Monday, December 5, 2016

Magnimar, City of Monuments [PATHFINDER CAMPAIGN SETTING]

Magnimar, City of Monuments is the first book I've picked up in Paizo's line of campaign setting books for the Pathfinder role-playing game (I'm running an adventure path in which the PCs are likely to visit).  The book is out of print now, so I secured my copy from a used-book seller (PDFs can be bought from  The first thing that stands out is the cover--fantastic!  One of my favorite pieces of art from the game, and something that would make a cool poster.  On the interior front cover is a map of the city, showing its division into nine different districts.  The book is then divided into three main parts.

The first main part consists of sections on each of the districts and has a smaller map of just that district (which is why the main map on the inside front cover is done at a very high level of abstraction).  The district sections include a separate stat block which is a nice touch and then includes capsule descriptions of a handful of prominent locations.  Occasional sidebars are throughout the book, such as "Nine Famous Magnimarians" or "Thieves and Thugs of Magnimar".  I frankly found the district sections a bit boring to read straight through, but I think as a reference and game preparation aid they would be quite useful.  Most importantly, they detail one of the things that sets Magnimar apart from other cities in Golarion: the presence of ancient monuments (dating to the time of Thassilon) which, if the correct rituals are performed by the PCs, give them temporary mechanical bonuses.  It's a great way to tie the city's history into something that your players will care about because the flavour is matched with bonus crunch.  Before I get to the last two parts of the book, I'll again praise the artwork: the interior pictures of NPCs and important buildings are gorgeous.  Just look at the Forever Man on p. 46 and try to suppress adventure ideas!

The second part is titled "Plots and Perils".  It includes brief overviews on the hinterlands around Magnimar, the city's sewers, a villainous organization called the Midnight Dawn, and, most importantly, the Irespan--the ancient, enormous bridge whose remnants conceal secrets from thousands of years ago.  For a campaign set in Magnimar, the Irespan would be a natural site of adventure and has enough to interest PCs for some time.

The third part, "Denizens", includes something I appreciate: random encounter tables, separated by day and night, for different parts of Magnimar.  I do wish there'd be a guide on how often one should roll on the tables, but I guess that's left to GM discretion.  Next, there are descriptions and stat blocks for monsters and NPC types: Angelic Guardians, Aspis Agents, City Guards and Captains, Mystery Cultists, Night Scale Assassins, Sczarni Thugs, Shifty Nobles, and Shoanti Gladiators, Shriezyx (the spider monsters featured on the cover), Swamp Barracudas (again, great artwork), the Vyrdrach (a gargantuan creature that can capsize large ships), and, last, a celestial called a Yamah.

Discussion by commenters on the Paizo site correctly notes that the table of contents for the book could be much improved (it only has three entries, one for each of the big parts of the book) and that the book is lacking an index.  These things can be an editorial chore when deadlines loom, but they make a big difference in how useful a product is in the middle of a gaming session--no one wants to sit and wait for the GM to flip through to find that one inn they wanted to describe for the PCs.

All in all though, I was quite happy with the book.  Magnimar seems like a fairly "safe" place for PCs to visit, but has enough adventure lurking right outside (or underneath, or overhead) that it could serve well as the centre of a campaign.  It'll certainly help me with the adventure path as well.  I'm looking forward to reading the other books detailing cities in Varisia.

No comments: