It is a land where honorable samurai wage war against devious ninja.
Where the guardian spirits known as kami stand against the ravages
of evil oni. Where the martial artists of a shattered empire strive to
maintain their traditions against rising chaos. A land of jade and tea, of
pride and treachery, of reincarnation and vengeful ghosts. These are the
lands of the Dragon Empires.
Dragon Empires Gazetteer presents the first exploration of the continent of
Tian Xia, a vast realm found on the opposite side of the world of Golarion
from the Inner Sea region. Inspired by the fascinating myths and rich
histories of numerous Asian cultures and traditions, the Dragon Empires can
be either an exotic destination for world-traveling heroes from the far side of
the world, or they can be the foundation of an entirely new campaign.
Inside this 64-page book, you will find:
Details on over two dozen nations and regions of the vast continent of
Tian Xia, including Minkai (a land under the rule of the notorious Jade
Regent), Quain (a realm of martial artists and strange spirits), the Wall of
Heaven (the world’s largest and most dangerous mountain range), and
Xa Hoi (an ancient empire ruled by a dragon king).
Rules for five new player character races (the foxlike kitsune, the
reptilian nagaji, the spiritual samsarans, the crafty tengus, and the
Details on the core 20 deities of the Dragon Empires.
A timeline of Tian Xia’s long and eventful history.
Information about Dragon Empires society, factions and
philosophies, the zodiac, languages, and more!
Dragon Empires Gazetteer is intended for use with the
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Pathfinder campaign
setting, but can easily be used in any fantasy game setting.
by Matthew Goodall, Dave Gross, James Jacobs,
Steve Kenson, Michael Kortes, Colin McComb,
Rob McCreary, Richard Pett, F. Wesley Schneider,
Mike Shel, and Todd Stewart
The Dragon Empires Gazetteer is an introduction to the continent of Tian Xia, a wonderfully flavourful setting. All the time while reading it, I was constantly getting ideas for new adventures and campaigns I could run in each area. (Alas, too many ideas and too little time to use any of them.) This is the biggest mark in the book’s favour. Any setting book that generates so many ideas has done its job admirably. Another thing I like about the setting is that it takes its influences from more than just Japan and China, but also from Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Tibet, and numerous other Asian countries. All blend together to make a varied and vibrant setting with endless opportunity for adventure.
For starters, I love OA campaigns and was really looking forward to the Dragon Empires material allowing me to run such games in Pathfinder.
So....I made the mistake of paying almost 25 bucks for a print edition of the Dragon Empires Gazeteer (nearly 5 bucks in shipping and handling for this thin little booklet is excessive). Not only is it thinner and (through S&H) more expensive than 2E or 3E softcover supplements were (62 pages of actual content, if I count the inside-cover geographical map, relative to the 127 black-and-white pages of a 2E splatbook or 95 B&W pages of a 3E splatbook), but it contains only the briefest descriptions of each country, a few organizations, some deities, core races, Tian Xia humans, and the five new races.
The timeline (2-1/2 pages) and much of the "Life in the Dragon Empires" chapter are at least reasonably descriptive. But still only a cursory look at the continent of Tian Xia and its history/cultures. For a book whose introduction describes Tian Xia as more than 5 times the size of the Inner Sea region, it suffers rather badly from compressing a continent's worth of info into a few dozen pages of scant overview (roughly a fifth as many pages as the Inner Sea World Guide, and what I've heard about that book leads me to believe it's only slightly better than the DEG in descriptive content).
There's a very basic geographical map of Tian Xia and a geopolitical map that only really shows the capitols and borders. No zoomed-in maps of the individual countries/regions and their features, and no cities or the like beyond capitols. Each country/region of Tian Xia gets a 1-page description or less, with nice but useless illustrations stealing space away from some of those pages. Only a few actually show leaders or locations within the country/region described on the page. Others show monsters that must be detailed in other books like the Bestiaries. They're interesting places but still terribly lacking in detail for an actual campaign in any of these regions.
There are a few pages of scant description for major deities of Tian Xia, such as Daikitsu the Lady of Foxes, including a few Golarion deities like Irori and Shelyn with notes regarding their worship on Tian Xia. Each deity gets hardly a paragraph, with a few useful bits of info beside their holy symbol and domains. The Moon subdomain is given a sidebar, but nowhere is the Moonstruck spell described; you need the Advanced Player's Guide for it. There's 1-1/2 pages describing philosophies and 1-1/2 pages describing some factions in the Dragon Empires. The 5 races get a page each (1/4th illustration, 3/4ths description). For some reason, you need the Dragon Empires Primer (not free) in order to view the kitsune's 3 or 4 measely racial feats (1 for fox form, 2-3 related feats). Core races get a paragraph each regarding their place in Tian Xia (generally as solo wanderers), while human ethnic groups get 2-1/2 pages total.
All in all, I'm not even sure if this is enough to run the Jade Regent AP well, let alone make my own campaigns in the Dragon Empires.
I alsways like my fantasy game worlds to have many different cultures because lets face it every land being like eruope is boring. So thanks to Paizo we get some nice info on an asian style continent and not just Japanes and Chinese ether. This book has interesting places such as a huge mountain range with a portal Leng, a steamy jungle with anciemt ruins build by 15ft tall lizard people, a kingdom run my a dragon, a land ruled Oni, an underdark with undead clockwork creatures and so much more. My only regret is we didn't get a big hardcover book for this (and the other continents) but maybe one day we will.
Being Asian myself (might be a Tian-Shu, in Golarion), it's both exciting and interesting to see the setting of "eastern culture".
As it turns out, this book is full with interesting ideas, especially in races and deities. I can't stop smiling when I saw Sun Wukong made into the list.
However, as the other reviewers point out, it's a relatively short book, every regions only has one page or so. For a Gazetteer, it might be enough.
For someone who's looking forward to run a full Tian Xia Campaign, you definitely need more.
Here's hoping we can see the hardcover Tian Xia setting book in the near future.