As is typical for Hârn, here is a wonderfully-detailed area, with enough background to keep an historian happy and plenty going on to make it worth a visit from your characters. Starting with the history of the settlement from earliest times, its importance as port and trading gateway over a good four thousand years is discussed, along with other roles such as sometime royal seat and a meeting point between humans and dwarves.
While the history serves to make the place sound real - read any local guidebook! - it also from the outset spawns ideas... a long-lost jewelled sword, whose historical signicance far outweighs its considerable intrinsic value, the current state of political affairs with various powerful clans bickering and jockeying for position... it is made easy for you to root events and adventures in the very location where you intend for them to take place.
The maps are good, including a players' map of the castle and surrounding settlement and a topographical map showing where Gardiren sits in relation to other towns and features of the area. It's clear from this the significance of the bridge beside the castle, the Medrik Bridge. No wonder much of the local Earl's income is from tolls! There's also a GM's map, the same as the players' one but with various building and other items of note marked, followed by a detailed run-down of what is where, including notable personalities and little snippets that add to the realism if not spawn side adventures of their own. The castle itself is also mapped and described in detail.
Next, the main personalities in the castle are introduced in detail. Whilst an arch-intriguer, the Earl is also passionate about the pleasures of the table: any lover of fine mediaeval fare will feel at home here. (The description of one feast is making me hungry as I write!) There are also notes on main commercial activities, festivals and other notable events. There are no real adventure seeds, let alone adventures, but there is so much going on that you will be very quickly able to weave local events around your characters' activities to devise your own.
It's a beautifully-described settlement that really comes to life, I can well imagine that it's out there somewhere just waiting for me to visit.
Return to Gardiren Castle page.
Reviewed: 29 August 2009