Parsantium: City at the Crossroads by Richard Green and published by Ondine Publishing is a role playing game supplement and citybook. It is designed to be compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, which is a refinement of the D&D 3.5 edition and, as such, some of the book is covered under the Open Game License. The Pathfinder game is also related to d20. As well as the Pathfinder compatibility, it is also intended to be system neutral and therefore usable in other settings. As such, there are very few stats for the non-player characters in the book, beyond some basics regarding their profession, alignment and level.
Credit: Joe ShawcrossThe supplement has 174 pages and is available as a watermarked PDF, print on demand perfect bound standard softcover black and white and a bundle of both. Watermarked PDFs have the purchaser's name and the order number added to every page of the PDF. When purchased, the price - excluding delivery charges - for the bundle was only slightly more expensive than that of the softcover alone, so purchasing the bundle product made sense if the softcover was being bought. The purchase also included a full colour city map, sized 5100 x 3300 pixels at 300 dpi resolution, which is suitable for printing out at a decent size. The PDF has a full colour cover, and a colour map inside, with the rest of the illustrations being in black and white and the softcover version also has a full colour cover, but the internal map is in black and white. The cost of the PDF and PoD copies came to $22.99, plus the shared delivery cost of $5.61.
Credit: Jonathan RobertsThe city was designed using historical Byzantium as a base, with definite overtones of Indian, Arabian and Chinese influences, along with the Greco-Roman of Byzantium. These cultures have different names in this setting though. Those familiar with Byzantine and Roman history will find some of the characters, events, places and organisations recognisable, even if their names have been changed. Those events that do appear to be similar to those of Byzantium don't necessarily happen in the same order. For example, Parsantium's Huleiman the Magnificent (who would appear to be based on Suleiman the Magnificent) ruled the city before Corandias the Magnificent (who strongly resembles Constantine the Great). Many new events, including how the city was founded, have been added to the city's history primarily due to it being closer to its' equivalents of Arabia, India and China.
The Introduction gives a history of the supplement and its use in actual gaming, as well as describing what the book is intended to do.
The City at the Crossroads chapter gives an overview of the city and its history. It also gives details on how the various player races, including humans from different cultures, fit into the city, as well as a total of seventeen detailed backgrounds that can be used for player characters to flesh them out and their history.
Life in the City covers the government on the city, its laws and its culture, including food, festivals and entertainments.
Running a Campaign gives several campaign themes related to the history of the city and the various organisations in it, as well as what services can, in general, be found, what the city looks like from an architectural point of view and some random events.
The Gazetteer covers the city on by quarter and by ward, describing the appearance of each ward and selected buildings and businesses within it, with some appropriate NPCs and their details. It also briefly covers the area under Parsantium, and some of its' most immediate surroundings.
Organizations covers various different organisations, which can be potential allies and enemies, including guilds and major noble families, as well as how some of them interact with each other and their aims.
Religion covers deities from each of the four main human cultures in Parsantium. Some of the deities are recognisable or seem similar to those of three of the originating real world cultures, but only the Sampuran ones are described as being definitely based on real world religion, namely the Vedic and Hindu tradition, and have the same names as those gods.
Evaluating Print on Demand and Delivery
The print on demand version of the book was ordered with The Book of Taverns, which resulted in a significant saving on postage, as it cost the same amount to deliver two items as it did for one. The books were ordered after business hours on a Thursday and arrived on the Wednesday of the next week. They were posted by Royal Mail second class and paying more for delivery would not have really been worth it, given how quickly they arrived. This was helped by the fact that one of the printers for RPGNow's PoD books is based in the United Kingdom, making delivery faster than it would have been if it had been an international delivery.
Credit: Jonathan RobertsIn the PDF, the map of the city is in full colour - like the separate image file provided - and is spread over two pages. In the print version, the map is only available in black and white, and is again spread over two pages. The softcover map doesn't work quite as well as the full colour one. It appears that the colour map has simply been converted to greyscale, and this makes the overall appearance of it a bit dark.
The quality of the perfect bound softcover is fine, and there is nothing wrong with the standard, even without the premium version not being available. The perfect binding is much better than a magazine format, and the overall feel is of a decent quality product.
The PDF has built in bookmarks and there is a good table of contents at the front of the book/PDF and an extensive index at the back. Navigating the book is quite easy in both PDF and print formats - a good feature, and something that isn't always true.
Credit: Ondine Publishing/eGDC LtdThere are very few stats given for the NPCs, as mentioned earlier, and the book is, as it was intended to be, comparatively system neutral. The gods and the brief overview of the city on page 10 are set out in what appears to be a fairly typical way for D&D cities, but these are like the NPCs, easily adaptable. There is deliberately very little detail given on the rest of the world, allowing it to be more easily dropped into any setting (unlike, for example, Ptolus, which is heavily integrated with its' world). This is helped by Parsantium being a Free City, rather than being part of a country any longer (although it was historically).
The level of any campaign set in the city can be easily changed, although the overall feel is that of a fairly high magic setting, even though it isn't exactly described as such. One downside is that there aren't maps of the various locations inside the city, meaning that these will have to be created. Other than that, Parsantium: City at the Crossroads is a good example of a citybook and should work well in many fantasy settings.
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