World's Largest City

 

 

Before you drop $100 for a book (or maybe less if you find it used), you’d best know what you’re getting yourself into. Beyond the book, a weighty 700+ page tome, there are sixteen poster maps included (17in. x 22in.). Each of the maps details one of the sixteen districts in the city.

The book itself is divided into 16 sections (averaging approximately 35 pages each) which accounts for about 85% of the book’s contents. The remaining 15% comprises the introduction (19 pages), and an NPC appendix (80 pages). The NPC appendix does not provide information on any named NPCs described in the book. Instead, it provides a ‘general stat block’ for each of the PC classes and NPC classes from level 1 through 20. Taking a general stat block, one modifies it on the fly to adjust to a race other than human, perhaps with other general modifications. Within the text are suggestions for level/class combinations for the significant people. While this may be a useful reference for some DMs, those with access to an NPC generator will likely see little reason to use the NPC information in this book.


The book lacks an index. An 11x17 map of the city serves as the title page, with the range of page numbers listed for each district. Unfortunately, this is a book that’s going to invite comparisons to Ptolus: City by the Spire by Monte Cook, and most of those comparisons are not going to be favorable. This city, like Ptolus, is situated around a spire – a geographical feature that, for some reason, serves as the focal point for all religions in the area. The city was founded when dwarves, humans, and elves all fought a battle for control of this important sacred site, but after fighting a while they got tired, divided the land up into three zones and lived happily ever after. Well, almost. Eventually a bunch of humanoids that also revered the holy spire attacked the fledgling city. They too got tired, and since the siege lasted so long, the humanoids were invited to stay, too (grudgingly, of course). Long story short, the dwarves have a district in the Northwest corner, the elves have a district in the Southeast corner, the humanoids have a district, and the other thirteen districts belong to the humans, but they pretty much let anyone hang with them (gnomes, halflings, vampires, etc), so it’s cool.

Each of the district chapters provides information on approximately 30 locations. In practical terms, this means approximately 500 locations are ‘detailed’ throughout the book. Each area describes the physical appearance from the outside, a brief description of recent history for the DM, activities PCs can do there, a list of names of important NPCs (residents) with suggested class/level combinations and a list of adventure hooks that can be used for that location. Unfortunately, most of the hooks are EXTREMELY general and provide little for a DM to build on. For example, area A3 (the stables) provides this hook: ‘a teamster, a merchant, and two bodyguards disappeared with a load of jewelry; the owner of the stables hires the PCs to uncover their fates and rescue them, if possible.’ For myself, I’d prefer a meatier hook that explained who took them and for what reason, then let me fill in the rest of the details.

In addition, a DM that’s looking for this as a tool to truly detail the city will be disappointed. While area maps are provided that show where buildings are in relation to each other, no maps are provided for building interiors. That means there are nearly 500 locations that the book can give you information for the PCs to visit ‘on the fly’, but if they go to any one of them, you may have to map it out 'on the fly' as well.

After describing the ‘significant’ locations in each district, each chapter concludes with one or more possible quests involving the locations and personalities presented earlier in the chapter. Quests include a description of all sides of any conflict, including motivations and brief description of possible obstacles to completing the quest. Most quests assume that the PCs may be on either side. While certainly a more robust description than the ‘hooks,’ it falls far short of an adventure outline. Finally, each chapter includes a table for random encounters that may take place within the district. Again, this is less than exciting. While I understand that the dwarves are law abiding folks, the possible random encounters in the Dwarven district include: dwarven militia patrol, pickpocket, messenger, human or other non-dwarf shopper, human or other non-dwarf trader, dwarven noble and entourage, dwarven underground smugglers, off-duty militiaman, dwarven trader/craftsmen, dwarven merchant and dwarf family with children. *Yawn*

There are many instances where I’ve felt a book purchase was redeemed by the outstanding collection of art contained within its pages. This is not one of those books. The art is a hodge-podge of various styles, all black and white. While some sketches are quite good, others are very simple and seem oddly placed. For example, on page 649 (NPC appendix describing commoners) there’s a rather disturbing image of someone transforming into a mohrg. This is certainly not the result of a class ability that commoners possess. Perhaps it is a depiction of the fate commoners may enjoy within the confines of the city? Either way, it seemed wildly misplaced.


One other element that will surely cause notice are treasure descriptions. Locations with large treasure stashes have the number of coins to be gained listed in some detail. Some also list the traps and defenses. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide, but I’d still be cautious about following the suggestions. In one location 34,000gp is defended by a DC 28 lock and a dart trap that fires a paralytic poison. I wonder what my 3rd level players would do with 34,000 to divvy up…

 

So, should you purchase this book for your collection? Not if you’d like to spend your money on a useful gaming supplement. If, however, you’re interested in filling up your shelves with gaming materials and boasting to all your friends ‘I have that’, then this is the book for you. Or if you don’t want to build a city from scratch, but you don’t mind filling in all the details – this actually might be a great place to start. However, for my money, you’re better off with Ptolus if you can find it – it’s fewer pages, but it includes full color, a richer description of the city and the locations, bookmark ribbons built into the spine, a CD-ROM loaded with bonus features AND an index.

World's Largest City

World's Largest City

Author: Various

Publisher: AEG

Publish Date: 12/2006

ISBN: 1-59472-039-0

Pages: 704

Rating: 2 out of 10