A year after putting out Waterdeep and the North, TSR published one of the most unusual boxed sets in RPG history. Usually a boxed set is a varietyA year after putting out Waterdeep and the North, TSR published one of the most unusual boxed sets in RPG history. Usually a boxed set is a variety of material, including a couple of books, and maybe a couple large maps; but in this case, it contained one thin booklet and twelve poster-size mapsheets. Technically, the booklet could help out with running a game in any city, but this was less than entirely accurate, and the real reason for the box were the twelve mapsheets, and all of these were about one city in particular; Waterdeep.
The booklet itself is 32 pages long, and has some notes about the what the rest of the contents of the box were all about, and then reiterates the basics of the city of Waterdeep from FR1, including the history and laws of the city, though this includes a timeline not present in the original. There is a reiteration of the building key as well (needed, since the included maps mark the same buildings), as well as a ‘guide to services’, which lists them by type and map/grid location, so that this time there is an easy way to answer sudden questions such as ‘where are the nearest stables?’, from the party.
After that, there is finally something that could be used with any city; ‘street scenes’. These are large random tables (d100) of things and people going by on city streets that can be used to help set the stage (flavor, witnesses, etc.) at any point in an adventure in Waterdeep. These tables are keyed to the different wards of Waterdeep, but it wouldn’t be too hard to adapt to another city. There is then a short discussion of using recurrent encounters to help drive a sense of continuity in city life, with a page of suggestions, and the book finishes up with four pages of random tables for the potential results of picking a random NPC’s pockets.
Ten of the twelve mapsheets in the box go together to form a huge 67″x108″ map of Waterdeep (arranged in a 5×2 pattern; Waterdeep is quite rectangular). It’s quite impressive—if you have the space for it. (I don’t currently.) This isn’t the best that it could be, as the buildings are color-coded by what ward they’re in (handy, but a bit heavy-handed), and each keyed building is cut out of the image, leaving a white area with the number.
Waterdeep isn’t actually as wide as two mapsheets put together, and that’s where some of the more useful parts of the product come in. Along the outer edge of each sheet are a number of floor plans of potentially important buildings. These aren’t anything truly inspired, but they are potentially handy, and probably the most useful part of the entire product with about thirty different floorplans (most with multiple levels) in a 5 feet to the square scale.
The eleventh sheet is an isometric map of Castle Waterdeep. This includes a plan view and a close-up of the castle itself, showing the long switchback ramp up to the main gate. It’s not entirely bad, but the design is a very poor looking collection of narrow round towers with no thickness to the walls (probably not enough to support the structure, much less keep out rude neighbors), lines of windows along the top galleries, and not an arrow slit, machicolation, or other sensible defensive siege feature to be seen. TSR’s chronic lack of understanding of siege engineering is on full display here.
The final sheet isn’t really a map. It’s an illustration. A view of the city as seen from the top of the fortifications of the harbor. Since the southern part of the plateau the city is on slopes down to the sea, you get a very good view of the southern parts of the city, the ridge/mountain that Castle Waterdeep is on, the castle itself, and part of the city walls, though the actual South Gate runs off the right side of the view.
Assuming that TSR was able to just blow up their existing map of Waterdeep without much re-work, this box set was probably fairly easy to produce. However, value is lower than even that fairly simple job. If you want to run a game centered (or entirely) in Waterdeep, this can give good value, as the extra color will help, and the easier to read, blown up map will help. However, it is in no way essential to that, and if you aren’t heavily involved in Waterdeep, there’s extremely little of interest. Map junkies will still enjoy it however....more
I got Crista McHugh's A Soul For Trouble for cheap in a Amazon daily deal, and it was worth the sale price. Now, I did enjoy the book (even if it doesI got Crista McHugh's A Soul For Trouble for cheap in a Amazon daily deal, and it was worth the sale price. Now, I did enjoy the book (even if it doesn't seem like it), and I will be getting the rest of the series at some point (I started, gotta know how it ends), though not immediately. It's apparently self-published, and... it shows.
There's a number of critical reviews of the book, and they're all right. Looking at McHugh's other books, it seems like romance is her normal genre, and it has carried over here. A lot of time is spent with the main character having the hots for both of the major male characters and worrying about what that says about her. And she gets to suffer through a mental hitchhiker trying to egg her on and saying 'you have a wanton woman buried in you'.
Not that there's anything wrong with those urges (or necessarily acting on them), but all three principles in this little triangle manage to spend a fair amount of time distracted by their sex drives while too tired and stressed for other concerns to not be crowding it out.
On the fantasy side of things, we have a country with a physically homogeneous population, that's outlawed magic, and forbidden worship of any gods other than one (and yes, the others do exist in this world). It's obvious there's a reason for this (the legal parts are relatively recent), though it hasn't been gone into yet. Our heroine is a native, but looks different from everyone else, giving her the Scorned Outsider background. (There's a good reason for this, which is obvious from early on, though the main male passes it over until the end of the book.)
The two mainsprings of the plot are a power-hungry necromancer (there is a very ew side of sadistic necromancy here), and the god of chaos, who tried to enter the mortal world at one point, got his body ripped from him, and now exists as an immortal spirit going from person to person. This last is where the 'soulbearer' title comes from, as the main character gets to be the current host for the god, who acts as magic mentor, horny teenage boy, and deus ex machina for her in turns.
When allowed to happen, the plot and action are fairly good, if nothing special, and not enough to seriously distract from the problems. I wouldn't avoid this, but there's little reason to seek it out either....more