Posts Tagged ‘review’

Age of Volondor: The City

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

I love maps. A good map elicits such a strong reaction from my imagination that I often need nothing else to come up with an adventure idea. When I saw that Stainless Steel Dragon had a series of map products, I decided to take a look – grabbing Age of Volondor: The City ($8.95 at RPG Now).

From the Introduction: Volondor: “The City,” is perhaps the world’s largest city map set. Volondor is unlike any other city map due to the number, size, variety and details of its floor Plans. Over 100 “unique” building floor plans intelligently arranged to form a huge walled castle surrounded by a large city. This city was designed with defense, economy and entertainment in mind. (This City offers many interesting role-playing locations.)

Does Volondor contain a greater number of floor plans, of a greater range in size, with more detail and variety than any other product out there? Are they “unique” and intelligently arranged, as the Introduction claims? Does the design facilitate defense, economy and entertainment?



The worst offenders are the regional maps. They are so poorly rendered, one would think the designer used old Zelda or Ultima graphics. From a usability standpoint, they fail as well – they contain so many dark and colored areas that, to print them out, you’d have to eat up multiple toner cartridges.

Thankfully, the actual city maps are not as bad. However, the resolution is so low that it’s difficult, at best, to read the labels. My real issue with this product, though, is that it doesn’t live up to the claims made about it.

Some highlights:

Volondor is unlike any other city map due to the number, size, variety and details of its floor Plans.: Poppy-cock. Most floorplans are recycled. They are not different or unique. The cartographer simply created a new location name and moved a couple icons around. I’d estimate, because I don’t care to do the actual math, that fully 30% of the floorplans fail the “uniqueness” claim. The details are uninspiring in most locations.

This city was designed with defense, economy and entertainment in mind.:

(1) Defense: The walls are all straight, as are most of the streets. The main gate empties out into the main street, rather than an airy killing ground. The keep sits so close to the surrounding homes and businesses that sentries could be picked off by snipers of only marginal talent. There are no defenses at the port. And on and on and on. Defense? Hardly.

(2) Economy: Again, the port… so small that I doubt any meaningful commerce travels through it. I see only two warehouses within easy reach of the water – there are more barracks than warehouses! A number of large guildhalls are present, located on prime real estate that could be better used to the handling of cargo and merchandise. The one cool feature is the 50-ton crane that rotates 360 degrees. Economy Fail.

(3) Entertainment: Yes, there are a number of entertainment establishments, including a stadium. Nothing too inspiring, though, and nothing that overcomes the other failings of this product.

For $9.00, this product is a waste – especially when you can get four high-quality map packs from 0oneGames for less than $8.00.

Sorry guys, back to the drawing board…

Two Bit Tables: Ancient Battlefield Encounters

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Healing Fireball publishes a series called Two Bit Tables – small, inexpensive ($0.50 each) PDFs which GMs can use to help flesh out various aspects of game play. Ancient Battlefield Encounters opens as follow:

Every map has those marked locations that have been forever scarred by large-scale battles. Sometimes these areas are marked by the presence of a memorial of some type but usually they are just areas forgotten or avoided by man that bear the scars and artifacts of battle. But what do these places look like and what can be found there? Wonder no more – with the tables below you can generate a collection of random encounters and landmarks that will give these places a feel of their own.

So… a random encounter table to battlefields – old battlefields that people rarely visit, for one reason or another.

The Creature/Monster encounters are unimaginative. 70% of the encounters are mundane, and the rest are plain jane undead – zombies and skeletons. They threw in a vampire, but that just made me wonder why a vampire would be hanging around a battlefield. Vampires don’t strike me as prime candidates for random encounter tables.

The landmarks table shows some promise, though. Unfortunately, many of the battle remnants they list don’t add up. How could a command tent (#1) survive, even if it is worn and tattered? If it were magical, I could understand… but, then it wouldn’t be worn and tattered, would it? And how is a used torch (#19) indicative of an ancient battle?

The other two tables list landmarks for recent battles and (*cough*) species of skeletons.


It may only cost $0.50, but this product isn’t really worth it. The idea is sound, though. Hopefully the publisher will take another look at the content and release an improved version.

[APV1005] Hero Art Templates Compendium 5

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Hero Art Templates Compendium 5 from Applied Vectors is a “compilation of character templates that you can use for your character portraits.”

Basically, AV has taken a 3D model of a character, and placed it (her in this case) in twelve different poses. Your task is to place hair, clothing and equipment on the template before coloring it in. I’d be curious to know whether people find this kind of product useful. Personally, I don’t get it… But I’m open to being shown the error of my ways.

Any takers?

Now, the templates aren’t really that bad. I printed out a couple to see them on paper. If you use this product, I’d suggest printing in a light greyscale so that the darker areas don’t overpower the open spaces – the noses, in particular, have deep shading which looks… odd when printed out. After printing, I used a pencil to sketch clothing and then inked all the lines using a fine-point art marker (you can use a sharpie, I guess).

Not too bad, but I still don’t get the point. And I’m not convinced that 12 poses for a single N/PC is worth $2.80.

[AGP01251] Campaign Map 18: Southern Reaches

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

I decided to check out some new maps today, so I went to RPG Now and grabbed one of the Campaign Maps by Adventure Games Publishing. The Southern Reaches map is part 18 of the Wilderlands of High Adventure series. There are actually two maps, sold separately – one for the Judge and one for the Player.

The Judge map is decent. It is detailed enough that a campaign could be set wholly within the Southern Reaches. The abundance of natural boundaries makes dividing up the region into geo-political units an easy task. However, for $3.00 I wish they’d included the Player map, instead of forcing one to purchase it for an additional $1.00.

There are a fair number of large towns on the map, leading me to believe that it is a densely populated area. Furthermore, the proliferation of citadels tells me that it’s not a very peaceful region. I could be wrong, of course, since I have not read the optional campaign material available for use with the maps. Regardless, for $3.00 there is enough here to be worth the price.

The Player map is… lacking. It would work well for outsiders, visiting the Southern Reaches. However, it’s useless if a character grew up there. Newcomers can wait to get a map until they’ve been in the area long enough to learn about the basic geography – at which time a more detailed map would be appropriate. I’d suggest adding more detail to the current one. I’d also suggest shading the bodies of water (Silver Sea and Sea Lion Bay), so that they are apparent in the grey scale format.