Cultures of Celmae: Brynnyn
This first installment of the Cultures of Celmae-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Now, one of the aspects in my home-game that came from my deep love for the Sword & Sorcery-genre, it would be unique ability-score arrays and racial traits for different ethnicities – thus, I am pretty happy to see this pdf add mechanical relevance to a culture. The culture depicted herein would be the Brynnyn, who have carved a civilization from the valleys of the central continent. A hardy folk, their rules-modification provides a bonus of +1 to Fortitude saves. Personally, I would have preferred that to be typed as racial, but oh well. We do receive information on nomenclature and appearance of these folk, though both could have been a bit more pronounced in depth, as far as I’m concerned.
The Brynnyn’s society is patriarchal, with the Cythean culture and local barbarians mingling to give rise to this ethnicity. As such, familial feuds and grudges carry weight, but similarly, theater is cherished here, though not nearly as much as in the Cythean culture, whose heroes Gran and Brynn ultimately make up a significant aspect of the Brynnyn’s lore and identity-constituting myths. With wood being a central pillar of the economy, the culture does tend to embellish woodwork is aesthetically pleasing ways. Said trade has allowed the signature scale mail and preferred weapon, the rhomphala, to gain traction – these folks had to withstand the Dragon Kings, after all. Speaking of said weapon: 2d4, x3 polearm that can inflict either slashing or piercing damage and has its relative power with brace and reach counterbalanced by also being fragile. As a complaint – the weapon does not specify its type: Simple, martial or exotic, though martial seems to be the most likely candidate.
The pdf does feature a total of 10 traits, which are properly codified by trait subtypes. These include bonus damage with the aforementioned weapon (including proficiency) or dodge bonuses versus giants. +1 to Diplomacy (+2 vs. non-humans) and more language make sense, considering the fact that trade with non-humans allowed them to retain their independence. Beginning play with a brynndell steed alongside minor benefits to a skill chosen from a list and better resilience towards diseases and poisons or 1/day fatigue/exhaustion-ignoring make for an overall nice array of options here. It should be noted, however, that the traits do not employ the trait bonus type, which they should.
The prosperous kingdom of Brynndell, with its treaties with the dwarves and mighty riders generally makes for a nice brief introduction to the lands of the Brynnyn, with Brighton, known from the PWYW-supplement, getting full settlement stats here. One of the most popular gods of these people, the Grey Maiden, does get her own write-up next: A goddess of death, earth and law, she is LN and the mistress of psychopomps in the lands of Celmae, overseeing the balance of both life and death, with holy symbols usually being crystal owls or skulls and her favored weapon being the flail, though daggers do have ceremonial significance as a divine focus etc. The caves, judgment, psychopomp, souls and solitude subdomains have been reproduced for your convenience here, though, oddly, psychopomp is no longer associated with the repose domain here. Intentional?
It is a matter of taste whether you enjoy the presentation of the two “religion traits” (should be “Faith”) after the deity write-up instead of as part of the trait-chapter, but they generally are solid. It should be noted, though, that the Knowledge (religion) skill is not correctly formatted.
Editing and formatting aren’t bad, but neither are they impressive – there are some avoidable hiccups, particularly in the formatting of some rules-relevant components. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard. The full-color artworks are solid. The pdf does not have any bookmarks, but doesn’t need them at this length.
Robert Gresham’s Brynnyn are a pretty nice culture per se – the pdf is unpretentious and presents a hardy people that will probably qualify as the “default” human race of the setting. There isn’t that much to set them apart as a culturally distinct or particularly remarkable entity here, but that seems to be the intent and we need a baseline like this. That being said, the pdf’s reprinting of the subdomains ultimately, to me, feels like space that was wasted – in this section, more detailed information on customs, marvels of land or people, economy, etc. would have done a better job providing a more pronounced and distinct look at these folks. In the end, this is a solid first installment for the series, one that hints at plenty of potential. If you’re looking for a particularly crunchy supplement, this is not for you, but if you’re looking for a brief sketch of a human ethnicity with some decent, if not perfectly presented trait to supplement it, then this may well be for you. I will rate this on its own terms, as primarily an introduction to a culture, not as primarily a crunch book. My final verdict, due to this as well as due to being pretty much the first book of this series, will clock in at 3 stars, though people looking for a detailed survey or a very crunchy interpretation should look elsewhere.
Now, usually I’d put the link here, but between me finishing this review and posting it, the pdf seems to have vanished from OBS. If it does return, I’ll add the link back in.