Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Seven Voyages of Zylarthen comes in 4 booklets Volume 1: Characters & Combat, Volume 2: Book of Monsters, Volume 3: Book of Magic, and Volume 4: The Campaign. I covered characters and combat in the first part of my review, this time volume 2 and 3 will be getting some attention.

The Book of Monsters is about 60 pages of monster descriptions that cover a lot of familiar and classical monsters. Some of the monsters most readers should be very familiar with but some attention was paid to areas other editions and versions of the original game haven’t given much attention to. Monsters have a classic range of stats but some data is omitted when unnecessary, monster are assumed to do 1-6 pts of damage per attack unless otherwise described. Languages known by the various monsters gets some attention.

A selection of barsoomian (martian) creatures that appeared in the original rpg game as names only are in the book of monsters. Apts, Banths, Calots, Darseen. Martians (several various races and best of all their technological gear and inventions), Orluks, Sith, Tharks, Thoats, and White Apes are all satisfactorily stated out.  

A number of giant insect menaces are covered that didn’t and haven’t received identical treatment in the past. Some of the giant insect are simply menacing, others bothersome, and some down right surprising.  

Man types get a lot of coverage in the monster book it includes entries for: Amazons, Assassins, Bandits, Barbarians, Buccaneers, Cavemen, Dervishes, Druids, Evil High Priests, Evil Lords, Evil Men (Evil fighters, thieves, and Magicusers with their own level titles), Evil Priests, Magi, Necromants, Nomads, Paladins, Prisoners, Rangers,  Soldiers (with over a dozen types and a half dozen general dispositions to help determine behavior in various situations), and Vikings. Many of the man types include data on leaders and specialists present along with equipment and some general behavior. The comprehensive coverage of man types is pretty decent and provides plenty of different adventure opportunities.

The monster Book provides descriptions of twenty gods but no stats, elsewhere in the rules it’s implied Gods are very high hitdice but here in the monster books no stats so it’s up to the DM to decide if an encounter will be with a God in all it’s glory, a limited disguise, or a follower. Each god gets a brief but adequate description for their use in play. Some folks will dislike the lack of stats for something in the monster book but I think the treatment works it gives room for individual DMs to decide how powerful various gods are within their campaign.

All in all the monster book is satisfying and definitely provides an adequate range of monsters for a wide range of character levels and promotes a play style beyond “kick in door, kill monster, take treasure”.

The magic book provides a listing of all the magic-user spells, NPC spells, and Magic items. As this game doesn’t have a PC clerical class a few classic cleric spells are mixed into the familiar magic-user lists with a number reserved for NPC spell caster types.

The spells are divided up between levels 1 to 6 and will mostly do what experienced player expect them to do with a few specific variations or ambiguities cleared up. Cure light wounds takes an entire turn to take effect  and can only be used on an individual once a day so it’s not a tactical spell in this game. The sleep spell is still a king of spells and will put a mod of creatures to sleep. Fireballs are of the 40’ diameter area filling variety and lighting bolts will expand back towards caster if there isn’t enough room for them. 

Nothing amazingly new but the magic-user being the only spell casting class offers a lot more interesting options in spell selection for casters, there’s a lot more room for debate over having sleep or cure light wounds memorized than one ever would have between a selection of 1st level clerical spells.

Evil High Priests, Priests, and Witches have their own spell lists with a few extra spells PCs will not have access to without dealing with these NPCs. This separation of player and npc spells offers opportunities to enforce the players and their characters interacting with the NPC of the campaign and actually widens adventure opportunities.

Magic items get familiar treatment and a host of them is provided in the magic book. There are a few spins here and there that may have impact on a campaign.
All magic swords were created hundreds of years ago during the wars between law and chaos and all have an alignment and language. Magic swords in these rules can be annoying control freaks that rob a player of free choice now and again, not a feature I’m very keen of  but it certainly alters how players will feel about magical swords in a campaign.

Magical Armor doesn’t change a characters AC, it modifies the number required to hit. Magical shields may black a blow entirely once per day without being splintered (the game makes use of the “shields shall be splintered” variant). Enchanted armor is less encumbering than normal armor.

High level Magi users (level 11 or higher) may craft magical items. Listings of expense and time required for each is given with time being the most extreme limitation; spell scrolls coast but 100 sp per level but also take a week per level to create, some magic items take over a year to fashion.

Few surprises in the magic book but adhering to the rules as written will provide a slightly different campaign than has evolved as the seeming default over the years.  You can see the effort to keep the strange, wondrous, and powerful special throughout the life of the campaign.

more to come...

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