Review: Slave Tribes
by Ramanan Sivaranjan on February 08, 2013
Slave Tribes is one of the first Dark Sun splat books I bought to help me run the epic D&D campaign I never ended up running. It’s authored by Bill Slavicsek, who went on to write Elves of Athas and several other books for the setting.
If these recent reviews1 all start to sound the same, it’s because these Dark Sun splat books are all quite formulaic. Slave Tribes is structured and written in a manner very similar to Elves of Athas and Dune Trader. Once more we have a book describing some niche of Athasian society: in this books case we are obviously looking at slavery and the slave tribes–slaves who have escaped their bondage and formed their own communities.
The book presents in some detail several slave tribes. For each tribe we learn the following things: their organization, their means of existence, their origin, their location and how their village is defended, their relationship with others, how one joins the tribe, and important NPCs. Each tribe’s settlement (or caravan in one case) is described with a keyed map. This section is the bulk of the book. Most of this material seems designed to help you run these tribes in a game. Some tribes could serve as allies to a group of PCs, while some tribes will make excellent enemies.
The book begins with an overview of slavery in Athas, which isn’t particularly interesting or informative. This is followed by the description of slave tribes discussed above. That section is followed by an uninspiring discussion of life in a slave tribe. The book ends with advice on how to create a slave tribe. It more or less outlines how to produce an example tribe similar to ones found in the book. There are some lacklustre random tables to help you get started.
The interior art work is all by Baxa. If you don’t like Baxa’s artwork, you definitely won’t like his early artwork. The cover is by Brom and is super cool.
Slave Tribes is a thoroughly middle of the road splat book. There is lots of material, i’m just not sure how useful it actually is. With all of these books the presentation is so verbose I feel like a DM would need to make their own notes to help keep things straight. Still, someone else has done a lot I work for you if you need some factions and fleshed out NPCs for your game.
The last of this series of splat books is the Veiled Alliance, which I plan to read next.