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Kingdoms of Kalamar

Reviewed by D. Andrew Ferguson, Copyright ©2001

Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion

 

Kingdoms of Kalamar is an officially licensed campaign setting for Dungeons and Dragons 3E, and is produced by Kenzer and Company, who are perhaps best known for their Knights of the Dinner Table series.  

First Impression

My first impression of Kingdoms of Kalamar (KoK) was way off.  When the new campaign setting first came out I glanced at it in the local game store but eventually put it down because it was not as flashy as some of the other products that were on the shelves.  Eventually, however, I took a closer look and discovered a wealth of history and stories contained within the book.  At that point I bought it, and consider myself lucky for taking that second look.  

Artwork

The artwork ranges from average to very good, but the maps that are in the campaign setting are superb and, in my opinion, even surpass those found in the new Forgotten Realms campaign setting book.  In the modules, the artwork is present for more than just decoration; because of the innovative Image Quest system, each module contains many handouts to show the players exactly what they see while the DM reads the corresponding text box. 

The Game

Kingdoms of Kalamar is designed as a low-fantasy world where fantasy is present but not as prevalent and as in-your-face as most other campaign settings. As well, KoK is not designed for epic gaming (although this is possible).  Although KoK uses the new D&D 3E rules, a reading of the campaign setting or one of the modules will quickly inform you that this is a setting where story means more than the system. 

Kingdoms of Kalamar began its life in 1994 when it was published as a generic game world, and the campaign setting still holds to this as it contains few incursions of rules.  The world is generally controlled by various nations of humans.  The dwarves, elves and even hobgoblins, however, have nations of their own.  Not only are there different human nations, but several subtypes of humans, and many different cultures.  On a similar note, the theology is set up differently from most other fantasy worlds.  The gods of Tellene are all from a single pantheon and each of those gods has worshipers from the different mortal races.  This is much easier to keep track of than "so-and-so, the gnomish god of  whatever."   

While reading the campaign setting you notice each entry has numerous plot hooks and NPCs, but unlike settings such as the Forgotten Realms, each entry is not a separate item.  When read several times the cohesion of the setting begins to set in and you will discover that many of the things that are hinted at in one entry are supported or debunked in another. 

The Modules

The modules are simple to use, well written and include the aforementioned Image Quest system. All of this combined makes it very easy to actually use the modules instead of having to rewrite half of the adventure.  The KoK modules are a bit different because each one is also a regional sourcebook that covers the area that the adventure takes place in fairly well. 

Many of the modules are designed for use together, but all will function on their own.  I believe that the story arc covered in The Root of All Evil, Forging Darkness, and Coin's End would be an excellent introduction to Kingdoms of Kalamar for players and DMs alike. 

Future Products

The following is a list of future products that was posted to Kenzer's KoK message board by Dave Kenzer himself: 

        Late November 2001: Siren's Prize, 48 page adventure, (incl. Image Quest) $11.99 

        Mid December: Deathright, 80 page adventure, perfect bound, (incl. Image Quest) $15.99 

        Late January: Geanavue: The Stones of Peace, est. $23.99-27.99, est. pages 160-176, perfect bound, 24x36 2-sided map. 

        Late February: Lands of Mystery, 64 page adventure, (incl. Image Quest) $12.99 

        March: Invasion of Arun'Kid, 32 page adventure, (incl. Image Quest) $9.99 

        May: Living Kalamar Guidebook, 32-48 pages, $9.99 

        June: Lost Tomb of Kruk-ma-Kali, 64 page adventure, (incl. Image Quest) $12.99 

Also posted were some tentative dates/releases: 

        Late Summer/GenCon: Kalamar Atlas 

        Pekal Sourcebook 

A final Note

Where most fantasy campaign settings try to wow you with magic and epic stories, KoK succeeds at presenting a much more realistic world with a rich history and unique cultures, where subtle role-playing replaces hack-and-slash dungeon crawls. 

 

Editor's Note: Kingdoms of Kalamar is published by Kenzer and Company. You can learn more about Kingdoms of Kalamar  at the following web address: http://www.kenzerco.com/dnd

 

 

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