This is a 'Fantasy Setting and Adventure Module' that I got print on demand from Lulu grace of the discount stickers and one of the many 'best of the OSR on Lulu' lists. I have been pretty happy with Richard LeBlanc's previous work like d30 Sandbox Companion and this continues that good trend. This is pitched for 0e, 1e and BX but there is lots in here for whatever system you run. I am coming to look at it now on the back of other 'steppe' connected recent releases ranging from Ultraviolet Grasslands through to Empires of the Silk Road and Wayfarer: Nomadic Realms.
Cover art by Nicholas Roerich
Decent production quality from Lulu - black and white art within mostly by the author, all very coherent and clean. Much of the artwork within the book was done by the author and I have a lot of respect for the level of industry involved here.
So what is all this stuff you get in the box?
Intro - one page incl. table of contents
Land of the Five Fires - six pages on the setting
Character Information - 17 pages on classes, gear, monsters and NPCs
The Valley of the Five Fires - 11 pages of the core adventure
Additional Adventures & Encounters - 16 pages with additional locations
So what is in here chunk by chunk?
Intro sets out that this is for 0e, B/X and compatible retroclones and includes 'how to read the stat line' guidance which is handy. We then get into the Land of the Five Fires where we get setting information - the region, the culture, general information about local large cities and nomadic life. All great flavoursome, system-independent stuff.
Character Information opens with the 'Steppe Shaman' class - coming in two types (black and white) depending on whether they are more warlike or peaceful. This is followed by three pages worth of new spells, a page on local armor types and a page on local weapons to give players a good range of evocative gear to play with. Next we get nine NPCs on two pages then a pair of random NPC generators, one for fighters, one for everyone eles. These both include a helpful d12 table of pre-built random guys to run into. The section closes out with four new monsters, lots of local animals and the local view of existing monsters like pegasi and winter wolves plus random encounter tables and an index.
A lot of content is crammed into the section, useful tools for DMs and enough unique options to let players feel like this place has a distinctive flavour without being overwhelming in new stuff.
The Valley of the Five Fires adventure is a motivated exploration scenario there are adventure hooks and rumours and beliefs about what is going on but no fixed plot. This is a treasure hunt for four magical coins which combined give their user significant powers. These are being sought by a local leader and other local players want to maintain the balance of power. Enter our heroes. We get maps for players and the DM and lots of locations allowing the players to make their own way exploring and hopefully turning up the legendary Coins of Luuzhin. We get nine major locations, none very large but each interesting and 26 minor locations to be found on their journeys.
Additional Adventures & Encounters additional locations, encounters and adventure seeds not marked on the map to be deployed at a DMs discretion. These come in three broad groups - the nomad factions, the great capital and the wilderness. We also get three big locations - a cave system, a stupa (temple complex) and a fortress - plus three lairs. All told plenty in here to feed a good lot of steppe adventuring - either beefing out the main adventure or following on from it.
To wrap up we have plenty of good stuff in here, lots of interesting sites and a great scavenger hunt main quest. As it says on the cover "perfect for sandbox style gaming" and easily bolted together with other similar content. The author has some suggestions for 'lead in modules' given the main adventure starts at level 4 and offers a free add-on site The Lost Caverns of Azgot. You could also easily connect this to
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