" Yeah, you heard me right. Goblin courtesan. Don't knock it 'til… well, you know. "
Title: The Book of Taverns by Necromancer Games
Format: D20 DM's Guide
Reviewing Monkey: Genghis Kong
The Hype: The first in Necromancer Games' series of "aids for the overworked DM," the Book of Taverns contains ten fully fleshed-out taverns, complete with maps, menus, NPCs, and history. So step up to the bar, seat a lusty wench at your side, and order a pint of the house's finest. We'll see how far your coin has gone when the tab comes due.
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Drama: It's such a grand cliché that every D&D campaign begins in a tavern that some Dungeon Masters wouldn't dare start theirs in any other venue, lest it curse the entire party and prevent them from adventuring successfully. There's simply something about the atmosphere which is conducive to a group of wandering strangers having a chance meeting and assembling to battle evildoers (or possibly good-doers--I am a firm proponent of campaigns full of evil characters!) in order to enter the annals of history and at some point end up deities of their own religions (most campaigns that begin in bars end in deification, after all). Necromancer Games has taken all of that clichéd but well-loved history and created ten unique taverns within which players can spend an afternoon, an overnight stay, or possibly an entire adventure. Each tavern is fully realized, with interesting and unique NPCs suitable to nearly any campaign and story hooks aplenty for the DM who needs a one-shot adventure. The rooms are mapped (and sometimes contain secrets worth investigating), the menus are laid out in detail with prices, and some even offer the services of a courtesan for a night--now that's what the Conqueror Ape likes to see! It's never a bad idea to remind your players that comely ladies (or gentlemen) of the evening stir within any given tavern, waiting to take their cut of the treasure trove for a night of… meaningful conversation. This attention to detail in story and background is almost unheard of in such supplements, and makes for both an interesting read and a fantastic backdrop for the DM who would otherwise simply throw characters into some nameless cantina or inn with no personality. In fact, the story hooks were so good in some of the Inns (the Lion Rampant and the Four Winds especially) that this monkey found himself wanting to know what happens next. Of course, there will be no follow-up on the individual stories--just one more disappointment on the Trail of Tears for this pillage-weary Mongrel. 4 out of 5.
Layout and Presentation: The book is laid out in a very simple, navigable manner, with each section beginning with a history of the establishment, then a list of NPCs, a map and room-by-room description, a summary of the goods and services provided, the menu, and adventure seeds to spark interesting tales. The taverns aren't organized in any particular order, however, so you'd best remember what general area the inn you're looking for is located or you're in for some page-flipping. The artwork is (with the exception of the cover and maps) done entirely by Brian LeBlanc, who actually produces a number of standout pieces in this text--he seems to be doing most of the Necromancer Games artwork of late. The cover (depicting a pit fight occurring in "the Witch's Teat") is by Llyn Hunter, and while it isn't god-awful, it's hardly stellar--most will find it rather gaudy and unimaginative, and not particularly evocative of a "tavern." The interior maps by Ed Bourelle are fantastic, detailed down to the finest line and leaving no question as to the layout and size of a given tavern, and are of truly superior quality. 4 out of 5.
Playability: What could be more useful than a book full of taverns and inns? Nearly every Dungeons & Dragons game is chock full of stays in various inns and flophouses along the trail, and most times they're simply glossed over as a few coins are erased off of everyone's character sheet and the spellcasters regain their spells overnight. The Book of Taverns actually turns these one-dimensional roadhouses into real settings, and allows for all kinds of mischief and intrigue where most players would be expecting merely a fat-bellied innkeeper and a few crusty, taciturn drunks who can only repeat the phrase "Times are tough" because the DM didn't bother writing anything else down. 4 out of 5.
Desired Content: For the DM, this book is a fantastic tool, and a real time-saver considering how much work went into it that the Dungeon Master is now not required to do himself (or herself--I'm an equal opportunity conqueror). Anyone picking it up expecting a few maps and some NPC stats is in for a surprise, as there are adventure hooks galore, and all kinds of neat tricks to throw at unsuspecting characters--for example, how many of them would even think of rolling Fortitude against food poisoning due to a bad chef? At Malachi's Public House, this'll be par for the course. Need any stolen magic items fenced, no questions asked? Death & Taxes can take care of it for you. Looking for a good place to stay the night during a cross-planar adventure? The Four Winds has a door leading to nearly any realm you could conceive of. There's an inn for every occasion, and something unique to be found in every one. 4.5 out of 5.
|Obviously an ingenious idea from the outset, the Book of Taverns follows through with a fantastically useful execution, hopefully to be followed by equally fantastic ideas in the continuing series of aides for the overworked DM. So step up to the bar and make it a Cracked Claw Ale, my monkeys, and don't forget the extra silver for a goblin courtesan "companion"--the nights get cold in Quintain's Tower.|
The Good: Fantastically detailed taverns for use in any campaign plus menus!
The Bad: Now that I've read the whole thing, Chimpan-A probably won't use any of the inns in his campaigns--the Notorious DM doesn't like it when you know where the magic items are located
The Overall Ugly: Yeah, you heard me right. Goblin courtesan. Don't knock it 'til… well, you know.
What it's Worth: Market, most assuredly.