Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tommy's Take on Chronicles of Ramlar World Guide

Chronicles of Ramlar is a two-volume set, essentially, with most of the rules in the Player's Guide and most of the setting material in the World Guide. The World Guide is 228 book available for $20 in black and white.

Unfortunately, three of the first four chapters seem to be largely cut and pasted from the Player's Guide, which I reviewed recently. The Introduction, Founding and Races chapter all appear to be identical to the like chapters in the Player's Guide, right down to the art used. That is...disappointing, to say the least.

In between the Founding and Races chapter we do get a new chapter on the Dakass Luot, which is a 2,000 year war waged between good and evil, and the summary of the ten major events of the war. The evil elves (the Druegarn) invaded the surface world en masse, with orcs, goblins and demons in tow. Ultimately, the tide was turned by the betrayal of the One Good Dark Elf, named Istolil Hune.

LIFE IN ERANON

The original content kicks in full here, with life after the Dakass Luot. The calendar is 480 days, divided up in 12 months of 40 days each.

One neat tidbit in this section are the 16 constellations, which PCs can use as their birthsigns. 12 of these provide benefits at different points in time when they are in influence in the sky.

While the remainder of the chapter does a nice job detailing the climate, plant life and even the alphabet of the major languages, it also oddly includes a set of artifacts. There are some interesting items, like Gabrun's Book of Darkness (an homage to the Necronomicon), a small cube that turns into an impenetrable fortress and a sword that drinks souls. I have no qualms with the items...just their placement, as they seem to be an odd choice for a "Life in Eranon" chapter.

MARKS OF ERANON

The world was divided into four "Marks" by dwarfs, and here we get into the main geography of the world. Each Mark is dominated by a certain type of land. The First Mark is largely frozen, dominated by The Chill. The Second Mark is heavily forested, while the Third Mark consists largely of desert. The Fourth Mark is covered in jungle.

All of the cities and settlements are given population breakdowns, the type of government that rules them, as well as major imports and exports. From there, history is given as well as discussion of the local economy, the criminal activity present in each area, interesting locations and rumors.

There is plenty of information given for each location but it stops short of being overwritten, with a lot of the plot seeds giving you just enough for a jumping off point, while allowing plenty of room for your own interpretation. For a GM willing to do a little work developing the plot seeds, there is enough material in any single Mark to get a ton of mileage out of, and that's without creating anything whole cloth of your own.

PERSONALITIES OF ERANON

Here are the major NPCs of the setting.

Most of these are fully statted out, including their current Demeanor/Theme circles, with pictures accompanying most, if not all of them.

Alistra Monshae is an attractive, well connected spy.

Istolil Hune, the Druegarn that helped Good win the war, is going to drive some people batty...he is a mega powerful good guy NPC who is left without stats and is basically a plot device, almost like an amalgam of Eliminster and Drizzt Do'Urden.

Jaclyn Alcuin is a high level Forest Guardian, watching over Brightwood Forest.

Kroc is an Orc Wizard, presented as a glaring exception of orcs in just about every way.

The Mask is a Druegarn vigilante, wearing a mask to cover the fact that he comes from a predominantly evil race.

Captain Mulra Eshani is a former pirate captain now taken to acting as a bit of a Robin Hood.

Nodde Dynel is a halfling shopkeep who has spent time in the King's Army.

Prince Ordur Talmout is a dwarf Warrior/Wizard who is secretly heading up a resistance movement against his own parents who aren't necessarily EVIL as set in their ways.

Seras Thorne is a valiant, griffon-riding Sky Knight.

Tenthonlial Lania is an ancient Life Giver and a reluctant leader.

Finally, Zychariss is a powerful lich and essentially The Big Bad. Zychariss isn't given stats either, but this is so he can be tailored to any given campaign in order to be the biggest threat he can be.

It's an alright section, but a "Tips for your campaign" section for each would have been GREAT.

THE PANTHEON OF RAMLAR

In the text infodump in the Player's Guide, the Alari and Eleri just completely ran together on me.

This chapter goes a LONG ways towards alleviating that, giving many of them a picture, and all of them a fluff piece, some background on how their followers organize and behave and a description of their holy symbol.

Just an incredibly useful piece in sorting out the mythology of the setting.

DRAGONS OF RAMLAR

There are seven species of dragon and, in a break from the D&D tropes, they are not sorted by color. Rather, they all have black markings on their face whose patterns are unique to each species.

The flightless Albesherak are fairly insane, and are actually spawned entirely from interspecies mating.

Cyantheer are small and vicious dragons that often gather in packs.

Gethnarsus are fairly indifferent to the world at large, and have the psychic ability to mesmerize their targets.

Lerinia are mostly good dragons in that they are not compelled to do harm to people, and can be convinced to provide aid.

Magentura are wicked beasties who have a knack for tracking down those that are weak and suffering.

Rezthanin actively seek to promote the good and fight for the betterment of the world.

Finally, Teshsharin are nocturnal, territorial dragons that will destroy any trespassers.

The chapter ends with a hook about seven rumored dragon statutes capable of summoning a grand, apocalyptic dragon that could provide the biggest threat the world has ever seen.

I do like how we still get "good dragons" and "bad dragons", but they are a bit different from the standard D&D dragons.

ANIMALS

A few pages of states for a few dozen animals like bears, tigers, snakes, etc. There is also a sidebar on animal allies, including building them from scratch if you choose, as well as guidelines on leveling them up.

BESTIARY OF RAMLAR

While the Player's Guide had a mini bestiary, we get the fuller treatment here, including the half a dozen or so monsters from the other book.

Many of the beasts look horrific and almost border on eldritch horrors in their appearance. A few are little more than animals, often predatory, and there are some demons standing more than 20 feet tall.

There are some omissions, as text from the this book and the Player's Guide mention mummies and wraiths, which are not present in this bestiary, although you could probably adapt the Winshar (specifically the spirts of dead sevar) for wraiths with a little work.

A pronounciation guide for a ton of the important names and terms is provided in the book, which is pretty welcome.

The book ends with some of the summary tables from the Player's Guide, as well as the character sheet.

THOUGHTS

Definitely a lot of potential, but it falls short. A lot of the information in the book makes the setting easier to care about, but reprinting three chapters, omitting monsters specifically referenced in the text and a lack of an index (or bookmarks in the PDF) are some pretty serious strikes against the product.