This book is not an easy read; firstly, it takes, as one of its objectives, a review of the historical evidence regarding the birth of Islam and the conclusions to which Holland has come have attracted the opprobrium of certain adherents of that faith.
Right, that’s the elephant in the room out of the way. Secondly, the book covers a period from 224 to 800, which is a lot of years to cram into 430 pages (which does not include the chronology – vital – the dramatis personae – likewise – and the many pages of supplementary notes on the points raised in the chapters.) This is not a book to rush through; it will need the backflipping of pages to refresh yourself on details that you may have noticed but – due to the densely-packed narrative - you might have forgotten about.
This is because Holland’s prose style is almost novelistic and this makes his account of the end of the classical world and the rise of the three monotheistic faiths and their transformation into the religions we know today a very entertaining read. The bloodthirsty nature of both large-scale events – battles, massacres and plagues – and individual deaths (often gruesomely described with relish by Holland) is brought into sharp focus and we’re never allowed to forget that these deeds were carried out by men who firmly believed that what they were doing was right and sanctified.
Because he does not focus primarily on a simple chronological progression but rather examines his topic subject by subject, we retread the same years but from different perspectives. Holland slowly builds up his evidence in the style of a lawyer presenting his case; such is his technique that when he finally drops his bombshells, as outlined above, you find yourself nodding to yourself and saying “Ah yes, of course, I see it now.”
If you’re looking to build some historical verisimilitude into your campaign world, merely letting the book fall open at a random page will spark your imagination in a dozen ways. The methodical examination of the origins of religion can offer many clues in designing faiths into which your clerics can fit with ease; no milquetoast goody two-shoes here, but holy warriors who were completely unafraid to get their hands dirty if their god required it.
If you're able to give this book the time it deserves, you'll find it sheds a great deal of light on an area which has previously been thought merely a transition between the ancient and mediaeval worlds; in fact, this era was much more than that - incipient within it were the seeds of a major element of the world in which we live now.
Benbo, 3rd level Fighter/4th level Thief - he who dares.
Galzor, 4th level cleric - mysteriously disappeared along with the Third and his coffin.
Zanurax, 3rd level thief (recovering from being partly eaten by a lion and has now gone to join Merlin)
Olaf, 4th level dwarven fighter, now returning to his clan halls
Merlin, 3rd level thief (called away on the business of the Thieves' Guild)
Adthar, 4th level fighter - currently both an Ettin and a statue
Elador, nth level magic-user - called away on special assignments but will act as mentor and adviser to the team
Galadeus, 2nd level ranger - drowned and then eaten by a shark.....aaaaaand he's BACK! aaaaaaaaand he's dead again.
What I'm DMing for 6 new junior players
Old School Links to Wisdom
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That's what Old School means to me
"These rules are flexible and open to interpretation - designed not to cover all conceivable situations, but to allow good Referees and Players the freedom to create and play games of their own design."
from the Lulu download page for The White Box S&W from BHP
"This game is unlike chess in that the rules are not cut and dried. In many places, they are guidelines and suggested methods only. This is part of the attraction of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons"
Over halfway to 90, I started playing AD&D when the Police were a cool band and Punk was wild. I am a father to a ten-year-old Junior Grognard and have now managed to establish a five-strong gaming group made up of him and four of his friends, ages ranging from 10 to 11. Solidly Old-School.
High fives and natural 20s to you all!