TMW also supplements its spellcasters with magical immunity, via shield spells taught by the wizardly and clerical orders (similar to parma magica in White Wolf's Ars Magica, for you elitists out there). The "shield of magic" renders casters immune to any spell that directly affects the caster. Thus, mages can congregate with other mages knowing they are safe from magical harm. It's a great mechanic that makes sense in the setting, and also makes game play richer - wizardly duels become a matter of attrition and indirect assault rather than a race to see who fails their saving throw v. death ray first.
Perhaps the most interesting mechanic in TMW is the addition of non-adventuring classes such as Craftsman, Priest, and Scholar. Each such class replaces the traditional "experience points per level" chart with a "years per level." For instance, a Scholar with 25 years of experience is level 6 while a Craftsman with 25 years of experience is level 8. The non-adventuring class mechanic explains why most powerful wizards and priests are old - they've been hanging out in towers and temples, not plumbing the depths of the underdark. An adventurer, of course, who has survived 25 years is likely to be level 16 by then, but few adventurers survive that long. And a 6th level adventurer might be in his early 20s, which creates a great tension between the old masters who learned things the traditional way, and young upstarts who are delving into forbidden places to get ahead faster.
TWM also introduces possibly the cleanest skill system ever written for classic D&D-style games, fully integrated into its class system, not to mention a dozen new classes (such as Berserkers, Knights, and Merchant Adventurers), spectacular magic items like the sword Lionspirit, and lots of optional rules to add detail to combat and exploration.
TMW is not without its flaws, of course. The writing style sometimes jumps abruptly from in-world history of the Wilderlands to meta-game explanation of why the Wilderlands was designed that way; for instance, "...the success of these raids has caused nearly half o f the Skandian population to leave in order to colonize the newly won territories. This region is suited for roleplaying in the Viking homelands." And the latter half of the book races somewhat breezily through much of the setting material, with sometimes only a paragraph offered where a page seems demanded.
But these are ultimately mere quibbles. As with Raggi, Conley has created the sort of work that any fan of this column would appreciate. The Majestic Wilderlands is a 5,000 gold piece gem of a supplement that any gamemaster contemplating a long-term fantasy campaign should check out.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Next column we'll discuss the problems and pitfalls poised by players. There'll be blood on our hands by the time we're through. See you then.
Alexander Macris has been playing tabletop games since 1981. In addition to co-authoring the tabletop games Modern Spearhead and Blaze Across the Sands, his work has appeared in Interface, the Cyberpunk 2020 fanzine, and in RPGA AD&D 2nd Edition tournament modules. In addition to running two weekly campaigns, he is publisher of The Escapist and president and CEO of Themis Media. He sleeps on Sundays.