What is Primeval Thule?
Primeval Thule is an RPG campaign setting of the Sword & Sorcery genre. Primeval Thule 5e is the adaptation of the said setting to D&D 5e. There are already versions for 13th Age, Pathfinder and D&D 4e.
In game terms, Primeval Thule is an untamed continent in an alternate Earth, where savage people dwell in ruins of forgotten civilizations, battling horrors that might even come from other planes of existence.
How does it feel like?
Imagine Conan-meets-Cthulu. Lots of barbarians, jungles, slavery and horror.
More specifically, the setting is at an age where civilization is somewhere between bronze and iron age. The technological level of medieval Europe that most settings are familiar with is absent. Here, basic metalworking provides items of copper and bronze, complex armor (like plate) do not exist, complex weapons (like hand crossbows) do not exist either. Also, magic (both arcane and divine) is considered rare and dangerous; clerics seldom have the divine favor to be able to cast spells and few are the people that can actually read and learn spells.
So, this is all about brawny barbarians battling monsters?
No, far from it. There are factions that can add substantial depth to your campaign: corrupted officials, mad tyrants, evil cults. Things can be much less straightforward in Thule.
How about the Campaign Setting Guide?
Well, the Primeval Thule 5e Campaign Setting will relieve $19.95 from your wallet for a watermarked PDF.
In 273 pages of high-quality PDF one can find pretty much everything to play and run games in Primeval Thule using D&D 5e rules.
The Guide can actually be broken down in two major parts:
Chapters 1 & 2 can be used as a Player's Guide, with Chapter 1 being a transfer of the Primeval Thule Traveler's Guide and Chapter 2 having all the available PC options. Also, part of Chapter 7 has new spells available, so I guess one can add this to the Player's Guide too.
Chapters 3 to 7 have pretty much everything needed from the GM (or DM, since this is for 5e D&D) in order to prepare and run adventures in this setting. We have a complete and thorough description of Thule, additional information on factions and major NPCs as also maps and detailed description of some sites and dungeons. Furthermore, Quodeth, the City of Thieves is presented in an even more detailed manner, providing ready material for multi-level adventures in this site alone (amongst this material are also three ready-to-run adventures) . But for me, the most interesting part of the book is Chapter 4. Here we have the guidelines of the authors to all the DMs that want to run adventures in Thule. And even more importantly, these guidelines expand from Thule to other Sword & Sorcery settings and Fantasy in general.
Furthermore, in Chapter 6 we have Bestiary, with some Thule-specific monsters, like the Abominable Sloth, the Sabretooth and the Mi-Go as also some notable NPCs and other humanoids.
The overall quality received from the Guide is top notch, except from some of the art that me personally think that could be better. With the PDF of the Guide you also get a High-res map of Thule, that is excellent to print and hang from your wall. Furthermore, you also get Player Reference Cards, that actually serve as a perfect hand-out in order to immerse players to Thule even further.
What's new with Thule? What makes Thule special?
Apart from the aforementioned new monsters, this is a setting that tries to incorporate elements of horror to Sword & Sorcery Fantasy. This in turn can be made with the specific design of locations, factions, NPCs and monsters, but also with encouraging of the use of madness rules, in a way pretty similar to the Out of the Abyss official module of 5e D&D.
In the players options side, there is not much new. Players get a new race, Atlanteans, the descendants of a lost empire, that are basically higher breed humans. From the other races that we know from 5e D&D PHB, we have Dwarves, Elves, Halflings and Humans. The first three each have a specific Thulean subrace and Humans have four distinct ethnic groups (plus a couple of ideas for more). Of course, the designers provide the freedom to DMs to add whichever race they see fit.
The available classes are equally less. There is no new "Thulean" class available and from the ones that we know from 5e D&D PHB, the Paladins are excluded due to thematic clash with this setting. As for the others, it is stated that Bards, Monks and Sorcerers are extremely rare (so you may skip these options unless you HAVE to have them). The others are left pretty much the same, although I would propose some changes to all of them (but more of this later, I hope).
The big change is the introduction of Character Narratives. Character Narratives are a cross-breed of backgrounds as we've known them from 5e D&D and Prestige Classes. They give the character additional proficiences (skills or tools), link to the Setting and in some instances income and followers as the PC progresses in level. Of course, you may not use them with the backgrounds of 5e D&D or you might not use them at all, but they do provide a certain Thulean feel and they are a nice change. A Player may choose a Narrative at the start of the campaign and the designers state that this choice can be altered at a later stage, although I would be very strict about that.
We also have some new weapons, some new types of armor and of course new spells and magic items. The latter are a few, since this is generally a low-magic setting.
Would you run it then?
I surely hope so. I love the low-magic setting, the dark feel and the brutality of the age. I greatly appreciate all the guidelines the designers give in order to run games in Thule and there is a wealth of information and ideas in the Guide.
I believe the greatness of a Setting Guide (and generally of products in our hobby) is measured in how many ideas you spurn when you finish reading it. And I got quite a few so this is why I'd recommend Primeval Thule 5e.
So, if you'd like to run a Sword & Sorcery Fantasy Horror Campaign, Primeval Thule is certainly for you, but it can be much more than that.