Adventuring ought to include visits to exotic locales and this gazetteer provides an introduction to something a bit different, based on mediaeval Arab desert culture. It is primarily aimed at the DM, although certain sections can be shared with players.
It opens with the history of Ylaruam. First, it is told in a tradional Arab oral storytelling style... and then the curtain is drawn back to allow the DM a glimpse of the real history. The traditional version could be shared with the party, if they are particularly good researchers or, more likely, happen on a good story-teller in the marketplace and listen attentively to him. The DM version is a rather more balanced overview, and culminates in a timeline, which is cross-referenced with other parts of the D&D 'known world' should your party have knowledge of that as well.
Next we look at the lands and ecology of the Emirates (as Ylaruam is referred to by locals). There are notes on geography, topography and climate - with the majority of the area being desert, dry and hot predominates, but there are wetter coastal areas and some highlands. Different terrains are described, as well as typical flora and fauna.
The next section deals with the peoples of Ylaruam. This is mostly flavour, describing the appearance and characteristics of different population groups, and this is followed by a discussion of the economics of the area. Different Emirates are described, each has its own strengths and weaknesses, products and so on which it is useful to be aware of (especially if the party wishes to engage in trade).
A discussion of 'Society in the Emirates' follows, beginning with Al-Kalim and his discovery of the Eternal Truth, upon which the religion followed by many dwellers in this area is based. There is masses of information here, which devotees are doubtless conversant with and which should prove fascinating to anyone who seeks to understand the religion and culture of the lands they visit. Sufficient detail is provided for any character who embraces this faith to role-play his devotion convincingly. Turning to game mechanics, the 'clerics' of the Eternal Truth (who are called Scholars) are detailed, along with the spells to which they have access.
We then read of secular society and how it is structured. Again, even visitors will hopefully come to understand the particular customs of the area... and the DM should master it so that the NPCs portray it accurately.... there's even a note that an XP reward should be given should the party gain the respect of the locals! Government and politics, daily customs and observances, the nobility... and bureaucracy in abundance... it's all here, a wealth of information to make the Emirates come to life. For those who enjoy intrigue-laden games, there is plenty of scope for intricate plots here.
The centre section - designed as a pull-out in print versions - is 'player-safe' being entitled What Everyone Knows About the Emirates, and as such may be given to curious players to read. The rest should in the main be kept to the DM, sharing information as appropriate (except, perhaps, in the case of a character who is a native of the Emirates). This section also includes all the game mechanical information necessary to generate characters from the Emirates, including rules for the essential art of storytelling. The character class of Dervish - a desert druid - is also introduced.
Back to the DM-only material with a detailed overview of an example village, Kirkuk, complete with map and inhabitants. This section is littered with plot ideas, as is the final section, Campaigning in Ylaruam.
This is a real gem, a beautiful and convincing setting to enjoy.