Thursday, January 16, 2014

SEVEN VOYAGES of ZYLARTHEN review part 3 (and the last)

My third and final installment of the review of  Seven Voyages of Zylathen bring us to Volume 4: The Campaign. Volume 4 serves as collection of charts and tables referenced in the first three books and gives advise and tools for a referee in running a campaign.

The book begins with advice on setting up an underworld for a campaign. The ref is advised to have monsters occupying no more then 1/3rd of an underworld along with the advise a level should have no more sp up for grabs then exp needed to gain a level x expected party members x 2 (or so), pretty formulaic but not senseless.

Rules concerning underworld adventuring are included in this volume and cover the traditional territory (opening doors, finding secret doors, falling in pits). Falling includes the risk of breaking a limb but falls  of 20’ or less will not kill a PC unless they arer equiooed with spikes or other implements of doom.

Wandering monsters and monster determination gets several pages of tables seemingly meant to be deployed by a ref in building their own encounter tables. The tables for each level/grade of monster are split up with dice ranges that aren’t 18 sided, 19 sided, and 13 sided dice just aren’t’ out there. The tables do include the monsters and npc types from the monster book of course and men-types turn up about 15-20% of the time ( a plus in my reckoning). All in all a good concept annoyingly put together.

Wilderness exploration is built about hex-crawling in 30 mile hexes, a good size for voyaging a bit large for day to day adventuring. Jungles are a great place to get lost and eaten by a monster based on the chart in the wilderness section. Food and water isn’t too much of a problem in Seven Voyages unless one dares to brave the desert where inadequate supplies cost you up to 1-6 points of constitution per day and no healing by non-magical means. The not worrying about it in most terrain and then having to worry about it in deserts could get a careless party killed quickly if they are used to living off the land not sure if this is a pro or a con. 

There is a section entitled “How create a world in under an hour” that recommends use of hexographer and outlines how to go about setting up a campaign setting. The tables and methods in this section look useful but would likely take a couple evenings as opposed to an hour to get ti right.

Languages get a fair bit of coverage throughout the rules (it’s a stat for many intelligent monsters) but I don’t think I’ve touched on it elsewhere in the rules. Tables are provided for what languages are spoken but it’s all really just the big laundry list approach to languages that will leave the referee asking the players “anyone speak gargoyle” every now and then.

In conclusion Seven Voyages of Zylarthen is a decent retro-clone that I could see being a useable set of quirky bit simple rules. I can hear many a reader asking does the world need another retro clone? The answer is of course no but Seven Voyages of Zylarthen reads like a complete and comprehensive set of house rules with a style of it’s own that is thought out and a good read for old school gaming enthusiasts and a plausible basis for an old school campaign. It's certainly worth taking a look at.


  1. Thank you for the detailed, accurate and fair review, JD. Point taken on the monster tables, though I will say that I went back and forth on the best way to display them and there were trade-offs involved in all the alternatives. I will put in a big plug for Hexographer (which is free, at least for the basic version). Once you play with it a bit, it really doesn't take as long as you might think. I actually timed myself. :) Cheers!

  2. You should be proud the whole thing does it's job. I also forgot to mention I really like the art used.

    Hexographer is certainly a plug worthy program, I'll use it to rough out maps and just doodle now and again.