Even if your setting is a magnificent city, you still need to have some idea of the world on which that city stands and this book (also part of the massive Ptolus book, but also available separately) is designed to supply the necessary background. As the Introduction states, you need to see the city in context. Of course, if you have decided to locate Ptolus in your own campaign world, what's herein may well not apply. But if you're happy to have Ptolus in its own setting, here you'll find information about the world of Praemal: the lands around Ptolus, the languages spoken there, the races who visit, even the creation of the world and its relationship to other worlds and planes, as well as about the various gods including the most popular, the god Lothian. There's also the history of the world and the events which shaped it. Not all of this may be known by the characters originally, the DM needs to decide how much they know and what they will learn as the campaign progresses.
First, we have The World. This introduces Praemal. It's just a little smaller than Earth and a bit colder but still temperate enough to be confortable for life as we know it. Four-fifths of the world is covered with water and there are a couple of continents - although the other one, on the far side of the world from Ptolus, is more a thing of legend and as yet unexplored. There are two moons, but there used to be three - one vanished some ten thousand years ago, and as it was the moon of magic its disappearance heralded a change in the way magic works. The Empire of Tarsis rules most of the known world, or at least the continent that Ptolus is on, but it is an empire in decline. There then follows a gazetteer of the known world. There's a map to refer to as you read through it as well as marginal notes galore to add extra colour and cross-refer to other material in the Ptolus line. This and the section on languages that follows could come in useful for those who want to play characters from out of town, who arrive in Ptolus for the purposes of the campaign - my preferred style, then players and characters alike can have the pleasure of exploring the place!
Next the Races that are to be found on Praemal are introduced. Whilst it is up to individual DMs to decide which races they'll allow, here the core races are given a distinctive spin and a few new ones are offered for consideration. So dwarves, elves, gnomes, halflings, half-elves, half-orcs and humans are to be found along with centaurs, cherubim elves (who have wings and fly), harrow elves (who are subterranean), litorians (somewhat cat-like plains dwellers) and lizardfolk also occur, as do aasimar, dark elves, minotaurs, orcs and tieflings - these last five being regarded as NPC races rather than playable ones. The necessary details for making player-characters are provided for the non-core races.
We then move on to Cosmology and Religion. A god known to most simply as the Creator, but more specifically to some as Praemus, created the world and everything in it, but it's likely that most people don't know that, let alone the reason why he did so. This is something the DM will likely want to keep to himself for the time being, but it is all laid out here. The children of Praemus are the elder gods, and once they realised what was going on they fought bitterly with their father. These elder gods are rarely remembered, let alone worshipped, today. Most people worship at the Church of Lothian, which is based on a martyred saint called Lothian who arose from the grave and ascended into heaven. The Empire has embraced this faith and indeed tried to outlaw other beliefs. The Church of Lothian has a complex hierarchy, saints of its own, a long history and various organisations to spread the word and serve the community... or defend it. There are also the new gods, a plethora of other faiths with varying numbers of devotees and most are represented in the Temple District of Ptolus. There are also some rather unpleasant 'cults of chaos' around.
Next is a chapter of History. This is a magnificent sweep of events from the creation 10,000 years ago forwards in time right to the present. It's recommended that the DM become familiar with this history, at least in outline, as it could provide some intriging adventure ideas. Or an archaeologically-minded party might decide to investigate an ancient site further... Again, there are plenty of marginal notes and cross-references to aid and inspire you. The Empire, it seems, stands at a bit of a cross-roads. Perhaps the resolution of this will become part of your campaign.
Finally there's an assortment of maps and calendars to help you become rooted in this place. Nothing like knowing that next week is the Festival of the Cold Moons when everyone bar the elves gets solomn, remembering the dead and practising rituals to ward off evil. Elves see it as a time of rejuvenation and rebirth, and get quite joyful. Even that could be a point of conflict, if the group's elven members want to celebrate while everyone else is quiet and somber. There are also some blank documents (don't you love bureaucracy!) - things like a certificate of Imperial citizenship, identification papers and even a firearms licence!
In these pages are the seeds for an entire world of adventure, never mind a setting in which Ptolus can flourish.
Return to Ptolus: The World of Praemal page.
Reviewed: 28 January 2018