Tribe 8: Vimary
From the journal of Roger Taylor, Gaming Geek:
It had been nearly six moons since I first encountered the oddity known as Tribe 8. I recall how I was drawn to the exquisite cover artwork of rusted steel and grafitti, and the atmospheric back cover text sealed my fate. Still and all, I was victim to a nagging fear after reading the rulebook... Would I be able to adequately detail this fantastic and alien world? The world of Vimary was rich, indeed, but so much of it seemed too unformed, too skeletal in those short 200 pages. All of that changed when I came upon the Vimary sourcebook in the wilds of the Gaming Store."
The Vimary sourcebook was the first book-length support product for the wonderful Tribe 8 universe. The cover, like all Tribe 8 products, is excellent and atmosperic, in this case being a stained-glass representation of Dahlia, Joan, and Tera Sheba presented on a texture not unlike rough hewn stone, with accents of steel and bolts and nails. Which, strangely enough, seems like a perfect Cornell box summary of the world of Vimary: the divine, the subterranean, and the remnants of a technological world. So did the cover deliver on this lofty promise of perfection?
As with all Dream Pod 9 products, the layout of Vimary can not be faulted. The artwork is plentiful and atmospheric, with very little recycling. In many cases, the artwork matches the adjacent text, which greatly enhances the already evocative writing. NPC's are presented in the sidebar, with an accompanying portrait and relevant game attributes.
The first third of the book presents a detailed account of Vimary and its environs, all provided in the form of testimonials from the inhabitants. This is followed by an expansion upon the motivations of the various factions found within Vimary and beyond, with each Tribe or Fallen Outlook receiving 2 or 3 pages of background and current events. Keepers, Squats, and Z'Bri are also covered. The final third of the book includes tips on Weaving, detailed accounts of the Z'Bri Houses, and other Weaver-only information.
The majority of the text in Vimary takes the form of first person accounts of the world, with maps to provide a frame of reference in most cases. The layout is logical, and the in-character descriptions greatly emphasizes the role-playing and story-telling feel of the game. There are few numbers or attributes to be concerned with, and the Weaver can concentrate on atmosphere and character interaction.
A brief summary of the current state of Vimary is provided here. Each of the Tribes, Fallen Outlooks, and others are covered quite briefly, and the account is provided by a Fallen, so the opinions expressed are, by necessity, skewed. This is very much like the usual introductory fiction found in the first few pages of games and their supplements, but in this case the information provided is relevant and the style blends seamlessly with subsequent sections.
A short (20 pages) section detailing the murky history of the Tribes, as told to a Lorekeeper of Tera Sheba. This is very nicely written, with each Tribe's representative providing their unique spin on the history of the world. In a game where historical skills are Complex and less common than survival skills, the contradictory and somewhat sketchy details provided are perfect. I came away from this section knowing more of what happened during the Camps and after the Liberation, but not at the expense of the sense of wonder which sets Tribe 8 apart from most other settings.
There is much to be found within this brief chapter, including a further explanation of Joshua's fate, details of the early days of Vimary when the newly liberated Tribes built their home amongst the ruins, and hints at the motivations of the enigmatic Fatimas. After reading this quite small chapter, I already felt more confident in my ability to run a campaign set within the strange world of Vimary.
And the best was yet to come...
This lengthy chapter zooms in on the general geographic features outlined in the rulebook. Whereas Vimary prior to this supplement was defined by a single map with little detail, this section focuses on each region to provide rich descriptions and background. The homeland of each Tribe is covered in great detail, fleshing out the skeletal summary of Vimary provided in the core book. Lai, home of the Evans, is described as four separate islands, including Sanctuary where the Fatima, Eva, can be found. The Sunken City of the Tera Shebans is painted in vivid images, including the remnants of the World Before hovering just below the rippling surface of the river waters. Indeed, every region of Vimary is brought to life with terrific description and first-person accounts. The chapter includes no fewer than 12 detailed maps of Vimary and environs, including the Rust Wastes and Abonom, a Z'Bri stronghold which lies disconcertingly close to the Seven Fingers.
Adequate information is provided to allow a Weaver to run detailed Cycles stretching from the Steel Maze to Westholm. Much attention is given to Bazaar, which is fitting considering its primary importance to the Tribals, the Fallen, and even Keepers as a meeting place. The mental images virtually leap from the pages of vivid text, and the maps and illustrations serve to strengthen the evocative words. It is a rich world, indeed, and the next chapter provided the faces to fill the crumbling stone cathedrals and subterranean Emporiums.
Faces in the Mirror
This is another substantial chapter which provides a magnified view of each of the factions introduced in the core rulebook. Each Tribe is detailed over 2 or more pages, with important NPC's being provided. The NPC's detailed are not described within a vacuum, but frequently their motivations are related to other individuals within Vimary and beyond. The Tribes are revealed to be complex microcosms, with followers of the same Fatima often working at cross purposes. Magdalites are suddenly much more than purveyors of carnal pleasure, and the Agnites are not just the capricious children you would expect them to be.
Beyond the Tribes, each of the Fallen Outlooks is detailed, with further NPC's ready to be dropped into any Cycle. Coupled with the previous chapter, the information provided here will allow a Weaver to run extended Cycles without having to do any further work. This is a fully formed world, with conflicts and mystery and potential antagonists provided in adequate detail to allow plug-and-play gaming. The Fallen section is followed by new information on the Z'Bri, including the introduction of the sinister Baron, the Keepers and their eerie offshoot the Machine Monks, and the Squats who are dominated by the larger-than-life persona of Luther Boarhead. Each of the four Z'Bri Houses are described vividly, as mentioned, and the quirks and kinks of the Beasts serve to delineate each House quite effectively.
By this point in the book, all apprehensions regarding the ability to run a complete camapign with the world of Vimary had vanished. I was suprised, therefore, to find even more useful information contained within the chapter...
The subtitle of this chapter is Weaving Aids, and that is exactly what is offered in the final 20 pages of the book. Summaries of the daily duties of each Tribe, descriptions of a typical Serf village, further information on the Z'Bri Houses, and details f influential groups within Vimary are provided. This chapter has a bit of an odds and sods feel, but that does not reduce the usefulness of the provided information in the least. The chapter, and the Vimary sourcebook, closes with a terrifically complete 4-page index, which is a rarity indeed in most gaming products.
While the Tribe 8 is all a Weaver truly needs to run a campaign set within the horrific and wild world of Vimary, this book will make any such experience exponentially more vivid. It is roughly 3/4 the length of the rulebook, and no space is "wasted" with dice-rolling conventions and other rules. This is pure, unadulterated atmosphere, and while not an absolute necessity, it is surely worth every penny. Upon review of this review, I recognize the regularity of certain words, particularly "detail." I have chosen to leave the redundant language, as the word "detail" is a perfect one-word summary for this book.
Yes, there are typographical errors scattered about the text as is commonplace for Dream Pod 9 products, but they are nothing which will obfuscate the meaning of the text. If you are a Tribe 8 Weaver, this will only deepen your admiration for the world of Vimary while providing your players with a more rewarding role-playing experience.
Style: 5 (Excellent!)