Conan: Stygia - Serpent of the South... (PLAYTESTERS REVIEW)

Neo

Mongoose
Okay review of playtest copy number three..so in a way it is a preview of what you can expect.

conanstygia.jpg


CONAN Stygia - Serpent of the South

Cover is cool It depicts Conan stood atop one of many ancient looking zigurats doing battle with a giant hooded cobra under a dark stormy sky. It is illustrated by Tony Parker.

the book itself is hardbound and weighs in at 160 pages (I think i'm starting to develop an addiction ot the smell of fresh print..mmm... but i digress). It is written by Vincent N. Darlage, which in itself should tell you this book will be of good quality content..and he doesnt disappoint.

CONTENT
The book is broken into the following chapters.

Introduction
Life In Stygia
Stygian Subraces
Stygian Military
Festivals
Illnesses and Mummies
Faith and Fervour
Sorcery and Alchemy
Theocracy and tyranny
Gazeteer
Skills and Feats
Prestige Classes
foes and Fiends
non Player Characters
Games Mastering Stygia
Index
License

phew... a lot as you can see..! Each page has that nice parchment appearance as is common with the conan books and a stylish border, again a two column justified setup as is common. Plenty of colour art throughout, which ranges from good to great in quality, also a notable boob count amongst the art..but hey its Conan what'd you expect lol.

I had intended to proivde a brief note of what each chapter contains but the introduction pages does just that from the book itself so I've just posted that verbatim for the most part and i'll add my pro's and con's comments at the end.
In Life in Stygia, the mysterious culture of Stygia is detailed. topics include stygian clothing, the role of women in society, Stygian marriages, property, the corvee, Stygian occupations, trade, economy, and taxes. The complex social hierarchy of Styga is given substantial note. The calendar of Stygia, which is based on the annual inundation of the River Styx, is provided at the end of the chapter.

Following the variant races of the Tlazitlans and hybrid Stygians, as well as the character class advice of Stygian Subraces, the reader will discover the Might and Majesty of Stygia, a thorough look at the military life of the Stygians. Some new equipment, such as bronze armour and the khopesh sword, are also detailed. Chariots are also provided for use.

The next chapter, Festivals discusses the primary religious festivals, including the Festival of Set described in the recent Hyborian Age trilogy of books set in Stygia. Other festivals have been detailed as well, including orgies of Derketo and the Festival of the Dead.

Next, inIllnesses and Mummies , disease and ailments common in Stygia are discussed, as well as Stygian Medicine. The uses of crocodile dung are shown, as well as a srugical kit for Stygian physicians. Mummification is also treated in some detail because the Stygians are obsessed with funerals and death to an unhealthy degree.

The cults of Stygia are described in some detail in Faiths and Fervour, including a new concept to make the Stygian religion important and vibrant to players of Stygian priests. the gods here are not treated as "real" entities but as concepts that are explored through mysteries. As one learns the mysteries of the cults one gains power and an understanding of the universe, able to bend and fold it in an almost sorcerous manner according to one's darkest whims. Be warned, some of these mysteries are not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

After the gods and their mysteries are explored, the sorcerers among us will delight in the Sorcery and Alchemy of Stygia. New spells, darksome magic items and shadowy alchemical items can be found in this chapter. Curses like Death Comes on Swift Wings and necromancies like Taper of Death are shown, along with unusual items such as sarcophagi, animal mummies and ushabtiu figures.

Theocracy and Tyranny gives particulars about how the governments of Stygia is organised. Detailed information on how the priests are governed, who are in places of power and just who the king of Stygia really is can be found here, including game statistics for King Cresphon IV and his two viziers. The history of Stygia is given as well as a brief history on a few of the known kings of Stygia.

In the Gazeteer chapter one will not find a Corinthian controlled Luxur, but a detailed Stygian capital city of deviltry and snake worship. Khemi has been updated from its first appearance in Signs and Portents to include information from the Anok trilogy.

In Skills and Feats, new uses for skills to make them relevant to stygian characters, especially the new use for Perform (ritual), which depends entirely on the Sygian take on illness and disease and the Knowledge (mystery) skill for the various cults. Feats like Discipline of Chariots and Stygian Physician further round out the capabilities of Stygian characters customising them in new ways.

Foes and Fiends is a stygian bestiary filled with monsters hinted at in Conan: The Road of Kings but, until now, never realised for Conan the Roleplaying Gasme. This is followed by non Player Characters a collection of characters for use as is or as the basis for customised villain.

The final chapter Games Mastering Stygia, gives advice on running games set in Stygia and a slue of adventure ideas and gaming hooks.

