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The Turakian Age is Seriously Underrated


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Did someone say artist?  

I love the setting and was curious if there's anyone else on these boards who do too?   Steve did and amazing job with the book and I think it deserves more supplements.  Although the base b

While Aarn has the reputation for being the largest city in Ambrethel, for big-city adventure I find the Free City of Tavrosel, in Mhorecia, to hold more interesting potential. Tavrosel is described a

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21 minutes ago, PhilFleischmann said:

And a dragon is supposed to be a reptile, which a cat is not.

 

Now the picture above is deliberately designed to be a lion-like dragon.  It's a choice the artist made, which is fine.  But if you're trying to draw a traditional,reptilian, lizard-like dragon, then don't give it cat legs.

 Dragons are endothermic Saurians. So breathing fire is like nothing a Cold blooded Reptile could do. 

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In Ambrethel a realm of Men, the Tornathian city-state of Tatha Gorel, is ruled by a dragon, Scauromdrax the Magnificent (yep, that's what he's called). But the dragon didn't conquer it through force, or rule by tyranny. When the last human king of Tatha Gorel lay dying without issue, he didn't trust the ability or intentions of any of the nobles who might inherit the throne. So he sent word to Scauromdrax, already renowned for his wisdom and benevolence, asking him to take the crown. The dragon agreed, but there was a brief civil war (and Scauromdrax had to kill several of the nobles) before the people of Tatha Gorel accepted him.

 

Over nearly three centuries since then, Scauromdrax has proven to be a just and capable king, so much so that other rulers seek him out for advice. No small number of Drakine have immigrated to Tatha Gorel to be near him.

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On 12/17/2019 at 12:19 AM, Nolgroth said:

The human sub-cultures seem very modern friendly with lighter skinned to the west, moderately dark in the middle and dark to the east. Part of me kind of winces at that BUT, it is also familiar and that makes it easy to conceptualize. Same with the ubiquitous D&D Fantasy races.  For many players, it is like slipping on a pair of old slippers. I need to finish the Races section before I comment further. I am currently about to start Elves and go on from there.

 

To be pedantic about it 😛 the people of the farthest east of Arduna, the Vornakkians, are no darker overall than the Khorians who are the "Middle-Eastern" folk of Ambrethel. The darkest-skinned humans are the Indusharans, at the far south of Mitharia. Indushara's culture is very clearly inspired by that of pre-colonial Hindu India, which has rarely been adapted for RPGs.

 

(I explain the differences in coloring among the Ardunans as being due to assimilating various indigenous peoples of the lands they occupied. For example, the Khorians' darker skin comes from interbreeding with the Ventati, who I would postulate were once more widespread in Khoria before the Ardunans migrated there.)

 

That subject leads me to touch on the Drakine again for a moment. It seems improbable to me that they could have been so drastically weakened directly after the Drakine Wars of the First Epoch as stated, and yet been able to retain their independence from their human neighbors for all the subsequent millennia. I would call it likely that they either were rolled back from their former territories to their present borders far more gradually; that they have been periodically conquered for a time, in whole or in part, but won back their independence (many realms of Men have followed that pattern); or both (which I personally favor).

 

A gradual withdrawal would help explain the various scale-color sub-types of Drakine which crop up among them by the default TA start date of 5000 SE. My theory is that Bloodscale, Nightscale, and Sunscale Drakine were in the past preponderant in their own regions of the world; but as they were forced closer together by Men they commingled, resulting in the brown-scaled Drakine (which I call "Earthscale") who dominate their population "today."

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8 hours ago, Chris Goodwin said:

 

Says who?

The same people that say a manticore is supposed to have a human face.  The same people who say dragons breathe fire.  The same people who say giants are very large.  The same people who say pixies are very small.  The same people who say dragons have four legs and wyverns have two.  The same people who have defined the fantasy genre for centuries.  You already know this.

 

Dragons with boobs, cat legs, human pecs and abs, etc., disrupts my willful suspension of disbelief and seems to me to belong more in the superhero genre than the fantasy genre.  Dragons that look like mammals lose some of their unique fearsomeness.

