Unlike a lot of other d20 supplements, The Second World Sourcebook is not one that you decide to use in one reading. It took me two complete readings and many section reference reviews before I dared even attempt a review.
Delightfully though, The Second World Sourcebook, by Second World Simulations, is an innovative if not sometimes clunky piece of work. If you are looking for a different take on a fantasy realm, you can not go wrong with picking up this PDF. However, do be warned that you will have to understand the material in its entirety to get the full benefit.
The writer of Second World, Steven Palmer Peterson, is obviously a game designer. This is important in a world of easy d20 PDF creation where there are great supplements but very little thought to how the pieces presented in the supplement fit together. This is both the best and worst part about the book. Everything in the book needs to make sense and fit with something else, and it does near flawlessly. But the drawback is that it presents so much material that it can be overwhelming to even the average Dungeon Master.
To get the aesthetics out of the way, Second World has some wonderful artwork, is well bookmarked (with the exception of the appendix) and contains very intelligent writing. The Second World, in the PDF refers to a fantasy world that shares similarities with the modern world, the first world. These similarities include a geography with our seven continents, corporate stooges and traditional modern conveniences such as vehicles. The second world and our world were on the same path to evolution right up until a catastrophic event in the prehistoric ages.
The book begins by introducing the history of Second world, with the second chapter going into basic information about races, classes and options for both worlds. The six new races are dynamic and adventurous. They present a very daring move to give the PCs and DM something different than elves and orcs, though they are an option. Instead though, you can use the orcas and raptor classes which match up well with the classic fantasy races. This chapter is very crunchy with the many character options introduced. The feats, backgrounds and new skill uses really add to the setting.
The most interesting parts of the book are in the following chapters with the introduction of Wardens, Influence and Pacts. Wardens are prestige classes that grant users special magical abilities. These abilities are bought using Influence, which is the equivalent of social currency in Second World. No longer can you just walk into a store and buy a +4 vorpal sword, with influence, you must gain enough of it to get access to such things. Pacts, like Warden abilities, also use the unique influence currency. Pacts allow you to make deals with planar organizations to gain access to their magics and incantations. The book ends by introducing key NPCs and monsters in the world giving more flavor to the Second World.
For the Player
You have a lot of character customization with this book. With the wardens, pacts and character backgrounds, you have a lot of options. You may have to spend a lot, but players want to invest in the warden powers. They are different, binding to your various chakra points to enhance your abilities.
For the DM
The first thing I introduced from this book into my campaign was the Influence system. It is one of the best economical systems I have seen. The organizations inside of this chapter can easily be modified for traditional fantasy. Tip: If you are going to introduce only fragments of The Second World, do so in small chunks. The concepts are so different that some players may feel overwhelmed.
The Iron Word
This intricate campaign setting is ideal for someone whom wants fantasy but wishes for a more modern take on it. Many of the new ideas introduced take a bit of working to fit into a traditional fantasy setting, but many tips and tricks are given by the author to do this. I do hate that one of the best of these ideas, the warden, is not accessible without spending class levels. I used a trick from the pact system and created oaths to associate with wardens to bypass utilizing a class slot.
Oddly enough, The Second World's biggest problem is how good it is. It fits so well together that it is hard to cut and paste into your campaign unless you are an Iron DM caliber DM. Utilizing the system in its entirety, may provide too much of a modern alternative to DMs. IF you have the patience and experience though, and are looking for something different, you will enjoy every page of this.
LIKED: -wardens are unique and a testament of good game design
- influence creates a truly dynamic monetary system
- there are a lot of options and good organization
- the author seems to give a lot of advice on how to fit the elements of the book into a campaign world
DISLIKED: - the wardens are prestige classes
- the pacts weren't bookmarked and they are one of the best parts of the book
- the book is not for novices, this is a Grown DM book.
QUALITY: Very Good
VALUE: Very Satisfied