This is a copy of a review of Khoras written by Courtney Donovan Smith of the RPG League. The original web page containing the RPG League review is no longer available, but the original, unedited review is listed below. I'd like to thank Courtney Donovan Smith for this wonderful review of Khoras.
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RPG System: None (some AD&D stats) Site Purpose: Game Setting
Site Master and Author: David Michael Roomes Artist: Mark Price
If you have a game setting or world of your own, this site will make you sick. As the proud webmaster of my own game setting, I found myself grasping for my wastepaper basket.
The overall feeling is not of a game setting, but of a full game environment. It is difficult to express just how amazing a feat this is. No important aspect of life in this environment is unsupported or undeveloped, from religion to economics, from history to politics, from flora to fauna - it has it all.
What makes it more of an accomplishment is the author's ability to make it accessible, interesting and clear. The details are rich without being overwhelming (all things considered - see below). The site gives the casual visitor a quick sense of the overall picture - and gently leads the more interested GM or player into a fuller understanding.
How this is accomplished is a model of clarity and good workmanship. There is a clever mix of summary overview with full supporting details added below or by link. With the amount of information necessary to understand all the references it is particularly impressive and useful that the author is not afraid of redundancy, frequently adding in definitions and quick summaries of critical information. This allows the narrative to flow and is easy to follow for the first time visitor - without talking down to old Khoras hands. Links to a fuller descriptions are readily available and a glossary as well, but are often not necessary to understanding the material at hand.
That is particularly important as the entire setting forms a powerful interlocking whole. From the inn level to the national level, each detail is tightly integrated to the whole picture. Pick any section of the site and it becomes clear how carefully detailed it all is and how details of one area fit with details of another. City descriptions give us some of the history of the place, a sense of how it fits in with the region, what deities are worshipped and where, what the economy is based on and how it relates to the wider economy and the flora and fauna of the region. Follow any of the links and it becomes clear just how tight and focused the whole picture is.
And what a picture it is! Any GM looking for a game setting will be overwhelmed with exciting and interesting possibilities. Characters can be given full detailed backgrounds with references to historical events and religious background. There are ready-made adventures and campaigns, but any experienced GM will think of than enough great possibilities simply by exploring the site.
The site is very attractive, but a bit shy of brilliant. The drawings are strikingly good, and are valuable in providing a visual image of some aspects of the game (for example - check out the fantasy races). The background is a pleasing textured brown paper or fabric look, and the accompanying graphics are usually well suited to the overall feel. The curious exception is the intro page to the site, which, while attractive - doesn't suit the rest of the site stylistically. The side menus are done in stone, and are functional rather than striking or particularly original. Annoyingly (this is nitpicky, I admit) the top frame has unnecessary scroll bars. Overall, however, the effect is good - and most importantly it is fairly fast for such an attractive site.
The maps are quite good, some of the best around. Considering how this site seems to cover every possible facet of the world in great detail, I was slightly disappointed at the lack of city maps for localised campaigns. However, I am being petulant on this point - I'm desperately struggling to find something, anything, wrong with this site to uphold the RPG League's reputation for reasonably tough reviews.
Organisation and presentation is, as stated above, one of the striking strengths of this site. The author has done everything he can to make navigation of this massive site as painless as possible, and has provided every aid he could - with the possible exception of a search engine (which I would recommend). At times the navigation can be a little confusing, but that is unavoidable considering the sheer scale of it all. I was very appreciative of location markers (The World Of Khoras - Civilization - Nations, for example) and especially the site map - both of which proved very helpful at times when looking up something specific. Anyone who states they can't find something on this site needs a brain scan, and I commend the author on his devotion and success in mastering this critical but Herculean task.
Rounding out the topic of accessibility and fine organisation is the wonderful glossary. Unfortunately it is a 236 kb file and takes a bit of time to download, breaking it up into alphabetical listings might have worked better - but again, this is nitpicky. Because the site material is so well written and supported it really wasn't necessary to consult it. The best feature of the glossary is simply roaming through it and reading interesting entries that caught the eye. It was fun to explore on it's own. Shame it wasn't linked up to fuller descriptions, I would have enjoyed following some of those entries into greater detail.
The rating given to this site is the highest the RPG League has ever given, and is likely to ever give. That this site hasn't been published in book format by someone puzzles me, this effort is not amateur. For all intensive purposes, Khoras is almost perfect.
There is no game setting on the web that comes close to Khoras, and the comment on the main page "The largest and most detailed fantasy campaign setting on the Net. This web site is intended as a valuable resource for fantasy role players." is something of an understatement. It is huge and wonderfully detailed from the micro to the macro level. The writing is clear and easy to follow. The content is engaging and accessible, well linked, fully supported and well focused. And it covers everything you will need to run a good game, from campaign ideas to good inns to visit when in any major city.
The RPG League recommendation is this: visit this site, use this site and if you have a game setting of your own - examine it in great detail, because it is the standard to beat!
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