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Wednesday, 3rd November, 2010, 06:42 PM #1
Defender (Lvl 8)
Review of Vor Rukoth by Wizards of the Coast
Late last July, just as the anticipation of the impending GenCon 2010 was reaching its peak, Wizards of the Coast released an adventure site called Vor Rukoth. But with the release of the Tomb of Horrors and the Dark Sun Campaign Setting grabbing all the excerpt archive headlines, Vor Rukoth was lost in obscurity, not unlike the ancient city it details.
Recently, I happened to unearth my copy of Vor Rukoth from a “bargain bin” at a local gaming store. Although a fairly new product, the copy I found had been slightly damaged and bent in some sort of gaming-store “mishap”, but was still, nevertheless, quite serviceable. And as with the ancient city of Vor Rukoth described on its pages, a little wear and tear did nothing to diminish this gaming supplement’s potential for adventure.
Vor Rukoth: An Ancient City Adventure Site
- Author: Greg Bilsland
- Illustrators: Matt Stawicki (cover), Warren Mahy (interior), Jason A. Engle (cartographer)
- Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
- Year: 2010
- Media: Paperbound (32 pages)
- Retail Cost: $14.95 ($10.17 from Amazon)
Vor Rukoth is an adventure site detailing an ancient ruined city of the lost tiefling empire of Bael Turath. Destroyed during the Arokhosian War against the dragonborn, this sprawling ruin holds both mystery and the promise of great power out to heroes willing to brave its many dangers. This D&D 4E gaming supplement contains complete details about the lost city of Vor Rukoth, as well as detailed maps of potential adventure sites, allowing Dungeon Masters to create adventures and quests for Characters of Level 1 to Level 15. Although set within the D&D Core Setting, this crumbling ruin of a city could be placed in almost any campaign setting of the DMs choosing.
The production quality of Vor Rukoth is excellent, with some sharp and creative writing from Greg Bilsland, who creates a vivid and dynamic backdrop in which to set numerous quests within the adventure site. The information about the lost city is presented in a logical fashion, with numerous added features like new monsters, magic items, hazards, and skill challenges. The new monsters are presented in the new MM3 format, and are sprinkled throughout the book, adding details to the various geographical notes on locations throughout Vor Rukoth.
The artwork in Vor Rukoth is fresh and pleasantly drawn, and it appears that there were several new illustrations commissioned specifically to enhance this gaming supplement. The map of the city was beautifully rendered, and show some great details and design-work on this ancient city ruins. As an added feature, there are “blown-up” sections of the main city map placed strategically throughout the booklet, to provide Dungeon Masters a close up view without having to search the whole city map.
Vor Rukoth is organized into six major sections, each with multiple sub-headings providing important information about the adventure site:
- Introduction – provides historical information about Vor Rukoth, and three important meta-game features about the adventure site.
- Exploring Vor Rukoth – details local history, particularly Coyote’s Refuge, a base of operations for exploring the ruins.
- Factions – discusses seven major factions at work in and around the ruined city.
- Events – offers dynamic events that can be used over time to change the ruins and offer more adventure.
- Locations – describes in detail nearly forty unique locations with the ancient city.
- Najala’s Gate – a special section describing a major feature location, and Paragon Level plot-point, beneath the lost city.
Introduction & Exploring Vor Rukoth
This opening section of Vor Rukoth sets the stage for Dungeon Masters and Players alike, providing background information about the long-lost history of the city, as well as the local, more contemporary history surrounding a place called Coyote’s Refuge. The Refuge is little more than a tent-town, but serves adventurers as a home base from which to make contact with potential quest givers, as well as a re-supply point, and a place to retreat to in times of trouble.
As befitting an ancient tiefling city, the author plays heavily on intrigue and diabolical influences throughout the area, both in the long-forgotten history of the city, and amongst its more recent local inhabitants. I really liked how Coyote’s Refuge was populated with nefarious characters, all with dark secrets and mysteries, and heroes could easily find themselves entangled with plots occurring just within this small section of the ruins.
As previously mentioned, there are seven factions within Vor Rukoth, along with a score of NPCs which are the major power-brokers within this adventure site. Ranging from a band of tieflings trying to resurrect the lost glory of their fallen empire (Scions of the Horned Empire) to a heavy-handed trade delegation seeking riches (White Lantern Consortium), the author provides detailed information about the workings of each particular faction and biographies of the its most notable members.
The author provides no stat blocks for these NPCs, allowing Dungeon Masters to decide for themselves how powerful these personages are - in the event the Player-Characters ever go toe-to-toe with them! Each faction listing also includes page numbers of major adventure hooks and related quests from further in the book (Location Section), giving a quick way to reference, geographically, what sorts of activities a particular group might be involved in.