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28 minutes ago, PhilFleischmann said:

The same people that say a manticore is supposed to have a human face.  The same people who say dragons breathe fire.  The same people who say giants are very large.  The same people who say pixies are very small.  The same people who say dragons have four legs and wyverns have two.  The same people who have defined the fantasy genre for centuries.  You already know this.

 

Dragons with boobs, cat legs, human pecs and abs, etc., disrupts my willful suspension of disbelief and seems to me to belong more in the superhero genre than the fantasy genre.  Dragons that look like mammals lose some of their unique fearsomeness.

 

 

See, that's almost understandable to me.  But I also find that dragons that talk, dragons that have cultures, and -- well, dragons that are anything other than monsters turn me off completely.  From that perspective, the boobs just become more horrifying, somehow....  :lol:

 

 

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I'd like to turn attention to Turakian Dwarves for a few moments. There's what I perceive as a paradox in how their culture is described in the source book, which I tried to resolve; and IMHO the resolution adds some depth and uniqueness to them, as well as a couple of the character hooks Nolgroth found wanting. ;)

 

In the racial section of TA, p. 34, it reads, "The Dwarves award no titles of nobility or knighthood; deeds, not words, are their measure of worth. A Dwarf of noteworthy accomplishments will be recognized as such by all, and accorded the deference or authority his actions merit." Yet the description of the above-ground kingdom of Azarthond on p. 147 includes the names of a feudal hierarchy of nobility governing Azarthond: beneath the king are the vathzhar (equivalent to a duke among Men), the gurungaldar (barons), and the tharakar (knights). The eldest son of the king of Azarthond is also described as "becoming increasingly impatient to take the throne." Of course the easiest excuse is to say that Azarthond differs in this way from majority Dwarven society, as they do in dwelling on the surface. But to me that feels like a bit of a cop-out.

 

The way I approach the issue is to specify that dwarven nobility is based on acclamation by the social rank below them. In other words, the common people acclaim their local tharakar; all the tharakar in a region acclaim their gurungaldar; and so on up to the king, who ascends the throne upon acclamation by all the vathzhar of the realm.

 

TA p. 33 also notes that, "Dwarven society tends to be very rigid and regimented. Sons usually grow up to do what their fathers do, rulers and nobles strictly (and harshly) enforce dwarven laws, and alliances between kingdoms, families, or individuals last nigh unto forever." Given that conservatism, I would call it reasonable to assume the sons of nobles commonly inherit their fathers' titles, but would still have to win acclamation through their deeds; and an heir deemed unworthy could be supplanted by someone else all in the lower rank supported.

 

This could be problematic for someone born noble who decides his calling lies in some other area than governance, and refuses a title; or someone who is barred from the title due to his conduct. Given the inflexibility of Dwarven law and custom, there could be many causes for a person to refuse or be refused, and harsh consequences from that decision.

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Alternatively, it could be quite common for the person in the chosen position to get a wistful longing for whatever it was he used to do and return to it. 

 

Given a rigid society, it might even be expected that eventually any lord or baron or even king would eventually abdicate and go back to digging potatoes or whatever. 

 

Alternatively, it could also be more or less common for a sitting noble to become less favored and replaced by someone else the populace feels is better suited for the job. Given both a rigid society and a strong social pressure to do the right thing, the transition would likely be smooth and possibly even a relief to someone unseated who was happier doing whatever it was he used to do. 

 

Or perhaps as higher nobles abdicate, the others move upward (according to the favor with the populace) and now-vacant lower positions are filled. 

 

And of course, even "retired" politicians would keep the title as part of their honorific name:  Garrand Threestones,  master architect, slayer of orcs, king of Castle Loufane, etc. 

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Turakian Halflings (or Hobbits, for those who prefer the obvious ;) ) are for the most part what we've come to expect from the D&D version of the race. However, a few spots in Ambrethel buck that trend, offering IMHO some more distinctive character possibilities.

 

The Free City of Aarn, biggest in the world, has a substantial non-human demographic, 31% of the total populace. That includes 7% Halflings, AFAICT the largest community of "urban" Halflings in Ambrethel. That makes Aarn a good origin point for a Halfling PC with a big-city background, viewpoint and skill-set.

