Lord Hannible's Realms of Evil
April 1, 2001
It's no secret by this point, I'm sure, that all of us here at CSP are Dungeons & Dragons geeks. We all played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, sometimes obsessively, sometimes sporadically, from the time we were in junior-high (or younger) through our college years. Some of us still play, thogh not as regularly as we used to. So it should not surprise anyone that I'm reviewing a site called "Lord Hannible's Realms of Evil".
Lord Hannible's Realms of Evil (hereafter, ROE) is a resource/reference site for role-playing gamers, more specifically, gamers who play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Even more specifically, gamers who play AD&D and dig the evil characters and the undead. But, hey, who doesn't fall into that category, no?
If ROE's staff has a motto, it must be "Less is NOT more!" ROE is packed with stuff that would fill any gamer with delight -- bestiaries, NPCs, new character classes and kits (if you are not a gamer, you're not going to get any of this, so you might as well bail now), new magical items, new mage and priest spells, new races, new psionics, and assorted Dungeon Master tools. In addition, ROE is home to a budding new AD&D campaign world called "Chaotica," several online reference "books" for many undead races, and a huge reference library of other RPG sites, webrings and banner exchange networks. Volume-wise, this is truly one-stop geek shopping.
The quality of the work here is consistently good as well, especially if you are into the dark side of the gaming world. If you are the kind of gamer who likes to trot out his/her shining, stuffy Paladins or gruff but noble Rangers, then this stuff probably isn't of much use to you, unless you are researching enemy tactics. For the less-good intentioned player, however, reference materials are very thorough and well thought-out, though they tend to be a little over-heavy on the high-level side (inventing new first level spells and 1HD monsters doesn't appear to tickle anyone's fancy here). Spells, monsters, etc. all appear to fit well within the category/level to which they are assigned, and I saw almost nothing her ethat would terribly overbalance the play of any game (a common problem often found in less-experienced gamer original work). In fact, a lot of the stuff in here is particularly clever and or scary -- Shawn Muder (sitemaster) and contributors take a lot of care with their work.
ROE boasts, as you might expect, considering the content, a lot of black and red. While this gives great atmosphere to the site, it also gives great headaches if you spend too long reading the material. The plain red text is the main culprit here -- red on black takes just enough strain to read that it is annoying, especially in the smaller menu font. The bold red text used for category headings is less straining and, fortunately, the white text used on the bulk of the site is reasonably comfortable to read. It's a trade-off every evil webmaster faces, though, and Muder has done a decent job of balancing atmosphere and comfort.
Overall design is nice as well -- the few images used are reasonably fast-loading, crisp, clean and definitely add to the oppressive atmosphere. Layout is pretty standard -- you'll not find any marvels of web deign within these dark pages -- but this site isn't about web-acrobatics, and the functional layout suits the content well.
With the piles of content ROE boasts, navigation is a mjor concern. Fortunately, ROE's architecture is well-thought-out, and it is pretty simple to get around. Pages are divided into logical categories and sub-categories, and are ever present in a left-hand navigation bar. Muder has chosen not to collapse categories initially, which, in this case, seems a good move -- the site seems much grander and more open for it. Some of the subcategories' names are not particularly descriptive, however, Muder makes up for this with well-placed explanatory pop-ups.
I did find a few broken links here and there, and some deeper pages refused to load, but these were few and far between, and to be expected when a huge, DB-driven site like this is designed and maintained by a handful of people. There is also an abundance of "coming soon" tags, but, again, this happens when large projects are undertaken by a few individuals (you'll find them on our own site, I'm certain), and there is more than enough content already in place to make up for the holes.
ROE will probably be truly useful to only a small subset of a subset of the online population. Fortunately, the 'net is teeming with a diproportionate number of geeks, so that sub-subset is still a lot o' people. Gamers who play good-aligned characters may find the site simply an interesting resource, but, if your characters happen to fall within the site's target group of bloodsuckers and spellcasters from beyond the grave, I seriously doubt you'll find a more thorough, well-thought-out resource for your particular brand of geekdom.