The Sovereign Stone Campaign Sourcebook is a 225 page pdf product detailing the lands and world of Larry Elmore's Loerem, the world of the Sovereign Stone Campaign Setting. Beautifully illustrated by Larry Elmore himself, the Sovereign Stone Campaign Setting is built on the conceptualization of Larry Elmore, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Originally released for d20 by Sovereign Press, the Sovereign Stone Campaign Setting is now re-released and updated to 3.5e by White Silver Publishing. This product details the lands, people, magic, and history of Loerem, offering players and DMs alike a new world to explore.
The Sovereign Stone Campaign Setting comes as a single pdf file. The file contains no bookmarks, but there is a thorough table of contents to help navigate through the pdf. Art is fantastic as one can expect from Larry Elmore, with some beautiful color and black and white images throughout the entire pdf. As somebody who grew up on Larry Elmore's art, it's still fantastic to see. The art is particularly good at capturing the look of the various races and classes in Loerem. Layout and editing is not bad - there are a number of minor editing errors that slipped through, and the layout is in places confusing. Some sections of the pdf such as the feats use roughly the same font size for headings and descriptions, making it difficult to read or look for something you're trying to find. In other places when the Dominion Lords are described, lengthy stat blocks are given without a clear indication which Lord they belong to.
What is more disappointing is the fact that while this product claims to be 3.5e revised and updated, it is only so in places. The majority is from a 3.5e point of view very poor, relying largely on old 3e mechanics without having bothered to convert them properly. Monsters and the stat blocks are all still 3e, as are many skills and feats, and the pdf essentially shouldn't have bothered claiming it was 3.5e in the first place. In many instances the mechanics are simply clumsy. I was disappointed to see the lack of updating that had gone into the pdf, which for the most part with Larry Elmore's art looks really professional and well done.
The Sovereign Stone Campaign Setting is divided into 11 chapters, and is a largely a 'player's handbook' style overview of the world of Loerem. While history and details of the world are provided, the pdf for the most part details the changes from the core rules required to play characters in Loerem. This is particularly so in the light of the new magic system introduced in the pdf, but equipment, classes and other material is rehashed in 'Sovereign Stone speak', often not very different from what's already within the SRD and core rulebooks. A black and white two-page map is provided of Loerem, but does not contain much detail beyond the lands of the different races and a dozen or so major cities and locations.
The pdf starts in Chapter One with a brief introduction for players to the world or Loerem. Short details are provided on a number of different topics, mainly the different races and nations, but also gods and teleportation portals. This introduction, coupled with the history that's detailed next, provides a brief and compelling introduction to the world of Loerem. Most of the material here is presented in more detail later in the pdf, although nothing further is said of the gods, for the simple reason that clerics do not exist in Loerem. Somehow some of this felt lacking in richness, and was presented as a campaign setting based on a simple idea and focused only on said idea, rather than a rich land that is more than it is presented as.
Chapter Two takes a look at the races of Loerem. There are eleven races within the world of Loerem - six different human races, elves (Japanese like with a strong code of honor), orks (a seafaring race related to orcas or killer whales rather than orcs, but looking like orcs), two dwarf races (clan and unhorsed dwarves - dwarves are mounted nomads akin to the Huns of old) and pecwae (a race of small humanoids). Each race is presented with full details and mechanics, giving background on religion, relations to other races, description and more. The concepts are interesting, but I think I would've preferred new race names rather than completely breaking the stereotypes and using the same names. A good selection of races with useful information for roleplaying.
Chapter Three takes a look at classes. As mentioned earlier there are no clerics in Loerem, nor are there druids, wizards and sorcerers. Magic works entirely differently in Loerem and is based upon the use of the four elements as well as a fifth element called the Void. The classes are all new, barring the fighter, barbarian and rogue which remain largely unchanged from the core rules. New classes include the magic wielding elemental mage and void mage, archer, mounted warrior, noble, sailor, soldier and stalker. Most of these roles could probably be filled by rogue and fighter core classes, but they add a little extra flavor and new abilities. The archer and mounted warrior are very strong at what they do, in most cases outstripping the abilities of the core fighter. There are a number of interesting ideas, some dubious ones (particularly given the mechanics), but generally extensive information to allow players and DMs to make the most of the classes. The chapter continues by presenting Destiny points, which are akin to action points or hero points in their concept, and goes into extensive detail on using and gaining Destiny points.