 

Within the kingdom of Keldravia in the Westerlands is an area called Myrwick Strand which is predominantly Halfling. In fact it's considered one of the largest habitations of Halflings in the Westerlands, and nominally an independent realm, ruled by a Halfling Count (which seems to be exceptional if not unique). However, the Halflings are tributary to the human King of Keldravia in exchange for the king's "protection and goodwill" (TA p. 61). Part of that tribute is supposed to be in gold, which in some years the Halflings have trouble obtaining enough of. That strikes me as a good motivation for a Myrwick Halfling to take up an adventurer's life and hunt for treasure to help his people.

 

The kingdom of Khrisulia in Northern Mitharia is a rough, hilly region settled by tough, independent-minded people who don't mind living in smaller communities surrounded by wilderness. That includes a large number of Halflings, who call themselves "Mountain Halflings" because "they prefer the hilly regions and alpine valleys that their kind normally shuns" (TA p. 152). For someone who wants a Halfling PC adventurer who breaks the cliches for the breed, this seems like a good place to start from.

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On 12/22/2019 at 7:17 PM, Lord Liaden said:

 

(I explain the differences in coloring among the Ardunans as being due to assimilating various indigenous peoples of the lands they occupied. For example, the Khorians' darker skin comes from interbreeding with the Ventati, who I would postulate were once more widespread in Khoria before the Ardunans migrated there.)

 

So, when the gods decided to mend and repopulate the world after their wars, they created white people? That could perhaps be interpreted in ways you do not intend.

 

Though you could go the other way and say it's the Westerlanders whose appearance changed through interbreeding with older indigenous populations. Perhaps the ruddy-skinned, blond Ulg-Hroi are the last remnant of the Old Westerlanders, living in the only lands so harsh the newcomers wouldn't go there.

 

It might be simpler, though, just to say that the three brothers, and their associated tribes, were not created looking the same. There might even be a competition to see whose tribe "wins" some competition -- which might explain the Hargeshite schism. Through Vashkhor, driven by religious zeal, "Team Khori" seems to be doing well.

 

Dean Shomshak

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2 hours ago, DShomshak said:

So, when the gods decided to mend and repopulate the world after their wars, they created white people? That could perhaps be interpreted in ways you do not intend.

 

Huh. That thought never occurred to me. I don't know whether that's good or bad.

 

It's not as though the Ardunans were the first sapient worshipers of the High Faith in the world, or even the first human ones. The Elves, Dwarves, and the Indusharans were all well established before the people of the Three Brothers ever encountered them; and they all have their own legends of their creation by the gods (first, of course). That's not even considering the ethnicities with pantheons completely unconnected to the High Faith: the Thona, the Thunese (as white as it gets), the "barbarians." I always figured the Ardunans were just one, particularly prolific experiment.

 

I'm pretty sure Steve Long was only trying to create a continent with populations evocative of real-world Eurasia, like other prominent fantasy settings. As I mentioned before, it wasn't always clear to me why some peoples ended up looking the way they do in the lands where they live, so I tried working backward.

 

2 hours ago, DShomshak said:

Though you could go the other way and say it's the Westerlanders whose appearance changed through interbreeding with older indigenous populations. Perhaps the ruddy-skinned, blond Ulg-Hroi are the last remnant of the Old Westerlanders, living in the only lands so harsh the newcomers wouldn't go there.

 

That's more or less what I would do, considering that blond or red hair is most common in Vestria, Umbr, Khirkovy, and the Mendarian Palatinate; Szarvasians have dark wavy hair; while Tornathians have dark curly hair.

 

Since the Mhorecians are descended from the followers of Sirrenos, who chose to stay and fight the Drakine rather than migrate, I would guess their appearance is closest to that of the original Ardunans.

 

2 hours ago, DShomshak said:

It might be simpler, though, just to say that the three brothers, and their associated tribes, were not created looking the same. There might even be a competition to see whose tribe "wins" some competition -- which might explain the Hargeshite schism. Through Vashkhor, driven by religious zeal, "Team Khori" seems to be doing well.

