City of Archendurn
Review by Brent Knorr
The City of Archendurn is the first product offered for sale by the Guild Companion (www.guildcompanion.com). It is a 54 page PDF file that is available for purchase at RGPNow (http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=322) for a mere $6.00.† Itís pretty hard to go wrong at that price.
There's also a four page pdf sneek peek of it available in the November 2002 issue of the Guild Companion.
The City of Archendurn details a Celtic city of about 6500 people and is designed to be able to be used in most fantasy settings.† Statistics are given for both the D20 System and the Rolemaster system.
The "Celtic feel" comes partly from the names of the people, there's a half page in the Introduction devoted to old Celtic pronunciations. I actually would have put this a few pages further in.† It gets rather technical and could put a reader off by having them it as one of the first items in the book. However, things quickly get to normal and the rest of the book is fairly easy reading
There are a couple of pages devoted to the Peoples and Cultures of the area.† This is done in enough detail to give a Gamemaster a fairly good feel for the culture, describing a little of the history, what type of people inhabit the kingdom, what they look like, how they dress and some of the festivals that they celebrate. The festivals described add to the Celtic feel, with events such as wrestling, archery, mock combats, tale telling etc. The sport of hurling, which resembles field hockey gets a half page description.
The religions are also Celtic in nature, one of the major religions is druidical in nature, the other is the Church of the All Father, a monotheistic religion loosely modeled after the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages. The author intentionally does not give alot of details on these in order for them to be easily adapted to other campaigns.
Thereís a short description of the lands surrounding the city and a one page color map showing the Southwest corner of the Archendurn Kingdom where the city is located. Thereís a discussion of some of the more interesting Flora and Fauna, then a review of the Political Structure of the Archendurn Kingdom, and some suggestions for dealing with the Economics and Trade.
The city itself is broken into four parts, each part having a color map to go with it.† Different types of buildings are coded by different colors and buildings of particular interest are coded with a letter and a number.† The letter corresponds to the quadrant of the city.† Slightly more than half of the book is taken up describing the various buildings. 52 buildings are described, with 8 floor plans included.† The descriptions are quite good, and include basic personalities for the people living in the buildings. Actual game statistics are done as two Appendices, one for Rolemaster and one for D20 system.
As for the sorts of places and peoples, there's a description of the shipyards and their owner, the Church of the All Father and the Friar that runs it, a couple of inns and their usual clients, including one with a shady history and customers that could be used as a springboard for some adventures.
Several businesses are described, the Leather Works, Smithy, Rope Works, Brothel and Bathhouse, Glassworks and several other businesses and their owners. Of course, not everyone is what they appear to be, and several of the NPC's have backgrounds that could be used to lead into some adventuring situations. And, some of the people are exactly as they appear, sometimes the little old lady that runs the Lamp shop is really just a little old lady that runs a lamp shop. (I do find that some products tend to go overboard on having everybody in town having a dark secret, or special ability, or something really unusual. Lets face it, most people that live in cities are just people that live in cities..)
Archendurn Castle is described in quite abit of detail, included the King, his advisors and rivals and some information on the political intrigue that is going on in the area. Player characters could get involved in this if they like a political sort of campaign
There is of course, a "Dark Woods" not too far from the city that has mysterious goings on that adventurers can investigate.
Thereís also a couple of pages of Adventure and Story Ideas just before the Appendices.
For the most part, this module focuses mostly on the setting with plans to release future products that will expand on some of the ideas suggested in this module.
Overall, itís a well done book, especially considering the price.† I would have liked to have seen a little more detail given in the Rolemaster statistics section, there seemed to be very few skills listed for each NPC when compared to the D20 information for the same NPC.† The characters presented seem reasonably well rounded, some of them are fairly stereotypical, but there are a few surprises tucked away with some of them as well.† The maps are quite well done, it might be nice to have a little more color coding, there are an awful lot of uncoded buildings which are just described as being commercial buildings with the business on the ground floor and living quarters or apartments/tenements on the upper floors.† If youíre looking for a medieval city with a Celtic feel and a mostly human population to drop somewhere into your campaign, the City of Archendurn will do nicely.