Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra

Psion

Adventurer
Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra details an Egyptian-themed fantasy campaign setting. The setting comes as a boxed set. The contents are written by C.A. Suleiman, Steve Kenson, and Ari Marmell. The setting is published by Green Ronin as part of their Mythic Vistas and Freeport lines.

A First Look[imager]http://www.greenronin.com/images/product/grr1407_200.jpg[/imager]

Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra is distributed as a boxed set of thTree perfect-bound softcover books (one 96 page, one 64 page, one 56 page) plus a small fold-up color map. The set is priced at $39.95.

The cover of the box is illustrated by James Ryman, and depicts 5 adventurers types (one with a canine head) in Egyptian garb surrounded by a swarm of scorpions in front of a number of pyramids.

Each of the individual books have black-and-white interiors, and monochrome covers using aqua, brown, and steel-grey tones respectively. Artists for the booklets include Beth Trott, Toren “MacBin” Atkinson, Mike Vilardi, Jennifer Meyer, Ben Ribseck, and Kent Burles. As always, Burles and Meyer are two of my favorites. Atkinson is not one of my traditional favorites, but feel his art works particularly well with the theme of the books. Overall, all of the artists turn out some appealing pieces that support the book well.

In prior gaming books on the topic of ancient Egyptian figures, the art has been rather free with bare breasts. Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra is rather conservative by way of comparison, probably in deference to changes in the D20 System Trademark License conditions.

The cartography (including the poster map) is by Ed Bourelle, who has become one of the best known cartographers in the d20 industry. He continues his fine work here.

The thing that probably stands out the most about this product is that it is a boxed set, something almost unheard of in RPGs for a decade. At the time they started to disappear, TSR and other companies professed that the assembly cost was making them unprofitable. With prices of RPG books on the rise, perhaps it has been less difficult to work that cost in. But whether it heralds the return of the boxed set (or whether gamers are mature enough now that the boxes don’t get crushed on the gaming room floor) remains to be seen.

A Deeper Look

The three books included in the set are entitled The Book of Days, The Book of Gates and The Book of Law. The Book of Days is primarily information pertinent to making basic characters, including race and class rules and magic rules, but also including history of the setting. The Book of Gates is something of a setting gazetteer, describing nations, people, and topography, as well as cosmology and religion. The third book, The Book of Days, provides more GM-pertinent information, such as advice on adventures, new creatures, prestige classes, secret societies, and magic items.

The land of Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra is named Khemti and is considered part of the Freeport world (much like Naranjan of the Mindshadows setting.) The first chapter is a history of the setting, both regarding the mythic history of the gods, and the mortal dynasties that followed once Ra decreed that the gods would no longer govern mortals. Events in these histories obviously draw upon authentic Egyptian myths and history, but play up several aspects to make it fit the more familiar aspects of d20 style fantasy settings.

The races presented herein parallel the traditional d20 fantasy races with a few additions and tweaks. All the races are given new names, as well as a new spin on their background. In general, the thinking seems to have been to postulate how the existing fantasy races could be explained in the context of Egyptian mythical figures, but then to include some possible consequences of that model. For example, esetiri, the Hamunaptra take on elves, are the favored creations of Isis, the goddess of fertility. As a representation of this province, female esetiri can breed with any of the divine races, which explains half elves (or pehesset). But since half-elves not necessarily need be half human in the setting, there are half-elf variants that are cross-breeds with the other core races, with difference ability modifiers.

There is no half-orc in the setting. However, there is another race in its stead. If you saw Anubis warriors in the beginning of the film The Mummy Returns and thought "gnolls!", you weren’t alone. Anpur are the Hamunaptra spin on gnolls, but are jackal-headed instead of hyena-headed, and are blessed creations of Anubis. They take a place amongst the spectrum of races similar to half-orcs, but actually enjoy a wisdom bonus instead of a penalty. Those who think that the half-orc got the shaft should appreciate the slightly more robust anpur.

Just as the traditional core races are mostly present in a slightly recast form, so it is with the core classes. Each of the traditional 11 core classes make an appearance here in a slightly tweaked form. They are all given new names, and listed alphabetically by their alternate name, so I hope you catch on quick to the new names.

