Even the Introduction sucks you in, with an overview of an hospitable city in the midst of inhospitable mountains and deserts. Here customs and traditions are unique, yet the inhabitats are open and sharing and always ready to sit, take tea with you and chat.
Chapter 1: The Western Elos Desert, however, describes not the city but the desert across which you have likely travelled to get there. Its history tells of barely-remembered ancient civilisations, whose descendents live as nomads or, still retaining their tribal traditions, in Dijishy itself. There are several distinct tribes with their own customs. The desert itself is typical of such areas, with a lot more life than you'd suspect unless you are familiar with desert biology. There are many dangers as well as territorial wildlife, from heat exhaustion and burned feet to flash floods. It's just as well that nomad guides know the caravan routes, as it is easy to stray into dangerous areas in what, to the untrained eye, is a trackless waste. Intending travellers should take note of the information on desert survival (and their DMs the detailed rules on things like how much water they'll need!). There is enough detail for a trip across the desert - which you will need to make to reach Dijishy - to be run convincingly without reference to more specialist material on desert travel, and the necessary rules, not just information, are provided as well.
Next we reach the city itself with Chapter 2: Dijishy, City of History. This opens with a creation myth as you might hear it told on the streets of the city. The tribes have an oral rather than a written culture, but for those occasions when writing is needed have adopted dwarven script, as the settlements of dwarves in nearby mountains are the nearest external influence. Dwarven is the most common second language, with the Merchant's Tongue growing in popularity to accommodate visitors from further afield. To add to the flavour, there are some notes about local dishes, attire and building styles, study these carefully and you'll be able to deliver atmospheric descriptions as the characters explore the city. There is even a sidebar on the (primitive) toilet arrangements, for when a character needs to go...
The complex yet practical system of government is also described, in sufficient detail that characters so inclined can participate. There is more adventure potential than you might imagine at a first glance too, so don't ignore it! And buried here we find the hidden treasure of Dijishy - the Great Sanctuary, home of the greatest repository of knowlege in all Tellene. While law and order is much as in other parts of the world, there are sufficient special laws for the authorities to consider providing a briefing for visitors... many don't bother to attend, but the wise will go along. An outline of these laws is followed by details of the courts and justice system (get a good 'orator' or lawyer, they've never heard of an appeal!_ and the organisation of the military, whose role in escorting caravans in, patrolling the city and guarding the gates means that the characters are bound to encounter them.
Next, we hear about main places of worship and the annual cyle of holy days and festivals marked in the city. A nice touch is that each arriving caravan triggers a fesival. Added to this, it is considered an honour to host visitors from a caravan, so newcomers (including the characters) will be made to feel welcome. Other festivals include the commemoration of the day on which a sphinx saved the city from marauding hobgoblins (an event strangely missing from the largest library in the world!) and the monthly holy day of the ruling faith, complete with the muezzin-style prayer that echoes from the temple towers.
This is followed by an account of the structures, features and places of note to be found in the city. As well as the minarets which dot the city, notable buildings include the Council Building, seat of government for the city, and the Great Sanctuary of Knowledge. While their collection is vast, the concept of a catalogue has not occurred to them so searching for a specific item of information can be time-consuming. And, yes, they include spellbooks in the collection - and charge extra to enter that section, plus a fee on top if you want to copy a spell, even if you do manage to find the one you want. This chapter rounds out with some mechanics for actually finding something in the library, and suggestions to the DM about how to manipulate information flow to suit his plotline... or even future plotlines.
Then comes Chapter 3: Rules and Equipment. It consists of feats, prestige classes and equipment native to the city and surrounding desert. Quite a few of the feats require native birth, so are more suitable for your best-detailed NPCs, unless someone wants to play a local. Likewise the prestige classes are suitable only for natives or for those who decide to settle here on a permanent basis. After all, who would trust an outlander who claimed to be a Desert Guide? Ruin Raiders need to know the area well, while Seers need to be blessed by the gods... And so on to the equipment, beginning with regional clothing and musical instruments. Interestingly, each instrument can generate a specific effect if being played as part of the bardic music special ability. There are also some local weapons to pick up.
Next, an Appendix lists Residents of Dijishy. They come with backstory and stat block, ready for your characters to meet, and several have an accompanying adventure seed. There are also a handful of stock NPCs for those moments when you need a guard or a priest or whatever. A second Appendix examines the Church of Creation in sufficient detail for those who might wish to become a cleric therein. And - useful for a city where books are so important - Appendix C is entitled Sample Books. Appendix D is a glossary of the local language and terminology, and the book rounds off with a map of the city.
Overall, this is a fascinating and well-crafted city, managing to be exotic and yet firmly rooted in what could be, clearly drawing on the author's own knowledge of desert lands. Description melds neatly with game mechanics, so that as you describe the setting to your players, any necessary rules are to hand when required. I want to visit Dijishy!
Return to Dijishy: The City of History page.
Reviewed: 27 April 2008