Shadows of Esteren – somewhere in the realm of Call of Cthulhu, Ravenloft and Game of Thrones

Gare – Sunday, March 2, 2014 12:30 AM
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Shadows of Esteren, the medieval horror pen and paper RPG, is once again making its rounds on Kickstarter, with vast amounts of success – the recently launched fourth Esteren-related campaign reached its initial goal in days, with the counter still steadily growing ever since – we can, I assume, conclude that the Jim Searcy-led project is doing something very right. With the game’s basic books already out, the present campaign now aims to collect funds for a supplement titled The Monastery of Tuath.

The most important question here is, of course: what exactly is Shadows of Esteren?

No doubt many an interested roleplayer will find the project’s basic pitch interesting enough, which places it somewhere in the realm of Call of Cthulhu, Ravenloft and Game of Thrones. Esteren’s world is practically medieval, but still very much (dark) fantasy, which we could more or less chalk up to being a subtle nod to George R.R. Martin’s works; what makes the campaign Lovecraftian – or Ravenloftian – is somewhat of a different issue, though. One of Esteren’s very elegant features is its conscious inclusion of magic and the supernatural in its world while doing it in a covert, low-fantasy way, so to speak. While its presence is not overly apparent, it manifests itself not only in the horrific beasts that may or may not lurk in the shade beyond the city walls – there is a deeper horror at work, it appears, one that the inhabitants of the Tri-Kazel peninsula – serving as the game’s setting – are not even aware of. Similarly exciting are the characters controlled by their respective players: none of them are infallible heroes or so-called chosen ones – their success is solely dependent on their own will, wit and cunning in a dark and dangerous world. Neither are they avatars of virtue, and may face sanity-breaking mental issues when confronted with some of the supernatural horrors present in the world.

Those interested in the basic features of the setting and the fundamental vision and rule system behind it can download the introductory „Prologue” book in a pdf format, completely free of charge – the book, we must also point out, includes six pre-made characters as well. Yet another piece of information worth mentioning is that Esteren is now expanding its influence to the video game world as well – a classic point and click adventure taking place in the world detailed within the books, titled The Mac Lyrs' Legacy, is in the works, with its beta version being one of the backer rewards for the current Kickstarter project.

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