The one that might most immediately seem out of place is the bahati, or monk. I am not familiar with any such figure from authentic ancient Egyptian history, beyond the reference to spiritual beliefs that did not directly follow deities (which did exist in Egypt historically). I know of no monk-like ancient Egyptian figure, and the bahati is essentially unchanged beyond a few renamed abilities.

Many of the classes like the bequenu (fighter) are very similar to their core equivalents, though some deviate more than others:
-Ghaffir: (paladin) is tweaked to fit any lawful alignment.
-Hekai: (sorcerer) has a few more abilities than the core sorcerer with free eschew materials feat at first level and the ability to better use metamagic and innate spells at higher levels. This up-powering may put off those who take the core rules as being the correct power level by default, but should appeal to those who feel like the sorcerer got the short end of the stick (myself included.)
-Shenu: (bard) is a version of the bard that assume oratory as the default performance type with slightly tweaked performance abilities.
-Wildwalker: (ranger) is a non spellcasting desert version of the ranger, which receives a choice from a selection of talents instead of the spellcasting. Like the sorcerer, this should appeal to a subset of the d20 audience that does not like the ranger as-is.

A number of new feats are introduced, many of them divine heritage feats. These feats are only allowed to the divine races (the PC races of the setting), and signify a mark of the character’s divine heritage; some of these feats are specific to specific divine races. Other feats address specific aspects of the setting, such as chariot driving, or help compensate for the lack of armor in the setting.

Not a lot of space is spent detailing alternate economies or equipment lists, but an alternative lists of bronze age weapons and armor is provided. As a general rule, Hamunaptara characters have diminished options for AC improvement.

The magic system mostly follows the conventions set forth in the core rules, thought there is a bit deeper explanation of how magic works in the cosmology and how it is regarded in society. Arcane casters that prepare spells are considered religious figures, but innate casters are regarded with some suspicion.

There are a few variations in the rules that help ground magic in a more Egyptian feel. Rites bear some resemblance to the old Relics & Rituals rituals, in that they allow a character to spend extra time to defray the spell level cost of using metamagic. Cooperative magic further extends this ability, and allows the casters to split the XP cost of any XP-cost spell.

Another variation is the use of material components. There are specific focuses depending on magic school that Khemtan casters must use, which for cheap components, replace the components, and that must be used in addition to expensive components. The focus for abjuration and divination spells are true names, and an extended section provides some possible benefits if the caster can find specific true names rather than general concept true names.

The magic chapter introduces a number of new domains (of assistance in describing the many deities of the setting) and new spells. The spells are largely geared towards a desert environment, or other images that are a major part of the Egyptian feel (such as summoning mystical barges and chariots, or sphinxes.)

The second book, The Book of Gates, describes the nations, people, and religion of the setting. The land of Khemti is currently split into three kingdoms derived from a once great empire: Shematu (Upper Khemti), Djeby (Middle Khemti), and Ta-Mehtu (lower Khemti). The chapter on the peoples describe the views of social status, station in life, economics, the disposition of slaves, roles of scholars, bureaucrats, priesthood, nobility, and royalty. A convenient glossary helps the players and GM keep track of potentially confusing terms, which the book makes frequent use of.

A major portion of the cosmology section is devoted to describing the various deities of the Khemtian pantheon. The figures of the Khemtian pantheon resemble the Egyptian pantheon much as it was depicted in the AD&D 1st edition Deities & Demigods book: Ra is still head of the pantheon, Set is depicted as a largely malign deity, and Osiris is only recently restored to life.

Those familiar with some Egyptian history and mythology may note the evolution of "combination" deities. A sidebar nicely works this concept into the game. Though the spellcasting ability is limited (which may not be a serious liability since the priest can multiclass when they hit the brick wall), they can choose any domains of the combination deity.

The city-states chapter describes a number of cities comprising the three kingdoms, complete with d20 system statistics and major details, though only Hamunaptra itself has a city map. A final topography chapter describes other geographical features such as the great river Yor, and mysterious sites such as the Great Pyramid and the magic oases known as "The Six".

The third and final book, The Book of Law, starts with GM advice for running a game, including a number of models for adventuring activities. More specific examples come in the form of a 100 adventure ideas table similar to the one presented in the DMG. A small rules related section covers desert survival and charioteering.

