Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Review: Vornheim

Notice: I am not taking down this post because I feel it is more important to leave it up, but also update everyone on what is happeing now as February 11, 2019. Please see this newer post first. http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/02/i-am-going-to-talk-about-zak-today-and.html

Vornheim the Complete City kit is a massively huge city setting so strange, exotic and new that your players might not ever want to leave. Designed by artist Zak Smith/Zak Sabbath (of "I Hit it With My Axe" and "D&D With Porn Stars" fame) and playtested in his rather unique blend of oldschool D&D and 3rd edition with his equally unique group it is not too much to state that you have not seen a city like this before.

Vornheim reads like a city designed by M.C. Escher and H.P. Lovercraft on a bender. Streets bend and twist on each other and I swear so do the inhabitants. This comes I feel from Zak being a artist first and a game designer second. Compared to other city books there is a lot that this book doesn't do and lot of other things it does.

What doesn't it do. Well for starters no where is it defined where this city is. It could be anywhere, from anywhere. Secondly do not expect a lot of details. The author has very specifically left a lot to the designs of the individual DMs out there. So while some people are mentioned (I rather likes the three witches) there are a lot of details left to you.

What does it do. It is a framework and notes of a great city. There is a fantastic set of superstitions listed and there are NPCs, monsters. Stats are given in a simplified version of the d20 rules, favoring an old-school bent, but there are plenty of conversion notes for every edition of the Worlds Oldest FRPG.

There are tables after tables of things that can happen in the city beyond just random monsters, but also legal issues, things you might find, people you could encounter. The place is huge.

The layout is simple and dense. There is a lot of text in the 70+ pages and the whole thing has this real cool retro vibe to it. Almost like it had been published in the 70's (was Zak even alive then?) and it works great.
The art is Zak's own and it has it's own surreal weird style that really sets the stage for this place. The city map itself is massive and reminds me of an old medieval tapestry. Yes, that does appear to be Mandy Morbid on the cover too.

Visit the Immortal Zoo of Ping Feng, or the Library of Zorlac or just "crawl" across the city.
Vornheim the City is not for the faint of heart and Vornheim the book is not for the DM that is afraid of a little prep time (though with the tables you can be using it in minutes) or bringing his/her own ideas to the table.

I have to admit I am rather impressed.

5 out of 5 stars.


Aaron E. Steele said...

I love the cover, it is so different from the usual fantasy fare.

Looking forward to my Vornheim's arrival, and thanks for posting your review!

Unknown said...

Don't forget to mention all the little tips and tricks how to create elements into _your_ Vornheim on the fly!

Great review, great product. Totally 100% worth of its cost... and more.

Bishi91 said...

"I rather likes the three witches"

Never would have expected that from you!