Once you have read the Player's Guide to the Broken Isles, this book will enable you to delve deeper into the background of this unique setting. Some - especially relevant portions of the history and geography sections - may be shared with players at the DM's discretion, but the bits about monsters and compaigns are best kept secret for the characters to discover during play.
The first chapter takes a detailed look at the history of the Broken Isles, teasing out the real story from the interwoven myth, fact and outright propaganda of the oral tradition of the various peoples living there. This 'true' timeline is supplemented by comments on the main points of variance taught by each race and tribe.
Next comes a chapter on the geography of the Broken Isles. Few people living there, however, have a good overview merely knowing their own locality. Even sailors may not know more beyond whichever islands they sail between. Maps are rare and usually inaccurate, and it is generally considered that the best way of finding out what is elsewhere is to go and take a look... if you dare! Naturally, it's the most dangerous places that legends suggest are the repositories of ancient magics and other things worth discovering. Even when the natives are friendly, there are natural dangers as well as the wildlife to contend with. Just reading this chapter gives plenty of scope for exploration and adventure.
The 'Monsters' chapter begins by stating that most of the familiar creatures out of the Monster Manual v.3.5 are not to be found here... a delight for both DM and player to encounter a wholly-new ecosystem. Some are drawn from Denizens of Avadnu and others are new to this work. Most are illustrated, and all come complete with stat block and notes on their general habitat, behaviour and combat tactics. Many are unfriendly by nature and the wise explorer will steer clear - or learn their ways in order to defeat them. Fortunately, there is also a list of 'mundane' creatures which serve as food, pets and ordinary wildlife to fill out the environment. For those DMs wishing to use a favourite monster, there are notes on several of the Monster Manual ones will fit in to the world of Avadnu.
The final chapter is 'Campaigns' and talks about the specific strengths and pitfalls inherent in running a game in this particular setting. Rather than the classic adventurer who has set out in search of fame and fortune, everyone's going to be based firmly in the area with a tribal or racial background to draw upon... even if they have been sent or decided to go in search of fame and fortune! While no specific details of tribal leaders, settlements and so forth are given, this information is easily developed from the material presented; or characters can be more 'generic' members of their chosen tribe/race who have for whatever reason wandered off to explore.
Being a primitive world, ritual is very important and can be made a central feature of your game - perhaps even a level gain is marked by a ceremony. Formal ritual quests may be used to advance through an adventure, maybe one has to be completed before characters are deemed worthy enough to do whatever it is that they have set out to do.
Limitations are obvious: the book covers but the Broken Isles, so if you want to go elsewhere you'll need to wait for future products; and it's designed for characters of 1st to 5th levels. To round up, a series of brief ideas for the sort of adventures that would work well in this setting are given.
This is a well-constructed setting that presents a coherent and unusual whole - the primitive culture provides some intriguing possibilities for play, an opportunity to explore something quite different from the usual quasi-mediaeval setting. It may not be for everybody, but is well worth a look.
Return to Lorebook of the Broken Isles page.
Reviewed: 24 May 2006