The chapter Secrets and Societies presents a number of secret societies for use in the game. Some are clearly meant to be used as villain types, such as The Compact of Dust (which believes that the land must be brought to dust before it can be renewed) and the Unbroken Chain (a slaver ring). Others are less clear, and might be used as villains or heroes, or play other roles. Some are just heretical.

The prestige class chapter discusses existing prestige classes and present 9 new ones, all 10 level classes:

-Deathblade: Holy warriors specialized in laying the undead to rest again, but who can also call on their service.
-Desert Scorpions: Stealthy killer of the tribes of the red lands. Essentially an assassin with more wilderness skills but no spellcasting.
-Dream Shapers: Visionaries who draw omens and other magic abilities from dreams. The class has its own spell list and advancement.
-Dunewalker: A kama’at (druid) better adapted to desert life.
-Lector Priests: These are priests with divine heritage that occupy a special place outside the normal hierarchy, with a responsibility to read from sacred texts. They lack many of the normal abilities of priests, but gain more domains.
-Master Charioteer: Self explanatory.
-Priest of Ma’at: Contrary to the name, the Priest of Ma’at is something of a functionary and court advisor.
-Serpent Dancer: These are practitioners of a snake-like fighting style, and also have a certain sway with snakes.
-Spell eater: This class is a spellcaster with improved ability to combat the magic of others as well as stealing the spells of other casters.

The creatures section defines existing creatures appropriate for the setting, and a number of new ones with the feel of the setting. This includes the like of animal headed giants, and undead creatures that form bodies out of sand (again, it seems interesting that you can make creatures from The Mummy Returns with this book.)

Sphinx is presented as a creature type here. They are powerful divine creatures in the setting, very much like dragons in standard fantasy campaigns.

Conclusions

Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra approaches the idea of an Egyptian setting with an eye towards more the fantastic aspects than the historical, but it does a good job of playing the mythical and historical aspects off of the fantasy. Still, purists may not appreciate the fantasy derived elements; if that describes you, you’d best steer clear (or check out Green Ronin’s Testament).

I like the way that mythical elements are extrapolated to produce elements fantasy players can get a handle on. Some are still a questionable fit (like the monk), but for the most part, it works fairly well.

The format is something of a shock. You do pay about $5 more than a recent d20 hardbound of the same page count, but some may appreciate the ability for the players to refer to the character book while the GM has access to the other books.

Overall Grade: A-

-Alan D. Kohler
 
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JoeGKushner

First Post
Egyptian Adventures Hamunaptra

What is Egyptian Adventures Hamunaptra? It’s a new entry in the Mythic Vistas line of settings by Green Ronin Games by C.A. Suleiman with Steve Kenson and Ari Marmell contributing to the writing. It’s a boxed set of three books and a full color folded map. It’s 216 black and white pages for $39.95.

So what is it? I hate movie reviews that go, “It’s the next E.T.!” as that doesn’t do a lot to tell you about the movie, but in this case, I think it’s appropriate. Have you heard of Nyambe? It’s a fantasy version of Africa taken into the d20 game engine. Unlike say Relics & Rituals Excalibur which shows you how to take fantastic elements of one genre and put them in d20, this book puts a fantasy version of Egypt into your hands.

Looking through the books, I’m a little surprised they went with a boxed set format. Nothing here really justifies it. There are no cardboard handouts. No small player guide booklets. No friendly summaries of rules. Just three books and a nice map. Now I’ve seen enough products to know that this map could’ve been glued into a hardcover book of this size without problem. Seems like a wasted opportunity to me.

There are some minor things in the book that I’d have to playtest more to see how they work out. For example, because it’s an Egyptian style setting, there is no heavy armor. How does the effect high-level play as character don’t have enchanted full plate to back them up? Time will tell.

The largest book at 96 pages, starts us off, The Book of Days. This includes the races, core class variants of Hamunaptra, feats, equipment, and spells. The background of the setting is one of murder, advancement, betryal, destruction and blessings by the gods and other standards of fantasy with an Egyptian twist.

