Irina Badyna Badyna von Barutana, Montenegro
As a Conan fan and a gamer, I had pretty mixed feelings about this book. I really wanted to like it, but in the end, I had a hard time doing so. Some of that is just me. Some of it is the fault of the book. This book presents an overview of Hyboria, the world which REH created for Conan to explore (or perhaps that Conan explored through REH, depending on how you think of it). Aimed primarily at a gaming audience, the vast majority of the book is taken up by a country-by-country description of the world, complete with history, religious practices, and adventure ideas. There's also a chapter on how to run a Conan-style game, some new feats for the d20 rules, and statistics for some of the major characters from the stories, including the mighty-thewed barbarian himself, both as a king and a thief. The book does a credible job of summarizing the various parts of REH's world into easily accessible, readable, chunks. As a reference guide, it certainly works well, but it's readability is hampered by a couple of factors. One is the editing, which frankly, is just atrocious at points. I don't expect grammatical perfection, but there were some seriously bad errors that just made the text hard to read. It was rather frustrating. Second, I wish that religion had been pulled out and placed in a separate chapter from the nation descriptions. While it's nice to have a summary of each nations religious beliefs, there's only so many times I can read the same description of the cult of Mitra before it gets really, really, repetitive. While I enjoyed the fact that each nation included some sample adventures, some of the suggestions were so banal as to be virtually useless. A number of the nations included adventure suggestions that boiled down to "there are a lot of abandoned castles around here. You could set an adventure there." Which really, when you get down to it, isn't terribly informative. It's not all bad, of course. As I said, the book does do a nice nation by nation breakdown, which makes it easy to find the information you are looking for. The authors do a wonderful job of separating out the ideas that REH wrote about personally from the ideas of other authors, which is helpful for those GMs who don't want their Hyboria subject to DeCampian influences. The chapter on how to run a Conan game is actually excellent. Indeed, it's so excellent that it makes me all the more disappointed with some of the adventure suggestions in the nation listings. The authors clearly have some great ideas for how to run a Conan game, but most of them end up in that chapter. I can't speak for the game mechanics, not having read them too closely. Even if I did, I'm not a d20 expert. Is this book worth it? If you are running a Conan game, probably. If not, you would have to be a really big Conan mark to pick this up. NOTE: There is a newer version, Return to the Road of Kings, which is updated to the second edition of the Conan d20 rules. It may or may not correct some of the editing errors.