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Reviews - Twilight of Atlantis
 
by Matthew Pook


Twilight of Atlantis coverTwilight of Atlantis
Published by Avalanche Press
Written by Jim Lai, Jason Donovan, & John R. Phythyon Jr.
48-page b&w softcover
$12.95

Another d20 System title from Avalanche Press LTD, another cheesecake cover. In fact, this is the fourth such title to receive a Lorenzo Sperlonga painting as its cover. As Roj, my friendly neighborhood games shop owner, suggested, you have to wonder if they'll be releasing a calendar of them all when they reach number tweleve. (rim shot, please)

So anyway, what is Twilight of Atlantis, now that that the matter of its rather bland cover is out of the way? It's a d20 System sourcebook, detailing the last days of the Empire and City of Atlantis, just before her enemies fell upon her extensive colonies and Poseidon, the very god who created the islands of Atlantis, brought the fury of the sea down upon the empire's heart. Players take on the roles of citizens of Atlantis, whether this be the noble descendants of Poseidon and their children, or the servants they create to protect the Empire. Against them are ranged an alliance between Athens and Sparta, which has the divine favour of Olympus, and the Egyptians, eager to throw off the shackles of Atlantean rule. Beyond the empire are the lands of the Mue in Asia and the reptilian inhabitants of Lemuria.

As with their previous release, Jade and Steel, Twilight of Atlantis is illustrated by Terry Moore Strickland. Unfortunately, his rough pencils jar with the writing, which constantly reminds the reader of the nobility and grace of the Atlantean people. Nor has he been given much direction as to what he should illustrate, as what needs to be illustrated is certainly not. This includes pictures of the enemies of Atlantis, such as the Mue and the Lemurians, or the weapons wielded by the forces of Atlantis and their foes. These are all described, but not drawn. The same goes for maps, as the one provided, is of the Western Mediterranean and shows so little useful detail as to be both useless and not worth the double-page center spread it is accorded. Where is the map of Atlantis - both the island and the city? Where is the map showing the extent of the Atlantean Empire? Where is the map showing the nation of the Mue in Southeast Asia? Where is the map showing the location of the island home of the Lemurians? Certainly, not in Twilight of Atlantis. One good thing about this book is that the boxed text seems to have been firmly kept in place, whereas in previous titles, it always tended to wander around the page.

Part 1 of Twilight of Atlantis is "Atlantis and the Ancient World", which tells of the classic legends in which Poseidon raised a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Later he took a mortal wife from amongst the islands' inhabitants and she bore him ten sons - five sets of twins. They grew to be the kings of the peoples of the islands, before traveling the world to learn and improve upon all of the skills of civilization, which were brought back to their subjects. Later they would take these skills to others as they founded an empire throughout Africa and Western Europe. Their knowledge of the arcane sciences enabled them to create cat warriors to conquer the cat worshipping Egyptians, but they would never be able to defeat the alliance of Athens and Sparta. Eventually Atlantis would fall despite its great knowledge and possession of the magical metal orichalum.

This section also describes in brief the nature of Atlantis itself, the ten kingdoms, the empire and its foes, before going on to describe all aspects of Atlantean culture and society. This is all solid information, and should provide any player wanting to take an Atlantean character with a decent enough worldview.

Part 2 is "Characters and Equipment", but is surprisingly short on the latter. As already mentioned, weapons are not illustrated, which is an irritating omission. This also occurred in Jade and Steel, and seems decidedly shortsighted given that the intended audience for this book is the D&D player. Other items in the equipment list include Atlantean scale armor (which one presumes the young lady on the cover is wearing); Cat's Eye Bracelets for the Bastai, who dislike wearing either gloves or footwear; Metaprisms, which hold meta-magic feats for one shot use; and the aforementioned metal, orichalum.

The new races in Twilight of Atlantis include the true Atlantean, born from the union between a god and a human; the noble Atlantean; the Half-Atlantean, born from the union between an Atlantean and a human; and finally the Bastai. These are the uplifted North African cat warriors, who as feline humanoids, were used to subdue Egypt and now serve the Empire as warrior-monks.

One of the four Prestige Classes in Twilight of Atlantis is designed with the Bastai in mind. This is the Spellbane, a warrior-monk, usually Bastai but occasionally Half-Atlantean, who has mastered the Resonance to disrupt the spell casting of others. Resonance is the concept that everything is attuned to a certain natural vibration and by controlling this resonance, spellcasters can affect a target more easily. Indeed without knowledge of Resonance, the Atlantean scientists could not have created the Bastai. The other Prestige Class brought about by knowledge of Resonance are the Orpheans, warriors killed in battle, who have been preserved and reconstructed by secret processes that include lacing their bones with the magical metal, orichalum. The other arcanist Prestige Classes include the Artificer, Atlantis' master enchanters, and the Resonant, who can construct the artifacts called Metaprisms.

The book's new spells all fit the setting pleasingly. For example, The Chariot of Poseidon creates a chariot of seawater that can be ridden for hours, and Sea King's Wrath summons a huge wave that can be brought down upon the heads of an enemy, whether they are at sea or on the shore.

Finally, Part 3 discusses Atlantean Campaigns, and at just three pages -- well, two-and-a-half, actually -- this section is woefully short. There are three adventure seeds, but overall this section leaves you wanting more, as does the book! Yes, the information on Atlantis and its culture is good, but how to implement that information is pretty much left up to the individual referee. There is no information upon the Athenians, the Spartans or the Egyptians, let alone any of the monsters to be found in the classical world. A resourceful (or old) referee might have access to the Heroes of Greece supplement for AD&D Second Edition, or even GURPS Greece or GURPS Egypt, but all of these books are out of print. Thankfully, GURPS Atlantis is not out of print, and referees should find it useful in expanding upon the information found in Twilight of Atlantis.

Conclusions
Twilight of Atlantis has potential as an interesting campaign, but not in this form. It is almost as if the authors are intentionally writing a book that referees will find difficult to use, because there is so much information they will have to create and add themselves. The missing material could have been included with ease and without a price increase, because $12.95 for a 48-page book is not all that competitive. If Avalanche Press can release as interesting and useful a book as Ragnarok! Tales of the Norse Gods, which has the same page count, why did they publish an unfinished product in Twilight of Atlantis? Thus, given this book's frustratingly incomplete nature, there is nothing here to recommend itself to ready purchase, and only then as an overly expensive supplement to some other, infinitely better Atlantis resource.


 

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