Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chronicles of Future Earth - mine at last

The wait was a bit longer than I'd hoped, but The Chronicles of Future Earth finally arrived at my FLGS and I eagerly bought myself a copy. It's a 112 pg. softcover with a removable double-sided, two pg. map of the city and the province that comprise the setting (more on that in a moment). Chronicles, written by Sarah Newton, author of the Mindjammer campaign setting for Starblazer Adventures, describes the territory of southern and central Spain as it might be a hundred thousand years in the future. The province of Korduva (modern-day Cordoba) is the northernmost territory of a great, but decaying empire called the Venerable Autocracy of Sakara spanning what is now North Africa (Sakara = Sahara, perhaps). Just to the north of Korduva is the Amadorad (modern-day Madrid) Protectorate, a vassal state and ally of Korduva against the Chaos Wastes which lie further to the north. The world of Chronicles is strange, depleted and decadent. Dozens of races, some human, some near-human and some decidedly non-human struggle to survive in a world haunted by summoned demons and creatures of chaos. The Gods are real and their temples are sources of magical power. Employing ancient technologies such as gravity cannons and force blades along with powerful sorcery and simple spears and shields, the peoples of the future earth defend the remnants of civilization from the horrors that wait Beyond the Veil.

Chronicles of Future Earth begins with a chapter on races and cultures. There are very brief descriptions provided for a couple of dozen races, human, humanoid (Jeniri, the "Cousins of Man") and non-human (Esteri, "Not-People of Urth"). Of these, four races are given detailed descriptions for use as player races. Two of these are human, the Hivernians and the Amadoradi. The former are the people of Korduva [and the neighbouring province of Elikan (modern-day Alicante)], civilized citizens of the Venerable Autocracy, while the latter are the people of Amadorad, hard, militant folk only recently brought into the imperial fold and still chafing under the yoke of civilization. The third race are the Virikki, a Jeniri race of blue-skinned scalyfolk with powerful psychic abilities and a refined aesthetic sense. Finally, there are the Hsun (or Spider Folk), an Esteri race of large arachnoids known for their skillful artifice and their ability to produce alagin, a hard substance used instead of metal (which is rare and expensive).

The next two chapters, detailing character generation and divine powers and demon summoning respectively, serve to adapt the Basic RolePlaying game system to the setting. The details on summoning and using demons are particularly welcome as I always thought the rules outlined in BRP were a tad sparse and unclear in this regard. After that is a chapter on the Gods of the Great Compact, powerful extradimensional beings who united in the distant past to defeat an evil entity known as the Great Hegemonist. Two in particular, Regos, the god of rulership and conquest, and Vareltias, the god of diplomacy and trade, are described in detail such that their temples can be used as patrons or sources of spells. A chapter on artifacts and equipment, another brief chapter on the city of Korduva and a bestiary follow.

Lastly, there is a sizable introductory adventure included which incorporates pretty much everything that is detailed in the rest of the book. It ties everything together quite nicely and provides a pretty good feel for the setting. Other features include the aforementioned map of the city of Korduva and the territory of Hivernia, a handy glossary, a complete index (though no table of contents) and an appendix for various tables and maps.

I really can't find much to criticize in this book. The artwork is black-and-white throughout, but it's quite well-drawn and appropriate (although a couple of images are used more than once). My only concern might be the limited scope of the book. Many things are described briefly, but not to an extent that they could be readily incorporated into an ongoing campaign. This wouldn't be a problem if further supplements were to be released in a timely fashion, but it would not be unfair, I think, to describe Chaosium's publication schedule as glacial. Thus, it could be many months before we get to see the next installment in this excellent campaign setting. I hope Chaosium realizes what a gem they have in Chronicles and proceeds to quickly get some new content into the pipeline.


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