Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beyond the Mountains of Magnatz

Cugel at last extracted several gold coins from the landlord together with a parcel of bread, cheese and wine. The landlord came to the door and pointed. ‘There is but a single trail, that leading south. The Mountains of Magnatz rise before you. Farewell.’
Not without foreboding, Cugel set off to the south. For a space the trail led past the tillage of local peasants; then as the foothills bulked to either side the trail became first a track, then a trace winding along a dry riverbed beside thickets of prickle-bush, spurge, yarrow, asphodel. Along the crest of the hill paralleling the trail grew a tangle of stunted oak, and Cugel, thinking to improve his chances for going unobserved, climbed the ridge and continued in the shelter of the foliage.
The air was clear, the sky a brilliant dark blue. The sun wallowed up to the zenith and Cugel bethought himself of the food he carried in his pouch. He seated himself, but as he did so the motion of a skipping dark shadow caught his eye. His blood chilled. The creature surely meant to leap upon his back.
Cugel pretended not to notice, and presently the shadow moved forward again: a deodand, taller and heavier than himself, black as midnight except for shining white eyes, white teeth and claws, wearing scraps of leather to support a green velvet shirt…

        (Vance, 1966, p. 67)

A shade over ten years ago Pelgrane Press published the Dying Earth Roleplaying Game by Robin Laws, John Snead and Peter Freeman. This was based on the Dying Earth sequence of novels by famed author Jack Vance, featuring a setting so far into the future that it effectively becomes a fantastical past. The role-playing game was followed by a wealth of supplements, of which my top three picks would be the Compendium of Universal Knowledge, the Kaiin Player’s Guide, and the Scaum Valley Gazetteer. When the game license expired two years ago there was a pre-expiry glut of orders for both digital and physical copies of the game by enthusiasts, myself included. Part of this I suspect is that while I may never run the actual game in session, its various supplements make for enjoyable reading for any fan of the Jack Vance canon and the Dying Earth in particular.

Which brings us to now. Pelgrane Press have reacquired the license and reopened the vaults to their Dying Earth stock. Better still, we have a new publication: Beyond the Mountains of Magnatz by Ian Thomson (who I once sketched some Dying Earth monsters for, a long time ago in a galaxy far away). It’s the latest in his sequence of Dying Earth scenarios entitled ‘In the Footsteps of Fools’, and is a 97 page PDF packed with gaming goodness, including:

  • Magnatz! The eponymous entity of said mountains.
  • Various encounters with bestial half-men, friendly or otherwise.
  • The noted sorcerer Pharesm.
  • The Basilisk-haunted Vale of Dharad.
  • Gazetteers to the village of Vull and the city of Mar.

It’s great to see the series back in action and I for one will be purchasing any new release to add to my expanding stash of Dying Earth lore. I bought my copy of Beyond the Mountains of Magnatz here.


Vance, J. (1966). The Eyes of the Overworld. USA: Ace Books Inc.

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