Despite being in two physical parts, the books break down into three rough sections, with the beginning being Chinese-inspired countries, the end being Japanese-inspired countries, and the stuff in the middle being more of a variety of other Oriental influences. China and Japan have decided top billing here, with the middle chapters being shorter, much less detailed, and not as well written. Each chapter supposedly written by a different in-world personality describing the area to Elminster, and actually written by a different contributing author.
As with any anthology, this leads to a variety of styles, presentation, and quality. The first part of "China" is Shou Lung, a fantasy version of ancient China which gets a pretty good introduction in about forty pages, including a gazetteer of the provinces, a cultural guide, Chinese-style renamings of the largely Japanese-influenced classes from Oriental Adventures, secret societies, religion, history, sample NPCs, and some details on a typical example town, complete with social tensions.
These forty pages are packed. Of course, since this is the country that takes up most of the overview map, there's plenty of room for invention as well. If Shou Lung is fantasy Lawful Good China, T'u Lung is its Chaotic Evil mirror, where the bureaucracy hinders every action, taxes go uncollected, many towns are ruined by unrestrained bandits, etc. This overstates the case, as neither country is full of people of a particular alignment, but it's not a bad assessment of the character of the countries.
Overall, this section gets a bit more lost in details, such as having even more NPCs than given in the longer Shou Lung chapter, but since this is the Southern Song to Shou Lung's Imperial China, the cultural notes from both chapters can be of help for both countries.
Kara-Tur transitions from China with Tabot, a little too obvious fantasy Tibet. With only eight pages, if you already knew something of Tibetan history, this might be enough. For me at least, this is where the boxed set starts strongly saying, 'there's China, and then the rest of the world is boring'.
There's just not enough here to get a real feel of the place. Sure, there's some history, and short bits about architecture, language, religion, etc. But it is all breezed through, there's no touches like Tabotan-culture class names; nothing more than the barest overview.
Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms
Almost everyone is a barbarian in the class-mechanics sense , everyone rides, etc. That said, while there's a number of different tribes that fight with each other, many of them have apparently permanent cities that serve as their central meeting spot, up to the largest, Li-Raz, that has a 15,man barbarian standing army. Still, this feels a little more like a place to flesh out and adventure in, rather than visit, than Tabot, though it probably comes down to relative existing knowledge for me.
The Northern Wastes out past the Plain of Horses is another sparsely-populated area with no central nation, and no overriding culture either, leaving the area undeveloped in text as well, a home of lone mysterious places, and a primary place to find non-humans more on that later. The Jungle Lands to the south of T'u Lung with multiple nations are broadly-Indonesian in flavor, but this ten-page chapter is ill-served with pages of short city descriptions crowding out broader concerns of what the area is like, with the three peoples presented are given the barest outlines.
The Island Kingdoms But the chapter spends its time purely on the island of Bawa too-obvious renaming—Java—strikes again. With such a tight focus, the island is actually fairly well developed, and this is one of the better places to have adventurers visit and interact with, but it's hard to imagine a campaign starting here.
I'd like to complain about ignoring the rest of the region the chapter should be about, but this product needs more focus like this. They offer nicely contrasting views in one part, and the entire chapter could have been much stronger with more use of the technique. Kozakura is a chain of islands modeled after waring states Japan, with Wa being an adjacent set of islands modeled after the Tokugawa Shogunate down to persecuted Chauntea cultists in place of Christian missionaries.
Like the pair of 'Chinas' earlier, these chapters have a decent amount to offer each other in terms of crossover society and background. Thanks to the increased coverage, and the smaller geographical size, they're probably the easiest to digest for adventuring in, pointed up by the fact that most of the OA-series adventures happen in these two countries.
They also feature a lot of color by way of Japanese terms and titles. I'm happy with it, but I can easily see someone being severely overwhelmed by all the foreign names and terms, and having a lot of trouble with this section. Conclusion In many ways, the Kara-Tur boxed set is just crammed full of possibilities, and can serve as a great inspiration to a DM. But it also suffers from overreach. It would be easy to take any one part of this product and turn it into something deeper and more focused, and still be giving the barest outlines of world-building inspiration.
However, the worst omission is actually the absence of any sort of timeline. There are history sections, and many parts refer to an event happening in 'such-and-such a year', but the current year is never stated, making all those references nearly useless and they're obviously not in Dale Reckoning, and probably are in different calendars in different countries.
