Average Rating 1 rating Who among you dares to challenge the high seas? Inspired by the tales of Sinbad, Golden Voyages provides the source material and adventures needed to run a mini-campaign on the Crowded Sea. Detailed backgrounds, perilous locations, and wondrous NPCs populate the enchanted seas. Player characters will discover wildly different adventures as they sail from place to place.
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In my humble opinion, Jeff Grubb knocked it out of the park when he penned Arabian Adventures, launching the setting proper. The set, written by the famous David "Zeb" Cook, was in pristine condition, which always makes me smile. Looking at the publication date of reminded me that in I was a young man, newly married, struggling in college to make the grade and make ends meet. I was out of touch with new games and I was starting to feel strong burnout at the oversaturation of my geek markets. I stopped buying comics because of you, Todd.
I was noticing the glut of TSR books. I have a contentious relationship with the 90s. I turned 20 in so that whole decade should feel warm and cozy to me.
Yet it feels alien. Just not reading or buying them. Or so it seems. Inside the box are 6 booklets, some monster sheets, a large folded map, and a DM screen. The materials are nicely rendered with solid art from Karl Waller, the primary artist for the whole series.
Sutherland III, so they are quite good. At first, I thought this set had a bit of a sandbox vibe. Each little booklet seemed to describe different islands in The Crowded Sea, also known as Bahr al-Izdiham. But upon further reading I believe this box set lies somewhere on the continuum between a scripted adventure and a wild west sandbox. It just seems odd that they would use the term "rulebook" in reference to a game accessory.
The structure is described as having a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is in Gana of the Pearl Cities, where the PCs are meant to be compelled to go sailing the Crowded Sea in search of a great treasure. The treasure itself might be one of several that are described. The reasons may be one of several offered, or something the DM cooks up on their own. In any event, the PCs ought to be on their way to adventure During this portion we get a genuine sandbox vibe.
There is no script. There are many short "mini-adventures" presented in the various booklets. The DM is free to add new material and let the PCs wander as they will.
But always there is some degree of pressure to get them to find the great treasure and return it to Gana, thus concluding Golden Voyages.
Naturally you can ignore all of that and just let the magic of the isles guide your adventuring path. The text might gently urge you to stick to the 3-part adventure structure but we all know DMs and Players are gonna do what they like anyway.
Cook seems to understand this quite well as he carefully walks that line between guiding you and scripting you. There are several different ways the adventure can begin, depending on you and your player characters. During the middle section, when the characters are sailing about, there is no set order for the encounters. What the player characters encounter depends on where they sail. Like the beginning, there are several choices for ways to end the adventure.
All these things are shaped by the interaction between the DM and his players. For me, this is golden, as the name on the tin implies. There is a tendency in these sets, and I believe with TSR in general as the 90s grinded them down, to re-use art.
There are images I see in one book of the series that re-appears in another book. Which is absolutely fine, really. I just have this sneaking suspicion this is more of a budget thing than an aesthetic choice?
A dancing fool of an ogrima! The monster sheets are meant for the compendium binder, an idea of the early 2e era that I think was both beautiful and completely ridiculous. Beautiful because you could customize your monster manual to taste, adding new sheets from all the box sets they were putting out back then. We old school gamers like our sturdy hardbacks and saddle-stitched formats.
Most of the Monstrous Compendium pages have the same format. Some of it pretty neat, such as the ogrima pictured left. The six booklets. Slim but nice. Easy to navigate. The booklets are actually really useful. A view of the inside of the screen and the folded map, plus monster art. Pretty sexy little DM screen. The DM screen art is un-credited as far as I can tell. And a fine, fine job he did. As an aside Just not very clear.
Clarity, people. Clearly they are not. But on the whole, this is really solid, fun stuff. I have no foundation for that claim other than stylistically he hits the same niche and maybe that was an art editorial directive. Again, the maps are lovely and the overall construction of the Zakharan setting is alluring to me.
Now gimme a scimitar and get out of my way. But it is important to recognize this fact and be sensitive to the thoughts of people for whom the ideas being cartooned herein are part of their actual cultural heritage.
And in the pages of Arabian Adventures Jeff Grub makes it pretty clear he is only drawing inspiration from real history, Arabian Nights, and goofy Hollywood fantasies. One of my cherished memories from childhood is watching a Ray Harryhausen movie in the auditorium in first grade.
Al-qadim - Golden Voyages
The specific details of the setting are dealt with in later publications. The Al-Qadim setting was designed to be limited in scope, and was conceived as a two-year project. Due to its popularity, it was extended by an extra year. Like the other games of this period it had a strong artistic design, here overseen by Andria Hayday.
And who seeketh fame without toil and strife, the impossible seeketh and wasteth life. The First Voyage of Sinbad the Seaman raise be Zakhara, jewel of the sun, pillar of the rock, prince of all nations, sire of all wisdom, center of the firmament, whose sands are more dazzling than gold, whose springs are sweeter than the honey of bees, whose oceans are deeper than the void of Basim. Revered be the Loregiver, mother of all knowledge, confounder of genies, deceiver of gods, she whose Fate is that which was given her. Honored be the Grand Caliph, blood of First Caliph, worthy of the gods, giant among men, scourge of the unbeliever, confidant of the genie-races. And praised be, too, the genies of the four quarters and the genies of the four elements, that they may find pleasure in this tale. It has reached me, O wise readers, that once there were, somewhere within the great cities of pearl, a seaman and his companions. From the suqs of Jumlat to the arid deserts of the High Desert are men who call themselves brave and free, but who is more brave or free than the daring wanderers of the ocean waves?