World Book of Khaas: Legendary Lands of Arduin
Publisher: Emperors Choice
Type of Product: Complete world / setting game book
Websites: www.worldofkhaas.com and www.empcho.com
View Snapshots of the product I took at home.
Thumbs up. It's a huge product with big ideas, but it also has a wealth of details that will flesh out any fantasy / alternate universe campaign to a high degree. Though I had initial issues with the editing, the scope and fabulous possibilities of the setting soon won me over. I have a bookshelf where I put my favourite gaming books, and once this review is done, I'll be putting World of Khaas up there with my other coveted tomes. This book was obviously a labour of love, and the ideas within it are inspiring.
I found out about this product from a mention of it over at ENWorld.org. Curious, I checked out the Emperors Choice website for more info, and then contacted them for a review copy, which they kindly sent. The following is a part review, part information, in case you are in the same situation as I was: no book to flip through at the local game store and no previous exposure to the product.
I remember eagerly heading to the post office with parcel notice in hand, and then ripping open the shipping box as soon as I returned home. The book is impressive. Though softcover, it's a hefty 821 pages, with what looks to be sturdy binding. The book lays open by itself on a table providing you aren't at the start or end pages, so that's great for in-game use and reference. The interior is black and white, paper quality is average but should wear well with use, and the layout is clean and readable.
I remember next being appalled at the editing. Grammar and style issues abound. This usually kills a book for me, as errors mercilessly snap me out of what I'm reading and kill immersion. However, over time, I'm glad to report that the scope and quality of ideas in the book, as I bulled my way through the pages, overcame this pet peeve of mine, and now I just take the editing in stride. Be forewarned though.
The book is divided into two parts: the World of Khaas, and the country of Arduin. Khaas covers the first 550 or so pages, and Arduin the remaining 270. For me, Khaas has a great, classic, sword and sorcery feel to it. It has old school roots (there's a country of Amazonian women for example), and it also has a timeless fantasy quality to it that reminds me of Leiber, Tolkien, and Howard.
What has fully captured my imagination is that the book contains huge ideas and small. It has the scope of eons but the details of day-to-day life. This is a hard thing to capture as a world-builder. Bravo.
For example, you might place ruins near your chosen campaign region, and let the PCs know, perhaps through a discovered scroll or clues in an old song, that the site is ancient, known only in legends, and is buried under layers of past civilizations. Well, after you finish reading the history section, you'll have journeyed through the birth of the cosmos, multiple god wars, continents rising and sinking, the waxing, waning, and extinction of several races, villages becoming kingdoms that grow into empires that burn to ashes, heroes who turn into legends and villains, and the waves of events that wash over the lands like beach tides. Indeed, a GM will feel inspired by this massive scope and will feel the weight of time when he calls his ruins ancient.
The small details are also impressive. In the Khaas section, you will find the following sections, to name a few:
- Day and Night
- Months and Seasons
- Annual Holidays
- Cycle of Years
- Ownership of Land
- City Layout and Planning
- Birth and Children
- Trade Secrets
- Origins of Magik
- Rune Weaving
- Wild Magik
- Alchemy and Herbalism
- Guild Halls
- Guild Forces
- Common Maladies
- Potables of Khaas
This is just some of the information covered. You'll find the same level of detail in the Arduin section.
There are quite a number of cool ideas within the setting. A couple that jumped out at me were the Nexus Gates and Rune Weavers. Nexus Gates are portals that open into "temporal, spatial, and dimensional locations" and that lead "into dreams, other realities, uncharted jungle worlds, or streams of time not yet seen." In my mind, this is a blank cheque for any GM to bring in whatever he wants into Khaas, such as PCs from existing campaigns, Spelljammer or Planescape type cosmologies, and connections to favourite gaming products and creations.
The Rune Weavers ruled Khaas for half a million years, and they had control over the powerful technology of rune weaving, which still exists today. Rune weaving involves manipulating raw mana and placing it onto an object, containing the magical power for future triggering. Note that the World of Khaas product contains no game rules, so you will need to bring your own rune weaving system into play, or just leave it for NPCs to work with and the PCs get the benefit of discovering or trading rune-powered items.
That reminds me - as just mentioned, Khaas is purely a setting product. It's system neutral, so any GM can run this world for their preferred game rules. You will need to come up with your own rules and interpretations for various world elements, but this also frees you to run the setting with multiple systems or editions. The authors advise that the Arduin Grimoire system or Compleat Arduin rules work best with Khaas, but in my reading I feel I could run many systems with it, such as D&D, GURPS, d20, Hero, Harn, etc.
Maps sprinkle the pages in grayscale and are quite readable. The map of the Country of Arduin on page 550 is an exception, because of its scale and reduction it's unreadable. There is a larger, colour, and detailed map available for purchase, but fortunately you don't need this map to run Arduin.
Grayscale and black and white graphics also dot the pages, which breaks up the text nicely, though the art is definitely old school.
The book has an extensive Table of Contents and an index.
Emperors choice also has many more supplements and downloads available at the website, which means Khaas is fully supported.
Thoughts For GMs To Consider
- Tons of detail that will help you flesh out your campaigns.
- The settings seems to be able to accommodate all styles of campaign: pure exploration and adventuring, political and intrigue, urban, wilderness, dungeon, interstellar, interplanar, aquatic or ship-based, and so on.
- You will need to do some work to layer over your game rules, and you will need to invent new rules to accommodate everything Khaas offers, or you need to decide what to cut or place far in the background.
- Khaas consists of seven continents spanning the whole planet. It's nice to get a game product that encompasses all latitudes and longitudes.
- The country of Arduin is thoroughly fleshed out, though there is lots of room to add in your own details. Other areas of the world are not fleshed out to this degree, and you will need to invest in additional supplements or do some designing of your own.
- The world has great depth, long history, and huge variety. I feel I could drop a steampunk, low fantasy, high fantasy, weird chaos Warhammer Fantasy, and many other types of campaigns in here.
- In many ways, this feels like a framework product. All the boundaries have been provided and outlined, and much of the interior has been fleshed out, but there are still many corners for you to delve into and shed your light upon.
- The setting is well-supported by the publisher and fans.