Thursday, December 31, 2009

Seekers of Secrets

I've made no bones about the fact that I often dislike the overt D&Disms that are rife throughout D&D related products, and D&D gaming in general. One bizarre D&Dism that, if you stop and think about it, makes very little sense whatsoever, is the idea of an "Adventurer's Guild." The idea that professional "dungeon delvers" would join together into a Guild for any reason whatsoever is just as ludicrous as the idea of all those dungeons to be delved in the first place.

So, with those initial personal reservations, I go into the Pathfinder Chronicles book, Seekers of Secrets which details the Pathfinder Society, the biggest, most organized Adventurer's Guild ever concieved (to my knowledge) for any D&D campaign setting.

I can't say that Paizo completely removed all my reservations about the concept; quite often, the stuff this book described felt very artificial and contrived to me; clearly game artifacts rather than something that actually makes some sense to exist in a typical fantasy setting. There couldn't be anything like these Adventurer's Guilds in Hyboria or Newhon, for example. And yet, Paizo did manage to make an Adventurer's Guild that felt sufficiently well detailed and explained that I could at least justify it.

The Pathfinder Society is, in a way, Paizo's eponymous organization in Golarion, their world, the society that's named after the entire gameline itself. And it's sufficiently broad in scope, that it makes some sense. One thing that I've really liked about Golarion is that it manages to bring back to D&D that tone and feel of the old pulp stories. Doc Savage, Tarzan, John Carter, Conan and Kull, and the rest of them... they clearly feature echoes all throughout the setting. The opening up of Osirion to treasure hunters is another hint: this is a world of pulp action of the type that could take place in the early twentieth century of our world. And in that vein, the Pathfinder Society is largely made up of folks who bear a resemblance to Indiana Jones and his rival Rene Belloq, or Rick O'Connell of The Mummy, with more studious types perhaps being more like Rick's love interest, Evelyn "Evy" Carnahan. This is actually a model that works to some extent. And the organization itself is full of plenty of adventure hooks to potentially allow players to pursue. Like Indiana Jones, the implication is that Society members aren't heroes; they resemble the real life prototypes that Indiana Jones might have been based on; the Roy Chapman Andrews and Heinrich Schliemanns of the world, adventuring, exploring, treasure-hunting... and hopefully doing at least a little bit to advance the cause of human knowledge in the world while they're at it. Evil, selfish characters who engage in all kinds of shady dealings make up a large percentage of Society members---as long as they bring stuff in for the Society, catalog new places, and generally contribute to the mission statement of the society; the advancement and dissemination of knowledge.

So, although I thought I wouldn't really have much use for this book based solely on the scope of it (I bought it as much for the cover art as for any other reason), I found that it actually did detail an organization that could potentially be very useful to me, even if I dislike the idea of "adventurer's guilds" on principle.

One thing that I was surprised, and a bit disappointed at in the book, though, was that it spent page after page after page talking about ioun stones. I guess I somehow had not picked up from my prior readings of setting material, that ioun stones were supposed to be strongly associated with the society. To me, ioun stones were these very weird magic items that were very flashy in appearance, and screamed "not really sword & sorcery" to me. I've never been a big fan. So, after I while, I found myself starting to skim just a bit... the ioun stones got way more coverage than they deserved here.

Otherwise, though... it detailed a lot of interesting NPCs the PCs could interact with, some interesting locations, lots of potential plot hooks, and an organization that actually takes a nonsensical idea and attempts to make it make some sense. Not a bad investment at all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Five Fingers: Port of Deceit

Well, I finished re-reading Five Fingers: Port of Deceit. I'm not going to give a full-on review of the product, but in continued the same impression I had of it vs. Freeport; I like the darker vibe of it. I also quite liked the organization of the book itself; the GM only chapter, the narrated player info chapters with incomplete info, and some very handy appendixes.

I should confess: I skipped over the few pages of mechanics. Feats, prestige classes, etc. I also only skimmed the mechanical gray boxes in text.

In any case, for my ongoing Freeport game, I'm going to incorporate a fair bit of Five Fingers flavor; in many cases, specific NPCs, plots and premises. The more I've tossed the two of them about together, the more of I've come to the conclusion that a fusion of them (plus any other fantasy WHoS&C--Wretched Hive of Scum & Villainy--I can manage to work in) is my best bet, rather than worrying too much about the specifics of each individual one.

