Serving as an introduction to the setting, this work jumps straight in with the history of Exodus. Long and turbulent, and with strands running through that affect what is going on there today, the backdrop against which adventures take place.
Over two thousand years ago the world was under the control of the First Ones, whose precise nature is lost in legend, spoken of today as bogeymen and beings of horror. Apparently their rule was not kind, so eventually the best of humanity banded together to rise up against them. Few records remain of precisely what happened as both First Ones and the champions of humanity - a combination of intellect called the Kaga - disappeared, and even though the Kaga still seem to be around, they're not saying much about what went or what they have been doing since. The science and magic of the First Ones faded as humanity lapsed into barbarism, with but a few scholars attempting to understand: these few became powerful sorcerer/kings... and came into conflict with a race of rodent-like beings, the Cavians, who developed the powers of the mind. Neither were interested in 'ordinary' people save as workers and a source of tribute or warriors when they squabbled. But even after they'd fought themselves to a standstill, leaving space for the barbarian hordes to arise, they in their turn replaced the rule of the mage or the psion with equally despotic warlords who relied on brute strength of the sword-arm rather than power of mind or knowledge to dominate others. At least the Kaga reappeared, and attempted to teach them something more...
And so matters continued throughout the ages, with warring tribes raiding one another and fighting for dominance. Warbands carved out domains, empires rose and fell, the usual sort of thing. A rich tapestry of history that makes a world a living, breathing alternate reality based on a past as real there as our history is to us. The culmination of warring nobles, through kingdoms and empires to a final bloodbath of a century in which just about everyone was embroilded in grinding war was finally brought to a juddering halt by a little-known cult or order that combined martial prowess and psionic strength, and who commanded the warring factions to make peace and form a global union of the four main empires, in which such all-encompassing war would be fought no more. Nor was it, for the better part of fifty years, but then various factions and skirmishes, dissent from within and without, while not destroying the Union, ensured that knowledge of how to use a sword remained important. Attempts to cement even greater union, by marriage between the imperial houses, came to naught, and tensions are once more rising as the present day - some 90 years after the union - approaches.
It is an interesting approach: most people presenting their campaign setting concentrate on the geography and hang the history on the places that are described... here, the history is paramount with but a single world map at the end so you can find out where the events mentioned in the history occurred. Moreover, the history concentrates on matters political and that most significant ramification: the military events that transpire as an extension of the politics. Apart from some mention of religion, and that mostly as it influences the political landscape, very little is told of the history of ideas or the development of scientific or medical knowledge. Who were the authors and artists of the ages? Whose architecture or songs have been remembered long after builders and composers were in their graves? It brings a powerful introduction yet leaves many spaces which the inventive may populate for themselves.
For those seeking a developed alternate reality, rooted in a coherent history and moving forwards in a dynamic manner, this is well worth a look. It promises interesting times, in the Chinese sense of being as much of a curse as an opportunity for participants... Are your characters ready?
Return to NeoExodus Chronicles: World of Exodus page.
Reviewed: 27 February 2011