It's static and it doesn't give an idea about the world it's set it, but looking on it you get the idea that this is a legendary warrior who had many adventures and battles and came out ahead. Not the worst notion to get from a cover of a book that promises Epic High Fantasy.
4 of 5 stars
The book's inside is presented in black and white, the borders of the page are highly ornamented and the background fades from grey to almost white in the center, making the text easy to read. This will be very heavy on the printers, so let's hope that there's a slightly trimmed down version for us savin' folks.
5 of 5 stars.
There are black and white drawings throughout the text, in the style of sketches which spark the imagination and give a good idea of the look of the world. The website offers a few full-color graphics as well which depict scenery. While nice-looking, they didn't strike that as that powerful. I'd rather take the b/w sketches for the final book.
5 of 5 stars.
Shaintar obviously has a rich and detailed background. There are quite a few hints and clues at a much larger world that couldn't be fit in into one mere book. I'll get back to that later.
The flavor text at the start of the Player's Guide left me kinda disappointed. It's a classic opener in the line of "something terrible's about to happen, luckily there is hope". Which is fine for starting the main story arc, but I'd rather have a typical "everyday-scene" of an adventurer's life at the beginning of the PG.
The PG continues with a brief overview over the world of Shaintar and its history. This gives new players a rough overview who the big players are and what's common knowledge for heroes hailing from the Southern Kingdoms (or where ever the characters come from).
The calendar seems a little tedious, but that's just out of personal preference. I'd rather not deal with keeping track of dates in a calendar not everyone is familiar with, but this will be a non-issue at most tables, I'm sure.
One thing is really great: the GM-to-GM notes. With those, Sean describes in straight-to-the-point language the reasons why he did something the way he did (including dwarves, for example). He also offers advice on how to run Shaintar, what to emphasize, what to de-emphasize. All-in-all a very interesting and helpful view on the creating of Shaintar.
One last thing: When it comes to the rules, the language is plain and to the point. You won't read that this skill has "no particular use and should thus not be taken", you'll read: Don't bother to put points into this. It's like a GM offering advice to new players on his table.
3 of 5 stars.
Here's the crunch of Shaintar, the real juicy bites for the number-crunchers. It starts off with the Races. Shaintar offers 11 races, some of them quite generic for fantasy, some unique. Each race offers a short description (including bits on culture and the like) before assignid racial abilities. At first glance, the races might seem unbalanced since they come out better than the equivalent of one free edge (like Humans in general). But fear not, Humans get an additional boost as well, so it balances out nicely.
There are various types of Faes (think Elves), Dwarves, Humans, a special kind of Half-Elves, Orcs, Ogres and Goblins. Additionally to these, there are Brinchie (a feline race) and Dregordians, a lizard-like race.
There doesn't seem to be a race who get's shorthanded, although some racial hindrances come "only" through roleplaying into play.
5 of 5 stars for the races.
Skills, Edges & Hindrances
Shaintar offers a big list them, but a good portion of that is re-printed material from other sources (like 50 Fathoms) or details minor changes on existing edges on the rulebook. Again, Sean offers insight via the GM-to-GM boxes on the decision process.
There are a total of 28 new Edges (if I didn't miscount). Some of them are more specialised than others but there's no excessive branching of edges (the Kor-In Student, for example, has been trimmed down to three edges).
Some of these Edges are difficult to judge without knowing the full world, but I'll give this section:
5 of 5 stars.
This section offers a slightly different way to handle armor (basically, it introduces a Called Shot penalty per Armor for hits aimed for unarmed body parts) and replaces the gear list from the main rulebook completely for Shaintar.
No thrills, but no complains either.
5 of 5 stars.
Magic in Shaintar
Shaintar uses quite a few powers published in Evernight or 50 Fathoms, but re-prints them here for easy reference.
There are about two dozen new powers and I'm not sure that you need that many. Reading the descriptions I though that the one or the other could have been done with existing powers and trappings, but that would be nitpicking.
There are 6 Arcane Backgrounds in Shaintar, 5 of them available for player characters, including Psionics. The ABs are re-named for better fitting into the world. In my opinion, that wasn't necessary, but it's no harm either.
4 of 5 stars
The PG closes with a tour of the world offering an overall map for the world, then "zooming in" for short descriptions of nations, islands and the like. Gives a good overview for the players without getting lost in minute details.<br><br>
<b>LIKED</b>: The GM to GM comments offer valuable insight into how this setting came to pass and what the author's thoughts are on some issues.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: The introductory story.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>