Sunday, April 26, 2015

Commentary on Judge's Guild's Tarantis (1983) For Your Old School Campaigns

Every party needs a home place of safety and comfort, a rich city state to call their own home where they may have to watch their step. Tarantis has been my go to corner of the Wilderlands. This was a product where not every square inch of the map has been coloured in and there's still a chance for fortune in glory for adventurers if their willing to watch their step and take some risks in the blood soaked streets of Bledsawian adventure! 

Grab It Right Over

Tarantis from Judge's Guild stirs up so many memories from the depths of my mind. I came upon this gem way back in the mists of time around 1990 something in a small side corner book shop in Boston. It was laying in the bottom of a box of comic books from the 1980's and there were some newspapers inside.  Tarantis was not well received when it came out by Dragon or many of the folks who were used to the regular output of Judge's Guild products. That being said I loved it. And I've been searching for a copy of it ever since I cracked open the spine of the product. See Tarantis different from most of the JG Wilderlands campaigns. This place be came my piece of the Wilderlands in Boston where I ran it back to back for years. There are a few reasons why Tarantis is a perfect campaign city for adventurers. Its located on the Eastern subcontinent in the Wilderlands; Tarantis is a port city and home to a people reminiscent of the Turks,with bits of Pakistan, and India thrown into the background. Like many of the Wilderland governments Tarantis has a Lawful Evil or Neutral evil back beat for its political structure. The place has to with its location as a marine and trade status as a port city. The place has a strange Mongol feel about it and its a perfect sword and sorcery location because of its lack of the high fantasy feel of the other City State products. One of my all time favorite pieces of setting flavor is d100 rumor table that evokes the rest of the setting. The maps are very well done as always but there's also a sense that this was a product that was looking for a much more DYI flavor then some of the other Judge's Guild products. Sure there are plenty of details about the military forces, the army, the history, etc. and all of the details but this is a city state with blank spots that you as the DM could fill in and make this a customized setting right out of the gate and that's exactly what I did. If your looking for a good solid sword and sorcery or low fantasy setting then Tarantis might be a good fit for you. This was one of the latter pieces of Judge's Guild material and its after JG lost the AD&D licences. This means that its built along a far more generic feel then other products in the line but this also means that it has a far more system neutral appeal. Many have thought it inferior to other products that came out earlier. Maybe its partially nostalgia or perhaps its that I spent many a weekend mapping out encounter after encounter in this sword and sorcery city but I'm very fond of the Tarantis. To make up for the lack of fantasy elements I combined it with the Bloody,bloody, Arduin and given its feel it made a very nice adventurer friendly location for my home campaigns. The PC's had many a deadly time dealing with the locations that were detailed in this product. They also cover the shops and courts of Tarantis, The Tarantine Palace, Bard or Fighter Citadel, Ho Chi's Castle, The Azurerain Pirates and their stronghold. This scanned 1983 product includes the large Tarantis Area map, but does not contain the maps for Judges or Players.

There is a strong sense of location, history, and strength of adventure just waiting around the corner that Tarantis has always been one of my orderly and incredible home bases for my PC's while pirates and the scum of the Wilderland's seas were just around the corner waiting with blood soaked cutlasses for my PC's to screw up and they'd have their heads on a lance or worse as part of a slave auction just down the coast somewhere. Personally I've always felt that Tarantis doesn't get its due at all. And it just might be worth your attention. A place where adventure is just around the corner.


I ran Tarantis as if it was someplace that had jumped out of the imagination of HP Lovecraft and had tumbled out of the Arabian Knights via Ray Harryhausen's Sinbad pictures. This was a city that would have been visited by Sinbad and crew. A place where Conan and his crew of blood thirsty pirates would have fit right at home. And here Elves were an exotic sight sure to stir bewildered glances from the city guard and more then a bit of concern from the rest of the citizens. This was the city state where pillage and plunder from a thousand adventures was unloaded and traded for.
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Every stripe of race and humanity came through the ports of Tarantis in my campaigns and this was my Tarantis. Very few folks had heard of it but every DM seemed to know the Wilderlands. This was also my perfect excuse to expose PC's too all kinds of exotic and interesting peoples from across history and given analogues in the Wilderlands. History is full of various peoples and races from across the world that never get used. With the spicing of various peoples throughout history Tarantis was the perfect Lawful evil ruled melting pot.

All in all Tarantis remains one of my favorite go to places for exotic adventure in the Wilderlands and one of the most unsung places of intrigue and adventure to put into action. If you haven't got it then wait till it goes on sale and grab it. I'm still looking into getting a physical copy of one of my favorite under appreciated sets from Judge's Guild. 

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