Saturday, June 16, 2012

Town of Baldemar - a review of a RPG town sourcebook

Town of Baldemar is a generic roleplaying game supplement. It details a town that can be used as a home base for adventurers, or as an adventure site itself. The town is small enough to be easily plugged into a campaign world without sticking out in some way, but is large enough to serve as the safe haven adventurers retreat to after delving in dangerous dungeons.

City quarters, businesses, and characters are meticulously detailed. Reading through the book will reveal that all of these things are interwoven and dynamic, creating the feel of a small but bustling town. There are some villains and a few heroes, but most of the non-player characters are varying shades of gray. As one might expect with a faux-medieval fantasy town, there are the usual organizations, from the government and town guards to merchant and thieves guilds. Though the town is written to be humanocentric, a number of characters could be swapped out for fantasy races like elves and dwarves with little trouble.

The amount of magic is pretty low, considering this is a fantasy RPG town. There are wizards and priests, but it's up the individual gamemaster as to just how much magic they wield; in some cases, such characters could be rationalized to not have any magical abilities at all. The writer seemed to take care not to make anything too explicit, except in a handful of cases. In so doing, it allows for Baldemar to be customized to the individual campaign world more than most such supplements.

Town of Baldemar may not be to everyone's taste. Some may see it as boring. It's not a flashy town. However, I see it as almost perfect for player characters to settle in and use as a jumping-off point to adventure, a place to regroup and resupply. And, if they so choose, they could become part of the town's culture, delving into the interwoven plots and intrigues of the town, becoming attached to it to the point that when it's threatened, the characters rise to the occasion to defend it as their home. Plus, some of those threats can come from within...

I included the back cover to show the "personal promise" Gary Gygax had imprinted on these New Infinities products. There's something charming about this. It seems to me that Gygax really did make a point of making sure these were quality products. The art was nothing to speak of; at best, it was average. The writing was generally bland. However, the content of the books in this line is uniformly good, though it tends to be on the bland side. The upside of that is that the content is very adaptable. Had it been on the wild, cutting edge end of the spectrum, it would have been too far out there to be easily plugged into a campaign world.

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