Sometimes I read a supplement and I want to say a few things about it on here, but don’t want to give it a full article; for this purpose I’m going to start reviewing such things in this new ongoing feature, Supplement Supplemental. This time around, I’ve got some slim additions to Changeling: the Lost and RuneQuest to look at.
Oak, Ash, & Thorn (Changeling: the Lost)
Oak, Ash, & Thorn is billed as “The Changeling: the Lost Second Edition Companion”, this feels like something of a misnomer. Usually, when RPG supplements are billed as “companions” – and that’s been true for Onyx Path’s Chronicles of Darkness output as any game line – that’s usually a signal that they have a fairly broad scope, offering a diverse range of material which may be a bit of a grab-bag, but precisely because of this can be potentially useful for a wide variety of campaigns within the envisioned scope of the game. Onyx Path have used the “companion” designation for some of their own material – think the V20 Companion or the Dark Ages Companion – which very much fits the status of stuff which, whilst useful, didn’t fit in the core book for their respective lines.
That is not quite the case with Oak, Ash, & Thorn, which actually is more specific in intention and unified in theme than that. As the introduction notes, it’s pitched to “Tier 2” Changeling games. Tier 1 is street-level, low-status stuff, where the PCs are probably not the movers and shakers in their Courts and events focus tightly on the motley’s immediate needs and foes. (Think the classic mode of play of early Vampire: the Masquerade, when the overriding assumption was that the PCs were all new-ish vampires towards the lower end of an extensive hierarchy as of the start of the campaign.) At the other end of the scale is Tier 3, which are intended to be more global in scope; this is the sort of cosmic-scape campaign which culminates with you bursting into the True Fae’s homes in Arcadia to go full Long Lankin on them.
Tier 2, in between those extremes, is intended to focus on court-scale stuff – with PCs who are significant enough to the local Changeling community to have significant roles in their courts, but who aren’t at the level of mustering armies to invade Arcadia yet. Oak, Ash, & Thorn, then, is specifically directed to expanding on that level of inter-Changeling interaction.
If you want a Changeling campaign which focused primarily on the PCs desperately putting together their lives, staying one step ahead of their True Fae pursuers, and maybe claiming something back from their fetch, it might be so useful unless you really want to work through what’s going on with the more powerful NPCs. If you want a campaign primarily about smacking down Huntsmen and ravaging Arcadia, a lot of the business in here may feel like a distraction.
On the other hand, if you want a Changeling campaign which is more about Changelings interacting with each other, rather than Changelings running from the True Fae or avenging themselves on the True Fae, the material in Oak, Ash, & Thorn will be very helpful. You get a bit more on freeholds, you get details on how you go about founding a Court or a court-like structure, you get information on Entitlements (offices held by legendary Changelings which you can adopt and gain power from – a bit like Avatars in Unknown Armies) and you get a little section on Tokens, which are basically magic items but which are made from the substances of oaths.
This is all interesting stuff which usefully fleshes out in the core book, though equally the book feels a little lightweight. It’s reasonably priced for a PDF, but the POD version feels a little pointless – if you’re paying this much for a book already, you’ll probably also want the Tier 1 companion and Tier 3 companion the framing of this as a Tier 2 companion implies the eventual existence of packaged with it.
The Red Book of Magic (RuneQuest)
Glorantha is a setting notable for the thought put into its religions and cultures, as witnessed by the fact that Cults of Prax is one of the truly crucial, game line-shaping releases for RuneQuest Classic back in the day, so Cults of Glorantha is one of the big, major supplements for the current edition of the game. It… isn’t out yet. That’s understandable – it’s meant to be much more expansive than, say, Cults of Prax or Cults of Terror were back in the day, and Chaosium want it to be the definitive religion supplement for the game so they are making sure that they really push out the boat on it and make sure it has great art and solid production values.
The Red Book of Magic is a sort of by-product of it, but it is at least a sensible one to spin off and a book which will be useful even before Cults of Glorantha comes out. It’s an in-depth exploration of two of the RuneQuest magic systems, rune magic and spirit magic, which are both closely tied to the religions of the world. Different cults give you access to different rune magic and spirit magic spells; this book gives you about as complete a collection of rune and spirit magic spells for the game that exists, plus further details to help you understand their roles, how they tend to manifest, how to expand on them and so on and so forth.
Not only will The Red Book of Magic end up being a useful resource for anyone using Cults of Glorantha when it comes out, because it will provide all the spells that the cults in there provide their members, but it’s also a handy resource to use even before that comes out, since you can pretty much use the basic details on cults in the core book plus the details of magic in here to get a rough idea of what sort of spells your own homebrewed cults would give their adherents. And beyond the context of RuneQuest and Glorantha itself, if you’re running a Basic Roleplaying-powered fantasy using similar underlying systems for magic like OpenQuest or Mythras, then hey, here’s a nice collection of spells you can use.