So, what are some of those other fantasy WHoS&Vs that I'm working in? From literature, I've got Sanctuary of the Thieves World series, Haven of the Hawk & Fisher series (see the What I'm Reading sidebar) and of course the prototype for all of them, Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar. From gaming products, I've got obviously these two, but I'm also brushing up on some Paizo stuff; my Absalom and Katapesh sourcebooks in particular, some of the Riddleport and Korvasa material, and the new Cities of Golarion book, which I just picked up.

I can't at the moment predict what (if anything) I'll take from where, but it's nice to have a full barrel of ideas and concepts, so when I reach into the barrel because I need something, there's always something there for me to find. If nothing else, spending a few weeks steeping myself in WHoS&Viana lately has been kinda fun in its own right.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Freeportiana

I took The Pirate's Guide to Freeport, Buccaneers of Freeport and Cults of Freeport off my "What I'm Reading" list off there to the side. I actually finished reading The Pirate's Guide for the third (?) time cover to cover; the other two I read sections of, but for the time being I'm done. I'm not going to review them, because I've talked about them plenty in the past.

I will say, however, that my needle is tipping slightly away from Freeport again. Slightly. I really like the map, and the set-up, and the basic layout of the setting. This time around, though, I found the general tone to be too campy for my taste.

Even the Lovecraftian horror came across more as an esoteric in-joke or Easter egg rather than something truly horrific.

What I've decided to do with my Freeport for the game I'm in now is to take the geography, many of the names and many of the locations (as needed) but otherwise import a lot of elements from Five Fingers that will bring the darker tone of that pirate city to Freeport. I think Five Fingers suffers a bit from overly complicated geography, and too many ties specific to the Iron Kingdoms campaign setting. At least, those are problematic given how I would want to use the material. So hybridizing Freeport and Five Fingers, getting mostly the geography from Freeport, and mostly the tone from Five Fingers seems like a great idea.

While I'm at it, I think I'll probably re-read my Absalom book from Paizo, and maybe portions of my Katapesh book too. There's no harm in scouring sourcebooks for wretched hives of fantasy scum and villainy for material I can import. But first, I'm re-reading the Five Fingers book, and quite enjoying it. In fact, I'm going to import the gang-stuff wholesale; Mr. Wednesday has been mentioned, but isn't currently around (which is part of the initial mystery the PCs will have to resolve) and Finn never even existed at all. I'm all about Waernuk, Kilbride, Riordan and Hurley from Five Fingers.

I'll probably also import the cult activity from Five Fingers almost wholesale too, although I might switch a few names around. It helps that I've envisioned Freeport's rival, Mazin, as Cryx, so they can jus slot into each other's places easy-peasy.

Game concepts

Sometimes game concepts can come from all kinds of unexpected places.

Watch the trailer below, for the hit movie of this last summer, The Hangover. Now, imagine if you will, taking that same concept... a group of PCs waking up with no memory of where they are or how they got there (but lots of other people sure seem to remember them!), translate that to a seedy fantasy city like Freeport, and imagine what can happen...

Friday, December 11, 2009

New books

I'm adding a lot of stuff to my "what I'm reading" list. That's all hurried research for my pending Freeport game.

I'll report more on my Freeport game soon. I actually started an ENWorld blog specifically to talk about it, but I'm considering moving that discussion here instead, or at least crossposting it.

Monday, December 07, 2009

What is Freeport?

From Patrick O'Duffy, one of the main writers of the book on Freeport:

"What is Freeport? It’s a place of grubby action and desperate adventure, where the supernatural is real but not easily controlled, where crime and greed have more sway than curses and spells, where pirates may be more dangerous than monsters, and where you live on rum and sea biscuits, not waybread and nectar. It’s horror. It’s fantasy. It’s high adventure. It’s low comedy. It’s piracy and black magic and sunken cities and mad alchemists and thievery and evil cults and political corruption and gang warfare and suspicious lumps in your fish pie.

It’s the City of Adventure. No lie."

My local gaming has dried up, at least for the time being. I'm jonesin' for a game. So, I'm going to start another Pbp, with a dependable crew that gives me the types of games I love. And I'm going to set it in Freeport. My own Freeport, but I'm not going to deviate too much from the one written by O'Duffy, Schwalb, Pramas, and the rest of the Green Ronin crew. Because, frankly, those guys are pretty bright. No need to mess with success.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Ready.... Fight! Again!