 

That could be one explanation, although I can't help but view the notion that every person of one appearance followed one of the Three Brothers as rather simplistic. Of course the legends may be more allegorical than literal.

 

In my personal modified TA timeline, the Three Brothers were actual brothers, the sons of the created first leader of the Ardunans, Mhorec. Mhorec's death in battle with the Drakine was what precipitated the schism among his followers.

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BTW my pet theory for the origin of the Ulg-hroi, is that they're descended from the elite guard of the Lord of the Graven Spear, who had to flee the vengeance of all the peoples of the Westerlands and Mhorecia after the Spearlord's fall. ("Ulg" being their name for Mordak.)

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On 12/24/2019 at 1:18 PM, DShomshak said:

So, when the gods decided to mend and repopulate the world after their wars, they created white people? That could perhaps be interpreted in ways you do not intend.

 

You know, I've been thinking about the implications of your question since you posted it. There's a lot that real-world Caucasians have done over the course of history that the rest of the world resents -- not without justification -- and that's left a legacy of distrust and hatred for "white people" and their culture. Religion was often used as an excuse or justification for those things. Looking over the history of Ambrethel, I can't help but notice parallels: the long list of other ethnicities or races the Ardunans drove from their lands, or conquered, or enslaved, or outright slaughtered to extinction. One such people, the Hlastroi, are noted as "once considered almost animalistic" by their more "civilized" neighbors (TA p. 185).

 

I have to wonder how much the current ideals of the Blue Gods, of justice, virtue and compassion, were present from the early days of Ambrethel's history; or whether they evolved over millennia, the way the ethics in modern real-world religions did. Viewed that way, the gods creating certain types of people to worship them just becomes an illustration of tribalism extending to the pantheon level, without implying that particular ethnic groups are "chosen" due to inherent superiority (as I'm sure many of them claim).

 

It also makes me ponder how much of the aggressive violence endemic to certain peoples living beyond the fringes of "civilization" -- the Gorthunda, the Trusca, the Peltaru, and others -- were always part of their mindset, or were exacerbated or even engendered by their treatment by the Ardunans. A measure of poetic justice may be at work there. Of course, if that were the case the poetry also extends to the fate of the Drakine, since their conflict with the folk of the Three Brothers was what drove them to migrate in the first place. :angel:

 

 

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Is there a source for art of the Turakian Age?  Is there a collection of Drakine art somewhere?

Or suitable substitutes for Drakine? What would be most useful is a line up of the major Turakian races, if not just the Humans by country.

 

Maybe I will have to find an artist who would undertake that project for a few shekels.

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Well, the main TA campaign source book has a B&W illustration for each of the races described in Chapter Two, "Commoners and Kings: The People of Ambrethel," including a sample Drakine on p. 31. There are two other Drakine pictures, pp. 169 and 297. AFAIK those are the only "official' pictures. One of those was repeated for the generic Drakine entry in Monsters, Minions, And Marauders. IIRC there's at least one Drakine character written up in Nobles, Knights, And Necromancers, but the artist who did his illustration didn't seem to know the character isn't human.

 

Chapter Two of TA lists and details a range of potential PC races, but the setting has many other sapients. MMM, referred to above, has artwork for most of them. I don't have the 6E Hero System Bestiary, so I don't know if that art is reproduced with the race/creature entries reprinted there.

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Earlier in the thread, I talked about increasing the footprint of the non-human races in Ambrethel, making them a more prominent factor in the world. I'd like to bring up some examples, because IMHO they add interesting and potentially useful story/character elements to the setting.These are all additions derived from precedents already in the TA source book, and don't directly contradict anything else written, so would be easy to insert if desired. I'll also make reference to the maps from the books for anyone who'd like to check the geopolitical references for themselves.

