Friday, January 29, 2010

Cities of Golarion

I went ahead and created another blog, SFKOFFF, which is a very clunky acronym, but it refers to my love of games like Street Fighter, King of Fighters and Fatal Fury, and the rest of their ilk. I've actually been rather active over there this week, posting up a storm of new posts so I can have enough critical mass to actually call that blog something. Next up on my agenda, although it's proving much more difficult than I'd hoped: a much better name for the blog. Anyway...

I also came across a topic that is undeniably on topic for this blog, and by coming across a topic, I mean that I finished reading a game book that needs a quick capsule review, as is my fashion. The book in question is the Pathfinder Chronicles volume Cities of Golarion.

This is an interesting style for a book; after a behind the screen type short introduction and discussion of, among other things, the evolution of the art used in the book (for what it's worth, I like the unused drafts better than what did get used... but that's neither here nor there), it launches into a summary of about half a dozen cities scattered throughout Golarion. As the name implies. Each city comprises a separate small chapter, and each has a separate author. You can tell, too; although obviously all of them followed a formatting template, the writing style was significantly different from chapter to chapter as well. This made the book kinda interesting, though; almost as if it were six much smaller folios all put together in one volume. This is appropriate, because the cities are widely separated by geography, culture, feel, and presumably role in your putative campaign.

Two of the cities are nominally "good guy" cities, and could concievably make a good "homebase" for a typical, standard D&D game (or Pathfinder game; same difference) where adventurers go out into the wilderness to find trouble, but otherwise like a safehouse to return to. Vigil, which is a military stronghold for crusading good guys, and Cassomir, which is an outpost of the fading Taldoran civilization both qualify as that kind of city, and both have lots of trouble to deal with within easy striking distance, which is no doubt part of the design purpose behind them.

The other four cities presented are all a bit more sinister or dangerous in some form or another. Corentyn is an important hub of trade and the navy of Cheliax, and as such reflects that devil-worshipping culture that maintains it. Despite that, in many ways it's the most familiar and tame of the "dangerous" cities. Ilizmagorti is made up of nothing but pirates and a secret fellowship of assassins stuck on a tropical island that feels like a naturally occuring Jurassic Park. Whitethrone is the domain of the strange and alien human descendents of Baba Yaga, and is largely populated by monsters, both human and otherwise, where one wrong word can get you killed in a flash. Nisroch was the one that actually honestly gave me a bit of the heebie-jeebies to read about, in the sidebar that detailed torture techniques, for instance, or just the callous cruelty of the culture overall. The little detail of parents sewing the mouths of their kids shut if they talked too much certainly stuck with me. And that city claims to be soft because of it's association with foreign traders! This certainly made Nidal come alive for me in a way that the campaign setting book didn't.

The book is a little light on art, but it has a very nice map of each of the six cities discussed, which take up a lot of the same space art would. To keep their wordcount acceptible, the art probably had to be sacrificed a bit. I really enjoyed the maps. The text on each city was a nice little capsule, but for most of them, I wish I could have had more. A complete Pathfinder Companion volume on some of those cities would be most welcome.

I suppose I should trawl through the adventures for more details, too. I'm not sure if that's part of the brilliance, or a big problem with the Golarion themed material: it's widely scattered, and there's a ton of it out there. Getting your hands on all of it, and having it handy when you need it, is getting more and more difficult each month, with each new release. I certainly don't envy whomevers job it is to maintain continuity and consistency through all the products. That'll probably only become more difficult still when the fiction line comes out sometime soon. Soonish, anyway.

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