I suspect that when I diverge from my RPG or fantasy literature related posts, I lose a bit of my audience. After all, just because I happen to like fighting video games and dinosaurs as much as I like Dungeons & Dragons doesn't mean that anyone else shares that particular subset of interests.

Be that as it may, this is my blog, and therefore my forum to ramble on about whatever I feel like rambling on about. You noticed the "most opinionated guy on the Internet" tagline, right?

I promised that after picking my "best of" from the fighting game genre, I'd do a few runners-up and then also a few "not runners-up" and why those games in particular didn't get picked when a lot of other fans of the genre probably would have included them.

Without further ado; here's a list of games that I also like quite a bit, but don't quite make the cut as "best of the best".

King of Fighters XI. This game is notable for several things: 1) very impressive character selection (although some notable and popular characters are missing, and a few others were only added back in on the console version as unlockable "secret" characters, 2) refined and polished gameplay based around the equally impressive King of Fighters 2003 game engine with tag-team fighting, 3) a continuation of what is possibly the most ambitious storyline the KoF franchise has attempted yet, although as normal this is often difficult to see for all the noise around how it comes out.

This one doesn't quite make the cut because I find the tag-team gamestyle a little too hyper for my taste. Much of that can be mitigated by playing in 3 on 3 team mode or single player mode (instead of arcade mode) but it still feels like it could take a Ritalin and be improved by the experience.

Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves. Sadly, none of the recent Fatal Fury compilations for the Playstation 2 included this, the last Fatal Fury game. Luckily for me, I've had a copy for my Dreamcast for years now. This is a beautiful game; well rendered, and with extremely engaging gameplay. It's considered one of the best fighting games ever by many fans of the genre, and I don't disagree with them.

For me, it doesn't quite make the cut because many of the characters aren't quite as engaging as the ones we're already familiar with, or they feel like rehashes of other characters on whom they're loosely based. I don't find the protagonist (Rock Howard; Geese's orphaned son, raised by Terry) very compelling. In fact, the character select in general is what brings it down. Apparently work on a sequal was underway when SNK went bankrupt. It was over 70% done. That might have improved the game significantly; at the very least, one presumes it would have bulked up the very Spartan line-up of selectable characters, which was sorely needed. Still; this one came very close.

Street Fighter 3: Third Strike. The final iteration of Street Fighter III was the best that that subseries got. It's got a fairly back to basics gameplay engine; almost as if the Alpha games never happened and this evolved down its own path from the final Street Fighter 2 game. It added a few more technical things as well; the parrying feature in particular.

What brought this game down was its character selection and its presentation. While the redrawn sprites were fairly attractive compared to the Alpha sprites, and the improved framerate made their movements very fluid, more than half of the characters, quite frankly, I had no interest in seeing. Interesting character design was not something that Capcom had on its mind when this was developed. Word on the street is that they almost didn't even include Ryu or Ken; what a disaster that would have been! They were among the only characters I was interested in trying for some time as it was. Although marginally prettier than the Alpha games, the Alpha games are much more fun to play, for me. I also have a pet peeve about some of the jazzy drum n bass songs in the soundtrack. There's a few good tracks, but at least half of them are almost painful to listen to. Plus, the boss, Gill, was just a dumb idea to begin with.

Darkstalkers 3. This is the final iteration of another series that was concurrent with (and similar to) Street Fighter Alpha, except with movie monster type characters, including a vampire, a frankenstein monster, a werewolf, a zombie, a creature from the Black Lagoon, etc., all seen through a sharply anime-styled lens. It's a pretty fun game, with gameplay not too unlike Street Fighter Alpha in many ways, but it also suffers a bit from too much silliness.

Real Bout Fatal Fury Special, King of Fighters 2002, Street Fighter Alpha 2. These games are very solid games, but just barely are edged out by other games in the same subseries that I picked instead. For example, Real Bout Special is almost as good as Real Bout 2... but not quite. Same thing with the Alpha title. King of Fighters 2002 is a dream match, not unlike King of Fighters '98. It's also a very fine game, but I think '98 manages to edge it out ever so slightly. The "Ultimate Match" version helps with that (although an ultimate match version of 2002 will come out in 2010 for Xbox Live download) but only a bit. Probably nostalgia makes up the rest of the difference.