 

Let me start with the Elves. On the smaller continent of Mitharia, the inland human kingdom of Ostravia derives a great deal of its trading revenue from traffic through the Lamia Pass, which leads to the coast on the Sea of Storms and access to the larger continent of Arduna. However, per the map of Central Mitharia on TA p. 138, that coastline is part of the territory of the Elves of Shularahaleen, who are militant xenophobes. It struck me that that would make frequent travel to and from the Lamia Pass problematic at best. ;)  For my game purposes I decreed that the Shularans (to use my term for them) had ceded the southern coastal region beyond their forest domain to those Elves who wish to maintain trading relations with other races, forming a new kingdom. That kingdom is closely allied with its larger northern neighbor, which helps protect it from other nations who might want to seize control of the Lamia Pass. Traders from the kingdom also act as middlemen between Shularahaleen and the rest of the world, bringing foreign goods without the disruptive presence of foreigners.

 

In my version of the setting the Elves of this kingdom are its ruling class, but are outnumbered by other races living there, notably Men, who constantly agitate for more rights and role in governance. But they're wary of pushing too aggressively, lest Shularahaleen feels the need to intervene. The kingdom could also be caught in a diplomatic quagmire should Shularahaleen go to war with any of its other non-Elvish neighbors.

 

The land of Tornathia, in the Eastern Westerlands (map on TA p. 74), has only a scattering of city-states in the Tornathian League representing civilized inhabitants. Much of it is rugged unoccupied land, but I saw no need for all of it to go to waste. :P  One modification I made was to add an Elf kingdom in the Tarnwood on the northern edge of Tornathia, south of the river called the Tarnwater. These Elves trade with the Tornathian League, as well as merchants from the west coming through the High Pass in the Hangclaw Mountains.

 

In my conception the Elves once occupied the entire Tarnwood, but long ago the Drakine of what is now the kingdom of Vendrigal drove the Elves south of the Tarnwater, claiming the northern forest for themselves. An order of Drakine Rangers called the Green Dragons patrol the Tarnwater to enforce their claim, often clashing with the Elves. The Elves have also allied with the Ran-tari (frog-men) living in the large swampland at the eastern edge of the Tarnwood, for mutual defense from the Drakine and to secure their eastern flank. (The Tornathian Ran-tari are mentioned on p. 89 of Monsters, Minions, And Marauders.)

 

I have thoughts about easily-added embellishments to other races of Ambrethel, should anyone be interested. :)

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Turakian Age is a very rich setting with so much good stuff in it, that you could take out 75% of it and still have enough to run a fully-immersive, and long-lasting, and far-reaching campaign.  You could probably run a good long campaign without ever going more than 100 miles from Aarn.

 

But setting books don't sell well, and books providing more details of settings sell even worse.  Oh, well.

 

But the main thing that is needed, IMO, is art.  Granted, art is expensive, even if it's only black & white.  More illustrations might have helped TTA sell better (or maybe not).  But regardless of the marketing decisions, art can really help bring a fantasy setting (or character or monster or whatever) to life.  I think even more than a book of additional details, a source of good illustrations of the Turakian Age would be helpful.  And some captions would help too, so we know what we're looking at.

 

I want to see a picture of Kal-Turak's Wall.  I want to see the Colossus of Aarn.  Or a city-scape of Aarn - maybe a view of King's Hill from The Processional.  A picture of Ildra Borala, Cyradon, Odellia, Dyvnar/Voitaigne, etc. Pictures of the Valley of the Sixteen Stones, the Stone Tree, the Tower of Bone, the Thaleran Wall, the Living Statues, etc.  And no, I don't want to see a picture of a generic castle or a generic mountain or a generic city - I want to know what *this* specific castle/city looks like, and how it differs from *that* castle/city.  In the entire 114-page Realms of Ambrethel section, there is not a single illustration.  Maps are great, but it's like trying to get a feel for the culture and flavor of a place by flying over it in an airplane.  Mardi Gras from six miles in the air is not as much fun as Mardi Gras on the streets of New Orleans.  Mount Rushmore doesn't look as impressive from out the window of a plane as it does from the ground.  You can't put your feet in the footprints of the stars in front of Mann's Chinese Theater unless you actually walk down Hollywood Boulevard.

 

Meanwhile, there are illustrations that don't seem to connect to anything.  For most of them, the reader has no idea what or who they're looking at.

