Book Review: Cityscape

Cityscape:  An Essential Guide To Urban Adventuring, by Aril Marmell and C.A. Suleiman

In general, at least in terms of its concept, I found this book pretty compelling.  Like many people, I have spent a great deal of my life in and near cities, and can personally attest to the sort of adventures that one can very easily find in urban places that would be well-suited to role-playing adventures [1].  If a mild-mannered soul like myself can find it easy to encounter quests in the city that can be used to gain experience, then surely it can be done by brave adventurers who are a part of various parties.  To be sure, the assumption is that most players will end up doing a lot of exploring of barren wastes, but the cities and their higher density also can provide some compelling adventures for fun and profit and this book was deeply interesting in allowing such adventures to be conceived and such parties to be created that fully exploited the urban environment that many fantasy worlds can provide.  The absence of space in the city also makes certain strategies, especially for magic users, less attractive, and that is definitely for the best in forcing people to think and adapt their strategies.

This book is a bit more than 150 pages.  It begins with an adventure that provides the sort of experience that one can have in urban adventuring.  After that comes an introduction as well as five chapters.  The first chapter discusses the scope of the city (1), including alignment, cities by type, culture, unusual locations, features and hazards, as well as a wide variety of city districts with their populations and qualities.  Next come a discussion of the urban adventurer (2), including races, contacts, social class, urban feats, spells, and invocations.  After that there is a chapter that discusses politics and power in cities, including various political systems ranging from autocratic to tribal (3), houses and patronage, guilds, organizations, and churches.  There is a chapter that looks at events and encounters (4), including planned events as well as disasters, NPC encounters with guards, thugs, nobles, cultists, thieves, and various villains and mobs, as well as some new monsters to make the city more interesting.  Finally, the book ends with a chapter on running the city, including a history of ten historical city quests, the urban crawl, as well as a look at what the city offers besides dungeons, including crime sprees, guild conflicts, mysteries, political epics, war, and racial conflicts, as well as the importance of city law.

That said, this book is not quite perfect.  In particular, it appears as if this book was written for the 3.5 edition and as such its gameplay is not quite as seamless as one would hope.  In particular, a lot of the options this book involves requires a certain amount of multiclassing that is destructive the goals of creating truly powerful characters at the end levels.  Since this book does offer something worthwhile and interesting to readers, it would be for the best if this book was re-written with the 5th edition rules in mind so as to allow for the urban options to spice up a character without penalizing one by taking up levels on various urban-specific classes.  Likewise, the book would probably be benefited from viewing the city as a place for more of the class options and race options that have been introduced in later versions of D&D and related tabletop role playing games as well.  This book isn’t precisely useful for contemporary gaming but at the same time it does offer plenty of food for thought and for reflection and addition to one’s existing adventures that is enjoyable.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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