The author provides this section as a way to recommend overall plot details to make the adventure site a “living” and dynamic locale. These include things like earthquakes, floods, and even cosmic events which would change the environs around the ruins, shaking up the status quo of the factions to create new adventures and quests.
There are details about forty-or-so locations of interest around the adventure site, the author took great effort to create a vivid scene for each locale. Each location entry contains a description about the terrain features to create atmosphere, and a bit about the history behind what formed that part of the ruined city. In each depiction, the author includes details about what kinds of monsters are currently inhabiting the area, and what sorts of forces are at work in the surroundings. The author ends each entry with one or more adventure hooks, from which a DM can create a level-appropriate quest for their adventurers. Of course some areas do contain monsters and quest which might be beyond the heroes’ current level, so some care is needed to use the hooks carefully when preparing an encounter series.
I have to say that I found this section of the booklet to be really compelling. The author provides a just the bare bones of an adventure - the background details, adventure hooks, location note, and personalities - but without designing specific encounters. For many DMs who enjoy creating their own encounters, there is a real appeal to this format, allowing them to take a base story and expand upon it as they see fit, and then to tailor the sorts of encounters which make sense for their heroes to face. However for DMs looking to run a complete adventure, this format might be troublesome, as it does require some effort to plan and prepare a full adventure or quest.
And although there are no specific encounters, the author does include several new monsters in the adventure site’s location entries, to serve somewhat like guideposts by suggesting the general encounter level of a particular location. Of course, it is entirely possible for adventurers to go into areas of the city which are actually much more powerful than their current level, and DMs would need to provide clues and warnings to suggest they stay out of a particularly nasty area. Personally, this “sand-box” approach to the design is actually one of the elements I really like, and will have an appeal to many who enjoy a more free-form adventure setting. And as a DM, I would certainly have no compunction about scaring the daylights out of my Player-Characters from time-to-time, dropping an encounter on them that might well be deadly unless they immediately flee to a less dangerous district of a city!
If ever there were any Wizards of the Coast products that could be termed “sleepers”, in the movie-box-office sense of the word, then Vor Rukoth certainly qualifies to head that list. Unfairly brushed aside by the hype of other, more anticipated products being released before GenCon 2010, this gaming supplement is a rare dark jewel which deserves to be treasured and marveled at by 4E gamers of all types. As an adventure site, Vor Rukoth can be used again and again by Dungeon Masters to create adventures which range from simple delves to more complex intrigues. And although some DMs might find the work involved with bringing the quests detailed in Vor Rukoth “to life”, those that do put forth the effort will undoubtedly reward themselves and their players with some exceptional adventure stories in their campaigns. When presented with a supplement which is this well-conceived, this cunningly written, and so modestly priced, never should a Dungeon Master refuse to add a book like Vor Rukoth to their bookshelves.
So until next review… I wish you Happy Gaming!
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Thursday, 4th November, 2010, 12:21 AM #2
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Whilst I can agree Vor Rukoth is a good product having bought it myself (I rarely buy any gaming source these days), I can also add that it extemely similar to FASA's Parlainth setting for their Earthdawn game. I don't necessarily mean this as a criticism - Parlainth is one of my all time favourite settings. Indeed, in some respects Vor Rukoth is a more DM friendly source with some good ideas as to how to use the product, adventure seeds etc. Nevertheless, I can't help but feel that this another example of how Earthdawn was far ahead of its time and 4e has used some of its core mechanics and now settings.
Thursday, 4th November, 2010, 02:17 AM #3
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
it reminded me a bit of the Spellguard adventure...
- place outside with NPCs where adventurers can go and rest
- ruin area to explore
- mystery abounds
you could easily plant spellguard in Vor Rukoth if you wanted to
I have mixed feelings about this line of products. They feel more like they belong on the website to be honest.
This feels like it needed to be a box set.
- You get this pamphlet
- an adventure or something like the delve book/short encounters at different levels
- cool handouts
- full color map
- couple battlemaps
Sunday, 7th November, 2010, 09:07 PM #4
Scout (Lvl 6)
Makes a great Ashtakala!
When the PC's in my Eberron game reach paragon, they'll be journeying to the Demon Wastes. This supplement will save me a ton of work in developing the fiend-haunted capitol of that awful place. Thanks for the review- I might not have paid any attention to this product otherwise.
Last edited by Zephrin the Lost; Sunday, 7th November, 2010 at 09:11 PM. Reason: spelli
Wednesday, 10th November, 2010, 10:11 PM #5
Novice (Lvl 1)
I've had this module on my amazon wishlist for some time. Glad to see it is worth picking up.
DM'ing soon: D&D 4 Seekers of the Ashen Crown
Thursday, 11th November, 2010, 01:56 PM #6
Acolyte (Lvl 2)