The book’s crunch starts off with the races. Most of these will be familiar to readers of the Player’s Handbook as they’re in most cases, the same race but with the numbers filled off. Want to play a Halfling? Look up the Asari, a small race that has bonuses to certain rogue skills, saving throws and racial weapon skill like with throw weapons. Now the favored classes are changed in a lot of these cases and some of the material, like the Anpur or gnolls, is brand new, so don’t assume that everything is exactly the same.

The nice note about the Anpur is that if the GM wants to run gnolls as per the Monster Manual, he can consider them savages and a different branch of the Anpur race as opposed to a brand new race. A viable idea as these gnolls are a 0 level race that in essence, replaces the half-orc.

The core classes have some small variations, but I’d rather see the space used for just listing the differences rather than listings that give me the Hamunaptra name of the core class and listings for special abilities that state, “See the PHB.” For example, the Bahati is the Monk and it’s abilities are detailed. Look up Flurry of Blows and you’ll see the text. The Khebenti or Rogue on the other hand, has every ability listed as “This functions as the rogue ability described in the PHB.” Well, if that’s the case, why even put the class here as opposed to a footnote that Rogues are Khebenti in this setting and that there’s a minor change in skill selection depending on the rogue’s point of origin?

Now that’s not to say that every class here is a straight repeat from the Player’s Handbook. After all, there’s no heavy armor here so no one has automatic proficiency with heavy armor. Well, okay, there’s a little bit more of a difference in that the Hekai or Sorcerer, gets Eschew Materials as a bonus feat, the standard familiar and spell swap but also improved metamagic and innate spell. The former adds two spell levels to the metamagic feat and lets the sorcerer cast it as a standard action as opposed to a full round action. Costly but useful. The innate spell on the other hand, allows the Hekai to cast a spell even if say, bound, gagged and naked as long as he’s conscious. The spell has to be at least five levels lower than the maximum level that the Hekai may cast and they get this ability three times so they can select one 0, one 3rd, and one 4th. It’s a nice touch and showcases the differences at least a little.

There are some new feats to help characters out like Armor Expertise where the character reduces the armor check penalty and can sleep in medium armor without becoming fatigued or some divine flavored reats like Racial Weapon Mastery, where the character gains a bonus when using his racial weapon. For example, gnomes may use daggers as ranged weapons without suffering an attack of opportunity while in a threatened square.

The equipment section isn’t anything outstanding but does round out the book nicely. A few more illustrations would’ve been nice, but I think most know what a javelin and handaxe look like. Some exotic weapons work their way here, but some are just carryovers from the PHB like the Ptahmenu (dwarven) Waraxe or the Dire Flail.

Some new rules for magic are included that help the GM capture the flavor of the game without making magic too powerful. Things like reducing the metamagic penalty when taking extra time to cast a spell. New domains and spells help round out spellcasters but doesn’t include a unique and customized spell list for casters of this setting.

Book Two, The Book of Gates, picks up where Relics & Rituals Olympus and Excalibur have failed in that it provides a setting to run all of this good stuff. In 56 pages, you get notes on caste, racial relations, time keeping methods, merchant activities, lexicon, and social customs. A write up on the gods of the pantheon, including their favored animal and weapon, domains and portfolio, allows players of a priest to have a little more variety than just Ra worshippers.

The section on the city states of Khemti provides up with Hamunaptra, a city of over a hundred thousand or Avarna, Isyut, Per-Tefnu Raqote, Terenuthis Tjekut, and others. Each one has a summary block including patron deity, population, ruler, other important figures, resources, allies and rivals. Each one has history, people, and important locations. These factors aren’t fully detailed nor mapped, but provide an ambitious GM with the bones of a setting.

So now that you’ve got the setting and rules for core classes, what’s missing? That’s right, we’re missing some more players toys like prestige classes, which are found in Book Three: The Book of Law. It doesn’t start off with PrCs, but rather, with adventure ideas, including an excellent 100 adventure seeds.

Advice on using the desert to force characters to deal with the environment while traveling, as well as rules for charioteering, are included alongside numerous new organizations that the GM can use as patrons or enemies. Pit the characters against The Compact of Dust, an alliance of religious fanatics who want the world to be devoured by the Wasting, a condition brought on by the wrath of Ra, to the Red Hand, a group that can easily be used as a stand in for desert raiders lead by the gnolls of the Red Land.

