Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Commentary On Vornheim The Complete City Kit From Zak Smith & The Lamentations Of The Flame Princess Rpg For Your Old School Campaigns

Vornheim came out way back in 2011, I bought or acquired the PDF through legal means at some point in the last couple of years. I made a point of going into the rest of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess product line and avoiding Vornheim on purpose. For years I've avoided this little sixty four page urban planning & city book on purpose, I read up and researched Zak Smith's Vornheim. Each and every review gave it glowing praise and for years its been the darling of the OSR community. That's a pretty intimidating reputation and I didn't want to be disappointed or letdown. Its sort of like the reputation that certain classic car or certain labels or brands have. I needed far more experience with the Lamentations of the Flame Princess system. Well after all of the hype and hoopla has passed Vornheim stands stands as a pretty damn nifty toolbox to allow a Dungeon Master construct their own version of a stand alone fantasy or eccentric science fantasy city. All of the tools that are needed are right under the hood of the book.
Grab The Book Right Over Here

Vornheim is a skeleton of a urban city fantasy setting on Hunter S. Thompson through a dark lens of a Ouija board told through the dark line art of Zak Smith. This is a city of brooding towers over a cityscape where pretty much anything can and will happen with some of the most clever dice tables I've seen.
This book is a loose guide for an urban setting with some truly cool aspects to it, monsters, NPC's, adventure elements and all kinds of tidbits can be generated on the fly with a few dice rolls. And that's exactly what this book does, it gives a vague impression of a brooding, nasty, and dangerous city that this book helps to generate as well as being filled with wall to wall piece of Zak Smith's artwork.

Everything here is part manifesto and part city guide as well as a look into the author's approach to his campaigns. That's not a bad thing at all in my opinion and lends the book both a personal touch and a feeling that the author actually cares about what the hell he's doing with this material. You get a city of brooding towers and some solid work ups of locations within the city with table after table of material that can generate some of the most passion filled encounters this side of Romeo and Juliet.I say that in all seriousness because this is a place of flaring tempers, flashing blades, and some damn weird stuff happening in the alleyways of this city. All of this is generated by you the DM and Zak's work lends the guiding hand. If you want to know where the seeds of 'A Red and Pleasant Land' started artistically and literally then look no further but Vornheim differs by many,many degrees.

You get outlines of locations, encounters, random generation on the fly, incredible artwork and a complete tool kit but there's more to it then that. Vornheim is one part The Seven Faces of Dr.Lo and two parts non traditional sword and sorcery with lots and lots of potential but is it the potential of the author? Umm no not at all. Instead, its really up to the DM to flesh everything out using those tools provided by the author/and designer. He sets the tone in spades to allow the DM to make this setting their own.

So why bring up the Seven Faces of Dr.Lao?  Because the "The Immortal Zoo of Ping Feng" has some of the most original monsters I've seen in a long while. Where the Seven Faces is beign and amazingly wonderful. "The Immortal Zoo of Ping Feng" is deadly, dangerous, and features some of the most amazing monsters all arrayed in a deadly cat and mouse game scaled to the party's own strengths and weakness where the DM controls several cats. Lots of unique creatures.

The "House of the Medusa" mini-adventure is possibly one of the more disturbing things in Vornheim with the adventure's design, NPC, and elements all lending themselves to the feel and elements of the city itself. And that's exactly how the city is done a place that is nasty and unique put together by itself on its own terms within the context of the mind of its author as a gift to the DM. Don't let that sound like this isn't an accessible book at all to a dungeon master, quite the opposite as a true. This is a sixty four page book that can be dipped into time after time to create a unique and very nasty urban experience.

There is a strange, timeless, dangerous and dreamlike quality to the city that's where you get into what system or should I say systems you could use Vornheim with. Sure Vornheim is statted out for an OD&D or Lamentations of the Flame Princess rpg campaign setting but that's half of the strengths of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess's products. You can use them for a wide variety of retroclones or old school games doubly so with Vornheim. I can see Vornheim appearing easily in Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea as a side city tucked away in some remote corner of Hyperborea. With the lack of elves, Dwarves,etc. this is easily accomplished and the tone of the city fits some of the races of Hyperborea and given the weirdness and uniqueness of the city this is a pretty solid marriage.
One could simply use it as is and drop it into OD&D or the even tighter version Lamentations of the Flame Princess adhoc and start rolling up characters. I think that Vornheim fits all of the major criteria of Dungeon Crawl Classics as well and with a bit of adjustment it could be the center for a straight up campaign and urban adventure. The weird tone certainly carries it through and with some adjustment this urbane campaign could be used with Basic Fantasy, Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, Fantastic Heroes and Witchery. In point of fact this book is ideally suited for FH&W with little modification.
This is only part one of this review and there will be a part II in a couple of days.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.