 

Page 10:  Who are these people?  Where are they going?  And why are they wearing their goggles on their foreheads instead of over their eyes?

Page 13:  OK, a small skirmish between Men and Sharthak in a coastal town.  But which coastal town?  When did this happen?  And how often does this happen?

Page 14:  The Lord of the Graven Spear, looking like a generic fantasy warrior.  Why not show him actually doing something, instead of posing for a portrait?  Show him leading an army, holding court on his throne, striking down his enemies - anything!  The guy on the facing page has more personality and we don't even know who he is!

Page 18:  What's going on here?  Holding a meeting is already boring - but it would be less so if we actually knew who was meeting and why.

Page 23:  An impressive-looking guy, but who is he?

etc., throughout the entire book.  Oh, and pages 205 and 209, I assume these are gods, but which ones?

 

A picture is worth a thousand words.  Unfortunately, the thousand words usually cost less than the picture.

 

OK, I know I'm being harsh.  TTA really is an excellent book.  If I had the talent, I'd illustrate these things myself and post them here.  And yes, I'm fully aware that everything I'm suggesting is easier said than done.

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You express your issue most eloquently, Phil. A great deal of the artwork in the TA book is indeed quite generic. Aside from pictures representing individuals, and the geopolitical maps, most of it has no explicit context to any particular place or event described in the accompanying text. In a few places there is implicit context if you've already absorbed some of the book. For example, p. 10 which you mentioned, since the previous pages discussed "The Earliest Days" of the setting, and we see three groups of people apparently separating, I always assumed it represented the division of the Ardunans under Khor and Ordon leaving Sirrenos and his followers behind, as they set out to find new homes away from the Drakine. Another would be p. 273, of a man in a rugged, frozen land approaching an ominous-looking tower, which I figure represents someone trying to sneak into Darkspire. As for the cover to the book, it could very well refer to a plot seed from p. 291, "The Archway To Iluria," a time-travel adventure to that great city before it was destroyed.

 

But all of that relates to what IMO is probably the greatest weakness of the book in terms of presenting a playable setting: vast breadth, but shallowness in bringing specific places to life. There's more than enough here for a GM to build such things for a particular campaign, but they would have to invest the time and energy themselves, or else crib from other published sources for art, city maps, and the like.

 

I know you appreciate that art is among the most costly components of a game book. I don't know whether commissioning a lot of art illustrating specific things would cost more than generic, but it would certainly require more intensive logistics in layout. And as the kind of artist/draftsman who draws a straight line when he's trying for a crooked one, I sympathize over your longing for more such talent. ;)

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I'm out of likes for the day, but LL echoes something I've been tired of pointing out since 4th ed.  The writing quality of Hero books is stellar.  The art direction is not.  The pages of Hero books look like Word documents.  Compare them to any book from WotC or GW.  In fact:

 

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Colored headings.  Page backgrounds. Atmospheric yet readable fonts.  Table borders.  Icons to convey game concepts.  Margin art.  Full bleed printing.  I mean, I get that Hero has never had anything like a competitive budget and all these things are expensive, but I've always dreamt of having Hero books that were coffee table quality.  Instead, we got well-written but hard-to-read blocks of italicized text.  I will always love Hero as the best game system ever devised, but the art direction has always been disappointing, especially for a game that is based.  On.  Comic.  Books.

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Lordy no consistency in the Drakine. I think I would rather redraw them, and give them a more consistent appearance. Give them some decent and distinctive clothing at least. 
 

Having been in the trenches at Hero during the 3rd Wnd 4th edition days. It was more primitive than you think. A lot of the early books were hot waxed onto layout board to take to a photostat camera. DTP wasn’t a thing there until later. For Fantasy Hero I pulled an all nighter at their office doing spot illustrations to fill holes in pages, and the quality declined dramatically. (See the Wizard with multiple joints in his arm). Art was important, but they never had the money for a lot of it or layout. 
 

However, a PDF, can have all the painted color art one can desire (or pay for). I plan on doing my own, with my own art, as Fantasy Hero material. 

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