Kara-Tur Boxed Set: How the Forgotten Realms went all Marco Polo on us

Jeff Easley Jim Holloway TSR

First things first, if any of my readers missed my 'Top 10 RPG Artists of the Past 40 Years' over on Black Gate, please have a look here and tell me what you think!  Now, on to this outstanding boxed set.

Kata-Tur is certainly an interesting concept, let’s add a bit of non-Euro flavor to the world, and one that came into practice several times with the Forgotten Realms setting. The creation of ‘other lands’ beyond Greenwood’s initial setting can certainly do no harm and gives DMs a great ‘aside’ if they so choose. And for Kara-Tur itself, it was also a perfect place for TSR to incorporate the AD&D Oriental Adventures Hardcover which to that point didn’t really have an intrinsically purposed setting.

I well remember buying Kara-Tur in my teens, and although I owned it I never got to play there and finally ended up giving the boxed set to my DM Mark who was always a big China/Japan fan. He tucked the set away and never played it either, and finally years later I began to regret that I’d given it away because the collector side of me wanted to have it next to the standard Forgotten Realms box.

Eventually I went to eBay and picked up a copy again that I could peruse at my leisure, enjoying the artwork inside.

It is funny, because now that I’ve invested so much time in understanding such things, once I delved into the box I realized TSR had done precisely the same thing design work with Spelljammer that it did with Kara-Tur, utilizing Easley for the box cover and then having Jim Holloway do all the b/w interiors. The only difference with this box was that Easley did both color booklet interiors while in Spelljammer those covers were also done by Holloway.

I can also proudly say that the cover for Kara-Tur holds a special place in my heart for another reason, that being that it is the only piece of TSR artwork I own, as well as the only painting of Easley’s in my collection.

Both of the Easley works for this set are truly stupendous and also were created during his ‘golden age’ at TSR, so they should be recognized as such. Holloway also does an admirable job with the interiors, and knowing that Jim is of Japanese descent always seemed to make this setting more ‘home’ for him. He truly does stupendous work in the genre.

Artistic Rating: 4 [out of 5]

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