Supplement Review: The City of 10 Rings by MJ Alishah from Aetheric Dreams

There are many fantastic realms of fantasy in fiction ripe for the picking for setting ideas. Obviously the world of Middle Earth from Tolkien is very popular as are the lands of Greek myth, the tales of King Arthur, the world of Robin Hood, and many others. But often I think we forget about the tales of Scheherazade told to the king Shahryar in One Thousand and One Nights (otherwise known as the Arabian Nights). The world of Aladdin, Ali Baba, Sinbad, and others are full of magic, mystery, and mayhem.

City of 10 Rings - Aetheric DreamsOver a year ago I took a look at Nights of the Crusades by MJ Alishah. Not only does it capture the world of these Arabic tales, but it offers a GM a great set of rules to explore them with. (You can read my review for plenty more on the game.) MJ has released a few other products since then, but he recently produced The City of 10 Rings as a setting supplement and I want to dive into it for a bit.

The world he presents is intriguing. Once a meteor shot from the sky and created a giant crater. A number of groups settled in the crater in various “rings” – each with a different focus or purpose. For example, the Ring of Bone offers a graveyard for all the rings (as well as a labyrinth with its own dangers). The Ring of Steel protects the other rings from attack with a dutiful garrison of soldiers. The Ring of Pearl offers a collection of docks and places for merchants to keep their wares they sell in the markets of the Ring of Gold… etc. Each ring has its own challenges, leaders, and dangers.

What really got my attention was the flexibility… Though many setting books offer tons of options and details (see my reviews of the Midgard Campaign Setting from Wolfgang Baur and the Kobold Press folks for example – part 1, part 2, part 3), I often feel like the worlds are a bit static and difficult to design adventures on the fly for unless you know them inside and out. This isn’t a bad thing – and the Kobolds have released many amazing supplements and adventures set in Midgard to explore the many corners of that world. But if you’re designing on the run, it can be a bit tough.

MJ has designed a supplement that in less than 40 pages will offer thousands of different possibilities very easily. How? There are ten different rings. Each is presented with ten streets, ten locations, and ten events. Roll four d10s and you have a unique combination to explore.

For example, if I roll a d10 four different times and get… 1, 7, 5, 9, I end up with an adventure set in the Ring of Bone on Journey Street (Shari al-Safar) in a Corpse Pit with ten corpses in different states of decay. While there, the party gets a message shot in on an arrow with a proposition… Defeat the foes at a particular place nearby and return the corpse of an old ancestor of the message sender to the city walls. Sounds easy enough, right? But you immediately have a framework for a combat encounter with possible treasure (the foes have to have something of value) and potentially a connection to another part of the world. There are myriad combinations that would be just as interesting to explore.

The 40-page PDF is presented in a two-column layout with many black and white images, text that’s in an easy-to-read font (a few fonts actually), and writing that evokes powerful imagery you can use to quickly set the mood and find a compelling story.

Whether you are looking for ideas set in an Arabic land or just ideas you can use in your own fantasy campaigns and settings, The City of 10 Rings offers plenty of rich story ideas you can mine again and again.

For more about the world of Nights of the Crusades from Aetheric Dreams…

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