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Cities of Bone (2e)
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Cities of Bone (2e)

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Shifting sands conceal much from the eyes of man. Winds howling across the rolling dunes peel back the veil of time to reveal aeonic ruins or crumbling tombs, long preserved by a shroud of sand. Wrecked and forbidding, monoliths command attention in many unpredictable locales.

The remnants of antique civilizations litter the Land of Fate, where time-ravaged towers and decaying shrines hide in the arid wastes. I am but a humble efreeti, a creature of fire and spirit, but what little I know of theses places of danger and mystery I pass on to you, O Master of Dungeons Unfathomable.

Inside this enchanted box lies my gift to you: an Adventure Book holding six plots of deception and many creatures of intrigue with which to challenge and entertain the players under your care; six cards and a poster, all inscribed with carefully drawn maps; and a short booklet detailing new characters to encounter. This Campaign Guide lying open before you contains background needed to lead the adventures in the official Land of Fate.

Product History

Cities of Bones (1994), by Steven Kurtz, is the sixth boxed supplement for Al-Qadim. It was published in May 1994.

Origins (I): More Ruins! After writing about the Ruined Kingdoms (1994) in early 1994, Kurtz continue right on detailing the ruins of Zakhara in this sixth supplement, Cities of Bones. The difference is that these are ruins (and tombs) scattered all across the Al-Qadim setting.

Like the previous major supplements, Cities of Bones comes in a thin box containing a 32-page campaign book, a 64-page adventure book and a variety of other booklets and cards. However, this campaign book is different because it doesn't concentrate on any specific region of Zakhara. There's also no expansion to the smaller-scale maps of Al-Qadim, another big change for the setting boxes.

Origins (II): D&D Sources. If the majority of the Al-Qadim supplements were focused on merging Arabian sources with the setting of Al-Qadim, this one is instead about bringing D&D sources into the campaign setting. It's all about delving and crawling, something that was otherwise largely unknown in Al-Qadim. This continued the trend of year three of the Al-Qadim line, which generally moved away from its Middle-eastern sources.

Origins (III): Weird Fantasy Sources. The other major source of Cities of Bones seems to be the weird fantasy genre, which combines fantasy with horror. Kurtz notes this in the credits where he thanks Steve Winter for "exposing [him] to the most disturbing horror/fantasy". Fans also suggest that Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique stories (1932-1953), such as "Empire of the Necromancers" (1932), might have been sources.

Adventure Tropes. Crawl, crawl, crawl. Each of the adventures is focused on a delve into tomb, dungeon, or pyramid. Most are quite small, filling just 3-5 rooms, which was typical for the era. In addition, these delves are surrounded by background and backstory, another trope of the '90s. The last story, "Court of the Necromancers" actually has extremely extensive framing, containing a full event-driven story of politics and machinations.

Exploring Al-Qadim. The Campaign Book describes ruins scattered across Zakhara. The ruins of Sokkar and Moradask lie in the Haunted Lands while Ysawis is in Nog, one of the Ruined Kingdoms. The three major scenarios in the Adventure Book take place in these three locales, while three shorter scenarios are lightly set near the Pearl Cities.

NPCs of Note. Kazerabet appears as a necromancer who rediscovered the ruins of Ysawis, alongside her consort Sumulael. They now rule over this "City of the Dead" and are part of the "Court of the Necromancers" adventure.

Her presence here is notable because she reappears in DMGR7: The Complete Necromancer's Handbook (1995) and was even referenced a decade later in Heroes of Horror (2005).

Future History. Steven Kurtz continued with many of his ideas from Ruined Kingdoms and Cities of Bones in The Complete Necromancer's Handbook. It's not an Al-Qadim supplement, but it feels like one, so consider it the third book in this trilogy.

About the Creators. Steven Kurtz was a major force in Al-Qadim in its last year. He authored both Ruined Kingdoms and Cities of Bone (1993), then wrote what almost felt like the 14th supplement for Al-Qadim, DMGR7: The Complete Book of Necromancers (1995).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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Customer avatar
Zia M December 18, 2016 2:50 am UTC
PURCHASER
The original box had a poster map which is missing in this release. The poster map was of the Jade Palace of the Necromancers as well as showing smaller maps of the Tomb of the Crocodile Princess and The Bone Pavilion. It's not as big a deal as it might be for other sets though, the Jade Palace map is replicated on one of the cardsheets, which is present in the release, and the other two smaller maps are very simple.
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Product Information
Author(s)
Rules Edition(s)
Pages
110
Edition
1.0
Publisher Stock #
TSR 9467
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42.31 MB
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File Last Updated:
December 12, 2016
This title was added to our catalog on December 13, 2016.