The Arcana Core Book by Robert Hemminger and published by the Avalon Game Company is a generic role playing game supplement. Arcana is a generic game setting, which consists of this core book and regular journals and area supplements.
This supplement is a 72 page PDF that is available for $5.99 from RPGNow, although this was purchased at the discounted price of $3.14. The PDF is in colour, including backgrounds to the pages. One page is the front cover, one page the front matter, one page a table of contents and there are six pages of adverts for other Avalon Game Company products.
The one page Introduction gives a brief overview of the current events of the Arcana setting; the most powerful person, the Magus, has been murdered, and there is no replacement in place. It also gives a brief overview of what this book is.
Generic Gaming Information primarily has a Power Levels Chart. Throughout this book, and other supplements in the range, power levels are given for various non player characters, monsters and adventure locations. This gives an idea as to how to convert these power levels into something appropriate for whatever system is used. There is also information on boxes used throughout the range to give information only for the GameMaster.
Tifnarra and Common Calendar each take up one column of the same page. Tifnarra is the main continent of the setting, and the calendar is a pretty standard one, without the complications of a true Earth calendar. Also in this section - they should have probably had their own place in the contents - are a world map, two maps of Tifnarra, one labelled, one not, and a listing of the sites from the labelled map.
Credit: Avalon Games CompanyThe Magus and the Magi gives an overview of the Magus, and the ten Magi, the most powerful spellcasters in the world.
Nature of Magic, Mana and the Flow is how magic works in the setting. This has quite a lot of content and flavour that can be used to enhance whatever game system is used, including Mana (covered in more detail in Arcana Journal #1), ley lines and schools of magic, some of which have been lost. The flow is related to good and evil magic. Spells, rituals and magic sources are also covered.
Religion and Faith covers them in the setting; largely, there isn't much beyond ancestor and nature worship, except for the goblinoid races.
Races of the Lands covers the major races, all pretty standard, namely elves, dwarves, humans, centaurs and merfolk.
Goblinoids and the Mog details the goblinoid races, the major evil threat, and the god they worship called the Mog.
Realms of the World gives an overview of the major realms, and cities, which are covered in more detail in other supplements.
Bestiary is a generic listing of various creatures that can be encountered.
History of Terival divides the history of the setting into different ages, each of which then lists significant events with four different dating systems.
Finally, Maps contains maps. There is a world map and two continent maps, one with major sites on it and the other with the major regions. Each of the three maps comes in colour and greyscale.
Arcana Core Book in Review
The PDF is bookmarked, and to a greater degree than the table of contents, so navigation is reasonably easy. The illustrations are mostly in colour and are okay; perhaps decently skilled amateur drawing would be the best way to describe them. There are also a few other, more professional looking, images. The supplement may be a bit too colourful, given the parchment backgrounds to the pages, to print out easily.
If there is one fundamental problem with the book, it is the grammatical and spelling errors - and there are a lot of them, typically quite a few on every page and sometimes several in a sentence. A few of these errors are missing words or sentence fragments, but the vast majority are where a word has been spelled correctly, but it's the wrong one, such as "thrown" instead of "throne" or "sever" instead of "serve." It looks like the only proofreading done was an automated spell check, without actually making sure that the spellchecker was correcting words accurately. These are the types of errors that a spellchecker is most likely to miss, although some spellcheckers can spot these problems, or at least some of them. These errors creep over into the PDF's bookmarks too, which are otherwise perfectly decent and quite comprehensive. There is an occasional use of wording which doesn't seem that appropriate, such as "this is b******t" to describe a rumour that is untrue.
There is quite a substantial amount of content in the supplement, especially for the price, although not as good value for money as some of the other supplements in the series, but it will not stand alone, nor is it intended to, as this is only the core book for the setting and there are many other supplements, each covering different things, such as those which primarily describe a hex on the world map or provide other background details.
The game details are necessarily vague, given that it is generic supplement, but the overall feel is that it should be easily suited for most variations on the Dungeons & Dragons game system. Some work will be needed to be done by a GameMaster in order to flesh out the various stats and adjust it to their own preferences. There is plenty of detail to the Arcana setting, as can be told just from this work, let alone all the other supplements in the range. The setting may be generic, but various touches to it are not, which can add depth to the game.
The Arcana setting is detailed, and it's clear that a lot of work was done before any supplement was published, so that they would all fit together into a coherent whole. The Arcana Core Book is an interesting start to an interesting setting; it's just a shame that it is let down so badly by the sheer number of spelling and grammatical errors, as this is a supplement that desperately needed proofreading before it was published.