THE BOOK OF DOOM
A rather dramatic title for what amounts to the GM section of the book. I mentioned before I liked having the player information kept in its own section, so this part is the other side of that gold piece.
I’m going to do my best to avoid specifics and spoilers here, but these pages are meant for Crypt Keepers (CKs), not players.
Secrets of the Continent of Terror:
Essentially GM info on the various regions in the setting. Two parts of each entry that I really appreciated were a short table for random encounters, and suggested adventure hooks specific to that area. Even if CKs don’t use them directly, they provide nice idea fodder and give a better sense of what might happen to the PCs while they’re there.
Moving on, we come to a handy little section about “the Others.” This gives a brief description of what exactly the Others are, as well as some information on things like summoning rituals. In a nutshell, the Others are quasi-lovecraftian entities from beyond and objects of worship for various evil cults. Such things are standard fare for a nice, pulpy swords & sorcery feel. The next part details some specific Others, their worshippers, and their minions. This gives a CK some material to work with, as well as a blueprint for designing their own cults and Others.
I appreciated the attention given to this subject on its own, instead of lumping it into the monsters’ section. These things are not gods, nor are they just a big critters to hit with an axe.
(cue “Men without Hats” music)
Ssss -Nnnn - Aaaa - Kkkk - Eeee
These pages detail the Serpent Men. The race is integral to the history and current climate of Zarth. There is a lot of good information here, but this chapter is one that left a bit ambiguous. Not for the quality of the material or writing, but because -as I’ve previously stated- I’m not sure that I want to run C&T on Zarth as written or take a homebrew approach. That said, if a CK plans to use the default setting, this chapter is a must-read.
Scourges of the Dying World:
An interesting chapter that offers some high-powered villains to use in one’s campaign. These aren’t “boss monsters” that lurk in the last room of the dungeon, these are master minds and major players. These are the bad guys that a whole campaign is centered around dealing with. Some are Others, some are not. Like the section on the Others, CKs might use these as written or draw inspiration for their campaign’s own nemeses.
What I liked: A lot of thought and effort went into fleshing out the setting and its various populations. As a self-confessed setting junkie, I love getting a sense that a game world is a living, breathing place. The section on the Others really helps underscore the weirdness of the place and of magic's role.
What I didn't like: Again, just from my own perspective, some of the Zarth-centric information may not end up being used that much by me, at least directly. That is not to say it can't be inspirational material, but it might require digging certain things out of the game's innards -or at least filing some serial numbers off.
Next time I’ll cover the last parts of the book: Monsters, Treasure, Sample Adventures, and “Notes from the Abyss.”