Vornheim: The Complete City Kit is a role playing game supplement by Zak S. and published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess. The supplement does not specify a particular game system for which it was designed, but the various references and inferences throughout it suggest that, where stats are provided, some version of the Dungeons & Dragons game is most suitable.
Vornheim is a 75 page black and white PDF, available from RPGNow, which includes a map of the city and a player handout. The supplement does not have a traditional chapter structure; rather than having several, clearly defined sections or chapters, it is more like a collection of articles bundled together.
Credit: Zak S.To a certain degree, the book is in two "halves." The first "half" has a map of the world and a couple of side-on views of two important structures in Vornheim - Vornheim's buildings tend to be towers connected by air bridges, rather than traditional buildings. There are also three potential adventure locations which are described in detail, complete with monster stats and maps. These are the House of the Medusa, the Immortal Zoo of Ping Feng and the Library of Zorlac. This section is rounded off with commentaries from some of the players who have played in the city and another side view map, this one of a typical building.
The second "half" of the book has rules and various random tables, and notes on how to use them, urbancrawl (random street mapping rules) and building floor plan generation. There are rules on libraries, item costs, chases, contacts, the law and city adventures, as well as a faction game called "God's Chess." This section is rounded off with more random tables, from NPCs, shopkeepers and aristocrats to legal situations, taverns and games and magic effects, and a conversion table, to convert the stats to a later version of the game system.
The last few pages are intended to be inside the front and back of the book (if it is printed out), which are intended to help randomly generate game elements.
The cost of the PDF was $9 when purchased, not too expensive. The PDF has bookmarks, which is fortunate given the lack of standard structure. The main part of the book itself has 64 numbered pages, with the remainder of the book taken up as follows. One page is the front cover and another the back, there is one page of notes on the PDF, a one page map of the city, a one page player handout and six pages, which are inside the front and back cover (dust jacket) for generating elements randomly.
There is an unusual feel to the city; it is rather different from standard fantasy role playing game cities, although it does have more in common with some fictional cities. To a degree, it is reminiscent of cities such as China Miéville's New Crobuzon, even though it lacks the steampunk of that setting and is fairly low-magic. The verticality of Vornheim is uncommon in a traditional medieval fantasy setting, where buildings tend to be much lower.
Rather than simply having an unusual feel to the city, this is an unusual supplement all told. Most RPG cities tend to work on the principal of providing a detailed guide to the city being described. Different supplements cover cities in different levels of detail; for example, Ptolus was designed to be the perfect guidebook. Vornheim actually reads more like a collection of blog posts (the author does blog about his gaming online, which could be why) than it does a traditional supplement or book.
Vornheim is anything but a guidebook to a city, as even the city map does not resemble most city maps. The maps throughout largely do not resemble traditional floor plans. May are viewed from the side, and most look hand drawn, or are at least intended to look as if they are. Instead, this is a supplement primarily designed to help make things up on the fly, and streamline play. Most of the content, apart from the three specific adventure locations, is therefore suited to most fantasy game worlds and rules systems, especially those published under the Open Game License, even though the supplement itself is not Open Game Content. Some of the material has, apparently, already been published elsewhere.
Credit: Zak S.Vornheim, as a city supplement, probably won't appeal to any GameMaster looking for a fully detailed city as that is something that it certainly isn't. Whether this is due to a lack of time to flesh something out, or other reason such as simply not wanting to have to create a lot of what is needed - and, when designing it randomly, having to make a note of what was done so that players won't pull them up on inconsistencies at a later date. However, even those who are looking for the perfect city guidebook will probably still find something useful. One benefit is that Vornheim has been playtested, so the rules given have been experienced by players. Whether they will prove popular with other players is a different question.
Although the PDF is intended to be printed out, and there are notes on how it has been put together to allow this, there is a rather heavy use of black, especially on all the page borders, for it to really be suitable for easy printing. The maps, too, are rather heavy on the use of black ink. Thus, printing it out is probably not the best idea.
If you are looking for a traditional fantasy city book, then this is definitely not for you, as it certainly can't be used as one as-is. Instead, if you are looking for ideas that can be used in this, or any other city, then there are probably concepts and rules that can be used. Vornheim: The Complete City Kit is a rather different type of supplement, and should not be confused with a standard citybook, but it's worth taking a look at for some of the ideas included, even if you don't use all of them.