Chapter Four details skills and feats. There are some new ideas here related to skills, in particular the use of multiple skill checks to succeed at a task over time, and critical failures and successes for skills. The feats include a whole host of new material, but also a lot of rehashing to rewrite material for the Sovereign Stone setting, for example, in the item creation and metamagic feats as a result of the new spellcasting system. A useful chapter with a few interesting feats.
Chapter Five takes a look at money and equipment. Again this chapter rewrites most of what is in the core rules to make it more applicable to the campaign setting. Tables are also listed for all items to give their prices in the Loerem currency of argents. Some valuable information is also given on trading and economy within Loerem. There are a few new things in this chapter, such as the exotic weapons hirglaif and cavalry saber, but also details on services of government offices and mageware shops. From a completeness point of view this does a good job of presenting what is and what isn't available on Loerem.
Chapter Six and Seven are the most innovative and interesting chapters of the pdf, and detail magic in the world or Loerem and the changes to the spellcasting system. I found this interesting and creative, and a system that has some potential given a little reworking to remove some mechanical abuses. Essentially magic is based on the five elements (fire, water, earth, air and void) and spellcasters have 'unlimited' spellcasting ability. A spellcaster has access to all the spells of his element (and other elements), and can cast any of them at any given time. However, casting spells is a dangerous business, and can cause damage to a caster. Casting is based on making successive spellcasting rolls against a casting threshold associated with each spell. If the threshold is reached, the spell is cast. If it takes multiple rounds to reach the threshold (a dangerous proposition in combat), then the spellcaster stands the change of suffering damage for exertion and fatigue.
These two chapters include all the rules for casting spells, for learning spells, for dealing with the Void and the taint that it leaves on spellcasters, as well as providing numerous spell lists for each element and the associated spell descriptions. Healing magic is contained within the elemental schools (earth), so that an elemental mage is capable of healing as well, although damage sustained through spellcasting can only be healed by natural rest. It's a very interesting system with potential, although multiple round spellcasting and healing of spellcasting damage make spellcasting risky and dangerous. Certainly a strong candidate for those looking for an alternative magic system along these lines. The latter parts of chapter seven are devoted to designing your own spells and assigning threshold values. This is extremely useful and valuable and a excellent addition to the pdf.
Chapter Eight deals with magic items and the creation of these items within the framework of Loerem's magical system. Creating various magical items requires some modification, and the pdf provides most of the details for achieving this, although sketchy in places. Wands, for example, only have a statement saying that it requires a standard action to activate, which, given the nature of Loerem's spellcasting system can be very potent.
Chapters Nine and Ten expand on the details presented in the first chapter by providing more campaign and adventuring details as well as geographical descriptions of the various racial nations and major cities. I felt a lot more could've been done to bring the campaign setting to life here, particularly in detailing the setting itself and the interesting places and locations of Loerem. Only cities associated with the races are really detailed here, and it would've been nice to see more information on other locations of aspects that make Loerem a rich and vast world. A lot of advice is given on running and designing adventures and campaigns for Sovereign Stone, which is useful. Chapter Ten provides details on the Dominion Lords (blessed by the Sovereign Stone) and the threat of invasion from the Taan and the Lord of the Void that Loerem faces. Mechanics are sketchy here, as no details are included on what makes somebody a Dominion Lord from a mechanical point of view. A template, for example, would've been useful.
The last chapter deals with monsters and beasts. These are extensively treated and some interesting monsters are provided. Stats and mechanics are all still largely 3e, but I liked the concepts behind the Loerem dragons and many of the other creatures in the world of Loerem.
The Sovereign Stone Campaign Setting is a good setting with some interesting elements, most notably the magic system, but in the end I was less than awed about the pdf and its contents. There was a lack of detail and richness that would really make the setting come to life. It has its unique elements, but for the most part it felt flat in its execution and level of complexity.
LIKED: The best part of the pdf by far is the unique magic system and the mechanics behind it. It offers a lot of potential for use. The races and classes were interesting, as were some of the setting details such as the dragons and their role in the history of Loerem. Fantastic art by Larry Elmore.
DISLIKED: The pdf claims to be 3.5e, but it clearly isn't very well updated and the mechanics is sometimes clumsy. The setting lacks some richness, complexity and intrigue to expand on the base formed in this pdf. Editing and layout had some minor problems.