" Anyone who cannot see story hooks and campaign ideas within the compelling text probably has to recruit a writing crew for 'thank you' notes. "
Title: Scarred Lands Gazetteer: Termana by Sword & Sorcery Studios
Format: Scarred Lands D20 Supplement
Reviewing Monkey: Genghis Kong
The Hype: The latest addition to the popular Scarred Lands setting for the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition core rules set, Scarred Lands Gazetteer: Termana is the first book to depart from the base continent of Ghelspad (where the majority of Scarred Lands supplements and campaigns are set) and detail another of Scarn's continents; the dark and mysterious Termana. Lush jungles, perilous mountains, warring nations, and the curse of an imprisoned titan…all of these intriguing details await as the first available information of the lands outside Ghelspad. Let us go exploring, my monkeys, and conquer whatever lands we can hold! Surely they cannot stand against the might of our rock-and-dung projectiles…or can they?
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Drama: The Gazetteer is presented as a travel log written by two authors - the rogue adventurer Diago Sanhe and the half-Elven sorceress Nabila Silverheart. Diago's ribald and tongue-in-cheek style fills most of the pages, his adventures ranging through the greater portion of Termana, while Nabila adventures through the Forsaken Elf kingdoms in the northeast of the continent. Both the history and current disposition of Termana is set forth from the point of view of these two (radically different) perspectives, with the flaw of bias and opinion over hard facts vastly outweighed by the ease with which the Gazetteer reads. The story of Termana is presented in all its tragedy and interest - how the titan Kadun was imprisoned within the ocean, his final act of vengeance tainting the waters so that they became the crimson Blood Sea which taints all creatures which dwell within its depths in its evil. The story of the vile Charduni dwarves and their battle against the noble elves of the north is detailed, as well as the tragic fall of those elves as their nameless god was destroyed by the titans. His fall curses them to become the Forsaken Elves - a race whose offspring are cursed with taints and maladies, twisting the once-proud kingdoms and cursing them with inevitable decay and ruin as their grand morals rot beneath their need to go to extreme lengths to survive. Strange and unique villains are presented throughout, from the enigmatic and insane Jack of Tears, King of the Blood Bayou and tacit overlord of the northwestern human kingdoms, to the necromantic Isle of the Dead and their cruel Ghoul King, to the slaver Charduni dwarves and their empire in the Chained Mountains. Incredibly rich and deeply detailed, anyone who cannot see story hooks and campaign ideas within the compelling text probably has to recruit a writing crew for 'thank you' notes. 4.5 out of 5.
Layout and Presentation: The book is set out in a fairly predictable and simple format, with the history of Termana first and all the kingdoms, listed in alphabetical order for easy navigation, presented second. Natural features and curiosities come next, with new playable races at the end of the book. This layout has benefits and flaws to it - the benefit is that finding a nation is merely a matter of locating it via its place in the alphabet, but the flaw is that the book is written as a travel log, and the authors do not travel the nations in alphabetical order. This makes reading the supplement from start to finish rather confusing, as it seems to start in the middle, then end, and then begin. This is remedied with a short sidebar in the beginning, which points out the order of each author's travels in case the reader wishes to follow the story in coherent order. The prose format of the text actually makes for easier reading, though it does sacrifice a bit by way of detail for areas of the continent which neither adventurer explores fully. Tim Truman handles the entirety of the interior artwork, contributing pieces of decent to great quality, though his line work tends to be a bit thick and dark for the majority of pieces, and a few images seem slightly lopsided or lacking in effort. The maps, however, are of superior quality - highly detailed, easy to navigate, and fantastic to look at. A full-color, large-size map is included with the supplement, and makes a great addition to the Gazetteer. The individual crests and banners for each nation of Termana are also well drawn, with some (most notably Blood Bayou) being memorable and inspired. 5 out of 5.
Playability: "Genghis," I hear you saying in your thick-lipped monkey-speak, past a mouthful of bananas and lice, "how much playable info can you really put in 48 pages?" At least, that's what you'd say if you hadn't choked on that banana - that'll teach you to talk with your mouth full. While you're turning purple, I'll answer that question with "quite a bit." Each nation is presented with enough information that travel through it or its major cities can easily be detailed and garnished by an attentive DM, giving every venue its own flavor and personality. The citizens are described in enough detail that their cultures are easily shown in casual RP, and there is enough material overall to make the continent of Termana a playable setting. It is not, however, a full accounting of the terrain, people, culture, politics, and history of Termana - the Gazetteer is presented as a brief overview of the lands, not an in-depth study of them. The races are given greater attention in the appendix (save for Forsaken Elves and Charduni, who appear in the Creature Collection, and centaurs, who simply aren't included), including alternate starting stats for the humans of Termana (each group of humans has alterations made to the base human template), Gnomes (never before included in a Scarred Lands supplement, as they do not exist on Ghelspad), Gnolls as player characters, and the Terali (a race of cat-men). While your standard Scarred Lands campaign may never make use of the Termana setting, the races included are at the very least worth a look, as they make for fantastic characters. 4 out of 5.
Desired Content: If you're looking for an in-depth analysis of every area, race, culture, nation, and person of note within Termana…then you aren't going to find it. And as soon as you look at the Gazetteer (even if it's still shrink-wrapped to keep the map from being stolen), you will immediately notice, as we discussed above, that it's only 48 pages long- including artwork and license, and that's not a whole lot for an entire continent. Those familiar with the gazetteer-style area book (from games like Forgotten Realms and Ravenloft) may be a bit confused by this, as those books are presented as exhaustive sources of information on a given nation, whereas this is more of a brief glimpse. If the previous Gazetteer (for Ghelspad) is any indicator, further supplements will broaden and detail the regions of Termana for those more interested in setting a campaign there. Despite this, the book manages to pack itself full of information - going into the reading blind, without the first clue of Termana's history and culture, I now consider myself a truly knowledgeable monkey inasmuch as Termana is concerned. Add to that the new playable races (Gnomes, Gnolls, Terali, and the human variants), which are more than worth the cost of the book itself, as well as the full-color map and the interesting read the story provides, and you've got yourself a pretty cool supplement. 4 out of 5.
|It may not be the most eagerly-awaited supplement for the Scarred Lands setting, but the Scarred Lands Gazetteer: Termana is a valuable and interesting resource for those gamers looking for an exotic backdrop or an unusual player race. Those of a curious bent will find the travel log fascinating, while those who couldn't care less about Termana's history may be curious to see how well the Terali stack up against other player races (in this Mongol monkey's opinion, the question is not "How good are they?" but "How soon can I play one?"). Any true fan of Scarred Lands should give this book a read.|
The Good: Excellent information, exciting new races, and a full-color map!
The Bad: Broad strokes but little fine detail, occasional sketchy artwork, and no centaurs.
The Overall Ugly: Much better than this monkey expected.
What it's Worth: At $10.95, an utter steal.