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Cities of Bone (1994)

Cities of Bone (1994) is Steve Kurtz’s second Al-Qadim box (elements of which, like Ruined Kingdoms, reappear in the Book of Necromancers). I don’t really like Ruined Kingdoms or Corsairs of the Great Sea much, but Cities of Bone put the brakes on Al-Qadim’s decline.

Up until now, all these skinny boxes have included source material about the world and a set of adventures that explores them. At this point, the source material is dispensed with, allowing for the box to return to familiar environs, detailing dead cities that have already been touched upon in other sets. The adventures aren’t really connected. Five of them are short dungeon dives. The sixth is more developed and is a favorite of mine because is so clearly draws inspiration from Clark Ashton Smith’s “Empire of the Necromancers” (the whole box feels Smithy, honestly, particularly his Zothique stories). This scenario features Kazerabet, a powerful necromancer who Kurtz liked so much, he brought her to the Book of Necromancers.

As ever, nice illustrations from Karl Waller. He’s quite good at skulls and wizened visages. I don’t know cover artist Roger Loveless, but I like this cover. It’s nicely evocative and reminds me a bit of Hickman’s Deserts of Desolation modules. ¶

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