The Theran Empire
An Earthdawn Sourcebook

  • Writers: Robin D. Laws
  • Number of Pages: 176
  • Year of Publication: 1997

Rating: ***+

The Theran Empire must be the most anticipated expansion to the Earthdawn setting. Finally we get a glimpse at the great and mighty empire breathing down provincial Barsaive's neck. The sourcebook came at a most opportune moment for me, as I was just beginning to introduce a stronger Theran presence into my Earthdawn campaign. So it should come as little surprise that I snapped up this tome.

Once again FASA should be congratulated for their excellent organisational skills. This volume, like all the rest, is laid out in a most logical fashion. I like the little introduction at the start, which gives the book a historical placing -- here it was post-Prelude to War. The sourcebook starts with An Overview of the Empire, which gives a backdrop to the rest of the book. Most of what is here has been presented before, or at least alluded to, but is required to set the scene. It does go into more detail, but more importantly introduces the four new races of the empire. I have to say I was a little disappointed with the new races (after being spoilt with T'skrang, Windlings and Obsidimen). Out of the Jackalmen. Jubruq, Leafers and Ulk-men, only the Leafers tickled my fancy.

Continuing on, we get to see Great Thera, home of the Theran Empire. This was written from the point of view of the visiting Barsaivian scholars who were commissioned to write the book. They outline the layout of the city, as well as daily life.

We then move on to looking at five out of the eight provinces indicated on the map at the back. Two we have already seen before (Barsaive and Vivane) though why Arancia is not detailed is beyond me. Before I go on, I should point out the map at the back contains a major spoiler. I may ruin your perception of Earthdawn forever. I am not going to reveal it to you. You can find a copy yourself. Just don't let your players get their hands on a copy. You have been warned.

Creana is first in line, and is very much Egyptian in atmosphere. Lying huddled on the bank of a fertile river; the citizens of Creana must deal with the harshness of the desert to come to terms with life. The land is ruled by a Pharon (read Pharaoh) who is advised by Priest-Scribes (read bald men in white, flowing robes). The section details the relationship between Creana and Thera, as well as the surrounding lands, tombs and how the land survived the Scourge.

Indrisia is a land of riches and deep, steaming jungles. Home of huge elephant like creatures (read elephants) it provides much of Thera's wealth. The land is detailed in a similar fashion with Indrisia being more subservient to Thera. We learn of the two cultures inhabiting the lank, as well as the numerous cities that house them.

Marac is the most hostile of Thera's provinces, and has a Byzantium-feel to the place. A land of desert like Creana, Marac is home of the noble Sufik (read Arab horse-warriors) and the strange Jinari (read Genii). Unfortunately the native aren't very happy with the Theran occupation, and is why Marac is considered a bad posting for any ambitious Theran.

Talea is a hive of political intrigue where alliances may last only a day. The Signori of the cities fight with the Dukes, the Dukes fight with the Pompate (read Pope) and the Therans fight with everyone (actually, everyone fights with everyone else but the sentence works better).

Vasgothia ends our tour and is the most magic laden of all the provinces. It is inhabited by what Therans consider to be barbarians but actually remind me of Gauls. It is here that we find two of the four new races and lots of strange mysteries: the towers, the deep forest and the Earthswallower's Pattern.

The book is ended (as is typical) with Game Information. It details all the relevant rules for all the new items, abilities and races presented. The artwork is a little on the bland side, mainly because I don't like the style they used. At least the colour plates have returned, but once again the style isn't to my taste.

For such an important work, I was left with the taste of hot ash in my mouth. There just didn't seem to be enough, and with . . . I can't tell you that one. I would have preferred to see the book released at least as a box set, with numerous maps and separate books for each province. Considering both Barsaive and Vivane got their own box sets, and FASA dis so well with them, why shouldn't the other provinces? Of course the books is a great introduction, and maybe it will spawn more tomes latter on. Considering the next two releases in the series it seems unlikely.

Summary: Overall, this is a must for anyone who has had enough of Barsaive and the surrounding regions. For Games Masters who want to branch out, this is your guide. For others who are still enjoying the vast amount of adventuring that can be had in Barsaive, keep going. By the time you get sick of it, there will be another box set to whet your appetite.


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