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Gaming Review: Forgotten Realms Cloak & Dagger

Reviewed by Marc Goldstein

Cloak & Dagger
By Eric Boyd, Sean K. Reynolds, and Steven Schend
A Forgotten Realms Accessory
Wizards of the Coast. 160 pages, $26.95
ISBN: 0-7869-1627-3

Back in the day when I was an active DM, I found prefabricated campaign settings like Forgotten Realms stifling. Nowadays, I don’t have as much time as I used to and I can appreciate the merits of these publisher-supported game universes. When done right they ease the burden on the DM and suggest scenario ideas, without smothering the DM’s creativity under an avalanche of minutia.

WotC’s Cloak & Dagger, a new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons accessory for the Forgotten Realms game universe, seems to be done right. Cloak & Dagger describes the numerous secret societies operating in the world of Faerûn, unmasking mysterious brotherhoods like the Night Masks, the Knights of the Shield, the Iron Throne, and the Shadow Thieves.

Cloak & Dagger starts out with a three-year timeline that focuses on the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of the various secret groups. It’s a good historical overview of the activities of the most important sects, and their influence on the course of Faerûn politics. Critical events like the schism dividing the Harpers, the rise of tyrannical Fzoul Chembryl, and the Manshoon Wars get additional attention in sidebars. Fans obsessed with the linear narrative of the Forgotten Realms world are promised several surprises.

The bulk of Cloak & Dagger is consumed by exhaustive descriptions of each secret cabal. These chapters detail each group’s history, goals, organization, chain of command, resources, allies, enemies, areas of operation, and activities. Key leaders are profiled individually, with thorough accounts of each leader’s motivations, possessions, and connections. AD&D statistics are provided for every relevant NPC, from top-level leaders to rank-and-file members.

The sheer volume of information included in Cloak & Dagger is a bit overwhelming. The thoughtful organization of the chapters helps. It also helps that the descriptions of important events and characters also discuss the implications they might have on an ongoing campaign. And since nearly all of the information reported in Cloak & Dagger is intended for DMs only –­ players should only get glimpses of the truth through clever investigation and adventuring –­ DMs have a great amount of flexibility in deciding how much of the material they wish to adopt into their campaigns. DMs looking for even more information should check out the Wizards of the Coast website: WotC has a web-exclusive supplement to Cloak & Dagger posted at their website. The online supplement includes a timeline for the city of Westgate (“the Casablanca of the Realms”) and listing of Westgate¹s Royal succession presented in MS Word document format.

Cloak & Dagger has a wealth of ideas for DMs who want to take their campaigns out of the dungeon and into the drawing room. The emphasis on political intrigue and clandestine scheming should be a refreshing change for any campaign stuck in a dungeon crawl rut, and provides new, exciting opportunities for some deliciously devious role-playing.

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