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Kingdoms of Kalamar: Campaign Setting Sourcebook (Dungeons & Dragons d20 3.0 Fantasy Roleplaying) Hardcover – March 1, 2001
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One of the huge problems I found with the book was a variety of inconsistencies throughout. Some poor grammar, relatively juvenile writing in places, terrible location names (I agree with people on RPGnet that it looks like they just made a random name generator). The worst offenders though are that sometimes NPCs don't seem to be referenced in the back or information isn't complete (there's a reference to a bastard son of a king, I'm assuming.. but all it says is that he plans to make a name for himself and then force the king to acknowledge his lineage or pay him off.. it doesn't actually _say_ what his relationship to the king is, it's only because this appears immediately after the section detailing which son will take over the kingdom that I could make the inference). Also, there's one case of a Necromancy spell of particularly nasty effects being attributed to a good aligned wizard. Finally, quality control seems a bit lax in the Kalamar setting, one of their modules takes place in a town. In the sourcebook, the town is shown as being under the protection of one city, and in the module it's under the protection of another one.
So, I gave it three stars anyway. Part of this is for the exceptionally beautiful maps, and the small portions of the maps shown throughout for each region. The production quality is high with nice black and white pictures throughout. In spite of the inconsistencies and blandness, the world does hang together pretty well. It's merely up to the DM to add the adventuring sites, old civilizations, etc if he/she wants to. For those who want politically based campaigns, the setting will probably work very well. For me, it just doesn't sow adventure/campaign ideas in my mind the way other sourcebooks have.
"Kingdoms of Kalamar" introduces us to the lands and peoples of the continent of Tellene. The first two-thirds of the book detail everything you could possibly want to know about the area with a different chapter for each kingdom. These sections detail the climate, population, government & politics, military, temples, economy, underworld, and interesting sites of all of the cities and towns within each kingdom. Each of the various human peoples is described meticulously including their histories and migrations, physical make-ups, styles of names, even their alphabets.
The attention to detail is staggering as each city is give a one to two page synopsis that in addition to the info mentioned previously, also includes the city's history, notes on demi-human and humanoid populations, notable NPCs, and also provides anecdotes that can be used to develop adventures in these various regions. For example, we learn that in the city of Ospolen the daughter of Duke Letton has been kidnapped and the Duke is offering a reward of 10,000 gold pieces for her safe return.
"Kingdoms of Kalama"r is filled with political intrigue providing a framework for more than just the typical hack & slash gaming experience. We learn that the Empire of Kalamar was once much larger but the current ruling family has managed to lose nearly half its territories. The Duchy of O' Par declared itself independent just eighty years ago without reprisal and the Principality of Pekal rebelled against the empire over one hundred years ago and now the Empire is dead set on regaining the territory. These various notes and interesting sites will provide the DM with many solid foundations for adventures for player characters.
The selling point of any campaign setting is if it's just words on a page or if the world is truly living and breathing. Kingdoms of Kalamar is incredibly vibrant. While maybe some gamers find the various political intrigues of these lands unneeded in a role-playing game, I found that they added tremendous depth. So often, campaign settings tend to be very one-dimensional with flat histories and characters. Not so in "Kingdoms of Kalamar." In the east on the Kaotoon Island in Reanaaria Bay you will find Aasaer, the City of Pirates. Described as having "seedy taverns that litter every corner, murder victims rotting in the alleys, and prostitutes crowding the doorways", it's a location that sounds like a fun place to visit!
The final one-third of the book features sections on the various organizations and groups of Kalamar, major languages, law in the kingdoms, and appendices on constellations, armies, and NPCs. The book also gives a description of each of the nearly four dozen Gods of the world with their names in the assorted languages, symbols, typical appearance, raiment colors, etc. A short history of the gods is provided as we learn that the Creator made fifty-four gods, each representing a different aspect of Her personality. The Gods eventually war amongst themselves and nearly a dozen are destroyed. Now they use the peoples of Tellene as their pawns, drawing power as their number of worshippers increase.
The book also has two large, fold-out maps with the entire continent of Tellene, beautifully done. A nice touch is that the developers did not mar the map with a grid. Instead they provided the nice touch of including a tear-out, clear plastic overlay with a hexagonal grid to place over the map.
Different people look for different things within a campaign setting. I don't like to have everything spelled out for me, taking the creative thought out of the game. "Kingdoms of Kalamar" provides a detailed framework from which the DM can create all manner of adventures from. This is an extremely well constructed world, ready to be trampled underfoot by your player characters!
Reviewed by Tim Janson