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Friday, 2nd March, 2007, 12:47 PM #1
Lama (Lvl 13)
Written by Ari Marmell and C. A. Suleiman
Published by Wizards of the Coast
160 full color pages
Cityscape bills itself an ďAn Essential Guide to Urban Adventuring.Ē Thatís a pretty big claim to make with resources like the Worldís Largest City and Ptlous out. Whatís more, itís already in competition with exotic city books by WoTC like Sharn, and one of the grand daddies of cities, Waterdeep. Not to mention third party books like Bardís Gate, CSIO and others.
Now I know some are going to go, ďBut those are city books, not books about cities.Ē When dealing with a city, the important thing for me is personality and seeing how others do it is a big step in understanding that. Itís so important to know who is in a city, that in 1986 I picked up Runequest Cities. This doesnít count other oldies like the system less City Books by Flying Buffalo or stealing maps and ideas from the old Bardís Game publications Atlantis.
One of the problems with this book is that itís supposed to be an environmental book. It clocks in at 160 pages. This doesnít count the standard ads, only two pages this time, but unlike say Sandstorm, which had no ads, that book was 224 pages and only costs $5.00 more. And itís not like WoTC isnít still producing 224-page books (looks at shelf and Tome of Magic.) so either someone thought that cities were a losing deal or that the 224-page format is for suckers.
The book also suffers in terms of waste. There are bits where it talks about cities, including cities by race. Unfortunately, in most of those cases, instead of just saying, ďSee Races of XĒ, it goes on for a paragraph or three and then states, ďSee Races of X.Ē
The organization of the book also leaves something to be desired. Previous environmental books had some organization in terms of grouping the prestige classes and other options together. While some of that is done here in chapter two, including urban feats, spells, and invocations for warlocks, the prestige classes are scattered and tied into organizations. And since there is no index, thereís no quick way to look for the PrCs.
Cityscape has some nifty bits about it for old timers. Little tools like ďA Trip to the HealerĒ that provides a quick run down of common issues players face, the spell to overcome it, the minimum class/level required to remove it, and the base cost. It also includes sample temples and sample healers and perhaps even a roll on the extenuating circumstances table that may reduce or eliminate the cost of the spell being cast.
One of the things that would fall into the Ďneatí category, are the magical hazards. Things like alchemical rain or arcane pollution that can inflict baleful polymorph onto those caught in it.
Some of the monsters were also interesting. When attacking a city, whatís better than a scorpion like siege golem or how about a zeitgeist, a fey that can take forms drawn from the city and culture surrounding it. Clocking in at a massive CR 23, this critter would be a great end game monster.
For utility, the bookís NPCs are handy. When you need a quick city guard or a unique entity like the Symbol, youíll find some quick drag and drop stat blocks and some stat blocks with associated backgrounds that can be woven into your campaign. Of course this being WoTC, a lot of the stat blocks have minor errors. Thankfully John Cooper has his unofficial errata available here: http://www.enworld.org/reviews.php?d...viewid=3242492
For me, I guess Iím just too Ďold schoolí in that Iíve seen a lot of cities. I also wanted more tools in creating a city than the book provides. The book talks about how to use different wards and different ideas, but doesnít gel for me in terms of going out of the way and crafting brand new ideas and thing that I havenít seen before. It provides stat blocks for guards and for CR 20 villains, but doesnít really talk about how those two realities mesh. It talks about subjects like necrotic miasma, but doesnít reflect how that would cripple a city whose common folk are well under the CR 3+.
If youíre new to the game, and new to Dming, especially outside the dungeon, Cityscape will reward repeated readings and has numerous tools to throw into your campaign. If youíre an old hand who still has copies of Carse and Tulan around, this book probably isnít aimed at you.
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