Game: Crimson Empire Sourcebook
Publisher: Chris Loizou
Series: Crimson Empire FRPG
Review Dated: 3rd, November 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 9
Average Score: 4.50
WHAT IS THE GAME ABOUT?
Crimson Empire is a Dark-Age FRPG that is set in the world of Thargos. By “Dark-Age”, I’m not referring precisely to that historical period, but some characteristics of the game do relate to this. It is more used to qualify the troubled times that the gaming universe is going through. I will simplify the background information to get the main themes across, but do not wish to give too much away and ruin the fun.
The main gaming area is known as “The Continent”, you may think that this is terribly original, but actually works very well with players and fits-in well with the history of Thargos. Once again, as stated previously I’m simplifying the geopolitics here so please bear with me. The Continent is split into two main entities: The Empire which is in fact the crumbling remains of the Old Empire and Karnarcos, comprising a host of fiefs, cities and regions that for the most part sway towards absolute domination and a hatred of the Empire.
The Empire was crippled by the Great Cataclysm (known as year 0 on the Imperial Calendar), which caused nature to unleash incredible power and indiscriminate destruction. The reasons for this are detailed in Chapter 9 of the book and will not be divulged here as to preserve some of the context information. This event caused the following:
-Thargos had its trajectory changed affecting climatic conditions considerably.
-The Gods of the Ancient Pantheons lost their influence as their plane of existence was “sealed”. However, each God had the chance to send one Envoy to Thargos, whose main aim was to reestablish the link between the two worlds, but also hunt down those responsible (players can potentially be one of these, but they don’t know it at first).
-Mages became known in some areas as Heretics, as they were made responsible for the catastrophy: this limits the use of magic at the MT’s (Master Of Tales) discretion.
-The only manifestation of any real power was that of the elements, hence the emergence of the Elemental Cults, and the destruction of temples, religious sites and artifacts. This is why Great Priests or High Priests as they are also known are omnipotent.
When this all occurred, the opportunity was grasped to have access to immediate power, by plotting the assassination of Mit-Sulek IV (the Emperor), and taking command of a large part of the Imperial Army. Kelmat of Nardam was the General who took this risk, and by doing so plunged the whole region into civil war, a war that has endured over 150 years.
This is where the world of Thargos finds itself at the moment, a world devoid of any divine intervention, bar that of the Envoys. The power of nature, reacting to having had its harmony destroyed, is now used and exploited by the Great Priests in order to control the masses, through their influence and through fear of the Elemental Factions. Hatred fuels the forces of Karnarcos, who scheme and plot the downfall of the remnants of the once glorious Empire, but there is still hope…
Thargos is now a dangerous place to be, with religious factions waging war against knight orders, barbarian clans and tribes swaying from one side to another, as well as a new threat growing in the east…
Magic does exist but is not widely accepted, and some societies shun its use or even consider this as heresy, punishable by torture and death. The irony here is that High Priests, who are the instigators of such brutal practices, use their own form of magic, and even have Mages and Sorcerers by their side. This allows for some interesting roleplaying as you can imagine.
To summarise, Crimson Empire is an exciting environment to develop complex character interaction, and really get to play some interesting and unique individuals. The realism and credibility of the “backdrop” adds to the dark atmosphere, which is at times disturbing and extremely unpredictable.
Please also note that there is enough background information for this game to be used with other systems, and that the rules themselves are flexible and adaptable.