs know that they really need to look through this as much, if not more so, than players.
All that being said this supplement / setting book has some interesting and fun content. Right off the bat we are given two things. We get an idea for the type of campaign we will be playing through a narration and short description first. Second, we get the few minor changes to classes. Those changes immediately reveal some of the aspects of what makes the campaign different. Not all of them will be fully understood until you are finished getting through the book, but they are enough for you to get a grasp on the setting. From there it goes straight into the races, of which there are 8. Its a pretty decent number, and not all of them are drawn from the standard D&D races. Those that are, are flavored differently and fit the setting well, helping to develop it as its own thing. The racial abilities granted to the other races are pretty good too. From help proving yourself right in skill checks to speaking with domestic animals to a minor psychic link with your close friends. All in all, even elves can be parsed out if you know their racials off hand, but they don’t scream elf at you from the outset.
The races take up the biggest chunk of this product, but there is still plenty more to be had. Background dominate a few pages, giving you plenty of options for where your character comes from that fit right in the North Seat setting. Things like warrior and apprentice make an appearance as good stand-bys, but you can also find farmers and the campaign specific whispered. There is also a list of languages which has been fleshed out and explained and a starting gear portion that breaks it down nicely for the entire group. Items are chosen or given based on what you are and the group as a whole also gets items to work with. Finally the book rounds itself off by explaining how things work and delving into lore. Reputation points are used instead of money, allowing players to perform tasks, become known, and ask for favors. This is an interesting and fun alternative that encourages them to talk to NPCs, perform favors, and go adventuring. And not to worry, because they have a list of important people and places there too. Then comes the lore, gods, and how spells are treated. This even includes philosophies on how magic works and why it should be used, which is really interesting. It is those, especially, that make this a necessity for DM’s to really read.
I have mixed feelings on this one guys. The fonts chosen are simple and readable. The basic design is also simple, but styled much as other similar products with the worn page look. Font sizes, bolding, underlining, and the like are almost entirely well done and used appropriately. Tables an side bars are well made, placed appropriately, stand out, and work. Hell there is even a table of contents and you KNOW how much I like those. But, and here comes the big but, this looks sloppily finalized. I don’t like saying that and I, frankly, don’t know how to suggest fixing it or how to explain what happened. So much of this product is well done, but I can take some guesses.
It looks almost as if there may have been writing in different files and all collected into the final product. This, I know, can make weird things happen if you don’t take time carefully doing little by little. I say this because there are areas with gaps that imply messed up spacing formatting, breaks that are hard to find without knowing how to look at them, or pictures that should have been there but aren’t. Or even spaces from picture-text wrapping that carries over to a random spot…..because that happens. On occasion it looks like the enter wasn’t keyed enough to get the heading on over to the next column and it sits lonely and awkwardly on the column before. All of these are minor problems that total up to something that, if changed, would improve this product a great deal.
Ethan. Please, for the next edit, take some time and move through the file. Get some indenting on paragraph starts or space them. Make sure headers are on top of their sections. Hell loosen everything up a little to get some better looking spacing and presentation, even if it adds 2-3 pages. Your product will be 100 times the better for it. Other than that keep fixing the grammar / word errors and, maybe, make the table shading a blue or green or something that doesn’t fade into the weathered page look. This is good product and with a little effort can be great!
All that being said this is well beyond worth the cost of PWYW. I am no pricing expert, but a few dollars for this would be worth it. Or better yet, bundled with Book 1 for a bit more would be good too. So, if you’re looking for a campaign setting that feel different but won’t take years of lore research think about giving this one a go. Both products are PWYW and with some purchases and payments we can encourage creators like Ethan to do more and improve the great work being done.