M. Scott Verne stopped by TrollCon last week, and played a game of Tunnels and Trolls with me. In his honor, I winged something using a deck of Magic ™ cards and his latest project–the City of the Gods Map Pack. When we were done, he gave me one, and asked if I’d review it. Since this is a very handsome gaming accessory, I, of course, agreed to do so, and here comes the review.
If you don’t know about The City of the Gods by M. Scott Verne and Wynn Mercer you should take a moment and check it out. They have a website for their book at http://Cityofthegods.com, and the book is available on http://Amazon.com. I also reviewed the book in an earlier blog–you can see that here: https://atroll.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/city-of-the-gods-the-book/. The map pack is not available at Amazon yet.
Although the book is epic fantasy, this map pack is planned as a gaming supplement. It’s a generic product that could be used with any gaming system. If you are the kind of Game Master who is chronically short on time and/or imagination, these generic products can be a real boon. They provide settings and npcs that can be adapted into almost any campaign. I should mention here that City of the Gods Map Pack is a Catalyst product from Flying Buffalo Inc. (http://flyingbuffalo.com) As such, it is the latest in a series of products that included City books and Traps books, and you can learn more about them on the Flying Buffalo web site.
This module contains several different pieces. First, there is a very handsome map of the city itself, printed on medium grade cardboard in full color. Here’s a look at it:
The color is absolutely gorgeous, and you’ll be amazed at how much detail can be crammed into an 8.5 X 17 inch map. The main attractions of the city are the major temples. I mean, what are gods without their temples? It’s almost like Where’s Waldo? How many different famous buildings can you identify in this map. The Great Pyramid of Gizeh dominates the lower left quadrant, but can you find the Parthenon, the Colisseum, the Taj Mahal or the Forbidden City? Can you distinguish the different cultures and mythologies represented here? For those of us with an interest in world mythology and history, the map alone is like a referesher course in the history of the world.
(As a side note, Mr. Verne pointed out that I have had an influence on the city. If you look in the Egyptian quarter you will find the Sphynx of Nebthu, which was never mentioned in the novel FORGOTTEN. It appears now because I mentioned the sphynx as the temple headquarters for Sekhmet the Cat Goddess in a short story that I wrote for an upcoming City of the Gods anthology. Mapmaker and artist extraordinaire Steven Crompton liked the idea, and crowded it into his metropolitan design. Heh! Of course I like the map–a little piece of me is in there.)
The biggest part of the module is a 20 page guidebook to the map. If you look carefully at the map, you can find little blue circles with numbers in them. Each numbered location, all 105 of them, is described and explained briefly in the guidebook. Study them all, and you will really know your way around the city of the gods. The guidebook also has a section that lists and describes the 18 character cards–all done in full color–that come as part of the package. Each character is meant to be used as an adventure hook for a G.M. wanting to set a game in this environment, The cards give the reader some idea of the appearance and powers of the different non-player characters that might be encountered in the city, and where one would be likely to find them.
Eighteen character cards, each with a full color portrait, a listing of abilities, a probable location, and a deity allegiance are included in a separate little packet. They would be ideal for showing players in a rpg just who they are dealing with. Most of the characters are gods and goddesses, but there are a few that are just mortals or heroes. Oddly enough, D’Molay, the protagonist of the City of the Gods, is not included as somene that you might meet.
There is also an 8 page pamphlet in black and white with short excerpts from the first novel. There is a 2-sided CotB bookmark featuring D’Molay and Aavi. And there is a full-length comic book created by Steven Cormpton and Debra Kerr–Pantheon number 2. The Pantheon comic features some of the same characters as City of the Gods, but in earlier incarnations–so to speak.
The whole map pack is very handsomely printed and a delight to the eyes and mind. It is designed to appeal to gamers, and to lead them back to the novel, and to the sequels that are planned for that novel. With a suggested price of about $20, this is a high quality gaming product.
I have only one criticism. For someone who has already read and enjoyed the novel, there is really nothing new here. The art is recycled, and the prose in the booklets and on the cards simply summarizes and condenses what we learned about the city in the book. (That’s not strictly true–there are some places on the map that were either never mentioned, or mentioned only briefly, in FORGOTTEN, and that info should be new–but it’s obviously background material that the authors created for the main project, and it will probably be featured in the sequels.) One of the first rules of film making is “Reuse your footage.” and that appears to be a rule of the City of the Gods project as well. It is very fine footage, and well worth re-using, but it isn’t really new.
In a normal review I’d say this is a very fine product, perhaps four stars out of five, and recommend you purchase it, but this is Atroll’s Entertainment. I make comments and critical remarks here without any recommendations. The map pack amused and delighted me, and I was able to use it for a Tunnels and Trolls session–I’m glad to have it. You might like it, too.