When 7th Sea first came out, the Crescent Empire was the mysterious unknown. Eventually, though, this book came out and we could all get a glimpse behind the curtain. It's a land of legend and mystery where few explorers have dared to tread, monsters and myths and riches... and endless deserts.
The First Scroll: The Crescent Empire looks at the history and geography of the place, east of Vodacce and south of Ussura. The Empire of the Crescent Moon, to give it its full name, is ancient indeed, said to be the very cradle of life. Its origins lie in nomadic tribes, each of which has legends about its foundation which are given here... ripe for telling around a camp fire. Believers in signs and portents, myths surround historical events throughout their long history. The Second Prophet of the Théan faith came from somewhere deep in the desert, a place where he proclaimed Theus himself dwelled (hence people should make pilgrimages there...). His teachings and ultimate demise led to years of Crusades, invaders from the west. Time past and the tribes unified under a sultan, continuing to be wary of their neighbours. Perhaps now the times are changing, perhaps not.
The scroll continues with discussion of the government as it stands today (structured and bureaucratic) with national and tribal systems to consider... and then there are the Eyes of the Peacock, a vast and all-pervasive secret police who give the impression of knowing what everyone is up to. Military organisation, trade and even slavery (which is a significent element in social structure) are also covered, and the position of women in the Empire is discussed - something little understood by outsiders (or indeed the mind of the modern gamer... but it's not all harems and sex slaves!). Taxes, culture, customs, the arts, food and even their attitude to animals are also discussed here. As for religion, they worship a Great Creator, whose message has been revealed through visions granted to a simple herdsman. And there's more including geography (and a map, I'm glad to say!).
Next, the Second Scroll: Prominent People introduces a host of NPCs, just about any one of which could make your visit to the Empire really exciting. This is followed by the Third Scroll: Drama, which contains assorted rules-related material, beginning with resources for creating characters from the Crescent Empire. The usual collection of new skills, knacks, etc., follows, along with new swordsman schools which include the use of the scimitar and an acrobatic form of knife-fighting. You can even learn horse archery if so minded. Magic, the zodiac and other such esoterica are also covered, along with poisons and equipment unique to the area.
Finally, the Fourth Scroll: Veils and Whispers contains player and GM sections. The player bit discusses the differences in culture between the western nations and the Empire, GMs get various useful materials including cults and magic, NPC secrets and monsters. To round it all off, a scenario - The Emerald Scimitar - for beginning Empire characters, although it might be adaptable to visitors from other lands if they have been able to gain acceptance amongst the tribes. There are also some adventure seeds to get you started on your own plots... and there is a game, Ajedrez, widely played across the Empire, a chess-style game you may wish to have going on in the background.
It's a magnificent sweep across novel and uncharted territory, mixing themes from the Sahara and Middle East in true 7th Sea style into something that feels familiar but is new and embedded into the game world. For those who likeexotic adventures, definitely worth acquiring.