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Valkyrie Magazine and RPGnet are happy to provide this review.

Parlainth: The Forgotten City
Campaign Set
FASA Corporation
Boxed Set - [sterling]16.99

FASA have moved into boxed sets in a big way now, with Parlainth being the second set for the Earthdawn game. The box contains a 148 page softback book, a poster map, a bunch of page size handouts, and some cards for new monsters and magical treasures. To deal with the confetti: the map looks cool but has a low usability factor, and the handouts are produced to a very unimaginative format (you can buy them from a 'lore store'), comprising some scrawled maps and various tales and legends. If you know the Earthdawn game then the cards are the usual stuff. Okayish, but a little disappointing really.

The book is actually two books in one, and for the life of me I can't see why they weren't done in two separate volumes. Well, actually, I can; FASA were being cheapskates with this (sorry guys, but this is the truth of it). Book one gives the history of the ruined Theran empire city of Parlainth, a chunky section on the town of Haven that has grown up (relatively) nearby an is designed as a base for adventures setting off for the ruins and a big bunch of adventure scripts for the ruins. This is toped off with details on the magic items and critters on the cards. Haven is the key location, of course, and this is well rendered with particularly good stuff on the NPCs who live there and their interrelations. The text allows the GM to set up Haven as a base easily, but the more you read about it carefully the more interest value and depth you'll get out of it. Good stuff, you don't have to learn very much about the Theran empire here, but then you'll have to wait for the forthcoming Vivane/Skypoint box on that count.

Book two details the ruins themselves. The overall storylines are in book one; this book gives the locations. The city is chopped up into above and below ground sectors, each with some distinguishing characteristic or theme, one sector per chapter, though it doesn't come across as being as contrived as this description might suggest. Traps, encounters, creatures and treasures are detailed and are always well thought out, logical and well written. Sometimes they are ingenious; the obvious things (Undead) are here, but with a really nice twist which, - no, let the players find that out for themselves. Good variety of themes and encounters. The opposition is fairly tough, and I would personally not let first circle characters play here; rewards for adventurers are correspondingly good. The GM can scale the level of the opposition up and down to suit different strengths of adventuring parties without much difficulty, however. Overall, Parlainth reminds me strongly of the best of the old TSR dungeon/ruin settings; indeed Parlainth is, really, a big old fashioned dungeon, and a pretty good one too, I hasten to add.

Parlainth is altogether superior to its predecessor, Barsaive. Whereas the early box was turgid waffle, Parlainth is logical, detailed and has a high ease of use factor (save for the map). If this makes it sound dry and boring, it isn't. The adventure themes that can be overlaid from book one into the settings of book two allow plenty of scope for GM development, while also having plenty of detail and description and interest value.

Overall: The quality of writing here is high and the setting is well rendered. For Earthdawn characters wanting a dungeon bash, this is where to go (and, despite all the hype about role playing, for good or ill dungeon adventures are still easily the best selling RPG supplements).

The artwork is, as always with FASA, superior (the box cover is lovely, best taken in close up). A quality piece of work. Problems? The map, and the Scrooge inspired one book format. Finally, however, the price tag is really not justifiable. By comparison, Shadowrun sourcebooks which run to 20-30 pages longer cost about [sterling]12.00, and the handouts and maps don't make up for the extra cost. Mind you, with West End shovelling out boxes pushing thirty quid(!) maybe this is the kind of inflation we have to expect, especially with a game still establishing itself, but the value for money is poor compared with many other FASA products. Parlainth is definitely a superior piece of work, but if you want to get into Earthdawn you won't find it cheap. [yen]

Review by Carl Sargent

Product supplied by FASA Corporation

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