After that, that’s when we get the PrCs. An odd choice of them here as they could’ve been included with the other player material but that’s okay. The section starts off discussing which PrCs from the core book (DMG), are appropriate and then moves into the unique ones of this setting. These range from the Desert Scorpions, assassins of the Red Lands to the Serpent Dancers, masters of serpentine movement that fight defensively gaining Evasion and Uncanny Dodge in addition to being able to administer a coup de grace as a standard action as opposed to a full round action.

Other player toys include new magic items. No great artifact swords, but a few unique weapons like the Scorpion Blade that poisons it’s victims on a critical strike or the Amulet of Life that acts as a death ward for as long as the amulet is worn. Not a great selection of magic items and no illustrations but it’s a start. Perhaps Phil will come along with A Dozen Egyptian Artifacts and help round out the series a bit.

For the GM and his toys, what haven’t we covered? That’d be monsters. It covers creatures by type, and mentions that found in the core rules that’d be a good fit for Khemti, as well as new creatures. I look forward to springing a desert elemental on a Forgotten Realms Part as they move through Anauroch or a Greyhawk Party as the travel through the Sea of Dust. I’m anxious to see how Dragons like it when they hear of the Great Sphinxes, a new breed of Sphinx that rival, and perhaps surpass them for sheer power. Who would want to battle the Father of Terror, a master of terror that clocks in at a CR of 40 with the abilities of a 19th level spellcaster in addition to his potent poison and other deadly physical abilities?

The map of Khemti is four pages and in full color. Ed does a great job of providing texture to the map but perhaps makes it look a little too historical as large sections of it are rendered hidden by Egyptian symbols in the upper left corner and a blown up map of Kamunaptra. Interior art is handled by some of the industries best and gives the book a great feel. Some fan favorites include Toren Atkinson, Kent Burles, and Jennifer Meyer in addition to Beth Trott and Mike Vilardi. In terms of readability, it follows standard two column format with gray text on boxed sections like weapons and side-notes.

In reading the book, I found myself, much as I did with the Book of the Righteous, inspiried on certain campaign ideas. I’m not saying I want to stop my Black Company campaign right now and start running a Hamunaptra game, but I can easily see some of the things here making their way into future campaigns. I can see adding a lot of this detail to say the Forgotten Realms and it’s kingdoms based on Egyptian myths that have recently been overlooked in Lost Empires. I can see myself allowing players access to the core classes here for flavor as well as showing how favored classes and other racial details can change due to environment. I can see using the Sphinxes of this setting as prime movers and shakes that even the Chosen in the Forgotten Realms tread wearily about.

One of the nice things about the setting, is that because the map isn’t all inclusive or world spanning, the GM could insert this into another campaign. The desert in and of itself acts as a natural barrier and GMs wishing to push certain types of adventurers, like those of exploration or battles against fate and destiny, can easily use many of the ideas here.

Green Ronin has brought Egyptian Advnetures to life here. They’ve made this setting as viable as Nyambe, Rogukan or Al-Qadim. Now if only we can get WoTC to license out that latter setting to them, we’d be set.
 

Macbeth

First Post
Disclaimer: I recieved my copy of Hamunapatra as part of a contest by one of the authors. I have no other connections to the publisher or authors, and I do not believe this in any way changes my review.

The most important thing about Hamunapatra is that it is a joy to read. Probably the most important aspect of any setting is the ability to make you want to read it, and Hamunapatra does an admirable job of making thre reader enjoy it. In particular, the Races chapter stands out as one of the best, and involves some great new ideas.

The art and presentation is excellent. Some of the art pieces fall a little short (to my tastes), but some other outstanding pieces make the average quality a good bit above average. The boxed set format (3 black and white books plus a full color poster in a high quality box) is also a great DM tool.

The setting itself reimagines all of the standard d20 classes and races (plus one new race and several new Prestige classes) into an egyptian framework. The setting revolves around an encroaching desert that threatens to engulf the great kingdoms. Most of the classes work well in this setting, though some seem slightly out of place due to their standard meanings. For example, the monk equivalent seems a little out of place just because it is associated with martial arts in the core rules, mechanically it fits the setting well. A few classes have minor or major changes to fit the setting, and all of these work well to add to the feel of the game.

