Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Nuts & Bolts #95 - Review: Naphtha: Islands on Fire and Thora: Island of Bone

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Vitals

Published By: Ganza Gaming via the Cypher System Creator • 8 pages (Islands on Fire) & 16 Pages (Thora: Island of Bone) • $1.99 • B&W PDF with Full Color Cover

What's In It

The two Naphtha products present a new setting for use with the Cypher System Rulebook, or as sub-setting add-ons for The Strange (and possibly Numenera with a little effort). The first, Islands on Fire, explains the set up of the setting, a seemingly endless ocean dotted with islands that exists around a massive waterspout called the Pillar that spews elemental energy and cyphers into the air and sometimes rains destruction on the islands via elemental storms called Godsrain.

Islands on Fire presents a single confederation of aligned islands called the Phalan Alliance. The Phalans are a spin on classical Greece. Light on detail, there is little to make them unique beyond the setting itself which is similarly limited in detail to the inclusion of the Pillar. There's the start of a setting here, and the second product helps to flesh this out more and expand on the vague promises within. The handful of islands described are all part of the Alliance and so we don't get a sense of who the Alliance is allied against, nor is there much to infer story ideas for this setting from aside from mentions of an undersea kingdom that could have used a few pages of its own.

Thora: Island of Bone presents three more nation states for the setting, all of while are ruled by and populated with undead. Thora is a large island with a triplicate of city states, each ruled by a different flavor of undead, vampires, liches, and ghouls. The city states are reasonably well fleshed out with two to three pages each devoted specifically to them. Additionally there are a number of undead creatures, an Undead Crew (if you are using the Crews descriptor type) and a number of artifact ideas. Overall the level of detail presented in Thora is good and helps to make this a solid setting add-on.

Closing Thoughts

Overall these two products make for a nice start to the Nphtha setting. Thora gives you the bigger bang for your [two] bucks however as it is both twice as long at the same price but also a more original effort. Islands on Fire sets up the setting but fails to give you what you need to really use it with only a single nation state, and limited setting information to work with. There has been another Naphtha release and I suspect that this setting may (hopefully) mature well as it develops more.

Unfortunately these aren't perfect products. The biggest drawback on these products is the quality of the grammar. It's sad to say that editing appears to have been sorely neglected and I found many instances of grammar errors, and in the end they made reading these PDFs difficult. With a little bit of editing and polish these would both be more enjoyable to read. The issues aren't insurmountable, but they aren't pleasant either.

Score:

  • Naphtha Islands of Fire 60%
  • Naphtha - Thora: Island of Bone 70% 
  • Unfortunately marred by grammatical errors these two PDFs can be difficult to read, but if you are looking for a mashed up setting of classical antiquity with classical fantasy and a touch of seagoing adventure these may be worth the effort.


Author's note: A complimentary review copy of these products was provided for the purposes of this review.