Ancient: Mesopotamia is two things. On one hand, it is an amazing book that takes you on a fantastic journey into a fantasy realm very much similar to the historical Mesopotamia land. On the other hand, it is also a difficult to navigate PDF that often muddles the enjoyment of the book.
For some reason, settings based on more exotic lands such as the middle east and Africa just seem grander than more traditional cookie cutter dungeons and dragons settings. Mesopotamia is no exception. Beginning with the cartography maps that lay out a large desert kingdom to the fun exploration adventures in the back, the 178 page 15 chapter is a monster of a book with rich detail on every page. The book is written by Morten Braten and published in print by Sword and Sorcery. The PDF form is presented by Necromancer games. Braten made a serious attempt to enrich the setting with as much cultural significance of the ancient Middle East as it could.
The first chapter is a hefty flying red carpet intro into the land of Mesopotamia featuring the worlds geography, languages and other cultural things. The second chapter introduces readers to the classes and races of the book. One of my favorite chapter it features an all human race ensemble race, explains the role of each of the PHB base classes and presents some new magical variants, spells and items. Because religion always plays a big part in these types of books, the third chapter is solely dedicated to the subject. The fifth chapter explains important details to running a campaign in Mesopotamia. After this chapter, the remainder of the chapters in the book, some 100+ pages, is an adventure module that takes the PCs through various adventures from exploration to dungeon crawls as they venture in Mesopotamia. I found this slightly disappointing, as I would have liked to see the book divided equally between setting and adventures. It?s a bit misleading to say the book is the Mesopotamia setting and two/thirds of it is one adventure module.
Whereas the writing of this book is engrossing, the presentation still could use some work. As with some other publications that are transferred into PDF by Necromancer games, Mesopotamia does not include bookmarks and, for that matter, does not even have a table of contents. This is a necessary requirement if you are attempting to navigate a book of 40 pages or more. Even worse, the security on the PDF does not allow you to make your own bookmarks even if you own the full copy of Adobe Acrobat. Sure the technologically savvy can work around it with a generic PDF writer, but why make it so complicated to read the book. It seems that if the only job of Necromancer is to make the book a decent PDF, navigation should be at the top of things to do.
For the Dungeon Master
This is a beautiful setting that wets the appetite for a Middle Eastern campaign. The most important chapter to read through is the one on the magic variations, which introduced concepts such as mundane magic, witchcraft and astrology. Not to be outdone, the adventure in this book, though lengthy, is good with each chapter broken up well and allowing you to take breaks from it at your leisure.
For the Player
If you are currently in an Egyptian or Middle Eastern campaign, the character options from chapter two can make an excellent addition to your character. I am usually not a fan of prestige classes but the ones here are infused with so much culture it really adds bite to a character. Clerics will enjoy the feel of the Ashipu-Priest and Baru Priest, rare quality for cleric prestige classes.
The Iron Word
Rich in culture, writing and flavor, Mesopotamia is in the upper echelon of source books of this setting. Though there should be more material on the setting alone, there is enough here and in the appendix to make an exotic campaign. The adventure that covers the majority of the book pretty good and its cuts between chapters makes dungeon masters feel as if they are in charge of the campaign and not following a linear line. If you do not mind the lack of navigation, Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia is a good foundation to take your adventure to another land.
LIKED: - rich flavor that captures the era
- good adventure that gives game masters a break here and there from that main storyline
DISLIKED: - just enough setting, but not as much there as in many, many other books
- no navigation hurts a DM who wants to read through the entire book without having to find their place again and again