A truly beautiful book for RPG fantasy settings, even if you don't do the games or plan on roleplaying in their settings (Descent, Genesys, Runewars, other Terrinoth/ fantasy games) this is a lovely read if you enjoy fantasy and fantastical worlds- a great book to own even for non-gamers. And if you do do the games it goes perfectly with them.
Some lovely artwork throughout, including from the Terrinoth games such as Descent and Runewars, and some which I think is brand new for the book.
Opens with an introduction to the book, its settings and how to make use of it.
There's then some general scene-setting taking you through some of the lore and history of Terrinoth and Mennara.
It's a really useful book for creating RPG adventures in a fantasy setting or even for customising other games of the genre- it's also really handy for making your own Descent quests for example- and it's full of inspiration and ideas for such projects (and maybe some painting ideas if you use miniatures with your custom fantasy games and RPG play, I've just had the thought there are probably people out there who'll go the next step and costume-up, so I guess this has plenty of inspiration for however deep you want to delve into your adventures).
The lore is deep and detailed so there are multiple starting points and possibilities for your adventures- I'm working on an epic campaign series for both Descent (miniatures board game) and Genesys (RPG) and this has given me more than enough to work with- I've been looking into Terrinoth lore and wanting more info on it for some time so for me this book's just perfect. A useful tip- if you do map/exploration based RPG'ing the Quest Vault tool on the Descent part of FFG's website is quite useful and the Descent map tiles and miniatures could easily be put into use as a visual aid to bring an RPG session to life. This is how I'm developing my RPG campaign and I think the lore in the sourcebook fused with the actual Descent kit is going to make for something quite special. I've enjoyed both types of RPG'ing- the type that's purely narrative and the type that has visual physical elements such as location maps and minis- both Genesys itself and this sourcebook would work really well for either (although remember Genesys is less worried about things like line of sight and where you are in a room than narrative results- you can of course tweak such things to best fit the situation of your game).
There's a detailed section on character species (humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, catfolk and half-catfolk, gnomes) along with some species-specific elements such as dwarven crafting. A really neat feature is it has sub-species such as deep elves and wanderer gnomes. If your species of choice isn't here or you want something new such as a playable dragon, the toolkit's there in this book and the main Genesys rulebook to find the way to do it and build your chosen species or entity- the Genesys system is one of the best, posssibly the best, for flexibility and fitting all situations in my view. What isn't there can easily be created by using the logic of what is so you can easily create your adventures and the characters that journey through them just how you want them. My tip for this is if something in your adventure isn't there there will be close matches or adaptable elements, perhaps even from another area outside that of your adventure in the core book so look at what's there to suggest options- something in the steampunk section may reveal how to do something in a fantasy setting with a little tweaking for example.
Next up is a section on careers and the slightly related concept of heroic abilities and how to set them up (where you may sometimes also want to consider the superhero tips to tweak your characters as per my previous cross-pollination of ideas point). Staying with the important task of deciding what your characters can do next up is skills and talents - which is helpfully split up into intellect/knowledge type skills, combat, magic (again you may wish to tweak magic for your purposes- we've chatted lots about magic on the forums and it can take many forms so you may want to think what if any these will be in your RPG situations and tweak/ add as required, again you may also wish to consider what magic falls under as it can link to objects, learning and many other things). Again Genesys has been thought out well enough that however you want magic to work in your setting you can find the means to enable this. RoT also has a 'verse' skill- all about the magic of creativity, artistry and performance- which would perfectly suit a conjuror/illusionist type of magician as opposed to a wizard/sorceress or runemaster for which there are other options of how to use magic.
Some specific fantasy standard weapons are covered next, split into melee and ranged (we also realised on the forums some weapons can be either depending how they are used so you may wish to bear that in mind) along with armor.
One of my favourite sections and concepts is how the sourcebook handles craftsmanship, often a central aspect of fantasy, for all kinds of reasons- perhaps you have to fashion your own weapons or that magic needs a staff to be made from the right resource..., this sourcebook has a great way of enabling such possibilities, magic implements are covered next and these could of course also be crafted. So it's perfect that the next topic is implement materials- the book has been well thought out indeed and I like how well this fits both the Terrinoth lore of the FFG games in that setting and general fantasy. I love Descent and the Terrinoth games so I love how well Genesys and this sourcebook fuse with them. The craftsmanship section fits particularly well.
Gears a useful section and even has options to cover carrying extra loads such as the wagon or backpack, there could have been more in this section in terms of different items of kit/ resource but it's handy for giving ideas and there are so many options for gear maybe less is more and it's best again to kit out your adventure with whatever kit it needs as and when it needs it.
Animals are covered, including as mounts (who doesn't want to ride a dragon!) It's a nice touch that a flying mount is set up as perhaps harder to master than a smaller steed.
Services next, and it's useful to have that toolkit for things like porters, meals and lodgings.
There's plenty to work with for items that you might need or make and crafting is well implemented giving you plenty of scope to make something you can't find or buy/ otherwise get hold of.
Delving further into magic, the heavy focus is on runebound magic but this doesn't exclude other options you may wish to use- the system also provides options for making magical items and other ways magic may be used.
Spirit, or religion/ the equivalents of are covered if that's something relevant to your setting, similarly in the perhaps optional/ as required category, verse and creativity are covered along with spiritspeaking and eleven magic (a specific topic in its own right), so some nice touches specific to certain individuals/communities.
There's a large and awesome section on the places of Mennara and Terrinoth with maps and some background to each of these places and their inhabitants- this is combined with the beasts and characters you might encounter there, a nice fusion of an overview of the world and a bestiary/ 'cast of characters' guide, perhaps my favourite section of the book as it really brings life to the places and it's really great having it meged in this way so the NPC info is with the locale from which they originate. The only thing I'd have liked is some clarity on what all the entities and characters in the games are and where they are from- it has this for some of them but I still have some research to do on some of them! A 'game character' suppement would be handy! Quite a lot of them are here though. This locations and characters section's enjoyable enough to make the book a good companion to any of the Terrinoth games detailing the background to them. It may cover all the characters and it's just a case of working out what and who's who where it doesn't explicitly make it obvious (Splig is obvious but 'weik warrior' would take a bit of matching up for example)
It ends, the sun setting, on a desert setting and jungle setting which might both be new to the games (I'm not sure if they are or not) and which has lots of potential in itself for new adventures.
All in all an outstanding book enjoyable for anyone who loves fantasy or who games in a fantasy setting.
Have checked for typos and found a few but I'm quite tired so apologies for any I may have missed. Time to use the services section and find an inn for the night!