Over the past few years, 0one Games has been regaling us with a series of exceptional city maps, laying out in minute detail The Great City. It's just been crying out for information about who lives there, what's going on and even some adventures to await visiting characters - and here at last is a campaign setting worthy of those map!
Chapter 1: Introduction begins with an overview of the history, telling of the original settlers and their conquerors, who built the city into a thriving port but then departed to engage in civil war elsewhere... Left to itself, the city developed further into a major trade centre, but about 30 years ago they were re-invaded by their previous conquerors who were anxious to regain control, which with much effort and bloodshed they finally accomplished. However, the citizens are still very much divided and there are many tensions on the streets. This naturally leads to the potential for a lot of political intrigue, should that be the direction in which you wish to take your game. As those familiar with the maps will know, the city is made up of several 'Wards' which are quite different in character. Each has an appointed noble 'Blood Senator' in charge, with a number of elected Ward Representatives to present the views of the inhabitants. The chapter ends with a fine overall map of the city.
Next, Chapter 2 delves more deeply into the city's history. While giving considerable detail about the background of both original inhabitants and invaders, it's loose enough with dates and locations for you to be able to meld it into an existing campaign world's history.
We then move into a chapter by chapter analysis of the defining nature of each Ward, beginning with the Army Ward. Each Ward has been developed by a different member of the writing team, ensuring that they are truly different. The Army Ward certainly is! Home to the conquering army, most soldiers remain there - being provided with ample means of recreation (especially taverns and houses of ill-repute) - and indeed need permission to enter the rest of the town when off-duty, although citizens from elsewhere may enter the Army Ward freely. Numerous organisations and groups are described, from military units to the 'stables' of fighters who train for appearances in the Circus Maximus, and less desirable types. Major NPCs and locations are also detailed; and there is plenty of information should you wish to run some of the contests that occur in the arena, whether as spectator sports or with some of your player characters featuring in competition. The chapter rounds off with some ideas for adventures to take place in the Ward.
The Castle Ward comes next, seat of the empire's power. The Castle itself dates back to the early conquest, and has dungeons underneath best not explored... or perhaps a magnet for the average adventurer. Other buildings include government offices and upmarket private homes. It's also where the law courts - used mainly to settle civil disputes - are to be found. Again, the chapter ends with notable NPCs, location descriptions and adventure ideas. Finally, there is mention of the area under the castle - which is the Dungeon Under the Mountain, featured in a whole series of maps and location books in a separate series from 0one Games! This means, of course, that there's a lot more there than most locals know about - they think it's just a level or two of prison cells and storage.
The Dock Ward is next to be explored. As you can imagine for a city whose wealth is based on trade, there is a lot going on here, with organisations and individuals jockeying for position. This is followed by the Residential Ward, which is nearly deserted by day but very lively at night. Then there is a carnival atmosphere, with an undercurrent of resistance to what is still seen by many as an occupation by a foreign power. Again a good place for your characters to find adventure as well as perhaps a home base. Rather grander is the Temple Ward with stately marble temples to just about every deity you can imagine - yet many deities remain homeless, and their priests rely on the hospitality of other temples to find space to pray. Of major importance economically, the Trades Ward is busy both day and night with legitimate trade and rather more shady activities. It's a good place to find (or sell) just about anything, or to find a job - with enough intrigue and deals to keep you occupied for days on end. Each Ward contains many interesting NPCs, locations and ideas for adventure.
Next comes an introductory adventure, The Cost of Freedom. It is aimed at 1st-level characters and provides a good introduction to the political structures, legal systems, strained relationships between all manner of residents and general intrigue that goes on here... and a murder, perhaps, if intrigue sounds too sedate for your players. Not that it is in any way sedate, but this adventure will suck them in and embroil them in all manner of goings-on, with the opportunity to use wits and a strong sword-arm to see them through to the conclusion. Several ways to get the characters involved are included, with copious details for the DM about what appears to be going on, as well as the actual underlying facts of the matter. It's a good and busy adventure to get the characters embedded into the city, even if they do not have any knowledge of it beforehand... so getting round the usual difficulty of players not knowing somewhere that their characters might be familiar with!
The book finishes with a few new monsters, followed by what are the core of any city - a good collection of NPCs (including full stat blocks for those mentioned earlier).
Overall, this product really brings The Great City to life, while providing enough about the layout that it should not pose a problem if you do not have the earlier maps. You'll probably want to get them if you decide to spend much time here - and after reading this, I for one want to do so! Apart from a few niggling mis-spellings that a good proof-read should have caught, presentation is good with clear maps which are an advance visually on those in the previous maps, yet of course fully-compatible with them. Definately recommended to anyone who likes city-based adventures, or whose campaign needs a well-designed city as a base or place to visit.
Return to The Great City Campaign Setting page.
Reviewed: 11 October 2008