Game: Divine and the Defeated : Gods and Titans
Publisher: Sword and Sorcery Studio
Review Dated: 20th, December 2001
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10 [ Something special ]
Total Score: 27
Average Score: 6.75
I liked this book. Oh yes.
The Divine and the Defeated was my introduction to the Scarred Lands setting and now I hunger for more. In many ways the story of the Gods and of the Titans is both a backward and appropriate way to get to know the world that was once Scarn. The Scarred Lands setting is a creation of the Sword and Sorcery Studio and uses the d20 system.
Scarn was once a prettier place but the cruel Titans ruled unchallenged, they tormented whole nations and created dangerous monsters as play things. Their children, the eight gods, rose up against them. The divine war, the clash of such unimaginable powers, the immense and prolonged campaign all but destroyed the land. Little remained of the once plush and fertile Scarn, only the Scarred Lands remained. This is the world setting. Here’s a quote taken from the SSS website; “An entire sea runs red with the blood of a titan who lies chained at its depths. The world has twisted and changed wherever the titans or their dismembered remains lie. Many of the monstrous races created by the titans and gods during the war still survive in the gouged reaches of the land. Those races favored by the gods prosper. The titans’ chosen are less fortunate, watching and waiting from their wilderness exile, plotting to restore their fallen patrons.”
The importance of the Gods and of the Titans in the worldview is clear. As I flicked through the book I found numerous references to a whole range of wondrous creatures and I found myself thinking, again and again, that that sounded interesting or that I’d like to read more about that. I am not by nature a number cruncher either. There are two of these creature collection books and both have now been placed on my Amazon wish list (well, the one that Amazon.co.uk stocks, anyway).
I’ve said that I’m not normally a fan of long stat collections and that I didn’t even have any previous experience of the Scarred Lands but yet I really enjoyed the book. It was the rich flavour that caught me straight away. The idea of gods versus titans comes straight out of Greek mythology and I imagine it is a concept as familiar to me as it is to you. I found myself wondering which Titans would have been the parents of which gods and just how the gods pulled together to defeat their powerful progenitors. That’s just what the book gave me. The Divine and the Defeated is more than just a list of too powerful NPCs and a set of stats that you’ll only use every other blue moon. The text presents a detailed history, an absorbing history and more importantly than that, a history that really does impact on the player characters in the game. I cannot tell you whether it is a happy coincidence or whether the clever monkeys at Sword and Sorcery planned it from the start but the presence of the Gods have a very real day-to-day effect on the people of the Scarred Lands. A short but appropriate prayer to the correct god before a charge into battle may very well help steady your lance… and you don’t need to be playing a Cleric. If you’re running a Scarred Lands game then I’m sure your players will be keen to soak up anything they can get from the mysterious influence of the Gods. Having a world where the divine powers take an active interest in the affairs of mankind could lean towards a high levelled, high fantasy game and yet the impression I get from the Scarred Lands theme is that it is very much more about fighting for survival in a world still healing from a hellish war. There’s no suggestion that you’ll round a corner and be finding a powerful deity waiting for you there. You won’t find yourself playing in a Xena game. The Gods only effect the Scarred Lands in certain ways and its all designed to help boost the life and spice in your game.
After your entertaining history lesson you are given access to the stats and mechanics for the gods and goddesses of the realm. I can imagine that this is what many gamers would have bought the book for and what many others would have been dreading. I think there’s something for everyone here. If you want to see how many Hit Dice the war like gods have then you can go check it up. If you are curious as to the holy symbols used by each divine power then you’ll find the pictures you are after. You can check on what sort of person is likely to offer thanks to the power in question. In addition, the gods and goddesses have Heralds and Pages, people who carry their messengers, spread their teachings and carry their banner. You have a whole scale of divine interest in which you can flick through until you find something suitable for your game. These Heralds and Pages aren’t just collections of numbers and spells either, each has a meaningful history.
You don’t have to restrict yourself to the gods though. The book is about the Defeated as much as it is about the Divine. You wont find actual character sheets for the Titans. These strange and unimaginable powers were so thwarted by the Gods that there is no real use for numbers. Giving stats to a Titan would be like giving stats to the wind. You do get, however, the benefits of being one of these cruel entity’s servants and you are given statistics and all the numbers you could want for their champions and priests. You wont go short for powerful bad guys.
There’s room for demi-gods too. In fact, the demi-gods come before the Titans. I was less impressed by the demi-gods, perhaps my enthusiasm for the details was beginning to run a bit thin by this point but I suspect it was because these people were not so deliciously set up in the history texts that prefixed the Divine. Having said that, I am sure the demi-gods have a bigger role in the supplement books produces by Sword and Sorcery. It seems likely to me that once I buy (because I will) some more of the Scarred Land setting books I will want to return to the Divine and the Defeated to check up and reference all the mentions of these younger powers.
The book is a nice sized hardback copy too. It’s a solid weight but not too heavy. My local supplier was selling it at the same price as a similarly paged softback supplement was going for; you can’t accuse Sword and Sorcery for being money-grubbers. Sometimes I worry about the pages falling out of my hardbacks but I can see the cloth tab in the spine of the book. The pages have been sewn in and not glued, this copy will last an age and probably even survive those long bus journeys I must suffer to roleplay with friends who have moved to obscure corners of the country. I think the artwork is pretty good to. It’s not a colour edition; I didn’t expect it to be. Some of the pictures lean towards the surreal but when you are dealing with inhuman powers then this should be expected. I did like the fact that, despite the surreal bent to some, the overall theme and pencil style of the art stayed consistent throughout. I’m keen on consistency. The only typo I spotted was in the pages right at the back of the book given over to selling space for other SSS products.
This book is an absolute must for anyone even thinking about the Scarred Lands. If you’re playing a Cleric (or Druid or Paladin) in any Third Ed setting then you could very well get washed with inspiration by reading this hardback and so I would recommend it again.