Lands of Mystery by Aaron Allston (1985)

LandsofMysteryCover blurb

Discover the world of Zorandar, a savage, timeless land where brave natives battle ferocious dinosaurs. Can you solve Zorandar’s ancient mysteries? Will you be able to defeat the despotic Emperor of the lost Roman Legion and his evil lizard slavers?

Lands of Mystery is more than an epic journey through the strange land of Zorandar. It’s an Adventure Sourcebook for both players and game masters. It shows you step-by-step how to build your own lost world campaign. Learn how to game-master and play all the cliffhangers and plot twists of your favorite jungle adventures. You get a full length Zorandar campaign novel, complete conversions for ChillCall of Cthulhu, and Daredevils, and you get more action and adventure than any 96 page sourcebook has a right to have!

My thoughts

Hi, I’m Doug McClure. You may remember me from such 1970s dinosaur films as The Land That Time Forgot and At the Earth’s Core. I’m here today to tell you about Lands of Mystery, a campaign supplement for the 1980s roleplaying game Justice Inc. Have you ever wanted to star in your own lost world adventure, just like me? Well, now you can! And you can do it from the comfort of your home! But enough with introductions — now let’s explore the action, romance, and thrills that can be found within Lands of Mystery

Okay, enough of that. Rest in peace Doug McClure and The Simpsons’ character you inspiredLands of Mystery is just as it advertises: A roleplaying game supplement for gamers who want play the type of lost world adventures that were popular in pulp fiction during the early years of the 20th century. Populating its pages are beautiful cavewoman princesses, lost Roman legionaries, and intelligent, evolved dinosaurs. Even aliens are not out of the question if you really want to add them to your campaign.

The book is divided into two parts. The first half is an overview of the lost world genre, exploring themes, appropriate characters, and hazards players are likely to face. It is this first part gamers will find the most useful, as it is a sandbox for creating adventures of your own. The second half of the book is a campaign setting, Zorandar, which is an alternate world where dinosaurs still exist. It is useful for any gamers who don’t want to go to the hassle of building their own settings. Your mileage will vary depending on how “pulp” you want your pulp setting to be – a lost Roman legion didn’t strike me as a good fit, but it could always be substituted for a civilization of your choosing.

Lands of Mystery has been long out-of-print and is hard to find these days, which is a shame because it is one of the best roleplaying supplements about lost worlds ever written. While it does contain stats for various gaming systems, most of the material in the book is system neutral, so you can use it no matter what you play. From its nifty black-and-white illustrations to its comprehensive overview of the genre, Lands of Mystery is well worth the effort of tracking down, if you can find it for a reasonable price.

Trivia

  • The author, Aaron Allston, has written several gaming supplements and science fiction novels, the latter mostly tie-ins to film franchises such as Star Wars. He is also the author of Dungeons & Dragons: Hollow Earth, a lost world setting for the popular roleplaying game.
  • Allston also wrote the story for the roleplaying computer game Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire, which is set in a valley filled with dinosaurs and primitive tribes. I recommend The Savage Empire and Warriors of the Eternal Sun (which takes place in the above Dungeons & Dragons setting) to any gamers looking for fun RPGs that are a little different from your standard sword-and-sorcery fare.

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