Gazetteers

This series covers the fourteen books of the GAZ series, and one boxed set. It is TSR's attempt to create a campaign world without going to the bother of doing a world boxed set like that of The World of Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms. The world is built, one country at a time, drawing on any information revealed in earlier modules. The advantage of doing this is that you get just the information you want to know about the country that the PCs will be visiting. The downside is that there is no "big picture", and often the Gazetteers develop in ways which seem incompatible.

It is highly likely that this project was initiated because of the previous year's release of X10 - Red Arrow, Black Shield, which was the first overview of the continent region of the Known World since X1 - The Isle of Dread,

GAZ series GAZ1 - The Grand Duchy of Karameikos
GAZ2 - The Emirates of Ylaruam
GAZ3 - The Principalities of Glantri
GAZ4 - The Kingdom of Ierendi
GAZ5 - The Elves of Alfheim
GAZ6 - The Dwarves of Rockhome
GAZ7 - The Northern Reaches
GAZ8 - The Five Shires
GAZ9 - The Minrothad Guilds
GAZ10 - The Orcs of Thar
GAZ11 - The Republic of Darokin
GAZ12 - The Ethengar Khanates
GAZ13 - The Shadow Elves
GAZ14 - The Atruaghin Clans
Boxed Set Dawn of the Emperors Thyatis and Alphatia

GAZ1 - The Grand Duchy of Karameikos

Summary
Stock Code9193
Released1987
DesignerAaron Allston
EditorsKaren S. Martin
Jon Pickens
Aaron Allston
CoordinatorsBruce Heard
Karen S. Martin
Graphic DesignersDennis Kauth
Ron Kauth
Colleen O'Malley
David C. Sutherland III
CartographyDennis Kauth
David C. Sutherland III
Ron Kauth
TypographyBetty Elmore
Kim Lindau
Interior ArtistStephen Fabian
Cover ArtistClyde Caldwell
Format64 page book, 3 pane cover, and A3 map
Rating****

Well, this product certainly surprised me when it appeared in my local gameshop:

"This is the first in a series -
A completely new concept in gaming aids for
the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game system.
Within these covers is a complete historical,
economical, geographical, and sociological
overview of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos..."

Wow! Information about the Grand Duchy of Karameikos! Up to that point, I had bought a number of D&D adventures modules, and there had never been any indication that TSR were going to describe countries, rather than dungeons and wilderness. But all those "...ical" words were impressing me, so I gave it a go.
And I think that the blurb was pretty honest. In 64 pages, you get pretty much all the useful kinds information that you might need when designing adventures for a particular locality. It's just a shame that no other gazetteers stick to this format; so many are filled with pretentious one-use only material.

The graphic design takes a quantum leap from anything else previously published for Dungeons & Dragons, except maybe B10 - Night's Dark Terror. And by and large, this is kept pretty consistent with the rest of the gazetteer series. The cover art is fantastic, and the booklet has a nice easy to read layout, with a giant blue tower on every page - presumably the symbol for Karameikos (this feature is different for each gazetteer). The maps are pretty good, too. They are colourful, and provide more detail than the continent map in X1 - The Isle of Dread, by tripling the scale from 1 hex = 24 to 1 hex = 8.

The character generation section contains a new rules addition; this time General Skills, which are similar to the non-weapon proficiencies in first edition AD&D. This is essentially an excellent bit of colour to prevent all characters being the same, and should be used as such. Beware of players taking advantage of this. Future gazetteers also introduce new rules for Dungeons & Dragons as part of the package, which is to be commended. But if only these rule additions could be collected!

The sources for this sourcebook are primarily the Expert Rulebook (first and second editions), which provided all the primary map and place names. The following were all influenced by this, and also provided further details:

From this disparate information, the designer manages to extrapolate the peoples and society in a very logical way. For instance:

Already, we have a number of conflicts due to tensions between the Traldarans and the Thyatians, which spurs on further adventure ideas.

