I have read through the latest installment of the Shadow World series, Emer I, by Terry Kevin Amthor. The following sum up my impressions and comments on this product. I have attempted to give as objective a view as I can, but my own personal feelings will have seeped through here and there.
"As for earlier Amthor writings, there is little inconsistency. However, there may or may not be conflicts with other Shadow World books (e.g., Amthor has never read Curse of Kabis); therefore only the Atlases, Jaiman, Iron Wind, Cloudlords and Eidolon are considered Canon."
This seems to mean that one should be very careful with the older products, in particular with Curse of Kabis, which is a shame, as that was a most excellent source book. Still, it does not seem like Emer I has touched upon the inside of the Scorpion Ridge at all, so keeping all those lovely goblins, demons, dwarves, and water/fire beings in there seems safe. I liked those :-)
The cover is made of a thickish cardboard which has a nice feel to it.
As I said above, the main maps look good. The main Emer map is the same one we have seen earlier - a quite good artistic map of the entire continent. An additional goody for those who buy the PDF format is a PDF of the large world map (you know, the large one - glossy, comes in two parts, and all that). I was a bit funny to see the text 'one inch equals one mile' on the worldmap on my computer screen though - I would think that depends upon the printout size, eh? :-) Anyway, I can finally cut and paste world map portions directly into my adventures! Oh joy! Both the Emer and the world maps are available on TKA's Shadow World site, but in much smaller format.
There are also a large number of black/white maps inside the book, at the very end. These do a zoom-up of the Hæstra region and give quite detailed information. Although they are nowhere near as detailed as the one in Cloudlords (admittedly, that was one of a kind), they do show all major towns, highways, and several undetailed adventure sites and should prove to be immensely useful to the GM centering his campaign in the area.
There are also city maps of several large settlements of the region. This includes Artha, Aquitar, Sarnak and the Port of Izar. Not counting the city maps or the region maps, there are 6 pages of map zoom-ups in the book.
I have a slight gripe about the fact that the zoom-up maps don't overlap much (or, at least, not enough), and it seems that some small plots of land are not covered, but overall I am quite satisfied with the amount of maps in this product.
The book is about evenly divided between a history of the Emerian Empire (which had its seat of power in Hæstra) and describing today's nations and peoples in that region. Although the region description might have suffered from sharing the book with a rather detailed account of Emer's history, I feel the history section offers a lot in the way of knowledge and plot elements for a campaign anywhere on Emer.
The 'places of interest' section is filled up with short descriptions of various interesting sites that can be found in the region. None go over the top, like the tomb complex in Jaiman, but give you just enough to go on. I far prefer this way of doing it as opposed to giving complete layouts and maps for only a few places. I can always make a map once I have a general feeling what kind of place it is - making up the concept is a bit harder. Of course, I would much rather have a 1,000 page supplement with everything in it, but we've got to be realistic.
On the zoom-up maps, several sites are given with location and name. Only a few of these are mentioned in the book, and then only very briefly. This seems to give the GM a lot of 'free' spots for adventure sites that he can expand upon himself. For instance, the 'Tower of the White Sorceror' is placed on the map and named, but nowhere in the book does the author refer to this place. The conclusion; make of it what you will. I think this a very nice addition, and one that may spark quite interesting discussions between players of different campaigns as they talk about what each group found in the tower of the white sorceror. ("How was your Tower of the White Sorceror like?")
The 'powers and personalities' section describes the Changramai, gives more insight into the Imperial Orders (a lot more), a new organisation called the 'Alliance' (dubious types), as well as a number of minor factions and the neighbouring lands (Sel-Kai, Lankanôk, etc). One or two minor (local) gods (at least, they could be) are described, as well as a small number of low-to-medium level NPCs.
The 'adventures' section is nothing grandiose, it gives two adventure ideas over as many pages, and hints to four other possible ideas.
One gripe I have here is that in the master military charts, no note is made of how many troops each nation has, only what their stats would be. In my mind, this is a bit lacking, as it then doesn't give a very good idea about a nation's military potential. Of course, one could cross-check against the Emer atlas, but a number of new cultures have been added and the military units aren't altogether the same as in that atlas. I just hope this was an oversight and not a deliberate omission as I would like to see such numbers in future products.
The PDF version gives you the advantage of fast look-up of the book if you have a computer with an acrobat reader - very convenient. Especially considering the fact that the book pretty much contains the entirety of the Emerian history. It also lets you see all the interior graphics in their natural colours, which is nice. Further, it makes it a lot easier to make handouts based on the text in the book (copy/paste) or even the graphics (same procedure ...). Printing the book results in a very good result, even if the front and back covers aren't there. You won't miss them that much even if they are pretty.
The paper version, however, is a lot handier to read through, look up things you know where you will find, and, most of all, it's actually quite easy to bring to a session (unlike your P266MMX with its 21" monitor, etc :-). It also gives you the A3 Hæstra map, which is nice to just sit and admire in the flesh.
Myself, I have both, and I kind of like it that way :-)
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