If you're like me and you've decided to adopt Goodman Games' campaign world of "Aereth" as the campaign setting for your game, then this purchase is a no-brainer. If you are a DM on the lookout for some fresh campaign ideas to integrate into your own, look no further. If your're looking for a campaign setting were every single nook and cranny of the map is filled in with detailed charts and descriptions of every small town, hill and vale, you search in vain (although I'm told the "Wilderlands" boxed set might be more to your liking).
What I was looking for in a campaign world was something similar to Greyhawk, but with a publishing company that still catered to that kind of setting while utilizing the latest 3.5 core rules. For whatever reason, Wizards of the Coast has become self obsessed with "Eberron" and the "Forgotten Realms" and has pretty much left Greyhawk enthusiasts to their own devices ever since 3.5 came out. Right now Goodman Games is the only publisher I know of that still writes "traditional" D&D adventures that allow you to stick with just the 3.5 core rulebooks (i.e. you don't have to go bankrupt purchasing unnecessary supplements). Having wedded myself to the "Dungeon Crawl Classics" line of adventures for my first stint as GM, I knew it was only a matter of time before DCC#35 "Gazetteer of the Known Realms" would end up on my wish list.
The world of Aereth is very much to my liking, a sparsely populated world with isolated fiefdoms and cultures still largely unaware of one another. Mighty empires that once spanned the globe have either broken down into squabbling factions or sunken into obscurity altogether. The writers and designers of this world understand full well the virtue of leaving blanks on the page to be filled in later. The Gazetteer provides a loose framework for stringing together adventure hooks rather than trying corral you into running your game a certain way or fixating on a singular theme. It supplies you with enough geography and back-story to make informed decisions about which region your PCs might hail from without bogging you down in lengthy genealogies or political trivia.
While not without its faults, I much prefer the digital PDF version of this product to the boxed set. The two books in the print version of this module (GM's Guide to the Known Realms and Gazetteer the Known Realms) had a lamentably dark background graphic on every page that could make for some difficult reading. The PDF version fixes this by including a "no-background" version of both tomes. Also, the maps which come with the boxed set are 24 X 36 inches and there are 3 of them! So it's a bit of a relief to be able to print small portions of the maps and use them as player handouts. The three large maps are broken down into 45 separate PDF files, but that doesn't mean that the specific location names are any easier to read.
One bone I have to pick with the graphic design of the whole shebang is that "looking cool" seems to have taken priority over functionality in various design decisions. For instance, putting a faint white glow around the fonts on the map to help them stand out was a good idea, but if only they had made the glow thicker and brighter all the names would be a LOT easier to read. As it is, most of the names of the smaller towns get lost in the beautiful map textures and are virtually unreadable at any scale.
But I quibble. I'm currently running my second adventure in the DCC universe, and already the Known Realms Gazetteer has proved invaluable in helping me answer my PC's pesky questions about the local climate and where certain roads and rivers referenced in the adventure might ultimately lead to. Now I don't have to make stuff up on the spot and backtrack later. Thank you, Goodman Games!
1. Maps give the GM a rough outline of the geography without weighing down the game-setting in convoluted or excessive back-story.
2. Allows the GM to put each Dungeon Crawl Classic adventure in a geographic and cultural context.
3. GM's Guide provides numerous "Adventure Paths" which can help you to easily string together a series of Dungeon Crawl Classics into one comprehensive story arc.
4. The world maps are broken down into small chunks (15 individual PDFs each) so that you can print only a portion of any given map and use them as player-handouts.
5. "No-background" versions of the Gazetteer and GM's Guide are much easier on the eyes.
6. Module includes two unique DCC adventures to get your party started.
7. GM's Guide provides detailed mythology and history of the Known Realms, including a proprietary pantheon and bestiary, all of which can be added to (or subtracted from) your campaign without difficulty.
8. The Gazetteer provides as many cultural flavors and textures as any GM could possibly want or need. The world of Aereth sports equivalents of Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures, as well as Arabian, Asian, and Mesoamerican civilizations! It even has its own "Caribbean" equivalent, complete with imperial colonies.
9. Campaign world is so large that you could design your own adventures around the landmarks provided and not run out of mapped territory for years on end.
10. The maps have a "satellite photo" quality that helps to define the geography and climate of any given area.
1. The names of towns on the maps can still be difficult to read, even in PDF format.
2. The Gazetteer has no index of towns listed in the back.
3. Without an index, the lack of well defined political borders makes it more difficult locate a town's description in the Gazetteer.
4. If you want to create a "world" map which shows an entire continent, you will have to stitch it together in an image editing program (such as Photoshop).
5. No PDF chapter bookmarks on the "no-background" files.
QUALITY: Very Good
VALUE: Very Satisfied
[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]