I don't know whether the basic Known World history was created first, and then this was used to write all the gazetteers, but I think it is more likely that ideas were created just for this gazetteers, and all other gazetteers were edited to accommodate the "facts" in this one. It references the DA series of modules, and uses its background that says that the Blackmoor existed 4000 years before the "present day". Since the scheme of years is figured from the crowning of the first Emperor of Thyatis, and "now" is AC1000, then Blackmoor is flourishing in BC3000, and this. Unfortunately, this date is retrospectively changed in future gazetteers, presumably because it didn't allow enough time for "deep, dark ancient evils" to be ancient enough. At this time, the Nithians are introduced as one of the ancient peoples who are behind a lot of the history of the Known World. Indeed, the Traldar are assumed to be an offshoot of the Nithian race. The Alphatians (from CM1 and M1) are also enshrined into gazetteer continuity. The only thing I don't understand is while Karameikos wasn't part of the Empire of Thyatis before the time given, although this would be consistent with the idea that in CM1 - Test of the Warlords that the Empire of Thyatis is only 100 years old.

However, despite all this, I have noticed a number of discrepancies between the Gazetteer and other sources mentioned in the booklet. The map of Specularum is completely different from the one already provided in B6 - The Veiled Society. There is also a problem with the poster map: it appears that the cartographer has taken the X1 map as a template, and added some details such as towns and cities which appeared in the map from the revised Expert Rulebook. Supporting this supposition, it seems that the misspelling of "Kelven" as "Kelvin" on the continent map has now been taken forward so now "Kelvin" predominates throughout the entire booklet. Unfortunately, no reference has been made to the wonderful map in B10, which is at the scale of 1 hex = 3 miles, and so a number of inaccuracies have appeared on the poster map. First of all, the three rivers which join at Kelven ... now don't: the Volaga river joins on 1 hex below Kelven (which internally contradicts its town map). This could be fixed by moving the line of the river northwards. Most egregiously, however, Threshold now appears to be in a completely different location. Taking the maps from B10 and the Expert Rulebook as "gospel", Threshold should really be two hexes SW of its location on the map. This would put it in the hex immediately north of where the new village of Verge is located (which is only described as being a half day's journey from Threshold in X12. The shape of the fork in the river near the specified location of Verge is completely unrecognisable from all previous versions.

Threshold also seems to have been changed. Where both the Expert Rulebook and B10 agree that it has 500 people, the Gazetteer has multiplied the population to the amazing figure of 5000. At the same time, contradicting the smelly crowded medieval town portrayal in B10, it is now a breezy well-planned garden suburb. Oh well. Maybe to account for this change, the map of Threshold on the poster has been redrawn yet again, but now it resembles the original Expert Rulebook map very closely.

Finally, the location of Specularum seems to have changed position in relation to the sea. Whilst it looks OK compared to the continental map from X1, its position compared to the larger scale map is wrong. It looks to be on the south coast in the larger scale map, but now it is inland, just to the west of the river. I would say that it should be one hex further to the south on the gazetteer map, so that it is actually on the coast, as previously suggested. This would also be correct in terms of the relative position of Specularum with the village of Marilenev.

These faults mar what is an otherwise excellently produced products. Within its covers are a host of answers to questions that players might ask the DM, such as "What is my social background?", "What sort of clothes can I wear?", "What gods cam I worship?", "What history have I learnt about my country?". The roll of local characters is quite extensive. The entire royal family, clergy, and other important people is described. As a nice flavour of what the other countries in the continent are like, each Gazetteer country has its own ambassador living in Specularum. This makes it quite easy to spin off into adventures set in other realms. It is a shame that most of Gazetteers don't seem to have this thoroughness.

By the time all this knowledge has been assimilated, the DM will have a pretty good idea of what to do in the Grand Duchy, and the adventure section at the back makes use of all this information. But what I am not too convinced about is how many of the "B" series modules fit into this scheme. Not many of them fit that well into the location, even though In Search of Adventure does try to retcon them into this setting.

Table of Contents

In order to give a complete overview of all information in this gazetteer, I have transcribed an expanded table of contents. I consider that this type of format to be the ideal one. Unfortunately, many of the later gazetteers veer widely away from this standard.