For me, the boxed set lived entirely on its Forgotten Realms tie-in, and that is a place that it also runs into trouble. The Realms are an ancient land that have been dominated by dragons, dwarves, and elves in turn, where the human era is still getting going with the wreckage of former empires scattered about. Meanwhile Kara-Tur is a very human-oriented land. There's no signs of this backstory here.
No elves, and only peripherally dwarves if you count korobokuru , and no great pre-human empires.
It's possible they just didn't get out this far, but it clashes with the tone of the main Realms. The fact that the regions and cultures are all closely modeled after Earth equivalents comes in for some criticism. For instance, Shou Lung has some very nicely Chinese ideas of a Celestial Empire and heavenly bureaucracy that is reflected in the mortal realm by Shou Lung itself It's not even explained how it works in relation to the other countries in the boxed set.
About This Item
All of this is probably why Kara-Tur remained almost unexplored in further products. It remains a good foundation for adventure settings, but is too much to just visit, and needs too much work to base a campaign in. May 18, Juho Pohjalainen rated it liked it. Much as I like Forgotten Realms, sometimes it feels like watching an overbloated child being fed even more food when his three brothers, bone-thin and starving, watch hungrily. The surrounding settings could all have used a great deal more fleshing out - Kara-Tur the most of them, in my opinon.
This book will have to suffice. It's reasonably comprehensive, trying to cover such a vast span of land in a limited number of pages, but I don't think it can hold up all too well on its own. Jul 25, Michael Prier rated it it was amazing Shelves: dungeons-and-dragons. A fleshed out campaign in oriental lands, culture, and history. It was a nice supplement to the Oriental Adventures. H A rated it liked it Jul 28, Tom rated it liked it Jun 15, Michael rated it liked it Sep 27, Stan rated it really liked it Apr 14, Tim Martin rated it liked it Sep 02, JM rated it liked it Sep 22, Dale Donovan rated it really liked it Jul 25, Jeremy rated it liked it Jan 03, John Dodd rated it really liked it Feb 17, Chris Barndollar rated it liked it Jan 14, Description: This module concentrates mainly on the city of Nakamaru, a port of northern Wa.
Additional source material for Wa is also included. The adventure itself consists of a series of plots woven into one or more! All in all, this is an excellent module, but requires a Dungeon Master with the ability to think on his feet, organize carefully, and who doesn't possess a dungeon fixation! The module also provides useful information, tools, etc. A NPC generator, with profession, personality, physical traits, and a Japanese name list; a NPC record form; and a couple of generic floorplans of a similar type to those found in the OA rulebook.
The source section on Wa adds to the information found in the Kara-Tur box set. Description: The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting is a boxed set composed of background material, characters, topography, etc on the world of Faerun. Description: The strict hierarchy of the Gods is threatened by the new and deadly dragon claw martial arts style. A monk has hired the PCs to help uncover this new evil. Notes: The author wished it be known that the two new martial arts styles are not real, but merely made up. Next they'll have a disclaimer that the spells in the PH are not real, either! New spells: corpselight, detect undead, undead mount, invisibility to undead, skull watch, spectral wings, mummy touch, revenance, ward against undead, death's door, speak with dead wiz version , teleport dead, chill touch, disguise undead, hold undead, imbue undead with spell ability, spectral guard, undead regeneration, suburst, unlife, control undead.
New creatures: Living zombies, half-wights, great wights, deinonychus skeleton, tyrannosaurus skeleton, greater vampires, lesser ghost, Oriental spectres bushi, handmaiden , half-strength spectres,. Description: A compilation of undead-based adventures and lore, carrying the Forgotten Realms logo but not fully specific to that setting, this book is very useful to those wishing to add more "bite" to their undead. One adventure is set within Kozakura, and deals with Oriental spectres.
The source material contained within this book describes methods of using undead, enhancements and alterations, ecologies, and so forth. New spells: bleach, colour, climate, create air, clothwall, fabricate [fabricate], woodwall, disguise, stonewall [wall of stone], ironwall [wall of iron], duel-shield, impersonate, steelwall, sleep-curse. Character generation information for Ochaleans is also provided.
