Arcana Journal #1 by Robert Hemminger and published by Avalon Games is a generic role playing game supplement. This is the first supplement to the Arcana Core Book. Arcana is a generic game setting; as well as the core book, there are regular journals, such as this one, and other supplements covering certain areas.
The supplement is a 44 page PDF that is available for $2.99 from RPGNow. The PDF is in colour; one page is the front cover, one page the front matter, one page the contents, one page the setting map and there are six pages of adverts. There are also a number of pages of maps. The supplement is divided into various sections, covering a specific area on the world map, and background information for the setting.
Credit: Avalon Games/Robert HemmingerThe first part is the area details, which covers Hex 1 on the map, as illustrated on the setting map. This particular hex just has an island on it, the Isle Of Mist. There is a map of the hex, which is basically just the island, rumours and hidden lore that can be discovered about the island, the latter including details on a magical stone, a single adventure site, what the results of certain types of spells would be and some adventure seeds.
The next section is on Mana, and is a page of setting background information. Mana is quite an important element of the Arcana setting from what can be inferred from this, and this would doubtless be useful when combined with other supplements.
Sisters of the Sun, the next section, is a religious organisation, and some background information is provided, as well as hidden lore and suggested abilities/skills for members of the sisterhood.
Gozer is another element of setting background, and Gozer itself is a demonic entity that is a prime source of trouble and behind many of the dangers that can be encountered. There are numerous adventure seeds in this section, details on Gozer's background, groups affiliated with it, and possible plots, listed by hex.
The section on Realms covers one of Arcana's realms, the Kingdom of Mulithor. There is a labelled map of the kingdom, although it isn't clear where the realm is located on the world map from this supplement, its history, the royal family and the nobility, and details on troops, treasuries, income and expenses, and some brief details on the settlements, although these don't go beyond a population count and general occupation.
The Encyclopedia Magicica Arcana covers the letter "A" and is, as it suggests, an encyclopaedia of many different things beginning with, or related to, the letter A, from people to places to history. These entries reference many other entries, most of which are in other supplements.
General Gaming Information provides some information that can be used to convert the generalities into specifics for gaming systems.
Finally, there are four pages of Maps. Two of these are of the Isle of Mist; two are of the Kingdom of Mulithor. Each map is in greyscale and in colour; none of them have labels, so they are suitable for players.
Arcana Journal #1 in Review
The PDF is well bookmarked and the Contents is adequate, if not brilliant, so navigation is reasonably easy. The illustrations are okay, but not exceptional; the setting map looks computer created and the Isle of Mist and Mulithor maps look as if they were hand drawn. The other illustrations vary, with some looking like stock and others possibly created specifically. Printing the supplement out has the potential to be quite ink heavy, due to the extensive use of page backgrounds. The six pages of ads for other products by the company at the end of the supplement is a lot of adverts for a 44 page PDF, especially as only a tiny proportion of the ads is for the Arcana setting.
Credit: Robert Hemminger/Avalon Games CompanyOne of the biggest problems with the supplement is that it really needed a proof reader. There are a significant number of spelling mistakes, and they are all of the type that can get past software spellcheckers, because the words are spelled correctly - they are just the wrong words. For example, on one page, there are multiple instances where the word "thrown" has been used, when what it should actually say is "throne." There are also a number of punctuation errors. Once a few of these are spotted, there's a tendency to start watching for them, rather than reading the text.
The impression given by the Arcana series is that is rather similar to the Hârn setting by Columbia Games Inc., like that also being a generic setting with supplements providing details on particular areas and background information. Arcana is, however, significantly cheaper, but not as high a quality - the two are probably related.
Although this is a generic supplement, the overall feel is that it is one aimed at variations of the Dungeons & Dragons game, which isn't surprising, as D&D and derivatives, including Pathfinder, is probably the most common game system. It should still be at least reasonably easy to adapt it to other systems.
This particular supplement does not stand well by itself, as there quite a lot of references to material in other supplements and locations in other hexes, especially in the Encyclopedia Magicica Arcana, but it really isn't intended to. Some of the others in the series may work better at standing alone, such as those detailing cities, and be easier to drop into other game worlds.
This is the first supplement is what is quite an extensive and interesting setting that clearly has had some time spent developing the entire setting before having anything released - there are plenty of references to other material in the setting which, when this was released, had not at that point been published - but it's a rather unpolished and could have done with a bit more time spending on the presentation and error checking before being released. Having said that, Arcana Journal #1 is interesting enough, and the setting looks extensive and developed enough, to make getting more supplements on it worth considering.