Today we look into the AS&SH Refree's Manual From Astonishing Swordsmen box set. The Referee's Manual is actually the flavor book for the game and divides itself into a variety of sections including the Bestiary,Treasure,And The Hyperborea Gazetteer.
The bottom line here is that the referee's guide is the equivalent of a campaign overview,monster manual, and combination campaign book all in one. Basically this is the book that gives the captial 'H' in Hyperborea
If we start to take a look into the Bestiary - We get into not only the deadly fauna and flora of the game but the layout of the monsters as well with more advanced versions of Hyperborea's nastiness. This is a world that's been brought to the edge of extinction and is only now recovering. We get all of the familiar suspects but for Old School gamers there's actually a lack of dragons and certain usual suspects from say the AD&D Monster Manual or the Fiend Folio.
The layout of the monsters also includes all of the details that deal with the special treasures left laying around by the extinct peoples of Hyperborea. We get a sense of the high tech Atlantian and Hyperborean peoples but no real details and that is a good thing because it allows the DM to make the Hyperborea setting their own.
Curiously there are several AS&SH variation on the usual Lovecraftian and alien monsters of Lovecraft, Howard, and Clark Aston Smith but their suited to the setting on purpose. The writers/designers have done this on purpose to really get into the setting material more and create their own distinctive versions of these monsters.
The monster book slides into the treasures and while they are distinctive in an old school sort of way there's enough room for the DM to create their own varieties of these artifacts of yore quite easily and retro fit them into their own version of Hyperborea.
The Hypborea Gazeteer is really for me the heart and soul of this old school retro clone and gives a really well done guided tour of the realm of Hyperborea and beyond. This section of the game ties everything together in such a way that it allows the DM to move two or more elements of Hyperborea into a conscious whole of a complete version of their vision of Hyperborea.
Note that throughout the whole of the referee's manual there are changes to the usual PC classes and these are also reflected in the 'thread of design' that runs through all of the various sections making this a more refined but less ham strung campaign world then say 'Middle Earth' or such other literary examples. All in all Hyperborea's Referee's Manual gives the DM the tools to create their own version of Hyperborea without out the detailed claptrap of getting in their way for adventure design and more.