Monday, April 17, 2017

Filling in Some Gaps - Bard's Gate

When we were playing 3rd edition I was not a huge fan of most of the published WOTC adventures but I did find some greatness in 3 places: Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures, Sword and Sorcery's own Scarred Lands setting, and Necromancer Games' adventures. For coming from three different companies and lots of individual authors I found they fit together really well. For my Scarred Lands campaign the backbone was DCC's shorter adventures + Necromancer's longer adventures and material of my own. I doubt I was the only one, and I was very happy with the way it worked out.

While the DCC adventures were purposefully independent from one another the Necromancer material as produced as if it was all part of the same setting and there were notes in many of the individual adventures on how they fit into this shared world in relation to one another. This was a lot like the early D&D adventures with their notes on where they were set in Greyhawk. SOme of the major pieces were:
  • The Wizard's Amulet + Crucible of Freya which was one of the early 3E starter adventures and is great. My players had a really good time with it and it was our starting adventure for the campaign.
  • Vault of Larin Karr which was an area the campaign could have gone to but ended up not using in that game.
  • Demons and Devils which is a collection of short adventures involving those creatures. I was going to use one of them as the end of the paladin's quest for a holy sword but we didn't quite get there. 
  •  Hall of the Rainbow Mage was another adventure where I dropped some hints and connections and we ended up not using it. 
  • Lost City of Barakus - also hinted and rumored in the game but never actually used. 
  • Rappan Athuk which I did not use after playing through part of it. It could always have come up later if I needed to abuse my player characters.
  • Tomb of Abysthor which we spent around a year playing and had a lot of fun in the dungeon and back in the city they used as a base for exploring the dungeon.
I think that's how a lot of campaigns go - there's a lot of material gathered/prepped/written that never gets used but you can't know that until your players wander somewhere else. This is just the Necromancer stuff too - there were 4 or 5 DCC adventures and a couple of the Scarred Lands adventures in there too. 

So how does Bard's Gate fit into all of this? Well it's the city that is mentioned in all of these things, a reference point, and a possible home base while playing through some of them. I didn't own the book so I used my own city ideas while we played through Abysthor but I always wanted to pick it up and find a place to add it in to the campaign. Once that game ended the priority dropped quite a bit but it's been in the back of my mind in the "one of these days" file for years. I finally picked it up and I am not disappointed. 

One of the best parts of a campaign I have run

The short version: It's a guide to a D&D style fantasy city. The signature 'thing" about the place is that it's home to a Bardic College so there are a lot of those types in the city and a player who wants to run one has a ton of hooks readily available. You could drop it into almost any campaign anywhere you need a city on a river and it would fit just fine. Each chapter in the book covers a district of the city in some, though not ridiculous, detail. You won't find stats for every bartender and patron or notes on every single structure in each area - it's mainly the high points and notable locations in each one with a general sense of the district. There's a sidebar for each that covers character, Businesses, prices, gold piece limits, building type, and note on the guards (number, timing, and size of patrols). It looks very usable for the DM - practical stuff like that goes a long way with me. There are roughly 15 chapters like this covering the city. It also comes with a roughly 3'x2' poster map of the city which is a nice touch.

Towards the back are some additional sections:
  • One covers the area around the city and notes various adventure locations
  • In the local area is a gnoll fortress and an abbey, boith of which receive their own chapters
  • There's a chapter on new magic, one on NPCs, and one on new monsters - these are all fairly 3E-specific and so not super uiseful 
  • There is also a chapter on the gods of the setting and they are somewhat different from the usual generic deities. It's a mix of Norse, Celtic, and some D&D demons along with some new - or renamed at least - non-human powers. This fleshes out some of the names mentioned in other adventures by Necromancer and is a nice touch. It would not be terribly hard to ignore this if you were dropping it into another setting. 
Downside? Well, there really are not many that I can see at this point. It's from 2006 and it's black and white so it's not as pretty as a lot of the books that we get today. Compared to something like Ptolus it's definitely a step down in presentation but that aside it's a completely usable fantasy city supplement. There was a Kickstarter last year to redo the book for 5E and Pathfinder in full color so there are updated and nicely presented versions out there but at $100 for a print copy I abstained from that one. I paid a tenth of that for my older version and I think it does what I want it to do just fine. There are PDFs of the original version available as well. 

When will I use it? I'm not sure. It's one of the major missing pieces of that Necromancer series so I would probably drop them in to a game as a whole set.  I liked the way they fit into the Scarred lands and wit hthat being redone for 5th Edition D&D I'd say there's some chance we go there again if we ever do a real 5E campaign. Pathfinder is an easy fit as well. Regardless of the system I will be happy when I finally do get to return to these adventures again.

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