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Skull & Bones $13.95
Publisher: Green Ronin
by JD S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/24/2009 16:18:32

D&D at sea. The production values are average, with second-rate interior art (verging on truly amateur stuff). The use of a margin intended to look like a map makes it very printer-unfriendly. Setting detail consists of Wikipedia articles on various personalities, and a decent listing of the major islands and colonies; each island has a period-esque map the size of two postage stamps which lays out the coastline and major features. There’s also a full-page period map of poor quality. Fortunately, maps of the region are but a Google away. In terms of setting, there is very little; the politics of the period are touched on, but not in any organized way; the New World in this period was a hotbed of politic, religious, and social issues, all of which are virtually untouched by this product. The writing is plain and primitive, and needing the work of a good editor; the authors tried to stay in period, but still made many obvious blunders in terms of ships, weapons, and social conventions which are wrong for the period (given that this is AD&D, its not really an issue). Organization of the material is poor; the book is more a series of articles than a coherent whole. The goal of the product is to create a campaign of pirate heroics, as implausible as such a setting might be; whether deliberately or by accident, the authors undermine this by noting various pirate personalities’ career spans, which normally were measured in terms of months. They also note the bloody and bestial nature of the pirates, something few works of this period actually admit. A lack of research in several areas hamper this work, notably the decision to rate cannon (a key aspect in the pirate genre) by ‘small’, ‘large’, etc., and to use terminology that is not period appropriate, all when the actual period measured these guns by the weight of the shot they threw, and whether the barrel was full-length or not (a long nine-pounder, as an example). Ironically, this work would be of tremendous value to anyone wanting to base a campaign on Tim Power’s ‘On Stranger Tides’, an undertaking I heartily recommend. The section of Voodoo consumes far too many pages, all the more so because it contains no spells, merely a guide to adapting D&D spellcasters to Voodoo. As such, it elevates the Bokor to the dominant forces within a campaign, as tarred wood ships carrying tons of gunpowder are no more than so many fireworks displays awaiting a low-level spell. The writer’s treatment of Christianity is very juvenile and disrespectful; its treatment of slavery is not much better.

Positive: Useful for fans of Tim Powers; inexpensive.

Negative: Juvenile writing styles, poor organization, lack of editing, shallow period research, poor choices on terminology, portrayal of religious and social issues likely to be offensive to some readers.

[2 of 5 Stars!]
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