BIZANTIUM and the Northern Islands is another excellent sourcebook from Palladium Books. Ostensibly for the Palladium Fantasy Role-play game system it is of use to GMs for any fantasy based role-playing game simply because it is a book full of good ideas, possibilities, situations and locations, creatures and heroes, all of which can be represented in other RPGs by resourceful scenario annd adventure creators.
Glen Evans, with occasional assistance from Kevin Siembieda and Matthew Clements, and artwork from a variety of fantasy artists, has produced a quasi-historical overview of a time long past yet still alive within the realms of possibilities offered by one of the most flexible of role-play game systems. In actual Historical terms, Byzantium (note the y in place of the i) was an ancient Greek colony that became first Constantinople and later Istanbul in what is now Turkey.
In the Palladium role-play universe Bizantium is a Kingdom in the far and remote Northern Islands where the populace happily trade and live alongside such canine races as the Wolfen and Bear Men, whom they view and interact with as trustworthy neighbours and countrymen rather than the blood-thirsty savages they are thought of farther south. The author examines the fears, beliefs and thoughts of the reputations and stereotypes of all beings within the entire universe, though obviously concentrates on the mostly human civilisation of the Bizantium Kingdom and their interactions with the surrounding vastness of empty lands and mostly non-human neighbours.
The Politics of Bizantium are now under scrutiny due to the ineffectualness of the current Monarch, the rebelliousness of the colonists on the Shadow Coast and the powerful influence of their superior Naval Force and the independent Tarders and Merchants.
With the political unrest at its peak this is a great time for GMs to send adventurers Northwards where wealth, power and riches are all available to anyone who wishes to go forth and claim them. Of course there are many adversaries and enemies to be despatched, cajoled, cheated, dominated and manouevered by the right band and blend of characters, though the journey up North should be a major adventure in itself. The power and force of the Bizantium Navy is probably going to be a large part of the vote against arriving by sea, though a thoughtful and imaginative party with a maleable overseer as their GM, might be able to find a loophole (or any sort of hole) through the Bizantium armada.
Allowing player (characters) to learn Bizantium history may be helpful to the planning of their forthcoming assault/visit/vacation (delete as necessary) to the seven main islands of the Kingdon of Bizantium. Actually there is some debate as to whether there are six or seven main islands. There are the islands of Bizantium, Borich, Yufel, Acta, Sinza and Wyst as well as the Shadow Coast Colonies which are considered as part of the mainland.
The first part of this book is delivered in the form of a reference and historical volume so that the GM and the players have knowledge of the facts and histories of the Nobles, Royalty and regular inhabitants of Bizantium of its past and present. The book continues, mainly for the GM's eyes only, as it describes the possible characters, and the potential for encounters, skills, abilities, spells, weapons, armour and equipment in these often desolate Northern lands. This is a superb volume for any GM setting their campaign, for any fantasy system, in realms which are snow covered, icy, mountainous and hilly. (Scandanavia, Nova Scotia or the Scottish Highlands perhaps ? or their fantasy equivalents maybe ?)
Well written, laid out for ease of use and documented in the professional manner expected from Palladium Books, this is 192 pages of role-playing excellence.