Whenever you start a new campaign, there is always a problem. If my character lives here in this place, he'll know all about it (just like I know about my town, my country and the world in general)... but I, his player, don't have that knowledge. This book is an attempt to get around this, by providing player-friendly information that empowers you to play a character who is already part of the Pathfinder world. Even better, you can buy a group-size pack of books or send players to download their own copy in PDF format for free, so cost should not prohibit everyone in a group having their own copy to refer to as they need.
While providing a general introduction to Varisia, the land in which the first Pathfinder adventure series is set, it is aimed primarily at helping players create characters who will fit in to the town of Sandpoint, as residents or people with a good reason to visit the place where it all begins. With this eye towards character generation, it begins by talking about the difference races to be found in Varisia and what distinguishes them from any other human, elf, orc, etc. Each race - including variations within that race as appropriate - comes with background on typical appearance, interests and outlook which should help an astute player in creating a distinctly Varisian character.
Next, the classes receive the same treatment. Budding clerics - and anyone else with religious leanings - will need to study the deity list to select a suitable object of their worship, while others can find out about the likely places in which characters of their chosen class may be found and training obtained. The inside back cover is a map of Varisia so you can start building up a picture of what's where as you read.
This is followed by a small collection of items unique to Varisia - weapons, armour and other bits and pieces an adventurer might carry. Of particular note are a range of scarves with a few more uses than just looking nice or keeping your neck warm.
Next comes an overview of Varisia itself, the sweep of history which has brought it to the state it is. An ancient land colonised by upstart newcomers 300 years ago, who since have split into 3 groups, each clustered around their own city-state; a wild land still with much to explore, much adventure to be had in wilderness and settlement alike. This section ends with a few feats a Varisian native may pick up, generally birth-place related and only available at character creation.
Finally a couple of pages on the township of Sandport, where the Adventure Path will begin. With the intention that most characters are visitors rather than natives - being already equipped with the necessary information to create a character from elsewhere in Varisia - the information is that which someone who arrived a few days ago might reasonably expect to have.
Overall, an excellent introduction to the campaign's setting and well worth using to ensure that characters are really rooted in the land in which they will have their existance. Good for building that 'alternate reality' in which you feel that your character has an existance in the world in which you play. This kind of work is a growing trend, and one to be encouraged.
Return to Rise of the Runelords Player's Guide page.
Reviewed: 20 October 2007