A major not runner up is Marvel vs. Capcom 2, which I have on the Dreamcast, but which has also recently been re-released for current gen consoles and which was also released long ago for the old Xbox and PS2 for that matter. I found this game to be way too hyper and way too silly for my taste. Many of the characters are just plain bizarre. The ridiculous lounge lizard music is insult to injury. I also dislike that there is no option for single player, which I greatly prefer to lengthy team player games.

It's too bad; the Marvel characters are fun, and I really enjoyed the older Marvel Superheroes game. I wish they would take all the Marvel characters out of this game and put them in their own Marvel Superheroes 2. I'd have played that in a heartbeat, and it would possibly even have made my top games list. Ah, well. Wishful thinking.

I also did not include any of the Street Fighter 2 titles. While many of them are indeed still pretty fun to play, and they deserve a lot of credit for almost single-handedly creating the genre in the first place, to me they feel like they haven't aged well. The presentation is lacking in those games, and the options for play are limited. Possibly it's just worn out its welcome due to over-exposure. I have no idea how many hours and hours and hours I've put into SF2 games... but I'm mostly done with them now. I play them on occasion, but I feel like it's just nostalgia when I do. For engaging gameplay, I prefer newer games with more going on.

Fatal Fury Special is another game I considered adding to the runners-up list, but it's got the same issues as Street Fighter 2, and in addition is saddled with slightly less iconic characters overall, and much more fiddly controls. I can't in any honesty include it unless I include the best of SF2 first, and I've decided not to do that. So this one misses out too.

Blue Mary Blues

A sadly under-rated game from the Japanese 2-D fighting game genre is Real Bout Fatal Fury Special. One character from that game, Blue Mary, has a tragic backstory in which she's a police officer on the trail of the killer of her partner and boyfriend?/fiance? from before the games started. That story isn't well reflected in her mannerisms, though, except in this "music video" that SNK obviously spent a lot of time on, and included in the Neo*Geo CD version of the game. This is her in-game theme music, expanded and now with lyrics (sung in Japanese, of course). This really highlights the pathos of her character, in my opinion, much more than anything in game could ever have done.

It's still a little cheesy; very anime in feel, and heck, the hardware that supported this video was debuted in the late 80s fer cryin' out loud, but given those limitations, it's surprisingly well done.


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Ready.... Fight!

I'm going through another "Street Fighter" phase. I use Street Fighter loosely; I really mean the entire genre of Japanese, anime-inspired, super-hero, cartoon-like two-dimensional fighting games. I'm not really a fan of anything anime (despite having tried plenty) but for some reason, this little niche subgenre appeals to me. Capcom's Street Fighter is probably the best known representative series of video games that I consider topical here, but there are others, including Street Fighter's rivals King of Fighters and Fatal Fury by SNK.

Here's what I consider the best the genre has to offer... minus the newest offerings, because I don't have either an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3, so I can't play the very newest games. I had actually thought that it wouldn't matter because the entire genre was peetering out, but some new life has shown up in the form of hi-def Street Fighter IV and King of Fighters XII. I'll get around to those. Eventually. When I get a system from the current generation. Anyway, yeah. Best in the genre. The ones you really want to make sure and sample. There's a lot of other good games out there, but I'm going on the assumption that most people who are interested in this genre aren't going to be obsessive collectors, and are instead curious about what I think the best ones are. Because my opinion matters so much to everyone out there, right? Right? Ahem... Anyway, as it turns out, my picks seem to cover about one per major series, which works out really well, although the fact that it does so is actually coincidental.

Street Fighter Alpha 3. As far as I'm concerned this is the epitome of Street Fighter design. It had all the characters from every version of Street Fighter 2, a lot of characters from Street Fighter 1, a lot of characters from the Final Fight side-scrolling beat-em-up (firmly establishing that the two series take place in the same continuity, among other things) and had the best gameplay, most options, and yet still pretty intuitive and easy to pick up play. The graphics weren't literally the best technically (Street Fighter 3 had a higher frame rate, and some of the sprites were kinda clunky looking compared to those that were on other Capcom fighters from more or less the same vintage) but they were still quite nice and pleasing aesthetically. This game, quite frankly, has it all. It even has one of my favorite BGM soundtracks from the genre.

