Welcome, my friends, to the final day of Imperial Age week! Today, we will be delving into the depths of the mighty subcontinent known as India as it was in the Victorian era, with the aid of Imperial Age-British India!
Chapters 1 and 2
The first chapter is pure fluff on the history of India during the late 1800’s. The British East India Company, the beginnings of self-dependent India after the Sepoy Mutiny, Queen Victoria’s claims to the title of empress of India, the British military and government presence during their occupation of India, the Indian Civil Service (ICS for short), Europeans in Victorian India, Indian religions ranging from Buddhism and Hinduism to Islam and Sikhism, culture, food, travel, currency..the list goes on and on. This is a very well-researched portion of the book, and I imagine it could give a GM endless ideas. I really like it so far.
Chapter 2 continues this learning method with a geography lesson about every major portion of India. Included are facts of that area in the Victorian era, roleplaying tips, and some basic info on areas neighboring India, such as Nepal. There are also 16 pages of maps taken from Constable’s Hand Atlas of India, an actual tome from the 1800’s.
What would an adventure game be without secret societies? This chapter goes over real-world esoteric orders, including the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Thugees…yes, the Thugees, those guys in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. They really existed, in case you didn’t know. It’s, again, pretty solid.
Chapter 4 details campaign options. The first option is a purely historical campaign, in which you follow real-life in the India of the 1800’s…but where’s the fun in that? 😛 The second type is the occult campaign. In this type of campaign, the heroes won’t be using magic, and they may not even know about it until they delve into the deep corners of the shadows. An occult campaign mostly relies on lengthy incantations for magical effects, with true spellcasters being few and far between. The third type, horror, emphasizes the isolation and feeling of helplessness when you are deep in India’s wilderness or in the night streets of Calcutta. It need not be supernatural, but when it is, the terror is even higher. The fantasy and engines campaigns are similar, but on a different route; a fantasy campaign has India as the bastion for true magic and monsters within, while the engines campaign is techno-fantasy via steampunk. Finally, there’s the kitchen sink campagin, my favorite type. This type has steampunk and magic fantasy spliced together and running rampant.
Chapter 7 and 8 (Men and Beasts)
Chapters 5 and 6 are just a timeline of real-world events in 1880’s and 1890’s India and a glossary of terms, so moving on.. Chapter 7 has various NPCs at the ready. These range widely, from British infantry and Nepalese Ghurkha soldiers to Thugee clerics and magical snake charmers. There are two spells for the Acolytes of Kali that I noticed come from the Thrilling Tales Omnibus, so I won’t repeat what they are. On similar paths, chapter 8 is the betiary. Some of the expected creatures, such as the Yeti, nagas, and Rakshasa, are present, but there are also some wild cards. These include Indian nymphs known as apsaras, six-armed warrior monks, and giant white elephants. Oh, and Captain Nemo (an 8th-level Smart Hero/Dedicated Her0). Yes, Captain Nemo is in the bestiary (for…some…reason), along with the stats for the Nautilus itself. You would never guess that I would love this part, would you? 😛 But seriously, this is one of the better bestiaries I’ve seen in a supplement dedicated to a single locale.
Chapters 9 and 10 (The Player Bunch)
Chapter 9 goes over weapons. All of the ranged items are Victorian-era British arms, including the 1880 Enfield Mark 1 service pistol, and Martini-Henry rifle. The melee weapons (save for a British cavalry sabre) are all native weapons, including the Indian talwar sabre, punching daggers, and the concealable sleeve-mounted rampuri blade. No complaints here, especially since the melee weapons can still be used in a campaign set in the modern day. Finally, there are some feats. These are Exotic Features (which I believe I went over in my Thrilling Tales Omnibus review), Gentry (a nobility-related feat), Gone Native (you are one with the wilderness), and Leadership (you get bonuses when leading armies). Short and…average…feats section.
See previous Imperial Age reviews…again…same thing here.
This is a pretty good tome, but it has its problems. The major one is that there is no table of contents. I am calling these “chapters” because they have big headers, but there’s no actual demarcation as such, which is a pet peeve of mine. The other big problem is that it has a major Imperial slant to it. There’s not so much of a look at how the native Indians, which is somewhat annoying to anyone who might want a more native campaign rather than dealing with the British occupation. I am also not too keen on having a lack of non-supernatural creatures beyond the Yeti in the bestiary. Despite that, this is a solid book for a Victorian campaign, or maybe even a modern one if you want. 8/10.