Monday, December 06, 2010

Guide to Korvosa

Just finished Mike McArtor's Guide to Korvosa, which is one of the earlier setting books from Paizo, way back at the start of their second adventure path, several months before the actual campaign setting book itself, for that matter. As such, it has a bit of a "primitive" feel; the Pathfinder Chronicles series developed some standard forms and templates that didn't yet exist here.

Not that that's a bad thing; in fact, in many respects, I quite like that this is a little bit freer in terms of its structure. Korvosa itself is an odd place in RPGiana for a city source book. It's a very strict, law-abiding place, with even a hint of devil-worship, which isn't too surprising seeing that Korvosa is kind of the lost puppy dog trying very hard to get Cheliax to notice it. That doesn't seem like the ideal place for setting an RPG adventure or two, and in fact, perhaps Paizo themselves thought that too, since the first thing that they do in the adventure path Curse of the Crimson Throne is to change the status quo considerably in Korvosa. It certainly does seem like the trademarked Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy™ that I'm used to.

However, as the book developed, I came to appreciate Korvosa as a place where some interesting adventures could happen, though, and I started to see the potential in the place. It's not my usual urban haunt, the more lawless, picaresque type of place. It's more of a "regular" fantasy city with some problems; some of them overt, some of them more subtle, that need to be resolved in order for the place to live happily ever after. The same thing happened in miniature with the "secrets" chapter; at first, I thought to myself, "how is this secret, and who cares?" but as the chapter started developing, some real whoppers came out, including that several key NPCs are actually monsters impersonating people. Yikes.

Korvosa didn't reach out from the pages of this book and demand to be utilized, like some of the other urban products I've read, but it does the job, and I think there's enough here to justify the cost. I think the slow starter feel of the book works against it; it gradually works its way up to being something interesting, but it isn't right from the get-go. In fact, the early first impressions are that the product and location is somewhat forgettable.

One odd thing about the book was the poster map of the city at the back. Rather than being attached with that kind of glue that they typically used, it's actually (apparently) worked into the binding, despite the fact that it's folded over. This means that I can't actually open it all the way, nor can I take it out without risking the binding. I'm tempted to get a razor blade and cut it out, but I haven't felt brave enough to make that attempt either.

I do have the map from the (free) pdf of the player's guide to the adventure path, but it's not quite the same thing, and it's a real pain that I can't take the map out. Coming up next, although I had initially said I needed to read Jim Butcher's Side Jobs and quickly, I still haven't done it, and I've been caught up in the RPG reading lately. In fact, I've turned to the next unread Paizo product I have, Into the Darklands, which describes the Golarion equivalent of the Underdark (I'm guessing Underdark must be D&D specific IP, since they renamed it. I didn't realize that.)

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