There's a few nitpicky complaints I could make about it; there are too many characters that are too similar, for instance. Ryu, Evil Ryu, Ken, Akuma and Shin Akuma are all at best slight variations on the same theme. For that matter they were variations on the same sprite. You could maybe add Dan to that list too. Maybe. But there was enough selection otherwise that that didn't matter too much. The announcer could use a Ritalin. And although he was clearly a native English speaker, whoever wrote the script for him wasn't; there's a few things he shouts out that are clearly mistranslated. "What a terrible fighter!" either means terrific or terrifying, for instance, but not terrible. That's an understandable mistake, I suppose. In regular play, some of the characters almost never come up as antagonists, while others almost always do. I wish the opponent select was a bit more truly random. But all in all, this game delivers for both single player and competitive play.

How best to get it: Probably the easiest way to get a hold of this game today is through the Playstation 2 collection Street Fighter Alpha Anthology. Not only do you get this game, but you also get the rest of the Alpha titles as well as the Puzzle Fighter game, which is good for a laugh.

Capcom vs. SNK 2. This gem of a game also has it all. Not only does it have most of the Street Fighter characters, but it's also got tons of your favorite Fatal Fury and King of Fighters characters thrown in to boot, drawn by the Capcom artists in a more or less Street Fighter style. The sheer size of the character roster is a big draw, the gameplay is phenomenal, and the most exciting part of the whole affair, of course, is putting the rival Capcom and SNK characters together in the same game so they can fight against each other. There's a lot of gameplay options; you can set it up as a single player type game, a la Street Fighter or Fatal Fury, or you can create teams that fight against other teams, not too unlike King of Fighters (in fact, there's specifically a 3 on 3 option that is almost exactly like classic King of Fighters play.) You can change other settings that make the game play like various other games in terms of super meters and other ancillary features like rolls, dodges, etc. In practice, I find that this is less of a draw than it sounds, because I found which system I like best and tend to stick with it, but at least I have enough choices to get the system I like.

I have a few nitpicks from this game too. There's a few characters that just don't fit, but they were thrown in there anyway. In some cases, this is because they come from games that are too dissimilar (like Samurai Shodown or Last Blade) and in other cases its because the sprites are so antiquated and clunky looking that they just look terrible (Morrigan, I'm lookin' at you.) The music and backgrounds are pretty forgettable, making the presentation of the game as a whole feel subpar. Luckily, it makes up for that with great gameplay.

How best to get it. This game was released for the original Xbox, the Playstation 2 and even the Nintendo Gamecube. I have it for the Xbox, and most folks will tell you that that release along with the Gamecube are the best ones. I don't think that there's sufficient differences to go out of your way to buy a new system, though, if you've already got a PS2. You can do most of what you need to in this genre with a PS2 these days.

Real Bout Fatal Fury 2. Arguably, this is where the Fatal Fury series made it's best showing. Some folks would instead claim Mark of the Wolves and while I'll certainly admit that that's a good game, this one is much more iconic. All of the Fatal Fury characters (to date) appear in this game. It's got the best graphics of the series, and the best sprites, and the best movelist. The two-plane fighting system feels much less gimmicky in this game; in some Fatal Fury games you spend so much time jumping from plane to plane that you don't actually bother with any regular attacks it feels like. Here the 2-plane system is handy and fun, but it doesn't overpower other options tactically. I find this game the most fun to play of all the Fatal Fury games, and like the characters' presentation best of all the Fatal Fury games.

Of course, it comes with a few nitpicks too. The button layout is different for a lot of the Fatal Fury games than it is for the other series, whereas with the other series, they feel more familiar. This is a very minor nitpick, but it serves to cause the game to stand out a bit, and not necessarily in a good way. There are some minor presentation issues; the game doesn't really have any endings to speak of except for a handful of images for each character. Some people will hotly argue that Real Bout 2 is a "canon" game, whereas the Wikipedia entry said for a long time that it was a "dream match." I don't think it really matters, since nothing of import happens anyway. The game also reuses a lot of its backgrounds instead of giving every character a unique one, which is a bit of a pet peeve of mine.

How best to get it. The easiest way to get a hold of this game today is to get the Playstation 2 collection Fatal Fury Battle Archive 2 which comes with all three Real Bout titles. Despite the 2 in the title of this one, it's really the third and final in the subseries, and the best of the Fatal Fury greater series overall.

