The Jungles of Chult by James Lowder and Jean Rabe (1993)

Monday, January 19, 2009


Cover blurb

Come, all ye seekers after treasure beyond your ken and adventure greater than any you can dream!

Come, all ye mighty warriors, seekers after prey worthy of your peerless skills, and stalk the Children of Ubtao. Walk the streets of the city of Mezro, of the Maze of Life. Meet the barae, the holy warriors of Ubtao, those men and women who will live forever sustained by their wisdom and their faith.

Wizards, be prepared for new magical spells and new methods of magic use based on gemstones.

Search the jungles of Chult for the fabled emerald mines, for the Heart of the Jungle, a single gem as large as a man's heart.

Also within these pages are new monsters and new character kits: Mage hunters, specialty priests of Ubtao, and spiritlords.

My thoughts

This is the game supplement for anyone who has ever thought, “The Lord of the Rings would’ve been so much cooler if it had dinosaurs.”

The Jungles of Chult is set in the official Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting Forgotten Realms. The world is inspired – some would say ripped-off – from a dozen different works of fantasy fiction, most notably the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Chances are if you ever played a Dungeons & Dragons computer game, it was set in the Forgotten Realms.

Chult itself is the most forgotten of the Forgotten Realms, usually just filling the role of a distant, little-known land that supplies magical items for the rest of the fantasy world. The Jungles of Chult was an attempt to flesh it out a little, but it’s a weak effort.

Chult, as portrayed in the book, is an African Congo setting with African natives, primitive dwarves, dinosaurs and “pteramen” – half-human, half-pterosaur creatures. The authors don’t bother going into any real detail about the setting, places to explore, or its wildlife, instead spending most of the book detailing a tribe of goblins who live in the jungle and a “lost city” that Chult’s human natives call home. Neither culture is particularly interesting, being made up of clich├ęs. The only imaginative streak comes as a threat to the jungle in the form of a logging operation where all the employees are zombies – a fantasy parallel to the modern-day destruction of the rainforests.

The Jungles of Chult is simply a lazy effort considering the vast amount of real-world history and jungle-adventure fiction the authors could’ve drawn on when writing the book. In recent years, writers of the Dungeons & Dragons line of game supplements have been trying to redefine Chult as a base of operations for the villainous snake-people of the Forgotten Realms setting, the Yuan-ti. It would be nice to see them revisit Chult in a future supplement, but I doubt that will happen.

Trivia

  • A couple stages of the Dungeons & Dragons video game, Demon Stone, are set in Chult, but no dinosaurs or other prehistoric wildlife make appearances.
  • The game supplement Serpent Kingdoms provides a little more history about Chult and the snake-people of the setting.
The Jungles of Chult was published the same year that the first Jurassic Park film was released, which I'm betting wasn't a coincidence.

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