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Monte Cook and Sean K. Reynolds
Wizards of the Coast, 224 pages

Monte Cook
Monte Cook is a graduate of the 1999 Clarion West writer's workshop. He has published two novels, The Glass Prison and Of Aged Angels. Also, he has contributed stories to Amazing Stories, Realms of Mystery, and Realms of the Arcane. As a senior game designer with Wizards of the Coast, he wrote the new Dungeon Master's Guide and served as co-designer of the new edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game.

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Sean K. Reynolds

Sean K. Reynolds grew up in southern California and went to college in Riverside. He received a bachelor's degree in chemistry and then went to work for a CD-ROM/video game company. In 1995, he moved to Wisconsin to be the webmaster/online coordinator for TSR andlater Wizards of the Coast. He took a job in their game design department in the spring of 1998 and left in 2002.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Craig Shackleton

The premise of the Ghostwalk campaign setting is that the city of Manifest is located at the gateway to the afterlife, and that the ghosts of the dead manifest there in physical form. This allows players to continue to play their characters as ghosts after they die.

While this is not an entirely new concept, it does have a refreshing tone for an afterlife/undead role-playing game. It does not have as much angst and darkness as other similar games have. In fact, Ghostwalk makes the unusual distinction that ghosts are not undead per se, merely once living souls in a new form. Actual undead are portrayed as an abomination against the natural state of being a ghost.

The upbeat tone does have a downside. Ghostwalk presents being a ghost as mostly advantageous, especially in the city of Manifest. It is also easier to return from the dead in Manifest than in most D&D settings. The consequences of death are trivialized to the point that characters are encouraged to occasionally intentionally kill themselves to gain the benefits of being a ghost. This tone is disturbing at times.

Ghostwalk presents game mechanics and statistics, as well as campaign and adventure information and setting material for the Manifest and the surrounding area. These are intended to be used either in part or as a whole, as the reader sees fit. Guidelines are given for fitting the various parts into an existing game setting.

The rules presented for playing a ghost are pretty solid and offer a good deal of variety to the players. The distinction between ghosts and undead is a little odd, especially if taken outside of the setting. There are new feats and magic items, and new ways to use existing skills. Some of this material is reprinted form other sources, but it all fits well, and there are only a few bits from each of a number of different resources.

The adventures presented are varied and individually well thought out. Although they are only connected to each other by the setting, they could easily be worked together into a campaign. There is a nice balance of location-based adventures and event-driven storylines.

The setting material is the real gem. The game world is diverse and interesting, with lots of believable conflict, but is simple enough to pick up and use quickly. Some parts are stronger than others. The country of Bazareene where the children of nobles are magically altered in the womb to be more powerful sorcerers springs to mind as one of the more interesting, whereas Tereppek, where everyone lives in a peaceful state of educated enlightenment seems a little dull.

Ghostwalk gives some new cultural motivations and background to dwarves, elves and yuan-ti. None of them are significantly changed from standard D&D, but they are given interesting twists. The yuan-ti are one of the major threats in the setting, locked in a grim war with the elves. The dwarves of manifest are the self-appointed guardians of the gateway to the afterlife.

There are two problematic quirks with Ghostwalk. The first is that it was released at almost the same time as the new D&D core rules. Ghostwalk follows the older version of the rules, and there is no conversion information at this time. The second is that there is no world map for the Ghostwalk setting. The geography is explained in enough detail to make your own map with a little work, the text clearly assumes that the map is provided. Either or both of these problems may be remedied by a web-enhancement in the future but it is not available yet.

Overall, Ghostwalk is a good product that provides exactly what it advertises. Many people will use parts of it for their existing games or mix it with other material they have. Its best value though is that it gives a good framework for an entire stand-alone campaign. Everything is there, setting, characters and plot, it just needs to be fleshed out to fill in the blanks.

Copyright © 2003 Craig Shackleton

Craig Shackleton tries not to let real life interfere with his role-playing games or his historical sword-fighting any more than it has to.

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