Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sargava: The Lost Colony

Sargava is an interesting locale in the Golarion setting by Paizo. So, the little Pathfinder Companion book (which means less than 31 pages long) is similarly interesting. It was not, however, quite what I expected it to be.

What I kind of expected was that the Sargavans were "good guys." As a Chelaxian colony that broke away from the main country after they fell to diabolism, they'd be a shining beacon of the golden age of Chelaxian culture before it became perverted. I guess maybe that's true, but if so, Chelaxian culture is, surprisingly, almost more likable under the auspices of Asmodean worship than it is normally. The author of Sargava went out of his way to paint Sargava as an arrogant, hide-bound, racist group of xenophobic idiots who are in an increasingly impossible situation, yet who refuse to acknowledge it.

Burdened with paying tribute money to the Shackles Pirates, surrounded by mostly hostile natives, especially on the far eastern frontier where they border against Mzali lands, and largely dominated by Aspis Consortium interests, there's plenty of opportunities for adventure, intrigue and more as PCs attempt to save the Sargavans from the many dangers that beset them. The question is: will anyone want to bother?

Sargava is a book that's dominated by the Avatar myth as I described in my Heart of the Jungle review. Any vaguely European-esque colonial powers must be exploitative and racist in extreme measures, caring nothing for the natives, the land, or anything else on which they live. I find that myth both incredibly insulting, and more importantly, boring beyond belief by this point. Dances With Wolves, which was hardly an original plot even at the time, has been remade plenty of times now, and it certainly hasn't gotten any fresher.

It'd be nice to see a colonial power treated in a sympathetic fashion for a change. This isn't it.

However, I've spent enough time talking about what I'd have liked Sargava to be, and not enough talking about what it actually is. For what it is, the book is reasonably successful. Frankly, I think the 31 page format is a bit difficult to do a decent treatment of one of the regions in Golarion. All of the Companion regional books feel like they expanded a bit on the entry in the setting itself, sure, but they still touched on the region almost too lightly to be much more robust. The book detailed more in the way of potential basecamps than it did actual adventure locations, which presumably you need to have Heart of the Jungle for. But as such, it gives you a number of such locations, and most of them have some potential local intrigue you can get involved with. Kalabuto even has a big built in dungeon, which really reveals the sourcebooks origin in a slightly jarring way (why do all cities in D&D settings have massive dungeons just under the streets, anyway?) However, that's easily ignorable.

Also, despite the cover art, there was only one tiny mention of dinosaurs anywhere in the book. Sad.

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