This is of little interest to players in OA campaigns, unless they wish to introduce OA elements into a Mystara campaign or simply want to look at another way of incorporating Oriental elements into an existing campaign. New spells: Renew [mending], feat [hero's feast], detect lie [detect lie], wind blast [gust of wind], lie [undetectable lie], command word [command], detect poison [detect poison], fellowship, pass without trace [pass without trace], trance, shimmer, spirit sending, detect curse [detect curse], hold spirit, invisibility to spirits, silent move, fate, summon herd, summon lesser animal spirits, vigour, commune with spirit lord, confound, spirit walk, strength of mind, sword of fire [flame blade], madness [insanity], spell turning [spell turning], summon greater animal spirit.
New creatures: Animal spirits, greater animal spirits, spirit lords, evil spirits, nature spirits, undead spirits,. Description: This gazetteer deals with the Mongol-like people of Mystara. Although some of the source is Mystara-specific, a lot of it is only specific to the pseudo-culture being described i. Of particular interest are details on culture and language including a name list , shamans which can be adapted fairly easily , and Mongol-like settlements and tactics.
Components: One 26"x38" map of the whole continent of Kara-Tur, from the Hordelands to Kozakura, and from the northern swamps to the southern jungles. Description: This is a must have for users of the Kara-Tur setting. Not only does the map surpass those provided with the Kara-Tur box set remember how annoying it was to work out all those regional maps and their relationships?
Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Box Set) | belaloustore
The map is shown in the style of early Forgotten Realms cartography, as found in the 1st Ed. The book concentrates on the regions covered by the early Forgotten Realms novels the Moonshae trilogy, Azure Bonds, the Icewind Dale trilogy, the Avatar trilogy , but what information there is on the lands of Kara-Tur surpasses the Trail Map series, and, in terms of maps, the Kara-Tur and Horde box sets. Description: These 64 pages of creatures from the oriental Kara-Tur setting are mainly updates from the Oriental Adventures 1st Edition handbook.
The collection covers creatures from Bajang through Yuki-on-na and has encounter tables for Kara-Tur at the back. Description: This module contains a brief history of Aru, a layout of the town, and a description of the intricate political situation. There is a main adventure in here, in which ninja factions erupt around the Shining Temple of Bishamoy, where pilgrims come for the ceremony of The Three Thousand Steps. There are also mini-adventures, a list of NPCs, an encounter generator, and several brief adventure hooks.
New creatures: Sihira, the black hen could also count as a magical item ; two-headed giant poisonous snake; skeleton wong gua; zombie hai nu; the Earth Spider unique; also described in FR7 Hall of Heroes ; Diaman tribesman; giant swamp snake; Taring tribesman; Nung Dragon unique ; Pumice warrior; Ash soldier; Hovering head.
Description: First of a two-part epic although the parts are disparate enough to run separately , the PCs travel to the southern regions of Shou Lung to uncover a treacherous situation, leading them into the wild valley regions of the Shao Mountains. Also provides additional source on the languages of Kara-Tur.
The language section is of most interest to those wishing to expand their Kara-Tur campaign. All major languages are dealt with, and a word glossary for the Lidahan tongue is included. Description: The peninsula of Wa has been host to strange disturbances: disappearances, bandits and fell creatures.
Description: An interesting, if somewhat esoteric, book for those interested in the period of Kara-Tur's history described within the novels Horselords and Dragonwall. It also provides information on the tribes of the Hordelands, additional to that found within The Horde campaign set. Much of the book is given over to describing the battles between the Tuigan, the forces of Shou Lung, and the Crusaders organised by Azoun of Cormyr, and some are presented as BattleSystem scenarios.
Of more interest is the Osprey-like treatment of tactics, arms, and armour of the forces involved - complete with central colour plates depicting Hordeland nomads, and Semphari, Khazari, Shou warriors. New magical items: Rudder of propulsion, horn of voices, spectacles of seeing, urn of water purification, chalice of continual water, torch of continual fire, antennae of triangulation, bracers of invulnerability, sails of manoeuvrability, plate mail of continual cleanliness, rod of blind walking, masthead of durability, mage shot, lyre of the spheres, elmarin cannon call, magical shippboard weapons ballistae, catapults, bombards, jettisons, rams, sweepers, turrets , Spelljamming ships The Batship, Wa locust, Wa tsunami.