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FMA1 Fires of Zatal (2e)
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FMA1 Fires of Zatal (2e)

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This first game adventure for the Maztica campaign setting comes from the conclusion to the Maztica novel trilogy. The fate of the Maztica hangs in the balance as gods struggle for mastery of a shattered island. A few heroes must penetrate the great volcano, Zatal, to break the power of the god of war.

"On the Night of Wailing, when the creatures of Viperhand come to life, when the great Maztican gods Qotal and Zaltec battled, the great Cloak of One Plume - a magical item of great power and a token of great authority - was believed lost forever.

Such was not the case.

Rumors fly that the Cloak was rescued that night, and hidden away in a safe location. Now a petty noble of New Amn plans to recover it, and is looking for brave young souls who can bring it back to him. But other players are invovled in the chase, trying to recover the lost Cloak.

Fires of Zatal spans the great continent of Mazticafrom the new colony of Helmsport to the Valley of Nexal, at the foot of Mt. Zatal itself. It is the first adventure for the new Maztica campaign setting in the Realms; DMs wishing to run this need theMaztica Campaign Boxed Set. This module serves as an introduction to this new world of adventure, a land of wise and savage empires and growing, monstrous threats.

Welcome to Maztica. This is not the Realms you're familiar with!"

Product History

FMA1: "Fires of Zatal" (1991), by Jeff Grubb & Tim Beach, is the first Maztica adventure. It was published in August 1991.

About the Module Code. This module code is listed as "FMA-1". The use of a dash is quite unusual. Its only D&D predecessor was XL-1: "Quest for the Heartstone" (1984), though TSR used the dashes somewhat more regularly in their Star Frontiers and Marvel Super Heroes lines. FMA2: "Endless Armies" (1991) would match this usage.

Origins (I): Return to Maztica. The Maztica Campaign Set (1991) introduced a new subsetting for adventure in the Forgotten Realms. TSR quickly followed that up with an adventure.

Origins (II): After the Novels. Maztica was introduced through a trilogy of novels that brought adventurers from the Heartlands to the New World: Ironhelm (1990), Viperhand (1990), and Feathered Dragon (1991). The Maztica Campaign Set correctly noted "The land of Maztica, introduced in the Maztica trilogy of FORGOTTEN REALMS® novels, undergoes convulsive forces in the telling of those tales — forces that change the world, for good or for ill, in many significant directions. Therefore, the choice of timing is very significant regarding the setting of the game." It opted to place itself "after its most cataclysmic moments".

"Fires of Zatal" doubles down on this idea. Its whole plot in based on the search for a magic item originally thought lost in the climactic battle of the novels. It also visits the Nexal Valley, one of the places most affected by the "Night of Wailing". The Maztica line was never deep enough to support a true metaplot, but this is the closest approximation, as the story continues on from the events of the Maztica trilogy.

Adventure Tropes. Appropriately, this first Maztican adventure is an introductory adventure for low-level characters. The actual plot is quite simplistic. It's a macguffin quest. However, much of the adventure is spent on travels through wilderness and cities, complete with both random and set encounters. The volcano crawl that ends things is relatively brief.

Exploring the Realms. Maztica is an immense land, so the geographic descriptions of Maztica Campaign Set were all pretty big picture. "Fires of Zatal" makes up for that with maps and important site listings in Helmsport-Ulatos (in Payit) and the cities of Azatl, Nexal, and Tezat (in the Nexal Valley). There are also plenty of ideas for wilderness travel between these locales.

Monsters of Note. Tim Beach was the Maztican monster master, having previously created most or all of the New World critters in the Maztica Campaign Set. He adds to that in this volume with a Maztican dragon (the Tlalocoatl) and two more Maztican peoples: the gator-men Ahuizotl and the jaguar-men Tabaxi.

Surprisingly, the tabaxi originated in the Fiend Folio (1981), the creation of none of than Lawrence Schick. However those cat-people have been reinvented for their usage here. They've also proven long-lived, recently appearing in Volo's Guide to Monsters (2016).

Future History. Monster master Tim Beach says that he had "a full list for a Maztica [Monstrous Compendium] at one time". He would have included all his original monsters plus "stats for some variants that I would have seen as semi-iconic for the setting, such as the winged bu[l]lette". Alas, it never came to be, as the Maztica line was shortlived.

About the Creators. Though a busy creator at TSR, Jeff Grubb would go on to author FMA2: "Endless Armies". These were just two of a half dozen books he wrote for 1991 release. Meanwhile, Tim Beach was just starting his career at TSR in 1991 by designing monsters for Maztica Campaign Set, FMA1: "Fires of Zatal", and MC11: "Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix" (1991). He'd return to Maztica with some of the companies for FR15: "Gold & Glory" (1992).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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Bronto C May 30, 2018 11:42 pm UTC
Clearly, the authors were being paid based on the number of times they could repeat the stats for Typical Guards...
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