Magic is divided into spontaneous and prepared, divine and arcane (to use core rules terms). Within Hamunapatra, all magic is considered divine (with the possible exception of druids), though the spells cast by wizads still act like arcane spells (spell failure for armor and all). This clear division gives each class some special place, with clerics and wizards in particular being revered. The book also introduces a new system for ritual magc, which takes longer to cast but has greater effects, and material components based on school rather then spell.

Further, there are writeups for most of the common fantsay races, with the new inculsion of the Anpur, who are effectively gnolls. All of the races had intriguing backgrounds, rife with possibilities. Ulitimately, I have to say this was one of my favorite parts of the entire setting.

There's also a history of the setting, new spells, and new feats.

And that's just the first book. :)

The other two volumes have an indepth look at the setting (with much of the writing on par with the excellent races section), inclduing geography, politics, and dieties and DM advice, including Prestige Classes, organizations, and advice. I found most of the advice to be a bit straight forward, but for the most part enjoyable.

Oddly, I found that the first book (with races, classes, feats, spells, and a short history) to be the best way of conveying the feel of the setting. The other books were good, but the first volume truly stood out as a great belnd of flavor and mechanics.

All of the mechanics seem sound, but I have not playtested them enough to be absolutely sure.

Best Parts: The writing. The best thing a setting can do is make you want to read about it, and here Hamunapatra succeeds admirably. I had a great time reading it, and I felt the prose truly brought across flavor in addition to being clear and concise. I also liked the three book format, as I was able to let my younger brother (who has a huge interest in Egypt but will use any DM-only info he can get his hands on) read the first two books, and keep the secrets of the setting to myself.

Worst Parts: To find anything wrong with this setting, I really had to nit pick. Probably the biggest problem is that not everybody will be interested in the topic. I am no huge fan of Egyptian fantasy (though I do not dislike it either), but I still enjoyed reading and using this product. Even if Egyptian fantasy is not a big enough topic for a whole campaign, the material from Hamunapatra can easily be dropped into any campaign as a desert society. A sample adventure would have been nice, but with 3 books plus a poster map, I really can't complain too much.

Ultimately, I would like to give this product a rating of 4 and 3/4 stars, but since I can only go with whole numbers, and since the awesome writing and creative ideas (not to mention the excellent format) deserve praise, I can happily round up to 5 stars.
 
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GameWyrd

Explorer
The Mythic Vistas series from Green Ronin is a real winner. Years into d20 we're still able to attempt to enthuse and reinvigorate players through campaign settings with a twist. I carefully didn't say "original campaign settings" there because such a tag couldn't be applied to Hamunptra and it's Egyptian Adventures. We've been to fantasy Egypt before but anything that's not a Tolkien-D&D clone is worth looking at.

There's a disclaimer-cum-introduction from Monte Cook at the start of book one which reminds us that this isn't a historically accurate supplement and the goal here is to create a flavourful campaign setting. It sounds silly but I've seen proof that such a caveat is needed. I've seen someone passionate about their Egyptology refuse even to read the introduction because the book was called Hamunptra! Heck, do you know what, I'm fairly sure there weren't any gnolls or gnomes in ancient Earth Egypt... but there you go. I happen to think that Hamunptra does an excellent job at morphing Egyptian-like myth into a roleplaying cosmology. The magic ingredient is, I think, the direct association between each of the typical D&D fantasy races (except half-orc has been replaced by gnoll) and one of the main deities. Each deity created a race. Set, for example, created the gnomes. Isis created the elves. The Humans were a created by many of the gods working together and this is a nice way to explain why mankind is so widespread.

