28 February 2022
Doom, Gloom, and Glory
This article originally appeared in issue 63 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here.
Stuffed with darkness, danger and ever-present doom, the first major campaign for Soulbound is an avalanche of interlinked adventures centred around a mist-choked port rife with corruption in every sense of the word. Though some may chafe at the rather linear design, the simple and direct structure lends itself to some delightfully pure gamemastering.
The general idea behind the Shadows in the Mist campaign is that the heroes – a bunch of divinely-appointed agents of order – are sent off to try and sort out some of the many, many problems plaguing the city of Anvilguard. This sets them off into a parade of mysteries and battles that act as a kind of whistle stop tour of the setting’s most iconic baddies, including lizardfolk, the forces of chaos and some particularly nasty ratmen, before everything all begins to tie together for a suitably dramatic finale.
Rather than being just the single unbroken story found in many campaigns, the book consists of six separate adventures tied together by a handful of common threads centred around an elven cartel known as Blackscale Coil and their plans to seize control of the city. While you’re unlikely to pluck any of the individual scenarios out of the book and use them as a one-off, separating each part off into a neatly self-contained quest certainly makes things easier to run.
Indeed, this is one of the places where Shadows in the Mist truly excels. Much of the book is geared towards being as easy as possible for the GM to run and appealing to newer players. Everything that could potentially be broken down into easily digestible sections has been, and there are very few things too complex or complicated to fit into a single page.
This straightforward writing is usually very welcome, but in places it does feel as though things have been stripped down in the pursuit of simplicity. Some parts of the grand adventures are rather prescriptive, and GMs with particularly creative parties may need to pull some wild improvising in areas where the book relies on the players taking the most obvious path.
The second of the six adventures, for example, opens with the party stranded in the jungle after a mishap at sea. The book assumes they’ll choose to simply hike back to civilization through an overgrown jungle, and if they instead decide to lure a passing ghoulship (that is, a ship crewed by ghouls, obviously) or investigate their own missing vessel, things can get rather tricky to manage without crowbarring them in the ‘correct’ direction.
This linearity is rather countered by a rather exhaustive – and very useful – guide to the city of Anvilguard itself. This lays out not just the places and people you encounter in the adventures, but also a huge array of fascinating things for the players to do when they aren’t following the rather narrow path laid before them. It’s a great little resource, but finding a way to actually work it into the story is left in the GM’s lap. This leap between telling you exactly what to do and providing very little guidance indeed is just a little jarring, but at least it gives plenty of ammunition for players of all experience levels.
Another slightly strange mark against Shadows in the Mist is that the campaign is in the unfortunate position of being a little bit out-of-date before even hitting the shelves. As dedicated fans may know, a recent event in the Age of Sigmar wargame’s ongoing plotline wiped out Anvilguard and replaced it with a city dedicated to Khaine, the elven god of murder. Whether this impacts your enjoyment of the campaign is going to depend on how much you care about the game’s wider canon, but if the players are already aware of the events it can leave the dramatic, we-saved-the-city finale feeling rather anticlimactic.
Shadows in the Mist is a solidly written, beautifully designed campaign that blends darkness and over-the-top action in a way that really captures the spirit of Age of Sigmar. It’s stuffed with magic and mystery and monsters to fight, and the smorgasbord of enemies and allies on offer means that fans are all-but guaranteed to run into their favourite faction at some point.
The only major downside to the half-dozen adventures on offer is a tendency to lean towards the linear, but even this is countered with a rather enjoyable sandbox that’s calling out to be explored by parties with a little more experience under their belt. If you’ve dabbled in Soulbound and are looking for a meatier experience, Shadows in the Mist offers a great route into grand adventure.
PLAY IT? YES
A solid introduction to the dangerous realms of Age of Sigmar, with plenty of combat and intrigue to make the sessions race by.
This lengthy campaign is a great way for dabblers in the RPG to get not just their toes, but their entire legs thoroughly wet
Publisher: Cubicle 7
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