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A Review of Fantasy Flight Games' CityWorks Role Playing Game Supplement

By Edited May 1, 2015 0 0

CityWorks by Mike Mearls is a role playing game supplement published by Fantasy Flight Games as part of their Legends & Lairs series of d20 System supplements. This one is about designing fantasy cities.

The product reviewed was a watermarked PDF (the watermarking adds the purchasers name and the order number to each page), although CityWorks is not currently available in PDF. There are still hardcopy versions of the book available. The front and back cover are full colour and the internal artwork is greyscale, with the artwork possibly made specifically for the book and not being vintage or public domain. At the end of the book is a 15 page preview excerpt of the d20 supplement Sorcery & Steam. CityWorks consists of five chapters: Characters, City Basics, City Construction, City Adventures and City Encounters.

The Cover of Legends & Lairs' CityWorks Supplement
The first chapter, Characters, covers running characters in an urban situation. For the standard classes, they are covered on a class-by-class basis detailing how each classes skills could be used in an urban situation and the types of jobs a character of each class could look for, as well as some effects of doing and how to get them. There are also three new core classes and three new urban prestige classes fully detailed, as well as new urban feats and new spells, including prestige spells.

Chapter two, City Basics, covers what goes into a city that may not be on the map. These are things such as its' origins, history, factions, laws, including some d20 guard stats, and traditions, what stage in a city's life it's at and various city archetypes to use as a base. How a city is governed, what type of government and its' alignment - the last is another area specifically tailored to the d20 System - as well as creating the various political factions and power groups, their histories and how they interact with each other; friends, allies, enemies and opponents. The economics of a city and what effect religion has on how it's run, which includes city's dominated by one religion, to those with different as well as secretive religions finish the chapter off.

The third chapter is City Construction which is the nuts and bolts of drawing out a fantasy city. Cities are divided into precincts of differing types, details of each type being provided, and then the city is divided into blocks. These are then further divided, and a step-by-step process for drawing a city map can then be followed, with adjustments for different types of terrain, using a method that could be described as guided randomness - the details are determined randomly, but these are overruled by common sense (docks need to be near water), and pure chance can be overridden to make the city make better sense.

A Map from Legends & Lairs' CityWorks
Chapter four is City Adventures, covering designing and running city adventures, including the non-player characters who would be involved in these, such as their motivations. City adventures may not follow the more linear path seen in dungeon based ones, but how to adapt to this is covered in this section. Cities also have certain things that are specific to their environment that can affect things, such as other people and laws, so how these should be handled are also covered. The various events, and how they can be used in an adventure, that affect cities are covered too. As well as specific adventures in a city, an entire campaign can be run from one, and this too is handled.

The last chapter is City Encounters. This section is essentially full of random generators that are used for creating encounters to generating NPCs and buildings, both inside and out, on the fly. This may be the most number heavy chapter in the book, but it is fairly system-independent.

Reviewing the book, the Contents page is fairly useless as all it shows is the chapter numbers and their titles, even though each chapter is divided into different sections. For example chapter two has a main section (of which each chapter has several), "A City's History" which is then broken into subsections such as "Factions" and "Tension vs. Violence" which can then be divided yet further into "External Tension" and Warfare." It would have been useful to have at least some of these chapter subdivisions referenced in the table of contents as, although PDFs are searchable, searching only works if the subject being searched for is known and hardcopy versions cannot be searched in this manner. There is an index at the back which is better than the contents page, but still less than perfect. There is a lot of good stuff in the book that can be hard to find when coming back to it without making notes.

The various random generators in the book, primarily in City Construction and City Encounters, are not system specific, even though they may be derived from the d20 System, and are easy to use with other games. One area the book is comparatively poor is that it does not cover in depth the various structure types; buildings such as an alchemists may be mentioned but no description of what one is is provided, such as could be found in Skirmisher Publishing's supplement City Builder: A Guide to Designing Communities (making that book a useful companion to this one).

The step-by-step process of creating a city from scratch is definitely useful and will work with most, if not all, fantasy settings, as is the process of creating city-specific factions and how they interact with each other. Used as a basis for city creation, starting with City Basics and progressing onto City Construction can result in a good, fully-detailed an in-depth background which can then be further fleshed out by adding buildings using the aforementioned City Builder. A useful supplement for planning city adventures and creating factions.

This is definitely a d20 supplement, but it is marketed as such. It is still useful for other systems, as much of the book is quite general. The first chapter, Characters, which accounts for a bit under a quarter of the entire book, is the most d20 specific, especially the new classes. Conceivably, some of the mentioned skill uses and jobs could be applied to similar classes and skills in other games systems.

The parts of the book that were derived from the d20 System Reference Document are designated as Open Game Content.[1] These parts are specifically mentioned in chapter and section introductions.
CityWorks by Mike Mearls egdcltd 2014-02-21 4.0 0 5
4/5
Legends & Lairs: City Works
Amazon Price: $70.60 Buy Now
(price as of May 1, 2015)
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Bibliography

  1. "Open Game License." Wikipedia. 21/02/2014 <Web >

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