Sure, we might have the standard D&D races and even the standard D&D classes but Hamunptra manages to feel different. It manages to feel Egyptian. Sometimes it's small changes like new names for the races - you can call an Asari a Halfling if you want and she won't mind but you can't call a Ptahmenu a dwarf unless you're looking for trouble. The slang ptah-man on the other hand is acceptable. Rangers become Wildwalkers out there in the red sands. Hamunptra even manages to bring druids into the setting in the guise of kama'at who honour Ma'at the guiding principle of the cosmos and of which gods are just a part. Other triumphs of flavour stand out because they're large and yet carefully blended into the game. For example, there's been an Egyptian-style empire already which was hit by a near apocalypse. As a result there are Egyptian-style tombs and temples lying in ruins and half buried in the sands just waiting for the PCs to find, explore and stumble into the ancient magic of.

Boxed sets hark back to the D&D I never cared for but let's not hold that against Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra. The price tag scrapes in at just under $40 so let's have a look to see whether we're paying extra for a gimmick. There's a large colour map with the game and I must admit having a box to put it in it better than having it loose in a book and less worrisome than trying to pull it free from a book's spine. There are actually three books in this set. We've The Book of Days, The Book of Gates and The Book of Law. As it turns out I don't think we're paying any more for this box than we'd pay for the hardback.

The Book of Days might be best described as the player's guide. Here we have the creation myth, races and classes. We've charts of weapons and lists of equipment with an Egyptian theme. We might poke fun at d20 supplements which always manage to introduce new spells but Hamunptra has better reason than most to do so. We've new spells and new domains as well. Deities which govern the Community Domain are Ptah, Apuat, Bes, Hathor and Mentu. We find out more about the gods in The Book of Gates but the very fact that Mentu, a god of war, grants his priests (clerics) Community spells hints at the rich complexity of the Egyptian-inspired pantheon. There are plenty of new spells as well and these too have a strong flavour to them. Spells like "Blessing of Shade", "Call Sphinx", "Flesh to Salt", "Mummify" and "Sand-Swim" are all Egyptian themed classics.

The Book of Gates is the smallest of the trilogy; its 56 pages compare against 96 and 64, but it's the one I spent longest reading. I just gobbled up the newly spun Egyptian style mythology and world gazetteer. I keep using phrases like "Egyptian style" and have said it's silly to treat the book as anyway historically or anthropologically literate - it's just a game - but I must admit my enthusiasm for it would certainly be weakened if Thoth was an axe wielding Beserker or Set was nothing other than Nut in disguise. While I really have seen Egypt experts simply refuse to touch the box on the grounds that the actual mythology should be sacrosanct I'm glad actual Egyptian mythology has been so carefully researched and then insidiously merged into a fantasy setting. I like the fact that Ptah is believable as the Great Creator and has the deity of the dwarves (excuse me, the deity of the Ptahmenu, I meant to say). In addition to the deities themselves The Book of the Gates visits the city states of Khemti - including Hamunaptra itself, the city from which the setting gets its name.

The Book of Law is here to help the GM. We've adventure ideas (including those old style bullet points including such classics as; 'creatures threaten travel and trade along the river' or 'a sandstorm uncovers the entrance to some ancient ruins' - where would we be without professional inspiration?), rules for travelling, prestige classes, secret cults, monsters and treasures.

There is a lot of scope in Hamunaptra for political and religious drama. The influence of the Egyptian-style deities is oblivious whether it's in very faces of the divinely created races or the growing Wastes which threaten to turn black soil into red sands. The pantheon gets along because it has to and so do the common races but it's easy to see how a dispute could escalate quickly. The same is true for the city states. There's a balancing act here too. My favourite uber-plot hook are those cults/secret societies which have a cosmology which differs from the norm (and who can still cast divine magic...) and those which, though not necessarily evil, believe the world is due a rebirth.

My largest issue with Hamunaptra is that I don't know at what level to put it. I've no idea how likely the PCs are to find a wizard living in a local community. Is it rare to find a village with magic (divine or arcane) or can we expect even small communities to be able to churn out some fairly impressive magical displays? It's rough out there in the sandy red lands but just how much of daily life features battles against fantastic foes or how much of the daily battle is simply the quest for water?

Despite my uncertainty at exactly how mythic this Mythic Vista is I am really pleased with Hamunaptra. This product could so easily have been Deserts and Dragons but we've avoided that trap. Hamunaptra the answer for any d20 player or gaming group who want to do something different and are contemplating an Egyptian setting.

* This Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra review was first published at GameWyrd.
 

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