King of Fighters '98. This is a perennial fan favorite. King of Fighters was a great idea; combining characters from a whole bunch of different video games that SNK made (including, obviously, fighters like Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury, but also including others as well.) By the time '98 came out, it had been chugging along for five years, and '98 was technically the 5th entry. It was also meant to be a "greatest hits" within the already greatest hits framework of King of Fighters; it had the most refined gameplay and largest character roster of any of the games to date, and purposefully brought back a lot of fan favorites that had otherwise quietly never made another appearance. And frankly, five years of polishing had made the series excellent by this point. The characters are a joy to play and experiment with, and there's a lot of them to play around with. The gameplay is spot on; one of the best and most responsive in the entire genre, and very varied and tight. With only a few exceptions, the characters are very well balanced as well. This game is in many respects, a great answer to Capcom's Street Fighter Alpha 3; a game about which I said it has it all. This one definately does as well.

A few minor nitpicks, as I did with the others so far. Presentation-wise, this game could use a bit more polish. In fact, in the most recent release, it finally got it, but for years I played the Dreamcast version, and the menus and a few other items were surprisingly ugly and clunky looking. Other than that... well, I guess there were a few notable misses in the roster; folks who didn't show up despite having appeared in King of Fighters games before and being reasonably popular characters. That's since been addressed too. So... really, not much here on the nitpicks side at all, is there? Hmmm... I might have to bump this up to most polished game in the entire genre. It deserves it, if I do make that move. It's arguably SNK's best fighter.

How best to get it. Lately, it's been relatively easy to get this for the PS2. The Orochi Saga collection has it, in its original arcade version. The best option, though, is the PS2 King of Fighters '98: Ultimate Match version, which went ahead and added all the missing characters into the roster, made some very slight tweaks to gameplay and balance, added a few new stages and gameplay elements, and which also includes the original arcade mode as well.

Next up! The runners up, and the notable not-runners up. By which I mean games that I didn't pick that you may have expected that I should and why.

Winner Takes All

I finished the second Hawk & Fisher novel (included in the omnibus edition I'm reading). Winner Takes All. This one isn't a mystery; it's more of a thriller. In a vague way, I was reminded of Frederick Forsyth's book about the Jackal, in that the point of view bounced around from one side of the conflict to the other so you could see what was going on at each end.

The premise of this one is that a controversial political figure needs protecting in the lead-up to an election, and Hawk and Fisher are assigned bodyguard duty (again.) This leads to a more straightforward plot than the mystery-influenced earlier book, but it's still an interesting one. There are some intriguing supporting characters, including a confirmed psychopathic mercenary woman with a fetish for setting things on fire, the two political candidates themselves, and their respective sorcerous assistants. One of whom starts the story dead, yet still active.

Without spoiling the plot, I can say that the action is very interesting; I really enjoyed the plot development. The characters were intriguing, yet not deep. They only go so far, which is fine because the book isn't really that long anyway (less than 200 pages in this trade paperback printing. If I hadn't been away and busy for the holidays, I would have read it very quickly.) The setting is explored a little bit, and the raw city of Haven proves itself again to be a character of its own nearly as interesting as the actual characters. Simon Green does manage to avoid the travelog approach though; setting elements come up when their relevent to the plot, and not otherwise. Much of the setting appears to be handwaved away; there's the Low Kingdoms, the Forest Kingdoms, the Northern Kingdoms, etc. And of course, Haven itself, which is in many ways a remarkably modern city. Or perhaps an exaggerated stereotype, in many ways. Haven is, however, a great model for what an urban roleplaying game setting could be like; there's tons of opportunity for adventure right within the city-walls, or as this novel shows, within even a single neighborhood of the city.

Because I came at Simon Green through RPGs (usually I'm the other way around; my interest in Dungeons & Dragons when I was younger was sparked by my interest in fantasy literature) I find that an interesting take. drnuncheon's Freeport story hour (which I've mentioned here before) was set in Freeport and featured two player characters, a man and a woman, both of whom were members of the Freeport Watch. The idea was, drnuncheon himself admitted, borrowed from the Hawk & Fisher books, and the broad similarities in tone and theme between Haven and Freeport made porting the idea all the easier. So, once again, I'm recomending this novel and the series in general as a great model for someone who would like to run an urban D&D campaign but isn't exactly sure how to go about it.