Dragon Kings

CAAX56gUwAAEXnf.jpg:largeI got back from the Modena Play festival with my bag loaded with books.
It was part of the program: I get there, I play a lot of games, I get myself a cartload of books.

One of the titles I was eager to lay my hands on was Dragon Kings, the fantasy setting by Timothy Brown.
And I must say I was not disappointed – the book was well worth the wait.

A sturdy 220+ pages hardback with a gorgeous cover by Brom, Dragon Kings is a complete fantasy setting with a strong, original atmosphere.
The artwork is gorgeous (Tom Baxa!), there is a map that really takes your breath away, and there is a lot of information.
Dragon Kings packs a lot of stuff, and quite a punch, between its cardboard covers.

It is a well known fact that Dragon Kings is the spiritual heir of Dark Sun, the gritty, planetary-romance influenced setting for the AD&D system that had among its creators Timothy Brown himself.

Dk1210Now, I loved the dark Sun setting, despite its tendency to attract power players and assorted munchkins. The Burroughs-esque setting, the alien races, the hard, darwinian lifestyle, and the very different take on the classical D&D races were refreshing and exciting back then.
So I had high hopes for Dragon Kings.

And Dragon Kings delivered – not only by capturing again the feel of the old, gritty, hard setting Dark Sun had in the 1990s, but also proving itself something quite different from “Dark Sun with a new set of plates”.

And mind you – a straightforward adaptation and update of Dark Sun would have been reason enough for me to celebrate.
But what we get here is much, much better.

I will not get into the game mechanics – the Dragon Kings book offers stats for both savage Worlds and Pathfinder, and there are no particular turns or twists in this department. If you know how to run a SW or pathfinder game, you’re set.

I’m a settings man, and I love this setting.
Kithus is not Athas, and the setting offers a deeper, more complex political background compared to the sister setting; there is a colorful palette of magic and powers, and an ample choice of races and creatures.
Like the best settings, Dragon Kings reads like a good novel, and campaign ideas spring out of every page.
We get cities and nations, vast desolations and crowded markets.
There’s gods and monsters, and secret cabals.
This is a world that’s worth exploring, and that is terribly lethal – and that’s good, because that’s part of the charm of this world.


Well, ok, maybe charm is not the right word.
But Kithus is a fascinating place, in which the characters can lose themselves.
That’s exactly what I look for in a setting.

And I really loved the idea of presenting the setting and the gaming informations as separate entities, placing Savage Worlds and Pathfinder stats in two appendixes. This makes the setting even more vivid and immediate, uncluttered with tables and stats1. If you’re the sort that loves to read game settings just for the pleasure of exploring a new world, this design choice really works.

So, all in all, my first impression, based on a quick read, is extremely positive.
My players might like the familiarity of some elements and the unexpected twists the author sneaked in the setting.
This is a high-power, down-and-dirty sort of world, and it will make for a nice change of pace.

  1. and yes, I’m really taking note of this for GreyWorld. It would solve a lot of my presentation problems. 
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