GAZ2 - The Emirates of Ylaruam

Summary
Stock Code9194
Released1987
DesignerKen Rolston
EditorAnne Gray McCready
Product ManagerBruce Heard
Graphic DesignersDennis Kauth
Colleen O'Malley
David C. Sutherland III
CartographyDennis Kauth
David C. Sutherland III
TypographyMarilyn Favaro
Kim Lindau
Interior ArtistDoug Chaffe
Cover ArtistClyde Caldwell
Format64 page book, 3 pane cover, and A3 map
Rating***

The second in the Gazetteer series is all about the Emirates of Ylaruam. I imagine that this was chosen as the next Gazetteer, as opposed to its closer neighbours, the Republic of Darokin or the Five Shires because its Nithian connection was already mentioned in the Karameikos gazetteer. The Emirates of Ylaruam is the historical site of the ancient Empire of Nithia mentioned in that Gazetteer, and this is one of the principal influences on the module, being Egyptian in flavour. The second influence is most obviously Islam: the great father, of the nation, Al-Kalim, is based on the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). The two groups formed after his apparent death, the Preceptors and the Kin-faction very roughly analogous to the split between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam [reference]. However, it should be noted that the "Eternal Truth" talks about the "Immortals", so it is definitely not monotheistic, which is an essential precept of Islam. Note that the Gazetteer never names any of the Immortals, so it is quite possible that the Alasiyanis think of the Immortals in a purely abstract way. But it is presumed that they must be getting their power from somewhere.

A nice innovation in this module is the 8 page pull out section which has all the players' information. The "What Everyone Knows About the Emirates" section is communicated in the anecdotal style that is used for most of the rest of the series. I generally like this technique: you get predigested content you can easily read to players, and you get the beginnings of an NPC into the bargain. The only downside is that it often duplicates information given elsewhere, and being spoken dialogue, inevitably contains more waffle.

New Rules


GAZ3 - The Principalities of Glantri

Summary
Stock Code9208
Released
AuthorAaron Allston
Artists
Pages64
Cover ArtAcaeum: First Edition
Rating**

Historical Oddities

Notable Quotes


GAZ4 - The Kingdom of Ierendi

Summary
Stock Code9215
Released
AuthorAaron Allston
Artists
Pages64
Cover ArtAcaeum: First Edition
Rating**

Historical Oddities

Notable Quotes


GAZ5 - The Elves of Alfheim

Summary
Stock Code9223
Released
AuthorAaron Allston
Artists
Pages64
Cover ArtAcaeum: First Edition
Rating**

Historical Oddities

Notable Quotes


GAZ6 - The Dwarves of Rockhome

Summary
Stock Code9227
Released
AuthorAaron Allston
Artists
Pages64
Cover ArtAcaeum: First Edition
Rating**

Historical Oddities

Notable Quotes


GAZ7 - The Northern Reaches

Summary
Stock Code9230
Released
AuthorAaron Allston
Artists
Pages64
Cover ArtAcaeum: First Edition
Rating**

Historical Oddities

Notable Quotes


GAZ8 - The Five Shires

Summary
Stock Code9232
Released
AuthorEd Greenwood
Artists
Pages64
Cover ArtAcaeum: First Edition
Rating**

Historical Oddities

Notable Quotes


GAZ9 - The Minrothad Guilds

Summary
Stock Code9236
Released
AuthorAaron Allston
Artists
Pages64
Cover ArtAcaeum: First Edition
Rating**

Historical Oddities

Notable Quotes


GAZ10 - The Orcs of Thar

Summary
Stock Code9241
Released
AuthorAaron Allston
Artists
Pages64
Cover ArtAcaeum: First Edition
Rating**

Historical Oddities

Notable Quotes


GAZ11 - The Republic of Darokin

Summary
Stock Code9250
Released
AuthorAaron Allston
Artists
Pages64
Cover ArtAcaeum: First Edition
Rating**

Historical Oddities

Notable Quotes


GAZ12 - The Ethengar Khanates

Summary
Stock Code9246
Released
AuthorAaron Allston
Artists
Pages64
Cover ArtAcaeum: First Edition
Rating**

Historical Oddities

Notable Quotes


GAZ13 - The Shadow Elves

Summary
Stock Code9287
Released
AuthorAaron Allston
Artists
Pages64
Cover ArtAcaeum: First Edition
Rating**

Historical Oddities

Notable Quotes


GAZ14 - The Atruaghin Clans

Summary
Stock Code9306
Released
AuthorAaron Allston
Artists
Pages64
Cover ArtAcaeum: First Edition
Rating**

Historical Oddities

Notable Quotes


Dawn of the Emperors Thyatis and Alphatia

Summary
Stock Code1037
Released
AuthorAaron Allston
Artists
Pages32, 32, 64
Cover ArtAcaeum: First Edition
Rating**

Historical Oddities

Notable Quotes