Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting is a campaign source book covering the Pathfinder Chronicles setting.  It is published by Paizo, and it is compatible with the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 role-playing game which also means it is easily usable with 3rd Edition or Paizo’s Pathfinder rules.

The first chapter of the book covers character races and classes and how they fit into the setting.  There are descriptions of all of the standard races and classes, as well as 11 human cultures, and small paragraphs for several other races.  This chapter is a mixed bag of basic information describing the races and classes and interesting tidbits of the world’s history.  For example, the entry on dwarves informs the reader that dwarves are short, they favor function over form, and they are known for their skill at mining and crafting.  For any player of D&D, this is just reiteration from the Player’s Handbook.  The same entry, however, devotes most of its space to the story of how dwarves originated deep beneath the surface and fought a long series of wars to reach the surface.  I particularly like the twist on gnomes where they need to continually have new experiences in order to avoid rapid aging.  These stories and twists on the race make the chapter a good read, but I feel like some of the basic racial information could have been removed so that the sections could focus on how the races and classes fit into the world.

The second chapter is an overview of the setting’s nations and regions.  Most regions have two pages of description with some earning longer entries.  The descriptions are largely well-written and the regions offer a wide variety of adventure locations and plot seeds.  One thing I felt was missing from the chapter was maps;  a poster map was included with the book, but I found myself having to keep the map out and search for names in order to place the regions into their geographical context while reading the entries.

The third chapter focuses on religion.  It introduces several new cleric domains, most of which have appeared in other source books.  After that it contains descriptions of the setting’s deities with each god having a half page of fluff.  The deities represent a good mix of familiar concepts and new ideas.  The chapter then concludes with a look at the planes of existence.  The planes resemble a simplified version of the the Great Wheel cosmology that D&D has used.

The fourth chapter describes a handful of organizations.  Each of the five major organizations gets two pages other than one that only gets a single page.  Two of these organizations seem geared towards having player characters be members, while the other three are best suited as villains.  The last two pages of the chapter describe several additional smaller organizations.

The fifth chapter is a mix of mechanics and assorted fluff entitled The World.  It starts with a timeline of the setting’s history from the Earthfall to the present day covering a span of roughly 10,000 years.  Then there are fluff sections on the Darklands under the surface of the world, flora, fauna, languages, lost kingdoms, psionics, technology, time, trade, and weather.  The chapter’s crunchier sections contain new domain spells, equipment, feats, and prestige classes.  The chapter seemed a bit scattered with some sections seeming like they would better integrate with the other chapters.  For example, why are the domain spells in this chapter while the domains are presented in the religion chapter?

Overall, I think the book accomplishes its goals.  It presents a setting that has the classic D&D feel of early modules in Greyhawk and Mystara while also introducing new ideas.  I don’t particularly like the psuedo-historic elements such as Osirion (an Egypt-like nation) or the elements of science fiction (Numeria’s spaceship), but I know that it is exactly what others want for a D&D setting.  If you want to capture the feeling of old modules and settings while also introducing some new ideas, then I think this is a great book to read.  If that isn’t the type of setting that appeals to you, then there are still some good ideas in the book, but it likely shouldn’t be too high on your wish list.

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