Pro's
these books just simply never cease to amaze me, they are choka block full of information and the info to crunch ratio is good..it is both readable and useful all at the same time without any preference shown to one side of the equation or the other, exactly how sourcebooks should be.
I also liked that the maps included were well done, full colour and useful to play such as region excerpts, typical nobles house, laborers house etc..
The Gazeteer section as ever is useful and filled with useful details.. indeed there is something of pretty much every type from sorcery, skill use, prestige class, creatures, sub races, equipment, mystical items, diseases, herbs everything.... amongst the info in this book it lacks for nothing.

Con's
to be honest there isnt really a down side to this book...beyond it being a little overwhelming in where to start reading it heh. For anyone wishing to run a game in Stygia or involving stygians this covers it all.

Overall
This book continues to maintain the impecable standard by which all the previous Conan sourcebooks have set, it is useful and interesting all at the same time and as usual true to both the thought and feel of the source.

Visually 9 out of 10, Awesome, as all the conan sourcebooks we've been involved with playtesting and recieved so far this book continues the high visual quality standards and the art is of at least good quality throughout...allbeit mostly scantily clad :D

Content 9 out of 10, Perfect Balance. As noted crunch and info in equal measures...something for everyone, only reason I didn't give it a 10 is because I believe there is always room for improvement whatever the book.

Structure 7 out 10, Mostly Well placed, the crunch is kinda scattered throughout the book as perhaps not as easily locatable as it would be if crunch were separated from detail... but it is found in logical places and an index is included so nothing is more than a brief flick through the book away.

Overall 9 out of 10, Outstanding... another great conan sourcebook and credit to Vincents writing talent and grasp of the subject. a definite recommended buy.
 

Valaryc

Mongoose
damn....THAT'S a review !!!!

please neo...keep it up...helps buying sourcebooks if you can't read them at a shop (-> a curse of all online buyers)

thank you very much for the "typewritting" :)
 

Neo

Mongoose
Judge Morbo said:
damn....THAT'S a review !!!!

please neo...keep it up...helps buying sourcebooks if you can't read them a shop (-> a curse of all online buyers)

thank you very much for the "typewritting" :)

no worries, I shall endeavour to include additional reviews as and when the various playtest copies I earn turn up.

I noticed in general that I hadn't seen a lot of product reviews for mongoose books, which is a shame as many of them should definitely be on the radar not sailing under it. And as I playtest most of them anyway it just made sense I produce something of this sort when I find the free minutes.

I'm glad you found it helpful :)
 

Strom

Mongoose
Great review Neo - I've read some of your reviews on En-world I believe and they are always very good.

Really looking forward to this book. Vincent has yet to disappoint and this looks like another great book! Sweet!
 
Neo said:
It is written by Vincent N. Darlage, which in itself should tell you this book will be of good quality content..and he doesnt disappoint.

Thank you. I haven't seen the finished product yet, but I am glad it turned out well!
 

Neo

Mongoose
VincentDarlage said:
Neo said:
It is written by Vincent N. Darlage, which in itself should tell you this book will be of good quality content..and he doesnt disappoint.

Thank you. I haven't seen the finished product yet, but I am glad it turned out well!

No need to thank me vincent your love of the subject comes through loud and clear in the quality of your writing, the credit I give is the credit you are due :)

keep up the good work, it is appreciated.
 

Mark Dunder

Mongoose
Stygia is absolutely my favorite country in the Hyborian Age. I was wondering when I could flesh out my Priests of Set.

Thank's for the great review Neo and thanks Mongoose, you're bringing Conan's world to life as never before.
 

Neo

Mongoose
toothill man said:
bump and a question neo are their other conan playtester threads out their :D

no other conan ones just yet, We've playtested five other conan products already in the last few months so as I recieve more of the playtest copies over coming months as they are released i'll put more playtest reviews up.
 

GrimJesta

Mongoose
Wow... I've always loved Stygia; it always evokes strong images in my imagination of [insert long discourse on crumbling old tombs, snake cults, mysterious temples, shadowed cities, and other strange sights, sounds and smells]. I have really high hopes for this suppliment after reading Neo's review [and it's a very informative review, Neo. I look forward to reading more of your stuff]- it's nice to know that Mongoose does R.E. Howard's setting justice to the best of it's ability.

So after I buy Aquilonia I'll be nailing this book (then the Pict book). So many books to buy, so little cash.

:)

-=Grim=-
 

toothill man

Mongoose
Neo said:
no other conan ones just yet, We've playtested five other conan products already in the last few months so as I recieve more of the playtest copies over coming months as they are released i'll put more playtest reviews up.

can I ask which 5 :wink:
 

Neo

Mongoose
toothill man said:
that seems fair :wink: 8)

Well I guess I can mention one of them as it is out "titos Trading Post", but the other 4 arent so im afraid thier identities at this time are out of my hands (but they will get reviews at the approrpiate times).
 
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