The Silk Road brings upon great images of adventure into the unknown and with new and possible exotic civilizations. I like the adventure and campaigns the imagery of the Silk Road brings up. A mercantile campaign of exploration and diplomacy can be a very different style from what I see as a normal D&D campaign.
A Magical Society: Silk Road is the latest book in the series by Expeditious Retreat Press. This one is written by Suzi Yee. The book comes in print as well as PDF like most of their products. The book is about a hundred and sixty pages long with a nice standard lay out and art. The PDF version is very well book marked. It does lack an index and a book filled with information like this one can really benefit from one.
This book reads a little better then the others in the series because of the tighter focus in the subject. There are editing errors in the book, but not enough to cause me any confusion or really even bother me that much. The gamers though that are more annoyed by this sort of thing will of course hold it as a much larger flaw then I do.
The book does a very thorough covering into what goes with a large overland trade route like the Silk Road. The first two chapters go into that very well. I especially like the emphasis on cultures and how geography can really influence how they develop and differ. There are good design notes that will help one to create their own overland trade route in most campaign worlds. I say most because the father away from an Earth like setting and assumptions the tougher it is to group all settings together. The book has a lot of nice ways for complicating overland travel. One of the themes that runs through the book is the importance and danger of the journey. This can really help out in campaigns that want to have that type of focus without worrying about the overall Silk Road topic.
Any overland travel that deals with merchants and their many goods for trade will involve a caravan. The book deals with caravans going through four of the more extreme environments. Traveling through a desert is going to have a lot different feel and dangers then traveling through High Altitudes, Swamps, or even the Underground. These sections deal with the different environments very well. They cover the many different hazards, types of animals a caravan would use both real and fantastic as well covering the landscape and what exactly each environment is. This section like the last will also be useful for DMs that are just setting a campaign or just and adventure in that area. It will offer additional problems for even a normal adventuring party and help bring the environment to life.
The book covers trade items trade systems like no other product I have seen. The economy of the D&D game has never been a strong point and while this will not fix this it does help make it a little more realistic. The book has a very complete list of trade goods. This type of detail might be a little alien to some players but I like the idea of instead of placing coin in a treasure the players find to have them find tobacco or other items that can be worth good money but make the players work at it and involve them in new directions for the campaign.
The book does a very nice job of condensing the historical Silk Road and it makes a great example people can borrow from and read over to see how it all fits together. It also brings up a bit of a issue some can have with the book. It has more of a real world approach then a magical world one. It is not devoid of magic or the fantastic but it does seem to be a lower assumption of magic then the core rules presents. For instance I would have enjoyed reading about the different core races and their own unique approaches to some thing like a Silk Road.
I want to make a special mention of Section 15 of the OGL in this book. That is the part that lists other books used and built on. I was shocked to see a list of dozens of books there. Silk road was a very smooth read and I did not imagine that so many resources were used here. I am impressed by that a whole lot.
Silk Road is the type of book that has a very strong focus and on the surface seems like it will have limited use. However, the different sections each have information a creative DM can use in their normal campaign to enhance it in unique ways. Of course for me using the book all together to develop a single campaign involving the Silk Road will be the highlight of the book. There is a lot of adventure ideas and creativity for something different hidden in the pages of this book.
LIKED: It covers a topic that has been mostly ignored in the game. And it does it very well.
DISLIKED: THere are some editing gaffs and I would have liked additional info dealing with a more magical approach.
VALUE: Very Satisfied