"Totems of the Dead - Players Guide" by Matthew Kaiser
Published by Gun Metal Games and distributed by Cubicle 7
ISBN = 978-0=85744-122-6 - 160 pages
Table of Contents
1 = Intro
2 = Heroes
3 = Gear
4 = Magic and Sorcery
5 = Gods
6 = Setting Rules
7 = Gazetteer
8 = Index
Finally! A Fantasy Role Playing games that does =not= use medieval European myths and legends as its source!
Let's look at the breakdown:
1) A short guide to the basics of the "Untamed Lands". Here, we discover that the setting is not the usual, but is firmly based on primarily Native American myths and legends, along with other civilizations throughout North and South America. Although some of the other parts of the world creep in, the characters that will be created for this game are from tribes in North America.
Even in the introduction, we are presented with the other races in the world as being the enemy. For example, the Sea Wolves, or "Skadians" are sort of Vikings. A relatively quick look at other enemies follows.
2) This chapter gets right into the game by presenting all of the various character classes available. By my count, there are no less than 29 of these! Another 14 "races" are available, although almost all of these are humans of various tribes. The Savage Worlds Deluxe System is used very well here, as it gives a flavor of the setting that implies that it will be "savage". There are 18 languages that can be learned, but the emphasis is to learn your own language first. You are encouraged to select your race first, and it is here that a more detailed description of the races is given. My favorite of these is the "skinwalker" - a character from any other available race who may shape shift into an animal. There are no less than 12 of these! Edges, a characteristic of Savage Worlds (which you will need at least the Core Rulebook in addition) are given that compliment the setting.
3 - Even the currency used gives a flavor to the setting - it is called the "bead". Several pages are devoted to equipment.
4 - 23 pages regarding the creation of a spell user - whether as PC or an NPC. The spell list, called "powers", is a great start towards a Arcane background. Alchemy, Blood Magic, Runes, "Sangoma" - sort of like priests or shamans, "Seidr" - Viking magic, true Shamanism, and the 56 various spells! There's also a small section on magic items.
5 - No less than 70 deities covering not only the gods of the natives, but the gods of their enemies as well. Atlantean, Native, Maztlani (these are sort of a synthesis of Aztec, Mayan, and other South Americans), Shenese (a synthesis of Japanese, Chinese, and other Far Eastern) gods, and the Skadian gods.
6 - It is here where we find what makes a campaign set in this setting different.
7 - Fronting this section is a map of the Untamed Lands. Although quite similar to a map of North and South America, the differences are obvious. Virtually the remainder of the book is a look at the people who make up this land. This is where the true beauty of this setting shines. Pages 107 to 153 cover the known world.
Chapter 8 is just a eight page index to the book - very comprehensive!
If you couldn't tell by now, I am =very= fond of Totems of the Dead. It is very unfortunate that Gun Metal and Cube 7 only produced one other book, the GM's Guide, for this world. I, for one, would have liked to have more. The art, although black and white, is very good and evokes the atmosphere well, The layout of this book is well done, and includes an unobtrusive border. I must say that the author appears to have really done his research into this background.
If you like the idea of a setting that is radically different from the norm, I suggest you at least look at this book.